The Chase – Halfway to Key West

The Chase – Halfway to Key West

By Missi Shoemaker

Sept 11, 2019

I’m having a great time traveling with The Cross Country Chase! Plain and simple, it is an absolute blast!

For those of you who don’t know, The Cross Country Chase is a vintage motorcycle race across the country. This is the inaugural race that will be held every other year, with each race traveling a different route. This year’s race started officially on Thursday, September 5th, with a small shakedown run in Sault Sainte Marie, MI (which is on the US/Canadian border), with the riders leaving there on Friday, and ends Sunday September 15 in Key West, FL. Yep, that’s almost 2400 miles, of which only approximately 50 are interstate miles. The catch? Well, the motorcycles can only be 1930-1948 models with stock cases, transmissions and frames, and the riders must follow the daily route via scroll maps. NO GPS!!! There are checkpoints along the route and they must arrive at the final daily destination by a specific time every day. The winner is determined by a points system based on daily mileage, quiz scores and penalty point deductions. (for more info on the specific rules, visit www.themotorcyclechase.com )

Event organizers Jason and LeeAnn Sims before the start of the Cross Country Chase, Sault Saite Marie, MI, Thursday September 5, 2019
Event organizers Jason and LeeAnn Sims count down the official start of the Cross Country Chase, Sault St. Marie, MI, Thursday Sept. 5th, 2019.
Event organizer Jason Sims waves the green flag at the official start of the Cross Country Chase, Sault St. Marie, MI, Thursday Sept. 5th, 2019.
Event organizer Jason Sims waves the green flag at the official start of the Cross Country Chase, Sault St. Marie, MI, Thursday Sept. 5th, 2019.

Yesterday the group reached the halfway point, Chattanooga, TN. So far we have seen rain and chilly weather for the first few days of the trip and the last couple of days have been dealing with heat and humidity. A few riders have dropped out so far due to mechanical issues and a couple for health reasons. There has been just one accident, and luckily the rider escaped with minor injuries of road rash and a sprained ankle, his bike, however, is pretty banged up.

Personally for me, this has been a great experience. I am assisting Michael Lichter in the evenings and during the day I am working as staff administering the daily quiz each rider has to take. We set up a Checkpoint somewhere along the route, it is a non-disclosed location, the riders have to be on the lookout for us. Each day the quiz asks questions about the route the day before and motorcycle history. For example, we took the SS Badger Ferry across Lake Michigan on day 2. One of the questions on day 3 was What year was the SS Badger put into service? Another question was How many Davidson’s have been named William?

The Chase riders arrive and line up before getting on the SS Badger to cross Lake Michigan, Ludington MI, Saturday September 7, 2019
The Chase riders boarding the SS Badger to cross Lake Michigan, Ludington MI, Saturday September 7, 2019
The Chase sweep truck, carrying staff motorcycles, is loaded onto the SS Badger to cross Lake Michigan, Ludington MI, Saturday September 7, 2019
The Chase riders boarding the SS Badger to cross Lake Michigan, Ludington MI, Saturday September 7, 2019
The Chase riders enjoying the ride across Lake Michigan aboard the SS Badger, Saturday September 7th, 2019
Jody Perewitz Face-timing with her family aboard the SS Badger during the Cross Country Chase, Saturday September 7th, 2019

The route so far has taken the riders across the Mackinaw Bridge, The Wabash Cannonball Bridge, which is a wooden bridge that was originally a railroad bridge over the Wabash River in Indiana, and through switchbacks in the smokey mountains of TN.

During Stage 4 The Chase riders had to cross the wooden Wabash Cannonball Bridge over the Wabash River between Illinois and Indiana. Monday September 9, 2019.
During Stage 4 The Chase riders had to cross the wooden Wabash Cannonball Bridge over the Wabash River between Illinois and Indiana. Monday September 9, 2019.
During Stage 4 The Chase riders had to cross the wooden Wabash Cannonball Bridge over the Wabash River between Illinois and Indiana. Monday September 9, 2019.

As someone who has been spending most of her time with custom motorcycle builders, spending time with the Antique motorcycle guys is definitely a different atmosphere and I am very much enjoying making new friends! These guys and gals are focused on keeping these old bikes running and really know their stuff! You see, they are not allowed to have a support crew like there is on the Motorcycle Cannonball. There are no “teams”, only the rider and their machine and what they can carry on the bike. Tools, extra parts, clothes and riding gear. That’s it. WHATEVER THEY CAN CARRY. Some are really good at only having minimal things and others have developed ways of carrying more, like custom trunk systems. There are several models of bikes, Indian, Harley, BSA, Velocette, Henderson, Norton and even a Nimbus, among others.

Bike lined up at the official start of the Cross Country Chase, Sault St. Marie, MI, Thursday Sept. 5th, 2019.
Rider #60, John Bartman arrives at the Harley Davidson Museum during Stage 2 of the Motorcycle Cross Country Chase, Saturday September 7th, 2019.
Riders arrived and performed a few repairs on their bikes at the Harley Davidson Museum during Stage 2 of the Motorcycle Cross Country Chase, Saturday September 7th, 2019.
Andrea Labarbara, one of three women riders, shares her bike with young fans at the Harley Davidson Museum during Stage 2 of the Motorcycle Cross Country Chase, Saturday September 7th, 2019.

Tonight we ended the day here in Macon, GA and tomorrow we cross over into Florida. I heard talk tonight about a possible storm system coming through Florida and while I am traveling in the van, I hope for the rider’s sake the storm system goes around us!

Stay tuned for more…. Missi

2 thoughts on “The Chase – Halfway to Key West

  1. Wonderful article…
    This helped me understand a little bit more about the riders and how the event accually works.
    I was glad to be able to make it to two of the stops in Michigan!
    Being a Motor Maid…I can appreciate the trials and tribulations of these great riders !

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