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 )
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 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.
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.
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