Scooter Cannonball Run 2014: Tomorrow, We Ride!

The 2014 Scooter Cannonball Run (aka CBR) is a 10-day endurance ride from Hyder, Alaska to New Orleans, LA. You can follow the riders’ progress on I am #98, riding a 1987 Honda Helix CN250. For more information, see Earlier and forthcoming Cannonball posts can be found here.

Saturday, May 31. Three days to start.

As many scooterists know, the indirect route is often the best. This rarely applies to air travel, but sailing through customs at Calgary, Canada, after the first of three flights, I didn’t feel so bad about having to be at LAX at 4:30am that morning. There were no long lines of weary travelers shuffling through to declare they had no contraband hidden away.

I stepped up to the booth and presented my passport and declaration The Customs official inquired, “What’s your final destination today?”
“Prince George.”
“What’s in Prince George?”
“It’s 420 miles from Stewart.”
“What’s in Stewart?”
“The starting line.”

A couple booths away, my friend Linda is having a similar discussion. When asked why we would want to ride from Alaska to New Orleans on motorscooters, she simply replied, “Because we’re crazy.”

Those of us on our way to Hyder, AK, the official starting point of the 2014 Scooter Cannonball Run, each have our own motivations for riding and will likely have different experiences along the way. But all of us expect to be challenged every step of the way. It will test us physically, mentally and emotionally. We’ll learn a lot but ourselves and each other and our capacities to handle stress, fatigue and the numerous obstacles that lay ahead. As I’ve told many friends, I suspect that we’ll see the worst of each other before we reach the finish.

The preparation to get to to the starting line has called on our skills as logisticians, navigators, mechanics and time managers. Having a scooter in tip-top shape is only part of what’s involved. There’s also planning your gear, what to pack to deal with weather and other elements, what spare parts to bring, how much foreign currency to have onhand, arranging for support should things go awry, booking motels and flights, learning the routes and planning gas stops, planning your food and nutrition for eating while riding (lunch stops are rare). There are also conditioning rides to prepare yourself for the endurance aspect, extra trips to the gym to get your back and shoulders and arms in better shape. This year, there’s the added challenge of getting yourself and your scooter to the remote starting location.

Of course, it’s highly unlikely any of us have done all of these things and I’m rather embarrassed to admit which I’ve neglected. I’ve definitely benefitted from having friends with experience and skills in many of these areas.

Monday, June 2. One day to start.

North to Alaska

En route to the start

The scooters, scooterists and there support teams and vehicles have now assembled in the bucolic town of Stewart, British Columbia, a few miles from the official starting line in Hyder, AK.

The trip up from Prince George yesterday was like driving through a promotional pamphlet for BC tourism. Miles of forest, snow-capped peaks, rivers seasonal waterfalls of melted snow rushing down the cliffsides. One glacier and one black bear spotted.

The locals are somewhat used to motorcycle tourists coming through but the scooterists are a different breed. But even the folks we’ve met who are riding their Harleys, Victories or BMW 1200GSs through the region are surprised to learn where we’re headed and that many have already done lengthy rides from all over the States just to get to the start.

Stewart and Hyder, a mere two miles and one time zone change apart, are remote but not uncivilized. The people are very friendly and curious about what our group of two-wheel miscreants is up to. The towns are so small, however, that the closest bank is 200km away, Internet access is spotty and many conveniences and creature comforts are scarce. When I inquired if there was a barber in town, a shopkeeper replied, “Oh, well, there was one girl, but I don’t think she’s doing it anymore because she’s packed up to move. Uh, where are you headed? There might be one in Smithers.”

The Glacier Inn, where we get "Hyderized."

The Glacier Inn, where we get “Hyderized.”

Last night we made our way across the border; my second border crossing by scooter, after going to Mexico last year. At the Glacier Inn in Hyder (I recommend the fish & chips), several of us got “Hyderized” by drinking the 150proof hooch from a bottle kept wrapped in black plastic. When in Hyder…

Coming back into Stewart, 9:30PM and the sun was just starting to set; it wasn’t dark until midnight. All I could think of was, “What do they do for Fourth of July in Hyder?”

The Canadian border agent went through the usual questions. “Do you have any weapons?” A small pocket knife. “Pepper spray?” Nope. “Bear spray?” Um, do I need bear spray? She slowly shook her head in disapproval. “They’re just starting to wake up now,” she told me.

Today is spent wrenching, making the final adjustments, checking oil and tires, outfitting their rides for GoPros, GPS units, heated gear, SPOT devices, iPods and so on. I loaded up the Helix and took it for a “shake out” ride, checking all my bags and luggage, even figuring out how I want my camera hanging around my neck for left-handed shots while riding.

The atmosphere is full of nervous energy and anticipation, especially among those of us who are first timers. This afternoon, our first rider meeting, then tomorrow morning, we see what we’re really made of.

I’ll be posting as I can from the road, but as I’ve learned, even WiFi is hard to come by and unreliable up here.

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