STURGIS — A grueling vintage motorcycle endurance run, which takes riders over 3,600 miles, from sea to shining sea across America, is more than halfway complete.
The Motorcycle Cannonball Run riders got to spend a well-earned day of rest in the Black Hills Monday after rolling into Sturgis Sunday.
Motorcycle Land speed record holder, Jody Perewitz, is on her first trip as a cannonballer, and is one of only four lady riders on the run this year.
“It is the most grueling, awesome, craziest race,” she said. “It is cool. It’s very cool.”
Perewitz said the hardest part for her has been getting the timing right.
“We have to leave at a certain time and then we have to be in by a certain time,” she explained. “So it doesn’t leave much room for error and you can’t stop. So I’m seeing all these cool places and wanting to stop and be a tourist, but I can’t!”
She said her favorite part of the adventure has been the cannonballers themselves.
“I grew up in the motorcycle industry, motorcycles are all I know,” she said. “But this is a whole new world, because these guys are all so passionate about these old bikes, and you gotta be to do this.”
Navigating the back roads and bi-ways of America without the use of a modern GPS system was one thing Perewitz was concerned about. Each morning, 15 minutes before the days run starts, the riders are given a scroll with the route they must travel that day printed on it. The scrolls are loaded into a box mounted on the front of their bike that they have to manually crank to scroll up or down.
“I actually picked it up pretty quick and now I don’t think it’s an issue at all,” she said. “There’s three of us that have been riding together and they all nominated me navigator, so I guess I’m doing a good job!”
Commercial airline pilot Andrea Labarbara, who is also on her first Motorcycle Cannonball Run, took a few minutes to reminisce about the ride thus far.
“It’s been great,” she said. “It’s a huge welcome when you’re coming in and people are cheering.”
Labarbara said she and her support team were so well prepared for any challenges the run might muster that she’d be hard pressed to describe any part of the trip as difficult.
“Something could happen at any moment, but the bike is great, I’m fine, we have clothing, we have everything,” she said. “I was inviting the rain. I was hoping it would rain because I was so prepared I thought it would give me a leg up.”
Kevin Brassard is a member of Labarbara’s support team. He said the most daunting thing for him has been the constant fine-tuning that goes into every bike on a nightly basis and the pressure of making sure the antique machines hold together for such a strenuous journey.
“We’ve got to change the oil every night, lubricate all the valves, check clutches, check tire pressures, nut and bolt everything on the bike,” He said. “It’s an easy job but it has to be exact.”
Brassard said he’d like to ride in the run some day.
“I’d like to, I’ve got to get a lot more practice.”
As of Stage No. 9, both Perewitz and Labarbara are among the 54 percent of the riders that are maintaining a perfect mile count so far in the run. With so many perfect scores, the placement standing comes down to the age of the bike. Labarbara is in fifth place with her 1913 Henderson, and Perewitz is in 40th place with her 1926 Harley Davidson JD. In first place is Chris Tribbey riding the oldest bike in this year’s run, a 1911 Excelsior K Single.
The Cannonball continues Tuesday with stage No. 10 taking the riders from Sturgis to Billings, Mont.
Follow along to the end of the run in the hard copy edition and on the Black Hills Pioneer website.
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