Two perspectives are offered here—one from the rider, Norm Nelson (NN); and the other from the support crew (SC).
(SC) Participation in the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run began shortly after several members of the Historic Motorcycle Society (HMS) of Jacksonville, Fla., witnessed the start of the 2010 Cannonball in Kitty Hawk, N.C. Mr. William “Bill” Robinson, eventually HMS Team 23’s manager, approached Mr. Jack Wells, a well-known vintage BMW collector, for his advice on selecting an appropriate BMW for the 2012 Cannonball. Team manager Robinson selected the “Team 23” name to honor the first year of BMW motorcycle production. Jack immediately seized the opportunity to participate and offered his museum-quality 1929 R11. Bill contacted Mr. Norman Nelson, an experienced vintage racer and longtime motorcyclist, as the team’s rider. Next on Bill’s agenda was to assemble the home-based and travelling mechanics. While working out of our Lake City, Fla., base Mr. Ed Miller would serve as lead mechanic with Mr. Chris Alley to perform those duties while on the Cannonball route. Mr. Larry Meeker, an able mechanic in his own right, was asked to assist and travel with the team as Road Manager. William “Bill” Botkin was recruited as an assistant and travelling mechanic. Mr. Rob Goetz volunteered to be our daily chronicler while we were on the road. Legal services were provided by Jacksonville attorney and longtime motorcycle aficionado and judge, Mr. John Duss, Esq.
(NN) The 2012 Cannonball Motorcycle Endurance Rally, Sept. 7–23, was one of the most satisfying motorcycling endeavors in which I have participated. I was honored to ride a 1929 BMW R11 from Newburgh, N.Y., to San Francisco, Calif., in this most unusual event for motorcycles made in 1929 and earlier. The Cannonball is not a race but an endurance rally. Riders were required to navigate a prescribed route each day in a certain time period. Seventy-five teams entered the rally, and about 62 riders made it to the finish. There were 16 stages, lasting one day each. Teams were given an additional day of rest in Sturgis, S.D. The route was 3,956 miles in length, with riders logging an average of 247 miles each day. Once under way, riders were not allowed to receive assistance from their team. When problems arose, the rider had to fix them or solicit help from another competitor or an outside source. For every mile ridden along a day’s route, if no penalties were assessed for being late or missing a checkpoint, the rider was awarded a point. The rider with the most points at the end of the rally would win. There was only one prize, a stunning trophy artfully depicting a Pony Express Rider at full gallop next to a rider at speed on a vintage motorcycle.
Sixteen riders finished with a perfect score. There were three classes: Class I for motorcycles 750cc and under, Class II for motorcycles 751cc to 1000cc and Class III for motorcycles 1001cc and over. In case of a tie, the smaller CC class won, followed by the older motorcycle, and finally the older rider. Brad Wilmarth, on a 1913 Excelsior, won; Joe Gardella, on a 1914 H-D, was second and I finished third.
The Cannonball route loosely paralleled Interstate 80. Only 100 of the 4,000-mile route were on the Interstate system; the remainder was two-lane U.S. “Blue Star” highways or state and county roads. I departed Newburgh, N.Y., on Sept. 7 for Wellsboro, Pa.; Sandusky, Ohio; Milwaukee, Wis.; Anamosa, Iowa; Spirit Lake, Iowa; Murdo, S.D.; Sturgis, S.D.; Sheridan, Wyo.; Lake Yellowstone, Wyo.; Jackson, Wyo.; Mountain Home, Idaho; Burns, Idaho; Klamath Falls, Ore.; Fortuna, Calif.; Rohnert Park, Calif.; and arrived in San Francisco, Calif., on Sept. 23.
Schatzi, as we came to call the bike, is a 1929 BMW R11with an 18 hp “Boxer” engine, a three-speed transmission and drive shaft. The front suspension incorporates a leaf spring, which provided marginal dampening on the rough roads of the East and Midwest. The well sprung seat cushions the rider from the rigidly mounted rear drive and wheel assembly. Avon 3.50/19 tires were used and provided a smooth trouble free ride. The geometry of the seat, footboard and handlebars was excellent and contributed to a very comfortable ride. Two levers located on the top of the right handlebar control the fuel and air. I operated the levers with my right thumb and index finger. The transmission hand shift lever is positioned on the right side of the gas tank. The front brake lever is on the right handlebar, the clutch lever is on the left handlebar, and the rear brake lever is located aft of the right footboard. A single carburetor with a remote float bowl feeds the cylinders. A timing advance and retard lever is located on the left handlebar. A Touratech “roll type” route box was mounted on the handlebar and above it was a battery-powered device, which gave time, speed, distance traveled and left cylinder temp. No GPS equipment was allowed. The R11 accelerates to over 70 mph, but was most happy at 55 mph.
(SC) Schatzi’s previous life in a museum in no way prepared the bike for the rigors of a 4,000-mile cross-country adventure. After about 50 test miles and much discussion and inspection, it was determined Schatzi would need a complete teardown and reconditioning. The team’s mechanics disassembled Schatzi to bare frame and sent all major components to the far reaches of the globe.
While the team awaited the return of the magneto, crankshaft, transmission and final drive, the two “Bills” engaged in a public relations campaign to raise money for our effort. In the end, however, our efforts would fail. With no major sponsor to cover the expense of Schatzi’s preparation and participation in the Cannonball, it was decided a grassroots fundraising approach was needed to supplement team members’ contributions. Family, friends, members of the BMW Northeast Florida Motorcycle Club (BMWNEF) and HMS were solicited for contributions. In addition to his time as team manager, Bill Robinson donated his scooter and Kawasaki W650 to the team for transportation while on the road.
Our plan to have Schatzi on the road in Lake City by early August for a month’s worth of testing began to slip early on. The magneto, a month overdue, finally arrived from Germany. Then, much to our dismay, the crankshaft returned from Germany in worse shape than it was when sent! Ed Miller quickly consulted with fellow vintage BMW experts and a new machine shop was found which could expedite the job of centering, balancing and hardening the crank. As we approached the final stages of re-assembly, it was discovered that our first set of donated wheels were unusable. Jack contacted Angel of Buchannan Spoke and Wheel, who did a rush job of installing new spokes and balancing a new set of rims Jack had made in Germany.
Not so fast! There’s another fly in the soup. The transmission and final drive arrived and the new rear wheel hub assembly did not “mate” with the final drive mounting posts. In addition, Schatzi’s mounting holes in its pressed steel frame had been “holed out” due to looseness of the final drive in the bike’s previous life. More delays and long nights faced the team as we struggled against the clock. Five days prior to our planned departure, and a month behind schedule, the team was ready for test rides. Apparently “we” did not include Schatzi. The bike would usually start when cold, but never when hot. Hard starting when hot would plague us throughout the entire Cannonball. Additionally, we discovered what appeared to be non-metallic flakes in the final drive oil. Through all these irritating setbacks we were guided by Ed’s and Chris’ patience and expertise. Their dedication prevailed, and with Norm aboard and a chase bike behind, Schatzi finally hit the road for more test miles.
With approximately 150–200 miles of testing, Schatzi was loaded aboard the transport and we headed to Newburg, N.Y.
Success! After many months of planning and hard work, HMS Team 23 arrived at the starting line. To a man, none of us thought we would make it out of Florida, let alone to the starting line. The eve of the run was not without drama. We were in need of a special BMW eight-sided socket to secure the rear bearing assembly. Fortunately, Orange County Choppers was located less than 100 yards from our start hotel in Newburg. Mr. Tom Joyce, Bike Sales and Business Development Director for Orange County Choppers, introduced Chris and I to Rick Petko and Jim Quinn, Chief Engineer.
Chris explained what we needed to Petko and Quinn and they were on the task immediately. While Mr. Petko gave us the “cook’s tour” through the inner sanctum of Orange County Choppers, Mr. Quinn was off to his computer-assisted ultra-high pressure water injection cutting machine to design our tool. Within an hour the tool was cut and made to fit a 3/8" ratchet. We were presented with the new tool and put it to use readying Schatzi for the journey.
“Let the Games Begin”
Phase One: The East and Midwest – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin
To loosely paraphrase Robert Duval in Apocalypse Now, “I love the smell of hydrocarbons in the morning.” That would best describe the start of the Cannonball Endurance Run from the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburg; over 70 vintage machines idling, revving, leaking and, of course, smoking in anticipation of the start of the event.
(NN) Schatzi and I bonded on the first test ride. I had no trouble manipulating the air/fuel levers, brake levers and shift lever. At speed and in third gear, Schatzi tracked straight and true. The fishtail mufflers kept the exhaust noise low and gas mileage varied from 35–50 mpg. We used Amsoil synthetic in the engine, transmission and rear drive.
(SC) The next four days would be Schatzi’s break-in period. Our first overnight destination was Wellsboro, Pa., followed by Sandusky, Ohio, then on to Milwaukee, Wis.
Norm arrived in Wellsboro with no major issues, making all checkpoints and completing all miles. We set about doing routine maintenance, tightening bolts, checking fluids and cleaning up for the next day. The plugs were pulled to reveal a badly “sooted” right sparkplug. Further inspection discovered the right exhaust manifold gasket had deteriorated and was leaking. A new gasket was made from an automotive gasket and Schatzi was put back together once again, started and put to bed.
The routine described above would be the norm for the maintenance crew. Get up early, make final preparations, fuel up, load the day’s route in the route holder, warm the engine and finally see Norm off at the start. Load the transporter; drive 6–10 hours along a different route to the day’s destination. At night we’d work till 12–1 a.m. tending to Schatzi’s needs, sleep, get up and repeat.
(NN) Jack and I shared a motel room each night. Chris, Larry and Bill stayed in Jack’s fifth-wheel camper. I worked hard at eating and sleeping well. Each day’s paper route was loaded in the route box the night before. Class I departed first followed by the other two classes. Once I departed, the team was required to take a different route to the destination. Upon arrival at the day’s destination, I would report any problems to Chris Alley, a Mercedes Benz Master Technician, and the team would get to work resolving any issues. After a few days on the road, Team 23 became a well-oiled machine. Team members Larry and Bill shared routine maintenance duties and assisted Chris with his projects. Jack was always there to add his expertise and assistance.
(SC) Norm’s ride to Sandusky would be the longest so far (300 miles) and would be the first time Schatzi would be ridden on the Interstate system. Norm received some sage advice early on from a 2010 Cannonball participant: “Find a sweet spot speed and back off a few mph; slow and steady wins the race.” Schatzi would have to be run at the bike’s fastest speed along I-90 in and around Cleveland. Norm handled it with care, arriving on time with all miles completed.
Norm left early for Milwaukee and the Harley-Davidson Museum. He wound his way through Ohio, the northeast corner of Indiana, through Michigan where he caught a high-speed ferry to Milwaukee. The miles continued to mount and correspondingly, the “nicks” to Schatzi’s wellbeing began to mount. The very mild winter of the Midwest had caused extensive heaving damage to the roads. Schatzi has only limited front suspension and a solid rear end. The rider’s only suspension is a spring-mounted seat. The new 6-volt battery installed at the start failed internally due to jolts from the rough roads. Each night we’d find loose or missing bolts.
We parked on the grass lot in front of the Harley Museum and were treated to another friendly reception by the Harley faithful. The wear and tear on all machines was evident in the maintenance area. We were fortunate; all we had to contend with were loose fasteners, a balky headlight and a generator that could not keep up. Around us teams worked feverishly through the night, changing engines, replacing tires, welding and manufacturing homemade parts.
(NN) Riding on the ferry from Muskegon to Milwaukee and following a police escort to the Harley-Davidson Museum were high points. A huge crowd met us and we were treated to an excellent dinner.
Phase Two: The Great Pains – Iowa and South Dakota.
(SC) The harder we worked, the greater our confidence became that we might just finish this thing. Schatzi was giving us fits with hard starting, unreliable charging and the headlight system. It was one thing to be hard to start in the maintenance area; when one starter’s leg gave out, we’d get another to kick. But Norm alone on the route was another thing. Norm partially solved the starting issue by always looking for a hill to park on or enlisting the help of spectators for a bump start. Cannonball rules allowed non-team members and fellow riders to assist on the route, but not their maintenance crews.
Anamosa, Iowa, and the National Motorcycle Museum was our next destination. This route would give us our first real scare about completing the Cannonball. Approaching Monroe, Wis., with lunch at the local Harley-Davidson dealership, Norm pulled in the clutch lever only to feel it go “pop” and give way. He knew immediately he’d broken the clutch cable. Managing his speed to avoid stopping and shifting without the aid of his clutch, Norm managed to nurse Schatzi into the Harley dealer’s parking lot. Norm, assisted by mechanics from the Harley dealership, discovered the cable was not broken, but the cable’s end had become dislodged from the clutch lever’s forked receptacle. The cable end was re-inserted into the receptacle and Norm was on his way again. In the cooperative spirit which existed among Cannonball participants, fellow BMW Cannonballer Darryl Richman loaned us a spare cable, which fortunately was never used.
(NN) It was challenge to navigate each day’s route, safely ride an 83-year-old motorcycle and conserve the machine to make the finish. My worst stage was from Milwaukee to Anamosa. I made two wrong turns and the clutch cable malfunctioned, forcing me to shift gears without the clutch. I was able to nurse Schatzi to our scheduled lunch break and reconnect the ball end of the clutch cable to the clutch lever. Unfortunately, grinding the transmission damaged first gear and later in the rally, only second and third gears were usable.
(SC) After a short stop in Spirit Lake, Iowa, hosted by Polaris Industries (Victory and Indian motorcycles), we were once again headed west to Murdo, S.D. Murdo may not be at the end of the world, but you can see it from there. Schatzi continued to be up to the test. As we travelled west and climbed in elevation, Norm reported some engine clatter from Schatzi’s reliable Airhead engine. Norm retarded the spark slightly to eliminate the clatter. For three hours Norm and Schatzi were in rain. On arrival Norm remarked Schatzi seemed to like the inclement “German” weather. The roads finally smoothed out, giving Norm and Schatzi a better ride. From Murdo our destination for a two-night stay was Sturgis, S.D.
For the support crew, the drive to Sturgis was anything but spectacular. Get on Interstate 90 in Murdo, get off I-90 in Sturgis. The thing that always amazes me about the Great Plains is how it must have felt as a pioneer, maybe making 20 miles a day with everything you owned stored and tied to your wagon. Day after day, staring at the mountains, watching them get bigger and bigger with each passing day. This is truly Big Country out here. Norm and Schatzi had a much more scenic routing. Wall and the Badlands were a must see, followed by riding through the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Deadwood and finally into Sturgis for a well-deserved rest. The entire crew was looking forward to our one extra day of rest and relaxation (R&R) in Sturgis. Unfortunately, it was anything but R&R.
The support crew, led by Chris, was still battling the same old and some new issues. The charging system, which had plagued from day three, was still unresolved. Our solution had been to “jury rig” with duct tape a small flashlight to Schatzi’s headlamp. Hard starting was still an issue and what Norm reported as an unbalanced feeling in Schatzi’s engine. We accomplished our usual maintenance and, upon inspection, discovered one of the intake manifold gaskets was broken, causing un-metered air to enter the combustion chamber. While Chris dismantled the intake manifold, Larry and I fashioned new gaskets. The valves, which had finally seated, no longer needed daily adjustment; this bright spot was offset somewhat by the carburetor, which had developed an intermittent leak.
With the extra day in Sturgis the crew was able to catch up on our domestic duties. All did laundry, slept in a little longer and some (I) had a visit to the local chiropractor. We readied Schatzi for the trip to Sheridan, Wyo., and the Big Horn Mountains. A special word of thanks to Cannonballer Joe Gimpel for his continued advice and a spare set of brake shoes he gladly provided for the team.
Phase Three: The Wild West – Wyoming and Idaho
Schatzi’s run to Sheridan was without incident until Norm reached the layover motel. Officer Friendly of the Wyoming Highway Patrol informed Norm his makeshift headlight would not pass muster if he were to be stopped by a trooper. We worked late into the night and managed to get Schatzi’s headlight to function better and the flashlight stayed in place as a last ditch back-up. While working on the light, the crew commented on how nonsensical some states can be regarding motorcycle safety. You can ride in Wyoming without a helmet, crack your head like a melon on the pavement, but you must have a headlight! Go figure.
Schatzi’s biggest test lay ahead on the next day’s route. Schatzi must have felt reborn and transported back to the native Alps as the bike headed out of Sheridan for Cody, Wyo. A 10-mile climb to an 8,000-foot pass along US 14 was no match for Little Schatzi and Norm. Norm skillfully managed the spark retard to keep Schatzi at peak performance; the bike coasted into Cody without a hint of trouble. That is more than I can say for the support crew. Halfway down from the pass, we pulled to the side to cool the brakes on the Freightliner and trailer.
It was a fortuitous stop. As we waited, one of the lead bikes passed us. We knew we were on one of the few routes where support crews and Cannonball riders were allowed to share the road. A few minutes later Norm and Schatzi came into view, racing down the mountain. This was the first time we had seen Norm and Schatzi on the route in 2,500 miles.
When we reached the valley floor, we were flagged over by another team to tell us we had shredded a tire on the trailer. We headed to the local Wal-Mart tire center for repairs.
(NN) My best day was climbing the Big Horn Mountains west of Sheridan and riding with a tail wind from there to Cody. Riding Schatzi that day was pure magic. The cold rain during two of the earlier stages was most satisfying, too. My leathers kept me dry and Schatzi never missed a beat.
(SC) Yellowstone National Park never disappoints. The crew anxiously awaited another opportunity to gaze at the wonders of Yellowstone. Norm guided Schatzi through the park to our lodging near the Yellowstone Inn. The chronic headlight problem was now fatal. We could not get the magneto/generator to keep the battery charged to power the light. Something had to be done, and soon. Chris developed a radical plan that would carry us through all the way to San Francisco. We had the shortest route of the Cannonball tomorrow, 100 miles from Yellowstone to Jackson, Wyo. We would “modernize” Schatzi tomorrow! But first, we had to get Schatzi started on the coldest day of the event.
We woke early on the west shore of a fog-shrouded Lake Yellowstone. The fog hung low across the lake, obscuring the shoreline in all directions. The conditions, 28 degrees, damp and high elevation (7,500 feet), gave us fits trying to get Schatzi started. The bike just would not fire while being kicked. We took turns being the designated kicker to no avail. With no other options remaining, we began our morning aerobic workout, pushing Schatzi and Norm down, around and over several rises until it finally started. Schatzi was going and we had managed to do it without angina or too much shortness of breath! Our workout was not complete, though. Cannonball competitor Joe Gimpel, riding his 1928 R62, also had starting troubles. We repeated our pushing workout and Joe and his BMW rode to the start line.
Our drive in the support vehicle was without incident; Norm, however, reported that shortly after he departed the starti line he rode into dense ice fog. He slowed and cautiously maneuvered the icy damp roads until the fog abated and his visibility improved.
The drive to Jackson Hole Ski Area and the town of Jackson is another of those “don’t miss” scenic routes. After exiting Yellowstone National Park, we travelled south paralleling the Gross Venture Valley. The majority of the valley is part of the National Elk Refuge, purchased and donated to the National Park System by the Rockefeller Family. Immediately to the west are the magnificent Tetons.
The crew set up our maintenance area and work began on Schatzi’s defunct electrical system. While part of the crew dismantled Schatzi, others were sent on a parts scavenger hunt. The scooter and motorcycle provided by team manager Bill Robinson were invaluable in gathering all necessary supplies to repair Schatzi’s electrical system. With the parts in place, Chris set to work. Rather than keep the 6-volt system, it was decided to take the generator out of the system and power the lights with a 12-volt battery. A marine battery storage case with a high amperage hour marine battery was mounted on Schatzi’s saddlebag support plate.
Chris rewired the head and taillight to accept 12-volt bulbs and finished it off with an on/off switch. The plan was for Norm to run the light when in urban areas and save the battery when the light was not needed. While in Jackson Hole, we learned we had moved into 4th place overall. We were the number one bike in our class and the number one BMW. It was about now that we thought we might just finish this thing, maybe even win the overall event.
While travelling his route to Mountain Home, Idaho, Norm experienced another scare. The carburetor float system on Schatzi is very delicate. When Norm would go over bridge and road junctions, the jolt would sometimes knock the float out of position, causing it to leak fuel. Norm used his experience in vintage motorcycle riding and moved the fuel petcock lever toward “off” to “lean” the flow to the carburetor and eliminate the leakage. Norm’s route to Mountain Home was scenic; ours, with the exception of some beautiful areas south of Jackson, was boring—Interstates 15, 86 and 84 all the way. The highlights of the drive along I-84 were the numerous crossings of the beautiful Snake River and a semi unknowingly dumping Idaho’s finest along the Interstate.
Phase Four – Oregon and California
Burns, Ore., a prosperous farming and regional center in central Oregon, was our next stop. I’ll never go to the moon, but I’ve been close. The drive from Mountain Home to Burns is as close to a lunar landscape as there is. As the saying goes, “Miles and miles of miles and miles.” We would cross a ridge and look 40 miles down a laser surveyed road across one valley after another. As we proceeded west, nearing the foothills of the Cascades, the parched high desert gave way to cultivated green pastures and well maintained farms and ranches.
After entering and crossing the beautiful Cascades, we spent the night in Klamath Falls, Ore. Our next stop was Fortuna, Calif. We worked our way onto US 101 for some of the most beautiful roads in North America. For some of the crew this was their first experience seeing the giant Redwoods. The setting is truly beyond words, gigantic Redwoods with a backdrop of the blue Pacific Ocean. It is spectacular, to say the least.
Norm continued to pamper Schatzi through the Redwoods and along US 101. To solve Schatzi’s chronic hard starting while hot issue, Norm would park on hills; failing that, he would solicit volunteers to give him a push start. Upon our arrival in Fortuna, the tension began to mount, two stages to go. We’re not a suspicious lot, but as we neared the end we all agreed to do the minimum; don’t change or disturb Schatzi’s karma. None of us would even remove the flashlight, duct taped to the headlight (it hadn’t worked for days and was not needed any longer) for fear of casting bad “Ju Ju” on Schatzi.
Norm rode Schatzi to Cotati, Calif., with no new issues. We were one short but difficult segment away from finishing the Cannonball. We were now in third place overall! What a ride Norm would have!
Schatzi was beginning to show the wear and tear of an over 4,000-mile cross-country ride. The failure of the clutch cable in Wisconsin forced Norm to shift without the benefit of the clutch. Even with the clutch operating, Schatzi never had a quiet shift from first to second. When we entered California two days prior, Norm reported Schatzi was “popping” out of first gear under acceleration. After consulting with Ed back in Florida, Norm began taking off in second gear.
Norm and Schatzi departed Cotati for San Francisco and the Dudley Perkins Harley-Davidson dealership in South San Francisco. As usual, a lunch stop was planned for the Cannonball riders near Sausalito. Approaching the lunch locale, Norm pulled in on the front brake lever only to feel it go limp in his hand. With both brakes operating Schatzi is manageable, but with only the rear, it’s unsafe. Norm parked and began inspecting the front brake cable assembly. Luckily, the cable’s end had fallen off. While Norm was searching for a spare, a fellow rider and Texan provided Norm with a new cable end. Another field expedient repair was completed and Norm was on his way through city streets and hills to the Dudley Perkins dealership.
(NN) As we completed more stages, we rose in the standings and the pressure to finish high grew. We started the final stage in 3rd place. Ten miles into the final stage, the front brake cable broke and I could feel Team 23’s third place finish slipping away; the pressure was on! The wear and tear my team had tried to forestall was slowly overtaking Schatzi and me. I had to start out in second gear, afraid that I might destroy the clutch by having to slip it in second gear to climb the many hills in San Francisco. With the front brake gone, I had only the marginal rear brake to stop me on the many downhill streets. Fortunately, my fellow Texas competitor Mike Bell helped me fix the brake cable. Additionally, we had a police escort later in the day and our route bypassed downtown San Francisco.
(SC) The entire crew and thousands of spectators were waiting, anticipating the arrival of the Cannonball riders. Finally, down a gantlet of cheering spectators, family, crews and friends, the first riders started to cross the finish line. Norm turned Schatzi down the tunnel of spectators and crossed the finish line first in our class, first in BMW’s class and third place overall.
We were exhausted but proud of our team’s achievement. We had taken a show bike, not ready for long distance riding, torn it down, overcome technical and supply difficulties, rebuilt it and cared for it all the way across our vast country. This was a total team effort. Each member did his part either at home or on the road. Our entire trip lasted 24 days and 8,000 miles before we returned to Florida. Although only three BMWs were entered in a field comprised mostly of Harleys, Indians and Hendersons, the event’s organizer, Lonnie Isam, rode the entire route on his well-worn R1100GS. All of us are very proud to represent BMW, the Historic Motorcycle Society (HMS) and the BMW Club of Northeast Florida (BMWNEF).
While we are pleased with our perfect score and our 3rd place overall finish, HMS Team 23 and its supporters were dismayed at a rule interpretation which prevented us from the 1st place overall finish we would have earned under the stated rules of the Cannonball. Our R11 is a 745cc motorcycle, easily qualifying for a Class I (under 750cc) designation. We were informed by the event organizer about 10 days prior to the event that he had placed us in Class II, for motorcycles with 750–1000cc engines. When we asked that he abide by his own rules, he noted that there was another rule basically stating that his decision was final, and there was no recourse available to us. Had we remained in Class I as the rules specified, we would have won the tiebreaker (smaller displacement) and won the 2012 Cannonball. Obviously, we found the decision arbitrary and punitive to our team. We were the only motorcycle entered that was denied victory by the consequences of his ruling.
(NN) Riding with and getting to know the other riders and teams was a high point on the Cannonball. There were so many great people and hundreds of wonderful roads. “Fate” was definitely the “hunter,” as Darryl Richman on his 1928 R52 might have won the Cannonball had it not been for head gasket problems, and Joe Gimpel on his 1928 R62 would have finished ahead of us had it not been for a faulty condenser. Gina, the foxy “Video Girl,” was fearless as she held her camera on us and rode facing backward as the passenger on the chase motorcycle. Lonnie Isam, the promoter and organizer, and his crew were excellent. We rode 16 days and covered over 3,900 miles of American back roads. It was an amazing experience. I am proud to have been a part of Team 23 and to have ridden Schatzi to a good finish. I figure there is only one way to cure the letdown we all had after the 2012 Cannonball was over... and that is to do it again! I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Bill Robinson, Jack and Judie Wells, Ed Miller, Chris Alley, Larry Meeker, Bill Botkin, Ron Goetz, BMW, the Historic Motorcycle Society, BMW of NE Florida and many others who helped Team 23.