Monday, September 08, 2014


Michael Lichter captured Susan McLaughlin and I riding through the Georgia hills, and titled it, 'Oh what a wonderful life!'.  I couldn't agree more.
I should mention that much of my apocalyptic talk about the Cannonball relates to my previous experience in 2012, with my 1928/33 Velocette KTT.  There was a weak link in my parts ordering system (me), and I didn't get the replacement camshaft I desperately needed in time for the start, so installed the best one from my pile - a mystery cam with no markings - and guessed at the timing.  It proved all wrong, and I seized the exhaust valve twice (thinking it inadequate guide clearance) before I realized the KTT needed a different cam.   The replacement cam was Fedex'd en route, but wasn't dimensionally identical, and all mating parts required machining - cam, shaft, rockers, rocker pads, cambox - before everything lined up.  Let's just say I spent way too much time in motel parking lots, working by streetlamp, getting bummed out.
The difference between labor and leisure; a competent mechanic to lend a hand.  Here's our wet plate shot of Chris Davis of Revival Cycles, who prepped our Brough and keeps it running sweetly.
Another factor which sucked: crap coffee and mediocre food.  So, this year, I teamed up with Revival Cycles of Austin, who prepped our borrowed Brough Superior 11-50 (a zillion thanks to the ever-generous Bryan Bossier of Sinless Cycles), and we brought a French press and many pounds of coffee from our favorite roaster in NYC (a delicious organic Peruvian French roast from Porto Rico Coffee in the West Village).  And while it might seem inconvenient that my riding/life parter Susan doesn't eat red meat, that gave us carte blanche to find our own dinner nightly, as while the Cannonball has set up free dinners every night at a local motorcycle dealer or museum, that meal is invariably hamburger or pulled-pork based.  Via Yelp, we've found fantastic meals for lunch and dinner every day thus far, including Cajun and totally organic home-made or at least non-chain genuine local cuisine.  Not having to wrench every night, and eating a good dinner, have improved my outlook on the Cannonball immeasurably - so far it's been an absolute treat, despite occasional Biblical-level rainfall.
Southern decay; glamorous and spooky
Our first day's ride was through the Florida forest and swamplands, which are actually gorgeous, although hot and humid.  The Brough nipped up while stuck in a series of traffic lights in a small town, so we gave her a rest by an enormous oak tree in an old cemetary, made spooky with Spanish moss hanging from trees, and an air of decay.  Plenty of decayed barns and mobile homes en route added to the feel of glorious rot about the place, and I was on the lookout for alligators (but only found them pre-deceased, in restaurants).  Support crews aren't allowed on the same roads as the riders, so our partners, Alan Stulberg and Chris Davis, texted to ask for a progress report at lunchtime.  I replied, "The oysters were delicious, the shrimp fresh, even the Arnold Palmers not too sweet.  Waiting for key lime pie now; will assess."  Good food at Corky Belle's in Palatka, FL.
The Brough beside a ruined homestead near Ephesus, Georgia
We arrived in Lake City, FL just before our rally check-in time of 4:30pm, and just before the town attempted to live up to its name.  It rained 10" that night, and in the morning, our first half of the Cannonball route was cancelled due to floods on our way.  We put the Brough in our Sprinter and drove to Albany, Georgia, where we found Pearly's Country Kitchen, and 'Pearly' Gates presiding over the small-town restaurant he's owned since 1960.  Alan rode the rest of the day, and we finally set up our 'wet plate' photography gear, after a stop at Home Depot to build a folding shelf in the van to work on.  Regardless of the heat and humidity, our shots turned out well.
We saw lots of abandoned factories along the way, evidence of America's industrial decline, and the real impact of 'outsourcing'.  It will take clever and innovative business ideas to revive the South.
Day 3 was a ride from Columbus GA, through the hills to Chattanooga Tennessee, which was simply delicious two-up, with the humidity and temperature more moderate.  It was bliss, and I felt lucky.  The drop from Lookout Mountain into Chattanooga was fantastic, a series of tight bends dropping rapidly from along the cliff face...marked 20mph but we ignored that silliness.  While the Coker Tire Museum was a lovely backdrop for dinner, we hung out long enough to enjoy their incredibly collection of cars and motorcycles, then found the Tupelo Honey Cafe on Warehouse Row, which was amazingly good.  Food, motorcycles, company, coffee: keeping me in good spirits!
Our wet plate of Craig with his twin-carb Harley VL
Our wet plate shot of the beloved 'round the world' Doug Wothke
100-odd old bikes make an impact in Chattanooga, Tennessee, outside the Coker Tire museum
Andy explains, 'While you can fix a Harley with a hammer, my Excelsior-Henderson only needs a wrench.'
Working on a very specially tuned BMW in Chattanooga in the Coker garage
Lots of barns and homesteads returning to earth
The Coker Tire museum; my least favorite display method.  The best?  The Cannonball.
Outside Corky Belle's cafe in Palatka, Florida.  Especially don't feed the alligators with yourself!
A few repairs on the slightly fire-damaged VL Harley...
We found a spare engine for our Brough!  This Morgan in the Coker collection uses a JAP engine of the same basic least we know where to find it if we need it.  'Hey Corky, would you mind...?'
A lady just might paint her nails to match her Harley...
...and would be forgiven for doing so with such a compelling smile.
A fantastic view into Tennessee from Overlook Mountain...
An Amish barn shows it's not all pegwork and pins for this austere sect; their barn decoration matched my Ruby helmet!
Planes in the Coker museum
A BMW R63...making me wish I still had one!
The full moon came out, and a bug appeared.
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jerrykap said...

Looks like smooth sailing and a following sea...I'm green with envy.

Barry Brown said...

Great stuff Paul! Glad to hear the Bruff is ticking along.

occhiolungo said...

sounds like a bit more fun this year Paul. I also found the Tupelo Honey place after we stopped at Coker Tires on the 2010 c'ball. Did you pass the Coon Dog Cemetery?

Jerry Smith said...

Best description of the trip, hope you like the Tn roads, lots of good riding here. Keep it between the ditches and have fun.

John Romano said...

Paul & Susan,
Following you daily back in Gotham. Living through your posts! Keep the rubber down and the pleasure up.

Don OReilly said...

great story and images... thank you!