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Cannonball Characters: #45 Jon Szalay

By Felicia Morgan

#45 Jon Szalay
1915 Thor

Jon Szalay is a two-time Motorcycle Cannonballer, having been a part of the original group of rough riders on the inaugural trip from Kitty Hawk to the Santa Monica Pier in 2010. Jon is a skilled craftsman who lives and works in a restored bank where the bathroom was originally the bank’s vault and still sports some of its original hardware, and he is a meticulous restorer. His attention to detail is incredible and he’s known across the country as a master at returning aged furniture to its original glory.

The New Jersey native rode a 1911 Harley-Davidson on the first go-round but changed up for the 2016 Century race by putting together a 1915 Thor, mostly through parts purchased through eBay. Breakdowns are a regular part of riding antique machines, so wrenching is a daily routine. Jon joined up with a group of other Thor riders and the team dubbed themselves the Thor Losers. It was interesting to watch as the race played out all across the United States and Jon painstakingly tinkered with the ancient bike to keep it chugging along. At one point, as he sat in a gas station parking lot making adjustments and addressing the growing puddle of oil under his total-oil-loss machine, he shook his head and laughed. “You know this is the USS Valdez of the Motorcycle Cannonball, don’t you?” It was that same sense of humor that took him across the country for the inaugural Cannonball, when his first machine wheezed along 1,130 miles out of the possible 3,294, but his second ride across the country saw more than double that number. Jon basically, smiled his way from coast to coast and enjoyed the miles despite the struggle to keep his 101-year-old American-made machine alive, which included the bike catching fire on the last day. He and his sidekick gal, Christine, managed to catch the fire in time, do the necessary repairs, and still make it across the finish line with a total of 2,224 hard-earned miles. Though Jon isn’t signed up for the 2018 Cannonball, we’re certain we’ve not seen the last of the fun and personable dynamic duo from Jersey. At least we hope not. 

2 comments

  1. Love these synopses, Felicia! Thanks for helping us get to know the riders, their companions and their machines!

    [Reply]

  2. Glad you’re enjoying them, Marc…believe me when I say it is my absolute honor to get to share the Cannonball with you all. Hope you get a chance to come out and see the riders at a stop during the 2018 run.

    Felicia

    [Reply]

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