There’s been much written about the bonding relationships that form during the course of motorcycling and that is especially the case during the Motorcycle Cannonball. The run is its own kind of close-knit nomadic family that grows bigger each year and, interestingly enough, several of the clan are actually blood relatives.
Case in point would be our rider #10, one of the most loveable of the repeat Cannonball riders who hails from the “Wheat State” part of America’s breadbasket. Kansas native Bill Page joined up to ride in 2016 after hanging out and catching the Cannonball bug from his buddy, Cannonballer Kelly Modlin. He’d patched together a 1915 Harley-Davidson from so many different parts that Kelly dubbed the project a Johnny Cash bike after the song by the artist about his own mismatched car build. The name stuck. Despite its dubious beginnings, the sturdy build managed to cover 3,175 of the 3,306 possible miles on the 2016 run. Bill’s son, Bill Jr., served as his dad’s pit crew and the father/son team had so much fun seeing America the old-fashioned way they decided to come back for 2018, this time with Billy riding his own 1916 H-D. Bill Sr. returned with the tried-‘n’-true Johnny Cash.
We ran across the pair on the first full day of the 2018 somewhere in New Hampshire as they were working on Bill’s machine on the side of the road. Because the sweep truck was on its way and breakdowns are timed, Bill told his son to go on ahead since Billy’s machine was sound. As Joe Sparrow handed over tools and offered advice, Bill finally kicked life into his ancient machine. The senior Page was overwhelmed with excitement and hugged Joe, thanking him profusely before he slung a leg over Johnny Cash and headed on down the road to catch up with his son. Every time we saw either #10 or #11 after that, the father/son duo were side-by-side and grinning wide.
For the day of rest in Sturgis, Billy’s young son sat in his father’s lap, playing with the rider’s lanyard around his dad’s neck, representing three generations of Pages along on the Cannonball. By the time riders crossed the checkered flag, Billy would finish with 3,250 miles and his father managed a perfect score of 3,441 total miles. Johnny Cash and Billy’s 1916 had made the Page men proud, but it was Bill who put it all into perspective when the emotional patriarch told us, “You know, this is the most incredible ride ever, such a great experience, but wanna know the best part? Looking over and seeing my son riding next to me. That is the most fantastic feeling in the world, just getting to share all this with him.” This, dear reader, is what the Cannonball family is all about: sharing the joy of antique motorcycling. We hope to see the Page family at the 2020 starting line. Stay tuned…