Texas native Mike Bell has been up on two wheels for 66 years, bought his first Harley in 1957 and has owned his 1957 Panhead for 50 years. His Cannonball bike, Alice, came into Mike’s life back in the 1980s and he got her running in the early ’90s even though he didn’t really ride her much. “She spent a lot of time sitting around looking pretty at the Grace Museum in Abilene, Texas. I just rode her a couple of times a year,” Mike shared. “She wasn’t old enough to get in for the first Cannonball, so I just loaded up and went anyway. I hung out at the Wheels Through Time Museum and rode to Kitty Hawk with Dale Walksler, then when the race started I went back to Wheels Through Time and cooked for the Cannonballers.” Afterwards, Mike returned to Texas, but a week later rode out to meet Cannonballers at an overnight stop in Oklahoma. When the riders rolled out for California, he moseyed on home. “That was the end of that love story,” Mike tells us. “But the thought of the next race stuck in my head and has never left.” The love affair continued on, however.
The charming and personable Bell has taken Alice to the starting line of each of the last three coast-to-coast runs. He makes friends easily and has made himself an integral part of the tightly woven fabric of the Motorcycle Cannonball family. He is known for his generosity in sharing his knowledge, skills, parts and, most importantly, his friendship. At the end of the 2016 run, the septuagenarian mused that he might be getting too old to do any more Cannonball runs, which we viewed as a load of crap. Just this past September he hit a deer doing 90 mph on his way home from a five-day ride to the Smokies. He was 15 miles from home when the 2011 FLHTC he was riding went down and skidded 180 yards on its crash bars. Mike managed to stay on until the last flip, which sent him sliding on his back. After coming to a stop, he got up and walked around, took a trip to the hospital for stitches, and the next day he was fine. Now we ask you, does that sound like an old guy to you? We’re pretty sure we’ll be seeing Mike Bell again in 2018.