Carrying the torch
Since the first Motorcycle Cannonball run in 2010, antique motorcycle riders from around the world have anxiously signed up to follow Lonnie Isam Jr. across the United States on a unique journey that many have described as “life changing.” Before his passing in August of 2017, Lonnie had already passed the Cannonball torch to Jason Sims and had guided him through the rough patches of the 2016 iteration. Lonnie felt confident that Sims understood the heart of the endurance run that he’d founded, and that Jason would carry on in his stead. With the New Year upon us and the initial preparations of the 2018 Motorcycle Cannonball Run laid out, Jason Sims stands with that torch lit and ready to spark the fuse on one of the most exciting Cannonball runs yet.
As for Jason’s qualifications, how can that be judged? The fact that Lonnie handpicked the man to fill his shoes should be enough, but that is not the way of things. Does the South Dakota native’s love of motorcycles since the age of five count? Or the passion he felt for his favorite 1947 Knucklehead? How about the time he spent serving our country as law enforcement in the United States Air Force when he traveled through 18 countries on sensitive missions… does that qualify a man to lead riders on antique motorcycles across the country? Or maybe the fact that he is so committed to the Cannonball that he sold his electrical integration company in order to dedicate himself to running the Motorcycle Cannonball full time. Does any of that matter when weighing the pros and cons of planning an epic event like a transcontinental bike run? Of course it does. All of it matters. For the husband and father of four, the dedication of carrying on Lonnie’s dream of sharing the back roads of America with antique buffs from around the world is a responsibility he does not take lightly.
“I met Lonnie back in 2008 but he was always so busy I just started showing up to hang out at his shop,” says the 42-year-old Sturgis resident. “He invited me to ride in the 2012 Cannonball, and I was on the waiting list, but I didn’t have enough time to get a bike ready.” Instead, as co-owner of the Glencoe Campground, Sims hosted riders to a barbecue at the property during the day of rest in Sturgis on the 2012 run. The discussion about partnering turned earnest and by 2014 Jason was excited to ride his 1934 Harley-Davidson VLD. And that was it. The Cannonball bug bit Jason hard.
With Lonnie’s illness, Jason stepped up to fill in the gaps and he rode every mile of the 2016 route alongside Cannonball riders on his modern 2016 Indian Chieftain as director of operations. Now, as the September 2018 plans are being finalized, changes are being considered and rules are being addressed, all with strict consideration to what Lonnie would have wanted for the future of his beloved run.
To Lonnie, the Cannonball was about the love of old bikes, the integrity of the riders, and the challenge to get their antiques across the back roads of our majestic country. As for Jason, he’s quite prepared to carry out his friend’s vision while facing the complexities of a world-famous motorcycling event. “I feel really honored to continue the Motorcycle Cannonball with Lonnie’s inspiration and vision. It’s humbling, actually. But then, Lonnie knew I feel the same kind of passion about this run as he did. He had faith in me and he knew I’m going to give it my all. There’s no way I’m going to let him down.” With a full field of 100 riders for the 2018 ride and a waiting list that stretches into 2020, it looks like the future of the Motorcycle Cannonball is on solid ground.