Cannonball Characters: Mighty Mavens

This is the magic month that every Motorcycle Cannonball rider looks forward to. September is the start of an adventure that will leave memories etched into the psyche of every contender that dares to square up to the starting line of the most unique, revered and difficult antique motorcycle run in the entire world and it’s held right here on American soil.

Instead of featuring an individual rider for this momentous month, we thought it appropriate to shine some light on the smaller sector of the run: our female entrants. Few people realize that other than during the 2012, there have been women riders for each of the Cannonball runs. As a matter of fact, during the inaugural 2010 MC, it was a valiant and gracious Katrin Boehner # 31 from Germany who gracefully piloted her single-speed JAP across the continent to win the coveted Jeff Decker bronze for her one-mile-short-of-perfect score. It was her first trip to America and while she loved our country’s back roads, she’s never competed in another Cannonball.

Cris Sommer-Simmons, on the other hand, is one of only six women who have competed on the Cannonball but she has come back more than once. She has returned twice since the first run and will do so again this month. Rider #89 decided she’d skip the 2012 but after watching the run from social media posts, decided to sign on as a volunteer and was quickly dubbed the “Angel of Death” for riding with the sweep crew to rescue downed bikes. While helping others realize their dreams of riding the Cannonball was its own kind of reward, Cris figured out that competing was in her blood and has been a contender ever since. She’s also inducted her husband, Pat, for the last two runs and he will take the green flag next to his wife again this month.

New to the ranks for this year is a very recognizable young woman who holds land speed records and is famous for her paintwork, as well as being the daughter of one of the most recognized faces in the motorcycle industry, Dave Perewitz. Jody Perewitz, #79, is excited to ride the Cannonball and is confident that her bike is as sound and roadworthy as she is determined. She hopes to be the first woman to arrive at the finish line with a perfect score. Be sure to keep an eye on this young lady.

Another first-time rider, #53, Kersten Heling, is part of a father-daughter team competing this year, the Cannonball’s first such joint effort. As the mother of two boys and a new baby boy, too, this will be not just be an endurance run for her, but also a commitment that will no doubt be emotional and tugging at heartstrings over leaving her young family for her husband to tend. The couple is also partnered in the day-to-day work of running her #52 teammate father’s namesake dealership, Doc’s Harley-Davidson. Make no mistake about this busy mother’s abilities, however. Kersten has been racing nitro drag bikes since a kid, the youngest teenager in the world to ever do so, male or female. By contrast, it will be interesting to see how she handles the leisurely pace of an antique puttering along America’s forgotten byways.

Massachusetts resident Andrea Labarbara will carry the #98 plate on her 1913 Henderson as she makes her first trip with the Motorcycle Cannonball. In her civilian life, Andrea is an airplane pilot so bicoastal travel is common for the fearless lass, but we suspect angling the old bike will be a more grounding experience for the plane captain. Her husband will be along to cheer his wife’s efforts from the Team American-Anchor pits.

So check out the schedule and come out to cheer on all our riders as they pass through your state. Be sure to take the time to meet our special women, too. Their numbers may not be many, but these ladies are certainly mighty. (motorcyclecannonball.com)

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