Free Range Icon

Free Range: The Cross Country Chase challenge

By Felicia Morgan

There’s a new event that’s making quite a stir among the world’s adventurous antique riders and has captured the imaginations of those of us who enjoy long-distance travels. A recent announcement by the promoters of the Cross Country Chase outlined the run as a north-to-south tour, slated for this September, on machines manufactured between 1930-1948. Jason Sims, owner of the Motorcycle Cannonball, and Rick Salisbury, owner of the Legends Motorcycle Emporium in Utah, share sponsorship and the journey is scheduled for 10 days of excitement along some 2,500 miles of obscure American backroads.

Riders will kick off from the U.S. side of Sault Ste. Marie (the city is bisected by the Canadian border), and cross the finish line in the Keys of Florida. Unlike the famous Motorcycle Cannonball runs, this ride will not include a huge caravan of support vehicles or rolling machine shops. As a matter of fact, the Cross Country Chase can’t be compared to the Cannonball at all. Yes, the bikes are still considered antiques, but other than that, this is a whole new event all unto itself.

As the brainchild of Jason Sims, this run was conceived as an attempt to streamline a tour for antiques and focus on the basics of a road rally expedition. The rules are primarily focused on the machine requirements so riders are encouraged to bring forth their best-running motorcycles simply because if your motor fails and causes you to miss check-ins, you’re out. There are no second chances and no luxuries: All gear, tools, and personal stuff has to be packed on a rider’s own bike. If you don’t make it to the starting line each morning or finish each night, you’re disqualified. Pure ‘n’ simple. It’s a down-’n’-dirty process-of-elimination race to the finish, yes, but with a few wild card factors thrown in that will shake things up and level the playing field a bit. Promoters announced that it will be a test of Speed, Navigation, Endurance, and Knowledge (SNEK), and potential riders are all abuzz about the exciting possibilities. Just imagine scootin’ across America with a few of your best buds on old bikes, headed for the Florida coast!

It’s the stuff of daydreams, for sure… but one of the requirements has riders locking up the brakes. The “knowledge” part of the challenge relates specifically to a written test that’s part of the run requirements and has caused quite a pickle for potential participants. Press release details announced that a 100-question quiz covering a variety of motorcycle-related topics will add to the scoring process and this one condition has sent prospective competitors scurrying for cover. Response has come in waves of panic as entrants consider the multiple-choice exam and come forward with such excuses as dyslexia, test-related anxieties, and blatant illiteracy as reasons to be excused from the prerequisite. Entrants have the necessary machines, entry fees and insurances, but when they realize there’s a written exam, they freak out. Personally, I find this reaction rather humorous. If a rider were to completely fail every single question, there still are no lost points or penalties; they simply don’t get the “extra credits” afforded by the test, yet the initial response has caused widespread terror. The endurance part of the challenge, which brings the possibility of weather extremes, precipitation and long days of blacktop stretched out into the horizon, breakdowns, exhaustion or other potential disasters, doesn’t seem to bother anyone at all. In fact, the reality of the physical beating of pounding the pavement on ancient equipment doesn’t worry prospective competitors one whit, but ask them to take pen to paper and the world comes to a screeching halt.

The overall adventure will include using your wits to stay on the outlined route and keeping your bike/body in tiptop condition while making all the miles. The test, which will be based on knowledge and awareness, is just an entertaining way of testing a rider’s motorcycle savvy and will only serve to boost their overall score. There is no failing or public humiliation involved, so no need for entrants to get bogged down by the informal examination. From my perspective, I’d embrace it as an opportunity to learn. But that’s just me.

Meanwhile, I’m anxious to see how this event unfolds. As of this writing, arrangements are still being mapped out and details will be released over the upcoming weeks, but my plans are to keep the public updated and informed as a whole new bunch of tenacious daredevils on ancient iron navigate their way across these great United States. With just seven months left before riders take the Canadian border by storm, there are 80 out of the possible 100 entry positions already filled. The trip includes a four-hour ride on the world’s last remaining steam-powered ferry, visits to several Harley-Davidson dealerships and sponsored shindigs that’ll afford an opportunity for fans to come out to cheer the thrill-seeking riders along their journey. So if you think you and your machine are capable of laboring along 250-350 miles every day for 10 days and you can take the stress of answering a few motorcycle-related questions without blowing a head gasket, go to the Cross Country Chase website at www.themotorcyclechase.com and fill out the simple application. You’re sure to have an adventure of a lifetime.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *