Bradford Wilmarth won the first Cannonball on his 1913 Excelsior, and is one of three riding the same machine this year. He's also in the lead, with the oldest bike with a perfect mileage and timing score.

Yesterday (Thursday Sep 13) mysterious lumps appeared on the formerly golden and flat horizon of Minnesota; we had finally reached the Black Hills of South Dakota, home of Wall Drug, Mt Rushmore, and Sturgis, legendary Midwestern mecca of Bikerdom.  The Motorcycle Cannonball has a ‘day off’ in Sturgis, mostly because there are excellent machining facilities here, and they are needed my many, including myself.

Famous indeed. I do believe Joe is in second place on his J series Harley Davidson

An 8 hour session on lathes, grinders, and presses means my Velocette will be back in action today (Friday), fingers crossed, after major mechanical mayhem early on.  I wasn’t alone working in Lonnie Isam Sr’s shop ‘Competition Distributing’, which specializes in parts for vintage Harleys (and I mean vintage – there are lots of belt drive and early J series bikes being assembled, as well as a lovely Ace four, and two half-scale Cyclone engines!).

Looking every inch the square-jawed fireman he is, Tom is also in the top 10 riders in the points game, also aboard a J series Harley

Not riding for 5 days meant Team Oily Rag/Vintagent had time to take more collodion/wet plate tintypes of the riders, recording their remarkably heroic visages for posterity, and likely a book in the future.  They’re unlike any other photos you’ll see of this media-saturated event.  The extra time also meant an in-depth visit with John Parham of the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa, whose collection of motorcycle ephemera is exceptional…and in which I’ve found previously unpublished material on the early days of Harley Davidson, Indian, and the Board Track era.  I’ve been pestered by publishers to write a Board Track book, and now I might just have the original imagery to do so…

John Parham of the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. John founded J&P Enterprises, the legendary mail-order motorcycle accessories business. It allowed him to build up an amazing collection of bikes and memorabilia, and build a museum for his retirement.

The only drawback of making tintypes is the lack of ‘motion’ shots, and landscapes.  Make no mistake, the heartland of America is a beautiful place, evoking the art of Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, and I would have liked to explore every place we drove through…as I passed my 50th birthday in Spirit Lake, Iowa, I reflected on the -for me- exotic locale, a place I’d never been that was in some ways equally as foreign as the faraway countries I’ve lived in.  I’ll definitely come back.

Trying out a Brough Superior 680 from the NMM

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