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1doohan's Cannonball epic!

Visordown regular 1doohan's Cannonball report

As was at Nurburgring the previous weekend i was already halfway there. I left the Ring at 12:30pm and headed off on the 185mile journey, the skies were grey and the trip uneventful until i got into Wurzburg and decided to fill up which would mean a full tank for the start of the "rally" where i bumped into Rolf an entrant from last year on his same bike, V-Max. The hotel is at the top of a big hill overlooking the town below where we can watch the bikes arriving. On arrival all of the foreign contingent have arrived, 4 Danes, 4 Finns, 1 Belgian and 1 Dutch, the rest of the riders all-hailing from England and Wales and Scotland.

A few beers later and the first of the UK riders who caught the ferry that morning arrived telling tales of French authorities having every bikes documents checked and copied before boarding the ferry. At Calais there was a huge police presence, hiding amongst the lorries in the car park, lying in wait. An hour later bikes are turning up thick and fast and those already parked up are downing large beers and cheering hanging over the wall as the bikes pull up. The word is the German police are onto us; they are now stopping every bike getting off the autobahn heading to Wurzburg, checking docs and asking questions. 1 rider has been stopped near Frankfurt, been arrested and had his bike confiscated for undertaking at 125mph. The police have now found our hideout and are looking over the bikes, taking down reg numbers and are looking for one bike in particular, one with blue lights. One chap had his bike turned into a paramedic bike and while cruising along with his blue lights on the police pulled him with 2 other bikes.

The Germans don't pull you over on the hard shoulder, they lead you to a lay-by or service area, as the unmarked car pulled into the lay-by with the 2 other bikes the paramedic bike did a dummy and pulled back onto autobahn and legged it, the chap disappeared into some woods, removed his graphics and blue lights and eventually made it to the hotel to meet up with the 70-75 bikes now assembled. The bikes ranged from Aprilia-BMW-MV Agusta 1000's,the usual big Jap sportsbikes made up the majority and the unusual were TRX850, Buell, KTM and SV650. Ages ranged from early 20's to late 50's. After dinner everyone mingled while having a few beers trying to put names to faces and i find out 2 guys have been fined in Belgium on the way here. Go to bed around 3am and manage 2 hrs sleep before waking up to the sound of a train depot below and the trains clattering away non-stop.

At breakfast the routes are handed out and we find our destination is St.Moritz in Switzerland. 7:30am we head off expecting to find a large police contingent waiting for us but they are nowhere to be seen so opt for a quick passing manoeuvre getting past the 4 Finns and Dale from PB in pursuit of the Belgian who looks like he's decided for a quick getaway. A few miles later we hit the autobahn and the Belgian opens up, i play safe thinking let everyone speed ahead, get caught etc and soon Dale comes by next the 4 Finns who seem to be riding as a group go by, all along the hard shoulder.

While I'm taking it easy, or so i think a BMW car pulls infront of me, sticks out a baton with "polizei" on it and i follow him to the next lay-by. 75 miles on the clock and I'm the first to be busted, bikes docs and passport handed over, one of the cops starts measuring my full size plate for some reason while the other tells me I've been speeding and its not good. He shows me the video in his car and says "you were speeding here, and here and here and here and crossed the white line here, this is not good", meanwhile in the fast lane all i hear is voom-voom-voom-voom, cop laughs and says "your friends?" no i tell him even though he has seen cannonball stickers on my bike, after 30 mins and relieved of 120 euros I'm let on my way again. 20 miles down the road the traffic has gotten very busy and slow, i hope no-one has crashed and as i filter thru the fast lane all is clear, i see a large amount of bikes parked on hard shoulder and i immediately get into Smokey and the Bandit mode and ride shotgun alongside a big rig to avoid being pulled again. Once past them i take off wondering how many have been nabbed, how many are infront, never mind just crack on. I leave the autobahn and start winding it on thru some nice sweeping roads and nice villages, stop for a refuel and head off again, sun is shining and all is well..........until ahead i see a familiar sight, bikes parked up at a set of lights with police around them, again i sidle alongside a lorry carrying logs and stick beside it keeping noise down as i pass cops without being detected, it was the Finns and they have just seen me go by.

Off i sneak again thinking i must be in the lead by now and good job i got stopped when i did. The route is easy to follow getting in a nice rhythm not going berserk when a black BMW car with blue light on top catches my attention heading towards me, he goes by, cool, i make my turning when it comes to an abrupt halt, the polizei are lying in wait and pull me over with an already apprehended MV Agusta rider. Hand over docs again and ask what the problem is, im told I'm part of an illegal event and have to pay 150euro fine. Great! If i pay can i go? I ask, No is the answer because they don't have the paperwork to fine us and have to wait for another car to bring correct paperwork. While waiting a polizei chopper flies over, looks like they are intent on rounding us up. Over an hour passes with small talk and occasional laugh with the cops and we are set free, no sign of the Finns so must be doing ok i thinks. I head off with the MV and we ride together for the rest of trip, getting stopped a further 5 times, it seems they have got hold of a route map and have roadblocks in all villages we are going thru, no fines, just checking docs and making sure we have paid our illegal event fine, we called it a race license. The last stop in Germany is 50ft from Swiss border, i ask the cop if the Swiss know we are coming, he says "we have told them" and reminds us how expensive speeding is over there, 500swiss francs for 15kmh over and an unmentionable sum for a few km more.

Me and the MV venture tentatively across the border and stick to the speed limits in the villages for a few minutes before forgetting and getting on with it, no sign of police yet.

We join the motorway with getting the required motorway pass and head off for around 60miles wondering how much the fine is for not having it. Next it's a fast flowing blast into St.Moritz, find the hotel only to find the Finns and the Belgian are there already drinking beer and I'm 2 hours behind them. WTF???? I'm not happy. I fill up and park in the garage and find 20 bikes already there. Hmmmmm! Grrrrrrrrrr! I go shower come down to see riders arriving with tales of woe and being stopped up to 8 times, some being fined 400euros for being in an illegal event, some 150euros. The big fines went to the same 2 who got busted in Belgium the previous day, 1100 euros each for speeding and crossing white lines, 2 riders have had their bikes impounded for 24hrs for speeding, 1 rider crashed breaking a collarbone.

The chopper i saw whilst i was waiting to be fined was the same chopper that was used to stop the autobahn and get the bikes onto hard shoulder before being removed of docs and taken to a service area where they received the 400 euro fines. One guy filming the chopper had his camcorder confiscated for evidence, people taking pics had to delete the them, peoples route maps were taken along with general maps "for evidence". The general consensus was if you didn't get stopped 6-8 times you didn't do the prescribed route and with the amount of fines being dished out for taking part in an illegal event, maps taken, some riders were quite annoyed. After the evening meal it was off to check out the Swiss nightlife which was non-existent being a ski town in the middle of summer so made do with the hotel bar/one man band and off to bed again around the 3am mark.

8am start grab an orange juice and bread roll head out of hotel, the Finns and Belgian and Dale are raring to go, i get told timing from yesterday is scrapped and everyone is equal. By time i get my bike out of garage and to front of hotel everyone has left so i take off after them. Air is a bit chilly and the Swiss roads are very inviting and lack of traffic has me using all the road available heading onwards and upwards towards the Offenpass where a stray Finn is looking puzzled at his directions, now he's on my tail until i pull over to turn the page and he takes off.

Next its up the Stelvio pass, an uphill slog with hairpin after hairpin after hairpin, nearing the top i take my eye off the road briefly and feel my stomach turn as i look over to see the huge drop below, best keep looking at the road ahead me thinks. At the summit of 2758 metres i have a quick look around and admire the spectacular scenery but soon forget and head off down the other side. Next its up the next mountain, Passo Gavia, a bit wet for my liking but has to be done so crack on get to the top which is 2652 metres high then down the other side which is not very wide and lacking in barriers especially as I'm on the outside and the drop over the edge doesn't look like it ends, a car rounds a bend forcing me to stop and put left foot down as there's barely 6 inches to my right and no barrier. This is a bit scary! Catch up 2 other bikes, not ballers and they let me by.

At the bottom i fill up and head off in search of the others. Look for signs for Edolo and Brescia, easy, follow these signs and look for bear right for Brescia, so i head off for Brescia looking for the bear right sign, I'm sure I'm on right road, its the SS42 and called del Tonale which is the next turning point after the bear right for Brescia so i keep going and going and going, eventually turning off at the Brescia sign, should be a T junction heading for Tonale but I'm heading thru tunnels 5 miles long.

I pull over and get my map out and look at the directions I've been given and I'm going in the wrong direction and I'm too far gone to go back, I'm sure the directions are wrong as Edolo and Brescia are in the opposite direction to where i should have been going. I look at the map and make my own way to Venice where i arrive at the same time as the leading group, Dale and the Finns. I confess straight away i didn't take the route all the way thru no fault of my own and end up with a last place placing/4hr penalty, which ends my contention right there. So much for the motto "there are no rules". As other riders arrived the rumours of cheating were rife again and people were again annoyed due to the lack of checkpoints/mileage checks. No police involvement today apart from 2 speeding tickets to the same 2 guys who have now been busted 3 days in a row, the fines totalling £1100 each.

After the evening meal we head off on a boat-trip to proper Venice and St.Marks Sq. A proper storm has brewed up and lightning flashes often crossed the whole sky and thunder was deafening the rain torrential, a very impressive display of nature. Venice was disappointing due to the weather, St.Marks Sq was deserted so a few beers were drunk and we headed back for the boat to take us back. At the hotel some of us wanted to find some nightlife but a cab driver said there was nothing going on so another disappointing night.6am and its still raging with thunder and rain are battering the windows of the hotel. By time we have all assembled for the 8am start the weather has cheered up but the roads still wet. I take off with the front runners and a couple of Brits, tyres don't feel too grippy and once the pack get to the first crossroads with red lights they all barrel thru making cars stop in their track, i opt to stop at the lights as my race is over and let them take off.

We head off down the autostrada for a 40 mile jaunt to the border of Slovenia, a quick look at my passport and I'm let in, weather looks like it could rain any minute so put on waterproofs, next part of the day is spent circumnavigating the outskirts of Slovenia, up and down and mountain to Kranjska Gora, the downside of this was every corner being made of cobblestones, guess they want to put bikes off using it, then heading for the capital Ljubljana before taking some wet slippery, gravely, rough, miserable lonely routes thru the centre of Slovenia then doubling back thru some villages and crossing some wooden bridges which were super slippery and then onto Zagreb via a quick motorway jaunt.

The route details were spot on and even had a rolling checkpoint to see who was keeping to the route, rumour has it only 12 bikes went thru it. I wasn't surprised to see Dale and the Finns, it was the other 8 bikes which appeared out of nowhere, some looking a damn site cleaner than mine considering the crap on the roads. I rocked up 27mins after the Finns without resorting to running red lights and causing general anarchy on the streets.

Dale had a minor crash while doing his bit for the camera and ended up in a field and got only credited 3 mins for his time filming which put the Finns 6 mins ahead with 1 day to go. The hotel in Zagreb was the grandest so far, The Regent Espenlade, very palatial and quite stunning, more beers were drunk while the rest of the riders turned up and told stories of much slippyness on the roads.1 crash no tickets today. After the evening meal, Friday night in the capital of Croatia should be good, so we thought, after trying to find directions to a bar we eventually found one.

Some other guys strayed into a bar with dancing girls and ended up being escorted to a cash machine by the burly bouncers to pay for the 1200euro bill. Back at the hotel some people were talking about missing the final day as it was heading back into Germany and no one was fond of going back there so soon, some people had been warned about coming back during the event. I decided i was going back and went to bed.7:15am the alarm goes off, i intend to ride the course today, next time i look its 7:55am and wont make the start so head down to the lobby to watch the grand finale, the look on the faces on the people still in contention was deadly serious, hands were shaking, one guy nearly fell off his bike trying to get on it. The start was comical, 5 bikes trying to get onto 1 line to go down hotel ramp onto main road, Dale holding everyone up doing a 3 point turn, when all on the main road the wheelied away running the next set of lights and screaming out of sight, 2 mins later they came round the block pulling up outside hotel looking confused, wrong directions again?

The route has been changed and the race finish is going to be in Salzburg, Austria just so that everyone can take it easy once in Germany. Me and a couple of stragglers decide to take the easy route and head straight to Munich the quickest way. Before we leave we hear 2 of the leaders have crashed only 19kms away.

One of the Finns crashed, his mates left him and while another bike was watching him sliding along in a field the car infront stopped and watching rider crashed into the car. We jumped back on m-way heading for Ljubjlana then Austria and soon another guy latched onto us as he had gone 60miles in the wrong direction, the traffic was really heavy and i just did my normal ride and left my group behind and got going, Munich was 400 miles from Zagreb and some people were faffing at petrol stns. In Austria on the m-way i pass Dale and a few others who have just joined from another m-way, probably Salzburg, I pull in for fuel and they disappear into the distance. I pass a bunch of ballers on the hard shoulder putting on waterproofs as its just turned torrential, lucky had mine on already.

The road to Germany is police free and get to Munich in good time to see only 3 riders just walking into lobby, directly across from a police stn and hear Dale has had to abort due to police trying to box him in and another Finn crashed only 800yds from the finish line, wrecking his bike and breaking a collarbone losing 3rd place which Dale took off him.

Beers flowed as we waited for all riders to assemble before heading off to the Olympic Tower in Munich for our final dinner, which has a revolving restaurant, 175 metres in the air. The lift getting up there was fairly brisk travelling at 7 metres a second. After a fine meal and great views of the city we headed off to a beer cellar for some huge authentic steins of beer where the winners were awarded their silverware, winner going to the Finn who finished 2nd behind me last year, 2nd to his team-mate and 3rd to Dale from PB. Next it was off to a nightclub to party the night away, best night of the trip, we drank ourselves silly and went to bed when it was daylight. A few hours later it was all over, the majority of people had left with only a couple of bikes in the car park, 2 being slightly 2nd hand Finnish bikes.

The last day had the most crashes for some reason, with people going down for all manner of reasons. Total of 13 bike accidents for entire trip. The 2006 Cannonball Bike Run didn't go according to plan for me with my main issue being with the directions, or lack of. They could have been clearer most of the time; sometimes you had to go with your instinct. There was not much in the way of policing the event with regard to taking or not taking the correct route with cheating still being muttered here and there. Someone told me after they had a few too many beers on the final night about one person who cheated for sure to gain a few extra placings.

The level of desire to win the event was a lot higher than i anticipated too, last year i won without running any red lights or police involvement but did hit 186mph now and again. What will it take next year? Are you game? I'm sure there's loads I've missed out but PB next month may have a different story.

Thanks to visordown.com for supplying some fuel tokens and a place to air my story.

Thanks to Essential Rubber, London for supplying tyres.

Thanks to Cannonballbikerun.com for another experience, different countries and 70+ loonies

1doohan

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