Newsletter No. 18: March 27, 2019
It has been too long since my last update. I was kind of waiting for something to report, and now there is so much else going on in the world that this adventure hardly seems important. Still, I can sense the continued interest in the project and now is as good a time as any.
What’s Next? After the unsatisfying crankshaft failure in Kansas last year, I considered several ways to appropriately end this centennial tribute. In late 2018, I had applied to ride the Red One in the 2020 Motorcycle Cannonball, but did not make the grid due to so many returning riders and an overwhelming number of new applicants. I have been waiting for an opening that never comes, but have now decided that, even if it ever comes, it will be too late for me to do it properly and I have a better idea anyway.
A few weeks ago, Willie Fernandez (who drove the support truck and trailer last summer) contacted me and suggested the best way to finish this adventure would be a “hybrid” ride and tour, starting by trailering the Red One to Burlingame, Kansas, dropping it on the road, and taking it all the way to San Francisco along the original route. In spite of my confidence that my engine now is stronger than any Henderson has ever been, Willie and I share concerns about the consequences of spooling this all up again and then succumbing to another failure. I bought an additional engine to have it ready to drop into my bike if needed, but it looks like I won’t get that done in time for the ride. So this is the current plan (of course, this is subject to change due to COVID-19).
In mid-September, Willie and I will head west with the Red One in my trailer. We’ll stop for a short ride and “photo op” at the Illinois River just east of Valley City, Illinois, and then continue to overnight in Lawrence, Kansas. The next morning, I will ride the Red One out of Burlingame, Kansas, on the first of about 14 days of “ride and tour” operations, riding about 20% of the miles we cover, and hauling the Red One in the trailer for the other 80%, ending in San Francisco.
Specific details and overnight stops are yet-to-be-determined, but the objective will remain the same, make it to San Francisco in once piece (both me and the bike), meeting people along the way and taking in as many of the sights C.K. saw 101 years ago. As soon as I have some more details, I will share them.
Other Events: I am also planning to attend the AMCA Yankee Chapter Meet in Terryville, Connecticut, at the end of July. I applied to speak about my adventure at the TEDx Cincinnati event in May this year, but was not approved (and I doubt it will happen now anyway). But there’s another TEDx event in Dayton in October and things may have settled down by then. My application video is due in three days.
The Book: I am in the process (which is taking way too long) of taking over the publication of Across America by Motor-Cycle – Fully Annotated Centennial Edition. Along the way, I have revised the ePub version (iBooks, Kindle, Nook, etc.) but am having difficulty getting that propagated, so you can’t easily get the latest electronic version, but that could change any day. The new ePub version includes color original photos and illustrations. As I went through the book, I saw something I had not noticed when I did the original research.
When C.K. stopped for gas in Springerville, Arizona, he signed the logbook at Becker’s Garage (Figure 160 in the book). I did not notice it until I was reworking the images, but the logbook showed two interesting entries before and after C.K., the names of two different people from Martinsburg, West Virginia, who were riding Indian motorcycles to California! Here’s a “taller” excerpt from that logbook:
Further research revealed that “E. A. Bradford” was Ethel Ada Bradford, the wife of Russell Arnold Bradford, manager of a wagon company in Martinsburg. The other, “H. B. Kneisly” was Hamilton Bernard Kneisly, a self-employed motorcycle mechanic in Martinsburg. My discovery caused me to look for evidence that C.K. and these people may have been more than coincidental customers and may have been riding together. Although the quality of the photo at the top of this update is not great, it was apparently taken by C.K. about 150 miles east of Springerville, near Socorro, New Mexico. This photo was included in C.K.’s first installment of his serialized story in the August 21, 1919 in Pacific Motorcyclist and Western Wheelman.
There are three motorcycles in the photo. One has a sidecar. C.K.’s Henderson is apparently the bike at right. Although she is apparently not in the photograph, Ethel Bradford was most likely riding in the sidecar accompanying her husband Russell. Thus, I think it is reasonable to believe that the two men in the photo are Russell Arnold Bradford and H Bernard Kneisly of Martinsburg. Unfortunately, I have not yet found any other evidence of the Bradford/Kneisly trip or its nature and purpose, but it seems most likely that they accompanied C.K. on the road for at least 100 miles approaching Springerville.
Mechanical: I previously reported that the Red One was running once again. I brought it home and immediately removed the gas tank and rear fender for repainting. That has evolved into a process of its own because, besides painting, they needed to be pinstriped, new transfers (decals) applied, and clear coated. I am almost done with that, but need to get my shop (a nice large and dry room in my basement) sorted out so I can properly reassemble the bike (including changing the tire on the rear wheel). However, I have a family obligation that will prevent me from working on all that until mid-April, so it probably won’t be until the end of April before I get the Red One on the road for any kind of testing.
Silver Linings: Even if we are healthy, our lives have been disrupted by policies enacted to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In so doing, it seems we now have more time on our own to work on our projects, so that’s my overarching plan.
Finally, if you are not yet one of the nearly-900 followers on the AABMC Facebook Page, now would be a great time to visit, like a post or two, like the group, and sign up to follow. I plan to be doing some Facebook Live events over the next few months, so be sure to get the updates.
Best Wishes to All!