Export councilman sets out on 2,500-mile antique motorcycle race | TribLIVE.com
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Patrick Varine

It’s a good thing Joe Ferri is handy with a wrench and knowledgeable about his 1947 Indian Chief motorcycle.

Because the Export councilman is on his own should it break down during the Cross Country Chase, a 10-day, 2,500-mile antique cycle rally from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., to Key West, Fla., which begins Friday.

“It’s a ride designed to test the wits and skills of the ‘who’s who’ among antique motorcycles,” Ferri said.

Riders will travel 250 to 350 miles each day. They must arrive at designated checkpoints by a certain time, or face a penalty.

“Every morning we’ll get a route sheet, and it’s got our instructions for the day’s ride,” Ferri said. “You can’t go off-course. You have to make all the checkpoints, and you can’t come in too early or too late.”

Ferri belongs to the Antique Motorcycle Club of America’s Allegheny Mountain Chapter, which will have four riders in the Cross Country Chase.

“We’re not necessarily a team,” Ferri said. “It’s an individual thing. But as far as support, if we can help each other out, we will. One guy isn’t great at navigation, so he’s going to follow me.”

One thing riders are not permitted: a support crew. All luggage and tools needed for the trip must fit on their motorcycle, which had to have been manufactured between 1930-48.

Ferri and others were in Michigan on Wednesday and did a short practice run.

“What I’ve enjoyed so far is meeting the heavy hitters in the antique motorcycle hobby, guys who build engines and have Cannonball experience,” he said.

“Cannonball” refers to the Motorcycle Cannonball Run, organized in 2010 by the late Lonnie Isam Jr. The coast-to-coast cross-country ride, named in honor of long distance pioneer Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, takes place on motorcycles built before 1929.

Due to the extreme age of the vehicles, riders are permitted a support crew. Ferri was recently invited to join just such a crew for the 2020 Cannonball.

“It’s an exciting thing for me. I’ll be participating as a support truck driver/mechanic,” he said.

The Cross Country Chase will give Ferri some needed experience as he races toward the Sept. 15 finish in Key West.

“The challenge will be nursing my antique motorcycle for 2,500 miles without a breakdown,” he said. “Plus, I’m 63 now. I keep in pretty good shape, but I’m not the spring chicken I once was.”

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