What: 2021 – Mini Chase – Secrets of the Ozarks
Where: Cape Girardeau, Missouri
When: July 5–10, 2021
Testing endurance • speed • navigation • knowledge of riders on motorcycles made between 1930 – 1960
In the morning dew, my finger slipped as I tried to swipe between my Garmin’s speedometer and odometer; two essential tools needed on the “Secrets of the Ozarks”. A considerable challenge to be sure, for me it was less about the unknown destinations mapped out by the organizers, and more about the secrets to learn about my machine. Riding down rural county roads in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains I couldn’t help but smile; not just for the cameras of the various media crews there, but because I was having a difficult time actually believing I was participating in the 2021 Cross Country Chase. It was no dream, and as larger Class II and Class III motorcycles sailed on by I effortlessly point my 1950 500cc Moto Guzzi Falcone single through the various twists and turns of America’s bucolic Midwest and slowly began to accept I was really here.
Back in April of 2020 as I was completing my final essays for college, I was notified that a longtime friend Fred Wacker shared a very interesting post with me on Instagram. Naturally, as a college student in the middle of finals normally would do, I immediately dropped everything and dived into this new subject. The AMCA (Antique Motorcycle Club of America) had re-posted Alex Trepanier’s announcement informing people of the chance to be sponsored in the 2021 Cross Country Chase aboard his 1945 Indian Chief. The only thing that stood between me and Alex’s donated Indian twin was one little essay explaining why I believed I was the perfect candidate to be chosen for the event. Immediately, I began to write.
While Alex had intended to simply loan his motorcycle to one lucky winner and provide what money could be raised, enough donations came in through the Cannonball Chronicles podcast to afford the possibility of sponsoring not one rider, but three. Although a significant number of donations had been raised, plus both Alex and Chris Tribbey had offered their motorcycles (adding a 1947 Harley-Davidson WL) one problem remained a barrier between all three contest winners; a third motorcycle. Through the tightly woven grapevine making up the vintage motorcycling community word got out, and Joe Walano of The Guzzi Doctor was contacted by Chris in search of a bike. Having recently purchased a 1950 Moto Guzzi Falcone and being a close friend of both Joe and myself, Fred, the same individual who had notified me of this amazing opportunity, graciously offered his Falcone to be ridden in the Chase.
What had begun as a small gesture to increase interest in the Cross Country Chase and vintage motorcycling in a younger demographic quickly grew into the opportunity of a lifetime for three young vintage motorcycle enthusiasts. Much to my disbelief, I was one of them and continued to pinch myself in the months to follow. Furthermore, all three young riders, Connor Levenson, Jake Smallwood, and I coincidentally happened to be riding the marque of motorcycles we all rode ourselves outside of the Chase! Imagine the odds? Personally, outside of the event, I ride a 1975 Moto Guzzi 850T that I caféd in my parents’ garage. Being both a Moto Guzzi fan and owner, I felt honored to represent the company as the only Guzzi in the Chase during the company’s centennial year.
The Cross Country Chase presented a true challenge of man vs. machine. While I had managed to accumulate 500 miles of seat time under my belt prior to leaving for the event, I did not anticipate the challenges that lay ahead traveling through the Ozark mountains for an entire week. Through summer heat, thunderstorms, and many hours spent with The Guzzi Doctor, I had become well accustomed to the motorcycle. However, riding a motorcycle in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin is a far cry from the roads through the Ozark mountains that constituted the majority of the Chase. To my surprise, the four-speed, 500cc single Falcone truly felt at home in the twisties and climbed the many mountains and hills with relative ease. That is not to say that all 1,340 miles of the Chase were without troubles, however. Between a sensitive spark plug wire connection and stripped threads on the cap of the carburetor’s bowl, some work and a few periods of doubt were to be had throughout the week…not to mention the frequently sore legs and rear end that were to be expected spending many hours riding a vintage motorcycle. Manufactured without much thought given to prolonged seat time in my opinion, the seat on a Falcone is certainly far from soft!
(The Guzzi Doctor (Joe Walano) and Max with the 1950 Moto Guzzi Falcone. A long running Euro tourer, the 500cc single was an excellent choice.)
Utilizing my relatively limited knowledge of motorcycles compared to other riders on the Chase, I was able to remedy these issues with relative ease. My secret for success is to patiently speak with the motorcycle in a soft, non-threatening tone, but the reality is I exchanged more words privately with the Falcone while riding than I did with any of the riders on the Chase. Nonetheless, I was routinely taken back by the willingness and genuine desire to help others that permeated throughout the group. For the most part, we were left to our own devices during the 250-mile plus days on the road. However, once everyone arrived at our final destination a true sense of community could be seen as riders and locals came together to assist others in the quest to repair their motorcycles when they could. Between mobile welding trucks, calls across social media for spare parts, or the willingness to get dirty from someone else’s motorcycle into the late hours, I was truly in admiration for the community of riders and motorcycle enthusiasts I saw come together as one during the Chase. Not expecting the unexpected, to my utter amazement and totally by chance, I ran into the son of the person who previously owned my donated Falcone – the late Bob Davis of Mountain Home, Arkansas. For me, the energy of this community is something I will always remember, and the thing I have missed most since the end of the Chase.
My experience during the Chase differed from others insofar as the Falcone hardly needed any servicing compared to the many vintage Harleys and Indians that accompanied me on the event! While not designed to be a grand touring motorcycle in scale to the miles presented by the Chase, the rugged Moto Guzzi single proved to be a great choice to undertake the event. Aside from the relatively minor issues, the Falcone completed all miles of the Chase successfully and was pivotal in helping me to achieve the title of “Ace.” Despite the long journey the motorcycle has just undertaken, I have no doubt that the Falcone could accomplish another 1,340 miles again at this very moment in its present condition.
The name of this game was consistency. Cruising the backroads of America at 45mph not only gives one a deep appreciation for this country’s natural beauty, but also its fantastic, lesser-seen, small towns and the people who call them home. Additionally, being loaded down with all of the tools, spares, and clothes I might need, this is the defining characteristic of the Cross Country Chase that different from Cannonball contestants that allow support crews and vehicles to carry equipment. The Falcone was happy at a steady 45mph, and combined with my slower, yet steady speed, a longer fuel range than a majority of the other motorcycles. Helping to keep things on the boil was my newly mastered ability to eat and drink while riding. I was often passed by the same riders multiple times throughout the day, but always made it to the final checkpoint with the first handful of motorcycles…and the first rider in my class to finish every evening. For my slow and steady pace and ability to complete the day’s routes before many faster, more capable motorcycles, I was affectionately known as the “Tortoise” of Tortoise and the Hare fame.
Being a 22-year-old recent college graduate, I could not have asked for a better way to spend the summer following my graduation back in May. Between the excellent riding, the wonderful people on the event that I will remain friends with for years to come, and most importantly the individuals who made this adventure possible: Alex Trepanier, Chris Tribbey, Fred Wacker, and Joe Walano, the 2021 Cross Country Chase will go down as a defining moment of my life. To everyone who made this trip possible, thank you! –Max Lynch
(Editor note: Quote: “The Cross Country Chase is brought to you by the crew at Motorcycle Cannonball and powered by Law Tigers. Testing speed, endurance, navigation and knowledge, this event will prove to attract the who’s who of the antique motorcycle world.” Please follow this link for more information: https://themotorcyclechase.com/)
Photos: Joe Walano, Jim Dutton, and Motorcycle Cannonball/Cross Country Chase