Senior To Embark On The 'Ride Of A Lifetime'
Aug. 31, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
|General business major Buck Carson will make motorcycle history in September as the youngest participant in the Cannonball Memorial Endurance Run, during which he will travel more than 3,800 miles on a 1927 British-built BSA motorcycle (shown above). —Photos by Brian Blalock|
Sam Houston State University senior Buck Carson became interested in motorcycles long before he was allowed to drive one.
His interest began as a bonding experience with his father, who frequently traveled with his work, as a means of rebuilding something in order to build a better relationship between the two.
“The very first bike we did together, when I was 8 or 9, was my grandfather’s 1982 Harley that he had bought from the factory new. We decided we wanted to go back and restore it and customize it a little bit,” Carson said. “We spent probably four months together working on it. That was my introduction to motorcycles.
“Then we started working on the vintage British stuff, and that just hooked me. We would be around each other and he would say, ‘hand me this wrench,’ and then it progressed to ‘here, you work on this while I work on this,’” he said. “We began going to vintage racing together and then vintage auctions, and it’s just gotten to be a serious bonding thing for the two of us.”
Now that he can legally ride, more than 12 years and nearly 100 motorcycles later, Carson has taken his interest to the next level, in what he calls a “massive undertaking.”
Having restored and collected about 75 antique motorcycles, ranging from 1911 to 2010, Carson began looking for racing opportunities.
In 2010 Carson learned of the first Cannonball Memorial Endurance Run, named after Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, who in 1913 set out on his brand-new, two-speed Indian to attempt a record for the fastest trans-continental journey by motorcycle. Baker made the trip from California to New York in a record 11 days, 12 hours, and 10 minutes, and in memory of that run, the first Motorcycle Cannonball Run was established in 2010, with 30 ultimately crossing the finish line on their pre-1916 motorcycles.
Carson just missed the entry deadline that year but decided that if the chance ever arose again, he would definitely be a part of it.
That opportunity came last summer, when he received word from the Cannonball people saying they were going to host a second event in September 2012. This time, the route would be different and participants would be allowed to ride motorcycles dating before 1930.
He immediately began searching for a motorcycle, finding a 1927 British-built BSA, for which he actually traveled to England to acquire (to show the British owners he was serious about the endeavor), he said.
“This has become a true passion of mine; it started out as a father-son deal, but now it’s really a passion,” he said. “I registered for the Cannonball (as rider No. 3). At this point, I’m the youngest guy in the history of doing it.
“I guess I’m a little bit insane for wanting to run an 85-year-old motorcycle across the continent, but I think the most exciting thing is the experience of doing it, because it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, testing man and machine.”
The second Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run will be held Sept. 7-23. Carson, who is taking the fall semester off for the experience, expects it to be a grueling ride.
After arriving a week early in Newburgh, N.Y., Carson will do practice rides, safety classes and undergo an inspection of his bike.
“We actually start on Sept. 7, and each day you ride 200-300 miles,” he said. “You run eight-hours a day, basically. You stop over the side of the road to repair a flat tire or adjust things on your motor, so as you’re riding you’re kind of repairing it as you go.
“Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all hosted receptions at places such as motorcycle museums or chambers of commerce, so you have a specified time to be at lunch and dinner. When you pull in, they put your bike in a reception area where they are all on display for an hour or two,” he said. “So you ride all day, all day, all day, and then after your reception at night it’s basically guys sitting in the middle of a parking lot at a hotel tearing down their motors and rebuilding them so they’ll be ready for the next day. This goes on for 16 days across the country.”
The trip is strenuous, traveling almost 4,000 miles through all weather conditions as they move across the continent, from what is expected to be a hot New York, through the snowy Rocky Mountains, and eventually to San Francisco, Calif.
It can also be dangerous.
“The guy I’m beating out (as youngest participant) is Matt Olson; he competed in 2010 on a 1913 Sears,” Carson said. “In the third or fourth stage of it, he actually had an accident and wrecked the bike and messed himself up. So he didn’t complete the first Cannonball.”
Carson's 1927 British-built BSA, which he traveled to England to acquire.
But Carson is looking forward to the experience; aside from the once-in-a-lifetime aspect of it, the Cannonball Run presents an opportunity for him to bond with other like-minded individuals and further enmesh himself into their family-like culture.
“In the first Cannonball there was a husband and wife team who flew in from Germany. She was riding a 1907 JAP, which is a British-made motorcycle, and he was riding a 1913 BSA,” he said. “They came over and were doing their own thing, but as the race progressed they became a part of this huge family around them, and everybody was helping them find or make parts. It really is just a family atmosphere.”
The Brits from whom Carson purchased his 1927 BSA will also be participating in the Cannonball and will share a race trailer with them, as will a Cannonball team from Melbourne, Australia.
As a general business major at SHSU who will return in the spring to graduate, Carson said he hopes he can turn his passion into a career.
“I’ve been thinking for a while that I might apply my degree toward the vintage motorcycle world, getting involved with maybe a restoration company, keeping the business aspect there,” he said. “I really love the vintage motorcycle world. It’s like a drug, except it’s not the horrible things. It’s definitely a drug to me, and I’m addicted to it. If I can tie that into my degree plan, I’m good.”
With what is essentially a museum filled with “a century of motorcycles” in his Livingston shop, Carson has no intention of slowing down.
“Tentatively, our next project is a 1938 Indian that has three miles on it,” he said. “It’s been hanging from a guy’s ceiling for 70 years. We’re slowly getting back into doing selected restorations, but most of it’s for our collection.”
In the meantime, Carson is preparing for his cross-country ride, collecting sponsorships and is even working on a potential documentary series about the Cannonball. He will also be blogging during the run at www.antiquemotorcyclist.blogspot.com.
His dad, who still travels a lot, will be accompanying Carson on the Cannonball Run and all of its activities.
“My dad is totally behind me on all of it,” Carson said. “He’s definitely as interested as I am…but I may be a bit more than he is.”
Caron was recently featured in the Houston Fox 26 segment "Lone Star Spirit." You can see the video here.
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