While other Chelsea community members are enjoying Labor Day with a last swim at the lake, a steak on the grill, or a walk through the woods, Lyndon Township resident Art Farley plans to be on the road headed to New York State.
He’ll have a 1928 Harley Davidson JD – the oldest motorcycle he’s ever owned – on a trailer behind him as he heads toward Newburgh, NY where on Sept. 7, Farley is expected to begin the Motorcycle Cannonball Run, a 17-day endurance ride across the country, which ends on Sept. 23 in San Francisco.
Farley became eligible to take part in the endurance run when he acquired a bike that’s pre-1930. He applied to be accepted into the run and was accepted.
So for the last 6 months, he’s been preparing for the 3,900 mile cross-country trip. “I’ve touched every moving part and examined it,” he said, adding that he’s put together a bunch of parts that he thinks he might need along the way.
“I would like to come back not using any of my spare parts,” he said with a smile.
Only 11,000 of these motorcycles were made in 1928 and they cost $320, Farley said. “I want to make sure I have more fun with this than work.”
He’ll be part of a group of 75 motorcycle riders who will average about 300 a day as they head from the East Coast to the West Coast with one rest day on Sept. 14 in Sturgis, SD. There, he plans to visit Dan Wenk of Chelsea, who is a chief ranger in Yellowstone National Park.
The bike gets about 30 miles per gallon and can go about 100 miles on a tank of gas, he said.
So why attempt this endurance run now? As he approaches 60 years old, Farley decided that this might be his last chance to participate in this unique event, but he won’t be alone on his bike.
In addition to a support crew who will follow him, Farley will be riding in honor of his close friend, Grady Ellis. The two friends planned to make the run together, but Ellis passed away before they got that chance. But some of Ellis’ ashes and a US flag will make the trip with Farley as he rides his friend’s olive green motorcycle in his honor.
“Grady was a very patriotic Army vet,” Farley said, adding that his name will be painted on the motorcycle as well.
The long-time Chelsea resident will also have a photo of his mother, who died in 2005, and a decal of his wife, Lynne Roskowski-Farley on it. In fact, she’ll physically travel with him on first part of the ride.
During the run, the riders will leave the prescribed staging areas each day in staggered times depending on the bike’s engine size and Farley’s bike is in the 1,001 cc and up class – the ones with the biggest engines.
The riders must follow a route sheet that’s supplied to them each morning and they stay the night in hotels along the way.
No stranger to motorcycles, Farley said he’s owned them since he left home and moved out on his own. In 1971, he bought his first Harley and has owned one ever since.
“I want to thank the community for their support,” he said of friends and businesses who contributed to the expenses of this endurance run.
And he’ll take time to remember his good friend. “Grady’s with me,” Farley said. “Hopefully, he’ll help me along the way.”