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Ashland native faces challenge of a coast to coast motorcycle ride

September 12, 2018
PLYMOUTH – While people in central New Hampshire are accustomed to seeing plenty of motorcycles out on the roads, last week, there were some that most likely turned a few heads when a group of vintage motorcycles, dating back to the early 1900s, rolled through Plymouth and surrounding towns.

One member of the group, which calls itself the Santa Cruz Vintage Riders, is Ashland native Doug Feinsod who now lives in California. While he and his friends were headed to Portland, Maine for the start of the 2018 Motorcycle Cannonball rally, he couldn't resist giving them a peek at his hometown on the way though.

"My wife and I both grew up here, so we wanted to stop for a couple of days and show them some of the area we love," said Feinsod.

Part of their itinerary included scenic vistas around Squam Lake, perhaps a few winding mountain roads, and of course, some of the great lakeside dining available in the area. The group also met with the Plymouth Rotary last Wednesday morning to give them a bit of the story behind the Motorcycle Cannonball and show them their vintage motorcycles.

Lonnie Isam, Jr. founded the coast-to-coast challenge in 2010 when he invited other vintage motorcycle enthusiasts to join him on a trip from Kitty Hawk, N.C. to the Pacific Ocean. The purpose of the ride was to pay homage to the engineering that went into building motorcycles at the turn of the century and recognize the fact that they were built to be ridden, not just admired. He chose the name "Motorcycle Cannonball" to honor Eric "Cannonball" Baker, one of the pioneers who helped pave the way across the country in the early 1900s.

Every two years since then, vintage bike owners sign on to make the journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. The one restriction though is that the bikes cannot be newer than 1928.

Feinsod has a 1928 Indian 4 with a 3-speed, 12 HP engine. Most of his friends have similar bikes, either Indians or Harley Davidsons, but one 1914 Harley in their group is only a one-speed with a 5 HP motor. That makes steep inclines a challenge at times.

Like most small power engines, the gas mileage is minimal, too, therefore they all have spare gas cans strapped to their bikes for the trip.

"We have to stop about every 60 miles for gas, so we carry the extra cans just in case," Feinsod explained.

Hills and gas consumption are not the biggest challenges they face, however. Breakdowns are a common occurrence when one is riding a 90-year-old motorcycle.

"We malfunction every day so we have a trailer that'll follow us with any of the parts we might need along the way," he said.

Feinsod's bike, like most of the others, is nearly all original with the exception of the gas tank that has corroded due to age and the engine parts that wear out over time. He was proud to say he still owns the original tank from his bike though. Some owners have also added padded seats to make the ride a bit more comfortable, but several have the original bicycle-style metal seats covered with a thinly padded layer of leather.

There is no technology on these vintage machines except for a Trail Tech that helps track their mileage. On board each bike there is also a metal box with a plastic panel on the top that holds daily maps scrolled up inside.

"We don't know where we're going until the organizer faxes a map to us every day at wherever it is we spent the night. This is actually a contest so they don't want to disclose the whole route ahead of time because it just wouldn't be fair," said Feinsod.

What he did know in advance though was that the run would begin in Portland, Maine and take them down quiet highways and scenic back roads to Portland, Oregon over the course of 17 days.

"We average about 300 miles a day and don't travel on any interstate highways. It's a really great way to see the country," Feinsod said.

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