‘Cannonball’ Baker’s coast-to-coast motorcycle run is re-created

Erwin George Baker made history in 1914 by making a solo motorcycle run from San Diego to New York. Last weekend, a group of modern motorcyclists set out to match his feat.
(Cannonball Ride)

One hundred years ago last weekend a prehistoric motorcycle nut named Erwin George Baker set out on a solo ride from San Diego, headed for New York, astride a prehistoric Indian two-wheeler. He made the trip in 11 days, earning him the nickname “Cannonball” Baker and assuring his place in pioneering motorcycle history.

On Saturday a group of die-hard motorcycle enthusiasts set out from the same spot in San Diego, at the same hour, in an attempt to match Cannonball Baker’s historic run.

They were led by decorated modern motorcyclist Don Emde.

Emde entered the motorcycle record books by racing a Yamaha 350 to win the 1972 Daytona 200 -- a race his father, Floyd, had won in 1948, on an Indian. They became the first father and son in history to have both won the race.


The younger Emde, a San Diego native, was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, a year after his father got the honor, in 1998.

Emde will be attempting the Cannonball Baker Run on a slightly more modern machine. He’s riding a Yamaha Super Tenere, kitted out with a variety of high-tech devices denied to Cannonball -- like real suspension, disc brakes and navigation equipment.

His chances of making the run, on time, are pretty good. But he will be accompanied by a number of riders on vintage machinery, including some very old Indians and Harley-Davidsons. Look for their oil-stained wreckage along the highway, following Cannonball’s original route, which runs from California into Arizona, then across New Mexico, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Ohio before making its way into New York.