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Northern Ohio Firefighters

2016 Ride will be June 10th -June 12th and will be starting at Clare-Mar Lakes Campground

Small engines, Big Fun

Once Around the Lake, Then Home


Wellington, OH June 9-11- For the third straight year , an odd ball collection of vintage bikes, small bikes ,scooterists and endurance riders assembled at Panther Trails Campground as part of a fundraiser for the Murar/Neelson Foundation, benefiting pediatric burn victims.  In the process, they would also find out who would turn the quickest lap of Lake Erie’s 660 mile perimeter.

Participants  in three classes, 50cc, 125 cc and 200 cc  pay a $50 entry fee and take pledges for the honor of riding  a lap around Lake Erie in the event which is the brain child of  Bill Murar and wife Joyce.   The event featured about 30 riders and among the notables was Crystal Crawford the first female rider and legendary endurance rider Bobb Todd- the first Canadian participant. Touring bike riders also supported the cause by paying their entry fees and riding the Loop, but were not competing for awards.

Before you ask, yes. 200 cc bikes will travel (if given enough time) well in excess of the legal speed limit and no, they don’t close the roads around Lake Erie for the Day. Speed is left up to what you might call “the riders discretion”.

The event kicks off with a meet and  greet picnic on Friday night followed by a bright and early 6 am start on Saturday. Classes start en masse, at 1 minute intervals leaving the Panther Trails Campground 5mph speed limit in a shambles.   Hot food was available for returning riders and the much anticipated Pancake Breakfast on Sunday morning wraps up the festivities.

Participants traditionally run the Lap of the Lake clockwise, for no particular reason. There are no rules regarding the route you plan or the route you take –which are not always the same. Receipts from both border crossings serve as proof that riders complete the circuit. In a bold move, Crazy Ken Carlson, broke with tradition and rode counter –clockwise this year. Ken has been predisposed to electrical malfunctions which have kept him from completing either of his previous two attempts.

Near the Angola rest stop, on the New York Thruway, the gremlins bit Crazy Ken again. His motor was shot. In an unprecedented fit of preparedness, Ken had packed a spare 125cc engine in his chase truck! He and his sons made the swap and in the process let the battery in chase truck die. They got a jump from a passerby only to be informed by a less than amused New York State Highway Patrolman that jumping a vehicle with anything other than a commercial towing service is illegal on the New York Thruway. Yes, New York is part of America.

On the other side of the lake, the competitors were circling the Ambassador Bridge for customs inspections. I say circling because my teammates and I blew past the exit for the bridge and past several other exits before managing to pull into a Detroit neighborhood for a quick reversal of direction and some needed repairs to teammate Doug Harlan’s CB200. The additional weight of the auxiliary gas tank we added had cracked the bike’s aging luggage rack. As Doug struggled unsuccessfully to gain access to the convenience store restroom, chase truck driver Rich Beaman & I gassed up and removed the fuel cell and rack.

We headed toward the border crossing at a ‘spirited’ pace with renewed enthusiasm. Then Doug pulled one of the most amazing riding exhibitions I’ve ever seen. Entering the Ambassador Bridge off ramp too vigorously, he dabbed his foot down- flat track style. That didn’t slow him up enough and the next thing I saw was Doug climbing the Jersey barrier with both wheels. It looked something like the like the Wall of Death. Fortunately the exhibition was obscured from the vision of the border officials.

Border crossings are getting a little more difficult than in years past and its part luck and part preparedness that gets you through fast.  After a pause for few pictures of fellow competitors and a few questions from the customs officer, we were on our way across Ontario.

I don’t know how fast 70KPH is, but I think it’s significantly slower than 75MPH. Route 401 /403 to the QEW was a breeze and no doubt quicker than the two lane Route 3 that many of the competitors on the smaller bikes chose.

On the east end of the lake, near the Fort Erie border crossing, we spotted Crazy Ken heading west. We knew this meant he was way behind schedule but didn’t know why.  He was up and running and it would give us something to ponder as we battled the headwinds from Buffalo to Erie.


Our previous speeds of 75-80mph were difficult to maintain on this stretch. Tucking in road race style really does bump up your top speed by about 5mph, but by now our necks and backs were starting to fatigue making the racing crouch difficult to maintain.

Doug and I had been running side by side all day and along with Richard in the chase truck were making a team effort having shared parts, strategies and expenses all along. Our bikes had been compatible, running about the same speeds and prior to the jettisoning of Doug’s fuel cell; we could have run about the same mileage.  Due to my now larger tank, I wasn’t paying much attention to fuel figuring that if Doug needed gas, I still had 2 gallons, so when his 200 coughed and sputtered to the road’s edge on I-90 going through Cleveland, I pulled over too.  As we were filling up – I heard a most disturbing sound. An un-muffled CB200 at full song. It was John McElfresh and he was on the move!  Doug took off and I shortly gave chase. In the blink of an eye I had gone from 1st to 3rd!  There were now 3 CB200’s on the loose, slicing through Cleveland‘s expressway rush hour traffic like a hot knife through butter!  I slowly reeled Doug in and together we chased McElfresh who we could not see   -and never would until the campground. He finished 1st with a time of 11:42, with Doug and I tied for second at 11:50. Bill Murar finished in 12:49 on his Yamaha Riva 180 scooter and Alan Sheidler completed the Loop on his RD200.




Phil Waters dominated Class II  with an elapsed time of 12:22 on his pink Pride of Cleveland sponsored “Buddy 125 “Scooter, followed by Dave Rittner on his Derbi with a time of 15:05. Crystal Crawford took third in Class II with a time of 15:19.  Crystal was mentored by 3 time participant Vern Ebert , although “mentoring” is   not the word Crystal chose to describe Vern’s roadside persuasions. Paul “Pig Pen” Graham finished next in 16:02 while defending Champion Charlie Cooley was given the “I will rise but I will not shine “award for returning directly to the campground after an early encounter with an Ohio State Highway Patrol woman.

Crazy Ken Carlson finished first in Class I following yet another roadside re-wire in 15:18 followed by Bruce “The Commish” Gordon on his restored ’66 Yamaha .The Commish got it done in 18:48 minutes having burned up points. Iron Butter Bobb Todd took 3rd on a Honda 70 in 19:17  while Stefan “Ironman “ Was(his last name –not a typo) set a new record for the slowest lap  with a 28:52 – yes that’s more than a full day in the saddle.

Nick Vannello turned the Loop into a successful Iron Butt Ride, by going around not only Lake Erie but also Lake Ontario. In the process, he blew a rear tire a few miles from the campground and didn’t complete The Loop.

A host of touring riders on Harleys, Suzukis, Kawasakis, Hondas, Kymcos and BMW’s also completed this year’s Loop.

Final figures were not yet available for the dollars raised due to the continued collection of pledges by several riders. Next years event is already scheduled for June 8-10 th. For more information visit www.lakeerieloop.com.or the Yahoo Lake Erie Loop group.

By Ernie Copper


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