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Northern Ohio Firefighters

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

                                            Inaugural Lake Erie Loop
                                                 Take it to the Limit
May 15, Wellington,OH-  This one was right in my proverbial wheelhouse.  It combined distance riding with the added (and sometimes seemingly senseless) handicap of riding a sub 200cc bike to participate in the Inaugural Lake Erie Loop (LEL) event.  The objective was to ride around Lake Erie quicker than the other knuckleheads who rose to the challenge. Topping it off was the fact the event was being held to raise money for the Murar/ Neelsen foundation, who would directly contribute the proceeds of the event to Aluminum Cans for Burned Children. Participants paid a $ 50 entry donation.

     The event originally featured 3 classes, Class 1, 50cc, Class 2, 125cc and Class 3 200cc or less.  Due to popular demand , a  4 th  “Tourist class” was added to allow modern day tourers and cruisers to participate  and provide a way to see the human oddities riding the weird little bikes up close, just like at the zoo.

   While were on the subject of human oddities; this event is the brain child of firefighter/paramedic Bill Murar, who last year attempted to do a 4 corners fund raising ride on a vintage Allstate with the support of his wife Joyce. The two successfully completed their adventure using up several Allstates in the process and ultimately finishing the ride on modern day equipment when his Allstate well went dry. So, you can see that Bills’ level of enthusiasm for self inflicted motorcycling hardship may exceed the norm.

    I originally intended to compete in Class 3 figuring I might as well ride as big a bike as the rules allowed. I also reasoned a big bike would win the overall – and winning the overall was certainly my goal.  The trouble was the $250  ebay Honda 175 I bought became “uncooperative” as race day grew near despite the efforts of a myself and a bunch of real bikers including Richard Beaman and  Doug at Tri Center Services  who wouldn’t take any money for his efforts.

  With the Big Event just 5 days away in a gesture of true brotherhood, Richard Beaman offered to loan me his recently purchased eBay  ’72 CB100.  A quick test ride revealed the bike was basically sound and Richard and I thrashed for three nights prepping, and getting it licensed and inspected. Nostalgic side note: the front wheel and the headlight were pirated from Richard’s first bike- a ’71 CL 100 to get the cb100 race ready.  We put on new rubber, fixed the rear brake pedal that had been bent out of shape by a previous owner who used it as  spring board and took off some weighty parts like the center stand.  Some other weighty parts would come off later, under different circumstances. A café type fairing proclaiming the underwhelming bike the “Thunder Press Express” was mounted up. The fairing, originally intended for the 175’s  7” headlight, took  a foot or two of foam pipe insulation and some duct tape to downsize the opening to fit the 6” - 5 cell headlight of the cb100.  We were ready to race.

   We loaded up the minivan with the bike and every conceivable spare after work Friday and headed for Panther Trails Campground.  Panther Trails is the official clandestine starting point for the LEL speed fest.  A self serve burgers and dogs cook out complete with all the fixins was ready for all participants and final preparations were made  to varying degrees by everyone.  While some just topped off, Vern Ebert had an overwhelming desire to take a few links out of his chain. Having left his break at home, he borrowed a grinder from campground owners Geoff and Patty Smith  and got the job done.


   The official start time was to be 6am on Saturday.  The early start was designed to allow plenty of time to finish the 650 or so miles around Lake Erie in one day on the route of your choosing.  There were 5 checkpoints: checkpoint #1 was Panther Trails ,#2 was a receipt form the Ambassador Bridge form Detroit into Canada ,#3 was a receipt for gas purchased in Canada and checkpoint 4 was the Peace Bridge from Fort Erie Canada into Buffalo ,NY. And check point 5 was the finish at Panther Trails.  We rode together in the rain for about 30 minutes until we reached the Ohio turnpike and the race was on!

    Crazy Ken Carlson speed off on his most unique  ’65 Honda S90 complete with hand formed  4 gallon aluminum gas tank, rearsets, open megaphone pipe,gelgrips and an owner fabbed café style seat.  Realizing he could be trouble, I finished up a quick gear adjustment and set sail after him, leaving the others behind.

    As I pushed the little single in to the 65 mph range, Richard followed me in the van.  It was still raining and the grip of the 2.75 x18 rubber seemed less than tenacious to me, but since I had logged about 3 miles on the bike before the event,  I figure I just needed to get used to it.   A few miles later, I was sure the little Honda was possessed, or may be another competitor had put a hex on it. It began to feel like it was hinged in the middle and I pulled off the road, happy to be alive after 3 or 4 snap rolls.  A hurried inspection revealed the nut had vibrated off the swing arm pivot bolt allowing it to back out about 2/3 rd s of it length!  We had narrowly avoided true disaster – but what to do?  Unable to find a nut on the bike or the support van to donate, we remembered the cordless drill and set to drilling the bolt.  Next we put on a big flat washer and shoved in a cotter key.  As we did, several competitors roared by.  Tools were tossed wholesale into the van and off we went.

    After several miles of riding with one eye on the swingarm bolt, I began to concentrate on catching others. As I reached terminal velocity (70 mph, on the tank, in a draft) it began to dawn on me that this was going to be a race against the machine and myself, more so than a race against the others.  Just the same, it felt pretty good when I passed three vintage riders pulled off the shoulder several miles later.

   Somewhere in Detroit,Doug Harwood ,riding a cb200, and I would run our of gas  within 30 yards of each other.   What are the odds? Showing true competitive spirit, neither of us took the time to check if the other needed gas – we snagged our emergency fuel supplies form our respective support vehicles, fueled up and took off again. 

   While Doug and I battled fuel economy, Alan Sheidler was battling cold wet feet. .  Near by he succumbed to the innate human desire for warm dry feet and bought a new pair of shoes.  The clerk kindly offered to hang onto his old shoes – he could pick them up on the way home as space was limited on his ’92 Honda NSF50 .

    Giving in to my own need for warmth- we pulled into a Wendys  somewhere in Canada, assuming I was in second place behind a long gone Crazy Ken Carlson and his tricked out S90.  Imagine the look on my face when I looked up from a cup of java to see Crazy Ken in his yellow rainsuit pulling in half frozen. I offered to let him sit in the van for some direct heat, he declined. I was now free to take off - guilt free. 

    Soon enough, the road demons would strike me again.  Something in the front end of the bike had gone a foul.  Praying that it would stay together long enough for me to get to the shoulder but having no idea what was wrong, I slowed and pulled to the safety of the roadside.  The front fender had taken leave of the bike, disabling my speedometer cable in the process.  Richard ripped the formerly pristine chrome fender from the bike and tossed in the van. At least it didn’t take out the front brake cable. We were back on the road without incident save for 2 or three quick stops to buy a spark plug and eliminate a kink in the fuel line- which left everything smelling of gas.

   The Peace Bridge boarder crossing was without incident, save for the fact they don’t give out receipts( our checkpoint proof) because it doesn’t cost anything. We hoped the others had the same trouble and snapped a couple for pics for proof.  In my mind, we were closing in on the finish, but there were many miles to go. Curious and hopeful-we put a call into the campground to see if anyone was back yet-since we were into the early evening hours. The reply from Bill’s wife Joyce “No” gave us hope as we neared Cleveland.

    The hours and miles were beginning to take their toll on my judgment even though we felt we were close to the end. I decided a decent 20 or 30 minute rest would be best.  We tried to review the balance of the route and decided to try and stay off the 3 lane by passes with the bikes 6 volt electrics in Saturday Night traffic.  We strayed off course a few times , but pulled into the finish just after 11:30 pm –over 17 hours ( and 654 miles) after we started. Bill Murar advised that I was the second finisher overall and the first in my class. Doug Harwood , riding the cb200 had finished less than 1 hour before me riding 632 miles. His primary advantage seems to be that nothing fell off his bike.

   The campfire was going at Panther Trail and finishers were greeted with applause, hot coffee and ears eager to hear their tales of the road. That evening ,and at the pancake breakfast the next morning, we shared misadventures and Bill handed out the awards. In an unplanned show of support all of the cash received by the winning contestants was re-gifted to the foundation.

    While the attendance was not as large as expected this year, the Lake Erie Loop will live on.  Tentative plans are to move the event into June in hopes of nicer weather. The inaugural event did draw riders from, NY, MI, OH, PA and Missouri.

    Don Ruggles , of  Ped ‘til yer Red fame road 412 miles on his Motobecane  moped and was largely unseen by most of us. He got a late start and a later finish, but also reportedly had a blast.  Also of note was Joe Sparrow who rode in form St Ann. Missouri to participate.

    Aside from supporting a worthy cause, I believe the draw of this event is in taking things to the limit and the challenges of keeping the machine running on the road. It is motorcycling broken down, sometimes literally, to its most basic elements and one excellent way to spend a weekend.


200cc Class and first overall Doug Harwood

125cc Class
1st Ernie Copper ’72 Honda CB100
2nd Vern Ebert    ‘78 Honda CB125S
3rd Bill Murar     ’67 Sears 124 5v
4th  Charlie Coolie ’65 Gileria FL124

50cc Unlimited
1st Al Sheidler –’90 Honda NSF50 w/65cc kit
2nd Ken Carlson ’65 Honda S90
3rd Don Ruggles ‘ 80 Motobecane Moped 50 w/65cc kit

By Ernie Copper

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