Tuesday 5th May 1914
Erwin “Cannonball” Baker began the cross-continental motorcycle trip that would influence the way Americans would think of the “big bike” forever more. Just three months shy of the First World War, Cannonball Baker, wearing leather riding trousers and carrying a one-gallon canteen, mounted his V-twin 1000cc Stutz Indian motorcycle and headed east toward Yuma, Arizona, with a raging sandstorm at his back. To combat thirst, Cannonball used the old Native American method of carrying a small pebble under his tongue. On the second day of his trip Baker ran out of gas just a few miles short of Agua Caliente, Arizona, and was forced to push his bike in the 119-degree desert heat. Equipped with a Smith & Wesson .38, Baker fought off a pack of dogs in Fort Apache. Dogs continued to hamper his trip; in Ellsworth, Kansas, a shepherd dog attacked his bike. “This dog seemed to have a great desire for the Goodyear rubber of my front tire,” explained Baker. “The dog took a fall out of me which put me in bad shape, as I slid along the road on my elbows and knees. I kept the tire and the dog lost his life.” In all, Cannonball travelled 3,379 miles across the U.S. Due to the poor roads and primitive “cradle-spring” shock absorption of his bike, he rode most of the way standing up. His feat made him a hero.