It was a cannonball run with a twist Saturday for the American Legion Riders Post 20’s annual charity run.

Instead of their annual Poker Run, where they collect a different card at each stop, they decided to go with a different type of cannonball run. Their annual run, sans the year 2020, benefits the Kids Camps for the Bristol Hospice Foundation of California.

At the Terra Bella Veterans Memorial Building, Post 779, President Mike Phillips said he was anticipating 100 riders, about 50 percent of the 200 riders who showed interest on their facebook page. He also said this was their first event since COVID.

In Cannonball it’s all about speed and who can get there the fastest,” said Mike Smith, current post commander, and former president of Post 20, running one of the four stops along the course. “We were trying to think of what to do and came up with a Cannonball Run – but decided to take the speed out of the roads. Obviously we don’t want them racing down the highway. It’s all about safety. We took the speed off the roads and placed it into the competition events. Everything is timed.”

All participants drive to four stops in any order but must be back in Terra Bella by 12:30 p.m., Smith said.

They still have to go to all four stops,” Smith said. “But they can do it in any order.”

The stops included timed challenges along the way, including a safety-cone obstacle course at Rick’s Place near the Porterville Municipal Airport; Corn Hole game at Eagle Feather Trading Post on Highway 190; a game of Water Pong at the Old Stage Saloon on Avenue 56; and a game of horseshoe back at the Terra Bella Veterans Memorial Building.

Along the way there was plenty of camaraderie among the bikers.

At Mike’s Place, the goal was to zigzag the motorcycle around cones, drive around a circular drive lined with cones on both sides, return through the aisle of cones, once again zig zagging through them, and stop the motorcycle in a chalk-drawn box at the end of the course, which was fashioned, he said, after the DMV motorcycle course.

The bikers were given 40 seconds to complete the course. Five seconds were added for every cone hit, for taking their foot off the footrest and placing it on the ground, and for not stopping in the drawn box at the end of the course.

They also had a putting green where participants had to hit three out of four golf balls into the holes with one hit each.

And because the event is a fundraiser, participants had an opportunity to pay $5 to test a second time if they were not satisfied with their first result.

Go faster! Go faster,” yelled out Tonya Topete as she rooted for a fellow biker who appeared to be going extra-cautiously around the course. “He’s going so slow. He needs to speed up.”

His final time was 39.54 seconds.

Topete said she did  not want to ruin her motorcycle by riding in the course and had chosen not to participate in it, but she enjoyed watching the others.

One by one, several riders took their turns at a successful, fast ride through the obstacle course.

I’m not a quitter,” said Topete as she sat on her motorcycle and drove towards the lineup for the course.

Topete not only ran over a couple of cones, she also sailed right over the stop box.

As everyone yelled at her that she was to stop, a laughing Topete said no one told her to stop at the end of the course.

I didn’t realize I was supposed to stop,” she said.

And though her time was 23.41 seconds, 10 seconds were added for the two cones and five seconds for not stopping in the box at the end of the course, making her final time 38.41 seconds.

A few riders later, Michelle Wattenbarger of Tehachapi, Post 221, was not pleased with her time. She paid the $5 fee for a second chance and breezed through the course with a 24.05 seconds finish. She appeared ecstatic and raised her hands in victory. But the celebration was short lived. Someone yelled out that the winning time was at 22 seconds. Wattenbarger asked if she could do it again but two times was the maximum tries allotted.

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