Pinball Wizards


Summer is ending quick, but there is still time for an epic adventure.  You can still enter the Pinball Run.

The Pinball Run is a ten day rally that starts in Portland, Maine and ends in Key West, Florida.  Normally a drive like this would take anywhere between two and three days, depending on how you drive.  The wizards behind this run have allowed you a whopping ten days to do the trip.  There is one little quirk to this I haven’t mentioned.  This run is on mopeds.

Yep. Mopeds.  Those two wheeled machines that many seem to own, but few will admit to.  If there was ever a vehicle definition of counter culture, the moped is it.

If that wasn’t enough, the organizers of the Pinball Run have limited the size of the engines to 50ccs.  That means you get to ride roughly 1,800 miles at roughly 30 miles an hour.  Doing the math, you’re doing an average of 180 miles per day for six hours of riding; not counting lunch, breakdowns, construction, gassing up, bath room breaks, elevation, and other goodies.

All this with other riders and most likely an angry horde of traffic behind you the entire way.

Motorcycle riders like to show their toughness by doing runs called “Iron Butt”.  These are rides from 1,000 to 5,000 miles in one to five days respectively.  Now I will admit that those are tough long distance challenges, but none of these have the added stress of traffic looming behind you, waiting to pounce like an angry lion.  In my opinion, the Pinball Run is every bit as challenging.

To make it easier, teams are allowed.  You can have up to three riders taking shifts, or you can have three riders each on their own moped.  If one breaks down and can’t be repaired, that rider can become a shift rider on one of the other bikes.

While I may not be going to this (I don’t even own a moped.) it’s always fun to imagine how I would do this.

First is the bike:  I’d go as new as possible.  I know nothing about these machines and want the most reliable one I can get my hands on.  It needs to have good sized wheels on it to handle all the potholes, bumps, dips, and railroad crossings I’ll encounter while helping to give a smooth ride.

Image from


I also want racks on it; front and back.  I’m going to be on the road for ten days.  I’m going to need clothing, toiletries, snacks, water (not too much, mind you), tools, small repair kit, tire repair kit, and other odds and ends.  Weight is an issue with such a weak motored vehicle, but a balance can be made.

Second is safety gear:  Helmets and motorcycle specific clothing are always the smart thing to wear when riding on a motorcycle; They are even more important when on a moped that does not have the power to get out of the way.

Third are maps:  The organizers recommend either a GPS or a GPS app for your smart phone.  They even go so far as to show different ways to keep your smart phone or GPS charged during the run.  This is done because there are check-points along the way.  That’s all fine, but I’d go old school.  My original adventures used maps and they must still be useful since RoadRunner Magazine still prints them on their last page every issue.  Besides the guys over at Pinball dissed analogers.  Someone’s gotta show them what’s up.

Fourth is a computer or tablet of some kind:  If you think I’m going to do this and not blog about it, you’re nuts!  This thing just begs blogging.

Fourth and a half is a camera:  Gotta get pics.  With so much to see, it’d be a shame not to share.

Fifth is some goofy mascot:  A stuffed animal, action figure, pet fish, a trip like this just screams for something out of the ordinary leading the way.

With all this, I’d be good to go.  How about you?  Would you do this run?  If so, what would your set up be?

And for those who can’t get enough, here’s some links.

Oh, and if you’re a woman making this run, tell the organizers that you want a beefcake drawing to even out the cheesecake one.  It’s only fair.

7 thoughts on “Pinball Wizards

  1. LOL You certainly do not make things easy, but nonetheless here’s is how i would approach this challenge.

    1) Clothing and protective gear: Knee pads, elbow pads and a helmet. And a 3-piece business suit, black with pinstripes.
    2) Special equipment: A briefcase containing thermoses filed with extra-dry martinis. To be sipped during the hourly rest stops only.
    3) Secret weapon: a James Bond inspired umbrella that fires missiles at any potentially unfriendly vehicle or pedestrian that comes within 50 feet
    4) Support staff: a Cadillac CTS-V Wagon to throw the moped in after leaving the daily starting checkpoint and to dash to a secluded point for debarkation just before the finish.

    Remember, you do not win races without planning.

  2. LOL! This might be a little too much, even for me! (I’ve wanted to do a cross-country run on a scooter for some time, now.) Seriously, my hat’s off to these guys and gals. But most importantly, how did I overlook the importance of your fifth necessity?!?!

    • I don’t know – how did you miss that? I see you tying a Heinz Doofenshmirtz doll under the headlight. He’ll have a full beard on ala Sharpie and the name Wettengl written on his shirt. 😉

      Yeah, we gotta give these guys some applause. It’s impressive what they’re doing.

  3. Way to much fun, but actually OW my butt, just thinking about scootering/Mopeding it across the country.
    I would get a HELMET CAM front and back that was button or voice operated.. as you are scootering down the road, you don’t have to turn your head to view something and record it.

    I kind of want to do this Pin Ball Run now.. LOL

    And have the recovery van behind me.. just in case !

  4. I had 5 friends form a team from Chicago and compete in this challenge. One of the team members completed the entire trek and took second overall. Keep in mind, this was done on a moped, not a scooter. Big difference. A true moped has pedals that are used to start it, where a scooter does not and generally a moped is not as comfortable. If you remember the old school mopeds from the 70’s gas shortage days, those are what were used for this journey. There was one new moped used on this trip but the rest were ‘peds from the 70’s and early 80’s.

    For those of us that weren’t able to participate, we had the luxury of following the riders using a gps app that showed/tracked rider speed and location on a map. Sometimes riders didn’t have the opportunity to log back in during their ride or their phone battery would die, but for the most part, you knew how your friends were doing over the coarse of the day. It was interesting to see someone closing the gap on someone else or seeing someone take a different route in hopes of gaining ground. Overall, this rally reinvigorated my interest in these old bikes. Most of the people that entered this rally ride moped almost daily. In some cases, they are their main mode of transportation. The people that get into these bikes aren’t just weekend warriors. They breathe this stuff. They build their own bikes out of a pile of old, discarded parts or find a diamond in the rough and bring it back life.

    Having ridden a moped at weekend rallies and during week night rides with friends, I have an idea on how sore one day of this adventure would leave my body and I have nothing but respect for those that took this rally on. This was epic.

    If this happens next year, I may get involved on some level. However, it will probably be on the support crew or possibly in a relay team with a customized moped that has a lazy boy chair as a seat. Glad to see somebody giving this rally some blog space. Thanks for that.

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