What can I say that can give today justice!
More — a huge amount more — people waving us on. The signs and the kids are the best part. Something about little kid waving a flag so hard he’s bending the staff. Or, like lots of the kids, holding “Thank you” sign! Doesn’t get any better!
But wait — the Fire Department and their rigs on the over passes and on the side of the road. Doesn’t get any better!
But wait — the 2 Hueys (Vietnam era helicopters) flying overhead escorting us like in ‘Nam. Doesn’t get any better!
But wait — the OV 10 (spotter fixed wing aircraft (like a stripped down “Piper Cub”. Escorting and watchig over us like in “Nam but taking quite a few hits — slow mover but a god send. Doesn’t get any better!
But wait — howw about the freeway lined with American flags, the grandparents on the side of the road with their flags and signs, the POW/MIA flags, the service branch flags, the visit from the Canadian military veteran, the Medal of Honor recipient , the Navajo Code Talker (Marine WWII) — google it), the Pearl Harbor survivor, the former POW, the politicians, the donated food, the donated fuel, the people telling us thank you over and over again, the flyover by the 4 WWII era fighters, the Huey Gunship flying above us leaving trail of smoke (flying cover for us), the two civilian choppers filming us, the civil WWII truck full of “WWII era” warriors riding with us, the Navy Cross recipient (Vietnam), and the 5 separte and combined police department motor officers (about 60 strong) escorting us along the completely closed freeways ALL DAY LONG. The citizens of Meridian collecting our dirty clothes to wash and return — no charge. I’m forgetting a lot.
Bt the way — this was JUST TODAY.
The other side of the day — 330 miles, warmer than yesterday but VERY nice. One of the leadership dropping (and recovering) from diabetes. The WWII vet that collapsed (but recovered) scaring us greatly. A long time rider/road guard coming up from Texas to join us died in route (heart attack, today) and we’ll have services for him tomorrow.
The voices are getting clearer as are the faces. We’re being joined by our lost brothers and they are heading to DC with us. I’m not nuts — I am beginning to see them along the road, walking or riding with us. Them looking at the warmth and love they are NOW receiving. They will become more distinct in the coming days as will the memories. You can tell from the faces and tears of my fellow riders that they are seeing and feeling the same thing. Healing is starting. Sometimes we are overwhelmed but we are also a little warmer — extremely sad, extremely happy. Saddened by reality, relieved by emotion. A new experience for some, a renewal for some, and a “not quite there” for a few. But the voices are real.
The Mission rules.
Sort of a slow day today — mostly just travel but there some high spots.
We started our day with a breakfast at the Agri Pavillion in Meridian. This is like an indoor arena for horses, etc. The people there collect our dirty laundry the nite before and when we come back in the AM — all washed, dried and folded. Very nice of them and very nice for us as it saves a couple of hours (which we normally use to SLEEP (which is a really big deal. The days can be long when you combine “saddle time”, temperature, and driving. then off on a trip to the Tuscalosa (Alabama) VA Hospital.
The welcome is fantastic with patients, medical personal and kids greeting us. Lunch, relax a little with some of the patients (meet current conflict as well as previous wars. And its a beautiful hospital. Besides touring it gives us a chance to deompress a little and to relax with our vetern brothers and sisters. Very special.
We also had a second lunch at a Piggly Wiggley in Asheville, Alabama. Favorite stop for fuel and HOT DOGS (and more gallons of water, GatorAde, etc. Whe we take off from there we are back under LEO escort. The police all the acroos really support the hech out of our mission. Shutting down roas doesn’t sound like much but it not only makes the ride safer, it makes it a little faster.
Our end of day is in Chattanooga at a Harley Dealership. Food, WATER, entertainment and plenty of family — the ones we see once a year. Only a veteran can understand this feeling (of friends and families).
Part of our ride in the last couple of days consisted of EIGHTY police on motors with their red and blues flashing. They take EVERY on ramp to insure no interference. Safety and honor. An honor escort very different from what most receive — ever. To my brothers and sisters around the world — you are being remembered!
Emotional as the voices and faces are that much clearer. We can see our lost heading to DC for Memorial Day. They live, and will always live in OUR hearts and minds.
The Mission Rules.
Time is passing. Days are a little longer as we are getting more tired. With time zone changes, warmer weather, and the literal huming of your tires on the road, you tend to drift. Interestingly the days change in perspective. Unimportant things have become important. I’d swear we can all hear the inner workings of our engines. I put away a lot of “kick a poo joy juice” — energy drinks. Part of my job is interacting with the LEO’s AND also following them on the freeways (to direct speed and exits, etc) You watch red and blue lights flashing long enough and your mind gets fried!
Busy day — lots of mileage, lots of people. Now every where we stop is full of supporters, people that are asking what we are doing and in some cases, how can they get involved.
After leaving the HD dealership this AM we went to the TA Truck Stop in Knoxville where we are greeted by a couple of hundred supporters including my sister and her “DIVAS”. They’ve made PB & J sandwiches as well as a donation for our fuel. All 3 being big to us (the 3rd being simply that they are there for us). The latter is the big one.
We stop at another Harley Dealership for lunch, hydration and rest (hint to all other brands — Harley is appealing to us to spend money with them while the other brands do NOTHING. How about some water, energy bars, a shady spot to relax for n hour? Incidental sales would pay for it.
The last stop today is at Wytheville, Virginia. We are escorted in by 5 VA State Troopers (they’ve escorted us all day and boy do they have to work at it. 5 troopers covering ALL the on ramps for a hundred miles — they take them and the Road Guards bump them. Fast movers who also help us keep our lane open to keep the bikes from speeding up just ton slow down again. We are getting our act together — 400 bikes traveling at 65 MPH — smoothly.
Wytheville welcomes us, has ceremonies and then the Moose Lodge feeds us fantastic steak and chicken (with all the trimmings). EVERYONE wants a hug. And they get it. They ask for NOTHING in return. They teach RFTW in the school as it really does cover a huge amount of American History. When we levae the Park to go to the hotels to go to dinner, the LEO’s are at the lights to insure we don’t have to wait. Love and respect.
Emotions get high in this town because of the way they look at us (veterans). This is the type of town and citizens that could teach the world about freedoms, respect for our cultures and tolerance.
Done with everything by 2200 which is good because we started at 0430. Need my sleep. Short day tomorrow — the other school, D Day Memorial and overnighting on a new stop — Lynchburg, Va.
Before sitting down tonight I talked to a few of the vets. They are experiencing the same as me (and a few hundred others). They are having the same conversations. The voices are not bad — they are the conversations that we had at some point in the past, and the ones we should of had, and lastly, the ones we have now. They made the sacrifices, we came home. We have the memories. Everyone needs to know of their sacrifices, of the families lost, the kids never born or having to be raised by a “new” dad, the wives left stranded, the moms & dads who outlived their child. Yep, the memories. I came home (more or less).
The Mission Rules.
Second to last day but one of the best.
We started where we ended off — Wytheville, Va at their park. Breakfast both here and up at the school. Donated of course with the Mayor sitting in — he also rides part of the way with us. After breakfast the kids (middle school) put on a show for us, we give them trinkets (beads, etc) and then the WHOLE town spreads out along the park and streets — all the way to the freeway — to wave goodby and to wish us a safe journey.
Then up to Midvale and the Midvale Middle School. About a 90 minute ride, mostly freeways, with one specific place where we leave the new freeway and have to cross the older one (like a 4 way intersection). Probably the most difficult an dangerous one on the whole run. I try to take it as you need to be familiar with it to really understand the how to handle it. I was able to pick 3 RG’s to help me — Yankee from the Bay Area, Hazmat from SoCal and Senior Chief from the Sacto area. They did a fantastic job. We had no time to spare and when we hit the intersection the pack was only a little behind us. Senior Chief immediately started doing circles in the middle of this 4 lane intersection stopping the traffic. I’m still not sure if the traffic stopped because he had his hand up or because they were pretty sure that anyone doing circles in THAT intersection with one hand signalling stop was probably VERY serious! As soon as the riders got thru, we moved on to the fuel stop (again donated) and then up to the school for lunch and some time with the kids. After lunch the kids put on a show with the National Anthem, Pledge of Alegiance, service songs, etc. We also did the first RFTW Scholarship to young lady to help her with her education. For us (mostly veterans) the stop is pretty cool! Listening to our future countryman and woman. All these schools are educating their children the right way. High core values, high qualtiy life styles, firm beliefs in God and Country, values, responsibilaty, love of their fellow men and woman, and I could go on. You can see it in the teachers — lead by example, teach from the heart with the knowledge they need to be great all round teachers. We DO get emotional as we see so many faces telling the stories and we know that they future leaders will do us proud. I get emotional at the sound of our National Anthem, or God Bless America, or anything else to do with patriotism.
Our Fallen, those we ride for, never saw these kids, never saw their own kids, nor their grandchildren, but you have to believe that they do now. Looking down from above they see that these are the kids that they gave their lives for. We believe that we help these kids see what we see and how valuable they are to the future.
Short day today mileage wise, but a LONG day of emotions. This country side is breathtaking. Many of the vets are now opening up with their experiences and memories. Tomorrow we arrive in DC — 2nd to last day. But today and tonight, we think, we remember, we relive,we mourn. And, we spend a lot of time withe same questions — “what if” and “why not me”?
The Mission Rules.