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Central Route Coordinator News – April 2018

As I write this, we are 45 days away from lifting our kickstands in Ontario, CA.  I also see that 561 participants have already registered for the Central Route to play some role in our coast-to-coast crossing of these United States to Washington, DC to show our solidarity to remember those who have given their all to protect our freedoms.

The State Coordinators are closing in on their responsibilities to arrange and plan within their respective states to make this a memorable year for you as a rider.  Our Advance Road Guard team, led by Chuck Brown, is mapping out our Route, planning freeway exits, entries and egresses at our fuel stations.  Our Fuel Crew, led by George Creacy, is working out specifics to quickly fuel all the motors in a safe and quick timeframe.  Our Staging Crew, led by Steve Berniklau, is working out details on where and how to park motors for morning staging, fuel stops, and evening stops.

Leadership, who are responsible for moving motors, has been meeting regularly since January to discuss and look at satellite views of each stop using GoToMeeting.com conference/video meeting program.

In addition, Eamon Tansey and I gathered your Platoon Leaders for an online conference meeting to discuss expectations, procedures, and safety concerns.

So what have you as riders been doing to prepare yourself for this tough and grueling journey?  Are you exercising to build your stamina?  Think about starting your hydration routine at least a couple weeks before the Run.  How are your riding skills?  Have you enrolled into a motorcycle riding class to sharpen your skills and break bad habits?  Find an open parking lot to practice tight turns.  Can you make a U-turn within 3 parking spaces?  If so, see if you can reduce it to 2 spaces.

Communications…. After much consideration. I purchased the Sena 30K and Sena Freewire system.  I am quite impressed by its’ performance and am thinking of new ways to apply it.  According to Bruce Bartolomeo, I understand Sena is offering some smoking deals for Run For The Wall riders.  If you are interested, check out this link which is on the  RFTW.us Forum

On Friday Evening, May 25, 2018 in Washington, DC, you have the opportunity to attend the Marine Corps Evening Parade, featuring: “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, “The Commandant’s Own” The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Marine Corps Color Guard, the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, Ceremonial Marchers, and Cpl. Chesty XIV, the official mascot of Marine Barracks Washington.

Register Here for the Marine Corps Evening Parade – It’s Free for RFTW.

April Safety Tip…  We have a member on our leadership team who is responsible for communicating with truckers as we move the Pack along the freeway.  Our communications leader is Dave Talley, who is a trucker by trade.  He sent the following email to Eamon and me a few weeks ago, and I thought it appropriate to include here in my monthly update.

Dave writes…. For about four or five years I’ve been telling RFTW about the collision mitigation systems installed in tractor trailers.  I never had much information on these systems other than they existed and could cause the Run problems.  I have been driving with this system for ten months now. It is seriously flawed and we have been approaching it wrong.  First if an obstacle like a bike or several bikes is detected by this system it WILL slow the truck down, if a driver is using cruise control the system will back off the throttle (driver won’t notice until cruise shuts off due to loss of momentum).  If obstacle stay to close to the truck (1 second or less) the system will activate engine retarder system and brakes (again driver received no warning it just happens).  If obstacle slows braking occurs faster, and a report of unsafe following is generated to company safety department. Not our problem right?  Wrong!  Our pack is often 5 miles long and if passing the truck we will have riders behind it.  During initial slowdown there are no break lights. During collision mitigation there are brake lights, but the computer is basically panic stopping an 80,000 pound vehicle.  Our bikes to the front and side will be okay, but bikes behind it will also be in a panic stop and possible multiple chain reaction accident involving our riders and vehicles behind them.  In addition, some of the newer trucks and cars have lane departure anti yaw systems. These systems work by braking and steering vehicle back into lane…lane splitting causes drivers to swerve away from bike doing it, these systems counter the swerves, possible dead biker, or worse truck locks up brakes or runs off road.   Almost every truck with these systems have dash cam. I shudder to think of RFTW all over YouTube because we caused a wreck.

Solution 540 feet or six seconds before moving in front of any truck.  That is 8.5 truck lengths.  The average car moves over at 1 second in front of a truck, the average biker does it at .5 seconds. Neither is a problem if they keep moving away from the truck. The Run doesn’t always keep moving, someone waves at an overpass and we stop.   If we do that in front of a truck with a collision mitigation system our people in front of it are probably safe, but the people behind it ARE NOT.

We need to rethink how we do what we do I need 3 minutes a day every day to tell and remind people how far 540 feet is.  In the last five years I’ve gone to platoon meetings.  All of them some days because leadership has felt giving me 3 minutes isn’t worth it. Tell that to the family of an FNG who didn’t know when he bumper dives a truck that he is risking the lives of everyone behind him and the mission.

Thanks, Dave

That’s all for now,  let’s be prepared.

My Wall is Your Wall,

Harlan “Whitebirch” Olson
2018 Central Route Coordinator

 

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Central Route Coordinator News – March 2018

I checked the countdown clock on www.rftw.us a few minutes ago.  It shows that we are at 73 days, 20 hours and 32 minutes away from “kickstands up” in the Ontario, CA, parking lot on May 16th.  As I scrolled down a little further, I noticed that 481 of you have completed online pre-registration to participate in the Central Route in some way.  That doesn’t mean 481 will be departing Ontario on Wednesday.  We know that some of you will be joining at one of our overnight stops, and others will be dropping off to return home for work or other family commitments.

Your State Coordinators have been doing outstanding work to make the 2018 Run a success.  They have arranged and worked with local volunteers for our fuel and lunch stops.  They have negotiated hotel rates at our overnight destinations.  In addition, State Coordinators have worked with local law enforcement agencies to let them know we will be riding through their areas of Jurisdiction and advised them of our Mission statement.  In many cases, local law enforcement offers escorts to protect us.  In the days leading up to our May 16th departure, we will be depending on the State Coordinators to keep us apprised of road construction in our path of travel.  Be sure to seek out the State Coordinator volunteers and thank them for their hard work.

I spoke with Tom Pogue, Central Route Missing Man Coordinator, a few days ago.  He told me that he has a few slots available for those wishing to ride for someone in the Missing Man Formation.

If you are wondering about the 2018 itinerary, it is in final editing and will be going out for review.  I am anticipating that it will be available online in the next 7 to 10 days.

According to Jimmie Royce, 50/50 Rouser, if you are not standing anywhere near the PA sound trailer during each morning gathering prior to the MANDATORY morning riders meeting this year, you will miss an excellent opportunity to purchase items provided by some of our major brand supporters.

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to check out the online merchandise store.  The 2018 shirts are available.  My favorite is the purple polo.

March Safety Tip:   Last month I talked about our preferred “snake around” method of passing traffic.  I’d like to add a footnote to that.  When you are in a passing situation, you may see a Road Guard (yellow brassards) in front of a truck or car. He/she is there for a reason … to pace the truck/car.  You will safely return and move back to the traffic lane well in FRONT of the Road Guard.

My Wall is Your Wall,

Harlan “Whitebirch” Olson
Run for The Wall
2018 Central Route Coordinator

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Central Route Coordinator News – February 2018

Guess what?  It’s February and we are a few days away from the 100 day mark when we lift the kickstands in the Ontario, CA staging area on May 16th.  The leadership teams are in place and ready to serve.  You can check out the various teams at this link https://rftw.us/central-route-hub/ then click on the “2018 Central Route Contact” button.

The State Coordinators for each of the states we are passing through are putting final touches on our gas and lunch stops, plus our overnight hotels and dinners.  Our State Coordinators are the backbone of making this event successful and we owe them our utmost gratitude.

We are currently working on the 2018 Itinerary and anticipating it will be published sometime in late March or early April. So far it remains pretty much like it was in 2017 except for a date change for each day.  If studying last year’s itinerary, remember we always depart Ontario, CA on Wednesday.  If you do that you will get the right date.

The RFTW Board of Directors is holding their first Face to Face meeting of the year on February 10th.  The Route Coordinators and Assistant Route Coordinators from Central, Southern, and Midway routes are invited to give respective reports and hammer out logistics for Ontario and Washington DC.

I’ve been in contact with Jimmie Royce, who is our 50-50/Raffle Rouser this year.  He has been working very hard on obtaining some very, VERY nice items to auction off at our daily morning meetings.  I would advise to be within earshot of the PA system every morning.

February Safety Tip:  Passing….  One of the maneuvers that we face is to get platoon elements around slower moving traffic.  There are a couple of ways to achieve this task, however, a method that we have found which works well is the “Snake Around”.  But it has a drawback, which I’ll explain in the last sentence or two.  It works something like this.  When the platoon leader determines that the passing lane is clear, he will signal and move into the passing lane.  The riders behind will each head check the lane and when clear move over as well.  If we are passing on the left, for example, the left track rider will wait for his riding partner in the right track to get well clear of the traffic before moving back into the travel lane.  When the right track rider makes the move back, the left track rider will do the same keeping pace.  To complete the passing maneuver, it is the responsibility of each right track rider will get well clear of the truck/auto before moving back into travel lane.  DO NOT simply follow the motorcycle in front of you, that is a deadly trap that many falls into.  Do one or both of two things to be sure you have a safe distance before moving over.  You should do a head check and/or check your mirror to be sure you can see well above the top of the truck/auto.  Pulling in too early is a common mistake and it takes real concentration not to put yourself and others in danger.

My Wall is Your Wall,
Harlan “Whitebirch” Olson

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Central Route Coordinator News – January 2018

I sincerely hope you all had a joyous Christmas holiday with family and friends. Janelle and I sure did, as we drove to Decorah, Iowa and Minneapolis, MN to be with grandkids and family. It was very cold there and I remembered why we live in Colorado.

It’s not May yet, but it is January and that is when the hotels on each end of the 2018 Run opened the registration desks in Ontario, CA and Arlington, VA (Washington DC). I trust that you have started making your overnight arrangements, whether it be hotels or camping.

Because we received some negative feedback after the 2017 Run regarding camping facilities in the After Action Reports, I had asked our State Coordinators to put extra thought into arranging for riders who use camping facilities. As I was gathering hotel and camping information from the State Coordinators for publication on January 1st, I think that request has been met.

I gotta add, when you see a State Coordinator next May, be sure to stop and give them a hug and thank you for their hard work. They are the best!

We’ve had a couple requests to add Breakouts in central Kansas area, so that should make a total of 6 Breakouts along our route if it comes to fruition. This is in addition to the Outreach program.

Eamon Tansey, our Assistant Route Coordinator, tells me he will be finalizing the plan for the Outreach Program stops within the next few weeks. I find this added aspect to the Central Route exciting and hoping it is well received.

I remind you that online registration is open at http://rftw.us for the RFTW 2018 Run event. Early registration is a BIG help in our planning for a successful 2018 Run.

January Safety Tip: In looking at previous years accident reports, it is quite evident that most accidents in the Pack occur due to a speed change. One of these occasions is in the process of getting the Pack up to highway speed after one of our many stops. Once the Route Coordinator, in the lead element, has entered the roadway, he will not exceed 35 MPH until the Last Man vehicle has reported on the highway. There should be no reason for your speed to exceed 40 to 45 MPH to close any gaps to get into place. It is the responsibly of the Platoon Leaders to set a reasonable pace to get the platoons in position as we await the call from the Last Man vehicle. Once that radio report is received, the Route Coordinator will incrementally increase speed until our highway speed is reached, not to exceed 65 MPH.

My Wall Is Your Wall,
Harlan “Whitebirch” Olson

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2018 RFTW Hotel Lists Posted

The Hotel Lists for all three routes: Central, Midway, and Southern are now posted within the respective Route Hubs under > Run Info from the Main Menu of the RFTW Website.

These also include booking links for Ontario, CA and Washington, DC/Arlington, VA.

Central Route Hotels
Midway Route Hotels
Southern Route Hotels

See you in May!

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Central Route Coordinator News – December 2017

No, it’s not May yet. However, it is December and that means Christmas is a few weeks away. As you enjoy the holidays with family, please remember the reason for the season and keep Christ in it.
The planning for the 2018 Run for The Wall event continues with our State Coordinators taking the point on arranging our hotels and camping sites. When you see a State Coordinator, I ask you to please take a moment to thank them for the hard work they do to make this Run possible.

The planned route is shaping up pretty much as it was for 2017. The one exception is that we are going back to Hurricane, WV, as the construction should be completed by May.

The Leadership teams are in place and they are anxious to get on the road as much as I am. I have added another motorcycle platoon for this year, the 30th Annual Run, anticipating that our numbers might be larger due to more exposure via social media.

Online registration for the RFTW 2018 Run is open at www.rftw.us. I encourage you to register now as it helps in our planning to make 2018 smooth and successful.

We added a Family Outreach team to the Central Route for the 2018 Run, which is modeled after the program instituted by the Southern Route. The mission of this team is to visit Gold Star families along our route to let them know we are remembering them and their fallen solider. Eamon tells me that planning and coordination is going very well with the cooperation of State Coordinators.

I can report that the Central Route Coordinator’s Welcome Video has been posted to www.rftw.us. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Chuck Brown for the editing and production.

December Safety Tip: In last month’s Safety Tip I talked about how we want to look sharp and squared away in our Group Formation as we approach overpasses lined with flag waving supporters who have waited for our arrival. I mentioned that small THROTTLE inputs are the key to formation riding. That holds true as we approach those overpasses. As tempting as it may be to look up at the crowd and wave back, do NOT lose your concentration and roll off on the throttle. Keep that right hand on the throttle and maintain your position. Rolling off power sends a ripping slowdown to the Pack behind you.

Merry Christmas,
Harlan “Whitebirch” Olson
My Wall is Your Wall

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Central Route Coordinator News – November 2017

Here it is November ALREADY (I know, some of you are saying, “Is it May yet?”) and the planning for the 2018 RFTW Run event continues.

I’d like to reiterate that Run For The Wall is here for ALL, repeat, ALL veterans and welcomes non-veterans and patriots alike. RFTW began 30 years ago as a motorcycle event and continues in that tradition. As I mentioned in October, RFTW is group riding on steroids and takes a high level of concentration and commitment. If it has been a few years since you’ve ridden, find a riding group and brush up on your skills. Enroll in an advanced riding skills course, such as Ride Like a Pro or MSF. You’ll be glad you did.

The Central Route Coordinator video is complete, and can be viewed here:

November Safety Tip: When you ride with Run For the Wall, you are participating in “Group Formation Riding”. The expectation is to look squared away, just like we were taught in basic training. If you are in a side-by-side platoon, it means just that: ride side-by-side and the following rows are evenly spaced. If you want to ride in a staggered platoon, then the right track rider drops back and whatever that rider establishes as the spacing interval should be replicated through the rest of the platoon. Which of the controls on your motorcycle is the most important in maintaining your interval spacing? If you said, THROTTLE, you’d be correct. Constant small throttle inputs are the key to a respectable looking platoon. And you can ride proudly when you ride under an overpass lined with people waving and shouting.

My Wall is Your Wall,
Harlan “Whitebirch” Olson
Central Route Coordinator

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Central Route Coordinator News – October 4, 2017

We are heading into the fall season, and I can report that the State Coordinators are busy with planning our May 2018 coast to coast adventure.  The only route change to report is that we are planning to go back to Hurricane, WV, as they will have the construction project completed.  We are talking about sending a breakout platoon into Nitro to show our appreciation for their hospitality last year.

The Central Route leadership team is in place with one exception, that being the Sit-Rep Writer.  I am waiting for a yea/nay commitment from last year’s writer. 

Janelle and I rode to Kerrville, TX, over the September 22nd weekend to attend the RFTW Riders reunion.  I participated in rides on Friday and Saturday, led by Sapper, through the West Texas hill country.  It was two days of amazing scenery and camaraderie.  I missed two photo opportunities: the hundreds of cowboys boots hung over fence posts; and the young guy wading in a stream fishing, wearing only a white cowboy hat and swimming trunks.  I am hoping that someone on the ride captured those moments.  The Saturday evening was a wonderful event with good food and prizes.  It’s on my calendar to attend again next year and I encourage riders from all routes to attend.  And… they passed the hat to raise $$$ for M25 in support of the recent hurricane victims.  At last report, I heard the $$$ amount was $2001 and more added later by reunion auction sales, which topped the Angel Fire Reunion at $1605.  Be sure to check out the October addition of the RFTW President’s Message for details on M25 hurricane relief.

The Central Route Coordinator’s video message has been shot and is in the editing process now.  Hopefully, that will be completed in the next couple weeks and posted on the RFTW website.

Online registration for the RFTW 2018 Run is now open for all three routes.  I encourage you to complete your registration early because it aids the Route Coordinators to plan accordingly.

The Run For The Wall event is meant for ALL veterans and is welcoming to non-veterans/patriots as well.  If you are considering RFTW for the first time, you should be aware this is NOT anything close to a Sunday afternoon HOG ride.  It is group riding on steroids.  It takes a high level of concentration and commitment.  If it were up to me, I would require a certificate of completion from an advanced riding course, such as MSF Advanced Riding or Ride Like A Pro.  If you have limited group riding experience, I would encourage you to get involved with an organization that does, such as a Harley, Honda or BMW riders group.

October Safety Tip:   It’s been my experience that most accidents involve inattention to changing speeds while riding in the pack.  One of the unfortunate characteristics of group riding is “rubber banding” which can cause a “slow down”.  This happens when riders don’t hold a constant speed using throttle control.  A rider needs to be alert at all times, to be on guard, watching for the possibility of a “slow down”.  This can best be done by observing several bikes ahead.  A tip, that I learned while teaching rider classes, is to look and observe 10 to 12 seconds ahead of your position.

My Wall is Your Wall,

Harlan “Whitebirch” Olson

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Central Route Coordinator News – September 6, 2017

I can report to you that the planning for the Central Route portion of our May 2018 Run from California to Washington DC is well underway.  Nearly all the Central Route leadership has agreed to return for 2018 and that contact list is now posted on www.rftw.us.  Of course, there are small changes made from week to week. 

The State Coordinators have all agreed to take on their roles again for 2018, except for West Virginia.  Roger Keller and Ronnie Stone have stepped up to assume the WV State Coordinator roles.  State Coordinators are being asked to review the itinerary for changes, such as stops, hotels, campgrounds, and road construction.  The SCs have begun work to make 2018 successful and meaningful.

Platoon leadership is mostly in place, making up a total of twelve platoons.  I have decided to add another motorcycle platoon, making a total of nine, for two wheelers.  Platoons #1 thru #7 are side by side, platoons #8 and #9 are staggered.  Platoon #10 is made up of trikes.  Platoon #11 is trikes with trailers, and Platoon #12 is bikes with trailers.  When online registration opens, and that should be soon, we encourage everyone to register early.  These registration numbers will help us decide if we need to add more platoons.

We have had a lot of help from the Southern Route in getting the Outreach Program established on the Central Route.  Eamon Tansey has done a fantastic job in getting this organized continues to do so.  He has asked Nick Nicholas to be the Lead Coordinator.  I am excited to see this program in action.

The annual Angel Fire Reunion took place this past Labor Day weekend.  I am happy to say that all three routes were represented.  I was especially thrilled that Chad O’Dell, the 2018 Southern Route Coordinator, was in attendance.  We laid 414 bricks along the sidewalks honoring veterans as a service project.  There was a banquet on Saturday evening at which Gunny Gregory gave a talk.  The RFTW Board of Directors was introduced and entertained questions.

My Wall is Your Wall,

Harlan “Whitebirch” Olson  


*Photo Courtesy of The Book “Run for the Wall – A Journey to the Vietnam Memorial”©

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Central Route Coordinator News – August 2, 2017

The month of July has been busy with beginning to plan for the Central Route May 2018 venture from California to Washington, DC. One of the first checklist items was to introduce the prospective Assistant Route Coordinator to the RFTW Board of Directors for approval. That has been done and I am happy to say that Eamon Tansey is the Assistant Route Coordinator for the 2018 RFTW event.

The Southern Route has had an Outreach Program in place for several years that reaches out and visits with Gold Star families along the Route. I have asked Eamon to spearhead that effort on the Central Route and he tells me that good progress is being made.

The next checklist item was to contact the State Coordinators from past years along the Route, to ask if they are willing to remain in their capacity for the planning of the May 2018 Run. I have written all the State Coordinators and have received commitments from about half of them. A major key to a successful Run lies in the early planning by the State Coordinators.

Eamon and I have been talking about what can be done to reduce the number of incidents that happen on the road. What are the main causes? Is it lacking information, training, skills or (fill in the blank)? We are dedicated to promoting whatever it takes to improve safety.

Going into August, we will continue to assemble the Platoon Leaders, their Assistants, and Tail Gunners. On the Central Route, we have been blessed with good experienced leadership and, hopefully, that will continue into 2018.

There is a reunion coming up in Eagle Nest/Angel Fire, New Mexico, over Labor Day weekend which I urge you to attend, if possible. Run for The Wall riders lay commemorative bricks along the walkways for any who have served in the Armed Forces. This is an RFTW service project to honor our veterans from all wars. This reunion is open to all riders. To register for the reunion and for more information, check out this link.
The itinerary for Angel Fire/Eagle Nest is here.

My Wall is Your Wall,
Harlan “Whitebirch” Olson


*Photo Courtesy of The Book “Run for the Wall – A Journey to the Vietnam Memorial”©