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Midway Route 2020 “VIRTUAL” Sitrep Day 11 Arlington/Washington D.C.

Midway Route 2020 “VIRTUAL” Sitrep Day 11 Arlington/Washington D.C.

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

DAY 11 – Saturday, May 23, 2020
Arlington VA

It is quiet.  Four Hundred FNGs stand near their bikes, ready to mount up and ride onto hallowed ground.  We are headed to Arlington National Cemetery.

Run For The Wall is the only motorcycle group allowed to ride into Arlington.  It is an honor that we do not take lightly, and we do this with the utmost reverence for the Heroes that are buried here.  As our group makes their solemn trek, you can see pride and honor on every face.  We all experience a sense of awe and respect as we walk among the carved granite stones.  At each turn you will hear a murmured “Wow!  A Medal of Honor recipient” or “A-Four Star General!” or “The Shuttle Astronauts!”  We are in the final resting place for great American Heroes, and we are all moved by our visit here.

As we gather on the steps of the Tomb of the Unknowns, a reverent hush falls upon us all.  There are signs that ask people to be silent here, but our Riders don’t need them: we ARE silent!  We wait and watch the Changing of the Guards.  We listen to the booming silence as they carefully inspect their uniforms and weapons.  We gaze through misty eyes as the Guard who walks exactly 21 steps, turns, shoulders his weapon, waits 21 heart-beats, then continues his walk.

And then from a doorway behind us, another of “The Old Guard” appears, followed by four weary members of RFTW.  These representatives from all three routes have the distinct honor of stepping towards the Tomb and laying a wreath in memory of the Unknowns sacrifice.  Gone are the pains and stresses of the journey.  The eyes of our Brothers are as bright as the sun, as they pay OUR respects.  Our Veterans will deliver a salute while we Civilians will hold our hands over our hearts.  We stand tall and silent as we listen to the sound of TAPS being played.  As the last echoes of the bugle drift into the distance, we return to our bikes in silence.

With barely a whisper of our motors, we now make our way to the National Mall where we will join the rest of our RFTW Family on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  It is finally time for our Family Portrait!  It may seem like it takes forever, but just sit back and enjoy seeing several thousand Riders filling up every single step and even hanging onto the side staunches!  There are a BUNCH of us!  (I “almost” feel sorry for the non-riders/general public that are visiting today!)  The three Route Photographers will be around to take any “last minute” photos of your new friends and riding partners, so don’t worry if you forgot your camera!

But now the time has come: the driving force behind our Mission.  It is time to make a final walk to “The Wall.”  Shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-in-arm, side-by-side, we shuffle towards that deep, dark wall of black granite.  We will gather together, two thousand-strong, and watch as our three Route Coordinators place a plaque at the apex, commemorating all that we have experienced for the past ten days.

You won’t hear a word, but you might hear someone cry or gasp.  You will see grown Men that have endured combat shrink away from the Wall, not being able to face the names of their comrades.  But you will also see each one of those individuals disappear into a huddle of Brothers and Sisters that are going to support them, physically and emotionally, during this trying ordeal.  They will also shield them from prying eyes and tourists with cameras.  We will be a safe haven for those that need it.

Some of us will walk confidently up to the Wall only to breakdown as an unexpected name appears.  Some will look tirelessly for a specific name, searching one panel to the next until they find their boy.  Others know exactly where they are headed and make no hesitations.  Some are looking for a friend, some for the Men that they commanded, some for the Soldier that saved their life.  Some will be looking for a Family member.  Some will look for the name of a Man they never knew, but have learned about during the Run.  But ALL OF US will stand here together, to pay honor to their memory, to hold close the sacrifices made, and to dedicate ourselves to Loyalty, Integrity, Duty, and Honor.

There is one last act for our FNGs, those Fine New Guys and Gals.  Over the course of the past 10 days, they have formed bonds of friendship and Brotherhood that will stay with them for the rest of their days.  For each of them, there has been ONE particular person that has stood out from all the rest.  One person that has been a mentor or confidant.  One person that seems to embody the very essence of Run For The Wall.  The FNG will seek out this person and bestow upon them the honor of turning their FNG badge upside down, signifying that they have completed the Mission and are now one of the “veteran Riders” of our Run For The Wall Family.  This simple “right of passage” takes place at the end of our Mission, right HERE at The Wall.  There can be no other more fitting place.

We are Run For The Wall, and this is what we do.

It has been my honor to write these few words for you, in the hopes that you can get a little idea of what our Riders go through each year.  I want you to know that although this has been a “virtual” Run, each and every story that I have related has actually happened.  I have tried to capture the spirit of the Run, but most importantly, to capture the spirit of our Riders.  I owe these Men and Women my respect for what they have done, for their dedication to our cause, and for their trust and Friendship.  They deserve far-better words than I could ever pen.  I thank them all for allowing me to try.

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

Midway Route SITREP Author (2020)


If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link:

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Midway Route 2020 “VIRTUAL Sitrep Day 10

Midway Route 2020 “VIRTUAL Sitrep Day 10

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
DAY 10 – Friday, May 22, 2020
Ashland VA – Arlington VA
94 miles

For 10 days now, we have been crossing the United States of America on motorcycles.  We have traveled the “heartland” directly through the middle of our Country.  (Maybe that’s why we are the MIDWAY Route?)  We have met Citizens, Patriots of all ages, Veterans, non-Veterans, First Responders, and Active Duty Personnel.  We have visited schools and heard the children sing and laugh.  We have visited VA Hospitals and shook the hands of Heroes.  We have stopped on the side of the road and on overpasses, to hug the people that want to show their appreciation for what we are doing.  We have cried with the Families that are waiting to find out exactly what happened to their Son, Father, or Brother, and want so desperately to bring them back home.  We have offered our support to those great Men and Women that are currently paying the price for our Freedom.  And we have shown our respect and gratitude for those that have already done so.

For 10 days, this is what we have done.  Through heat, cold, wind, rain, sunny skies, and for many long hours each day.  We have had mechanical issues, we have suffered exhaustion.  We have sacrificed our bodies, minds, and souls.  All this, because we KNOW that what we are doing is important.  It is important to the People that have served our Country.  It is important to the Families that support our Troops.  It is important to the Children of our Nation, to teach them the value of Loyalty and Honor.  It is important to our fellow Countrymen, whether they saw us ride by in person or not, to know that there are STILL Americans that value ALL that our Country stands for.  And it is important to each of the Riders, to know that we do not stand alone in our resolute duty.

This is Why We Ride!

With all of this on our minds, we embark on our final day of riding together as the Midway Route.  Before arriving in Arlington to join with the rest of the RFTW Family, we get the privilege of visiting the National Museum of the Marine Corps.  And I can think of no more fitting “end” to our ride than this visit.

The Marines are a fiercely loyal group!  (As are all of the other military Service!)  But there is just something about visiting the Marine Corps Museum that instills a sense of honor and dignity to everyone that experiences it.  From the moment we first arrive, we are inundated with the achievements of the Corps, dating back to the American Revolution and continuing up to the very present day.  Wandering the gardens here is like walking through a living memorial.

But it isn’t just pride in what THEY have accomplished that is presented: The Museum showcases what it really means to be an American!  Everywhere you turn there are reminders about loyalty, honesty, integrity, duty, and honor.  They sum up quite succinctly exactly what Run For The Wall stands for.  This is a visit that is all too short for the Midway Riders!

But leave we must, so we depart Quantico Virginia for our final ride of the Mission.  The next 32 miles will be a somber journey, filled with tears.  Tears of sorrow as we know our Mission is coming to an end, but also tears of joy for a journey well-made.

It amazes me how this “last ride” always plays out the same, on each route, no matter what we have experienced before.  The Riders will sit a little taller in the saddle.  The formations will be extremely tight.  Each Rider will have perfected the “overpass wave” so that they can acknowledge our spectators while maintaining full-control over their machine.  Traffic will not even make us blink anymore!  The smiles on each face will be broad and bright, beaming to all that will see them.

And then suddenly we round a corner, and we have arrived!

There are not the throngs of people that will await the other two Routes.  You see, WE were the first to leave California, and so WE are the FIRST to arrive at our destination.  The only people waiting for us are a few spectators, and the Advance Teams for our own Route.  And this is a GOOD welcome for us, because once we get off our bikes, we get to celebrate together as a Family, and like a Family should.  We have the rare chance to congratulate each other for our shared experiences.  We have one last chance to say “Hey, do you remember …” or “I can’t BELIEVE how great the food was at …” or “I really enjoyed riding with you!”  Because in about an hour, the other Routes will start arriving.

So we hug each other, shake hands, laugh a little, cry a little, and raise a toast to our accomplishments.  Then as a Family, we go outside to await the arrival of our “Cousins on the other Routes.”  At that time, we will hug each other again, shake hands again, laugh a little more, cry a little more, and raise (another) toast to our accomplishments.

But we are not finished with our Mission.  Only the riding is over.  Tomorrow, it all gets real and it all gets personal!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link:

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Midway Route 2020 “VIRTUAL” Sitrep Day 9

RFTW Midway Route 2020 “VIRTUAL” Sitrep Day 9

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

DAY 09 – Thursday, May 21, 2020
Falcon NC – Ashland VA
193 miles

Today is another one of those “low mileage days.”  But unlike the last one that we had, today is not quite as carefree or joyous.  The gravity of our Mission is starting to tell on each Riders face.  You can see it by the way that they walk, hear it in the way they talk, and feel it in their solemn mood.  For 8 days, we have been hearing about people still Missing in Action.  We have met some of the Family Members that are still waiting for any news of their loved one.  We have talked to former Prisoners of War, and gained strength from their ordeal, but been horrified by what they were forced to endure.  We have steeled ourselves against some of this by adopting a little bit of the “1000 yard stare.”  We aren’t getting used to what we are hearing, and we are not forgetting it, either.  Instead, we are being galvanized into action.

One of the small, seemingly insignificant actions that we take every day, every mile, and at every stop, is to constantly maintain a “Missing Man Formation.”  This is a six-man platoon that rides separate from all others, and always at the head of the pack.  It is comprised by the Route Coordinator, Assistant Route Coordinator, Escort Rider, Chaplain, and Missing Man Coordinator.  That sixth position is a vacant spot left directly next to the Escort Rider.  It signifies that absence of our Missing In Action.  The Escort Rider is a position of honor that is reserved for our FNGs.

We do not move without this formation.  No one cuts into this formation.  If someone needs to drop out during the ride, there is always someone nearby to take the open slot.  We protect this Platoon and formation as a sense of loyalty and respect for those that have paid the ultimate price, and to let their Families know that WE will never forget them.

Something that I have observed over the years is the absolute reverence that all of the Riders have for this formation.  As the Road Guards ride by, just doing their jobs, they will render honors with a salute.  As the Ambassadors roll by, on their way to meet up with our supporters, you will not hear a single radio playing.  All of the Riders will sit up tall in their saddles, they will basically be at attention in a form of a rolling salute.  Many of the Escort Riders will carry a personal memento of someone that they want to honor during this portion of their journey, and will lovingly and reverently take a photo of this item in the Missing Man slot just prior to taking off.  Both before and at the end of each leg of the Mission, the Chaplain will personally meet with the Escort Rider to make sure that they are emotionally “okay” and pray with them for healing.  This is just about the most profound experience that any Rider can have on ANY of the Three Routes in RFTW, and I have yet to find anyone that hasn’t been moved by it.  For those that are not able to participate as an Escort Rider, please know that the pure reverence that you show for the formation is just as strong a testament!

And this is the mood that I see, year after year, on ALL of the routes, on this, Day 9.  We do not take our Mission lightly.  This is who we are and what we do.  We play hard, we ride hard, we love willingly, we show loyalty constantly, and we pay respect where respect is due.  We are “Run For The Wall!”

And tonight, we will celebrate our journey together.  We are not finished, but this is our last night alone together.  It is time to discuss our accomplishments.  We will honor our Leadership Teams for a job well done.  We will pay tribute to all of our Coordinators and Volunteers.  We will cheer as our incredible Road Guards get their service badge for the year!  We will laugh at some of the funny things that happened along the way.  We will cringe as we remember the hardships.  And we will say Thanks to those around us, our fellow Riders, for supporting each other as we trekked across the country.  We will dedicate ourselves to continuing our Mission, not just tomorrow or the next day, but throughout the coming year.  And some of us will start making plans for NEXT year, too!

With our awards ceremony over, it is off to the Hotel for one last night as the Midway Route Family.  Not too many people will get a good nights sleep, because they are going to stay up late visiting and telling stories.  There may even be a hug and a tear or two.

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link:

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Midway Route 2020 “VIRTUAL” Sitrep Day 8

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

DAY 08 – Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Asheville NC – Falcon NC
300 miles

Today starts, as usual, with our mandatory Riders meeting and safety briefing.  We again Welcome our newest FNGs into our Family.  It is interesting to me how “young and fresh” these new Riders look compared to those that I have been sweating and riding with for the past week.  As a non-Veteran, I can only imagine that this is the same thought that our soldiers in combat had when THEIR FNGs showed up.  But just as then, we will welcome them into our group, and rely on their energy to help get us all through the next few days.  We are all in this together, no matter when we arrived or where we came from.

I want to take a few moments to let you know a little bit more about how the Run works.  Every Rider registers and pays a small fee.  That Rider is responsible for all of his/her own hotel or lodging, fuel, insurance, and mechanical costs.  The fee that the Rider paid is just to cover the expenses incurred with administration costs.  Notice that I didn’t say anything about food?  That is because we have some AMAZING State and Local Coordinators for each area that we travel through.  These coordinators work all-year arranging for donated meals, snacks, drinks, cooling neck-ties, and other items.  Our Riders do not have to worry about anything to eat, for any of our three meals!

Do not get me wrong or misinterpret my words: these are NOT “free” meals.  SOMEONE has paid for them!  It may not be the Rider that paid for the meal, but someone else did, and for that we are extremely grateful.  Some of the communities that we travel through have been hit with natural disasters over the past few years.  Yet they still rally together to support our Mission, even while they try to recover their own community.  It stands as quite a testimony to the American Spirit that people struggling to literally put a roof over their heads will donate time, money, food, and effort into supporting us as we spend just a few precious minutes with them.  As Riders, it is OUR responsibility to Thank every one of our local hosts for their sacrifice towards us.  I am always amazed, not just by their generosity, but by their humble nature.  I hear this every day “We love doing this for you!  It is no trouble at all!”  Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

I also need to mention something about fuel.  Each Rider is responsible for ALL of his/her own fuel costs.  And this can be a daunting amount of money.  After all, if someone is riding “All The Way” from California to Washington DC, they will ride about 6500 miles during the trip.  That is a lot of fuel!  (Figure $500-$600 per Rider.)  Multiply that by about 350 bikes and you get a number too big for my head to add up!  But here is another amazing thing that happens on the Run.  Our State Coordinators have been able to get some of our fuel costs donated!  Not all of it, and some days not even any of it.  But SOME of those costs are absorbed by other, generally anonymous Donors that simply want to help us get across the country, to spread our word of Patriotism, and to help us achieve our goal of demanding a full and total accounting for all of our POW and MIA.  Without these donors, whether it be food, fuel, lodging, or anything else, our road would be much harder to travel.

Remember, the Price of Freedom isn’t Free!

A classic example of a donation to the cause comes at our lunch stop today.  The Siler City Pentecostal Holiness Church has a STEAK dinner waiting for us, with home-made peach cobbler and ice cream!  I need to mention that this is the home of our Senior Chaplin Mark “Good Wrench” Richardson.  Remember how he got us all fired up on Sunday morning?  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!  What a Welcome!  What a lunch!  What an amazing program the present!  What an unbelievable show of support from the entire church Family!  I am starting to run out of ways to say Amazing, and Exceptional, and Fantastic.  This place just uses up too many of my words!  We LOVE Siler City!

After lunch, we head to another of our favorite stops along our Route.  We arrive at the Falcon Children’s Home, in Falcon NC, just in time for … you guessed it … more food.  But that is of little consequence to us, because what is REALLY going to feed our souls is participating in the Graduation of this small group of under-privileged children.  You see, the Falcon Children’s Home “provides a safe, healing journey for hurting children and families.”  When you see the smile on their faces, feel the love in their hearts, and hear the pride in the voices for the wonderful achievements that have made, you cannot tell that they are under-privileged at all.  In fact, these young Men and Women go on to become extremely capable leaders of the community as well as successful in their life and careers.  It is the honor of all Midway Route Riders to play a small role in guiding these kids towards a better future.  We may inspire them, but they inspire us more!

Eventually this day will end.  We will go to our rooms or camp sites and get a little rest.  Something tells me that we are going to need it.  We aren’t sad or depressed, but there is a new “feel” developing in the group.  It isn’t doom or despair, just a realization that today was day number 8, and we only have a few days left for this years Mission.


Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link:

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Midway Route 2020 “VIRTUAL” Sitrep Day 7


Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

DAY 07 – Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Cookeville TN – Asheville NC
224 miles

Today is a short mileage day that is filled with fun and some great riding.  In fact, to the casual observer, we may just be a “large group of bikers going for a ride.”  We obviously know better than that, as our Mission is always on our mind.  But today is a day to relax just a little bit and recoup our strength for the days ahead.

With no “pressing” time table to keep, we can get up a little later.  That extra sleep helps us breath a little easier, to smile a little more, to laugh a little louder, and to enjoy some extremely scenic roads with lots of twists and turns.  It is a good day to be a Rider with RFTW!  Everyone just seems to be in a much lighter mood than the day before.  Was it our Welcome into Cookeville that did it?  Was it the knowledge of fewer miles?  Is it that we are just all so familiar with each other by now that we can take everything in stride?  Or is it a combination of all of these?

Whatever the reason, it is a FANTASTIC day.  How often do you see Chaplains clowning around?  How about the Route Coordinator making jokes during the morning meeting?  For some reason, my Buddy “Mazz” always seems to have a little bit more fun on this day during the morning safety meeting.  (Sometimes we try to mix him up with new commands or situations, but he always comes through!)  I just can’t tell you how happy the whole group is on this day, every year.  It’s always a magical day!

It’s also generally pretty hot!  By the time we get to our lunch stop in Knoxville, people are ready to cool down a bit.  If ONLY there was a fountain nearby for the Road Guards to splash in!  Wait, … there IS?  WooHoo!  LET’S GO!  Yep!  We are wet again!  So is Gunny Gregory, our RFTW Founder.  “Boots” jumps in, along with “Fly Girl” and “Jet Man.”  Someone even talked the Photographer (Me!) into running through last year.  WOW!  That water was cold!  But we are having so much fun!

But that’s not to say we aren’t taking the Run and our Mission seriously.  Our lunch gathering spot has a wonderful memorial to all of the local boys that have gone off to war, going all the way back to the Civil War.  In fact, this location is the very site of the old railway where many of the Boys from both World Wars boarded onto trains to head out: many of them to never return.  It is a sobering thought to think of all of them, and to read the list of names carved onto the white granite columns.  Once again, we are reminded of the terrible price that freedom costs.

Last year, I had a very personal reminder of that cost.  And it was given to me by the sweetest young special-needs Lady that I have ever met.  I am pained that I will not get to see her this year, but my hope is that she will be waiting for me next year in 2021.  Here is what I wrote about her from last year:

As I was wandering around, taking photos of all the fun, I saw a special-needs young lady. Actually, she timidly reached across a fence railing and lightly touched me on my sleeve.  She wanted to thank me (us) for remembering our Veterans.  But she really wanted me to remember her Grandfather who fought in WWII.  She told me all about him, and some of the stories that he had told her.  She apologized for crying because she “isn’t a little girl.”  I cried with her and said that it was okay.  I asked for her Grandfathers name and she hugged my neck and whispered into my ear “His name was Walter Fuller, and my name is Molly.”  Well Molly, I will remember your Grandfather, but I will remember your warm smile and hug far longer than I will his name.  And so will all of the other people who’s heart you touched today.

Folks, it isn’t just the Soldiers that pay a price for their service.  It is their Families, too.  For young Molly to think so highly of her Grandfather and his service that she just HAD to come out and share his story with us proves to me that RFTW IS doing the right thing.  Our Mission states that we are here for the Veterans AND their Family and Supporters.  That includes Molly, and all of the other Grandchildren of our “Greatest Generation” that can’t comprehend the horrors that the world endured.  THIS IS WHY WE RIDE, TOO!

After leaving Knoxville, it is time for some more fun riding through the countryside.  We will stop for an afternoon snack that features ICE-CREAM!  I have never seen “Pipes” (one of our Road Guards) run so fast, so that he can get in the front of the line!  (He beats me every year!). Back on the road, the sweeping curves are nice and gentle, even in nice formation riding.  The hills and valleys are cool and shady after all of the heat this morning.  The tunnels are … Oh yeah, we have a tunnel!  Get ready for it!  Here we go!  350 motorcycles in the tunnel with engines roaring!  Standing outside the tunnel waiting to take pictures of the emerging Riders, I can actually FEEL them coming before I hear them, and that is LONG before I see them!  Just like a dog always hangs his tongue out when he rides in a car, a Biker will always rev his engine in a tunnel!  I LOVE this day!!!

Eventually we will arrive in Asheville North Carolina, for more food, fun, and fellowship.  Today we rested and relaxed.  Tomorrow, we have more children to visit, and the realization that our Mission is coming to a close starts to set in.  But that is for tomorrow.

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link:

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Midway Route 2020 “VIRTUAL” Sitrep Day 6

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

DAY 06 – Monday, May 18, 2020

Forrest City AR – Cookeville TN
356 miles

Get ready, Riders, today is going to be a hot one!  All the work we have put into learning to ride together in tight formation will be put to the test.  It is going to hard, but the payoff will be incredible.  Today we ride through Memphis.

Normally, riding through Memphis is a fun exercise in caution and exhilaration.  Do it with 300 motorcycles during rush hour and it is a bit daunting.  But this is one of those days where you really see the expertise of your Road Guards, Platoon Leaders, and Tail Gunners come into play.  Sometimes with, and sometimes without LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) support, we rely on our Leadership Teams to guide us safely through these congested areas.  They will try to keep us all together and safe.  (They ALWAYS succeed!)  And they will make it look easy while they work!  But at the same time, the Riders will now fully understand why we have been riding as we do, and why they have been given instructions every day on how and what we are doing.  Today, it all makes sense!

But even with our “traffic battles” we have some fun.  We will have lunch provided by the First Baptist Church in Dickson TN.  I mention this particular lunch stop for several reasons.  First, the people are amazingly friendly.  Every year, I am greeted by the same small children (not so small any more!) that recognize and remember me.  Second, the food is FANTASTIC!  But most important (to me) is the display of American Patriotism that comes from a very unexpected source.  And that makes it seem even more prophetic or telling about our great country.  As we pull into the parking lot, there is always a group of hard-looking Men watching us from the top of a small hill.  They wear black and white striped “suits” and stand away from the crowd.  They are inmates from the local jail and prison that have volunteered to come over and set up the tables and chairs for us, and to clean up after we have left.  They do not get to eat with us.  They do not get to socialize with us.  These are simply Men that have made mistakes in their life and are now paying the price for them.  But they still feel a sense of American pride and respect, and they WANT to show it.  Some of us will ask permission from the Prison Guards to visit with these Men (always granted!) so that WE can Thank THEM.  I don’t know who gets more out of this brief exchange, but I know that I have never forgotten the look of gratitude that I receive each time, nor the power of trust and faith that I feel in those handshakes.  It is one of my favorite lunch stops.  I wish all of those unfortunate Men health, healing, and forgiveness, and I hope to welcome them back into our free society someday.

Who could ask for more on any day?  Well don’t ask, … just keep riding.  Because tonight we get to Cookeville!

Cookeville Tennessee is more than “just” our overnight stop.  It is the Midway Routes “Home Away From home!”  And just like anyone coming home after a hard day, we are WELCOMED!  This is, without a doubt, our longest parade route.  It starts at the interstate exit, with an ENORMOUS American Flag that we pass under.  We ride the entire length of the town, passing thousands of spectators, all waving, cheering, honking horns, crying, laughing, and smiling.  And THAT is just the Riders!  The crowds are even more excited!  In fact, there are so many people out to welcome us that the parade route has to double-back into some of the side streets so that more people can see us!  Even “Becky The Barber” comes out to greet us!  We arrive at our dinner stop, and the party begins!

More good food!  More great music!  More great programs!  More, More, More!  We are Home!

But today is also a day where changes can be seen in many, if not most of the Riders.  Yes, we have all had the Mission on our minds from the very beginning.  But for the past 6 days, we have been hearing stories from each other.  Stories of survival, horror, love, sadness, joy, healing, sorrow, heart break, and heroism.  Each of these stories starts to change the way we all see each other, and how we see ourselves.  We start to understand a little bit about what the other people are going through, and they get to know about our own thoughts and issues.  We start to share common threads, and feel empathy with each other.  And we begin to reach out with every word and deed to each other, whether we mean to or not, to offer support and understanding.  We ARE a Family at this point.  We are the Midway Route Family!

I want to share with you a poem written by one of my RFTW Family.  It was written at about this time in the Run a few years ago, and it demonstrates how the Mission effects each and every one of us.  It was written by a thirteen year old young Lady, that was learning so much from so many.  Composed by Serena “Ice Cube” Balderas, it is called “The Soldiers Cross”
Amazing beyond her comprehension stands a statue.

Beautiful rays across the field touch the metal.
A Man stands within the crowd staring at this piece.
Distraught, distant, defeated, deceased goes through my mind.
Gratitude concerning the brave Men and Women who proudly wear our nation’s uniform.
American Patriots have sadly died wearing our nation’s uniform.
Endless upon her imagination flow the emotions through her mind.
Boots, rifle, helmet are the pieces that make you stop and stare.
Heads lowered, shoulders slumped, and Men saluting are part of the pieces of my canvas.
Looking past the crowd I feel a sense of strength:
Strength within our soldiers dedicated to the land of the free.
I lifted my head, looked beyond the light, and saw the Soldiers Cross.


Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link:

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Midway Route 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 5

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

DAY 05 – Sunday, May 17, 2020
Shawnee OK – Forrest City AR
392 miles

Yep, you read that right!  We are traveling 392 miles today.  For many people, that is a LONG day of travel.  For some, it is the LONGEST day of riding they have ever made.  It will take strength, stamina, and strong will to finish.

So we will start our day with a church service.  Our Senior Chaplin (“Good Wrench”) always has words of encouragement for us.  But on a Sunday morning, well just watch out!  He will get you fired up!  He will get you energized!  He will get you in the right frame of mind for our Mission!  And he will give you the opportunity to speak one-on-one with himself or any of our other Chaplains if you need to.  Church is not mandatory on the Run, but I will tell you from experience that I see almost every Rider come out a little early to participate each year.  We have been growing very fond of each other over the past five days, and we see first hand how a comforting word or gesture can make an otherwise bad day into something special.  We have started to form bonds of Brotherhood that will help us along the rest of our journey together, and our Chaplains are there ever mile of the way to help guide us spiritually and emotionally.  I have personally come to rely on our Chaplains for support more and more each year.  They are amazing people, that really do care about you, and want nothing more than to help you in times of need.

Oh yeah, they also bring the Chase Vehicles and snacks!

Although there aren’t a lot of activities today, there WILL be a lot to see and experience.  This is another one of those days were we see the incredible outpouring of support and respect from the American People.  Each town that we pass through presents us a “mini-parade route” lined with happy people.  About the time you would think we are getting tired of seeing someone wave an American Flag at us, we see another one that makes us cry even more.  There is just something about the people of the lower mid-west that makes us all proud to be Americans.  We see these people standing in the rain to wave at us.  They are in large groups on the side of the road.  They are small groups on an over-pass.  They are a Mother and young child in a parking lot, holding a sign that says “Welcome Home!”  And they are an old, grizzled Veteran holding on to his cane in one hand and saluting the Riders with his other.

THIS is America, and this is how they show their love for our Country and our Military Heroes!

After such a long day, we end up on Forrest City Arkansas.  We will be fed so much that we feel ready to burst.  We will have a musical presentation that stirs our hearts with pride.  And just as we did this morning, we will gather together and give Thanks for a safe day of riding.  Riding that allows US to pay honor and Respect to our fellow-countrymen, and to our own Heroes.

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link:

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Midway Route 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 4

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

DAY 04 – Saturday, May 16, 2020
Amarillo TX – Shawnee OK
301 miles

This is how MY mornings start.

“Good Morning, Hoofer!”

“Shut Up!”

“Rise and Shine, Hoofer!”

“Bite Me!  It’s 04:30!”

“I have coffee for you!”

“You are my FAVORITE person, Tail Dragger!”

My roommate for the past several years has been “Tail Dragger”, our Road Guard Captain.  He gets up REALLY early, just like the other Road Guards, and is one of the first people out on the road making sure our route is still as planned, making changes, updating the other leaders about weather conditions, and just generally making my mornings a bit tougher.  J  But he is ALSO a great Friend and Mentor.  He takes his job very seriously, but he also takes care of his people.  During my own days as a Road Guard, he worked with me to understand the role of the Road Guards, how to help safely maneuver the Pack, how to keep an eye on the Riders, and how and when to offer support.  He is a really great Guy, and I hope you all get the chance to meet him.

But I don’t want to single him out from the rest of the Leadership Team.  I am privileged to get to know each and every one of our Leaders on both a personal and professional basis.  What I have learned is that they are ALL extremely nice, likable, and approachable people.  They are all extremely good at their jobs and take their positions very seriously.  They spend countless hours making arrangements, checking details, supporting the Mission, and Mentoring the FNGs.  And they all do this as Volunteers.  Not a single person gets paid for this, no matter what their role is.  They do this because it is the right thing to do and they are all true Patriots.  I am honored to call them my Friends and my Family.  You will, too.

Today we are going to enjoy our ride through the Texas panhandle.  There are rolling hills (Yes, in Texas!), wide open plains, tall waving prairie grasses, and clear blue skies.  Why, it is almost as if God in Heaven said “I need a vacation home.  I will call it Texas!”  And so, we arrive in Shamrock, to rest a bit and enjoy this small community that looks exactly like it did during the heydays of Route 66.  There is a museum to see and shops to visit.  We won’t have long to stay here, but it is a welcome stop.

Our “big” activity for the day comes right after lunch, in Weatherford Oklahoma.  We will visit the Stafford Air and Space Museum.  We never know exactly WHAT we will encounter at this world-famous museum.  One year, there was a brief airshow of vintage WWII aircraft, complete with fly-over!  Last year when we arrived, NASA was holding a re-union here!

It was absolutely amazing to me to see and “older Gentleman” walk up to some of our Chaplains and ask what we were doing.  When they explained about RFTW and our Mission, this Gentleman got excited and started calling them all Heroes.  He even asked if he could take a photo with our Chaplains.  (Of course, they said Yes.). But then one of the Chaplains took a good hard look at the Gentleman and sort of recognized him, but he still asked “Aren’t you an Astronaut?  Didn’t you walk on the moon?”  Turns out, one of OUR American Heroes had been calling US Heroes!  (The Chaplains took some more ‘selfies’ with him!)

And right before we left the Museum, one of the “NASA Guys” walked up to me and asked if I would like to take a picture of some of their dignitaries.  Of course, I said “Yes!  But can I go get our Route Coordinators first?”  Before we know it, our Route Coordinator (“Wombat”) and our Assistant Route Coordinator (“Six String”) are standing side by side with General Thomas P. Stafford himself, in front of the General’s own statue!  This was truly a little more “magic of the Run!”

By the end of the day, we will have left my beloved Texas and entered into an area that is “OK.”  (Sorry!  It’s a Texas Thang!)  But the good people of Shawnee Oklahoma will welcome us to their town.  They will have placed Emergency Vehicles on every over-pass, complete with flags flying and people cheering, they will have lined the streets to see us arrive, and they will feed our bodies and souls in the evening before we go to bed.  They will make us all wish we could spend more time in Oklahoma.  (They even make this Texas Boy feel at home!)

I really like our travels through Oklahoma.  They are good people up there!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link:

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Midway Route 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 3

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

DAY 03 – Friday, May 15, 2020

Albuquerque NM – Amarillo TX
293 miles

Okay, no panic this morning.  And I am still getting along with my roommate.  (More on HIM later!)

Today will start just like every day.  Get up, load the bike, and go to breakfast.  We will have a mandatory Riders briefing and safety meeting.  (Safety FIRST, even ahead of coffee!). During our morning meetings there will be discussion of the days route, explanation of anything that has changed (Semper Gumby!), and a few general announcements.  We will also get to meet and greet our newest Riders, as more FNGs will have joined us.  More Family!

These morning meetings are filled with more than information, though.  We use this time to remind each other WHY we are riding.  There will be biographies read each morning of a Soldier, Sailor, or Airman that is Missing in Action, or the was lost on that date.  Heroes will be introduced.  (Ever meet a Medal of Honor Recipient?  You might on THIS Run!). And a member of the Chaplain Corps will say a prayer for our safety, and will make sure that each and every Rider knows that they are here to help, listen, or do whatever it takes to help them “get right” and heal.  This “ride” is a Mission.  We ride for a purpose, and that is to bring hope, healing, and recognition to our Veterans and their Families.

Today has only a couple of activities, though.  The first is a nice, quiet ride through some very scenic countryside, arriving in Santa Rosa NM for lunch.  Our stop is at the “Blue Hole.”  This is a beautiful artesian well of clear, clean water … about 80 feet deep … in the middle of a desert.  The bikes pull up, the riders dismount, and we leisurely stroll up to the pool to gaze at the serene waters ….  HEY!  SOME ROAD GUARDS JUST JUMPED INTO THE POOL!!  DID YOU SEE THAT?  Yes, there is a tradition that several of our Road Guards have of jumping into cold water, in full gear.  (Do NOT try this at home.  These are NOT trained professionals, just wild and crazy Road Guards having fun!)  You will get used to these guys blowing off a little steam.  You have been seeing them in action for a couple of days now and have come to understand just how hard they are working for your safety!  They deserve a few “antics.”

After lunch, we have about 100 miles to dry off before our very special appearance in Tucumcari NM.  The Midway Route does not stop in this town, we just pass through on the highway.  But the Mayor of Tucumcari got so excited about RFTW that this year She arranged for us to make a special parade through downtown on the old historic “Route 66”!  THIS is the beginning of the “magic of the Run” where people are so enthusiastic about us that they WANT us to parade through their streets.  They WANT to honor our Veterans.  They WANT to support our Troops.  They WANT to be a part of our Mission.  Thank You, Mayor, for your heart-felt Welcome.  I hope that you know how much WE appreciate YOU, and that we can’t wait to actually ride through town and visit with you next year.

Doesn’t sound like we did much today, does it?  Guess again!  As the Route Photographer, I get to “zip ahead” and see things that most of the Riders don’t get to see.  Things like beautifully straight lines and tight formations as the bikes go rolling down the interstate.  I see the progression of a “bunch of bikers” into a “platoon of Riders.”  I see people joining together to help a tired friend.  I see small groups stand apart from the crowd, all centered around a comrade that needed to talk.  I see the young Man among the spectators with his head bowed, and then see one of our Riders go up to him and offer a shoulder, an ear, or just a handshake.  I see every one of our group help each other and receive help at the same time.  I see our Mission continue and grow with each passing mile.  We did a LOT today!

And so we arrive in Amarillo, and receive a traditional Texas-style Welcome!  Let me try to explain: FLAGS!  (Just as many Texas flags as American flags!)  Police Escort through town!  BBQ beef brisket and ribs!  Corn on the cobb!  Pie!  Sweet Tea!  (… Okay, I am going to need a minute here …  Oh Yeah. … )

And then an absolutely amazing presentation.  After a beautiful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” we learn the symbolism and meaning of the Battlefield Cross.  This ceremony describes in detail what each item represents and why it is included.  It is a fitting end to our day, just as we started the day, with a reminder of WHY we Ride.  We Ride for those who Can’t.

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link:

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Midway 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 2

DAY 02 – Thursday, May 14, 2020

Flagstaff AZ. – Albuquerque NM
339 miles

“This pillow feels so good.  I am a little sore from yesterday.  I love bacon.  I wish those guys would shut off their engines.  I mean, it IS 4:30 in the morning.  Oh good, they are leaving.   WHAT???  They are LEAVING???  I AM LATE!!!  CRAP!!!”

Yep!  This is how Day Two starts for a lot of people.  No, we are NOT leaving you behind.  You are in a panic because you didn’t realize that the Advance Team, The Staging Team, and the Road Guards are up this early EVERY morning to go prepare the route for you each day.  While you are getting your beauty sleep, the Leadership Teams have been checking and re-checking the plans for the day, and now it is time for them to “get to work.”  (A labor of Love!)  Still, that momentary panic has got you up, so you might as well finish packing, load up the bike, and go to breakfast.  After all, you WERE dreaming of bacon, right?

Day Two of the Run is always interesting.  The excitement of the Mission is still very much on the front of everyone’s mind, as is the sense of confusion.  Yes, you have started getting used to following the directions of the Staging Crew, you know to look for the Red Hats of the Road Guards, and you have been through three fueling stops.  But this is your first day with JUST the Midway Route Riders, and it is time to learn how WE do the Run.  (Each of the three Routes are similar, but each have their own little way of doing things.)

The first thing that you will learn this morning is that you probably did not pack the proper clothes.  Who knew that Flagstaff would be so cold in the morning?  Frost and ice on the bike?  Brrrrr!  I thought it was HOT in Arizona.  (Wait for it!  It is coming later in the day!)

The next thing that you will learn is that the first few days of the Run are all about making miles and getting comfortable riding as a large group.  You may have ridden in some HOG rallies, or Poker Runs, or even with the Patriot Guard Riders.  But RFTW is different.  It is almost as if the military has organized a ride, complete with Platoon assignments, strict schedules, and route plans.  It is the adherence to that strict schedule that really “drives the Ride”.  We have places to go, people to meet, and programs to watch.  We HAVE to be there on time, and we HAVE to get there safely.  That is why we ride like we do, with the support Teams that we have.  Don’t worry about it, though.  You will get used to the routine.

Part of today’s schedule is simply amazing, and it makes the cold start and hot desert crossings all worth while.  We are going to have lunch with the children at Milan Elementary School!  I am going to let you in on a little “secret” of mine: I don’t like kids!  But when you walk into this school and hear the students chanting “USA!  USA!  USA!” and they come running up to you with a hug or to shake your hand, or even to offer you a salute, … well it just warms your heart!  These kids aren’t bad after all!  In fact, the children at Milan Elementary look forward to our visit every year, and put on a program that gives us all faith that Patriotism is NOT dead in America, and that the next generation of Citizens IS going to have Honor and Respect and Loyalty.  The Midway Route is honored to make a financial donation to the school each year, and to offer a special “Challenge Coin” to the Graduates.  (Thanks to Rayman Cornmesser for making this an annual tradition!)  For the Riders, it is our first chance to experience the excitement of the Run as seen through the eyes of the public.  And these children really bring it.  I don’t know who gets more out of this visit, the students or the Riders, but both groups will never be the same.  Even for an old curmudgeon like myself, THIS is a day that I look forward to each year!

Sadly though, lunch is over all too soon and it is time to go.  Just as when we arrived, the children will line the hallways and the parking lot to watch us leave.  As the engines rev and roar, so do the cheers!  I am already looking forward to next year!

But our day isn’t over yet.  There is ANOTHER surprise for the Riders, especially our FNGs.  (Fine New Guys/Gals.)  Imagine arriving into Albuquerque NM on any given day during rush-hour.  Imagine doing that with 300 of your best friends, all on motorcycles.  NOW imagine doing that with a Police Escort that CLOSES DOWN THE HIGHWAY so that we can ride through safely!  It is an AMAZING sight to see, and is the first of many times this will happen throughout the Run.  It’s almost like we are in a parade, with thousands of people watching us as we ride by.  Then imagine the site of all of these motorcycles being directed into the parking lot of a Harley Davidson dealership where you can see a giant American flag flying, smell the burgers cooking, and hear a rockin’ band playing!

Today, Day Two, is the day that defines the Midway Route as a Family.  We have been “on our own” and found our own rhythm.  We have learned valuable lessons from the Youth of America.  And now we are having our first “family party.”  The pressures of the day are over, we have begun to settle into our routine, our nerves have calmed down (Remember that panic from this morning?  Me, neither!), and we are all becoming fast friends.  What a great ending to a fantastic day!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link: