Ontario CA – Flagstaff AZ.
This is a day that we have all been looking forward to for an entire year. It is filled with both Joy and Sadness though. Joy, because we know what we are trying to do, and Sadness that we can’t do it together this time. You see, we are supposed to start riding across the United States of America, from coast-to-coast, to bring honor and recognition to our Veterans, their Families and supporters, and to remember our POW and MIA personnel. But for the year 2020, that is not to be. The global COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to postpone, but not cancel, our Mission of healing. Sure, we will have to wait until next May to actually ride together, but our Mission still remains.
So instead of gathering in Ontario and then heading east, we will instead remember what we have done in the past, and talk about what we had planned for this year. We will make a “virtual” Run For The Wall. I have been asked to put together a few words about what we WOULD have experienced during our Run, so I will try to do my best. I am relatively new to RFTW, this would have been my seventh year. So I will draw on my limited knowledge and try to explain “where we are each day” and some of what we have done. I will tell you stories, TRUE stories, of things that I have personally experienced over the years.
And I will also tell a few stories of things that have been related to me; the experiences that others have had and that they have shared with me. You see, every person on the Run will have a very unique viewpoint, and will see, hear, and feel things like no one else will. And yet, we will each have the SAME experiences, too. We will go to the same places, eat the same food, hear the same programs, and ride the same miles.
But one person may be riding because they need to remember a lost comrade. Someone else may be riding to help bring home their Father, Brother, or Son. Another person may be with us simply because they feel the need to pay honor and respect to Heroes. And Yes, some will be here just to ride the miles. But no matter the reason, they will ALL be changed because of this Mission. That is a promise!
So for the Midway Route (by the way, Thank You for joining us!), We are going to start today with a mass meeting of all Three Routes. But we will be the first to leave the parking lot, so our wait is much shorter. Good! We get to be on the road a bit earlier and miss some of the lovely LA traffic! But we aren’t worried about it, because we have some of the BEST Road Guards of the entire group! (Of course, that is just my opinion. They are ALL good!). They will guide us safely all across the country. Trust me when I say that they are dedicated to this task. I have been a RG before, and I know the amount of work that goes into it. The eat the least, sleep the least, and ride the hardest. You will see!
Not long after leaving Ontario, we get to have our first parade! The Midway Route has a distinct honor of riding through an active US Marine Corp base in Yermo, CA. It doesn’t take long, but to see the streets lined with active duty personnel all waving and cheering for US is a good start to our day. And there have already been people lining overpasses and on the sides of the freeways, just to watch us pass.
After our first fuel stop, which will FREAK OUT the FNGs, the nerves for everyone will start to calm down. You see, the Midway Route is about a third smaller than the other routes, so we quickly meet each other , learn each others riding habits, and get through some of the “processes” much easier. Like Fueling 300 bikes. Did I say it will freak people out? I meant it! (In a good way, though!)
Imagine, if you will, 300 bikes pulling up to a fuel station and backing up the streets for a mile. Don’t worry, those Road Guards are there to get you safely off the highway and to the station, where the Fuel Crew takes over. THEY will guide you to the fuel pumps and help you learn the process. But basically it is this: follow the guy in front of you until a Fuel Team Member points you to a different line. When you get to the pump, shut off your bike and open your tank. The Fuel Team Leader will hand YOU the pump nozzle and you will fill your own tank. By the way, you are still sitting on your bike! When the tank is full, you hand the nozzle back and close your tank. If it is a donated fuel stop, you simply pull away from the pump SLOWLY! If you need to pay for the fuel, you do so. (But remember, we do not make change at the pump, so if you owe $6 and all you have is a $10, then you just made a donation to the Chase Trucks!). Once you pull away from the pumps, the Staging Crew takes over. They will guide you back to where your Platoon will meet up. Park your bike, and then go get a snack, some water, and then go pee! Freaked out yet? Well, what if I told you this whole process takes place in about 20 minutes! It is the most amazingly choreographed chaos that I have ever seen. And it is BEAUTIFUL!
But we are soon back out on the road, headed across some deserts, and already looking forward to lunch. We leave California and reach Lake Havasu for this incredible meal. And THIS is the place where we all start to really get to know each other. When you sit together and break bread, people start to talk. They introduce themselves, tell each other a few things about themselves, try to remember the faces they have just seen. This will be important, because MOST of what you will see of them for the next 10 days is the back of their helmet!
Soon after lunch, we will continue east for another few hundred miles until we get to our first overnight stop in Flagstaff, AZ. But just because we got to town, that doesn’t mean it is time for bed! First, we will go to the VFW for dinner and a very special program. We will do this every night, and I urge ALL Riders to pay attention to the programs. These people work very hard to provide us with not just food for our bodies, but nourishment for our souls as well. In fgact, the programs our more fulfilling (to me) than the food, and the food is stellar!
But eventually, this day will end. The Riders will ready their bikes for the next day, and then fall into their beds to sleep. They are road weary, but with joyous hearts. Sleep will hopefully come quickly, because the dawn definitely will! And then, it is time to do it all over again!
So until tomorrow, rest. Say a prayer for these Riders to keep them safe, and ask that they can get the healing and support that they need.
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link: