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Midway Route SitReps 2017 Day 2

Day 2 Thursday May 18, 2017

Thankfully I got a little more sleep last night in Flagstaff, but the morning was a wide awakening to 30 degree temperatures. My bike had a layer of frozen water on it. The locks were even frozen; had to pour some water in them just to get them open. It’s nice that hotels provide rags for us to clean our bikes with. A couple of them made quick work of disbursing the frost. Thankfully my bike started okay as well. I have an electronic starter in case it doesn’t and as long as I happen to have some warm water on hand, I can open the lock to the saddlebag where I keep it.
Mandatory meeting time. Geez. Do I need to say anything? Well a couple things. Each morning part of this meeting is a prayer. That’s a big deal for me. One of our Chaplain’s Corp offers thanks for our safety and health and prays for good weather and for us to be awake and to ride safely and for our motorcycles to operate properly. I must say that there is a God. He does watch over us and blesses us on our ride, I mean mission. We sometimes call this blessing “traveling mercies”, and we receive them, thank God. No rain, a little wind, a little fog, a little cold, but certainly nothing to complain about. If anyone complained at today’s weather, I ask them to quickly sell their motorcycle and get a freakin’ car, seriously. One other good thing to mention about the Mandatory meeting is the reading of a bio belonging to someone either a POW/MIA or KIA. They can hardly be read without emotion, or listened to without emotion for that matter. I love this moment and like it has been said already many times “this is why we ride”.

Gas stops. Fuel paid for again, thank you and free breakfast burritos this morning thanks to Cisco Foods. Our fuel team does such an incredible job. They are so nice and often ask us how our ride, I mean mission is going. I wonder if they know how appreciated they are. I tell each of them that help me, but I’m just one guy. Our staging team is awesome. They get us exactly where we need to be. Sometimes we balk, but they know it’s just the way us older generation guys are. I gave the stager for our platoon a bad time for not holding up his number and saying all kinds of derogatory stuff, in jest of course. Another rider next to me was making all these moaning sounds but I saw our stager’s face and he was laughing and I was smiling. He knew I was far from serious. He came over and we hugged. I love this guy. It was a great moment for both of us. Oh I forgot to mention we were counseled this morning to leave our poor attitudes in Flagstaff and only bring our good attitudes with us. I hope no one thinks I have a bad attitude or I might have to return to Flagstaff and drop it off.

Did I mention LEO supported us leaving Flagstaff until we were safely all on the interstate? No? Well, they did. When we crossed into New Mexico, LEO was there to escort us from the beginning and they are with us to escort us completely through the state.

Lunch was at Milan Elementary School, in Milan, New Mexico (you were thinking Milan, Italy maybe, am I right)? The children were outside to welcome us chanting “USA, USA, USA…” We all took our turns riding around the cul-de-sac and waving while chanting USA with them. We parked and I got out all the stuff I had determined to bring with me to hand out to the children. I had cut-out American Flag stars from retired flags. I took RFTW 2017 pins, lots of them. I took beaded key chains I made. I took glass beads with flag symbols on them. I kinda clogged the hallway handing them out, but the children loved all the stuff. I wonder if they love us as much as we love them. I think their love for us is much more in my opinion, but we sure love them tons.

We were led to the auditorium where some introductions were made followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the children gave the Arizona State Pledge followed by the verse I shared with you last night. I had printed my copy out and read it with them while tears filled my eyes. Some children and a few of our riders turned to look at me. I wasn’t ashamed, just very, very grateful for their words and their code and their patriotism. Maybe next year we will be a little more prepared to cite the children’s code of conduct.

Then the usual certificate and plaque awards. Then the unusual happened. Senator Clemente Sanchez was present and spoke to us on how much the community appreciates us visiting them. I’m sure the appreciation is mutual. For a US Senator to show up at our little gathering meant the State of New Mexico appreciates our presence there. I think that’s exactly what it means.

Lunch was amazing. Enchiladas, beans rice, tortillas, chips, salsa and cake. The Red sauce enchiladas had a little kick. I liked them, but the chicken ones were really good as well. Thanks for those that prepared and served our meal to us. We are so grateful. After I ate, I went over to the wall the children had prepared for us. I don’t think many of our group noticed what they did, but there was a map of all the places we will stop at on our way to DC. There were also about 40 or more of these Thank You cards the children made pinned to the wall. The outside was nicely colored with the words Thank You and inside were sentiments that choked me. Inside they had written things like: Thank you for making me feel safe, for saving our country, for saving the world, for making me free, for loving us by going to fight for us, one said for being willing to die for us, another for saving me and my family. Then the 10 minute horn sounded. I didn’t have time to read all the cards, but I wanted to. Thank you to all the Milan Elementary Children and to their great teachers that help instill patriotism in their students. I love going there so much.

A short drive to the next fuel stop (you guessed it) then over to the casino parking lot. We watched as several LEO on motorcycles gathered and talked a while. Then they mounted up and we headed into Albuquerque. Absolutely no one else was on the interstate clear into downtown to the Duke City Harley Davidson shop where dinner was on the grill for all of us. Later there was cake. Then the usual plaque and certificate ceremony for those that contributed to our activities in New Mexico. A very special thank you to all the officers that guarded all the roads and on ramps and kept us safe all the way into Albuquerque. What an amazing job and equally amazing experience for all us riders. I think our FNGs may have been somewhat impressed perhaps. As we entered the HD facility I saw all the Leo in formation down the street as if you say mission accomplished. I waved. Later I talked with one officer and offered my appreciation to him.

**** Number of names on The Wall for New Mexico (395), for Albuquerque, NM (111)

Day 2 is in the books. Tomorrow: The Blue Hole and Amarillo. Watch for the 10 half buried Cadillacs in the field to the right just before Amarillo.

We Ride For Those That Can’t

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup / Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Witer /

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Midway Route SitReps 2017 – Day 1

Day 1 Wednesday, May 17, 2017

And we were off like a heard of turtles. Well not quite. Today was the start of the ride or race across the US. To most of us it’s a mission; one we’ve done plenty of times. Up at 0430. Packed the night before thankfully. Breakfast started at 0600 at the hotel. So after pounding some of the usual fare we headed over to the staging area. Our platoon got quickly arranged and we made the usual introductions. This year I have all the riders with trailers and all our platoon members, except leadership are FNGs at least to start off with. I was all smiles. It was great to have all of them.

Then the boring and excruciatingly long “mandatory” meeting. Will they ever be even slightly shorter or a little more practical? Doubtful. As if we couldn’t brief hand signals better or faster at the platoon level, we were dragged through the corn field yet again. I love the FNG introduction, colors, prayers, singing of the National Anthem with signers participating, thanks given to everyone involved in RFTW, flyovers, especially the flyovers, but sometimes enough is too much. Sorry to sound like complaining here. It’s one thing I’m good at.

Platoon Leaders had all of 10 minutes to brief riders on everything they needed to know to be safe on the road riding together in a group. Regardless, we abandoned the Radisson and downtown Ontario and headed up Cajon Pass …in the fog. Anyone plan for riding in the fog? No, didn’t plan on that. Our platoon performed even better than expected with only a 10 minute brief. In fact, they looked quite good riding together, especially after they caught up. Did someone forget to sound the 5 minute horn? Anyway we all made it to Barstow for a drive by of the MCAS Logistics Base. Many people greeted us including several fire truck units with sirens. Thank you MCAS Logistics for your patriotism and allowing us entrance to your facilities. We thank you.

We then headed to Ludlow for fuel. The cost of fuel had been donated. We have the best supporters and sponsors on the Midway Route. After Ludlow, we left California and the windy high desert behind and headed into Arizona for our first fuel stop. It was two years ago I met a friend here at the Havasu Standard Station, I hadn’t seen in 50 years. When I walked past him he called out my name. When I turned he said his name and we embraced. What a blast from the past. We grew up neighbors and friends and both attended the same high school and were on the swimming and water polo teams together. He is also a veteran, a Navy SEAL and Army Ranger. It was great to see my buddy again. We made plans to meet again before next year’s run.

Before entering Kingman our Arizona State Coordinator, Queen Bee had made arrangements for the Highway Patrol and Kingman Police to escort us to our fuel stop. First they thought we needed to be briefed on how that would happen. So we spent 30 or so minutes (maybe it was only 20) riding up and down a side road then parking and chatting a while, then finally getting back on the Interstate, heading pell-mell into Kingman.

Another donated fuel stop. Thanks again. At Mother Road Harley Davidson we were treated to a great lunch and the usual thanks from Bandit to contributors. There were a lot. Queen Bee took up most of the plaques to be handed out later.
We departed for our fuel stop in Williams. As we did I noticed what I thought was a problem with my bike so I stopped to check it out. The oil temperature gauge was pegged. According to the reading, my engine oil was 360 degrees. I knew that couldn’t be the case, so after checking it, I decided to ignore it. I’ll look at it when I have more time. It took me quite a ways to catch up to my platoon. I announced my arrival and my Assistant Platoon Leader allowed me to slip back in formation.

Our fuel stop in Williams was again donated, our thanks once more. A few miles down the road we turned off and were escorted into Flagstaff to the VFW by LEO again this year. What a warm welcome we received there. The Mayor of Kingman showed up to welcome us as well. The Boy Scouts of America took great care of us. Everyone was quickly served, and seated. Again, thanks to all participants were announced by Bandit with the usual plaques being handed out. Then seconds were announced. Yum. Is it possible to pass up a second sloppy joe? From here we were given the rest of the night off.

Tomorrow we head into New Mexico. We will visit Milan Elementary School. Last year, the children recited a second verse after the end of the Pledge of Allegiance. It goes like this:
“I pledge to be a person of character;
to help others when they need it;
to treat others the way I want to be treated;
to be caring, respectful, responsible;
be a good citizen;
be fair and trustworthy.
I count! You count!”

Wouldn’t it be great to hear everyone recite this verse with the children?

**** Names on the wall for Arizona (619), For Flagstaff, AZ (16) ****

Day 1 is in the books

We Ride For Those That Can’t

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup / Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Writer /

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Midway Route SitReps Day 0

Day 0 Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What a great start today with the trip to Riverside National Cemetery led by Jim “The Mayor” Frost, a detachment of RFTW Road Guards and many Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) of the Ontario Police Department. We all lined up on the east side of the host hotel. After a technical and somewhat tongue-in-cheek brief from The Mayor and Pledge of Allegiance, we mounted up and followed our escort to I-60. LEO blocking intersections as we went.

We arrived at RNC and headed to the Medal of Honor Memorial area where Pete Young the Director of Riverside National Cemetery spoke to us briefly. He mentioned that when several planned sections of the cemetery are completed, RNC will be the largest National Cemetery exceeding Arlington. Currently RNC is the busiest National Cemetery in the United States with an average of 35 internments per day. Last year there were more than 8500 internments. Gene introduced Louis Lee Millett Jr who spoke briefly about the memorial upon which his father’s name appears. Next Gene Goldware spoke in detail about the Medal of Honor Memorial design and told many stories of the heroes whose names line the walls of the Memorial. Next we headed to the Veteran’s Memorial and the POW/MIA. First I walked through the Killed in Action Memorial depicting a fallen hero with his face covered by his rain poncho and his helmet at his feet, one arm hanging down; a touching and moving image. I think this memorial gets overlooked a lot, but should be recognized and respected. Next time you are at RNC pause to remember our fallen. RNC is a beautiful cemetery and it is run efficiently; sometimes managing as many as 80 or more burials per day. The cost of freedom is high. I wonder if we realize the tremendous price paid for the liberty we enjoy.

I talked with Louis Millett Jr a moment. I’ve described the memorial in detail before, best to see it for yourselves. Plan to be in the group that visits RNC next year. You’ll be glad you didn’t miss it. Louis mentioned some ways his design of the POW Monument was changed to make the wording of the monument a little more politically correct. Ask him about this sometime. He has some interesting stories for sure.

I talked with my friend Joe “Gump” Hudson for a while at the POW monument. Being a POW himself he connects with this monument like no one I know. I’ve heard several stories he told me about being a POW. He is a great guy with a load he carries that few know of. Ask him sometime about his connection to Lori Piestewa and Jessica Lynch. Gump, Jerry (photographer on the Southern Route) and I rode back together, with them following me. I did okay until getting off I-15 onto I-10 when I nearly missed the interchange. Sorry guys.

Around 1530 the 3rd Marine Air Wing Band played for us. I thought they were great; very precise. Directions from their conductor were followed perfectly. If I listened carefully I could pick out individual players, but they all played in harmony and did a magnificent job. When the anthem of our service was played we stood and saluted. I’m a Navy guy, but I think the band played the Marine Corps anthem the best.

The meet and greet dinner was typical burgers and dogs like previous years. Hey, what do you want for free? I thought it was great, especially the cookies. The lines moved fast enough and tables were prepared for all of us to sit and enjoy a dinner together. Well most of us. Some had to hold up the walls. Following dinner, Harry “Attitude” Steelman spoke to us and presented many plaques to contributors that make RFTW possible. Mike Cash was honored for his many contributions to Run For The wall and to the Combat Bike Build. Since today is his birthday, we sang Happy Birthday to Mike. Les “Easy” Williams spoke to us about Harry leaving RFTW after many years of dedicated service and indicated he would be stepping up to take on the responsibility for RFTW operations as President of the BOD. Thanks Les. You get my vote Easy. A song was sung with guitar accompaniment for Vietnam Veterans that never received a welcome home; a great song. I think the words are on the Forum if you’re interested in looking them up. John “Hard Charger” Barker presented several plaques for those that donated to help with the Combat Heroes Bike Build. This year Ken Kraft, an injured Iraq soldier was honored with the completed custom Harley Road Glide and trailer. The Harley was made into a “one off” trike completed by a couple of different designers and fabricators working together to complete this radical ride for Ken. Ken indicated he would be going on the Run next year with us. Pick the Midway Route Ken!

Day 0 is in the books. Tomorrow The Run begins. We’ve been waiting a long time.
Please email me with your comments or with anything you think needs correction or that needs inclusion.

“We Ride For Those That Can’t” and like Hard Charger says sometimes “We help those that can’t ride, ride for themselves”.

**** Number of names on The Wall for California (5575) for Ontario, CA (14) ****

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 6 Leader / Midway Route SitRep Writer /

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Midway SitReps 2017 – Day -1

Day -1 Monday, May 15, 2017

Welcome to the Midway Route SitReps of Run For The Wall XXIX.  I hope you will enjoy reading this account regarding our eastward trek across the United States to visit the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall and all that goes with that.

You probably already know what you will find here if you read the SitReps I recorded last year or if you know something about Run For The Wall already.  I imagine there will be a lot of the same stuff as last year but I’ll try to make these SitReps seem new and entertaining for you.

Today many riders were showing up for The Run at the host hotel in Ontario and other area hotels.  Many showed up yesterday and even more riders will be showing up tomorrow.  Some don’t show up until Wednesday morning when we begin, and others will join along the way, but all of us have been looking forward to making this ride a reality for a long time, many since this time last year.  This is my six year, but many others have been doing this ride for much longer than I.  Did you know that so far we have 109 FNGs (that’s Friendly New Guy or Gal) signed up to ride on the Midway Route this year?  That’s about one third the total number of riders signed up to take the Midway Route so far.  Amazing isn’t it!  However, we need more.  We need many more new folks to hear about the Run and decide to take it with us and to step up and begin helping with leadership or on one of the advanced teams or in any of the other volunteer capacities.  We’ll take all the new comers we can.  So please talk to your fellow riders and tell them about Run For The Wall or make the decision yourself to help out in some way.

Today was an easy day for many; nothing really to do but show up and register.  I guess in that sense it was easy for me as well, but it was a very hard day for me and for many others that have left loved ones behind and will not be seeing them again for at least a couple weeks or longer.  My wife wants me to be done making this trip, so it’s hard to leave her behind and for me to be away from her.  I’d love to bring her, but she’s not a rider.  She lets me ride however even though it’s hard.  She has my heart, but my heart is in making this trip also.  It is in seeing so many friends and getting hugs from all of them.  Yes, us crotchety ol’ veterans as hardened and salty as we are, love hugs and at times shed tears of joy and love.  So get used to that.  For our loved ones left behind, we miss you already and we will after the mission is over, return to your loving arms for a warm welcome home.  God willing.  We pray that he will be.

Run For The Wall is about many things.  We have a mission statement that mentions healing, receiving a full accounting of all our POWs and MIAs, honoring those killed in action and showing respect to all our military.  This is just a portion why we ride, there are many other reasons.  Our motto is “We ride for those who can’t”, but this is not all.  Ask anyone why we ride and you are sure to get many more perfect reasons.  I know one person that would say “because I can”.  He knows who he is.  I must admit, that is a perfectly good reason.  What’s your reason?

The weather leaving the high desert was great.  A little windy, but it almost always is.  I rode in with my buddy Buck who will be a tail gunner in our platoon this year.  We had a great ride.  Since it looked like rain just before we headed down the Cajon Pass, I put on my rain gear.  My buddy decided he’d be okay.  At first it looked like it wouldn’t be bad and then we turned more west and it started coming down like mad.  We got to our hotel, mostly dry in my case.

I had arranged with my buddy Bruce to have Sena install a new blue tooth system on my bike and helmet.  Until now I’ve been pretty happy  just plugging my helmet in and letting the cord dangle down and slap me in the chest as I ride, but I must say cordless is a much better way to go.  The Sena 20S is a great product and easy to install and configure, even for me.  I have a buddy that would testify that nothing is easy for me.  He’d be right.  This Sena system has everything.  I’ll check it out thoroughly tomorrow, but so far all my communication devices are connected as before and now I even have bike to bike coms without having to use my CB.  If you’re at all interested in a blue tooth system, check with the Sena folks and they’ll give you all the details on their products.  They have technicians on hand to install any of their great products.

Today was the Leadership meeting for the Midway Route.  Our Route Coordinator “Bandit” opened the meeting and informed us that he considered Diesel as the RC still since he put the whole thing together for this year.  However Diesel is not able to attend the Run this year and his presence will be missed by us all.  Bandit stepped up basically at the last minute to be our Route Coordinator and I have every confidence in him.

During our meeting we covered many aspects of riding as a group.  Our Road Guards will ensure we make it to DC in one piece if we follow their instructions.  We also talked about attitude.  We all have one to some extent; some more than others as in my case.  We need to remember that we are all representatives or ambassadors if you will, of Run For The Wall and we all need to act accordingly at all times to prevent the wrong impression being made of our great association.   Listen to and follow your Platoon Leadership and “keep your head in the game” at all times.  Maybe you’ve heard it said, “this is not just a motorcycle ride this is a mission”.  That’s true.  We all need to make it to DC together for the Run to be fully successful.

Tomorrow is the Ride into Riverside National Cemetery.  If you have not done this in the past, it is highly recommended.  I’m not going to explain why.  If you go you will know why.  Maybe I will see you tomorrow.

Day -1 is in the books.

Please email me with your comments or with anything you think needs correction or that needs inclusion.

“We Ride For Those That Can’t”

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup –