Southern Route, VIRTUAL Sitrep, Day 11, Saturday, May 23
Today we went to the host hotel downtown to meet up w our RFTW road guards. Their mission today is to take 400 of us to Arlington National Cemetery. Most of us are FNGs as we get the first dibs to go into the cemetery itself which is out of the ordinary. You have to feel special as RFTW is the only motorcycle group allowed to go in.
All 400 bikes were staged in the underground parking garage. It was pretty full. They had us packed four wide between the pillars. It was so close I couldn’t pick up my bike until the bagger next to me got picked up.
There was a briefing by the local police department. We’d be going the wrong-way on the ramp, hang a couple of sharp turns and do a U-turn. Oh yay. Then we’d be going down the interstate. We had police support all the way and they were alongside of us as well. Was nice. It’s been awesome having interstates closed, ramps closed, red lights that don’t matter, stop signs that don’t matter. We’ll have to be careful after this, though. Can’t be blowing through any of that stuff.
Row-by-row we started our engines and rolled out. It was pretty awesome as we went down the road two-by-two. We got to Arlington and they got us parked.
I checked a landmark statue to be sure I could find the bike again. Yep. Another reason for not buying a black bike. It’s hard enough even with Barracuda Barbie being a sparkly silver.
We got down to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, just in time for the Changing of the Guard ceremony and two wreath-laying ceremonies. One of the wreaths was from our RFTW group.
I’ve been to this cemetery one other time. It was much quieter and more peaceful then. With 400 motorcycles and maybe 550 people, tourists and the holiday folks, it was anything but quiet. It doesn’t matter how many people, the surroundings are still peaceful and beautiful; the wreath-laying ceremonies and the changing of the guard are moving and fascinating.
The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument dedicated to American service personnel who have died without their remains being identified. The impeccably-uniformed guards wear Army dress blue uniforms and always bear their M-14 weapons away from the tomb as a gesture against intrusion on their post. There is a cadence of steps, and exact steps and times … 21 steps, 21 seconds. The number 21 was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed – the 21-gun-salute.
During the summer months from April through Sept. 30, the changing happens every half hour. It’s interesting what all they go through, what their duties are and what they must continue to do even after their tour here.
From there we were to leave with road guard support. It turned into quite a mess. My group, I believe, lost its road guard, and ended up not at the Lincoln Memorial where we were supposed to be. It was a few minutes in another direction. So I followed folks again. Then ended up behind some guys who were going to a hotel. Ugh. Went through the roundabout again and followed some other folks. Got there and parked after riding onto the sidewalk and parking on the grass. (Just remember, grass is not my friend). I took a photo of the street sign and looked around. I was on the backside of the memorial. I hurried as I was afraid I was going to miss the big group photo. I was okay. And sat on the steps and chatted with other folks. I couldn’t see my friend Joe even though I stood up a few times and looked around.
Now I was nervous as I didn’t know where Joe was. My phone was dying, meaning no way to get in touch with Joe. And no GPS to get me to the hotel. Backup plan. Ask someone to get me to the host hotel and find someone who could charge my phone. Made my last couple of charge percents count. Called Joe’s wife, Verlie. Told her I couldn’t find Joe. She got him and he got me. Met up and did not let him out of my sight again.
Joe and I wandered about a bit and saw other new friends Peter and Elisa. We found Tapout and got our FNG pins turned from upright to upside down. I was going to have G-Rex do it but never saw him after yesterday. ☹️. Super nice guys. Wonder what their real names are.
Finally left the area and got back to our hotel and got fed.
It was an exhilarating but emotional day … all the memorials, all the people I’d traveled with, saying goodbyes. RFTW can change your life … maybe mostly for those who have served, but also people like me who have not served are affected. Your awareness goes up several notches and you begin to understand a bit of what those who have served suffered through, and still suffer from. I believe the years I’ve been riding have led me to this run … RFTW. Is it May yet?
Tomorrow … Rolling Thunder, hopefully.