There is no parking inside the taped off area in the back parking lot. Please DO NOT PARK there. The spaces are reserved for merchandise, hydration, raffles, Fallen Hero cart, charities, etc. If you are parked there, please move your vehicle or motorcycle.
Thank you for your cooperation.
Alan “Xbox” Steiner
Director of Merchandise
These words have been rolling around in my head every morning for about a week….
Leaving on a Long Ride
Our bags are packed, we’re ready to go
We’re standing here outside the door.
We hate to wake up early, but it’s time to go.
The dawn is breaking, it’s early morn
The road guard’s waiting he’s blowing his horn
Already! We’re so ready we could die.
So kiss us and smile for us, tell us that you’ll pray for us.
Cause we’re leaving on a long ride
Don’t know when we’ll be back again
Oh babe, we’re ready to go.
Many of the Run for the Wall Family members are already KSU and heading to Ontario. I join my prayers with many other RFTW family members in wishing all riders safe travels. Looking forward to gathering in Ontario as we begin the mission.
To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends, to call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA), to honor the memory of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars, and to support our military personnel all over the world.
When you’re tired, cold and wondering why you signed up to join this ride, Remember the Mission – Romeo-Tango-Mike.
The Ontario Elks Lodge #1419 is hosting pre-run RFTW meetings and gatherings this year. To further support RFTW, they are preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals for up to 300 people at each sitting. This year, thanks to the intrepid Carol, we will have full meal support at our meeting location. Tickets will be sold at the Elks Lodge, and they will also have a table at the Holiday Inn (time TBD). Let’s do all we can to support their efforts in supporting us. The menu is as follows:
In just two weeks, the Riders of Run For The Wall will be rolling across our great nation, honoring Veterans and Active Duty personnel, and bringing awareness that we still have people that are Missing In Action. We will be riding for them, and will be on our way to completing our annual Mission.
I know that each and every one of us has been making all sorts of preparations. From booking hotels or camping places, to selecting our clothes, checking any needed medications, and (for some) getting time off work. We have planned our route out to California. We have all checked our tires, brakes, oil, and everything else needed to keep that motorcycle running in top form for the duration. Many have already packed everything on their bike and are ready to roll! For me, part of getting ready is checking that my cameras are in good working order, making sure that I have enough memory cards and hard drives to hold all of the photos that I will take. I am even typing this letter on a new laptop while sitting at a coffee shop, to make sure that all of the wireless connections work. It is the attention to these little personal details that we are ALL working on right now.
But that is only a small part of getting ready for the Run.
What have you been doing to get your mind ready for this Mission? Have you thought about the impact that we make on the American public? Have you thought of ways to say Thank You to all of our supporters? Have you read the biography of a POW or MIA? Have you visited any Veteran Memorials recently, or visited a VA Hospital? Have you done any of the myriad of things that we do during Run For The Wall, to put yourself into the proper frame of mind? This, to me, is even more important than packing my “things.”
We can always stop at a store to get something that we have left at home. But we need time to “get our focus” on our Mission. That is why I highly urge you to spend a little time this week and next to do something “Patriotic.” Go to a National Cemetery and meet our nations Heroes. Go to a VFW or American Legion Post and just say “Howdy!” Watch the new documentary “All The Way” on YouTube. Go back and read the SITREPs from previous years for ALL of our Routes.
Start your 2023 Run For The Wall experience now, so that you will be ready to render honor and respect to all of those that so richly deserve it. Put yourself into the right “frame of mind” to completely absorb all that The Run will offer you.
As a side note, I want each and every one of you to BE SAFE as you head to Ontario. PLEASE! I want to see you there! For those that haven’t ridden with a group before, or at least since last May, find a few friends to ride to California with. If you don’t have a group, and will be traveling through the southern half of the country, I invite you to ride with “Hoofer’s Hooligans.” The Hooligans ride is the oldest continuously running “Run To The Run” having seen close to three decades (in one form or another.) We stress safe riding, first and above all else. We then practice group riding skills and ease ourselves into the RFTW riding style. We get into the needed mental state by stopping at various memorials, museums, and Veteran posts along the way. Oh yeah, I always find really good places for us to eat, as well! Send me a note at email@example.com and let me know if you will be joining us. You can get the details/itinerary at http://mccrain.net/hooligans/Hooligans_2023_Itinerary_v4.05.23.pdf.
No matter how or when you get there, I look forward to seeing you all in just a few short weeks!
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
RFTW Midway Route Photographer and SITREP Author, 2023
Ps: “Hoofer’s Hooligans” is NOT an official part of RFTW. We are simply a group of like-minded individuals heading towards a common destination and goal. RFTW takes NO responsibility for what we do.
Just a little more than 45 days to kick stands up (KSU) in Ontario, CA.
A total of 1045 riders and supporters are currently registered for RFTW XXXIII. As you can see from the chart developed by the Board of Directors (BOD), 400 are registered for the Central Route (CR). We expect CR numbers to increase before we launch at 0710 hours, Wednesday, 17 May 2023.
CR planning is nearly complete. We’ve filled most leadership positions, including platoon leadership, but we are still accepting (non-FNG) volunteer requests (CLICK HERE TO VOLUNTEER). We’ve sent surveys out to all riders, asking for their riding preference (side-by-side, or staggered), and, if they would prefer to ride in a specific platoon (LINK HERE). The response to this survey has been extraordinary. We are working diligently to accommodate rider preferences, and at the same time, ensuring that platoons are not overloaded and the number of riders in each platoon is balanced to the extent possible. We anticipate that most platoon assignments will be made before participants arrive in Ontario.
Individual Rider Planning and Budgeting: How is your personal planning going? Have you been preparing yourself physically. Are you walking, running, hitting the gym or spending more and more time in the saddle of your motorcycle? Have you taken, or plan to take your motorcycle in to the shop for performance and safety checks? Have you been educating yourself regarding RFTW in general, and the CR in particular? For example, have you searched the RFTW website for information regarding the RFTW mission, how to pack for the ride, past CR rider experiences, etc. Remember, RFTW is not a ten (10) day friendship or club ride. Understanding the mission of RFTW (READ THE MISSION STATEMENT), and keeping in mind who and what you’re riding for, will help you fulfill your personal mission, and bring honor to yourself, those for whom you ride, and, RFTW.
What about your budget planning? What sort of things should you consider in your budget anyway – meals, lodging, fuel? Fortunately, most meals are donated by our supporters as we make our way across this country. Most hotels, too, help riders by offering reduced rates. CR even has supporters who donate fuel for motorcycles at several stops along the route. There are, however, several fuel stops that are still the responsibility of riders, and budgeting for these remaining fuel stops may be challenging given the fluctuating (often rising) cost of fuel.
CR is also offering a pre-paid fuel option for RFTW XXXIII. All riders are encouraged, but not required, to participate in the pre-paid fuel option. Participating in the pre-paid fuel option, however, will not only help riders with their budgeting, but will significantly speed the process of fueling – at every stop. Simply put, riders can fill their tanks, stage more quickly, and take more time for rest, hydration and snacks. Experienced RFTW riders familiar with fueling procedures know what a pain it can be waiting in the rain or blazing heat for their turn to fuel.
The cost of the CR pre-paid fuel option is only $90 per rider. Riders interested in purchasing the pre-paid fuel option may do so in Ontario (at check-in) – ask a Registration Team member about the option. Upon purchase, riders will be issued a sticker for their motorcycle windscreen. Seeing this sticker, fuel team members will know not to collect money and will send you on your way quickly. And, riders will not have to remove or adjust their riding gear (e.g., gloves, jackets, weather gear, etc.). Remember to bring a little extra cash with you to Ontario for the pre-paid fuel option. You’ll be helping yourself, and the CR Fuel Team as well.
Online FNG Orientation Meeting: All those in RFTW volunteer leadership positions were at one time FNGs, and we’re pretty sure we understand how you’re feeling at this point. Not to worry. The CR will be holding an online FNG orientation meeting on Saturday, April 15th, at 1300 hours (PST). All FNGs should have received an invitation to this “Zoom” meeting. If you have not already done so, put this date in your calendar. At this meeting we will provide an overview of RFTW XXXIII. You will meet (and physically see) me, the Assistance Route Coordinator (ARC), all platoon leaders, the FNG Liaison, and the Road Guard Captain (among others). There will be an opportunity to ask questions, but we anticipate this FNG meeting will take no longer than two hours.
Central Route Itinerary: The CR 2023 itinerary has been be posted on the RFTW website (ITINERARY CAN BE FOUND HERE). Please download and review the itinerary before the FNG orientation meeting on 15 April. All FNGs will of course receive a printed copy of the itinerary in Ontario, during check-in. I recommend that all participants also upload a copy of the itinerary to the “Books” application on their smart phone. Because the itinerary specifies arrival and departures times for each stop, having a copy of the itinerary (physically or in “Books”) will help participants manage their time at stops. The last thing anyone wants is to be left behind when it’s time for the pack to depart.
“Courage” movie: In the March 2023 newsletter, you will recall the announcement of a showing of “Courage”, a one-hour movie about Prisoners of War (POW) in World War II and Vietnam. I believe this movie will help focus our attention on an important part of the RFTW mission – “to call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA”). And, I believe that watching this movie will help participants to “gear up” for the challenge ahead of them, and help us to remember why we ride – “for those who can’t”. It is a one-time, and exclusive opportunity for RFTW participants to view this film, which is being offered by Mr. Bill Lowe, a patriot, RFTW supporter and family member of the CR RC.
If you haven’t done so already, check out the three-minute trailer about the movie – we think you’ll enjoy, and be moved by it. With only 300-350 seats available in the “Lodge Room”, be sure to come to the Elks Lodge early enough to have dinner before the movie, which begins at 1900 hours. In fact, all riders are encouraged to arrive in Ontario a little early – as early Monday as possible – to complete the check-in process, attend mandatory meetings and enjoy the movie.
With KSU at 0710 hours, Wednesday, 17 May 2023, you should be well into planning for your own ride to Ontario. If you’d like to ride to Ontario in a group, consider joining a few CR riders coming down from Seattle, WA. Our route will take us down the middle of Oregon and California via Hwy 395. We plan to arrive in Ontario on Sunday, 14 May 2023, a day before general check-in begins. For details, and a list of hotels, email Mike Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make your hotel reservations for this ride now. Note that our ride down to Ontario, is a “personal ride”, and not sanctioned by, or affiliated in anyway with RFTW.
If you’re riding to Ontario on your own, remember, check-in for all riders begins Monday morning, 15 May 2023. So, plan to arrive early on Monday, because the check-in process can take some time. Riders who have completed the rider preference survey (CLICK HERE FOR YOURLAST CHANCE TO FILL OUT THE SURVEY!!!!!!), will be assigned to a platoon before arriving in Ontario, and can anticipate a shorter wait time for check-in.
In the meantime, pack your bike, unpack it, and do it again a couple more times. Ride safe, ride light, and stay healthy. Is it May yet?
Greeting’s from Southern California, I am hopeful your Christmas was blessed and your New Year has been plentiful thus far. Here in So Cal, we have had some decent riding weather from time to time, and it provides the opportunity to knock the rust off and hone our riding skills. Run For The Wall is not your typical weekend ride. I urge you to visit the Run for The Wall website at www.rftw.us and read the FAQ page to find preparation tips for riding in the Run.
It’s 128 days until we depart Ontario. Midway Route Leadership is putting the final polish on the Route itinerary to ensure safety and efficiency as we continue the Run For The Wall Mission.
On Day 7, Monday, May 22, 2023. Midway Route will have an extra day in Cookeville, TN to continue the Run For The Wall Mission like never before. We will have the opportunity through our Outreach Missions to visit VA Hospitals, Schools, and Memorials. We are hopeful to have a positive impact on support and expansion of our mission opportunities. Your Tennessee State coordinators (Ed Butler & Phil Friedli) along with the leadership team have developed 3 to 4 Outreach opportunities for that day. Those Outreaches would start about 9-10 AM and end by 2-3 PM. You can have breakfast at the hotel, and it appears as if each outreach will have lunch provided. These outreaches are for 100% of the riders. This includes the Staging, Fueling, Advance Teams, and Trikes and Bikes with trailers who may unhook for the day, so they also have the opportunity to participate in an outreach they otherwise may not be able to do, and thereby experience its healing value. I would urge everyone to consider joining us on this incredible day.
If you have completed RFTW All The Way at least once, Midway Route needs you to consider volunteering to help with either the staging or promotions teams. The Staging process will be changed for 2023. Staging has come into the modern era with changes to the platoon placement markings making the job physically easier and less stressful. We will also improve hydration opportunities and provide medical support. Staging is such an important aspect of daily organization on the route and we need your help. Please contact Gina Cutrer by email at email@example.com or call her directly at 225-202-5328. If you would like to volunteer for any position on Midway Route, please fill out the Volunteer Request Form (CLICK HERE TO VOLUNTEER). Between now and May 2023 there will be openings on different teams. By volunteering now, you will be on the ready list to be asked to join a team. In addition, Midway Route needs a volunteer to assume the responsibility of Quartermaster. Quartermaster distributes equipment, i.e. brassards, hats, windshield banners, and placards in Ontario and insures all required equipment is returned in DC. The Quartermaster must be going All The Way. If you are interested in volunteering for Quartermaster please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOTEL DRAWING. This was an fantastic fundraiser ! Congratulations to Donald Greman for having the winning ticket, well done. The money raised from this drawing will go to support our adopted schools and our fuel stops.
SUPER BOWL DRAWINGfundraiser is underway. We are hoping to raise the money to support the fuel cost for every rider on the Midway Route this year by conducting various fundraising activities. So, we are offering a Super Bowl Football Board opportunity to support the Midway Route fuel costs. Winners will be receiving a gift card to use during the 2023 RFTW ride. Buy a Super Bowl 2023 square for $25.00, $100.00 buys you 5 squares, or buy as many entries as you like! The winning square at the end of each Quarter will receive a $100.00 Walmart Gift Card. End of game score is the fourth quarter, no overtime.
The Board will be filled out from the top to bottom and left to right based on the time and date of the receipt of your entry and payment. The numbers will be drawn from the hat after a board is complete, so there will be no particular order. All entries must be received by January 31, 2023.
Once the Board is filled and numbers assigned, the Board will be emailed prior to game start and posted to RFTW Facebook. Those receiving gift cards will be contacted the day after the game to ensure we have the correct contact information for mailing the gift card to you. Thank you all for your continued generosity in this fundraising effort and GOOD LUCK. We appreciate and need your support for the Midway Route.
Also, please see just below for information on an additional fundraiser with the opportunity to win a set of Custom CFR Motorcycle Pipes. Instructions on entering are on the image. Be sure to specify which fundraiser you are entering in for any donation.
This is my last RC Newsletter for 2022. (save the applause).
First, I want to Congratulate Kristine “Eyes” Wood on her BoD confirmation to be the Southern Route Coordinator for RFTW Mission XXXIII 2023. Her work in support of the RFTW Mission, starting even before her FNG year, and especially as ARC these past 3 years, is proof that Kris earned this position. Her patriotism stems from multiple generations of Military Service dating back to the Revolutionary War. I have extreme confidence in Kris’ ability to Lead and Manage the Southern Route Mission.
Secondly, I would like to say what an Honor it has been to be the Southern Route Coordinator since 2020. We, I mean ALL OF US, have been through a lot in the last 3 years to get Mission XXXII complete.
We started the pre-Mission festivities by celebrating the marriage of Santa Ed and Den Mother.
It was our first time in Casa Grande, AZ, and the folks there showed us great hospitality.
Hats off to the FNGs, overall, I would say that the vast majority adapted to platoon riding quickly and comfort levels increased daily.
Did everything go perfectly? No. Will it ever? Doubtful. We had to make several changes leading up to the start and they continued throughout the Mission. The fact that most riders never knew about all of the behind-the-scenes juggling and hoop jumping actions, is a testament to the Leadership Team and State Coordinators commitment. A HUGE THANK YOU, to ALL of you. You deserve all the credit; I’ll take any of the blame. I was blessed with the Greatest Bunch of Volunteers that money can buy. LOL.
*** For those of you who ordered the special 20th Anniversary T-shirts and have not picked them up, they will be mailed to you soon. We are trying to get them mailed before the end of June. Thank you for your patience ***
If you haven’t submitted your After-Action Report yet, Please do. That is your opportunity to express your thoughts about this year’s Mission. If you have ideas on how we can improve the experience, we would like to know. Use this Link
Don’t forget the Angel Fire, NM Reunion over Labor Day weekend and the
Today we started out in Las Cruces, New Mexico. We started with breakfast at the American Legion. A great breakfast was served with biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon, yum. Does it seem like we eat a lot? Yes we do, the folks and the organizations that greet us are feeding us some awesome food and we are very honored to be treated so well and greeted so warmly. There was a raffle from the Legion where they handed out tickets to win $100. This story is unique because the lady that won the Golden ticket to have all her gas paid along the run this year also won this raffle. I don’t know her given name, my apologies for that but we all know her as Lucky now. She wears the smile very well.
We then went on to the Las Cruces Veterans Memorial Park. It’s a very nice park that is well put together. Some pictures are below. There was a very nice wreath laying ceremony and we had LEO (Law Enforcement) escort all the way through town and later on onto Highway 10 and quite a ways out of town. We were traveling on towards Odessa Texas which is our stop tonight. Most of the way through Texas we also had LEO escort. They are clearing the highway, keeping cars and trucks from entering the freeway for our line of bikes which is running about a 2.5 mile footprint on the highway. When we get to highway exits and head for a refuel stop; and afterwards we go to another location like a legion post or church to be fed, we don’t stop at lights or stop signs, it feels like we’re a long parade. We are honored! It’s quite a feeling and everyone is so nice and warm to us. It’s a big change to the ‘70’s when you didn’t wear your uniform state side when not needed because you were worried about the reaction you’d get. I’m sure a lot of you remember those times. And then we get into these places and everyone has big hugs and lots of Thank You(s). There were significant greetings on the highway. Overpasses with people waving, One place had a lady on a hillside riding a horse with a big flag! Fire Trucks with the ladder extension hanging a flag off the side of the freeway all timed out for when we drive by. It’s mind blowing. Some of these smaller towns that coordinate with leadership and state coordinators to host us look at this like a huge opportunity and it’s one of the big events of the year for them. The majority of the town comes out to greet us, wave flags, it’s all very cool. And, I venture to say very little of this would come together without the hard work of the state coordinators that are working in the background all year long to make this happen. Big Kudu’s to all the state coordinators for all the routes. It’s amazing work.
“Reckless” (Rod Runyon) went with some bikes to an outreach to Old Glory Memorial, a memorial for all American citizens to honor all who have served our Country and those that have given their lives in the name of the freedoms we enjoy every day. El Paso Texas Flags Across America has erected a 180 foot flagpole on the Trans-Mountain Campus of El Paso Community College and is flying a United States Flag, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and lighted at night. On special occasions, EPTFAA will be flying a beautiful 50 foot by 100 foot united states flag. Fifty (50) state flags, six (6) Armed Service Flags and six (6) Territorial flags. Some pictures from the outreach are below. Words spoken by Reckless (words worth keeping in your heart) at the outreach: “There are many ways you can keep our fallen, as well as our injured and ill veterans, in your mind and heart throughout the year, Countless ways to give back to those who have endured the physical, psychological and emotional wounds that may arise from military service. Working together with friends, neighbors, veterans groups and entire communities, we can ensure that the sacrifices made by our nations finest and bravest never go unappreciated and that their memories are never forgotten. I thank you all for joining in today’s tribute. I hope you keep our military man and women – and all the sacrifices they made – close to your heart today and throughout the year.”
Wow! What a day! WHAT A DAY!!! SO much has happened, and there is still stuff from yesterday to tell, that I am WAY behind! And I really can’t get to the “meat” of todays post until I get some of the “clerical stuff” out of the way. And by that, I mean just what does it take to organize the Midway Route, and how does it all shake out as we roll down the highway?
First, there is no “I” in RFTW. It takes a team. A BIG team! (I won’t even bother to explain what the Board of Directors do, because that is all of the ‘legal’ stuff.) The Individual Routes have a hierarchy that starts with a Route Coordinator and his Assistant Route Coordinator. The RC and ARC are responsible for overseeing the daily logistics of the entire Run. It is an incredibly difficult role, and Midway has been blessed to have Ken “Six-String” Dugas as our RC for THREE years! (Just because the Run didn’t happen for two years doesn’t mean that there weren’t plans put in place. It just means that He had to start over three times!)
Six-Strings Team consists of a Missing Man Coordinator, and Honor Guard Coordinator, 4-Wheel Coordinator, Hotel Coordinator, Camping Coordinator, Leadership Team Support, an MIA Outreach Coordinator, an entire Promotions Team, a Merchandising Team, a Registration Team, an Ambassadors Team, a Chaplain Corps, Chase Vehicle Teams, Medical Teams, Hydration Teams, a Road Guard Captain (and 30+ Road Guards), an INCREDIBLE Fuel Team, a Staging Crew, and Platoon Leaders. Most of these Teams have between 4-8 people on them, and the “crews” can have 20-30 people involved. All told, there can be over 100 people doing various jobs just to coordinate and then safely move our Riders across the Country. It is an unbelievably complex system with hundreds, if not thousands of moving parts. And they ALL have to work, or none of it does.
But the volunteers for RFTW love what they do. They are willing to sacrifice their time, energy, effort, and personal finances to make this Mission work. And it DOES!
What the public sees is simply a bunch of motorcycles riding down the highway. But even this seemingly random bunch of bikes has a hierarchy of it’s own. I could try to explain it, but instead I will post a link to a quick 2 ½ minute video that I made back in 2019. It visually explains what the “pack” looks like, who rides where, and in what order. You can see the video at https://vimeo.com/341649711
Okay, that is enough of the “logistics” for this evening. Let’s step back to yesterday so I can tell you about a very solemn and moving experience that we are doing on the Midway Route. During our “opening ceremony” back in Ontario on Wednesday, each Route Coordinator was presented with a special folded flag that is to be carried all the way from California to Washington DC. On the Midway Route, the flag is being carried by an FNG (first time Rider), with this flag escort being transferred to a new Rider three to four times a day.
It may sound like a simple thing, to carry a flag in your saddlebag. But there is more to it than that. What the Rider is REALLY carrying is every ideal and virtue that our Country stands for. It is the symbol of the blood that has been shed defending our freedom. It is the visual reminder of those that we have lost. It is the flag that we pledge our allegiance to each morning, and that our Military Personnel have sworn to protect. And if you don’t think that our Riders take this task seriously, just look in their faces. You will see the respect and honor that is held in their hearts. You can see the determination in them to keep this flag safe and to deliver it to the next Rider. It is another position of honor that really makes Run For The Wall special.
Today started out in a most amazing way. Normally when we wake up in Santa Fe, we have to know frost or even snow and ice off of our bikes. Not today! We woke to refreshing temperatures in the high 40s, which soon became the perfect 50s and 60s that bikers LOVE to ride in. Oh Yeah, we had clear skies, too! WooHoo! So we got to truly enjoy the ride through Arizona. It is a beautiful State!
Okay, I already have to correct myself. Yes, I DID enjoy my morning ride. But it wasn’t really a “ride.” I had a special Mission to perform first thing today. I have ridden through the town of Winslow Arizona MANY times. Over the years, I have come to know some of the shop owners in this quaint little town. One in particular is a former Marine and a true Patriot. Several times in the past he has asked me it Run For the Wall could PLEASE stop in the town and say Hello. He WANTS to wave a flag at us! I was honored to get to lead “Cowboys Desert Renegades” through the town one year on the way out to California. With only a few hours “warning” this shop owner arranged to have 100 people lining the streets to greet us! So my Mission for the morning was to go say “Howdy” and deliver a few of our RFTW lapel pins. It is a small gesture, but it is greatly appreciated. This is a Mission that I took on by myself, but with the blessing of our Ambassador Lead. As I was getting off of my bike, who should roll up but James “Gunny” Gregory and his lovely wife Patti. It seems that Gunny had the same idea!
I had timed my stop so that I would have just enough time to reach an overpass outside of town to get a few photos of our Riders. I made it with just a few minutes to spare! And what a site it was! Yesterday was our first day or riding together. The Pack looked like it had been riding together for years! They rode perfectly! The spacing was impeccable. The lines were razor straight. The Riders were all sitting tall in the saddle and waved and honked at this lone photographer standing on a bridge. They gave me my own personal parade! Thank You to all of the Midway Route Riders! You brought tears to my eyes!
I rejoined the pack just in time to enjoy a special treat for a Rider. I have mentioned an LEO Escort before. But today e got what is known as a “presidential” escort, which means that the Police SHUT DOWN THE INTERSTATE for us! And it happened TWICE today! It is an amazing experience to be heading down Interstate 40 and not have to worry about traffic. In the morning, it gave me an opportunity to get some really cool pictures of ALL of our Riders and their great formation. In the afternoon, going through Albuquerque, it gave us smooth sailing through the (normally) congested highways and streets. It is quite a rare treat, and it was greatly appreciated!
At one of our fuel stops, I saw a couple of elderly Native American Women sitting in chairs out in the parking lot. They were waving and yelling “We Love You” as the Riders went by. Something compelled me to go visit with them. They are Native Navajo. I am sorry to say that I don’t know enough about their culture to use the proper term for them. But I was saved from embarrassing myself TOO much when one of our own Riders came up to say Hello, and suddenly we had THREE Navajo Women together, talking in their BEAUTIFUL native tongue! Turns out, our Rider belongs to the same clan as one of the Ladies, so they are pretty sure that they are related! This kind of interaction is exactly what we mean when we say “The Magic of the Run!” Our two guests were such delightful Ladies, and I just wanted to hug them! I could have spent all day with them, but I had to tear myself away. I jokingly said that she would just have to tell me to go away our I WOULD stay. She smiled at me and winked, then told me to leave and do what I needed to do … in her Native language! We both cried tears of happiness as I walked away, after one more hug!
Our lunch today was at Milan Elementary School in Milan New Mexico. Let me state right here and now, I am not a big fan of Kids. (I didn’t like them when *I* was a kid!) But THESE Young Men and Women are SPECIAL! It was the highlight of my day! They line the circular driveway and wait patiently for our arrival. And then they burst out with screams of delight and chants of “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.!” They wave American flags and Red White and Blue hearts. They will give a high-five to anyone that puts out their hand! Even your Photographer and SITREP Author ended up running around this (BIG) circle slapping hands and yelling along with these young Patriots! Once inside, we ALL stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, young and old alike. The children sang a few patriotic songs for us, and they sounded GREAT! I can’t believe it, but they make me kind of like kids! These people are WONDERFUL! They also serve a very good lunch! Thank You Milan Elementary! I know that I am looking forward to seeing you again next year!
After eating a hurried lunch (I had been a bit busy), I joined an outreach program that rode a few miles to the City of Grants New Mexico, to pay respects at their Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This is a very simple but meaningful memorial, comprise of five flag poles, a large bronze medallion for each branch of our Military, and two large stone markers that honor our Vietnam Veterans. To make it just a little MORE special, there was a brief “ceremony” for “Jet”, one of our slightly more unusual Riders. “Jet” travels around the country, riding with various Riders if and when a seat is available. He has even ridden with ME once. Jet’s Mission is to go where his Best Friend can’t, and to pay honor to a special person in both their lives.
Jet is a little stuffed Bear in a Flight Suit. He belongs to our good Friend Shannon Spake. When Shannon realized that she couldn’t join us for the Run this year, “Peppermint Patti” offered to take Jet with her. “Jet” is Shannon’s representative this year. He is paying tribute to Lt Commander Dennis Pike, Missing In Action for 50 years. Dennis Pike is Shannon’s Father.