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Day 6: Flag Day

Today was another great day on the RFTW. We rode in front of a storm the entire day, keeping dry and out of harm’s way. This is but one of the many miracles that happen on the Run. I’ll tell you of a couple more that have happened in the days to come.

I rode out with our Ambassador Team to visit folks on overpasses supporting our riders. It was a new perspective for me to see how these great men and women become the face of the RFTW by greeting and acknowledging the time and effort so many people put into setting up flags and banners, then waiting for us to pass by. They sometimes spend an hour or more in miserable weather all for a few minutes of supporting us. What those supporters may not realize is that what they do gives us more drive and commitment to complete the mission. Ambassador’s range out about 30 minutes ahead of the main pack. When they see a bridge lined with supporters they “drop off” a couple of their team to the bridge to thank the supporters and hand them ride pins. Sonia, one of the Ambassador team leads told me that one of the people she spoke to earlier on this Run was so grateful that she stopped. He had been coming out to cheer on our riders for more than a decade and in that period not one person had stoped. This is also why we ride. We acknowledge those who sacrifice to support us, just as our servicemen and women sacrificed to make it possible.

For lunch we went into Concordia, MO where Lori Wilson and her team welcomed us with open arms. Lunch was, as always amazing. As we enjoyed our food, kids from the community gave us care packages. Each package contained a button made by the children along with a preaddressed envelope for us to use upon our return home. Their hope is to receive a number of these envelopes stuffed with details about the riders, their RFTW experience, and where they are from. The older kids organized groups to clean up the park where we met, volunteered to move tables and helped with clean up as well. After acknowledgements of those who contributed to make lunch a reality, one of the most amazing moments of the day occurred. Lori invited everyone to join in singing the Star Spangled Banner. Wow, so many voices, so many patriots putting their heart into our National Anthem.

Our final stop was in Wentzville, the home of the first Vietnam Memorial in the US. The massive US Flag that we ride under is astounding and brings me to tears every time I see it. The local service organizations put on a fantastic ceremony where we honor both riders and local heroes such as Lance Corporal Schmitz, who was lost in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan during the abrupt withdrawal in August of 2021. Dinner was steak and potatoes with all the trimmings. Thank you, Wentzville for another great visit.

Special thanks to Mama G for helping with today’s SitRep. I was absent for the stop in Concordia.

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Day 5: Generations

Today was the longest day so far for the Central Route. Breakfast and Raffle Rousing started early at 5:30am and dinner hosted at the Eagles in Junction City, Kansas didn’t get rolling until about 7:30pm. Your riders and this SitRep Writer are tired and dreams of tomorrow and memories of today are fighting for the attention of minds that long for sleep.

I’ve entitled this post Generations not out of any real creative means for a writing prompt but to rather simply speak to the number of families with whom I’m traveling and one amazing family with whom several of us riders became enamored during our lunch stop in Oakley. My family is represented by three generations fulfilling the RFTW mission and several other families have grandparents traveling with grandchildren or siblings traveling with their kids (aunts, uncles, and nieces). Still more families will grow in representation as we move East. The Gilman’s come to mind. They ride as a family for Frederick Gilman, KIA 16 March, 1970. But the family who stirred my mind to thinking about the flesh and bone families on the run is the Kuhlman family.

The Kuhlman family live on the street opposite Memorial Park where the great town of Oakley hosted us for lunch with the help of several service organizations. It was my lucky day as it was my bike that blocked their driveway making the Kuhlman’s walk part of the way home from church. After dismounting my bike, I struck up a conversation and discovered that three Veterans reside there and four generations of family were there to greet us. One of those veterans was 97 year-old Mildred Kuhlman, a WWII Nurse. I’m told she rarely comes outside, and she wasn’t when we arrived. But, with a bit of coaxing her son was able to bring her out to meet many of us right there in her driveway. Mildred has a twinkle in her eye that not only draws you in but also communicates that she knows full well what our mission is about. I didn’t ask her about her service for we know that The Greatest Generation sacrificed much and at 97 she deserves to be free from reliving those horrors. It was an honor to sit next to Mildred and speak for a few minutes. She allowed a few of us to give her a hug and we pressed ride coins into several of the families hands. I’m grateful for the generations of Kuhlman’s and families like them across our great nation that are sewing seeds that mature into generations of patriots.

Pictured from the Kuhlman family are Mildred Kuhlman, Ron Kuhlman, Raye Kuhlman (both Ron and Ray are Veterans), Braxton, Becky, and Bowen Stramel, grand children to Ron and Raye and great-grandchildren to Mildred. Not pictured was Ron and Raye’s daughter who’s name I didn’t capture.  Rounding out the photo are a father son duo who are completing the run and myself.

One of the things I love the most about the Run For The Wall is that we really do think of each other as family. That family is comprised of brothers and sisters with a common history of military service or deep respect and support of veterans. While completing the mission together our hearts are knit together and our family grows beyond the traditional nuclear family with whom we came to the run. By giving of ourselves to join in something that is much bigger than anything we could achieve or become on our own, we become part of the current generation of the Run For The Wall who will shepherd it for generations to come.

None of this could be possible without the support of hundreds of people who donate fuel, feed us, and support the mission. Today we started in Limon Colorado and finished our day in Junction City Kansas. As mentioned above we stopped in Oakley Kansas for lunch. Volunteers in Limon were up at 3:30am to prepare us a biscuits and gravy breakfast. In Oakley we were given bbq beef sandwiches, and in Junction City, we were served Chicken Fried Steak. Thank you to everyone who prepared and served food or set up chairs, or did any number of other supporting tasks to make it possible for us to continue the mission.

When thinking of generations, we always remember those who’ve gone before us. Today, the RFTW visited three memorials. In Oakley we lunched in Memorial Park, which was recently renamed from Clark Park. While there, a new installation to the park’s memorials was unveiled. Braden Gormley took a bit more than a year to design the new memorial and then poured one month of labor into its creation. A subset of the Central Route did a breakout (left the main pack for a side destination) to a memorial in Wakeeney where they found a peaceful, serene, memorial to the five branches of service. And, in Junction City the entirety of the Central Route visited the Kansas Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Heritage Park where a ceremony was held, which honored the RFTW as well as many who were in attendance.

We speak to the new generation (FNG’s) joining the run about the countless supporters that line overpasses to spur us on as we cross the country. Today there were too many overpasses with patriots waving to count. People with banners, flags, and signs all showing their support for the riders and our nation. And as a fitting closing chapter to the day long support of people at gas stations, people on over passes, and people on the city streets across which we traveled is the 300 or more people lining the street with US flags as we approach and enter Heritage Park. There is nothing quite like it. It leaves my throat lumpy, my eyes watery, and my skin goose bumpy even remembering it. Thank you to all who have welcomed home the generations of our RFTW family.

Not to be missed today was that every one of our gas stops was donated. Amazing. Thank you so much. Also, very much worth noting is that we paraded through Russell Kansas in honor of the late Bob Dole, US Senator, Presidential Candidate, and US Army Captain who served during WWII until he was severely wounded.

Pictured in the gallery below are the memorials in Wakeeney and Junction City as well as various photos taken throughout the day.

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Day 4: Snow Day!!

When we were children I think we all pretty much looked forward to snow days. I remember one from somewhere around my kindergarten or first grade year. Frankly, I remember very little from that period of my life. We had nap time at school on mats printed to look like dollar bills, making mud pies under a tree, turning too tightly on a bicycle causing a handlebar to go into my eye cutting the inside of my eyelid, and an epic snow day! I was pretty short, so it may not have been that epic, but for me it was awesome. The snow that fell that year in Lancaster California was deep enough that my dad made pathways through the snow that resulted in the snow on either side of the pathways being higher than my head. It was so cool!

Thankfully, the snow that caused our route to detour to a more direct route from Raton, NM to Limon, CO wasn’t higher than that young boy’s head, at least not by the time we hit the road. This morning was amazing. Our plan was to receive donated gas between 8:10 and 8:40 then have our rider check in and briefings with departure around 10:00 AM to a lunch provided to us in Pueblo, CO. None of that happened. The entire region was hit with what I think was an unusual May snowstorm. A friend of mine who lives twenty minutes outside of Pueblo related that power had been out for five hours and that they had a good amount of snow on the ground. At my hotel check-in tonight in Limon, CO the kind woman at the front desk indicated they had 15 inches at her home.

Our leadership and those that support them rallied in a phenomenal way. Fred, an FNG, spoke with me about it to me at dinner tonight. I’m not going to quote him because my memory isn’t that of the young boy earlier described, but this was his sentiment. You know a leadership group is performing really well when you can only see the positive results of their efforts, not the efforts themselves.

Riders, drank coffee, prepared their bikes, donned rain gear, and swapped stories to pass the time until the revised staging time of 11:00 AM. I was surprised not to see spontaneous games of Hearts or Spades from our mostly Veteran cohort but that didn’t materialize. To pass the time, I found Sage Coffee, a local coffee shop where I enjoyed a hot mocha and chatted a bit with the really nice people there. In my short time at the unexpected overnight stop in Raton, I came to realize that the town has a lot of heart. Thank you Raton for welcoming the Run For The Wall as we adapted to both fire and snow.

After a unique morning briefing held alongside a Raton Fire Truck while using it’s speaker as a PA system, the pack set off to La Junta for a very unique fueling experience. I can’t state this with certainty but I suspect this fueling station was the smallest the Run has utilized in a time period that is likely measured in decades. The Loves Travel Stop in La Junta with a bit of spill over into the Pizza Hut next door, hosted us for fuel and staging. From there the second leg saw the Central Route arrive in Limon. It was a short ride of about four hours with just one stop.

Dinner in Limon was provided by the Chamber of Commerce and hosted in the gym of Limon High School. The kind smiles and warm food was just the perfect remedy for our cold and shivering riders. Temperatures were in the 40’s for the entire ride. According to the weather.gov website, at a temperature of 45 degrees and having wind at 60mph, the wind chill feels like 31.9 degrees on your skin. Brrrrr!  Besides dinner, the Chamber gave us t-shirts emblazoned with the RFTW logo, the “We ride for those who can’t” mission tag line, and Limon Colorado 2022. It is a great souvenier from a town that clearly loves to host us.

During our dinner, where the tables were covered with red, white, and blue tablecloth’s (my wife would be proud that I noticed) Charlie, from the Chamber of Commerce introduced a hero from WWII. Ninety seven year old Don Morrison is a local businessman who flew 17 missions over Nazi occupied territory. The entirety of the room gave Don a well deserved standing ovation. Every Veteran deserves honor and respect, but there is a reason we call our WWII heroes “the greatest generation”. Countless men volunteered to go to war on a global scale to preserve freedom for millions. Thank you Don for answering the call.

After quickly fueling in La Junta, I rode ahead of the pack to Limon where I had the fortune to meet a small group of Patriot Guard Riders. These amazing people drove from Colorado Springs to Limon to complete their mission! Our route change caused their mission of greeting us  in Fountain (not terribly far from Colorado Springs) to cancel so they issued themselves their own FRAG Order and came out to Limon. We had a great time talking with these amazing patriots as we awaited the arrival of the pack.

Today was everything I expect from the Run For The Wall. We had opportunity to honor the Veterans riding among us and to also honor the veterans and families who host us. RFTW leadership excelled at what they do so well, safely hosting a parade across the country for those who never received the one they were due, and while we weren’t focusing on proper distancing from the bike in front of us, we saw some amazingly beautiful skies and countryside dotted by quaint patriotic towns and cities. A biker couldn’t ask for a better day in the saddle.

There is one more thing I’d like to add to close out this SitRep. Each morning we are holding a drawing in which only our veterans may participate. The wife of  Ron Seldon, a Vietnam Veteran who has spent many years taking his vacation time to go to Vietnam in search of the remains of missing soldiers was donated $2400 by the Run For The Wall. Ron passed away executing the mission of the RFTW some years back. Ron’s wife  wouldn’t accept the money. Instead, she asked that it be given to riders to defray their lodging expenses as they complete the RFTW mission. So, each morning we are holding a drawing that awards a Veteran riding with us some of the money that Don Seldon’s wife so graciously sewed back into the RFTW.

Pack arrival in Limon

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Day 3 – 5/20/2022 Southern Route

Day 3 – May 20, 2022 Southern Route

 

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.

Lucky Wins again!

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.”

Boots
USAF ’72 – ’75

Las Cruces New Mexico Veterans Memorial Park

A lady there to remember her MIA father

The man who helped document all NM KIAs and MIAs

Part of our greeting committee

Outreach to Old Glory Memorial

Pic from the day

 

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Day 3: Semper Gumby

I’d like to start today’s SitRep with an inside tip. Do not ever accept a bag of XXTRA Flamin’ Hot Crunchy Cheetos from the Hydration Team. I was handed an 8oz bag of this demon snack at our first stop and just had my first taste. I’m thinking they may be better used as ice melt come tomorrow than eaten tonight. The forecast is showing a mix of rain and snow tomorrow morning in Raton, where we are spending the night, and snow starting at 1:00am through 11:00am in our lunch city of Pueblo. Maybe if we seed the snow clouds with XXTRA Flamin’ Hot Crunchy Cheetos we can warm things up a bit.

This morning started in Gallup as normal with the Staging Team and the Road Guards arriving in the still dark morning to prepare for the arrival of the riders. Everything was going as planned until a wrench fell into the cog of the well-tuned RFTW machine. Wrenches have a way of doing that but no dropped wrench is going to deter us from our mission. As always, Leadership remained flexible and solved the issue but it preempted much of our Raffle Rouser’s time to complete auctions and to raise money for Rainelle. I’m sure he too will adjust to achieve his goals.

The biggest show of flexibility to meet and resolve a problem, came in response to a wildfire. Day three of the Central Route is usually spent traveling to one of our most favorite locations, the Angel Fire Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park. Unfortunately New Mexico has been battling fires since April. With fires in proximity to Angel Fire and Eagle Nest, taking the Central Route’s riders through that area became impossible causing Central Route Leadership to quickly make alternative plans. Ok, new plan… divert riders around the areas impacted by wildfires, now how and where do we feed them, bunk them down for the night, and where do we fill up several hundred bikes with gas? The NM State Coordinator stepped up to the challenge. Our day went brilliantly yet still had some “Gumby” required. We travelled to our first gas stop where we were met by a contingent of motorcycle LEO’s who lead us through Albuquerque by shutting down traffic on the interstate to both expedite our passage through town and to ensure our safety. Even the incredibly precise and coordinated movements of the LEO’s didn’t go quite up to plan when we followed them down an off ramp instead of continuing on the freeway when they’d completed their escort. I was impressed with how they reacted in an instant to block traffic at the off ramp’s intersection allowing us unimpeded access up the opposite on ramp to quickly get back on our way.

Lunch was provided by the Black Mesa Casino. On short notice they pulled together sandwiches, chips, and drinks then served it to us at tables set up in a theatre. Similarly, on short notice, an amazing BBQ dinner of elk burgers, elk brats, and beef burgers awaited our arrival at the Raton Aquatic Center. There, a number of volunteers manned the grill and kitchen to feed us some really fantastic food. Neither Raton nor Black Mesa expected to support us just a short while ago, but flexed last minute to so today. Thank you!

I spent the afternoon traveling with the Staging Team. This team is responsible for making sense of the mayhem that is several hundred motorcycles trying to find parking in such a way that they can hit the road safely organized. Every day, several times a day, the Staging Team helps riders find their platoons and helps them park aligned in a manner  that facilitates a group departure to the next stop. No parking lot is the same so how they fit us all into the space they have available is never the same. Add to this layout and traffic management problem, the need to stage bikes in places the Run has never visited and you have a major need to be flexible. A huge shout out to the Staging Team and its leadership on flawlessly executing your mission. At one of our stops I saw the Staging Team leader get the lay of the land and start writing platoon numbers on the pavement with chalk all within about 60 seconds of arrival at a location he’d never been to. Steve would say that their success lies with the team who steps up every time. I do agree but only partially. The team cannot execute if they do not have and understand the plan and that plan comes from Steve. Here’s a tip of the cap, which somehow stayed atop my head in today’s wind, to you all. Click this image this link to see a short clip of staging in action.

Speaking of wind… If any of you are armchair meteorologists, I’d like to know how the wind could be blowing from the South to the North as we were headed East then be blowing as equally hard from East to West when we were headed North. The wind was relentless. I spoke with one rider who said his right shoulder was sore from pushing  his bike into the wind to keep it upright. Wind and desert do not mix well with motorcycles. Several tumble weeds met their fate upon the crash guards of my motorcycle. We rode through a dust storm, through tumble weeds all the while riding straight but constantly pushing down on our handle bars as if to turn right.

Why did we “turn right” all day into the wind? Why do we do what we do and why do supporters spring into action at the last minute to provide us with a meal? It is because of our mission. One person who knew that mission well was Rupert “Preacher” Harrell. I didn’t know Preacher personally, but I’ve been prayed for by him while on the Run. Rupert was to be our Senior Chaplain this year. Instead, he was honored as the Missing Man all day today. I heard this story about him this morning.  Rupert once saved a man twice. The first was when he pulled that man, pinned down into a helicopter while serving in Vietnam. The second was when he lead that same man to Jesus Christ. I can think of no better legacy to be said about a man.

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Day Two – Thursday May 19, 2022. Flagstaff, AZ to Albuquerque, NM. 337 miles.

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.

THIS is Why We Ride!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

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May 18 2022 Southern Route

May 18, 2022

Today was the day we started!  We left Ontario California on time and started riding our bikes towards today’s destination, Casa Grande, AZ. Before we left, there were some ceremonies, thanks and plaques given to many groups that assisted us with getting our start this year.  Organizations like the Ontario Police and Fire Department and some companies that donated and helped in various ways.  We also had opportunities to thank the leadership of our great organization like the BOD and RC’s.

It was a long day, I think it’s the longest we’ll have on this run, 402 miles.  We had an awesome lunch in Blythe, CA which is very close to the AZ border.  The Blythe towns people hosted us at the local fair grounds with hamburgers, hot dogs and lots of goodies along with a very warm reception welcoming us to their town.  It was a very nice experience and we felt honored.  We toured through many other towns and made it to Casa Grande where it seemed the whole town was there greeting us with flags waving, people gathered on the sides of the road for a couple of miles.  We went to the Elks Lodge and were fed a great dinner of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and corn.  It was again, a very warm welcome with friendly people with some hard working cadets that were serving the dinners and cleaning up.  Awesome town.

I had a chance to speak with the gentleman from Israel that is riding with us.  He has some great stories but one I thought was worth passing on was that last week, he helped deliver an ambulance to Ukraine.  So one week he’s delivering an ambulance to Ukraine and the next week he’s here doing the Run with us.  What a life?  They drove the ambulance up to Ukraine and provided it to the folks providing medical care so they can transport patients as needed.  We see on the news there are a lot of needs there.  We hope they can come up with enough gasoline to drive it as much as it seems they need to.

I also ran into Arnie.  Arnie is an FNG and he has his grandson with him who is active military.  They are on a CanAm Spyder.  Arnie has 8 fellow patriots that were either MIA or KIA.  The two MIA’s are Major Walsh and Major Perchello.  He started putting the info together for 602nd Air Commando Squadron remaining pilots from 1967 through 1968 and had a strong positive reaction where these remaining pilots appreciated the “keeping the names alive”.  Arnie then learned about Run for the Wall and realized this was the perfect opportunity to continue the mission.  Arnie has 8 patriots he is honoring during the run and obviously at the Wall when we get there.  There are more details so if you run into Arnie, ask him to tell you about the guys which have family still waiting for them and kids that are now grown and didn’t get to know their dads as well as they should have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow we do about 50 less miles and end up in Las Cruces, NM.  Good Night!

 

“As you become a part of Run For The Wall,

the Run becomes a part of you.”

– Bob “Captain America” Nelson

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Southern Route Coordinator News -May 2022 Part 4

RFTW XXXII 2022 RC Newsletter

May,  2022 Part 4

 

 

ONE MORE THINK or 2

Today Ron discovered another Harley Dealer that wants to assist RFTW with service.

He will give a military discount and will prioritize RFTW Bikes. It is in Loma Linda, CA but just a short drive down the 10.

Quaid Harley

25160 Redlands Blvd

Loma Linda, CA 92364

1-909-796-8399

Speak with Joe Pedersen

Reminder – If you are in a 4-wheel vehicle you must travel at least 2 miles in front of or back of the pack.  On Wednesday leaving Ontario, do not park in the staging area.  I suggest you leave right after the Morning All Hands Meeting.  The only exceptions world be the Chase vehicles and the Nurses. 

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Southern Route Coordinator News – May 2022 Part 3

RFTW XXXII 2022 RC Newsletter

May,  2022 Part 3

 

 

This is it, The last Pre-Run list of good things to know.  Some of these you have already heard or should have.

  • You will get a copy of the Southern Route Itinerary when you “Check In”.  Study it. Where you need to be and when you need to be there is all right there.  A LOT of time and effort when into its publication, it is not intended to be a souvenir program.  The best prepared Riders have the least stress. 
    • Every exit is there in Bold and the arrival and departure times also.  Many Riders will write the exit numbers each day on the back of their windshields with a dry-erase marker to keep track
    • Be aware we will cross several time zones.  We lose an hour each time.  Make sure that your timepiece is correct, otherwise you will be late.  Getting a good night’s rest is crucial.
    • Keep your itinerary handy, pay attention at the Mandatory Riders’ Meeting for last minute changes.
  • Don’t forget to check your tire pressure.  It is often overlooked.  Under or Overinflated tires are unsafe.  Recommended tire pressure can be found in your owner’s manual or a sticker inside of a side cover, NOT on the tire.  While you are there, double check the tread all the way around the tires.
  • There are still open spots for the FNG Flag Relay.  You can be a part of this special mission by carrying the folded flag for one leg of the Southern Route Run.  Contact Rod Runyon by email to sign up.
  • One more time, HYDRATE !, HYDRATE !, HYDRATE!

See Y’all Soon. In the words of my cousin Willie, ” Just can’t wait to get on the road again”.

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Southern Route Coordinator News – May 2022 Part 2

RFTW XXXII 2022 RC Newsletter

May,  2022 Part 2

 

Greetings from Snowy Northern Nevada,

Hard to believe, but there is actually snow in the air.  But like the postman or postwoman,  Nothing will stay us from our appointed Route.      Happy Mother’s Day!! 

Today I bring you: More good things to know.

  • We will have Daily Raffles; they will include 50/50 and prizes. The prizes are collected and donated by the Southern Route Riders.  If you have something(s) you would like to donate that is small enough to be carried by the winner, please bring it to Ontario, or wherever you are joining us. 
  • We also have so many wonderful hand-crafted raffle items, including several beautiful quilts, bamboo cutting board and special wooden boxes. The special tickets for these items and others will be sold beginning in Ontario and along the Route.  The drawing for these will be in Wytheville, VA at the Moose Lodge dinner.   You need not be present to win, and larger items will be shipped home for you. Beside an awesome meal, there will be other special items available, so you don’t want to miss out.
  • There will only 400 tickets available to win a commemorative stained-glass panel, that was made and donated by our Road Guard Captain, Bob “Captain” Mazzone, He made one for each of the 4 Routes
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  • We will be visiting with students from 2 elementary schools, 1 middle school and 1 high school. The younger kids love the “trinkets” we bring to give them.   Things like pencils, pens, lanyards, stickers, wrist bands, beads, and pins are all very popular.   I am bringing 2 grosses of special pencils, between Southern and SandBox Routes, I may only have handful left when I am done.
  • Be sure to explore our RFTW Facebook Page  it’s a great place to have some casual conversation also find and share knowledge.
  • Our Merchandise Trailer will be loaded with all manner of RFTW gear. It’s your one stop shop for RFTW Swag
  • Those who ordered the special 20th Anniversary Southern Route T-shirts they will be available for pickup in Ontario and along the Route.  Watch the message board for times and location
  • We also nave a limited number of The 20 Anniversary patches for sale
  • If you are already on the road, Be Safe, watch for loonies they are everywhere

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Flexible and Stay Positive.