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CR Day 4, Eagle Nest NM to Limon CO: Servanthood

By all accounts, this should feel like a short day. But tonight this writer is rather tired. I’m sure many if not all of the riders are in similar circumstances. Day four is in the books. So far, the Central Route has traveled roughly 1400 miles crossing about 1/3 of the country.  This day, last year, I wrote of a snow day where an impromptu overnight in Raton due to forest fires, turned into planning the Central Route out of the harm of a snowstorm. That day we bypassed Pueblo and Fountain opting for a more direct route to Limon free from snow.

Today was much different and the wait was worth it. Thank you, Pueblo for opening the doors of the Praise Assembly church building where Chik-fil-A was served to a hungry hoard of riders. The comments I received were all made through wide grins and thumbs up!  The fine folks in Pueblo made our stay very welcome. They not only served a welcome meal, but they also had a hydration vehicle that rivaled our own by serving soft drinks, Gatorade, and water. And the volunteers? I think I skipped right over them. I’m so sorry!  The volunteers walked the parking lot and the main indoor space with bags collecting trash. What we saw today in Pueblo is servant leadership. Everyone there took on the role of Servant willingly. They did this to recognize the “service” of our veterans. This wasn’t just lunch, it was a gift of servanthood very easily overlooked because it was done so well.

Mack Ward, one of our FNG’s had his family drop by. What a cute grandbaby girl! Congratulations Mack!

Also, I found a willing participant to pose with Squatch. I’m hoping Papa Smurf doesn’t face any backlash from his Smurf friends but Squatch does suite you.

I got ahead of myself chronologically there but it seemed appropriate to speak of the servanthood on display in Pueblo first.  Something about how they walked the parking lot seeking out ways to help stirred my heart to gratitude. What they expressed for the riders wasn’t better than what is received anywhere else. It just hit me harder today.  Limon and Eagle Nest also demonstrated servanthood. In Eagle Nest, we were blessed with breakfast at the Senior Center by faithful volunteers who served us with joyfulness despite the very early morning they faced to do so. In Limon, about 20 volunteers served us dinner at the school cafeteria. All of the little things each volunteer did to create the effort of the whole that we riders received are acts of servanthood. All of them appreciated and noticed. Thank you.

This morning in Eagle Nest some Run For The Wall magic happened!!  Each day Lance, our RaffleRouser holds a 50/50 drawing.  Riders buy tickets for a set price and one lucky winner gets half of the funds collected. The remainder is collected to donate, most likely to Rainelle, but there are other schools and organizations we contribute to through the Ambassador and Outreach teams.

When the winning number was called, the value of the half won was $136.  I do not know the backstory but the rider who won the money gave it to the Grandson of the leader of the Chamber of Commerce.  The young man appeared to be in the range of nine years old to me, but I’m way past having children that age and am not a good judge. Regardless, the boy is young, he’s just been given $136 bucks.. Now what?  He said thank you and we all thought it was over; nope not by a long shot.  A few minutes later the young man returns half of the half as his own donation to the monies we are collecting every morning. Wow! What a heart of gold this young man has. Mom and Dad, you have done well.  But just like a good infomercial, “There’s more!”.  I am uncertain of who had the idea but it grew legs very quickly. Word spread throughout the rider’s morning meetings to give the boy one dollar each. The money came pouring in, the boy was found, and the new amount given to him in the form of a huge wad of cash was over $400.  The pay-it-forward mentality of giving selfishly raised money for Rainelle, and then went above and beyond that to teach a young man the lesson of generosity.

I really want you to read my Q&A with Tommy “Two Chains” featured next, but if you came here just for photos and video, you can scroll to the bottom. However, please do come back and give the Q&A a read. I was blown away at how much our Chase Team does for us.

To finalize this day’s post, I’m going to feature our Chase Team Leader Tommy “Two Chains”.  Why this day? Well, I didn’t land on a truck but I did find myself riding my own ride behind Tommy’s “last man” vehicle. If a rider taps out of their position in the pack, there is no returning to that position until the next stop. I tapped out and quickly rejoined the pack, but I had to adhere to the rule so there I was, thinking about Tommy and his crew who work so very hard to provide a tow and a receptive ear to a rider in need when a mechanical issue finds them on the side of the road.

Here is a Q&A session I conducted with Tommy a few months back in anticipation of adding it to a daily SitRep. I met Tommy for the first time last year. If you’ve not yet met him, I encourage you to do so. Tommy has a deep heart.

Q. When did you start leading the team?
A.  I lead the team for the first time last year.

Q. What roles did you fill for the Run prior to leading the team?
A. I started as a Chase truck driver in 2017 and filled that role again in 2018 and 2019.   Each year I hauled 25-30 bikes.

Q. Have you always loved being around bikes and Veterans?
A. I have ridden bikes and have not always been involved with Chase Trucks. I was almost killed in an industrial accident and tried to ride again after surgeries but it is no longer possible for me.

Q. Tommy, are you a Veteran?
A.  Yes, I am a Marine. My skill set was that of Ground Support Electrician for an F4 Phantom Squadron. I enjoyed the job but in the Marine’s everyone is an infantryman first.

Q. Have you served during any of the Nation’s conflicts?
A.  I served during the Vietnam War.m War

Q. Tommy, thank you for your service as a Marine in Vietnam. And thank you for leading our Chase Team. About how many miles does a chase/last-man truck drive on a typical run across the country?
A. In 2022 I logged 7100 miles. That is roughly 3,100 miles during the Run itself and the remainder getting to and returning from the Run

Q. What hours do you and your teams keep?
A. Ideally, we have no mechanical issues and do not have to stop, but that isn’t a reality. Our goal is always to take bikes forward. Doubling backward adds miles. Sometimes catching up to the group is many hours after the pack arrives. One time I arrived at 11:30 pm.  That experience was extreme. The Last Man vehicle is always with the pack working with the Road Guards to manage the traffic that backs up behind such a large group of bikes. The Chase trucks typically get caught up in the traffic behind the pack and find themselves arriving up to an hour or more behind the pack’s arrival.

Q. How do you manage such a large task?
A. First it is due to the great team that helps me. Without the Chase Truck Drivers themselves, this team would be no help to anyone. The thanks go to them. Second, I have an exhaustive list of dealers and contacts who can help us as we travel across the country. I reach out to each of these between runs and within a short period before the run to be sure they can be counted on if we have a rider in need. The book contains Dealer locations by the manufacturer; Honda, Harley, Indian, BMW, and others. For each, I have the address, phone number, and the days and hours of operations.

Q. While there never is a good time to break down, is there a “worst” time to break down?
A.  Sundays and Mondays are the worst. Most Dealers are closed for the weekend on these days. From Columbia to Wentzville there are few Dealers available and the stretch from Limon to Junction City is nearly void of open Dealers.

Q. Is there any Run For The Wall magic that you’ve seen happen to help a stranded rider?
A. Yes, the Harley Dealer in Hayes KS. Police helped reach the HD Dealer to support bike dropoff. The entire HOG chapter was there waiting on the trucks and several mechanics were waiting with the garage doors open. These folks helped the rider get back on the road with great sacrifice to themselves and with extremely short notice. Hayes is no longer in business. It was lost during Covid. Now the son owns Doeflers Moto Shop and the shop across the street, BJ’s, are both available to assist us on Sundays.

Q. What is the easiest way to keep from being towed? I.e. the most common dumb mistake you see that lands a bike on a trailer.
A. Do not run out of fuel. The most common issue is fuel related.

Q. What would you like riders and supporters to know about your Chase Team?
A.  Reimbursement is provided for fuel costs during the run, but many or most times drivers miss scheduled meals with the pack. Then there is wear and tear on vehicles and trailers. The cost of towing is crazy expensive. Nobody will ever ask, and frankly, it isn’t expected, but you would really make a driver’s day if you were to tip him.  You can also talk to the Chase truck drivers to coordinate the towing of your bike to Ontario or from Washington DC.  A driver with a full trailer before and after the run can have a lot of his travel expenses covered.

Q. Do you have any last words?
A. Riders, we are here for you, but you are not entitled. There are so many people involved here. The chase team themselves and all the dealers and support staff at those facilities go above and beyond to get riders back on the road after hours and on days when they would normally be closed. This is done willingly to support your healing, support your having come back from war and are dealing with PTSD. They are here for you. Remember that all those who are serving you are your equal but should be treated even better than you’d like to be treated. You cannot complete the run without the many people who serve to make your experience possible.

I’ve said a little about a lot of things today and I’ve provided you some photos and even a video of some of Central Routes experiences. In all, it was a great day. Patriotism, respect, servanthood, and kindness were in full bloom and shared with us freely.

I enjoyed the massive flag raised over the road and Riders in Raton so much that I decided to take you all on a stroll with my 360 camera.  You can move the video image any direction you like. You can turn the perspective to the sky as I cross under the flag, you can turn it to the left and right to see the faces of the riders and you can turn it to see Nick our Assistant Route Coordinator ask me where Paul our Route Coordinator can be found. “At the front!”.  The other random conversations may cause you to chuckle, but wow, look at that flag!

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