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Day 03. Midway Route. Albuquerque, NM to Amarillo, TX

Mea Culpa!


I have to start off this SITREP with a huge apology to all of the Midway Route Riders.  Yesterday, I ended our SITREP by saying we would have a “splash of fun.”  I was referring to our annual lunch stop at the “Blue Hole.”   I hadn’t checked the forecast when I wrote that, and it rained ALL DAY today!  So I will own it!  I made the mistake!  I will try not to do that again!

Okay, you may have figured it out: we got wet today.  It was raining pretty hard when we woke up, but at least it was a balmy 44 degrees.  (Sarcasm, just in case you didn’t get it.)  Yep.  Cold and wet, for most of the day.  Just when we thought we were getting out of it, another band of “bad” weather would roll in.  But the Midway Route doesn’t stop just for some cold rain.  We are on a Mission, and we will keep to our schedule.

“The weather started getting rough.  Our tiny bikes were tossed.  If not for the courage of our fearless Road Guards, the Midway might get lost.”

Okay, it wasn’t that bad.  It just seemed like it for a few miles.  Our Road Guards were amazing, though.  Even when we had (very) limited visibility, they were still out there doing their jobs of keeping us on time, on schedule, on the right roads, and keeping us safe from other traffic.

The work that these dedicated volunteers do is so hard to describe.  They are the first up and (almost) the last to bed.  They know every turn and exit on our entire route, and have an incredible system for dispatching an RG to a specific exit or ramp.  If you are listening on the CB radio, you might hear our Road Guard Captain say something like “Psycho … 239.”  What he has just done is tell Psycho (that’s his road name) to go and control exit or ramp number 239. Or you might hear him say something about a “push team.”  These are the Road Guards that help “push” merging traffic over to the leftso that we can safely merge onto the highway.  If you hear someone announce “Mazz is back in the nest.”, that simply means that Mazz has finished his assignment, made his way back up to the front of the pack (not an easy feat in itself), and has rejoined the pack of Road Guards, ready to be deployed again.

Each member of our Road Guard Team is an extremely accomplished Rider.  They take advanced rider courses every two years, at a minimum.  Some take that course and more, EVERY year.  We have some “Certified Escort Riders” as well.  That is a WHOLE other level of professional riding.  I have been honored to ride as a Road Guard for a couple of years, and I have seen these Guys and Gals in action. They are simply the best at what they do that you will ever find.  They are also pretty nice people, as well!  Every time I get to meet up with them , whether out front of the pack or at an intersection, I am amazed at how they handle each situation, and even more happy that I get to “play with them.”  The nicest thing that they have said to me this year was yesterday, when they caught up to me right before our last fuel stop.  I heard “Pipes” on the radio saying “Hey!  We found a Hoofer!”  Thanks Pipes!  That made my day!

Y’all be sure to go hug a Road Guard tomorrow.  Tell them that Hoofer sent you!

But let’s get back to the rain again, just for a little while.  As cold as it was, and as miserably wet as some of us felt, I overheard a couple of Riders saying that at least we could get inside, warm up, and dry off every once in a while, unlike the POWs that we are riding for.  That simple statement made me forget my own discomfort for a bit, and reflect on what that rider had just said.  WE ARE lucky.  What do you think some of those POWs would have given to be on a motorcycle riding through wet cold rain, with the promise of warmth, safety, and food waiting for them?  How could we complain about such a temporary affliction?  We KNOW there will be an end to our “suffering.”  They did not.  I was so proud of our Riders for the attitude they displayed today.

And it wasn’t just the weather that has been mentioned.  A few days ago, our lunch stops were being discussed.  One Rider asked what we would generally be served, and without any hesitation, someone said “It doesn’t matter.  It will be the best meal that you have ever had!  And if it isn’t up to your liking, just think of what a POW might have to eat.”

These kind of conversations happen on a daily basis, with every Rider that I have encountered.  No matter what is going on, someone always brings it back to our Mission of honoring, serving, and remembering our Veterans and POW-MIAs.  The Midway Route Riders really focus on our Mission, and don’t hold back on their emotions or dedication.  I am so pleased to be a (small) part of this group!

But after all of that riding in the rain, it was time for that “splash of fun” that I mentioned yesterday.  Our lunch stop is at the “Blue Hole” in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.  This watering spot is an 81-foot deep spring fed pool that has a beautiful blue color.  One of our Midway Route traditions, started by a Road Guard named “Gear Shift” and faithfully carried on by “Mazz” is to jump into the pool, wearing full Road Guard gear!  As an enthusiastic crowd of four looked on, Mazz took the plunge!  Traditions: Check!  Good job Mazz!  I am proud of you!  (I would have joined him, but I was carrying a bunch of cameras, you know, and I didn’t want them to get wet.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)

It wasn’t long after lunch that the sun broke through the clouds and it turned out to be a pretty nice afternoon.  In fact, it was so nice that when we stopped at our last fuel stop for the day, we went in for ice-cream!  The Midway Route Riders LOVE their ice-cream!  We actually go to several places that serve up really good and big scoops.  So all of you FNGs, if you see the Road Guards hurrying into a store en-masse, follow them!  There may be something yummy waiting for you!  And to show you their generosity, a couple of them threw down some money today and started a tab for anyone that wanted a cone.  I’m telling you, our Road Guards are the BEST!

Outside of the “Russel’s Travel Center” on Route 66 (just outside of Glenrio, NM), there is always a beautiful Family of Veterans waiting to greet us.  They give us (more) ice-cream, some flags, bandanas, small medical kits, sunscreen, water, hats, shot glasses, and a score of other little items, just to thank US for making this Mission.  They do all of this from their own pocket, and don’t accept anything other than a hug as “payment.”  It is WE who should be thanking THEM, and we do!  I look forward to seeing them every year.

Eventually, we made it to our final stop of the day: Amarillo, Texas.  (I always breathe just a little better under my big Texas Skies!)  The Christian Heritage Church puts on a spread that is unrivaled!  Smoked and BBQ’d ribs, smoked chicken, cole-slaw, potato salad, apple cobbler, sweet tea!  Oh, I am making myself hungry again!  But as good as it is (and trust me, it is GOOD!), that isn’t the best part of the evening.  There is always some sort of a small ceremony or presentation to keep our minds focused.  This evening, we heard a beautiful rendition of our National Anthem by an equally beautiful Young Lady.  She didn’t screech out the words, or try to impress us with some amazing range of high notes.  She just sang it the way it was intended, and let her angelic voice wash over us.  The roar of applause when she was finished wasn’t just for the Anthem, but for her respect of that anthem.  She didn’t need any vocal gymnastics to impress us.  (But I bet she COULD hit those notes.  She was very good.)  She also sang “Amazing Grace” at the end of our evening.  It was so nice to hear.

Part of the presentation was to hear a few words from a “Gold Star” Family member.  Donna Hogue lost her Husband in Vietnam back in the late 1960’s.  She has dedicated her life to making sure that other Gold Star families don’t have to go through the same anguish that she did, by becoming an advocate for Family rights.  All of the Gold Star Family members that I have met seem to k now her, and they hold her in the highest esteem.

So what did she do for us this evening?  She had made a quilt that she said could be given to someone, or used as a prize for a raffle, or anything that we wanted to do with it.  She had barely gotten the words out of her mouth when a bidding frenzy started!  Donna’s quilt brought in $450 dollars in less than a minute!  Ms Hogue, I think you could start taking orders for these!  Thank You for the beautiful quilt donation, but more importantly, thank you for your sacrifices throughout the years.  Your husband, and YOU, will not be forgotten.

And with that, Folks, our day has ended.  There was more that happened, I am sure, but I don’t have those stories to tell you yet.  (The Outreach Team has been very busy!  I may have to dedicate an entire SITREP to what they are doing!)  If you would, please say a prayer for good weather and safe travels for all of our fabulous Midway Route Riders.  We still have a long way to go.


Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
Midway Route Photographer and SITREP Author

Follow this link to see some photos from today’s journey.  Be sure to check back after the Run for more!

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