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Day 1: Ontario to Williams

Welcome to the 2022 Central Route Run For The Wall (RFTW)! I am Redleg. I’ll be bringing you daily reports of the many amazing moments the Central Route experiences on our mission across the country. If you are reading this, you are likely familiar with the mission and history of the RFTW, for those who are not I thought it important to put it here at the start of our journey to focus us on why we ride.

The RFTW Mission Statement
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.

The RFTW Philosophy
We strive to maintain a safe, supportive, and private atmosphere in which all participants can reflect and heal on their journey to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, and the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial in Marseilles, Illinois in the hope they can return home to a new beginning.

RFTW Goals
To guide the participants across America.
To educate future generations on the importance of accountability in wartime actions, emphasizing that no one should be left behind.

Wow, today was amazing!
After a two-year hiatus the RFTW was once again rolling out of Ontario California enroute to Washington DC. The day started early, with last minute registration starting at 0545 and riders from the Central, Midway, and Southern routes staging at the Ontario Convention Center parking lot D for a spectacular sendoff, which started at 0645. Donuts, coffee, and breakfast burritos were graciously donated and handed out by volunteers from local service organizations, the National Anthem was sung, and chills were experienced as about a thousand patriots pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Thank you to the Marine Corps Walking Color Guard from the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow CA for presenting the Colors. As is done every morning, the day was started with prayer, a safety briefing, and several groups of people were honored…FNG’s (Friendly New Guys and Gals), Active-Duty Military, Medal of Honor recipients, Blue Star families (those with family members currently serving), and Gold Star families (those who have lost an actively serving service-member).

It is extremely difficult to describe the enthusiasm of the supporters we encountered on today’s journey. The day was filled with countless hugs, handshakes, laughs, and smiles all exchanged by riders and patriots encountered at our send off and at each of our stops. Supporters waited in the blazing sun to wave flags from overpasses, and city streets welcoming home our veterans and those we ride for. We stopped for gas in Barstow CA, Ludlow AZ, and Kingman AZ. We enjoyed lunch in Needles CA, which was sponsored by the Needles Chamber of Commerce. Upon our arrival in Williams AZ, dinner was provided by the American Legion Post 13. Everywhere we went, patriots of all ages were there to welcome us home and to encourage us as we fulfill our mission.

Needles California
There’s just something about the town of Needles that makes the insane heat there just fade (at least a little) into the background. If one rides away from Needles hungry or unhappy, they’ve missed what Needles has to offer. There are many people we encounter on the run that have spent countless hours in preparation to host our riders for a meal or a gas stop. The first place we stop for a meal is Needles; the people there get us off to an incredible start. Lunch was served in an air conditioned room! I’m not quite sure if I should call our lunch taco salad, or beef nachos with all the fixings. Maybe the best thing to call it was “delicious.” Outside, we were provided with bananas, ice cream, cold drinks, and cooling bandanas to help us across the desert. The entire visit was set to the backdrop of music from not one, not two, but three bands! The music was great, but seeing people still learning to play instruments made me smile. A bit of a side note about me, for my undergrad years I majored in music so the gift of music in the hot sun filled my soul for the remainder of the day’s ride. Thank you Needles for declaring today Run For The Wall Day and for providing such a “warm” welcome. The special tablecloths were really cool!

Williams Arizona
What’s not to like about parading along historic Route 66 in Williams! We entered the city on historic Route 66 from the West and paraded through warmly lit neon in the light of a soon setting sun and the radiant smiles of patriots who waved us into town. Williams is in the desert, but I assure you, there was a bit of rain in many riders helmets. The welcome we received on the streets of Williams was matched by the amazing bar-b-que so generously cooked for us by the volunteers at American Legion Post 13. The meal Post 13 provides always warms both our stomachs and our hearts. If lunch in Needles wasn’t clue enough, it’s at this point in our mission that FNG’s realize they will not go hungry unless they choose to do so. The generosity given to the riders through a labor of love represented in the ample bar-b-q and fixins in Williams paired with the spread at lunch meant no rider was going hungry today and there won’t be anyone hungry going forward either.

In one corner of the room, Post 13 has a solemn reminder of why we ride. It speaks for itself.

Patriotism on the Highways
One of the things that always makes it rain inside our helmets is seeing people who have come from who-knows-where to stand on overpasses and freeway frontage roads out in the middle of nowhere to waive flags in acknowledgement that this is a parade for those who have never received what they were due upon returning from war. Thank you to all who came out to spur us on. One moment that made it rain a bit in my helmet today was when we came upon a trucker who appeared to have broken down on the highway. There was a support vehicle assisting him. As we passed, he stepped toward the highway and held his hand over his heart. In his moment of trouble, he took the time to honor us.

Thank you
It is with sincere heart felt thanks that we express our gratitude to the many people who made today possible. We are so very grateful for the send off from Ontario, lunch in Needles, and dinner in Williams. Your sacrifice is recognized. We will honor it as we continue the mission.

Today’s stats
Miles: 402
Temps started in the high 50’s, peaked at 106, and ended in the mid 70’s.
There were 192 bikes in the main pack, and as always a significant number of riders on all of the support crews.