Posted on Leave a comment

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 1:00 am through 11:00 am 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 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 traveled to our first gas stop where we were met by a contingent of motorcycle LEOs 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 LEOs 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 do 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 for 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 and 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 and through tumbleweeds all the while riding straight but constantly pushing down on our handlebars 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 under enemy fire 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.

Leave a Reply