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Day 5, Shawnee to Forrest City

Do you remember the tornado warning a couple years ago in Shawnee that made us all evacuate to the lower floor in the middle of the night?  Well, no such warning last night thankfully.  The weather was great today.  It looks like there might be weather tomorrow, but we will wait and see what miracles we receive today before making any predictions.

After packing and breakfast we gathered in the Walmart parking lot for a short worship service.  Our chaplain gave a very encouraging talk about Our Savior.  He died for us on the cross and His blood can save us from our sins if we will take Him into our life and let Him take control.  I believe that is possible.  He gave His life for us and wants to save us, if we will let Him.

Bandit spoke to the Platoon Leaders and emphasized that we need to be examples to our riders.  We need to treat others with kindness and respect, especially all those at our venues and hotels.  He said that everything we do and say reflects back on Run For The Wall and we need this reflection to be a good one.  He also said that if we cannot do that then perhaps we should not be on Run For The Wall.  I could not agree more.  Attitudes do not belong on Run For The Wall.  Please leave them at home.  Keep a rational head on your shoulders at all times.

Our platoon gained a couple more riders this morning, so we covered some the bases with them.  I then handed each one a coin that I wanted them to keep with them when they ride, so they will remember that I want them to always ride safely.  Sort of a safety first coin.

It was raining a little when we first gathered and everyone was in raingear anticipating more, but our Chaplain prayed for a miracle for us and for the clouds open a path if possible so we could ride safe to our destination.  What a blessing it turned out to be.  It was a little cool, but soon we rode out from under the clouds and it warmed up, so that by the time we reached Sallisaw, OK we were a little toasty in our raingear.  It all immediately came off when we arrived.  The welcome into town was tremendous.  There was a large American Flag hanging from a fire truck over the road and the truck had its siren going as we pulled in for another sponsored fuel stop.  Thanks again.  Dennis Okie-D Freie the Oklahoma State Coordinator pulled out all the stops.  The people there at the gas stop were warm, inviting and happy for us to visit again.

Then, another welcome, LEO escort.  Our next fuel stop was only a short distance, and again it was sponsored.  So far I think all of our fuel stops have been sponsored.  Practically like being paid to ride a motorcycle.  Can you think of any better Job?

On a personal note: It appears to me that most of our FNGs have become rather adept at riding in formation.  I think my platoon has improved a great deal.  No one seems to be nervous about riding up close to one another or next to someone.   I think that’s great.  Then of course it helps increase the safety factor for sure.  It doesn’t mean that you are safe rider now, more like a positive change in your confidence to ride has occurred.  Some of our riders have told me that our riding tips and morning instructions have helped them become better riders.  I hope that is so.  I’d say, ride with confidence, but also ride with awareness.  Like I tell them, please don’t use your brakes if you can avoid it, but use your gearing to slow you down.  Then again, be ready to slam on the brakes if you have to.  Got a few chuckles for that.

Soon we exited Oklahoma and entered Arkansas where LEO teams swapped around and the escort continued.  We were on our way to the little city of Ozark and then to the VFW Post 8532 in Coal Hill, OK.  This was a nice change since most of our riding has been on the “slab” as we call the interstate.  I thought the narrow sweeping roads were a welcome change.   The scenery was nice through Oklahoma; green rolling hills and trees with occasional sweet smell of wild flowers.  This continued in Arkansas.  Here we are under the direction of a different State Coordinator Amanda “Fogline” Kennedy.  She did an amazing job managing our transit through her amazing state.   The ride into the VFW was gorgeous.  What a beautiful day were blessed with.

The Staging, Fuel, Road Guard and Ambassador Teams were all at the entrance of the VFW and saluted when we arrived.  Very sharp and very professional!  They do the same thing at our other venues. We love these guys and gals on all our teams.  The welcome by the VFW members was also wonderful.  The food is always great, but the BBQ chicken was to a special treat, nice n smoky, sweet, savory taste that made your mouth smile big.  Pass the napkins please.   Some special presentations were made and we thanked our gracious host and all the workers, because like Bandit says, “We cannot do this ride without them; they are our family”.

Then we were given 10 minutes until we had to depart.  We were off again to our next fuel stop in Maumelle and then to Forrest City and the Ridgewood Baptist Church.  A couple years ago it was pouring rain here, but this year it was almost pouring rain.  I say almost, because it wasn’t.  A couple riders had noticed and voiced on the CB that their GPS radar image of the storm we were approaching was mostly north of I-40 and maybe we would miss the worst of it and we did.  Again I say, thank God for His traveling mercies and thank our Chaplain Corps for asking Him for them.  We were assisted into Forrest City by our road Guards.  They were positioned between each platoon to help guide us into town and we needed them. The transitions from I-40 to our route into town were hairy and with all the congested traffic, something could easily have gone wrong, but didn’t.  Again, I say thank God for helping us be safe.  Certainly his guiding hand was upon us, watching out for us and keeping us safe.  As we approached our exit from the highway I said, “it smells like fried chicken, we must be close to Forrest City”.  I hope someone smiled at least.  When we arrived at the church, members were there to greet us with open arms.  The food was great just like last year, fried chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, rice, green beans, biscuits and desert.  Their pastor offered a blessing and we ate.  We were treated to some songs by a professional singer.  We loved his song choices and he had a wonderful voice.  We stood and sang along to “God Bless The USA” by Lee Greenwood.  I was moved to tears. After several plaque presentations a closing prayer was offered and we departed to our hotels.

On a side note: You remember last year being introduced to Mr. Patriot, Michael J. Hill.  He has monitored the Run For The Wall website and FaceBook page as well as these Sitreps and he anticipates our arrival in Cookeville to see us again this year.  Being deaf however, he will not hear your horns so I would ask instead for you to flash your lights at him when you see him.  You can’t miss him.  Remember he is the guy that will be waving an American Flag and wearing Red, White and Blue.  Say “Hi” to him.  I understand saying “hi’ in sign language is pretty similar to a salute.  With your hand up to your temple in the form of a basic salute extend it forward.  So when you see Michael, say “Hi”.

Day 5 is in the books.  The run is half over.  Does it seem like it is already? There’s still a lot of great stuff ahead.

“We Ride For Those That Can’t”

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 5 Leader / Midway Route SitRep Writer

I’d appreciate your comments.  For those that have emailed me their comments, my thanks and my love to you all.