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Day Five – Shawnee, OK to Forrest City, AR. 391 miles.

Miles, Smiles, and Tears.

Today, the Midway Route had two simple goals in mind.  We needed to make some serious highway miles, and we needed to make a very special stop to pay honor and give respect to one extremely special Lady.  Both tasks would take a lot out of our Riders, so that is all that we planned for the day.  Here is how it all unfolded.

We started our day in Shawnee, Oklahoma, rested and excited for a perfect day for riding.  It was going to start off a bit chilly but would end up being (almost) hot.  At our morning meeting, our Assistant Route Coordinator PROMISED us that there would be no rain falling on us today.  Well, he didn’t lie!  Instead, we had perfectly blue skies with white puffy clouds floating lazily overhead.  And it stayed that way all day!  Eastern Oklahoma and Western Arkansas is a beautiful region, with long winding roads that curve and twist, rise and fall, going from wide open spaces to tunnel-like forests.  Riding this area is always a joy.  (I am glad that I live in north Texas, because I get to come up here several times a year!)

With perfect weather and roads, I was able to make several runs up and down the pack, getting hundreds of photos.  I am pretty sure that I got at least two, and maybe three photos of each Rider as we headed east on the highway.  One of the perks of being the Route Photographer is that I get to ride far ahead of the pack, looking for a good photo opportunity.  And then I get to enjoy an invigorating ride back to the front of the pack, where I do the process all over again.  Today, picking that perfect spot was pretty hard, because ALL of the spots looked great!

One of the things that I do during each years Run is an informal contest that the Riders don’t even know they are participating in.  Two or Three times during our ride, I will look at all of the Platoons and pick the ones that I think look the best as we travel down the highway.  Today was the first contest, and the winner is … well I am not going to say just yet, because I think that we are ALL winners today.  No, not in the liberal “Everybody gets a participation trophy” way. But in the fact that every platoon looked sharp and in great formation.  (Remember, I get to see the whole pack from overpasses and can look down the long line of over 250 bikes!)  Every time I looked at them, each platoon got better and better.  And Every single Rider seemed to have a smile on their face the whole day!  So you see, we DID all win!

But in the spirit of this little contest, I actually DID pick a few of the best platoons (for today) and my choice was corroborated by a couple of the Road Guards.  So, in Third Place for the Prettiest Formation Riding in a Contest The Didn’t Know they were Competing in” goes to … 4th Platoon!  This platoon has quite a few FNGs in it, but they certainly looked like seasoned RFTW Riders.  At one point I even pulled in beside the Tail Gunner just so I could watch them all “in action.”  Folks, they looked sharp!

Second Place goes to … 7th Platoon!  These are the big, lumbering Trikes that are hard to handle and maneuver down the road.  Several of the Road Guards agreed with me that our Trike Riders are doing an INCREDIBLE job this year.  They are staying in their lanes, keeping their intervals tight, keeping up with the pack, and not doing nearly as much “rubber banding” as they think they are.  Congratulations Trike Riders!  You crushed it today!

First Place is technically a tie for me, but I am going to award a First Place and an Honorable Mention, and I hope you will agree with my reasoning.  The top two Platoons today were the Road Guards and the Missing Man Formation!

The Road Guards are extremely good Riders.  They are vetted before they become Road Guards, and they have all taken Advanced Riding Courses.  They practice together before the Run so that they are all of the same mindset and intense concentration.  They always look good, but today they looked great!  I don’t want them to get a big head or ego, though, so I will chalk it up to the great lighting that we had!  😊

And the Honorable Mention MUST go to the Missing Man Formation because it is the most honorable position that we have on this Mission.  Yes, the MMF has four Riders that rarely change, so they are extremely confident and capable riding together.  The big variable is the Missing Man Escort Rider that changes with each leg of the day.  But in every case, in all sorts of weather and traffic, this formation ALWAYS looks fantastic!

Don’t worry, all of you other Platoons!  I will have another informal contest in a few days, and you won’t know about it until it is over!  I told you when we first started this journey that I would be watching you.  Now you know!

Our primary Mission for today was to pay our respects to a beautiful Lady that none of us really knew very well, but who touched the heart of so many of us last year.

Our lunch stop on Day five is in Russellville, Arkansas.  It is in a beautiful Veterans Memorial Park.  The kindest and warmest people are their to serve us a hearty meal for our bodies, offer up hugs for our reaching arms, and fill our hearts with joy from their enthusiasm, smiles, and Patriotism.  Last year, after serving us a delicious meal, Irene Lintern Taff was walking with “Needy”, our Outreach Coordinator, down a tree-lined path.  They were laughing and talking and enjoying the great day.  Suddenly, Ms Taff stopped, fell over, and had a massive heart attack.  “Needy” immediately called for help, and “Senior”, our Chief Medic, ran the fastest 100 yard dash carrying fifty pounds of medical gear that I have ever seen.  Ms Taff had the best medical care that she could get, and she had it almost instantly.

As Senior worked desperately to save her, some of our Riders created a makeshift “shield” to keep people from watching and to provide Ms Taff with some privacy.  At the same time, several of us gathered in circles of prayer, asking God to hold all of our medics, friends, and Ms Irene in his hands, but to do what he needed to be done.

An ambulance arrived in short order and took Ms Taff to a hospital.  We learned within an hour that she had passed.

Her last tasks on this earth were to serve Run For The Wall, so that we could continue our Mission.  Some of our Riders remembered her laugh, her smile, and even some of the crazy jokes that she made that day.  (Something about scraping up one more scoop of beans for our Head Chaplain!)  Her last moments were spent in the company of new Friends in a lovely location.  I sincerely hope that those thoughts were with her during the ordeal, and that she knew how much we were trying to keep her with us, and that we were doing the best that we could.  I hope she knows how much we cared for her.

Today, one year after that fateful incident, the Midway Route Riders of Run For The Wall dedicated a small memorial plaque that reads:

Irene Lintern Taff
Sept 23, 1941
May 22, 2022

Irene’s dedication to serving
Veteran’s showed through
Her heart and Smile.

Run For The Wall 2022

This plaque rests in a beautiful spot with equal parts sunshine and shade, about 50 feet from where the incident happened.  It is a fitting location for us to pay our respects, and to remember her service and friendship.  Irene is missed by more than her own Family.  She is missed by her Run For The Wall Family, as well.

Once we had honored Ms Taff, we gathered for a meal just like the one she had served us a year before.  There was laughter, there was joy, and there was respect.

As a sign that the “magic of the Run” would continue, I just happened to be walking by a table thqt had information about a Pilot that is Missing In Action over Laos.  At the same time, one of our Riders, Ms Shannon Spake, walked by the table.  I introduced her to the two Gentlemen that were telling the story of their brother, James W. Herrick, Jr.  Instantly, there were tears and hugs between the three of them  You see, Shannon’s Father, Lt Dennis Pike, is also missing over Laos.  These two Families are waiting for an answer on where their loved ones are.  As they shared this special moment, I stepped away to give them some space.  And at that very moment one of our FNG Riders, James Brown, stepped up to the table, looked at the posters and said “That’s the Guy that I am Riding For!  I am carrying his biography!  I rode the Missing Man Formation for Him!”  What timing!  The Herrick Brothers showed up today to keep their brother’s name alive in the hearts of our Riders, only to have two intense connections made back-to-back.  All four of these wonderful people became instant friends.  Again, there were hugs, tears, smiles, and hope.  Our Riders were able to share their experiences with the two brothers that really needed them.  And the two brothers offered hope and love to our Riders.  It was truly a magical moment for all that were there.

We were loath to leave Russellville, but we had commitments in other places.  We had a “leisurely” ride through Little Rock that tested the Road Guards beautiful formation riding skills.  They passed with flying colors, getting us all safely to Forrest City, Arkansas.  We were treated to another wonderful meal and some very good music before we headed off to our hotel rooms.  Our day was filled with miles, smiles, and tears.  Tomorrow will probably be the same, with the same amount of healing for everyone’s hearts.

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
Midway Route Photographer and SITREP Author




If you would like to see all of the “quick edit photos” that I have been posting on Facebook, you can view the entire gallery at:   I will be adding more photos to it each day.   After the Run is completed, I will be editing thousands more photos and posting them to individual day galleries on the same location.

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