Day four of the Midway Route started COLD! Okay, not as cold as the Central Route, who had about 6 inches of snow. But there is a reason that we are on the Midway Route. We don’t WANT the cold! But we didn’t let the extremely strong side-winds and the cold temperatures deter us from ANYTHING! We ran our day as we always do, although we did decide to change a few things. For example, instead of having a recorded version of our National Anthem, how about we have one of our own very talented Riders sing it for us? I am still trying to find out her name, but let me tell you, even on a cold, blustery, overcast day, This Girl SANG!!! It wasn’t the temperature that gave us the chills. It was her passion and sweet voice! And as usual, someone read a biography about one of our American Service Men that lost their life as a result of their Service. The twist this morning was that the biography was tht of one of our own dear Riders late Husband! I am not mentioning names here, as I want to respect her privacy and maintain the intimacy that our Midway Family shared with her this morning. She did not know that this was going to be read, but we are all so glad that this Families story was shared. It brought us all just a little bit closer!
So with tears in our eyes, we set out for our morning ride. We took great care to make sure that everyone rode safely by going a little slower than usual and advising everyone to be extremely careful with the gusting side-winds. As the Photographer for the Midway Route, I often travel from the back of the pack to the front several times during the day. I have to tell you it is quite a site to see 250 bikes leaning into the wind while going straight down the highway. And it is a little comical to see them all pop up vertical whenever the wind gusts stop for a moment. We all looked like gophers! I do have to apologize to you all for not having any photos of this, though. For once, I opted to ride safe, and put the camera away!
But once we reached our first fuel stop, in Shamrock, Texas, the temperatures were starting to climb a bit and the winds died down just a little. But some of our Riders were still visibly chilled, so our gracious “Refreshment Hosts” took care of them. How does a cup of hot coffee or hot chocolate sound? Would it be better with a fresh, warm, homemade cinnamon roll? It was exactly what we needed for our bodies.
But to warm our hearts, we had each other. As I wandered around “looking” for something to take a photo of, I started listening in on some conversations. (No, I was not eaves-dropping. I just overheard snippits of conversations.) I heard people sharing stories of their Uncle that is Missing In Action. I heard about a battle that took place and when the smoke cleared, two friends found each other and they didn’t know that they were both in Vietnam. There was the story of how two other battle buddies ran into each other a few years ago, after having not seen each other for almost 50 years. (They are both on the Midway Route together!) I was able to forget the cold, because I had such a warm feeling of happiness coursing through me. I can only imagine what it was like for all of these brave Men and Women.
To further warm our hearts, several of us were given the honor of making a “break out” trip to visit a brand-new Veterans Memorial in Weatherford, Oklahoma. How new? It is still being painted. The Artist is still working on it! And right next to this wonderful mural is a half-scale replica of “The Wall” in Washington DC. Our small group was the first to visit here, and also the first to lay a memorial wreath.
But now I want to turn our attention to HEROES! During Run For The Wall, most people talk about our Military Heroes and those who were POW or those still MIA. We know that a 104 year old Veteran of WWII is a Hero before we even ask him what he did in the War. But there are other Heroes that are surrounding us every day. Obviously, our thoughts will turn to our Law Enforcement Officers and Fire/Rescue Personnel. And we SHOULD think of them. But there are also other unsung Heroes. People like our very own Rod Guards. These Guys and Gals risk their lives every day during the Run to keep the rest of us safe. They don’t HAVE to do this, they just think it is their duty. And then there are both our Staging and Fueling Teams. How are they Heroes? Why don’t YOU try standing in a parking lot and have 250 motorcycles descend on you, and you have to direct them to the correct place, while dodging these thousand-pound machines that can literally come at you from any direction. Add in the fact that during fueling, all of the bikes are within inches of each other and just as close to the feet and shins of the Fuel Team. There are hot exhaust pipes to contend with. In the excitement, confusion and (organized) chaos, sometimes a bike gets dropped. Who is there in the midst of this and is willing to step up and help? The Fueling Team!
But again, there are OTHER types of Heroes. There are the Men and Women that go out of their way to feed us, provide some entertainment, tend to our physical needs, and provide comfort to our hearts. Why are THEY Heroes? Because, like the others, this is not something that they HAVE to do. Well maybe they DO have to do this, because it is in the hearts to do so. But when so many others would ignore someone else’s needs, these people step in and take over. That selfless act is something that more people need to do, in my opinion. The World would be a better place if we all pitched in a little bit more, especially when it is needed but not expected. Our Route Coordinator (Ken Dugas aka Six-String) has a philosophy about this and our other Leaders role for the Midway Route. He calls us “Servant” Leaders. We aren’t here to tell you what to do, but instead to help and guide you to where you need to go. Six-String is a Hero, though He would deny it if you called him that. Most true Heroes will deny it.
But there is one other type of Hero that I want to mention. And these are the people that stand on corners waiting for us to Ride by. I am talking about the people that offer their talents as tradesmen that fix our bikes on a moment’s notice, and then don’t charge us anything. It is the Artist that creates a work of art as a tribute to our Service Men. It is the Wife that drives for hours to see you for just one evening. All of these people, the supporters of Run For The Wall, these people that believe in our Mission to Honor our Veterans and Remember our Fallen, that go out of their way to help US get on with our Mission that our True Heroes! We couldn’t do any of this without them, and we Thank You, each and every one of you!
So our day started with cold hands and ended with warm hearts. That is what RFTW does. We take a bad situation and make it better. Whether it is helping a Veteran release the demons they have carried in their hearts for years or “just” telling our government that we want to know what happened to all of our Service Men, and that we want them back! The Riders of Run For the Wall are the type of people that don’t give up. They stand for a principle, and will not back down. They are Patriots, and it makes me a better Man to be associated with them.