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Day Three – Albuquerque NM to Amarillo, TX. 293 miles.

Traditions are important.  They keep us grounded in the past, so that we know where we have come from.  They are shared amongst us all, both old and new, to prove that there is value in what we do.  They are continued, because the passing of knowledge and a common orientation will make sure that our values are available for those yet to come.

The Midway Route is definitely grounded in traditions.  For a Route that is only a few years old, you wouldn’t think that we could even have traditions.  But we do!  All Families do!  From the simplest “daily rituals” during our morning meetings, to the places that we visit each year, the supporters and friends that we look forward to seeing during each Run, to the fun little activities that we do in specific locations, we have built up quite a lot of traditions.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating.  We say the Pledge of Allegiance to our Nations Flag every morning.  We sing our National Anthem every morning.  It is becoming a NEW tradition to also sing “Oh Canada” (The Canadian National Anthem) as we have several Canadian Patriots that ride with us each year.  We welcome our FNG Riders every morning.  We greet each new day with enthusiasm, checking all of our attitudes at the door.  Every Day!

Today saw us continuing two “new” traditions that were first started last year.  We deviated from our highway route to parade through the towns of Moriarty and Tucumcari New Mexico.  The Mayors of both these beautiful cities asked how they could participate and support Run For The Wall, knowing full-well that their towns really couldn’t afford to do much, and that they were not “exactly” on our planned route.  Our Leadership Team made the decision that WE would support THEM, by getting off the highway and driving through their communities, just to show a little patriotism and American pride!  The Citizens of both towns seemed to enjoy or brief visit, and I know that all of the Riders did, too.  I expect that next year, we will see even more people lining the streets of Moriarty and Tucumcari.

Another annual tradition is our visit to the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.  The Blue Hole is a natural spring-fed pond that is over 80 feet deep and maintains a constant 61 degree temperature.  How do we know the temperature?  We have Road Guards jump in and let us know!  Actually, anyone and everyone is invited to jump in and join the fun.  This particular tradition was started on our Routes very first year, when Road Guard Peter Green made the very first plunge.  Every year, “Gearshift” would be followed by a host of others, but Mark ”Mazz” Massman seems to be one of the biggest proponents of “the jump.”  I am not sure who came up with THIS idea, but every new “RIGIT” (Road Guard In Training” has to not only jump in, but also has to swim around the diving buoys.  This year, it was Heidi “Blue”s turn!

We are fed a wonderful lunch after our swim.  The Mayor of Santa Rosa is always on hand to accept our Thanks for all of the work that their volunteers do to get ready for us.  During our presentation of awards, we also get an opportunity to Thank all of the Law Enforcement Officers that lead us through the State.  They do a magnificent job, and we really appreciate them!

Another tradition is a stop in Glenrio, New Mexico.  Not only is it a fuel stop, but they have a wonderful antique car and motorcycle collection for us to view.  Oh Yeah, there is one Family that comes out every year to provide us with free ice cream!  They love doing it and we love them for it!  We look forward to seeing them every year, not just for the treats, but for the smiles, hugs, handshakes, and just good friendly banter.

This is a good time to talk about that dreaded word “free.”  Nothing that we receive during our Mission is free.  Someone has paid for it.  It might not cost US anything, but it certainly cost someone else.  The fuel that we don’t pay for?  Someone has really paid a hefty price this year.  We have teams of people that raise funds for us all year long, in dozens of different ways.  But there are some individuals that want to support us financially every year.  It is THEIR tradition, and we reap the benefits.  We make sure to tell all of our FNG Riders that “free to us was paid for by another.”  When we see a donation or tip jar, we fill it!

And then there is our arrival into Heaven.  I mean Texas!  (Yeah, I am a Texan, and proud of that fact!)  We had another fantastic escort all the way from the New Mexico border all the way to our evening meal stop in Amarillo.  And yes, they gave us a “Presidential Escort” as well.  There is nothing quite like having an interstate highway shut down during rush hour, just for our safety!

Once we arrive at our evening stop, a few more traditions unfold.  Actually, one tradition is to FOLD the giant American Flag that we get to ride under as we approach our parking area.  You have never seen so many eager hands reaching into the sky to make sure that the flag never touches the ground.  And then those same hands gently, lovingly, and appropriately fold that symbol of our Nation with reverence.  The Fire Department and Sheriff’s Department don’t even have to ask us to help.  We almost demand that we help!  And we do it every year!

As I talk about that flag, I need to tell you how impressed that I am with all of our Veterans.  Whenever they see a flag “on the move”, they salute it.  Whenever there is a “posting of the colors”, they salute it.  Whenever they hear the National Anthem, they salute that flag.  They are taught to respect our flag, and it is a lesson that they never forget.

But our flag isn’t the only thing that they respect.  They respect all of our Riders and our Mission.  It is a tear-inducing site to see all of the members of our Fuel Team, Staging Team, Advance Team, and Ambassador Team saluting each rider as we enter a planned stop.  This is THEIR tradition.

They line the streets and entry ways, holding flags and rendering honors to each and every Rider.  These teams that I just mentioned are the hardest working people on our Route.  They are the first to get up in the morning, they stand out in the sun or the rain to make sure we get to where we need to be, they risk getting run into by someone that forgot to put their highway pegs up during a fuel stop, and they need to be continuously looking over their shoulders as they stand in the middle of hundreds of moving half-ton metal beasts.  Our “support” Teams are absolutely amazing, and I thank each of them for what they do for us!

Our last tradition for this day takes place at the Christian Heritage Church.  After we have folded that enormous flag, we walk into an auditorium that is filled with the smell of good ole’ Texas Barbeque!  We have beef ribs, grilled chicken, beef ribs, corn on the cobb, beef ribs, and apple cobbler!  EVERY YEAR!  The food is SO amazingly good that I am thinking of going back just to smell the place again!  (And it is getting late!)

But that isn’t actually the tradition I was talking about.  There is always a “Missing Man Table” set on the stage.  EVERY YEAR!  It represents the Men and Women that are absent from their own home table, and that will not be returning.  Just like our moving Missing Man Formation, no one messes with this table!  We protect it and honor it.  And this year, sitting right next to it, was a Gold Star Mother.  That means that she has lost a Child in defense of our Country.  There is no greater sacrifice, nor anything as heartbreaking as a Parent losing a child.  And yet, there she sat, staring across that somber place setting, watching as we laughed, ate, enjoyed each others company, and just generally having a good time.  What must she be thinking?  What memories must be racing through her mind?  What pain does a gathering like this cause her?

But hopefully she knows how much we honor her, and her Soldier, and her entire Family.  Not just for their sacrifice, but for their stoic attitude and fortitude.  She is not going to let her Son be forgotten, and neither are we!  I hope that she understands that WE care, and that WE want to help ease her pain.  There really isn’t much tat we can do accept to be here and promise that we will never forget her and her son.  Through all of the pain, she must understand.  Because she is here with us.  And she will be here again next year as we renew our promise to her.

Yeah, the Midway Route has a few traditions.

Good Night, may God Bless each of you, and may we all wake to another glorious day of honoring America.

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
Midway Route Photographer and SITREP Author

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