I had heard about Run For The Wall from my fellow Legion Riders, but for nearly three years after leaving the Navy I could barely walk, much less ride any significant distance. In 2014, I followed my brother John “Opie” Picray, Paul “Bugle Boy” Hobbs and David “Duke” Bentley west, in my sedan with my civilian sister in the passenger seat, as we all headed for California. We promptly became the group baggage wagon.
We joined the Run in Rancho Cucamonga, CA and I proudly pinned my FNG button on my vest. The next ten days were emotionally turbulent, to say the least. I left every Run stop either ahead of the pack (preferably), or way behind it so as not to get fouled in the following traffic. Consequently, I missed a lot of the experience of the Run that year. I swore I would never “cage it” again. Two crucial parts of my experience were great, however. We camped nearly the entire trip, and I made several friends! And Rick “Dragger” Behymer proudly carried me into Arlington on his passenger seat.
After physical therapy, I realized riding my motorcycle worked out the same muscles, and I embarked on a personal mission to avoid having to do those nasty exercises again. As a result, I was able to ride further than ever before. I made plans to redo my FNG experience on two wheels in 2015 with a Navy sister, who would be going for her FNG Run. We were so excited! We rolled out half a day behind schedule, headed for Ontario, CA. That last day of travel was brutal! We rolled for nearly 18 hours, from Gallup to Ontario. Finally, we arrived just in time for a few hours’ sleep Tuesday morning.
My friend was on a trike, so she was in a different platoon than I was. Electing for a staggered platoon, Eamon “Boomer” Tansey put me in Platoon 7 under Brush’s capable leadership. I would learn later that all my friends from 2014 were in Platoon 8. Day Six from Wentzville, MO to Corydon, IN, I tapped out because I was too sleepy to safely ride with others. Leaving the ramp in Evansville, IN, I was trailing the pack when we rolled past a trike flipped into the median. Don’t Stop! Keep rolling, get out of the way! I spent the next 82 miles praying it wasn’t my friend, and that whoever it was would be ok.
When I got to Corydon, IN, I had a voicemail from my friend’s husband that it had been her, and that she was in the hospital and he was on his way there. The chaplains mobbed me the second I got off the phone, and my camping friends (especially “Bounce”) took it from there. I put on my best military bearing, ate my dinner as quickly as I could, and set up camp. The next morning, it hit me hard. I was a basket case. Everybody says they have problems with “darned allergies” on the Run; not me. I was crying my eyes out inside my helmet at 65mph. Again, not safe for others to ride with, so I trailed the Pack again.
When Platoon 7 (consisting mostly of HD’s) went 2 up, and decided to become a side-by-side platoon, my little Honda Shadow 750 couldn’t quite manage it due to the difference in gearing, so I transferred to Platoon 8, the “Crazy 8’s” with my camping friends. What a difference! 7 was good to me, but 8 was like family! Thanks to Brush’s daily instruction, I had no problems at all keeping my intervals in a group of mostly metric bikes. We rode proudly into DC at a 2 foot interval, shifting like mad several times per minute! I learned the hard way not to ever again buy gloves that had a seam across the thumb pad.
When we got to the host hotel, one of the bartenders kindly let me bury my left hand in an ice pan.
I’m glad I went in the sedan in 2014, since it taught me what to expect, but I probably won’t cage it again, if I can help it. I much prefer being part of the Pack! By the end of the 2015 Run I was living on 5 hour energy shots and Black Black caffeine gum, but it was glorious agony. I came home and slept for a week. It took another week to get most of the feeling back in my hands!
My brother has described the Run as a pilgrimage, and that’s exactly what it is: it is sacrificing the comfort of normal life, enduring sometimes harsh weather, and jumping out into The Unknown. It is also a Mission: learning to trust yourself and your machine, covering the flank of the rider next to you against traffic, and trusting the riders around you to do the same.
When it all comes together, seeing your platoon stretching out in front of you, sweeping through curves in that one gloriously perfect moment of synchronized harmony. It is a sight that will imprint itself directly on your heart. It will also put the biggest grin on your face to remember it when you get home, show up in sweatpants around other motorcyclists, and get asked, “Do you ride?”
I don’t just ride anymore, I Run!