DAY 02 – Thursday, May 14, 2020
Flagstaff AZ. – Albuquerque NM
“This pillow feels so good. I am a little sore from yesterday. I love bacon. I wish those guys would shut off their engines. I mean, it IS 4:30 in the morning. Oh good, they are leaving. WHAT??? They are LEAVING??? I AM LATE!!! CRAP!!!”
Yep! This is how Day Two starts for a lot of people. No, we are NOT leaving you behind. You are in a panic because you didn’t realize that the Advance Team, The Staging Team, and the Road Guards are up this early EVERY morning to go prepare the route for you each day. While you are getting your beauty sleep, the Leadership Teams have been checking and re-checking the plans for the day, and now it is time for them to “get to work.” (A labor of Love!) Still, that momentary panic has got you up, so you might as well finish packing, load up the bike, and go to breakfast. After all, you WERE dreaming of bacon, right?
Day Two of the Run is always interesting. The excitement of the Mission is still very much on the front of everyone’s mind, as is the sense of confusion. Yes, you have started getting used to following the directions of the Staging Crew, you know to look for the Red Hats of the Road Guards, and you have been through three fueling stops. But this is your first day with JUST the Midway Route Riders, and it is time to learn how WE do the Run. (Each of the three Routes are similar, but each have their own little way of doing things.)
The first thing that you will learn this morning is that you probably did not pack the proper clothes. Who knew that Flagstaff would be so cold in the morning? Frost and ice on the bike? Brrrrr! I thought it was HOT in Arizona. (Wait for it! It is coming later in the day!)
The next thing that you will learn is that the first few days of the Run are all about making miles and getting comfortable riding as a large group. You may have ridden in some HOG rallies, or Poker Runs, or even with the Patriot Guard Riders. But RFTW is different. It is almost as if the military has organized a ride, complete with Platoon assignments, strict schedules, and route plans. It is the adherence to that strict schedule that really “drives the Ride”. We have places to go, people to meet, and programs to watch. We HAVE to be there on time, and we HAVE to get there safely. That is why we ride like we do, with the support Teams that we have. Don’t worry about it, though. You will get used to the routine.
Part of today’s schedule is simply amazing, and it makes the cold start and hot desert crossings all worth while. We are going to have lunch with the children at Milan Elementary School! I am going to let you in on a little “secret” of mine: I don’t like kids! But when you walk into this school and hear the students chanting “USA! USA! USA!” and they come running up to you with a hug or to shake your hand, or even to offer you a salute, … well it just warms your heart! These kids aren’t bad after all! In fact, the children at Milan Elementary look forward to our visit every year, and put on a program that gives us all faith that Patriotism is NOT dead in America, and that the next generation of Citizens IS going to have Honor and Respect and Loyalty. The Midway Route is honored to make a financial donation to the school each year, and to offer a special “Challenge Coin” to the Graduates. (Thanks to Rayman Cornmesser for making this an annual tradition!) For the Riders, it is our first chance to experience the excitement of the Run as seen through the eyes of the public. And these children really bring it. I don’t know who gets more out of this visit, the students or the Riders, but both groups will never be the same. Even for an old curmudgeon like myself, THIS is a day that I look forward to each year!
Sadly though, lunch is over all too soon and it is time to go. Just as when we arrived, the children will line the hallways and the parking lot to watch us leave. As the engines rev and roar, so do the cheers! I am already looking forward to next year!
But our day isn’t over yet. There is ANOTHER surprise for the Riders, especially our FNGs. (Fine New Guys/Gals.) Imagine arriving into Albuquerque NM on any given day during rush-hour. Imagine doing that with 300 of your best friends, all on motorcycles. NOW imagine doing that with a Police Escort that CLOSES DOWN THE HIGHWAY so that we can ride through safely! It is an AMAZING sight to see, and is the first of many times this will happen throughout the Run. It’s almost like we are in a parade, with thousands of people watching us as we ride by. Then imagine the site of all of these motorcycles being directed into the parking lot of a Harley Davidson dealership where you can see a giant American flag flying, smell the burgers cooking, and hear a rockin’ band playing!
Today, Day Two, is the day that defines the Midway Route as a Family. We have been “on our own” and found our own rhythm. We have learned valuable lessons from the Youth of America. And now we are having our first “family party.” The pressures of the day are over, we have begun to settle into our routine, our nerves have calmed down (Remember that panic from this morning? Me, neither!), and we are all becoming fast friends. What a great ending to a fantastic day!
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link: