MIDWAY ROUTE SITREP
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
DAY 06 – Monday, May 18, 2020
Forrest City AR – Cookeville TN
Get ready, Riders, today is going to be a hot one! All the work we have put into learning to ride together in tight formation will be put to the test. It is going to hard, but the payoff will be incredible. Today we ride through Memphis.
Normally, riding through Memphis is a fun exercise in caution and exhilaration. Do it with 300 motorcycles during rush hour and it is a bit daunting. But this is one of those days where you really see the expertise of your Road Guards, Platoon Leaders, and Tail Gunners come into play. Sometimes with, and sometimes without LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) support, we rely on our Leadership Teams to guide us safely through these congested areas. They will try to keep us all together and safe. (They ALWAYS succeed!) And they will make it look easy while they work! But at the same time, the Riders will now fully understand why we have been riding as we do, and why they have been given instructions every day on how and what we are doing. Today, it all makes sense!
But even with our “traffic battles” we have some fun. We will have lunch provided by the First Baptist Church in Dickson TN. I mention this particular lunch stop for several reasons. First, the people are amazingly friendly. Every year, I am greeted by the same small children (not so small any more!) that recognize and remember me. Second, the food is FANTASTIC! But most important (to me) is the display of American Patriotism that comes from a very unexpected source. And that makes it seem even more prophetic or telling about our great country. As we pull into the parking lot, there is always a group of hard-looking Men watching us from the top of a small hill. They wear black and white striped “suits” and stand away from the crowd. They are inmates from the local jail and prison that have volunteered to come over and set up the tables and chairs for us, and to clean up after we have left. They do not get to eat with us. They do not get to socialize with us. These are simply Men that have made mistakes in their life and are now paying the price for them. But they still feel a sense of American pride and respect, and they WANT to show it. Some of us will ask permission from the Prison Guards to visit with these Men (always granted!) so that WE can Thank THEM. I don’t know who gets more out of this brief exchange, but I know that I have never forgotten the look of gratitude that I receive each time, nor the power of trust and faith that I feel in those handshakes. It is one of my favorite lunch stops. I wish all of those unfortunate Men health, healing, and forgiveness, and I hope to welcome them back into our free society someday.
Who could ask for more on any day? Well don’t ask, … just keep riding. Because tonight we get to Cookeville!
Cookeville Tennessee is more than “just” our overnight stop. It is the Midway Routes “Home Away From home!” And just like anyone coming home after a hard day, we are WELCOMED! This is, without a doubt, our longest parade route. It starts at the interstate exit, with an ENORMOUS American Flag that we pass under. We ride the entire length of the town, passing thousands of spectators, all waving, cheering, honking horns, crying, laughing, and smiling. And THAT is just the Riders! The crowds are even more excited! In fact, there are so many people out to welcome us that the parade route has to double-back into some of the side streets so that more people can see us! Even “Becky The Barber” comes out to greet us! We arrive at our dinner stop, and the party begins!
More good food! More great music! More great programs! More, More, More! We are Home!
But today is also a day where changes can be seen in many, if not most of the Riders. Yes, we have all had the Mission on our minds from the very beginning. But for the past 6 days, we have been hearing stories from each other. Stories of survival, horror, love, sadness, joy, healing, sorrow, heart break, and heroism. Each of these stories starts to change the way we all see each other, and how we see ourselves. We start to understand a little bit about what the other people are going through, and they get to know about our own thoughts and issues. We start to share common threads, and feel empathy with each other. And we begin to reach out with every word and deed to each other, whether we mean to or not, to offer support and understanding. We ARE a Family at this point. We are the Midway Route Family!
I want to share with you a poem written by one of my RFTW Family. It was written at about this time in the Run a few years ago, and it demonstrates how the Mission effects each and every one of us. It was written by a thirteen year old young Lady, that was learning so much from so many. Composed by Serena “Ice Cube” Balderas, it is called “The Soldiers Cross”
Amazing beyond her comprehension stands a statue.
Beautiful rays across the field touch the metal.
A Man stands within the crowd staring at this piece.
Distraught, distant, defeated, deceased goes through my mind.
Gratitude concerning the brave Men and Women who proudly wear our nation’s uniform.
American Patriots have sadly died wearing our nation’s uniform.
Endless upon her imagination flow the emotions through her mind.
Boots, rifle, helmet are the pieces that make you stop and stare.
Heads lowered, shoulders slumped, and Men saluting are part of the pieces of my canvas.
Looking past the crowd I feel a sense of strength:
Strength within our soldiers dedicated to the land of the free.
I lifted my head, looked beyond the light, and saw the Soldiers Cross.
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link: