MIDWAY ROUTE SITREP
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
DAY 07 – Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Cookeville TN – Asheville NC
Today is a short mileage day that is filled with fun and some great riding. In fact, to the casual observer, we may just be a “large group of bikers going for a ride.” We obviously know better than that, as our Mission is always on our mind. But today is a day to relax just a little bit and recoup our strength for the days ahead.
With no “pressing” time table to keep, we can get up a little later. That extra sleep helps us breath a little easier, to smile a little more, to laugh a little louder, and to enjoy some extremely scenic roads with lots of twists and turns. It is a good day to be a Rider with RFTW! Everyone just seems to be in a much lighter mood than the day before. Was it our Welcome into Cookeville that did it? Was it the knowledge of fewer miles? Is it that we are just all so familiar with each other by now that we can take everything in stride? Or is it a combination of all of these?
Whatever the reason, it is a FANTASTIC day. How often do you see Chaplains clowning around? How about the Route Coordinator making jokes during the morning meeting? For some reason, my Buddy “Mazz” always seems to have a little bit more fun on this day during the morning safety meeting. (Sometimes we try to mix him up with new commands or situations, but he always comes through!) I just can’t tell you how happy the whole group is on this day, every year. It’s always a magical day!
It’s also generally pretty hot! By the time we get to our lunch stop in Knoxville, people are ready to cool down a bit. If ONLY there was a fountain nearby for the Road Guards to splash in! Wait, … there IS? WooHoo! LET’S GO! Yep! We are wet again! So is Gunny Gregory, our RFTW Founder. “Boots” jumps in, along with “Fly Girl” and “Jet Man.” Someone even talked the Photographer (Me!) into running through last year. WOW! That water was cold! But we are having so much fun!
But that’s not to say we aren’t taking the Run and our Mission seriously. Our lunch gathering spot has a wonderful memorial to all of the local boys that have gone off to war, going all the way back to the Civil War. In fact, this location is the very site of the old railway where many of the Boys from both World Wars boarded onto trains to head out: many of them to never return. It is a sobering thought to think of all of them, and to read the list of names carved onto the white granite columns. Once again, we are reminded of the terrible price that freedom costs.
Last year, I had a very personal reminder of that cost. And it was given to me by the sweetest young special-needs Lady that I have ever met. I am pained that I will not get to see her this year, but my hope is that she will be waiting for me next year in 2021. Here is what I wrote about her from last year:
As I was wandering around, taking photos of all the fun, I saw a special-needs young lady. Actually, she timidly reached across a fence railing and lightly touched me on my sleeve. She wanted to thank me (us) for remembering our Veterans. But she really wanted me to remember her Grandfather who fought in WWII. She told me all about him, and some of the stories that he had told her. She apologized for crying because she “isn’t a little girl.” I cried with her and said that it was okay. I asked for her Grandfathers name and she hugged my neck and whispered into my ear “His name was Walter Fuller, and my name is Molly.” Well Molly, I will remember your Grandfather, but I will remember your warm smile and hug far longer than I will his name. And so will all of the other people who’s heart you touched today.
Folks, it isn’t just the Soldiers that pay a price for their service. It is their Families, too. For young Molly to think so highly of her Grandfather and his service that she just HAD to come out and share his story with us proves to me that RFTW IS doing the right thing. Our Mission states that we are here for the Veterans AND their Family and Supporters. That includes Molly, and all of the other Grandchildren of our “Greatest Generation” that can’t comprehend the horrors that the world endured. THIS IS WHY WE RIDE, TOO!
After leaving Knoxville, it is time for some more fun riding through the countryside. We will stop for an afternoon snack that features ICE-CREAM! I have never seen “Pipes” (one of our Road Guards) run so fast, so that he can get in the front of the line! (He beats me every year!). Back on the road, the sweeping curves are nice and gentle, even in nice formation riding. The hills and valleys are cool and shady after all of the heat this morning. The tunnels are … Oh yeah, we have a tunnel! Get ready for it! Here we go! 350 motorcycles in the tunnel with engines roaring! Standing outside the tunnel waiting to take pictures of the emerging Riders, I can actually FEEL them coming before I hear them, and that is LONG before I see them! Just like a dog always hangs his tongue out when he rides in a car, a Biker will always rev his engine in a tunnel! I LOVE this day!!!
Eventually we will arrive in Asheville North Carolina, for more food, fun, and fellowship. Today we rested and relaxed. Tomorrow, we have more children to visit, and the realization that our Mission is coming to a close starts to set in. But that is for tomorrow.
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link: