Midway Route – Day 9 –Fayetteville, NC to Ashland, VA
May 23, 2019. ??? miles.
Today was another emotion-filled day. The same as all of our other days, but yet completely different. I never know what the day is going to be like until it unfolds. This morning, I had no idea how the day would end. Let me tell you about it.
The day started with the reading of a “bio” of a fallen or missing soldier. “Pitch” got on the stage and started reading the events that lead up to the death of a US Airman. Pitch read how the Pilot had just successfully completed his mission, when there was a loud “thud” and the plane started to fall apart. The Pilot was able to maneuver the plane out over the sea, but was not able to control it. He ordered his crew to eject, and they made it out of the doomed aircraft with “minimal” injuries. The pilot was not seen to eject as the plane made a high-speed spiraling dive into the ocean. Pieces of the wreckage were found, as were bits of personal gear from the Pilot. He was pronounced KIA-BNR. (Killed In Action, Body Not Recovered.) Pitch stoically read the events of this pilot, breaking down in tears part way through the reading. You see, the Pilot was his Father.
THIS IS WHY WE RIDE!
As we departed from our morning meeting, I prepared myself for a somber day. The skies were gray and overcast, so my mood was a little dark. But we had been assured that we would enjoy our first stop of the day at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. As we approached the base, we could see some fighter jets practicing flight training in the distance, so I thought “Maybe we will have a short air show.” Well, we pulled into the base and proceeded to parade around in a long column of twos. It was pretty cool to have so many active duty service Men and Women come out to greet us! But then the fire truck that was leading us kind of wound through the back areas of the base. (When you see a sign that says “Don’t pass explosive laden vehicles” you kind of realize that this isn’t where the public generally goes!)
Soon, we made a sweeping turn onto an enormous piece of concrete, and I noticed the tell-tale signs of an airport taxi-way. “This will be neat! We will get to ride down the flight line!” Nope! WE RODE DOWN THE MIDDLE OF AN ACTIVE RUNWAY!!! Our bikes stretched for a mile and a half right on the center line, and then we stopped … and waited. Nothing happened … until Tail Dragger got on the radio and said something like “Welcome to the US Air Force!”
OH … MY … GAWD!!!!!
A flight of four fighter jets came screaming right at us, passing not more than a few hundred feet above our heads! I barely had time to pull out my camera phone to get a picture. I know the Leadership wanted to keep this a secret, but I brought a whole bunch of good cameras, but could only get to my cheap cell phone in time! I was so excited that I didn’t even remember taking any pictures! (Fortunately, I DID, and it didn’t turn out too bad, either!)
From there we rolled over to the tarmac and assembled for a group photo. Then we were allowed to tour a couple of air craft and just enjoy the morning. After about an hour, though, it was time to leave. None of us wanted to, as we were really having fun!
But we DID leave, because it was time to visit the “Spaghetti Church” for lunch! The Midway Route LOVES the Spaghetti Church! This year, though, our lunch was provided in a different location, but by the same people. So I guess we have a new, old Spaghetti Church!
Then it was time to get back on the road and head to the Hopewell Moose Lodge, where we always have our annual Awards Program. Unfortunately, the Lodge burned down just about a month ago. But the Lodge Members insisted that we still stop here, and they would take care of us. What an amazing group of Patriots! Here it is, that they have just lost their own building and all of their memorabilia, and they want to support US! We have been raising money to help them rebuild, and they were very appreciative of OUR support to them. Other than all of the hugs and handshakes, which were warmly taken and given, the emotional highlight of the stop was when they showed a photo of the building still on fire, while the fire department lowered and rescued the American Flag. And then they brought out that very same flag, which we then said the Pledge of Allegiance too. It was both a sad and happy moment. Sad because of the physical loss, but happy as we know that they will rebuild and will be better and stronger than ever.
Of course, the awards program was meaningful to all of the participants. Stories were shared that again made us cry with joy and sorrow. Others made us reflect on what our Mission is, and Why we continue to do this grueling ride every year. I won’t even attempt to tell you about all of the presentations, because there were just too many and they were ALL important. But I WILL leave you with one story. We have a Road Guard that was seen jumping off his bike and wrestling a large piece of tire off of the road. (We call these things “gators” cause they can bite you!) This particular “gator” was almost larger than the Road Guard, and easily much heavier. So “Bruzer” was given the (now) coveted “Swamp Wrestler” Award!
Okay Folks, that is it for today. I need to start preparing for tomorrow, our last day of riding together as the Midway Route.
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
Please visit www.jimmccrain.smugmug.com/Run-For-The-Wall to see more pictures from our journey across this great country. I will post a few every day, and then hundreds more once I get home and can go through them all. All of these photos are free to download. Enjoy! “Hoofer”