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Day Four – Saturday May 21, 2022. Amarillo, TX to Shawnee, OK. 303 Miles. “Cold Hands and Warm Hearts”

Day four of the Midway Route started COLD!  Okay, not as cold as the Central Route, who had about 6 inches of snow.  But there is a reason that we are on the Midway Route.  We don’t WANT the cold!  But we didn’t let the extremely strong side-winds and the cold temperatures deter us from ANYTHING!  We ran our day as we always do, although we did decide to change a few things.  For example, instead of having a recorded version of our National Anthem, how about we have one of our own very talented Riders sing it for us?  I am still trying to find out her name, but let me tell you, even on a cold, blustery, overcast day, This Girl SANG!!!  It wasn’t the temperature that gave us the chills.  It was her passion and sweet voice!  And as usual, someone read a biography about one of our American Service Men that lost their life as a result of their Service.  The twist this morning was that the biography was tht of one of our own dear Riders late Husband!  I am not mentioning names here, as I want to respect her privacy and maintain the intimacy that our Midway Family shared with her this morning.  She did not know that this was going to be read, but we are all so glad that this Families story was shared.  It brought us all just a little bit closer!

So with tears in our eyes, we set out for our morning ride.  We took great care to make sure that everyone rode safely by going a little slower than usual and advising everyone to be extremely careful with the gusting side-winds.  As the Photographer for the Midway Route, I often travel from the back of the pack to the front several times during the day.  I have to tell you it is quite a site to see 250 bikes leaning into the wind while going straight down the highway.  And it is a little comical to see them all pop up vertical whenever the wind gusts stop for a moment.  We all looked like gophers!  I do have to apologize to you all for not having any photos of this, though.  For once, I opted to ride safe, and put the camera away!

But once we reached our first fuel stop, in Shamrock, Texas, the temperatures were starting to climb a bit and the winds died down just a little.  But some of our Riders were still visibly chilled, so our gracious “Refreshment Hosts” took care of them.  How does a cup of hot coffee or hot chocolate sound?  Would it be better with a fresh, warm, homemade cinnamon roll?  It was exactly what we needed for our bodies.

But to warm our hearts, we had each other.  As I wandered around “looking” for something to take a photo of, I started listening in on some conversations.  (No, I was not eaves-dropping.  I just overheard snippits of conversations.)  I heard people sharing stories of their Uncle that is Missing In Action.  I heard about a battle that took place and when the smoke cleared, two friends found each other and they didn’t know that they were both in Vietnam.   There was the story of how two other battle buddies ran into each other a few years ago, after having not seen each other for almost 50 years.  (They are both on the Midway Route together!)  I was able to forget the cold, because I had such a warm feeling of happiness coursing through me.  I can only imagine what it was like for all of these brave Men and Women.

To further warm our hearts, several of us were given the honor of making a “break out” trip to visit a brand-new Veterans Memorial in Weatherford, Oklahoma.  How new?  It is still being painted.  The Artist is still working on it!  And right next to this wonderful mural is a half-scale replica of “The Wall” in Washington DC.  Our small group was the first to visit here, and also the first to lay a memorial wreath.

But now I want to turn our attention to HEROES!  During Run For The Wall, most people talk about our Military Heroes and those who were POW or those still MIA.  We know that a 104 year old Veteran of WWII is a Hero before we even ask him what he did in the War.  But there are other Heroes that are surrounding us every day.  Obviously, our thoughts will turn to our Law Enforcement Officers and Fire/Rescue Personnel.  And we SHOULD think of them.  But there are also other unsung Heroes.  People like our very own Rod Guards.  These Guys and Gals risk their lives every day during the Run to keep the rest of us safe.  They don’t HAVE to do this, they just think it is their duty.  And then there are both our Staging and Fueling Teams.  How are they Heroes?  Why don’t YOU try standing in a parking lot and have 250 motorcycles descend on you, and you have to direct them to the correct place, while dodging these thousand-pound machines that can literally come at you from any direction.  Add in the fact that during fueling, all of the bikes are within inches of each other and just as close to the feet and shins of the Fuel Team.  There are hot exhaust pipes to contend with.  In the excitement, confusion and (organized) chaos, sometimes a bike gets dropped.  Who is there in the midst of this and is willing to step up and help?  The Fueling Team!

But again, there are OTHER types of Heroes.  There are the Men and Women that go out of their way to feed us, provide some entertainment, tend to our physical needs, and provide comfort to our hearts.  Why are THEY Heroes?  Because, like the others, this is not something that they HAVE to do.  Well maybe they DO have to do this, because it is in the hearts to do so.  But when so many others would ignore someone else’s needs, these people step in and take over.  That selfless act is something that more people need to do, in my opinion.  The World would be a better place if we all pitched in a little bit more, especially when it is needed but not expected.  Our Route Coordinator (Ken Dugas aka Six-String) has a philosophy about this and our other Leaders role for the Midway Route.  He calls us “Servant” Leaders.  We aren’t here to tell you what to do, but instead to help and guide you to where you need to go.  Six-String is a Hero, though He would deny it if you called him that.  Most true Heroes will deny it.

But there is one other type of Hero that I want to mention.  And these are the people that stand on corners waiting for us to Ride by.  I am talking about the people that offer their talents as tradesmen that fix our bikes on a moment’s notice, and then don’t charge us anything.  It is the Artist that creates a work of art as a tribute to our Service Men.  It is the Wife that drives for hours to see you for just one evening.  All of these people, the supporters of Run For The Wall, these people that believe in our Mission to Honor our Veterans and Remember our Fallen, that go out of their way to help US get on with our Mission that our True Heroes!  We couldn’t do any of this without them, and we Thank You, each and every one of you!

So our day started with cold hands and ended with warm hearts.  That is what RFTW does.  We take a bad situation and make it better.  Whether it is helping a Veteran release the demons they have carried in their hearts for years or “just” telling our government that we want to know what happened to all of our Service Men, and that we want them back!  The Riders of Run For the Wall are the type of people that don’t give up.  They stand for a principle, and will not back down.  They are Patriots, and it makes me a better Man to be associated with them.

Cheers!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

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Day 4: Snow Day!!

When we were children I think we all pretty much looked forward to snow days. I remember one from somewhere around my kindergarten or first grade year. Frankly, I remember very little from that period of my life. We had nap time at school on mats printed to look like dollar bills, making mud pies under a tree, turning too tightly on a bicycle causing a handlebar to go into my eye cutting the inside of my eyelid, and an epic snow day! I was pretty short, so it may not have been that epic, but for me it was awesome. The snow that fell that year in Lancaster California was deep enough that my dad made pathways through the snow that resulted in the snow on either side of the pathways being higher than my head. It was so cool!

Thankfully, the snow that caused our route to detour to a more direct route from Raton, NM to Limon, CO wasn’t higher than that young boy’s head, at least not by the time we hit the road. This morning was amazing. Our plan was to receive donated gas between 8:10 and 8:40 then have our rider check in and briefings with departure around 10:00 AM to a lunch provided to us in Pueblo, CO. None of that happened. The entire region was hit with what I think was an unusual May snowstorm. A friend of mine who lives twenty minutes outside of Pueblo related that power had been out for five hours and that they had a good amount of snow on the ground. At my hotel check-in tonight in Limon, CO the kind woman at the front desk indicated they had 15 inches at her home.

Our leadership and those that support them rallied in a phenomenal way. Fred, an FNG, spoke with me about it to me at dinner tonight. I’m not going to quote him because my memory isn’t that of the young boy earlier described, but this was his sentiment. You know a leadership group is performing really well when you can only see the positive results of their efforts, not the efforts themselves.

Riders, drank coffee, prepared their bikes, donned rain gear, and swapped stories to pass the time until the revised staging time of 11:00 AM. I was surprised not to see spontaneous games of Hearts or Spades from our mostly Veteran cohort but that didn’t materialize. To pass the time, I found Sage Coffee, a local coffee shop where I enjoyed a hot mocha and chatted a bit with the really nice people there. In my short time at the unexpected overnight stop in Raton, I came to realize that the town has a lot of heart. Thank you Raton for welcoming the Run For The Wall as we adapted to both fire and snow.

After a unique morning briefing held alongside a Raton Fire Truck while using it’s speaker as a PA system, the pack set off to La Junta for a very unique fueling experience. I can’t state this with certainty but I suspect this fueling station was the smallest the Run has utilized in a time period that is likely measured in decades. The Loves Travel Stop in La Junta with a bit of spill over into the Pizza Hut next door, hosted us for fuel and staging. From there the second leg saw the Central Route arrive in Limon. It was a short ride of about four hours with just one stop.

Dinner in Limon was provided by the Chamber of Commerce and hosted in the gym of Limon High School. The kind smiles and warm food was just the perfect remedy for our cold and shivering riders. Temperatures were in the 40’s for the entire ride. According to the weather.gov website, at a temperature of 45 degrees and having wind at 60mph, the wind chill feels like 31.9 degrees on your skin. Brrrrr!  Besides dinner, the Chamber gave us t-shirts emblazoned with the RFTW logo, the “We ride for those who can’t” mission tag line, and Limon Colorado 2022. It is a great souvenier from a town that clearly loves to host us.

During our dinner, where the tables were covered with red, white, and blue tablecloth’s (my wife would be proud that I noticed) Charlie, from the Chamber of Commerce introduced a hero from WWII. Ninety seven year old Don Morrison is a local businessman who flew 17 missions over Nazi occupied territory. The entirety of the room gave Don a well deserved standing ovation. Every Veteran deserves honor and respect, but there is a reason we call our WWII heroes “the greatest generation”. Countless men volunteered to go to war on a global scale to preserve freedom for millions. Thank you Don for answering the call.

After quickly fueling in La Junta, I rode ahead of the pack to Limon where I had the fortune to meet a small group of Patriot Guard Riders. These amazing people drove from Colorado Springs to Limon to complete their mission! Our route change caused their mission of greeting us  in Fountain (not terribly far from Colorado Springs) to cancel so they issued themselves their own FRAG Order and came out to Limon. We had a great time talking with these amazing patriots as we awaited the arrival of the pack.

Today was everything I expect from the Run For The Wall. We had opportunity to honor the Veterans riding among us and to also honor the veterans and families who host us. RFTW leadership excelled at what they do so well, safely hosting a parade across the country for those who never received the one they were due, and while we weren’t focusing on proper distancing from the bike in front of us, we saw some amazingly beautiful skies and countryside dotted by quaint patriotic towns and cities. A biker couldn’t ask for a better day in the saddle.

There is one more thing I’d like to add to close out this SitRep. Each morning we are holding a drawing in which only our veterans may participate. The wife of  Ron Seldon, a Vietnam Veteran who has spent many years taking his vacation time to go to Vietnam in search of the remains of missing soldiers was donated $2400 by the Run For The Wall. Ron passed away executing the mission of the RFTW some years back. Ron’s wife  wouldn’t accept the money. Instead, she asked that it be given to riders to defray their lodging expenses as they complete the RFTW mission. So, each morning we are holding a drawing that awards a Veteran riding with us some of the money that Don Seldon’s wife so graciously sewed back into the RFTW.

Pack arrival in Limon

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Central Route Day 4 Departure Time UPDATE II

Run for the Wall Central Route

NEW UPDATE!

NEW UPDATED Time Line/Schedule for the morning of Day 4 – Saturday May 21 2022

1100 – Staging

1130 – All Riders Morning Brief

1145 – Platoon Brief

1200 – KSU (hopefully)

The previously scheduled morning fuel stop at Crossroads Truck Stop has been CANCELLED! Please fuel your vehicles on your own before staging.

Since we will be missing our lunch stop please make sure you eat before we depart and bring a snack (if possible).

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Central Route Day 4 Departure Time Change!

Run for the Wall Central Route

Due to inclement weather our departure from Raton has been pushed accordingly:

UPDATED Time Line/Schedule for the morning of Day 4 – Saturday May 21 2022

1030 – STAGING

1100 – All Riders Morning Brief

1130 – Platoon Brief

1200 – KSU

Since we will be missing our lunch stop please make sure you eat before we depart and bring a snack (if possible).

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Day 3 – 5/20/2022 Southern Route

Day 3 – May 20, 2022 Southern Route

 

Today we started out in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  We started with breakfast at the American Legion.  A great breakfast was served with biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon, yum.  Does it seem like we eat a lot?  Yes we do, the folks and the organizations that greet us are feeding us some awesome food and we are very honored to be treated so well and greeted so warmly.  There was a raffle from the Legion where they handed out tickets to win $100.  This story is unique because the lady that won the Golden ticket to have all her gas paid along the run this year also won this raffle.  I don’t know her given name, my apologies for that but we all know her as Lucky now.  She wears the smile very well.

Lucky Wins again!

We then went on to the Las Cruces Veterans Memorial Park.  It’s a very nice park that is well put together.  Some pictures are below.  There was a very nice wreath laying ceremony and we had LEO (Law Enforcement) escort all the way through town and later on onto Highway 10 and quite a ways out of town.  We were traveling on towards Odessa Texas which is our stop tonight.  Most of the way through Texas we also had LEO escort.  They are clearing the highway, keeping cars and trucks from entering the freeway for our line of bikes which is running about a 2.5 mile footprint on the highway.  When we get to highway exits and head for a refuel stop; and afterwards we go to another location like a legion post or church to be fed, we don’t stop at lights or stop signs, it feels like we’re a long parade.  We are honored!  It’s quite a feeling and everyone is so nice and warm to us.  It’s a big change to the ‘70’s when you didn’t wear your uniform state side when not needed because you were worried about the reaction you’d get.  I’m sure a lot of you remember those times. And then we get into these places and everyone has big hugs and lots of Thank You(s).  There were significant greetings on the highway.  Overpasses with people waving, One place had a lady on a hillside riding a horse with a big flag!  Fire Trucks with the ladder extension hanging a flag off the side of the freeway all timed out for when we drive by.  It’s mind blowing.  Some of these smaller towns that coordinate with leadership and state coordinators to host us look at this like a huge opportunity and it’s one of the big events of the year for them.  The majority of the town comes out to greet us, wave flags, it’s all very cool.  And, I venture to say very little of this would come together without the hard work of the state coordinators that are working in the background all year long to make this happen.  Big Kudu’s to all the state coordinators for all the routes.  It’s amazing work.

“Reckless” (Rod Runyon) went with some bikes to an outreach to Old Glory Memorial, a memorial for all American citizens to honor all who have served our Country and those that have given their lives in the name of the freedoms we enjoy every day.  El Paso Texas Flags Across America has erected a 180 foot flagpole on the Trans-Mountain Campus of El Paso Community College and is flying a United States Flag, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and lighted at night.  On special occasions, EPTFAA will be flying a beautiful 50 foot by 100 foot united states flag.  Fifty (50) state flags, six (6) Armed Service Flags and six (6) Territorial flags.  Some pictures from the outreach are below.  Words spoken by Reckless (words worth keeping in your heart) at the outreach:  “There are many ways you can keep our fallen, as well as our injured and ill veterans, in your mind and heart throughout the year,  Countless ways to give back to those who have endured the physical, psychological and emotional wounds that may arise from military service.  Working together with friends, neighbors, veterans groups and entire communities, we can ensure that the sacrifices made by our nations finest and bravest never go unappreciated and that their memories are never forgotten.  I thank you all for joining in today’s tribute.  I hope you keep our military man and women – and all the sacrifices they made – close to your heart today and throughout the year.”

Boots
USAF ’72 – ’75

Las Cruces New Mexico Veterans Memorial Park

A lady there to remember her MIA father

The man who helped document all NM KIAs and MIAs

Part of our greeting committee

Outreach to Old Glory Memorial

Pic from the day

 

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Day Three – Friday May 20, 2022. Albuquerque, NM to Amarillo, TX. 293 miles. “Chillin’ by the Pool!”

Today’s SITREP may seem a little strange to you.  Why?  Because today was all about making some miles and relaxing.  Our Riders have been through a lot of stress already, going through some major cities and some hot temperatures.  Learning to ride together as a pack takes a lot of time and energy, leaving ALL of the Riders very tired by the end of the day.  So Day 3 of the Midway Route is an easy one.  We rest, eat, and play!

Our day started with a FANTASTIC breakfast provided by Rich Ford in Albuquerque.  Rich Ford has been hosting the MR throughout it’s history, and we really appreciate it.  Especially THIS year when you realize how much a breakfast for a couple of hundred hungry Riders will cost.  With auto sales being down, we REALLY appreciate their generosity!  But they pledged to support RFTW EVERY year for as long as they are in business.  Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

Our morning ride was extremely pleasant, with temperatures in the mid-60’s.  With not even a wisp of clouds overhead, we knew that the day would heat up pretty soon.  And it DID!  By the time we got to our lunch spot in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, it was outright HOT!  How do a bunch of hot and sweaty bikers cool off?  They take the plunge into the infamous “Blue Hole!”  Two of our Riders, Peter Green and Mark Masman, are our “keepers of traditions” for the Midway Route.  “Mazz” did an excellent job of telling how this tradition got started (Road Guards, of course!) and then invited EVERYONE to join in.  “Gear shift” was the first one to jump, while “Mazz” followed right behind.  Before you could even blink, about twenty or more Riders climbed up on the rocks and went right in!  There were all sorts and forms of jumps, from a classic dive to a cannonball!  A group of our Lady Riders decided to do a “mass jump” and then started an underwater aerobics class!  It was quite a sight to see!  (Oh yeah, then we had some lunch!)

Our Riding for the afternoon was uneventful … except for all of the construction zones!  And there were a LOT of them.  But fortunately for us, we had more LEO Escorts today.  In fact MOST of our day was under LEO Escort.  That allowed all of us to relax a little bit and “just ride.”

Part of “just riding” was a parade through the town of Tucumcari, NM.  This is a fun little town.  Situated on Old Route 66, this place looks like it could have been in the movie “Cars!”  It is a very “vintage” looking place, and I wish I could have spent more time here.  Some of the buildings would make excellent photo backgrounds!  But better than all of the neat buildings, were the wonderful people that lined the streets to cheer us on.  I apologize for not having more pictures of them, but it is sometimes hard to hold a big camera, wave to the spectators, wipe joyful tears out of your eyes, and ride all at once.  Still, I managed to get a few photos.  (I loved seeing the shark, even though I can’t quite explain how it got there!)

Another “treat” for us was our afternoon fuel stop.  First, this was another of our DONATED fuel stops.  That doesn’t mean that the fuel was free.  SOMEBODY paid for it, so that the Riders wouldn’t have to.  It is generosity like this (and all of our meals during the Run” that really let us know that Americans DO care about our cause, and that they respect what we are doing.

I almost forgot about the “treat” part of this story.  This particular stop is ONE of our ICE-CREAM STOPS!  All of the “seasoned” Riders fueled, parked, and got off their bikes REALLY fast and headed inside.  And of course, we made sure that all of the FNG (new Riders) knew about the ice-cream.  (Mmmm.  Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough in a waffle cone!)  And then we got ANOTHER surprise.  One of our own Riders dropped off a big ol’ wad of cash on the counter and asked the Ladies to serve until the money ran out, and to keep the change if it didn’t.  (They ended up with a big tip!)  This is just the type of person that rides with RFTW.  They are caring, loving, and supportive people.  The kind of person that we call Family!

Did I mention that it was pretty hot by this time?  We all wanted to cool down, and people were chanting our mantra of “Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.”  So imagine my surprise when I looked over and saw Jim “The Mayor” Frost walking around with an Anheuser-Busch can!  I mean, come on Jim!  We still have some riding to do!  And then I looked a little closer.  It is a can of WATER that Anheuser-Busch produces whenever there is a natural disaster and then ships them free of charge to the effected communities.  They donated some of them to the Midway Route!  So go ahead, Jim, and drink up!

So I think you can tell that we had a pretty fun day.  Lots of smiles, hugs, joking around, and just enjoying being in each other’s company.  But we NEVER forgot that we are on a Mission.

At each fuel stop, several things happen that most people will never know bout.  I mentioned the folded flag relay ceremony in yesterday’s report.  It happened again today, at each stop.  We have a “Missing Man Banner” that we lay out at each stop.  This “holds the place” for our Missing Person and really sets the tone for how serious we are about honoring the memory of our MIA.  This banner has a place to put a “bio” of the missing person that explains what they were doing and how they were lost, plus any other information that we may want to share.  People DO come over to see the matt every time it is displayed, and they will take the time to read about our Missing Man.  I have seen Riders get visibly moved while visiting the matt.  It is a very solemn and personal moment.

I have mentioned just how powerfully emotional riding in the Missing Man Formation can be.  It is not uncommon to have the Rider break down, sobbing with emotion as the enormity of the loss and their vital role in keeping the memory alive hits them.  It affects everyone around them, as we are both sad and proud for the honor that our Missing Man Escort Rider has had.

And that brings up another new tradition for the Midway Route.  As each Rider concludes their portion of our Missing Man Formation, a Chaplain will meet with them and offer words of encouragement, Thanks, and a prayer.  This year, thanks to the generosity of “Faith Comes By Hearing” and the Crossroads Cowboy Church of McKinney Texas, EVERY Missing Man Escort Rider is provided with a “Military Bible Stick.”  This is a narrative reading of the New Testament provided on an MP3 player.  The package comes complete with headphones and a battery!  These are actually only available through an Active Duty Chaplain, but when “Faith Comes By Hearing” heard about our Mission, they were ecstatic and helped us out immediately.  I have talked with “Cherokee”, our Missing Man Chaplain, and he has told me that the Military Bible Sticks are being VERY well received!

And of course, at our dinner tonight (We are back in Texas!  BBQ Ribs!), we continued with some of our other traditions.  As we walked into the room, the first thing we saw was a Missing Man Table.  Each object on the table is placed in a specific location, and symbolizes different aspects of the loss.  Before anyone takes a single bite, we have the “posting of the Colors,” this year provided by a local ROTC organization.  That was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of our National Anthem.  It is important that Americans do this.  Not just when we were in grade school, but even as adults.  We NEED to be proud of our Country, but more importantly, proud of those who have SERVED our Country.

And that is what Run For The Wall is all about.  We may have had a lot of fun today, but we NEVER forgot what we are doing.  It is a part of us, it is what we do, and we will “Continue The Mission.”

“Charlie Mike!”

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

 

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Day 3: Semper Gumby

I’d like to start today’s SitRep with an inside tip. Do not ever accept a bag of XXTRA Flamin’ Hot Crunchy Cheetos from the Hydration Team. I was handed an 8oz bag of this demon snack at our first stop and just had my first taste. I’m thinking they may be better used as ice melt come tomorrow than eaten tonight. The forecast is showing a mix of rain and snow tomorrow morning in Raton, where we are spending the night, and snow starting at 1:00am through 11:00am in our lunch city of Pueblo. Maybe if we seed the snow clouds with XXTRA Flamin’ Hot Crunchy Cheetos we can warm things up a bit.

This morning started in Gallup as normal with the Staging Team and the Road Guards arriving in the still dark morning to prepare for the arrival of the riders. Everything was going as planned until a wrench fell into the cog of the well-tuned RFTW machine. Wrenches have a way of doing that but no dropped wrench is going to deter us from our mission. As always, Leadership remained flexible and solved the issue but it preempted much of our Raffle Rouser’s time to complete auctions and to raise money for Rainelle. I’m sure he too will adjust to achieve his goals.

The biggest show of flexibility to meet and resolve a problem, came in response to a wildfire. Day three of the Central Route is usually spent traveling to one of our most favorite locations, the Angel Fire Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park. Unfortunately New Mexico has been battling fires since April. With fires in proximity to Angel Fire and Eagle Nest, taking the Central Route’s riders through that area became impossible causing Central Route Leadership to quickly make alternative plans. Ok, new plan… divert riders around the areas impacted by wildfires, now how and where do we feed them, bunk them down for the night, and where do we fill up several hundred bikes with gas? The NM State Coordinator stepped up to the challenge. Our day went brilliantly yet still had some “Gumby” required. We travelled to our first gas stop where we were met by a contingent of motorcycle LEO’s who lead us through Albuquerque by shutting down traffic on the interstate to both expedite our passage through town and to ensure our safety. Even the incredibly precise and coordinated movements of the LEO’s didn’t go quite up to plan when we followed them down an off ramp instead of continuing on the freeway when they’d completed their escort. I was impressed with how they reacted in an instant to block traffic at the off ramp’s intersection allowing us unimpeded access up the opposite on ramp to quickly get back on our way.

Lunch was provided by the Black Mesa Casino. On short notice they pulled together sandwiches, chips, and drinks then served it to us at tables set up in a theatre. Similarly, on short notice, an amazing BBQ dinner of elk burgers, elk brats, and beef burgers awaited our arrival at the Raton Aquatic Center. There, a number of volunteers manned the grill and kitchen to feed us some really fantastic food. Neither Raton nor Black Mesa expected to support us just a short while ago, but flexed last minute to so today. Thank you!

I spent the afternoon traveling with the Staging Team. This team is responsible for making sense of the mayhem that is several hundred motorcycles trying to find parking in such a way that they can hit the road safely organized. Every day, several times a day, the Staging Team helps riders find their platoons and helps them park aligned in a manner  that facilitates a group departure to the next stop. No parking lot is the same so how they fit us all into the space they have available is never the same. Add to this layout and traffic management problem, the need to stage bikes in places the Run has never visited and you have a major need to be flexible. A huge shout out to the Staging Team and its leadership on flawlessly executing your mission. At one of our stops I saw the Staging Team leader get the lay of the land and start writing platoon numbers on the pavement with chalk all within about 60 seconds of arrival at a location he’d never been to. Steve would say that their success lies with the team who steps up every time. I do agree but only partially. The team cannot execute if they do not have and understand the plan and that plan comes from Steve. Here’s a tip of the cap, which somehow stayed atop my head in today’s wind, to you all. Click this image this link to see a short clip of staging in action.

Speaking of wind… If any of you are armchair meteorologists, I’d like to know how the wind could be blowing from the South to the North as we were headed East then be blowing as equally hard from East to West when we were headed North. The wind was relentless. I spoke with one rider who said his right shoulder was sore from pushing  his bike into the wind to keep it upright. Wind and desert do not mix well with motorcycles. Several tumble weeds met their fate upon the crash guards of my motorcycle. We rode through a dust storm, through tumble weeds all the while riding straight but constantly pushing down on our handle bars as if to turn right.

Why did we “turn right” all day into the wind? Why do we do what we do and why do supporters spring into action at the last minute to provide us with a meal? It is because of our mission. One person who knew that mission well was Rupert “Preacher” Harrell. I didn’t know Preacher personally, but I’ve been prayed for by him while on the Run. Rupert was to be our Senior Chaplain this year. Instead, he was honored as the Missing Man all day today. I heard this story about him this morning.  Rupert once saved a man twice. The first was when he pulled that man, pinned down into a helicopter while serving in Vietnam. The second was when he lead that same man to Jesus Christ. I can think of no better legacy to be said about a man.

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Central Route Time Line for Start of Day 4

Run for the Wall Central Route

Attention All Central Route Riders

Time Line/Schedule for the morning of Day 4 – Saturday May 21 2022

FUEL
Fuel at Crossroads truck stop 855 Clayton Rd. East side of I-25 exit 451.
0800 – 0810: Advance groups/Road Guards/Staging first.
0810 – 0840: Pack riders (Do not show up prior to 0810.)
Fueling will end at 0840.

STAGING
Stage after fuel on Clayton Rd. West side of I-25 same place as years past. Look for staging team.

0845 – Riders Brief
Caddy-corner from the Tourist information center (Abandoned Texan Motel) on Clayton Rd.

0915 – Platoon Brief

0930 – Welcoming Speeches Mayor & other’s

0955 – KSU

This time line is not normally the way we work but we are working under unusual circumstances. This time-line will allow us to keep the pack on schedule for the rest of the day.

SPECIAL NOTICE: A Jacket was found on the highway about 60 miles out of Santa Fe. We found two key fobs in the pocket. Pictures below.

If this is your jacket please report to the sound stage in the morning with a crisp $5 bill.

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Thursday May 19, 2022 – Southern Route

Day 2 – May 19, 2022 Thursday

 

This morning we left Casa Grande, Arizona towards our destination, Las Cruces, New Mexico.  We had a light breakfast, had our usual morning meeting and one of the normal subjects is to stay hydrated.  This is always a big concern since it’s so common for people to be riding through the desert and not realize they getting dehydrated.  On the motorcycle, you are traveling at a good speed and the hot desert air is drying you off immediately so you don’t realize how much you are sweating and losing fluid.  By the end of the day, in Las Cruces, we heard NO ONE had become dehydrated to the point of being pulled from the ride!  Woo Hoo!!  That’s a big deal since the temps were over 100 and we did a lot of riding with a lot of people.  It’s amazing to be riding along and feel the heat emanating from the highway at 60 MPH.  We drove 352 miles today with gas stops and lunch at the Elks Lodge in Wilcox AZ, dinner at the Las Cruces VFW post #10124.  At one of the gas stops, we were taken care of by the folks of Marana Arizona.  Very nice people that greeted us with snacks and water, a goodies bag along with their time.  There was a color guard and a wonderful singer.  One of the long time supporters was honored as he was an active supporter in the very beginning of stopping in Marana for gas.  A movie is attached.  The movie and pictures are compliments of Leggs (Lori Ann Schaeffler).  We went on to Wilcox to fuel up and have a great lunch at the Elks Lodge with again, a very warm welcome.  It seemed like most of the town was out greeting us as we came in through the streets.  That is a welcome that wasn’t there for too many warriors coming home. The food was great – Thank You Wilcox!  Then we departed for Las Cruces, NM.  Dinner at the Las Cruces VFW was very good chicken enchiladas with rice and beans.  It’s a good thing we’re not counting calories out here.

Click Here to watch.  It will download and you will need to “open” the file —–>  Video

Boots

USAF ’72 – ’75

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that

we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship,

support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival

and success of liberty.

– John F. Kennedy

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Day Two – Thursday May 19, 2022. Flagstaff, AZ to Albuquerque, NM. 337 miles.

Wow!  What a day!  WHAT A DAY!!!  SO much has happened, and there is still stuff from yesterday to tell, that I am WAY behind!  And I really can’t get to the “meat” of todays post until I get some of the “clerical stuff” out of the way.  And by that, I mean just what does it take to organize the Midway Route, and how does it all shake out as we roll down the highway?

First, there is no “I” in RFTW.  It takes a team.  A BIG team!  (I won’t even bother to explain what the Board of Directors do, because that is all of the ‘legal’ stuff.)  The Individual Routes have a hierarchy that starts with a Route Coordinator and his Assistant Route Coordinator.  The RC and ARC are responsible for overseeing the daily logistics of the entire Run.  It is an incredibly difficult role, and Midway has been blessed to have Ken “Six-String” Dugas as our RC for THREE years!  (Just because the Run didn’t happen for two years doesn’t mean that there weren’t plans put in place.  It just means that He had to start over three times!)

Six-Strings Team consists of a Missing Man Coordinator, and Honor Guard Coordinator, 4-Wheel Coordinator, Hotel Coordinator, Camping Coordinator, Leadership Team Support, an MIA Outreach Coordinator, an entire Promotions Team, a Merchandising Team,  a Registration Team, an Ambassadors Team, a Chaplain Corps, Chase Vehicle Teams, Medical Teams, Hydration Teams, a Road Guard Captain (and 30+ Road Guards), an INCREDIBLE Fuel Team, a Staging Crew, and Platoon Leaders.  Most of these Teams have between 4-8 people on them, and the “crews” can have 20-30 people involved.  All told, there can be over 100 people doing various jobs just to coordinate and then safely move our Riders across the Country.  It is an unbelievably complex system with hundreds, if not thousands of moving parts.  And they ALL have to work, or none of it does.

But the volunteers for RFTW love what they do.  They are willing to sacrifice their time, energy, effort, and personal finances to make this Mission work.  And it DOES!

What the public sees is simply a bunch of motorcycles riding down the highway.  But even this seemingly random bunch of bikes has a hierarchy of it’s own.  I could try to explain it, but instead I will post a link to a quick 2 ½ minute video that I made back in 2019.  It visually explains what the “pack” looks like, who rides where, and in what order.  You can see the video at https://vimeo.com/341649711

Okay, that is enough of the “logistics” for this evening.  Let’s step back to yesterday so I can tell you about a very solemn and moving experience that we are doing on the Midway Route.  During our “opening ceremony” back in Ontario on Wednesday, each Route Coordinator was presented with a special folded flag that is to be carried all the way from California to Washington DC.  On the Midway Route, the flag is being carried by an FNG (first time Rider), with this flag escort being transferred to a new Rider three to four times a day.

It may sound like a simple thing, to carry a flag in your saddlebag.  But there is more to it than that.  What the Rider is REALLY carrying is every ideal and virtue that our Country stands for.  It is the symbol of the blood that has been shed defending our freedom.  It is the visual reminder of those that we have lost.  It is the flag that we pledge our allegiance to each morning, and that our Military Personnel have sworn to protect.  And if you don’t think that our Riders take this task seriously, just look in their faces.  You will see the respect and honor that is held in their hearts.  You can see the determination in them to keep this flag safe and to deliver it to the next Rider.  It is another position of honor that really makes Run For The Wall special.

Today started out in a most amazing way.  Normally when we wake up in Santa Fe, we have to know frost or even snow and ice off of our bikes.  Not today!  We woke to refreshing temperatures in the high 40s, which soon became the perfect 50s and 60s that bikers LOVE to ride in.  Oh Yeah, we had clear skies, too!  WooHoo!  So we got to truly enjoy the ride through Arizona.  It is a beautiful State!

Okay, I already have to correct myself.  Yes, I DID enjoy my morning ride.  But it wasn’t really a “ride.”  I had a special Mission to perform first thing today.  I have ridden through the town of Winslow Arizona MANY times.  Over the years, I have come to know some of the shop owners in this quaint little town.  One in particular is a former Marine and a true Patriot.  Several times in the past he has asked me it Run For the Wall could PLEASE stop in the town and say Hello.  He WANTS to wave a flag at us!  I was honored to get to lead “Cowboys Desert Renegades” through the town one year on the way out to California.  With only a few hours “warning” this shop owner arranged to have 100 people lining the streets to greet us!  So my Mission for the morning was to go say “Howdy” and deliver a few of our RFTW lapel pins.  It is a small gesture, but it is greatly appreciated.  This is a Mission that I took on by myself, but with the blessing of our Ambassador Lead.  As I was getting off of my bike, who should roll up but James “Gunny” Gregory and his lovely wife Patti.  It seems that Gunny had the same idea!

I had timed my stop so that I would have just enough time to reach an overpass outside of town to get a few photos of our Riders.  I made it with just a few minutes to spare!  And what a site it was!  Yesterday was our first day or riding together.  The Pack looked like it had been riding together for years!  They rode perfectly!  The spacing was impeccable.  The lines were razor straight.  The Riders were all sitting tall in the saddle and waved and honked at this lone photographer standing on a bridge.  They gave me my own personal parade!  Thank You to all of the Midway Route Riders!  You brought tears to my eyes!

I rejoined the pack just in time to enjoy a special treat for a Rider.  I have mentioned an LEO Escort before.  But today e got what is known as a “presidential” escort, which means that the Police SHUT DOWN THE INTERSTATE for us!  And it happened TWICE today!  It is an amazing experience to be heading down Interstate 40 and not have to worry about traffic.  In the morning, it gave me an opportunity to get some really cool pictures of ALL of our Riders and their great formation.  In the afternoon, going through Albuquerque, it gave us smooth sailing through the (normally) congested highways and streets.  It is quite a rare treat, and it was greatly appreciated!

At one of our fuel stops, I saw a couple of elderly Native American Women sitting in chairs out in the parking lot.  They were waving and yelling “We Love You” as the Riders went by.  Something compelled me to go visit with them.  They are Native Navajo.  I am sorry to say that I don’t know enough about their culture to use the proper term for them.   But I was saved from embarrassing myself TOO much when one of our own Riders came up to say Hello, and suddenly we had THREE Navajo Women together, talking in their BEAUTIFUL native tongue!  Turns out, our Rider belongs to the same clan as one of the Ladies, so they are pretty sure that they are related!  This kind of interaction is exactly what we mean when we say “The Magic of the Run!”  Our two guests were such delightful Ladies, and I just wanted to hug them!  I could have spent all day with them, but I had to tear myself away.  I jokingly said that she would just have to tell me to go away our I WOULD stay.  She smiled at me and winked, then told me to leave and do what I needed to do … in her Native language!  We both cried tears of happiness as I walked away, after one more hug!

Our lunch today was at Milan Elementary School in Milan New Mexico.  Let me state right here and now, I am not a big fan of Kids.  (I didn’t like them when *I* was a kid!)  But THESE Young Men and Women are SPECIAL!  It was the highlight of my day!  They line the circular driveway and wait patiently for our arrival.  And then they burst out with screams of delight and chants of “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.!”  They wave American flags and Red White and Blue hearts. They will give a high-five to anyone that puts out their hand!  Even your Photographer and SITREP Author ended up running around this (BIG) circle slapping hands and yelling along with these young Patriots!  Once inside, we ALL stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, young and old alike.  The children sang a few patriotic songs for us, and they sounded GREAT!  I can’t believe it, but they make me kind of like kids!  These people are WONDERFUL!  They also serve a very good lunch!  Thank You Milan Elementary!  I know that I am looking forward to seeing you again next year!

After eating a hurried lunch (I had been a bit busy), I joined an outreach program that rode a few miles to the City of Grants New Mexico, to pay respects at their Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  This is a very simple but meaningful memorial, comprise of five flag poles, a large bronze medallion for each branch of our Military, and two large stone markers that honor our Vietnam Veterans.  To make it just a little MORE special, there was a brief “ceremony” for “Jet”, one of our slightly more unusual Riders.  “Jet” travels around the country, riding with various Riders if and when a seat is available.  He has even ridden with ME once.  Jet’s Mission is to go where his Best Friend can’t, and to pay honor to a special person in both their lives.

Jet is a little stuffed Bear in a Flight Suit.  He belongs to our good Friend Shannon Spake.  When Shannon realized that she couldn’t join us for the Run this year, “Peppermint Patti” offered to take Jet with her.  “Jet” is Shannon’s representative this year.  He is paying tribute to Lt Commander Dennis Pike, Missing In Action for 50 years.  Dennis Pike is Shannon’s Father.

THIS is Why We Ride!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain