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Midway Route 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 5

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

DAY 05 – Sunday, May 17, 2020
Shawnee OK – Forrest City AR
392 miles

Yep, you read that right!  We are traveling 392 miles today.  For many people, that is a LONG day of travel.  For some, it is the LONGEST day of riding they have ever made.  It will take strength, stamina, and strong will to finish.

So we will start our day with a church service.  Our Senior Chaplin (“Good Wrench”) always has words of encouragement for us.  But on a Sunday morning, well just watch out!  He will get you fired up!  He will get you energized!  He will get you in the right frame of mind for our Mission!  And he will give you the opportunity to speak one-on-one with himself or any of our other Chaplains if you need to.  Church is not mandatory on the Run, but I will tell you from experience that I see almost every Rider come out a little early to participate each year.  We have been growing very fond of each other over the past five days, and we see first hand how a comforting word or gesture can make an otherwise bad day into something special.  We have started to form bonds of Brotherhood that will help us along the rest of our journey together, and our Chaplains are there ever mile of the way to help guide us spiritually and emotionally.  I have personally come to rely on our Chaplains for support more and more each year.  They are amazing people, that really do care about you, and want nothing more than to help you in times of need.

Oh yeah, they also bring the Chase Vehicles and snacks!

Although there aren’t a lot of activities today, there WILL be a lot to see and experience.  This is another one of those days were we see the incredible outpouring of support and respect from the American People.  Each town that we pass through presents us a “mini-parade route” lined with happy people.  About the time you would think we are getting tired of seeing someone wave an American Flag at us, we see another one that makes us cry even more.  There is just something about the people of the lower mid-west that makes us all proud to be Americans.  We see these people standing in the rain to wave at us.  They are in large groups on the side of the road.  They are small groups on an over-pass.  They are a Mother and young child in a parking lot, holding a sign that says “Welcome Home!”  And they are an old, grizzled Veteran holding on to his cane in one hand and saluting the Riders with his other.

THIS is America, and this is how they show their love for our Country and our Military Heroes!

After such a long day, we end up on Forrest City Arkansas.  We will be fed so much that we feel ready to burst.  We will have a musical presentation that stirs our hearts with pride.  And just as we did this morning, we will gather together and give Thanks for a safe day of riding.  Riding that allows US to pay honor and Respect to our fellow-countrymen, and to our own Heroes.

Cheers!
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link:

https://jimmccrain.smugmug.com/Run-For-The-Wall/2019-Midway-Route-RFTW/Day-Five-Midway-Route-2019/

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Central Route 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 4

May 18, 2019 –  Day 4 to DC – Eagle Nest, NM to Goodland, KS

Brrrrrrr………….Eagle Nest is always cold in the morning.  We travel down the mountain and the temps increase about 20 degrees.  Need to know how to layer.   Thank goodness it was not snowing.  Yes, a few year ago it was.

 

 .

Raton is our next stop. This is only a fuel stop but the people of  Raton are ready for us. We always have a treat with the junior ROTC.  These kids really work hard.  Keep working boys we will be back next year.  They are very proud of what they are doing.  Our future!!

 

 Check out the sendoff.  We lose the escort as we cross in go Colorado.

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Fountain, CO was one of the new stops. 

 

They had lunch set up inside the fire station.  It is always nice to thank those that support us.

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You never know what kind of weather we will run into.  Rain is never good.  Pretty UGLY!!

 

 This one had a lovely light show…. lots of lightning.  I am sure the team was watching this one.

 

Flags and people are always along the streets as we enter the towns. 

 

Goodland KS is our destination for the night.  Dinner at KS Tech College. The tables usually have place mats that kids made.

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                                       I especially like these two with the motorcycles

 

The thing I remember about Goodland is this table that is set.

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As we ate dinner, this is what was read:

POW and MIA REMEMBARANCE TABLE

It is set for one, symbolizing the fact that members of our armed forces are missing from out ranks.  They are referred to as POWs and MIAs.

We call them brothers and sisters.

They are unable to be with their loved ones and families, so we join together to pay humble tribute to them and bear witness to their continued absence.

This table, set for one, is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her suppressors.

The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms

The single red rose in the vase, signifies the blood the many have shed in sacrifice to ensure freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep the faith, while awaiting their return.

The yellow ribbon on the vase, represents the yellow ribbons worn on the lapels of the thousands who demand with unyielding determination a proper accounting of our brothers and sisters who are not among us tonight.

A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate.

The salt sprinkled on the place reminds us of the countless fallen tears of the families as they wait.

The glass is inverted – they cannot toast with us this night.

The chair is empty – they are not here.

The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from the captors to the open arms of a grateful nation.

Quote for the day:

 Some made the ultimate sacrifice

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Southern Route 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 4

Day 4, May 16, 2020 — Odessa, TX, to Grand Prairie, TX, 348 miles

Dark thirty and we’re surrounded by lightning. But I can see the moon and it’s beautiful. It’s nearly worth getting up early for. And the RFTW certainly is worthwhile.

We met at an American Legion in Odessa and a patch and pin awaited us. Everyone treats us so well and are so welcoming. It’s heartfelt and makes us feel good and worthy of the journey.  We get pep talks, a safety moment and briefings every morning, along with a prayer for a safe day, the Pledge and the National Anthem. We visit memorials, we have ceremonies. We also have after-ride briefings. It’s no wonder the days are 12-14 hours or more.

This morning we also heard from a man whose father was killed in Vietnam. They know how. They know where his remains are but won’t give them up or tell. That’s one of the reasons we’re riding, to bring attention to it. To get answers.

I’ve mentioned the hydration station that travels with us.  The snacks, water, Gatorade, fruit and so much more that waits for us at each stop is pure gold. The cold neck snakes are certainly welcome. There’s a place to put your old one and then you can pick up a fresh one. They continue to be very welcome when it’s triple-digit heat, or close to it.

Our “Nurse Ratchit” (as I call her lovingly) practically force feeds us fluids. So far about 19 have gone down with heatstroke because they didn’t pay attention. Some will not be going “all the way.”

More bagpipes.  A great way to start the day is to have a piper escort your group to their bikes. It just can’t get any better, can it?

Our first stop this morning was to do a wreath-laying ceremony at the Permian Basin Memorial. I paid close attention because I was signed up to be an honor guard for a wreath-laying ceremony in Big Spring, Texas, a place Hobbs, my Vietnam vet, and I visited together.

There was a Native American there in full regalia who would bless you with a large feather and burning sage. It can never hurt. And as I wandered and listened to the ceremony I watched as the smoke from the sage wafted up and away.

One of our support crew’s father has his name on the wall at Permian Basin.  I asked if she would like a RFTW 2019 rock I’d painted and she did. She laid it at the memorial. It was a teary time with the young lady known as Hoops.

From there we headed to Big Springs and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This was where I’d volunteered to participate in an honor guard.

We donned white gloves and black baseball hats. Then we were given vests. Mine was the POW/MIA vest. We were given our commands. I marched in step. I marched in half-step. I did all that was asked and didn’t embarrass myself. It was an honor to be a part of an honor guard. Our group placed two wreaths. Every one of these ceremonies is different and the same. Each is emotional for those who served and those who didn’t. We’re riding for a cause. A mission. A story that needs to be told and never forgotten. A ride for those who can’t.

And then we had to be gone. But needed to watch out for prairie dog holes.

We went to Colorado City and the Railhead Building for lunch. The town was out to greet us … waving flags and saluting. Shouting. Even a little old lady was brought out to wave from her home. She could barely walk but she was there.

It was a fabulous lunch. There was a band with some great old-time music and they even played all the military songs.

My bike would start but not go once shifted. Crap!!!!  I flagged down our folks and we got it loaded into a chase truck. I joined Gary and Gwen in the vehicle and off we went. I called Longhorn HD to let them know we were heading there. Along the way we picked up a trike. The rider had gotten something in his eye and couldn’t ride. So we had more company in the vehicle.

We arrived at the shop and my friend, JGayle from Mesquite, met me. Turned out to be a sensor problem. Longhorn got it fixed and off we went to the dinner place at the Dubiski Career High School where there were more fire trucks and flags. There’s so much love for the RFTW in these towns.  We were a little late so went to find my friend, Verlie, and go grab a bite. It was great as we all had a nice visit.

I cannot say enough about this ride. What it means to participate. What it means to be able to do it. I will say if you think you know everything about riding, this ride isn’t for you. If you aren’t willing to take orders, this ride isn’t for you. If you aren’t ready to change your riding style to conform to the mission style, this ride isn’t for you. All I can say is I’m doing my best to do exactly as our leadership requests to make the ride safe for those around me. And I think I will be better for it … as a rider and a person. I think my patriotism has notched up a bit.

 

Peppermint Patti

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Midway Route 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 4

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

DAY 04 – Saturday, May 16, 2020
Amarillo TX – Shawnee OK
301 miles

This is how MY mornings start.

“Good Morning, Hoofer!”

“Shut Up!”

“Rise and Shine, Hoofer!”

“Bite Me!  It’s 04:30!”

“I have coffee for you!”

“You are my FAVORITE person, Tail Dragger!”

My roommate for the past several years has been “Tail Dragger”, our Road Guard Captain.  He gets up REALLY early, just like the other Road Guards, and is one of the first people out on the road making sure our route is still as planned, making changes, updating the other leaders about weather conditions, and just generally making my mornings a bit tougher.  J  But he is ALSO a great Friend and Mentor.  He takes his job very seriously, but he also takes care of his people.  During my own days as a Road Guard, he worked with me to understand the role of the Road Guards, how to help safely maneuver the Pack, how to keep an eye on the Riders, and how and when to offer support.  He is a really great Guy, and I hope you all get the chance to meet him.

But I don’t want to single him out from the rest of the Leadership Team.  I am privileged to get to know each and every one of our Leaders on both a personal and professional basis.  What I have learned is that they are ALL extremely nice, likable, and approachable people.  They are all extremely good at their jobs and take their positions very seriously.  They spend countless hours making arrangements, checking details, supporting the Mission, and Mentoring the FNGs.  And they all do this as Volunteers.  Not a single person gets paid for this, no matter what their role is.  They do this because it is the right thing to do and they are all true Patriots.  I am honored to call them my Friends and my Family.  You will, too.

Today we are going to enjoy our ride through the Texas panhandle.  There are rolling hills (Yes, in Texas!), wide open plains, tall waving prairie grasses, and clear blue skies.  Why, it is almost as if God in Heaven said “I need a vacation home.  I will call it Texas!”  And so, we arrive in Shamrock, to rest a bit and enjoy this small community that looks exactly like it did during the heydays of Route 66.  There is a museum to see and shops to visit.  We won’t have long to stay here, but it is a welcome stop.

Our “big” activity for the day comes right after lunch, in Weatherford Oklahoma.  We will visit the Stafford Air and Space Museum.  We never know exactly WHAT we will encounter at this world-famous museum.  One year, there was a brief airshow of vintage WWII aircraft, complete with fly-over!  Last year when we arrived, NASA was holding a re-union here!

It was absolutely amazing to me to see and “older Gentleman” walk up to some of our Chaplains and ask what we were doing.  When they explained about RFTW and our Mission, this Gentleman got excited and started calling them all Heroes.  He even asked if he could take a photo with our Chaplains.  (Of course, they said Yes.). But then one of the Chaplains took a good hard look at the Gentleman and sort of recognized him, but he still asked “Aren’t you an Astronaut?  Didn’t you walk on the moon?”  Turns out, one of OUR American Heroes had been calling US Heroes!  (The Chaplains took some more ‘selfies’ with him!)

And right before we left the Museum, one of the “NASA Guys” walked up to me and asked if I would like to take a picture of some of their dignitaries.  Of course, I said “Yes!  But can I go get our Route Coordinators first?”  Before we know it, our Route Coordinator (“Wombat”) and our Assistant Route Coordinator (“Six String”) are standing side by side with General Thomas P. Stafford himself, in front of the General’s own statue!  This was truly a little more “magic of the Run!”

By the end of the day, we will have left my beloved Texas and entered into an area that is “OK.”  (Sorry!  It’s a Texas Thang!)  But the good people of Shawnee Oklahoma will welcome us to their town.  They will have placed Emergency Vehicles on every over-pass, complete with flags flying and people cheering, they will have lined the streets to see us arrive, and they will feed our bodies and souls in the evening before we go to bed.  They will make us all wish we could spend more time in Oklahoma.  (They even make this Texas Boy feel at home!)

I really like our travels through Oklahoma.  They are good people up there!

Cheers!
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link:

https://jimmccrain.smugmug.com/Run-For-The-Wall/2019-Midway-Route-RFTW/Day-Four-Midway-Route-2019/

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Southern Route 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 3

Day 3, Las Cruces, NM, to Odessa, TX, 348 miles

I’ve never ridden in such an intense riding situation. There is no lollygagging. There is no looking around. This is a mission and you look front and forward all the time. It’s a close-riding formation with rules for which you may get gigged. It can go from 70 mph to 30 mph in less than a heartbeat and you must gear down, working hard to not hit your brakes. I admit I’ve done it a bit. But a proud moment for me when our Platoon Leader told me I was a good rider.  In a mostly men’s ride, that’s a high compliment indeed.

The only updates I’ve had is we have about 1,700 riders so far, more than last year. Our Southern Route has about 400 bikes and about 45 more are expected to join us in Texas. Yahoo. It’s huge. Logistics must be a nightmare and yet everything appears to run mostly smoothly. When I worked I did one-day events. I’ve worked on three-day Harley Owners Group events. This is TEN days.  I cannot even imagine the work that goes into this. There is a fuel crew, a staging crew, a photographer, our platoon leaders, road guards, chaplains, and so many more. And our leaders are on call 24/7 while we’re on the run. Kudos to all of those who have organized and volunteered to make this happen.

We started at the American Legion this morning and left for a wreath-laying ceremony at Veteran’s Memorial Park. The ceremony took place in front of the Vietnam War Memorial. What a beautiful park. It has a statue of the Bataan Death March. What a sad story. And there are footsteps are in the walkway depicting their footsteps. I did not understand fully what this was last year on my FNG run.  But I’ve been reading books about WWII and came across some of the history of the death march.  How sad.  How awful that men can treat other men so badly.

Our keynote speaker at the Las Cruces Memorial Park this morning was Larry Nichols. Army. He said something that will stay with me as I live with a Vietnam vet, Marine.  He said, “Once a Vietnam veteran, always a Vietnam veteran.”  How true I find that … and now I’m starting to understand more of who the person is that I live with.

We stopped in Van Horne, Texas. We were provided lunch and got to listen to more bagpipes. This run has a love of bagpipes. So do I. Amazing Grace on bagpipes and I was bawling like a baby.

We arrived in Odessa about 6:30. After dinner at the Crossroads Fellowship Church we went to see the Chris Kyle Memorial. He was the Navy Seal, of the American Sniper movie fame.  The statue has notes carved in it from his wife and children. I left a painted rock and discovered many bullets that have been left on the memorial as well.

These towns sure know how to treat people and show us that the American people are way more good than bad, that patriotism is not dead, and that the RFTW means so much to so many.

We finally got to the hotel about 9. These are long days starting with wake up at 5 am or so.

I’ve ridden to Milwaukee multiple times, I’ve done other rallies and rides, Patriot Guard Escorts and parades. This is way more than that, and compares to nothing else I’ve ever done in my years of riding. For those of us who ride HD, there’s the saying that, “If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.”  That is the RFTW.

“We will remember those we loved, who died to keep us free, on foreign shores they fought for us, from sea to shining sea.”

Peppermint Patti

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Midway Route 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 3

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

DAY 03 – Friday, May 15, 2020

Albuquerque NM – Amarillo TX
293 miles

Okay, no panic this morning.  And I am still getting along with my roommate.  (More on HIM later!)

Today will start just like every day.  Get up, load the bike, and go to breakfast.  We will have a mandatory Riders briefing and safety meeting.  (Safety FIRST, even ahead of coffee!). During our morning meetings there will be discussion of the days route, explanation of anything that has changed (Semper Gumby!), and a few general announcements.  We will also get to meet and greet our newest Riders, as more FNGs will have joined us.  More Family!

These morning meetings are filled with more than information, though.  We use this time to remind each other WHY we are riding.  There will be biographies read each morning of a Soldier, Sailor, or Airman that is Missing in Action, or the was lost on that date.  Heroes will be introduced.  (Ever meet a Medal of Honor Recipient?  You might on THIS Run!). And a member of the Chaplain Corps will say a prayer for our safety, and will make sure that each and every Rider knows that they are here to help, listen, or do whatever it takes to help them “get right” and heal.  This “ride” is a Mission.  We ride for a purpose, and that is to bring hope, healing, and recognition to our Veterans and their Families.

Today has only a couple of activities, though.  The first is a nice, quiet ride through some very scenic countryside, arriving in Santa Rosa NM for lunch.  Our stop is at the “Blue Hole.”  This is a beautiful artesian well of clear, clean water … about 80 feet deep … in the middle of a desert.  The bikes pull up, the riders dismount, and we leisurely stroll up to the pool to gaze at the serene waters ….  HEY!  SOME ROAD GUARDS JUST JUMPED INTO THE POOL!!  DID YOU SEE THAT?  Yes, there is a tradition that several of our Road Guards have of jumping into cold water, in full gear.  (Do NOT try this at home.  These are NOT trained professionals, just wild and crazy Road Guards having fun!)  You will get used to these guys blowing off a little steam.  You have been seeing them in action for a couple of days now and have come to understand just how hard they are working for your safety!  They deserve a few “antics.”

After lunch, we have about 100 miles to dry off before our very special appearance in Tucumcari NM.  The Midway Route does not stop in this town, we just pass through on the highway.  But the Mayor of Tucumcari got so excited about RFTW that this year She arranged for us to make a special parade through downtown on the old historic “Route 66”!  THIS is the beginning of the “magic of the Run” where people are so enthusiastic about us that they WANT us to parade through their streets.  They WANT to honor our Veterans.  They WANT to support our Troops.  They WANT to be a part of our Mission.  Thank You, Mayor, for your heart-felt Welcome.  I hope that you know how much WE appreciate YOU, and that we can’t wait to actually ride through town and visit with you next year.

Doesn’t sound like we did much today, does it?  Guess again!  As the Route Photographer, I get to “zip ahead” and see things that most of the Riders don’t get to see.  Things like beautifully straight lines and tight formations as the bikes go rolling down the interstate.  I see the progression of a “bunch of bikers” into a “platoon of Riders.”  I see people joining together to help a tired friend.  I see small groups stand apart from the crowd, all centered around a comrade that needed to talk.  I see the young Man among the spectators with his head bowed, and then see one of our Riders go up to him and offer a shoulder, an ear, or just a handshake.  I see every one of our group help each other and receive help at the same time.  I see our Mission continue and grow with each passing mile.  We did a LOT today!

And so we arrive in Amarillo, and receive a traditional Texas-style Welcome!  Let me try to explain: FLAGS!  (Just as many Texas flags as American flags!)  Police Escort through town!  BBQ beef brisket and ribs!  Corn on the cobb!  Pie!  Sweet Tea!  (… Okay, I am going to need a minute here …  Oh Yeah. … )

And then an absolutely amazing presentation.  After a beautiful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” we learn the symbolism and meaning of the Battlefield Cross.  This ceremony describes in detail what each item represents and why it is included.  It is a fitting end to our day, just as we started the day, with a reminder of WHY we Ride.  We Ride for those who Can’t.

Cheers!
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link:

https://jimmccrain.smugmug.com/Run-For-The-Wall/2019-Midway-Route-RFTW/Day-Three-Midway-Route-2019/

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Central Route 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 3

May 15, 2020 – Day 3 To DC – Gallup, NM to Eagle Nest, NM

This is the part of the trip we end up in Eagle Nest, NM.  And visit Angel Fire memorial.

This is a typical sight every morning.  It is a sea of bikes. 

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Early in the morning and people still come out to wish us well.  These are the people we will miss.     

 

As I mentioned earlier, the meals are all supplied.  So too are the gas stop paid.  This one by Thunderbird Harley Davidson.

 

New Mexico is a state we have a complete escort across the state. Here are the LEOs lined up and ready to go.  There are state, city, county….. officers engaged to get us through.  So many people support the Run. Thanks all, we will be back next year.

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The Run donates to several schools along the way.  They have a big influence to the younger generation.

The 2 buses are from the kids of Cochiti.  Several years ago, the school was trying to get the kids more energized about learning.  So, there was an incentive idea.  If you have perfect attendance, get good grades and have good behavior, you could ride the bus to stand on the bridge to see RFTW go thru.  The first year there was 20 kids.  Now check out the bridge.  Soon they will have to make a bigger bridge.  They also have to rent the bus to get there.  To do that, the kids would have bake sales and other events to raise the money.  Great lessons.  This year they have 2 buses and check out how many kids are there. Again a very poor part of the country.  If you have earned the honor to go on the bus in May, around Labor Day, Jenny, Ken and a few other RFTW member go back to the school and the kids get RFTW pins.  They love it.  Last few years, the school struggled to get enough money for school supplies.  RFTW was able to take money to help the school out.  The people there were so grateful.

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In 2018, another school, Santo Domingo joined in.  They too have had great response from the kids.  Looks like the same pic as the one above but it is not.  Last year, they only had 1 bus. Way to go kids!

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Great facility for lunch.   Again, all volunteers and very supportive of our veterans.

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Road heading up to Angel Fire is breath taking.    It is a gorgeous ride.

 

As we get to Angel Fire Vietnam Memorial, the wind is normally pretty strong. It sits on top of a hill.

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Angel FireVietnam Memorial 

The purpose of the David Westphall Veterans Foundation is to honor America’s veterans and members of its military forces by memorializing the sacrifices they have made and by recognizing the sense of duty and the courage they have displayed as they answered their country’s call to arms.

The memorial was begun by Victor and Jeanne Westphall, the grief-stricken parents of Marine First Lieutenant David Westphall, who was among sixteen young men in his unit killed in an ambush on May 22, 1968 in Vietnam.

In September 2018, we were able to attend the ceremony for the brick laying. Friends or family can purchase the brick for a friend or family member to remember them for their service.

Here is an example of the bricks.  There were about 400 bricks last year.

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The memorial maintains a UH-1D model Huey helicopter, known originally as “Viking Surprise,” one of the first smoke ships used in Vietnam. On March 26, 1967, the helicopter, while rescuing service personnel, was so badly damaged – 135 bullet holes – that it was returned to the United State for repairs. The copter returned to Vietnam and was later sent to the New Mexico National Guard, which donated it to the Angel Fire memorial. (Sidenote; Our Very own Scooter (Kenny Keelin/ Road Guard/Scout) Flew this Helicopter before it was retired.)

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Food here is all homemade. I wayyyy over eat here.  I want to try a little bit of everything!

They always have the most interesting cakes.
Yes, this is a cake and it tasted awesome!!!! 

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Food here is all homemade. I wayyyy over eat here.  I want to try a little bit of everything!

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The town has a population of about 300.  When we roll in, we double that.  We will be here next year.

Quote of the day:
All gave some, some gave all

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Midway 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 2

DAY 02 – Thursday, May 14, 2020

Flagstaff AZ. – Albuquerque NM
339 miles

“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!

Cheers!
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link:

https://jimmccrain.smugmug.com/Run-For-The-Wall/2019-Midway-Route-RFTW/Day-Two-Midway-Route-2019/

 

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Southern Route 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 2

Day 2, Casa Grande, AZ, to Las Cruces, NM, 350 miles

0-dark thirty.  There will be a lot of these days when one is up before sunrise, staging your motorcycle, attending the mandatory meeting at 6:25 a.m.  I’m glad to not be an FNG (Friendly New Guy or Gal?), because they have their mandatory meeting at 6:15 a.m.  We also have our mandatory platoon meeting about 15 minutes before KSU, today at 7:08 a.m.  You wonder how it all can seem to happen so smoothly and precisely.  7:08?  But it does.

We only ran about 49 miles down the road to a Circle K in Marana, AZ, but the early hour allows for some coolness of the air, making for a pleasant ride.  Once again, remember to put up those highway pegs.  The fuelers don’t like getting hit in the shins with them as they’re moving you through the fuel line.

Our first gas stop today was donated.  And they handed out little packets with tissues, sunscreen and chapstick.  That was really a nice touch especially since some have gotten badly burned.  I found out that a certain amount of funds had been paid for the gas, and that a local couple paid for the balance of it.  I had painted RFTW rocks, and gave one to the couple in appreciation.

Marana was a great stop.  A young lady sang a song from The Lion King, Hallelujah.  It was overwhelmingly emotional … those that came home, those that did not.  And the bagpipers … it was awesome.

We continued to our next stop, Willcox, AZ.  We were treated to another lunch provided by the awesome people at the Elks Lodge.  There was a flag line and 150 kids to meet and greet us.  Some had painted posters and it was so uplifting to see these children learning about the RFTW, what it stands for, why we do it.  These children thanked everyone for their service.  I felt like a fraud except that I’m riding for others.  I tried to shake as many of their hands as possible, maybe I got to more than a hundred and I thanked them for being there and for welcoming us into their community.

There have been so many flag lines at gas stops, and people and flags on overpasses.  I get teary each time I see this wonderful display of patriotism and honoring what the RFTW is doing.  My mascara is ruined and I expect it will be every day.

The ride so far has been great as there have been some overcast skies.  There’s been wind also, but if you cut your teeth riding Turnagain Arm in Alaska, this is nothing.  Not even the heavy-duty wind and the dodging of tumbleweeds can stop us.

We ended up at Barnett’s Las Cruces Harley-Davidson for dinner.  The shop was also open for parts and service if necessary.  We are being treated so well by so many, and there’s not enough thanks in this world for what people are doing for the RFTW riders and their support teams.

There was even a fire truck in attendance and it was flying one of the biggest and most awesome U.S. flags I’ve ever seen.  There’ve been a lot of fire trucks and so many American flags.  It makes me happy to see those flags flying proudly.  How could one not be “Proud to be an American!”

While each day there’s always coffee and donuts or breakfast, I’m not a breakfast person.  Coffee is always the first order of the day for me.  Luckily for me, and probably many others, there is always a Hydration Station at each stop.  They have snacks and drinks, and neck snakes.  Neck snakes are those bits of cloth sewn into tubes that have some type of material inside that holds moisture.  They can be life-saving when soaked in water and put around your neck.  The breeze from traveling helps to cool you off some, and in Arizona/New Mexico/Texas sun and heat they’re a vital necessity.  Thank you to those who have staffed the Hydration Station and continually push us to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

You might be wondering who is writing these sitreps?  My name is “Peppermint” Patti Bogan from Anchorage, Alaska. I was born and raised in Alaska and have lived nearly my entire life there.  I’m 73, and started riding motorcycles in 1991 (although I rode a few small ones in the 60s).  I love to ride motorcycles, and own four, including one trike so that I can also ride in the winter.  I also enjoy painting rocks.  I brought some specially painted ones for the run and leave them or give them to people along the run.  It’s a small token, and one that I hope will provide a remembrance.

Peppermint Patti

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Central Route 2020 “Virtual” Sitrep Day 2

May 14, 2020 – Day 2 To DC – Williams, AZ to Gallup, NM

Williams mornings are always cool and most of the time sunny.  Stagers are on duty at every stop we have.   Bikes lined up and ready to go.

 

 This is Jim Sloan, aka Sweeper, and Jenny Ward, aka Lady Jen.  Jim drives the truck after the last platoon. As the pack gets on the highway, we travel only 35 MPH.  This allows everyone to get on the road and get together before going at highway speed.  Jim lets the route coordinator know when all the bikes are on the expressway. Then we pick up speed.

 

The mayor John Moore is in the cowboy hat.  He and his son donate breakfast in the morning and has done this for many years.  Did I mention that from the time we leave Ontario until we get to DC, breakfast, lunch and dinners are provided to us by the communities of the cities we visit.  Unbelievable!!! Last year was Sausage and gravy. 

We always welcome the FNGs (First time riders).  There are over half.  

 

                                      As we leave William, I always remember the beautiful pine trees.

 

                                           This is a sight we see as we leave Williams. Beautiful mountains.

 

 Next, we head to Holbrook, AZ.  Normally Holbrook has every kid out of school when we roll thru.  This year the kids are all home.

 The American Legion Post 37 serves us lunch.  The high school kids have a small band that play music for us.  I guess they will have another year to practice.

As we head into New Mexico the land changes drastically. Beautiful!!

Next stop is Gallup, NM.  There is 13 miles to our destination for the ceremony from the Native Americans. Normally there are people that line the street, all the way. I understand why they are called the “Most Patriotic Small Town In the USA”.

As we arrive, we hear them chatting and playing drums.   They have been since noon.  This is for our safety in our travels.

 

                           I always loving coming into Gallup.  The native Americans welcome us. Most of the RFTW riders join in. What an amazing ceremony. What an amazing city!

There is a 21 gun salute.  Then “Taps”.  As many years as I have been on the Run, I still get tears every time I hear it. Where are the tissues? 

 

This is Gunnery Sergeant P.J. James.  He represents the Code Talker during WWII. The name code talker is strongly associated with bilingual Navajo speakers specially recruited during World War II by the Marines to serve in their standard communications units in the Pacific Theater. The enemy could not break the code.

 

Quote of the Day:

Home of the free, because of the brave