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.