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Southern Route 2020 “VIRTUAL” Sitrep Day 7

RFTW 2020 Sitreps, virtual

Day 7, May 19, 2020 — Meridian, MS, to Chattanooga, TN, 317 miles

The mornings are coming even earlier, 4:10 am (a little earlier than I needed to) today because I went on an outreach.  It would be heart wrenching.

I left about 5:25 a.m. headed for the hotel where I’d meet up for the Outreach ride. Yep. Wrong way again and I was using my phone GPS. Got to ride a little bit of rural Meridian. Pretty but not really where I wanted to be at 5:30 in the morning.

However, I arrived safely and early.  I pulled up. Then I was told to move up a little bit. I heard this “clunk” when my helmet hit the ground.  The light went on … one of the rules is helmets on all the time … even if you’re in a parking lot moving your bike 2 inches or in a state that has no helmet law, you must have on your helmet. I did my faux pas right in front of the Route Coordinator.

We had our briefing. We were going to Dalton, GA, to visit Jo Anne, the sister of Bobby Jones who is MIA. We would have lunch at her and her husband’s home and then go to a nursing home to visit her 102-1/2 year old mother.

We would be all day on this ride so I was excited to get away from the larger pack and get a break. Some folks aren’t the best riders. That’s another story.  We were 15 bikes strong with four women riding their own, a great percentage.

We were given green pins and bracelets as green is the color of hope. And then we were off.

The morning was cool, foggy and muggy. But we rode well together. And it only got better as we went throughout the day.

At our first gas stop for some reason neither of my credit cards would work. A guy named Polar Bear bailed me out. I had cash. All was well.

About 20 miles from Dalton five bikes went into a missing man formation. Three bikes ride in the left track. Two bikes ride in the right track but with a space in between the Number One and Three bikes, for the missing man. They ride side-by-side. It’s a beautiful sight and has a lot of meaning.

We arrived at Jo Anne and Rudy’s house. She opens it up every year for this visit and provided a wonderful lunch. Their home is beautiful with lots of wallpaper and antiques.

Jo Anne told us about Bobby. He grew up in Macon and did a medical internship in Dallas.  He joined the Air Force in 1972 and was stationed in Thailand when a mom brought her baby in. He took that child in his arms and wouldn’t let go. It was very sick and Bobby was able to get it on a plane to get needed medical help and pretty much saved that child’s life with his decision.

In November 1972 he was on a plane flying supplies into DaNang. About 2 miles out they were lost on the radar. The thought is that the plane clipped the top of a mountain there.

Jo Anne’s been to Washington asking for accountability and representing the families for the 1,589 that are still missing.  She’s also made multiple trips to Southeast Asia. She kept saying she was just a housewife from Georgia. But she’s a strong and persistent woman. And a personable one with that southern charm and a beautiful smile.

She told us there have been excavations of the mountain over the years but they really didn’t find much.  The soil is so acidic that there isn’t much time left to find anything where DNA would be recognizable. So the message needs to get to those who can make it happen. Get it done.

On one excavation they found a blood chit. It’s a piece of silk fabric, about 2×3, from a flight suit. It’s sewn in with the person’s number in multiple languages saying what country he’s from. This one was quite faded but eventually proved to be Bobby’s. Jo Anne thinks the chit was placed in an area where someone would find it as it was in a pretty obvious place.  She’s happy to have it as she said it may be the only thing she ever has. As she said there are mass graves for many we’ll never get back. But with some, we will get them home.

We went from there to the nursing home to meet Christine. She’s told Jo Anne she’s ready to bust out of that place. She’s quite the lady, unique and charming, and all dressed up and ready to meet all of us and let us have photo ops. What a lovely lady. She also likes men’s beards.

We went inside and did a group photo and met some of the other residents. I gave Christine a RFTW 2019 painted rock.

From there it was about a half hour to White Lightning HD for dinner then to the hotel. Four states today … MS, AL, GA, TN. There’s never enough time. Long days and evenings. But so worth it. And so many things and people to be thankful for.  Everyone has been so amazing that you are filled with the wonder of love and patriotism.  Your heart bursts to be a part of something so big, so honorable, so worthwhile.

On a side note, I have found it interesting to be on a run that is mostly men. I’m the only female in our platoon but I’m doing well other than when I couldn’t get the bike off the kickstand yesterday. Everyone has been helpful and friendly and I believe I’ve made friends with folks here who will be friends whether or not I come again. An added benefit of fewer women is that the lines to the ladies rooms are always very short, if there’s one at all. It’s great being a female in a man’s world on this run.

Another side note — three people dropped their bikes on our ride today. Best part is that none of them was me. 😊  Yet.  (But if you don’t ride you probably don’t drop them.  And we ride!!!)

“For those who have fought for it – freedom has a special flavor the protected will never know.”  Soldier Unknown

Peppermint Patti