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Southern Route 2024 SitReps – Day 2 – Run For The Wall

Day 2 – Southern Route; Casa Grande, AZ to Las Cruces, NM.

An interesting day.  We were served a good breakfast at the Elks lodge and left on time towards Las Cruces, NM.  There was a fuel stop in Marana, AZ at the Circle K.  Lots of locals came out to greet us and honor us with Thanks and Well Wishes.  There some older Vets that wished they could be traveling with us but their health won’t allow.  We Thank You Casa Grande Elks lodge for wonderful hospitality and a fun time and also the folks at Marana, AZ.  It’s an honor to meet with you and share the emotions with remembering loved ones lost.

We then went on to Wilcox, AZ.  We went to the Elks Lodge there and we were greeted by at least 100 elementary school children that were out there waving flags and greeting us with nice cards while we traipsed through to get a good pulled pork sandwich that was cooked by the same Vet that has been doing this for 12 years for Run for the Wall.  Again, a very nice reception, warm greetings and a nice meal as we are invited to their hometown.  From there, we traveled towards Las Cruces.  The wind that was blowing challenged us and surly kept you awake if you were tired at all.  We had significant dust clouds for a few miles but we made it through with another story to tell when we get home.  Las Cruces was ready for us.  We had a Army helicopter escorting us into town and after we arrived at the Elks lodge, the helicopter pilot buzzed the Elks lodge a couple of times and then landed in the field just next door.  We had many hugs and handshakes from the folks there, it was one of the warmest receptions to date.  Dinner was served and boy was it good.  BBQ links, brisket and chicken on each plate along with Cole Slaw and a great BBQ sauce.  There was an honor guard service presenting the flag that was obviously practiced, very well done.  I’ve always liked Las Cruces and the people there are a big part of the reason.  Then on to the hotels and get ready for more excitement tomorrow.

I also wanted to bring attention to a group of volunteers that normally are not talked about much and that is the Chase Team.  I mentioned a couple of years ago there are so many people that work in support of this run, many coming along as part of the run and many that are at each stop or working during the entire year to help this run be an organized event like the state coordinators, it’s difficult to mention everyone.  This day, I want to speak about the Chase Team.  My roommate, an FNG that I ride with a lot during the year had a problem with his bike.  At a fuel stop, the bike appeared to have an electrical problem.  Like so many newer bikes, so much is electronic.  His fuel door wouldn’t open so he shut the bike down, couldn’t open the fuel door and tried to start the bike.  Of course it wouldn’t start.  After a fair amount of work, the fuel stop was ending and they decided to put the bike on one of the trailers and think about where to bring the bike for service.  Choices were coming down to the Phoenix area which was still in front of us.  The point of this story is that Alan’s experience was extremely good in this devastating situation.  They put his bike on the trailer without letting him help, tied it down well and went to the Blythe fairgrounds where our lunch was.  Of course they have awesome trailers an Alan learned that the owner of the trailer (complete voluteer) built the trailer himself!  During lunch, Alan was talking with someone who has a similar bike and it was suggested that it might be a vapor lock situation.  After letting it cool down and still on the trailer, he tried starting it and it did start.  Yea!!  So, they pulled the bike off and Alan was able to ride on his own to catch up with the pack.  A big part of this that really impressed him was the caring from this team and their concern that the problem was fixed and didn’t come back.  The chase team is a great bunch of people that are there to support the pack and keep everyone safe.  They are not often mentioned here but there service to the run is critical.  Thank You Chase Team!  It great to know you’re there and we hope we never need your services but it’s nice to know you’re there with competent hands.  The magic of the run.

A bit about the Missing Man Formation.  When a soldier is KIA or MIA, it’s tradition to pay respect to that missing person by remembering them in different ways.  Since we are “Riding For Those That Can’t”, we have a formation in the very front of the pack that includes an open spot without a motorcycle there to honor the person who could not be with us.  A person from the pack has an opportunity to ride next to the open spot to remember someone that is important to them.  This is for each leg which means from where we start our day to the first stop which is probably a fuel stop.  Then, someone else will have an opportunity to do this on the next leg.  We have people that are riding for friends or loved ones, maybe a spouse or a brother or a sister.  It can be an emotional time.  A Chaplin is always there to hear the riders story.  A prayer is said and hugs go all around.  The Gold Star Moms and Dads are the most emotional as they grieve over the child that was lost in service to our country.  Freedom is not free.  We have more and more joining the 22 lost each day to taking their own lives, usually PTSD where they simply can’t deal with the emotions anymore.  This is a very deep subject that can’t be dealt with properly here but it’s a fact that needs to be heard and support provided to those that need someone to hear them, listen to them and protect them when ever possible.  Missing Man is an honor to remember and acknowledge.

Boots, USAF ’72 – ’75

Some of the bikes as we arrived to the Las Cruces Elks Lodge.

Another Missing man Start.

A great BBQ meal at teh Elks lodge.

The helicopter that escorted us into Las Cruces coming in for a landing.

Color Guard at the Elks Lodge.

Presentations at the Elks Lodge.

Pictures of this helmet don not do it justice. It’s beautiful when examined closely.

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