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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

RFTW 5/14

Here we are - end of a LONG day. 410 miles, in saddle for about 5 hours, directing traffic and bikes (on foot) about 3 hours, being confused - all day. This year I'm a Road Guard on the Advance Team. We have various "Teams" to make things go well. You have the "Fuel Team" - they, along with 4 Road Guards zip on ahead of the main body and move into whatever gas station(s) we're using. When the mail body gets there, they get in line, 2 abreast to each pump. They will have one or two pumps put aside for credit cards. (And you can also elect to go to another station if you wish). You (two) pull up to the pump, the Fueler hands you the hose, and you fill your tank. The fueler than passes the hose to the rider next to you. While that person is filling, you dig out your cash, only bills and there is no change. The fueler will tell you what you owe rounded UP to the nearest dollar. You pay it and move out and another rider takes your place. The extra money goes to fuel the support vehicles. You have the Road Guards - there job is to "shepherd" the packs from point to point, block intersections, etc. You have the "Pace setters" - their job is to do nothing but concentrate on the desired speed with the incremental increases as you pull onto the road. The Advance Team zips on ahead - usually about 15 minutes ahead - and we man the turning points, block the intersections and whatever (until the Road Guards take over), make sure the route is free of road obstruction, warn the pack of road issues, construction, etc. We also get into the towns first to establish the staging areas and to tell the scoots how to park (TIGHTLY). Try parking 400 bikes in a small area sometime. And solve other problems like irate residents - again, 400 bikes make some noise.

Today I had the honor of having the Missing Man formation to move into formation. Just like the MM flyovers, it honors those that are no longer with us although we use it just for the MIA's. The MM Formation leader today was former Marine "Honey Buns" - Vietnam Vet. He lost it completely trying to explain to a civilian what it represents (as most of us do). When we have a police escort, no matter how many or how few police there are, the MM Formation gets its own Police Escort. We supply a front and rear Road Guard. To be able to ride in that formation is considered to be a great honor. And it manning changes every day. When I'm directing the pack (afoot), and the MM Formation comes by, I render a hand salute. I can't for the general pack as I'm using my hands to direct traffic or whatever.

We went under a mess of overpasses today - all with people by the dozens waving flags , holding signs, cheering, etc. Heck of a great feeling.

Today I got up at 3:30 - really couldn't sleep - and when I got to the staging area in Rancho Cucamonga, it was 57. At our first refueling stop in Barstow, 78. Next stop in Ludlow, 83. Needles was 96 (thankfully - last year that whole stretch was over a hundred and Needles was 115. Kingman was back down to 77. As we approached and then pulled into Williams, 50. And this morning they had snow and an ice storm. No phones. We have to layer when we ride and there is virtually no time to take off and put stuff away - we get pretty efficient, or freeze, or roast. Tomorrow, its supposed to be 42 when we meet at 0600, and stays that way thru Flagstaff. Then chilly and possible rain all the way into Gallup.

Easy day emotional - the well wishers made us teary eyed and feel good. In Needles, the local "ABATE" and service organizations fed us and shook everyone of our hands. Here in Williams, a huge welcoming crowd and they fed us at the VFW Hall. Tomorrow our send off is with the local Blue and Gold Star parents, and a local middle school. Holbrook and Gallup. Tomorrow the emotions really get triggered.

Apparently we have around 400 riders (but I'm not sure).

But as I like to say, the Mission Rules.

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