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Sunday, May 18, 2008

RFTW 5/18

5 o'clock reveille again (and again, that's local time - I'm still passing out on California time). Breakfast at the VFW (free - surprise) with lots of fruit and coffee - a bikers staple. There was also a non denominational church service - sounds like 'Nam all over again. But the Road Guards were to busy setting up the intersections, freeway access, parade routes, etc. Met some more great cops - they love this run and what it stands for. Sometimes when we block intersections, we keep them tied up for 20 to 30 minutes - no one ever seems to care.

This will be a relatively short ride - a total of only 316 miles (88, then 121, then 107). The middle leg will be a killer - that's pushing the limits on some of the bikes - especially because of how the MPG suffers because of the speed up, slow down, and the numerous on and off the freeway trips. And another time change - move the clock up another hour. Sleep is grossly overated - and I can usually catnap on the ride !! One of our jobs as Road Guards is to occasionally beep at a rider to see if they really are studying the inside of their eyelids. Usually, when the rider gets drowsy, the space between they and the rider in front of them starts to increase. It does happen every now and then.

First stop was for lunch in Oakley - you can assume its free yet again. This time we paid for gas but took less than usual - short run. We stopped in a WALMART parking lot - we filled a third of it and another third were filled by the locals coming to share and talk with us. At every stop they look at you with an expression of respect and curiosity. They always like to look at the scoots with their fancy paint jobs. This year, we have a few where the rider has painted the names of his fallen hero friends on the tank. Always done professionally.

The freeway was interesting today - 2 or 3 construction zones and lots of traffic. Most of the time the cars/trucks will give us a lot of space, let us pass or just generally stay out of the way. And always, the waving, the picture taking, and the thumbs up!! We went under a dozen over passes with crowds cheering, not to mention people off the side of the freeways waving and cheering - usually in the middle of nowhere. For many of us, and other vets, its an emotional upheaval to find that so many people respect AND support the vets, and in this case, the Mission.

Last part of the day was great. When we pulled into the Marriot Courtyard (End of today's mission location), they had the streets lined with American Flags and whole lot of people. A free (surprise) dinner in the convention center - very nice. Parking is great and we're right next to a Harley Dealership which stayed open (Sunday) to service anyone hat needed it, a mess of stores and small restaurants, and a do it yourself car wash. Again, people wanting to do something for us, for nothing. Of course the motels make money, but the free food (and I forgot - the free gas) comes out of some ones pocket.

At 1930 they provided transportation for anyone that wanted to go to Vietnam Memorial for a Memorial Service, - the buses were overflowing so many took their rides rather than getting additional buses.

We now have 4 bikes being hauled (breakdowns) and 4 or 5 getting necessary work (brake lines, cables, lights, other electrical) etc done. I still don't know the final outcome on our rider that dumped his scoot on the way into Angel Fire. What originally looked like nothing more than a couple of broken ribs and collapsed lung, has grown. The morning after he couldn't even stand up so they sen for the medical team - and his bike is definitely toast!!

This year there seems to be more BMW's and Victories then last year. I guess Victory is making a big hit. At least two thirds or more of the full dress bikes are Gold Wings - you can't beat that bike when it comes to full dress. As are the trikes - Honda. A few real interesting "trikes" - triple person "rear" seat, LONGGGG wheel base, etc.

A couple of the Vets got together a little while ago and had their own "candlelight vigil" for those still on patrol. We all take this very seriously.

We're up to 8 platoons of rolling stock. It takes a while to get from the back of the pack to the leadership up front. Most of the time when I'm zipping up and down, the bikers will give us (Road Guards) a thumbs up - they know that its our job to help keep them safe - I'm flattered to be asked to do it - keeping my brothers and sisters safe seems to be a normal thing to me.

That's it for tonight - tomorrow is a long emotional day with a stop at the VA Hospital in Topeka to visit with the people there, and then off to another of the more noteworthy Vietnam Memorials.

The Mission Rules.


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