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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

RFTW 2009-PT 3 (Rich M)

May 14th

This leg of the journey covers Phoenix to Las Cruces, NM. This was another hot, hot, day. We all drank a lot of water and at times poured water over our shirts to cool off. After our first gas stop in Marana, we headed on to our lunch break in Wilcox, Az. Again, you would be riding thru the desert and all of a sudden you would see people on the side of the road or on an overpass waving flags with signs. Forty years ago, people would probably be throwing rocks at us. Times have changed and Viet Nam Vets are starting to be appreciated. It feels so good.

As we were riding along 4 Apache Attack Helicopters appeared. They ran from one end of the formation of about 300 bikes, and down the other side and back around about 2 more times. After they left, we saw 4 Warthog attack jets coming toward us. They did the same thing only much faster and about 5 times. As they came down the sides of the formation, they started wiggling their wings. There was no doubt about why they were there. What a total adrenaline rush that was. The present day military shows Viet Nam Vets in many different ways that they understand what we went thru and that they understand the legacy that we left for them to carry on. Again, I am sure glad I had sunglasses on.

As we pulled into Wilcox, a small desert town that made Blythe look large. We were given free gas again. Then it was on to the local American Legion Post for lunch. That was also free of charge. Every stop that we make for lunch has either been at an American Legion Hall or VFW Hall. We have a small ceremony and then present thank you plaques to the local people who have worked so hard to plan and set up our lunch.

But this leg of the journey has been mostly riding. No Veterans Memorials or Hospitals to visit. We just road on and waved at people as we passed them holding up their signs.

May 15th

Today’s leg of the journey covers Las Cruces, NM to Odessa, Tx. Again, a lot of heat during this leg. We have been in the desert since leaving Rancho Cucamonga. It is starting to get to people a little bit.

Our first stop was the Perriman Valley Veteran’s Memorial ( sorry, no pictures here. My camera died because I forgot to charge it) in Las Cruces. It was a very nice place that had the names of all the local residents that served in the military. Those that perished, were identified on each plaque. Many names for a small population. While there, we placed a wreath at the base of the flag. The local Marine Corps League were the color guard and did a great job of posting the colors. Several people spoke here and at times I had tears in my eyes again. I just wonder sometimes why it has taken this long for this country to embrace those of us who served in Viet Nam. I just have to keep saying to myself that it is better late than never. There are times when that is so hard to do.

It was during this leg of the journey, “Mustang”, went down. It was scary to see. Mustang is a couple of years older than me. As we were riding along, he seemed to be drifting off his line. Finally, he went over the white line and hit the rumble strips that roused him and he came back on track. Well, it got worse until he actually went off the pavement and into the dirt. Surprisingly, he brought the bike back under control. He did it again and everyone was trying to get him to stop. He kept slowing down and by the time I got past, his head was hanging down and he was just staring ahead.

One thing has been made clear to us. Do Not Stop for a bike that breaks down or if a bike crashes. Only the person closest to the crash stops. We are on a mission and if someone crashes the mission goes on. There is a medical team following the bikes and they will stop and take care of any injuries.

The next morning, Mustang, was with us. It seems he got stung by a bee and had an allergic reaction. As he said, his heart was beating a mile a minute, he was having trouble breathing, and once he stopped the bike layed over on its side. He said the medical team told him he was griping the bike so hard that they had a hard time getting him to let go. They got him to the hospital and treated real quick. He was back with us the next morning and telling us not to all stop for an accident. It really was a relief to see him. The rumor mill had him near death with a heart attack and even worse.

Once again, everywhere along the route, people would be waving flags and cheering as we went by. It really does get hard to ride sometimes. Your vision gets blurred when they well up with tears. When I see these people, especially when there are young children, I sometimes find myself drifting and thinking about things I do not want to think about. I snap out of it when the bike next to me starts to move up on me because I am slowing down. But I will get to the Wall. I am on a mission and I will not fail. Keep me in your thoughts as I go on this journey because at times it is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Without the support of those riders that have done this before, at times I am not sure if I could continue.

When we got to Las Cruces, we were fed by Las Cruces Harley Davidson. We also got free gas again. The Harley shop stayed open late to feed us. They did make some money on parts that people bought. Is that a Harley joke waiting to be told???

Again, we had free gas at least twice on this leg. We were fed lunch and supper free. These small towns really go all out. It is nice to see and even more humbling to experience. Why do they do it? I don’t really know. Maybe it is their way of making amends for what happened when we came home. They may not have had anything to do with that period in time but maybe they want us experience what our homecoming should have been like when we were young.

Tempers did get a little frayed this evening. It seems the Days Inn (where Sgt. Maj. And I had reservations) cancelled a lot of the reservations. I went over and sure enough, no reservation. What they say happened was that one of the buildings lost power and water. It was being worked but they could not use it. They transferred our reservation to another hotel that was under renovation. In our room, the bathroom worked and the beds were ok. We were good to go!

No pictures to send with this. I either let the camera go uncharged or flat out forget to take them. My emotions are so strong that I sometimes forget what I am doing.

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