Monday, May 25, 2009
RFTW 2009 - Pt. 5 (Rich)
This segment of the journey covers Weatherford,Tx to Monroe, La. We met in the morning and as usual had our morning meetings. Sometime, either today or yesterday, I don’t remember when, I switched to 2nd platoon. There we ride side by side. One of the biggest advantages is that you also get to refueling earlier and are able to stretch your legs and make a pit stop with time to spare.
Our first stop was the small town of Terrell, Tx. Once again, people were cheering and flags were waving as we pulled into the gas station (free gas) and then staged. The town set up an area where they had snacks and sandwiches for us. After a quick pit stop I got on line for some snacks. They had pimento cheese sandwiches, PB & J sandwiches, and ham salad sandwiches. I tried a pimento and a PB & J sandwich. As we were enjoying our snacks and drinking our water (you got to hydrate) the town mayor started the ceremony. He talked about how much it meant to the town to have us make Terrell one of our stops. We pick up more riders here like we do at almost every stop.
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Terrell, Tx. snacks and townspeople
He talked about our mission and how important it is. He then presented us with a check for $780 to use for gas or whatever we wanted. Then the local Raytheon plant presented us with a check for $1000.00 that they raised. A couple of local MC riding clubs dug in and came up with a couple of hundred dollars also. We were given over $2000.00 at this stop. You may be wondering what happens to this money. You will find out later on this journey.
We head out to cheers of thanks from the townspeople. Why they thank us is hard to get a grip on. They appreciate what we are doing and support us. We should be cheering and thanking them. That we try to do by waving and sounding our horns as we leave. It touches your heart as you leave these small towns. These people are proud of their town and country and our mission.
Our next stop is Longview, TX. for lunch. It is put on by the Longview VFW Post 4002. Another free meal is provided. I thought I would lose some weight during the trip but if anything happens, I will gain some. All the free food and no time to exercise. Not a good combination.
I have to say something here that might upset some of you but it needs saying and it is my opinion. When we returned from Viet Nam, this country turned their backs on us. The best thing that could happen was that people ignored you. At least when they did that, they weren’t spitting at you or calling you “baby killers”. But what hurt more than anything was the lack of respect and support from veteran’s who served before us. An example of that is the VFW. Viet Nam Vets were not eligible to join. After all, we didn’t really fight a “War”. We were shunned by the very same people who should have known better but for some reason chose the path they took. That is one reason I wouldn’t join any VFW today. I know they have changed and realize their mistake, but I still can’t forget. Again, if my opinion, and this is only my opinion, offends you I am sorry. I know many people who are members of the VFW and they do a lot of fine work on the behalf of Veterans.
Our next stop was Monroe, La. We finally made it out of Texas. A big state with some absolutely wonderful people. The scenery was not what I expected. The southwestern part of the state was mostly flat and relatively dry. Not desert but not lush and green. As you got closer to Ft. Worth, it became greener and more trees. My friend Terry Bishop who rides with Star Touring in Orange County once told me that Texas had a lot of hills. I have to admit, there are hills in Texas and it is nowhere near as flat as Kansas.
As we crossed into Louisiana, we were greeted by an overpass of people. Flags flying and waving to us as we have seen many times on this journey. I don’t think I will ever get used to it. But the biggest surprise was that there was an Apache Attack Helicopter hovering about 3 feet off the ground to our right. As we rode past, the prop blast form the rotors hit us and the whole formation moved to the left as we went by. Another thing that happened was that the State Police picked us up as we crossed into the state and escorted us the whole way. They even shut down I 25 so we had the freeway to ourselves. What a site with about 400 bikes plus chase vehicles and many cars and RV’s that were part of our group.
In Monroe, we had another free dinner at the Shriner’s Hall. I found out one major thing about Louisiana cooking. They love fried food. As someone said, if they pick up a piece of food, and the grease doesn’t drip off, it isn’t cooked right!!!! But the meal was catfish.
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Lined up outside the Shriner’s Hall
And in LA, they know catfish. Problem is, fish and me just don’t agree with each other. I ate what other things they had, and left the building quickly. Either that or getting sick was the alternative!
This segment covers Monroe, La to Meridian, Ms. After our usual morning meetings we head for downtown Monroe for the Veterans Memorial. We are greeted by the Mayor and several other people. At the Memorial, we again lay a wreath and listen to a short speech from the Mayor. We present the Mayor with a plaque of appreciation for having us in Monroe. We do this at many locations to thank those that support us. As we were leaving, cold water was waiting in the main building compliments of Monroe, La. We mounted up and headed down the highway with more bikes. I think we are up to about 300 bikes.
Again we had police escort. The Mississippi State Police picked us up at the La border and would escort us thru the state. We had a gas stop in Tallulah. Ms. These are always the same. How long to they take? Surprisingly we can get those 300 bikes thru the gas line and back formed up in about 20 minutes. How do we do this? We approach the pumps in two lines. We have an advance crew that handles the pumps and collects the money. They tell you how much you owe and they always round up the amount. You get no change. So if you put in $5.25 you would be charged $6.00. The system works great once you have been thru it once or twice. The advance team works hard to make sure we get in and out.
As usual, along the way we see people on the side of the road, on overpasses and across the freeway waving and cheering. It never gets tiring and it does affect us. I still wonder where these people were 40 years ago. But at least they are here now.
Jackson, Ms. is something to see. We stop at the Jackson Harley to a rousing welcome. People are all over cheering. We pass thru a line of people who are dressed in modern all the way to the Revolutionary War outfits. As I pass I get several Semper Fi,s. Once we fuel up and park we are treated to a special meal in the shop.
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Army SOC Parachutist landing at the Jackson HD Shop
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A small sampling of the people lining the road at the Jackson HD shop
When we were done eating, the special guests were brought in. There were two of the Tuskegee Airman, a former POW, and 3 Medal of Honor Recipients. Unfortunately, I can’t remember any of their names. I lost what notes I had with all the names on it.
Outside the shop they had set up what they call the “Trail of Honor Reenactment”. They had displays of each major conflict from the Revolution to Viet Nam. It was here that I ran into the person who yelled “Semper Fi. It turned out that he was in one of my sister squadrons in Chu Lai. He was with VMFA-115. We had a long talk about our experience in Chu Lai.
At this point I was talking to a guy named DJ from Kansas. We decided to leave early for Meridian. Along the way, we once again had people waving to us along the freeway and on overpasses. By now you should know how much this means to me. I am still getting teary eyed when I see this. It is really special and appreciated. After the Sgt. Maj. got to the room he asked me why I left early. I told him I was just tired and needed to do laundry and wanted to be able to relax. He asked if any people were on the overpasses as I went by. I told him they were. He told me the State Police estimated there were close to 700 people along the way. That is a lot more than I saw. But by this time I am tired and needed a little break from everything.