These installments are written by Rich "Yankee" Martin. Rich is a Vietnam Veteran & a member of PGR. This is his 3rd year participating in "Run for the Wall".
May 15, 2011
Today is the day! I left for RFTW in Rancho Cucamonga. I met Doug “Sgt Major” Lyvere in Gilroy at 0930 so we could ride down together. It seems like this day has taken forever to get here. The anticipation is torture. It seems like the day was never going to get here.
This is my third year doing this mission. My first year, 2009, I was an FNG. The whole mission was an emotionally draining experience. By the time I got to DC, I was just drained. It was extremely hot and humid there and I could not drink enough water to stay hydrated. At least it seemed that way. Friday night, I got to tour the Commandant of the Marine Corps home at view the Evening Parade. The Parade is spectacular. On Saturday, as an FNG I got to go to Arlington to visit the Tomb of the Unknowns. Then on to the Lincoln Memorial for a group picture before heading for the Wall. I almost didn’t make it. I almost turned around and ran in the other direction several times. But my mission was to place a picture of an MIA at the Wall. I was successful doing that but I couldn’t do anything else.
2010 was my second year and I became a Road Guard. That was quite an experience. It made the mission so much better. I was busy the whole way and worked with the most dedicated people you will ever meet. Road Guards are responsible for getting everyone to DC as safely as possible. We take our responsibilities very seriously. Once again, this was a very emotional ride. You never know what will set you off. Something minor will trigger something and start the tears flowing. It usually happens when you are not expecting anything. I still was not able to spend anytime at the Wall last year. I couldn’t visit with any of my brothers. I am hoping this year I can spend time with them. That is my personal mission for this year.
This year, I have been looking forward to this even more. I can’t wait to see everyone. When we arrived in Rancho this afternoon, there was a surprisingly large group already there. Lots of hugs and catching up. It was good to see Cowboy, Cajun, Scratch, Wrong Way, Lightbulb, Stoney, Bandit, and DJ. Pied Piper 2009 Route Coordinator was there this year. He missed 2010. Too Tall, 2010 Route Coordinator and his wife, Too Short, are here again. DJ from Kansas is here. These are just some of the people I greeted. More will be here on Monday and Tuesday. We did have a Memorial Service for Top Sarge’s husband, Vance, who passed away this year. They are long time RFTW people. They are well known and loved by many people. Top Sarge (Shirley) will be driving one of the support vehicles again this year.
Our ride down here was pretty uneventful, except for the anticipation I was feeling about getting here. We did get a little sprinkles at least three times. Enough to wet the windshield but not us. Traffic was light most of the way. Even when we got to the LA area the traffic was relatively light. By the way, we only made 2 strategic changes of direction. One of them was because of the GPS. But that is the fun part of riding motorcycles. You have to overcome and adapt.
I will continue this with my thoughts about Monday and Tuesday before I send it out. We actually leave on Wednesday so the next two days are just meetings and more meetings.
May 16, 2011
More riders have been and will continue to arrive today. I will spend the day seeing more of the RFTW family and that is what we are, After 10 days of riding together and experiencing this mission together, you become family.
Most of today is spent making sure people knew where they had to go to register and sign in. Last year we had about 900 people pre-register. That is nationwide. This year I heard there were about 1050 pre-registered nationwide. Rumor has it that SR had about 300 register just today. In the past we usually would leave Rancho Cucamonga with 200-250 bikes. So this should be an interesting mission.
Today was a day of mostly greeting people you met in the past. We had a leadership meeting at 1730 where this years Route Coordinator, Richard “Preacher” Moore reminded us of why we ride. He also covered other important information. When that ended, the Road Guards went to dinner together. We had about 25 of us in several tables pushed together. We went to a Famous Dave’s and had a great dinner. Of course, they did separate checks and as veterans, we got a 25% discount. It was nice having dinner with everyone. We get to relax before we start work on Wednesday.
May 17, 2011
Most of the morning was spent in our Road Guard meeting. There was a lot of information passed down. A long time member of the Central Route who is now on the Board of Directors took the time to explain why some of the changes were made. It seems that most of the changes on the CR were done a year or two after we did them on the SR, CR was always catching up. So this year they decided to have the SR wait until next year for any changes so that CR and SR will be working on the same page.
The rest of the day was just spent greeting all the riders coming in. My friend, Tim Mermod, made it in this afternoon. He made it in time for the FNG meeting. That is an important meeting for him to attend. Most of the afternoon was spent talking to FNG’s. I remember when I was an FNG how people would come up to me and welcome me and answer any questions I had.
Some of the people who arrived today were Robert and Alica Padilla. I met Robert last year and this year we did a Welcome Home for Alicia’s son when he returned from Iraq. I also saw Mayor Trent Crowe, of Wytheville, Va. This year he was able to make it all the way out here so he can go all the way. You will hear about Wytheville once we get there. It is a special place for us to visit.
Another special arrival today. If you have ever seen a video of Rolling Thunder one image everyone will remember is that of Marine SSgt Tim Chambers standing in his dress blues saluting the riders as they go by. He has stood there for 4 hours until the last rider passes. Last year he was in Arlington saluting us when we arrived at the host hotel. This year he is going with us all the way. He will be in one of the vehicles since he is unable to ride a motorcycle. He is not 100% physically at this time. He insists he will be out at his post again this year. I just don’t know how he can do that with his condition. We will see when we get to DC.The mission starts in the morning. As a RG, I have to be ready to go at 0515 in the morning. But I can’t wait until morning. The mission is what matters and that is why we all are here. I will continue this after the first days travel.