Today is the start of the longest riding day. We will travel from Tolleson, Az to Las Cruces, NM. This will be a tough test for the main body and especially the FNG’S. They will all have to stay focused on their immediate surroundings. They can’t let their attention stray at all.
Our first stop was for gas in Marana, Az. a distance of 102 miles. The day started out in the 60’s instead of the hi 90’s low 100’s like it has been in the past. The main problem for today was the gusty winds. Some are worse than others.
Once again, we see people on the overpasses. While this is easier for me to deal with, it still tugs at my emotions. Sometimes I wonder where they were 40 years ago. Back then, if they were on the overpass it would have been to throw things at us. Now times have changed. They cheer us on. As I think of this, I start to think about things. My father was a Pearl Harbor Survivor. He also fought in Europe. The WWII generation is called our “Greatest Generation”. They do deserve that for what they did. Then I think that maybe Viet Nam Vets can lay claim to being one of the best generations also.
When we came home there were no parades. We weren’t welcomed home. In fact, we were vilified. We were made to feel like third class citizens. Most of us didn’t let anyone we met know we were Vets. This country made us feel ashamed of our service. But now look at what we have done. We badgered the VA into giving us the benefits we were promised. Agent Orange damaged many of us, some more severely than others.
But the most important thing in my mind is that we demanded respect for today’s Warriors. We are determined that this country will not do to today’s Veterans what they did to us. We take care of each other and make sure the present military veterans get the help they need. We will never turn our backs on our fellow vets. It will not happen. And that may be our greatest contribution to date. Like I said, we can lay claim to being one of our greatest generations. We now stand tall.
I digress. Sometimes I just have to say something regardless of how appropriate it is. It is what I am feeling at the time and I need to say it.
After leaving Maranna, we headed for Wilcox, Az. This is another of those small desert towns who go all out for us. After gassing up, we head for the local VFW where we are fed lunch at no charge to us. Most meals are donated at every town we stop in. As we enter the lodge, people are lining the sidewalk to the entrance. They shake our hands and give us hugs and welcome us. They tell us thank you for coming. They actually got it backwards. We should and do thank them for all they do for us.
In the past, after lunch we would ride past the Wilcox Elementary School. This year we didn’t because the children were out of school. The principal told us that that would not happen again. It was so much fun. These are young kids. Maybe 7-10 years old. They line the fence with their teachers and we beep are horns, rev our engines and make as much noise as we can. The kids light up and really enjoy it a lot. We do too.
Our next leg is the longest. It is 122 miles. It will take over 2 hours for the pack to travel this distance. Our stop will be at the Savoy Truck Stop where we will have a time change to Mountain Time. This is a pretty quick stop. Just a gas and go. At least that is what it is supposed to be. But many riders need to use the facilities so it takes a little longer.
After Savoy it is a quick 72 miles to Las Cruces for the night. We will stay at the Hampton Inn. Nice hotel and nice rooms. Las Cruces Harley Davidson supplies dinner. It was very good. They also had a ceremony with dignitaries that basically thank us for stopping in Las Cruces. Again, we are the ones that thank them. One of the things we do is present plaques to those that take care of us. These are nice plaques that just try to show those people how much we appreciate them.
After dinner we headed to our hotel to try and get ready for the morning. We have to be at the American Legion Post at 0600 for meetings and to stage the platoons as they come in. Today was a pretty good day, Nice cool temperature but gusty wind all day.
Tomorrow goes from Las Cruces to Odessa, Tx, It will be one of the good days. Each day gets better as we go along.
Rich 'Yankee' Martin
Viet Nam Vet