Good God I'm not only alive but I'm awake!!! Up at 4:15, 7 hours of actual driving, 3 hours of boots on the ground doing the road guard stuff. Started the day in the dark with a half dozen large cups of BLACK coffee standing next to a drainage groove near the staging area - virtually impossible to see from a scoot. My job was to slow them down before they got there. The local ABATE, local church, and the VFW had a breakfast set up, including lot's of COFFEE. And it was COLD. I had on my plug in jacket at max, my heated hand grips at max. And I was COLD. I have a "black ice alarm" on my bike and it didn't turn off until noon time (I think it froze to death). I think the only rider that approached not being too cold was a lady riding with her dog stuffed in her jacket.
As we left Gallup on Route 66 there was a surprisingly large group (cold group) waving flags. And then we were SWOOPIN'. 106 miles to our first stop (Exit 140) for fuel, and COFFEE, because it was COLD! My job was to get the pack off the freeway by blocking the ramps from the cars and trucks. Now think about this. It's drizzly, its windy (especially next to / on the freeway. I'm supposed to use a large red flag to wave our people on to the ramp, and wave away the other traffic. Did I mention I was cold and wet? I have two hands (I won't point out that wet leather gloves provide zip warmth) and a choice - a flag in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other, or a cup of coffee in both hands and being a big guy, use my body as a direction beacon and blockade. Pretty stupid to even consider not using the flag. And yes, I drank both cups!!! I have no idea where the damn flag flew off to when it drifted up into the sky.
Gas was free (Harley Davidson Dealer ship paid - an average of 3 gallons of gas times 400 bikes, trikes, and trucks. Not to bad. But the coffee was also free - I bet they took a bath on that!Then off to Espanola - 112 miles - free lunch, huge turnout all the way from the freeway to the Vet's campground, free gas (another HD Dealership), and the temp went all the way up to 42 degrees - we were dying from the heat!! And a huge turnout at lunch - local everyone and two Gold Star Mom's thanking us for our sacrifices in making this run. Thanking us for our sacrifices.
Then off to Angel Fire. 68 miles of twisting, turning, climbing, dropping road following a very picturesque stream. Motorcycle Police escort of course although they pretty much let us run the show, set the pace etc. I had blocked an intersection so I had to play catch up. I love the road. One of our Platoon Leaders felt a little hinky going thru a turn and hit his brake. He will probably be rejoining us in DC but the word is that his bike is toast. The country side is beautiful as you climb to the 9000 foot level. BTW, snow on the ground and its COLD. All of a sudden you go over the crest and there is the Valley - one end is Eagle's Nest, the other Angel Fire. Up on the side of the hill is the Memorial. Even then, its quite throat tightener. The approach is up a "blind hill" onto level area where for the first time you see the gull wing Chapel and the chopper brought from 'Nam. The walk in is always emotional - a garden dedicated by the Blue Star Mom's, a plaque with an engraving from a Fallen Hero, Dr. and Mrs Westphall's graves, etc. Down to the Chapel, the small amphitheater, and the main building. I went to the Chapel first to say a prayer and to listen and look. And they are still there. Then over to the main building with its mock monuments, photo's, quotes from various people, letters home donated by families, and then of course, the emotions. There are some that can not go into either place, there are some that have done so before that are having a hard time doing it again. For whatever reason, those of us that can go in, are not ashamed or afraid to show our emotions, and/or to help a fellow vet deal with the grief. Some will sit outside and look over the Valley at the airstrip that brings back memories of our airstrip at Danang or Dong Ha, some will look at the forest and see the rows of trees that are our fallen standing guard, some will hear the voices in the wind, or see the faces in the clouds. Some will cry, some will say a prayer, some will just sit quietly and remember what we are all trying to forget. But all of us, will never again let the rest of this country forget their American Hero's.
The Mission rules.