Up at 0515 and on the Scoot 15 minutes later. A very quick run from the hotel to Eagles Nest staging area. CHILLY run for myself and another Road Guard. No one around, mountain road, can't see those pesky speed limit signs, and, feelin' cocky!!
The Staging area is outside the Eagles Nest Community Center - the fire department, VFW, and the city itself have set up a full blown breakfast with plenty of coffee. While waiting for the rest of the riders to show up I have a few minutes to talk to the locals. They ask about my service, about the service of the others, and they very lightly ask about the Memorial - they assume that there is a certain amount of privacy and memories. They seem to understand the Memorial even though many were never directly affected by Vietnam. They are very respectful. Eagles Nest and Angel Fire make a little money from our presence - hotel rooms, a little gas sales, and a little food. But, the bulk of the food and fuel was donated by them. I would think that at best, they break even. And when we form for the ride, they cheer us, wish us God Speed and a safe journey. They thank us for our past service, they thank us for doing the Mission, and they treat us like hero's. Its unreal.
Time to leave. It's cloudy, there is a light mist, its pretty chilly, and the road out is like the road in. Twisty, delightful, but dangerous so we take it slow. We pass a herd of Buffalo, and a herd of what appears to be Moose. The police escort have lights flashing but out of deference to our request, no sirens - the country is to beautiful to be awakened - its serene. And Angel Fire needs to stay that way.
We pull into another small town where we stop for a ceremony welcoming us home and on our Mission - and again with praise for us. We literally don't even put down the kickstands, we just listen, watch and wait. This town has not benefited financially in ANY way as we are just passing thru. It appears that every resident is out to wave flags and cheer. In all these stops, ALL the police and ALL the fireman come out - not only do they cheer, but in all cases, they salute us.
Then down the highway to Raton and free food and again, fuel. And again, we are not spending any money there. It a pure thank you to us, again. Police escort, parade, and then back up on the freeway for a100 mile run to our next stop.. We will do a total of 346 miles today - its a fairly long run as we pretty much stay on surface streets and OLD highways that take us thru small towns and communities. With the same "results" - people cheering, waving flags, touching us - that's the part that gets to me. They want to touch us - its a sign of respect, a sign of sympathy I guess, and all very sincere. On the surface streets the civilians love the sounds of the bikes so we rev a lot, lean on the horns and sirens, and flash our lights. On the freeways, when coming up on an overpass, it looks like a line of flags. When you get closer, you see that each flag is being waved by both kids and adults. Thumbs up, cheering, waving, applauding - ALWAYS the same. I wish I could film the whole thing and make it mandatory viewing in places like Berkeley, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, etc. Heck, put it on national TV, show it overseas.
On the highway, the Road Guards will come out of our own pack and cruise up and down the group keeping everyone spaced properly and moving at a constant speed. We also look for trouble spots - construction, garbage on the road, cars and trucks pulling into our formation or spending to much time next to us (taking pictures) and possibly drifting into our lanes. I think the Road Guards do about 150% more mileage. When we road block on the surface streets we then have to catch up and we ride lead so it can take awhile. But driving past the length of the formation, you really feel proud to be riding with these men and woman - there a great bunch of people, all pretty friendly, all sincere in what they're doing. I saw many of these faces a year ago but we apparently get about 25% new faces.
Finally, we get to Burlington, Co. Again a parade and free food. The gas was off set - it only cost $ 5.00 a tank full. The VFW had a huge dinner for us, a band, and the almost normal crowd of patriots thanking other patriots.
The motel I stayed at (most of us stayed at) was interesting. The rooms were huge. They did smell a little, when I asked for ice, they gave it to me in a plastic bag (no ice buckets), the wifi in the rooms didn't work, the wifi in the lobby worked if you sat in a specific place, the showers were a single controller BUT you had your choice of scorching hot, or freezing cold - if you had a hand free and moved the lever back and forth quick enough you could actually take a shower. I noticed that water was leaking from the top of the shower head but when I tried to hand tighten it, the duct tape came off in my hand!! OOHHRRAAHH - lets put this place in for a Michelin 5 star rating!!
An emotional day - all the well wishing and pats on the back make you remember what so many did not receive. It makes you think about what caused this to begin with. I'm not being unappreciative - its a very warm feeling. None the less.
Off to bed - long day, time to sleep. And tomorrow, the Mission rules.
After a long day, it was at least nice to sit without ear plugs!!