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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

RFTW 2009-Day 2, 3 & 4 (Doug)

I've gotten behind because of being tired. The heat in the first couple of days just destroys you completely. Since I am behind the narrative might be a little disjointed or I might have an occurrence on the wrong day. Bear with me as it really shouldn't matter.

Day 2 - Phoenix to Las Cruces, NM (390 miles 4 stops). Basically a miserably hot day. But what makes the day another good day is again, the camaraderie amongst the Riders, and the unbelievable support and attitude of all of the people along the way, and, the Mission. Again, 3 gas stops - one or two free or donation only. Breakfast was at the Hotel (included) and coffee, water, fruit, etc at the Staging point somewhere inside a blast furnace. At breakfast we also get our first of many freshly "charged" cooling bandana's - the hydration team keeps a very large cooler filled with water & ice and these are soaking in them. They're a God send!! Off we go onto the freeway with a couple of hundred well wishers waving flags, holding signs, saluting, etc. No matter how many times it happens, its wonderful. Today we run straight to the first fuel stop, and pull in with a warm welcome from the people of the town ( Marana). About a total of 40 minutes for the pack to fuel, pee, drink a gallon or two, refresh their bandanas, poor water over their heads (seriously) and get back on the scoots. Road Guards had about 10 minutes less as we are already deployed to get the intersections blocked and to go onto the freeway and start "pushing". This is always interesting. "Pushing" means getting 4 RG's on the side of freeway before the on ramp connects to the highway. We stand in the traffic lane and gesture to the vehicles to move over 1 lane so our scoots can get on. Then we hop on our scoots and ZIP on up the freeway to our pack. The "zipping" is the fun part. Although we did this 3 times today, we also were waved at by people on overpasses and the sides of the route. We had people in the middle of nowhere doing it, we had people doing it at every gas station. Makes us feel good, proud, and a little dejected - where was this appropriate action when the Vietnam era vets were returning?!

Lunch provided by the people of Wilcox - and not bad. Not to mention the hero's welcome as we pulled into their fairgrounds and the Elks Lodge covered the lunch. After lunch, back on the scoots with fresh water and bandanas. Pushing and zipping, trying to keep the cages from getting into our formation which does not have any room to spare. Same things all day - people treating us very nicely, making us feel very good. At Las Cruces some of the Riders go to the Memorial we will all go to, tomorrow.

The morning Road Guard meeting - day 3

Most of Road Guards-2009 Southern Route (find Doug)
Day 3 - Las Cruces to Odessa (341 miles - 4 stops)- This AM its "breakfast on your own" with free coffee, fruit etc at the staging point. Then off to our Memorial that some went to the nite before. Hard to describe - a statue of 3 soldiers standing together in the middle of a field. As I'm walking towards it I'm walking on a "ridge" of dirt about a foot wide and about a foot high (the whole "park" is riddled with them. It goes thru a field of grasses about 18 inches tall. Then, just as I get to the soldiers statue, I realize the park is (simulated) rice paddy and the soldiers are coming in from a patrol. Most emotional - as the memories flood back, and for some reason, guilt. I go off (as some of the others have) to find some shade and a peaceful place to think - or actually to try and not think. After awhile, we saddle up, debate on rain gear (with general consensus of not necessary) and off we go. And 10 minutes into the leg, it RAINS, I mean it pores and now we're soaked to the bone. On The Mission we do not stop between scheduled stops. It requires a fairly substantial area to park 300 scoots so we just continue on. We get to out next destination, another Vietnam Memorial, and then put dry clothes on over our wet clothes. The theory is the rain stops and the temp goes thru the roof and everything will be dry RAPIDLY. Lunch again provided by the locals, gas again partly provided for - short break, and back on the saddles. This stays the same for the next part of todays run. Rain, COLD, people cheering!! Mile after mile.

When we pull into Odessa, more people. Its an unbelievable trip. So many people that want to say thanks for what some of us did, and what all of us are now doing. I think everyone should make this trip - if not for the healing, it will make you a HUGE believer in Welcoming home all of todays military. And this trip shows you the side of America that our media doesn't and that our politicians apparently ignore.

Day 4 - Odessa to Weatherford, 291 miles, 4 stops. Looks like a dry day but we wear slightly warmer clothing than long sleeve shirts. When moving we can, and often do, poor water over our selves to stay cool and the clothing dry's in a matter of minutes. But you can not warm up while driving so you try to predict what the weather will be like.

Our first stop is a Memorial for all wars but the emphasis is WWII and primarily the Philippines. Part of the Memorial has actual imprints of the bare footsteps of the 89 state residents that survived the Battan Death March. The whole Memorial is just for this state. It a large half moon design with some small walkways to the other conflicts. Very emotional as we are reminded again of all those that went before us and paid the ultimate price. I love it when the idiots in places like Bezerkeley accuse the vets of being war mongers. Vets no what the price of war is, and we know its way to steep. We hear some very moving speeches and again salute the flag and participate in the singing of our National Anthem. We have a wreath laying ceremony jointly with some of our rider's and some of the local vets. Beautiful.Police escort patiently waits (as our bikes cook in the sun, our helmets warm up) and we don't care. No complaints from anyone. Everyone sucks up their water and listens to the speech makers or they walk away in quiet contemplation. Everyone here is extremely sincere. Our emotions run very deep. Its one hell of a crowd.

After awhile we're back on the bikes heading east (more or less). RG's blocking intersections, rolling road blocks on the on ramps, weaving in and out of traffic to insure the ease of flow. The people in the pack have it harder than the RG's. Droning along while we can actually change up, run off the freeway change speed, etc. I enjoy what I'm doing - getting a large group of bikes to the East Coast.

We stop in Colorado City for lunch. The middle school kids serve us our lunch (taco's with all the trimmings - bring the food to our table). While doing that, the middle school band is playing and doing one heck of a job for any age group. The middle school kids go table to table asking us what else can they do for us. Then like every stop, they have the ceremonies honoring us and all vets. To be honest, I don't hang around for these - way to emotional. But what you see and hear from the kids in these towns is not rhetoric, not something they've memorized. Its their beliefs. And they are sincere. We have a future in America because of these kids and their parents. The hope that America will remain free and strong is right there in front of us. I've never felt that you have to be obsessive about our country - you can and should disagree when you don't like something, but never forget the good in this country.

On the road again. People again waving flags, honking, yelling. Middle of nowhere, on overpasses, sitting under an umbrella with no living spaces within site. More and more American's.

And that's it for tonight. I'm literally falling asleep as I type.

Never Forget.

The Mission Rules

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