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Saturday, May 23, 2009

RFTW 2009- Last Day & End of Mission (Doug)

Last Day, 238 miles, two stops - Must start earlier as getting into DC can be a challenge. The numbers keep fluctuating but we currently have about 625 pieces of rolling stock with just shy of 590 being scoots. And the Central Route will be coming in close behind. If you ever been to DC, you know what that can mean. DC has a tendency to always have road construction someplace, new roads opening and other roads closed. Not to mention construction on other projects springing up all over the place. And in my opinion, the roads are in really bad repair. Scoots feel every bounce, especially those towing trailers. And the GPS's have problems keeping up with all the changes. Some turns are into the wrong lane so knowing the route that specific day is critical. In order to make things less of a problem, we'll be sending 7th Platoon in ahead of the main pack (scoots with trailers, trikes, etc) as well as all but one chase vehicle (chase being the vehicles that pick up any broken motorcycles - or like we say, the Harley truck!)

We still have out Virginia State Troopers but from here on in we have to obey most of the traffic laws. These guys are great - originally the State said no to an escort so these 6 (now down to 4) were volunteering to do it on their own time, money and expense and use their own scoots. At the last minute, the state said do it officially. They've told us that out of all the groups they escort, we are the most well organized and smooth operation out there. When we do "breakaways" - the road boss sends us individually or in pairs to "impede traffic" - we're normally on our own. Now the LEO makes the signal and the road boss dispatches us with them. Usually we play ketch up as their bikes are Kawi 1000's and have a huge low end and can jump out hard. Some of the RG's have to get told to speed up to catch up - I don't need the direction and I'm astute enough not to try and pass them. These guys move!!Breakfast supplied by a Service Organization and then we form up at 0630. RG's take off for our posts and then we move out. It is smooth until we hit traffic. This section of the interstate is 2 lanes each direction. Sounds like a lot but the traffic tends to pace us and we have to constantly "push" them past us. You really can't blame them - if they don't know who we are, they assume we're the Hell's Angels. I think our average speed is about 45. Thank goodness I'm a RG as we are moving considerably faster as we have to constantly dodge ahead to open the roads, block on ramps, etc. We pull into Tom's Brook a hair ahead of schedule, gas up, pee, hydrate and stage. Final riders meeting with cautions about traffic and the specifics about pulling off the freeway (in DC) and where to park. We're on the road again for the last 86 miles and the anticipation is great. People on overpasses, etc, per usual (and again, where were the "people" when my brothers and sisters came home!) and we still get teary eyed. Very uneventful ride and then into the staging point at the host hotel. We actually send everyone into the parking lot across from the hotel as the hotel wants people checked in BEFORE parking. Its almost like old home week. Most everyone leaves their scoots and head into the hotel to register, have a drink, cool down and start the story telling. Families that flew in or caged in greet their loved ones, some of us hug the ones that are going elsewhere and we might not see again, and some just check in and crash. I take off as I'm staying elsewhere and I'm going to CMC House for a tour followed by the Evening Parade at Marine Barracks. The Road Guards did a fantastic job for 3000 miles.

Never forget!

End of Mission. Not a lot to do today (Saturday). Tomorrow is Rolling Thunder - all the scoots will stage at the Pentagon parking area (the estimate is that we'll have about a half million scoots. But this for another email. Back to today. There are only two official RFTW functions - one is the dinner which I won't attend as I'm going to a Gold Star/Stories of Service event in the same time frame. The other is the group photo at the Lincoln Memorial at 1300. Around 1100 many of us are already in the area. We move around the Vietnam Memorial grounds and visit the Nurses Memorial ( 3 nurses - one kneeling and looking at the ground where a helmet lies - a Fallen Hero died here. Another is giving comfort to a wounded hero. And the third is looking skyward to the sound of a medevac chopper either coming in with wounded and Fallen or going to get some - a non stop occurrence in a war. Then we move to the 3 Soldiers - these are three guys looking towards the Wall where their brothers and sisters are - they like many of us can hear the voices and see the faces. We never forget. Emotions at this time can be overwhelming and often are. Even for me. Then, if we're up to it, a trip down to the Wall a slow walk that many have never been able to make and that some, like myself, have finally done it. I don't know why but its always massively emotional for me - so many of our finest. (I'll put a link at the very end if you want to learn about statistics on the Wall) . Off to the Lincoln Memorial. We have 10 minutes to move about a thousand participants on two the stairs, get seated and get the picture as the Park Police can not leave the stairs blocked. We are asked - "How Far" and as a group, we shout "All the Way". All the Way across our nation to insure that the world will not forget our veterans EVER again. Immediately after we have three ceremonies - one for just Road Guards starts at the 3 Soldiers where we have a short "service - we brought some ashes with us across country - a Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant who served 4 tours in 'Nam and was a Road Guard on RFTW for 5 years. After the service we escort his widow down to a special spot on the Wall where we leave his ashes. Then, on this years RFTW, we had photo's and BIO's of 40 of our MIA's - carried by 40 bikes - and along with some children of the MIA, we take those pictures to the apex in the Wall where we have a short prayer and leave the photo's so no one will ever forget. And lastly, we lay the RFTW wreath and plaque at the apex. We salute the plaque, the wreath, the photos, and our brothers and sisters. End of Mission.

Never Forget. The Mission rules.

Got to go. RFTW 2010 starts in just 360 days.

Coming with us?

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