Today’s journey takes us from Grand Prairie, Tx. to Monroe, La. After 3 days we will finally get thru Texas. Our morning starts with a donated breakfast by Starbucks. I needed more than coffee and donuts so I ate in the hotel where they had eggs, toast, and bacon. Since today was Sunday they also held a non-denominational Church Service. Our Chaplains put it on. I will talk more about the Chaplains at a later time.
After the usual morning meeting, we mounted up for the first let of our journey. This is a short 47 miles to Terrell, Tx. This small town has snacks, water, and sandwiches waiting for us. We gas up and then we dismount and head for the snacks. The town is always well represented. In addition, they present us several checks for our use. Money like this is put toward donated gas down the road.
The people of Terrell are always glad to see us and make sure we know it. In the past, we used to do registration for day riders here. Last year we picked up about 400- 600 riders just in Terrell. That was just way too many to handle. So this year they all had to pre-register. I don’t know how many we had but most of them just ride for the day. That is just fine. They all show how much they support RFTW and our mission by riding with us.
We depart Terrell for Longview, Tx. This is a 99 mile leg. As a Road Guard, I had to stop traffic on the main road. I did have help that was greatly appreciated. A Terrell Fire Dept engine blocked most of the road. I just had to stop the right turn lane from turning into the bikes. A woman in an SUV kept wanting to go and I kept stopping her. I went over to talk to her and what she told me was she had to pick up someone at her church. I gave her a card that tells her what is happening. I talk to her to let her know why I can’t let her turn at this time. I told her that about 300-350 motorcycles were about to go by and she would not be able to get by. After that, she kind of shrugged and accepted her plight. After all bikes and Chase vehicles went thru, I waived to her and went on my way. I had to get to the front of the pack to continue with my RG duties.
About 30 miles from our next stop, the Road Guards as a group take off ahead of the main formation. This is something we do at each stop. Our duties are to get there and set up Guards at the exit ramp and to direct the riders to staging after they had fueled. Just after we crossed into Louisiana from Texas, we saw some flags and signs along the freeway. At the overpass, there had to be at least 100 people standing there cheering and waving flags. They also had a Fire Truck set up with a large flag flying. It was a sight to see. Needless to say, it affects us all. Our Road Guard Captain, “Cajun” keys the mike and says how proud he is of his home state. In my three years of riding, this is the best greeting we have gotten from La. Many of us responded with just how beautiful it was to see. We reached our next gas stop and got set up for the main formation.
Our gas stop at Longview was different. We gassed up and kept the bikes together until we had a count of about 40 bikes then sent them to VFW Post 4002 for a donated lunch. The difference here is that the Advance Team stays here and lunch is brought to them. That is one of the disadvantages of the A Team. You don’t get to mingle with everyone on the ride. You leave before the pack to get to the next stop and set up again. They do a fantastic job.
Our next fuel stop is at the Quick Draw Casino. This is going to be a pretty fast turn around. It is 104 miles from the last stop. Along the way we see many people on bridges, along the freeway and they are all waving flags and cheering. Once again, this has the same effect on me that it always does. I am ambivalent about this as I explained earlier, but it is what it is.
Once again the A team had everyone fueled quickly. And everyone was able to take a break and get to use the facilities, hydrate, and eat some snacks. You get time to stretch your legs before you get back on the bike. This is also the time for everyone to socialize with each other. Other than breakfast, lunch, or dinner there is very little time to get to know those who you are riding with. After this fuel stop, we head out for our last leg of this day. That will take us into Monroe, La. This is a short 72 mile leg,
There is a change in the route from last year. Instead of taking I20 all the way, we bypass using I120. However, that turned out to be easier said than done. I was sent ahead with three other RG’s to set up a push. Our first RG stopped at the split to show the way. The rest of us set up the push. While we waited, we had a LA State Police Motor Officer show up and block the ramp. This is always good. However, after the lead element and the rest of the RG’s went by, he took off. As soon as he did, all the waiting cars took off also. So we kept waiting for the rest of the bikes. After some time, 7th platoon, the chase vehicles, and 9-Ball rolled by. That was our signal to leave. Before we did that, I asked a couple of the guards if the other platoons had come by. Nobody saw them. Two of us waited for a few minutes then when no more bikes came by, we decided to leave.
After getting to the final destination, we found out what happened. First of all, platoons 1, 2, and 3 stayed on I20 and went thru Shreveport like we used to go. Platoons 4, 5, and 6 headed away from Monroe. Platoon 7 followed the correct route and went by us. One of the things that all platoon leaders are required to know. That is the route. The first three platoons followed the old route. Platoon 7 went the right way and platoons 4, 5, and 6 flat out screwed up. Or should I say the platoon leaders screwed up. The other problem is they rely on RG’s to show them the way. We can’t be at every intersection or exit. There just are not enough of us.
Everyone finally arrived at the Shriner’s Hall in Monroe. Another donated meal here. They really put on a spread. Fried catfish, (not for me) hush puppies, fries, and all kinds of rich desserts. I loved the banana pudding. I probably had several of them in addition to whatever other desserts I ate.
Breakfast is on our own this morning. The hotel had a continental breakfast so that worked fine for me. I just ate several muffins and a bowl of cereal. Being diabetic, it is important for me to eat breakfast.
In the morning, we head Meridian, Ms. It is a short riding day of only 221 miles.
Rich 'Yankee' Martin
Viet Nam Vet