Saturday, January 30, 2010
Photo Straight Arrow talking to SR and CR at Arlington Church after Dinner in 2009
I could have started this with a different title, but I am stuck in Oklahoma waiting for roads to clear, so I used the one I did. Clyde needs parts, and an oil change, and a valve job. I have seen a lot of bikes on the road in the last few days, but I was in California.
I have read a lot of the posts on the rftw.org forum, and they are all the same. Guys wishing it was May already, the usual folks that want to change the way we ride, and lots of Fine New Guys and Gals too.
I have done the Run Five times, participated in 2005 (Colorado to DC) all the way in 2006, 2007, and 2008, and participated in 2009 (From New Mexico to DC). All of these trips have been rewarding. Last year was not great for me, but I still fulfilled my mission and a promise to Wizard to get his Brother's Memory to the Wall.
My first Run was in 2005. I do not ride a great deal. I had a new bike, and in truth it was probably more bike than I had ever ridden before. I got to Colorado and did so in pretty good time. I do not think that I would qualify for an "Iron Butt" award, but I did go the roughly 1400 miles from Wisconsin to Colorado in 3 days. I could have done it in two days, but when I got off the bike for fuel the first time in Colorado there was a motel right there at the gas station, so I parked the bike checked in and went to bed. I was excited about doing the Run, but exhausted too.
Then the next day I met my Brother in Castle Rock, and rode down (OK technically it is up) to Colorado Springs with him. He was pretty satisfied with my riding so after a couple of days we went out to meet the Run. That was a real thrill.
We were at the Wal-Mart in La Junta, CO. Seeing that pack of bikes ride in to the Wal-Mart fuel stop was awesome. My brother laughed at me and told me that was just the fuel crew and road guards, and that I had not seen anything yet. About 30 minutes later he was proved right. The pack arrived, there were almost 400 bikes that day. I was amazed at how fast they got fueled and staged. That was some first impression. I kept thinking to myself "Wow what have I been missing out on?"
Then we followed the pack up to Limon, CO. When we registered we were welcomed into the family. People remembered Shore Party from the previous year, and he introduced me as his older Brother. If was pretty awesome. Then we went to dinner at Hugo, CO and I realized for the first time that all the hype, the formation, and flags, and patches had a true purpose. There was a POW/MIA ceremony before dinner, and everyone stood at parade rest and watched. But this was not where I found the purpose of the Run. I discovered that when riding into Hugo. The streets were lined with people, from Little Children, to a few WWII and Korean War Vets. That was pretty impressive, but not what made the mission click for me. There was an older gentleman on a moped that jumped into the formation next to me. I met him later, he is a Viet Nam Vet, and unfortunately he did not come back whole from there. When I asked who he was, someone, it may have been Walrus, or Stoney, told me that he lived in Hugo, and did that every year. I was told that we were riding because he could not. That pointed the mission out to me more than anything else that happened that year.
We were riding for those who can't. Not just the Missing, not just the Dead, but the folks that came back with injuries that do not heal. The mission is to heal all who participate. The mission has become greater than just a pack of old coots on scoots riding across country. The mission is much more important than personal feelings, of even finances. It is truly a mission of love.
When I was in the Air Force, and in some places that were not real friendly, almost everyone talked about riding a motorcycle from Coast to Coast, and growing a pony tail. This last was because we were not allowed to grow our hair long. I can now say that I have done both. The pony tail I grew for myself. The ride from Coast to Coast was done for something greater than myself. The rewards for all that work, and believe me riding in that formation is hard work, were many.
In January of 2006 I was talking to my oldest Daughter, and I remember telling her that I was going to do the Run again that year, but I did not really know why I was doing it. She reminded me of my dream of riding a motorcycle from Coast to Coast, and I told her that sure that was part of it, but I did not really understand why I had to do this thing.
She answered quite wisely (takes after her Mother) "Dad that is a no brainer! It is your mission."
She is a great kid, no great woman and very wise. She is right. It is my mission.
The four years after that first year I knew that I was going to do the Run again and again. I had a conversation with Bones a couple of years ago and we agreed that we would do it until we could not hold the bike up, then it would be time to buy a trike, and when to old to climb on and off a trike, then chase vehicles, or Cages, but we would do it until everyone came home.
We can never forget those that gave their all for or Freedoms, and we can never forget that Freedom is not Free.
Some Gave All, and All Gave Some, is more than just words, more than a motto that is on a decal on my big truck, it is a truth that we can never forget.
In closing I did do something that I highly encourage everyone to do this week. I was in Las Cruces New Mexico and two Reservists were in the Restaurant that was having lunch in. I bought them lunch, and told the waitress to just tell them it was from a Vet that appreciated their sacrifice. I walked up to them and thanked them for their service and welcomed them home. I then found out that one of them has supported the Southern Route several times in Las Cruces. Life is truly on a wheel.