In 2004 my younger Brother Bob called me, and he was happy and excited. This was not strange, but simply amazing. We had not really gotten along well for years prior to this for many reasons. He told me that I needed to do a motorcycle ride with him. I did not even have a motorcycle at the time. I got the web address rftw.org from him and took a look. My wife looked at it too and told me that I should do this. Well I hemmed and hawed for months. I looked at bikes, but had no idea what to get, or if I would even be able to do this trip with my Brother. I told him it sounded like it was for Viet Nam Vets, and I am not one of those, even though he is. He then told me that the guy that was leading the pack in 04 had a hat that read "I wasn't there but I still care." Well that and finding a bike that I could afford settled it. My Wife had already booked rooms from Colorado to DC, and decided that she and my Dad, aka The Old Marine, would be going along and meet up with us in Mount Vernon Il. Well I showed up in Colorado two days before we, my Brother and I were to meet up with the run. He had arranged for a private one on one Motorcycle Safety Advanced Riders course for the two of us, and then he and I rode around a bit before we met a group and rode out to meet the Run.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into (This ride should have a warning label on it that reads "Caution this is a mission and if you participate in any part of it you will be hooked") I immediately felt welcome as an FNG (Fun New Guy) even though when I was in the Air Force that term was pretty negative, here it felt good. My Brother had only gone from LA to Colorado the previous year, so we both had no idea what to expect. He knew what the riding would be like, and his advice and help made it easier. There were wild moments, like in Kansas when a Day Rider without a helmet got hit by a construction cone and debris from a concrete saw and went down hard right next to me in a construction zone. Then there was Kansas City, wow what a rush. For my friends that experienced the "Topeka Turn Around" in 2011 Kansas City in 2005 was a lot worse. At leas in 2011 we stayed together as a pack. In 2004 the leader missed an exit because the Road Guard couldn't get posted in the right spot due to construction. The leader kept going, and the pack simply exploded, riders that knew the correct route took it, those of us that didn't simply kept going straight on I-70. My Brother and I could hear the leader on the radio advising his speed and location. We took off at a high rate of speed (sometimes hitting triple digits) to catch him, but got sane quick and slowed down and the pack reformed a little smaller but eventually we all ended up where we needed to be.
After this incident one rider came up to me in Wentzville MO and gave me a hug and told me that he was so happy to see me in front of him cause he knew I had that radio and would know where to go. I never told him that I was as lost as he was, I just smiled and said something about it was a good thing we were there in one piece.
During that first trip I heard a lot of Trucks cussing us, and wondering what we were doing blocking up the highway like that. One of the said something like "Sure wish I was rich like that so I could rally and party like those clowns are." J.R. Franklin came across the radio with the following answer (it may not be word for word, but it is close and I remember it well because in the last 8 years I have repeated it like a script thousands of times) "Driver we know we are a spectacle, we do not mean to be, most of theses folks would walk across the country if they had to to make people like you aware that not everyone came home from Viet Nam. But this is not a Rally, it is not a Party, hell it is not even a fun ride. It is a mission, and like all missions you do not have to like it, you just have to do it."
Well J.R. was leading the pack so he had to stay on a different channel than 19 most of the time. I took it upon myself to relay that little message to anyone that would listen from Kansas City to D.C. There were about 5 days left on the 10 day trip at that point, and it took 3 days for the hate and animosity to become praise and admiration for our mission. I also called in to Claire B. Lang's Dialed in show on XM radio cause I was a regular caller, and Claire actually supported us. The next year she interviewed me for about 15 minutes, and that interview was replayed 4 or 5 times. That really got the word out.
In 2007 I became more than just a guy that talked on the CB radio, I actually had a two man team, Krazy
I got my road name in 2007 too. Riding into Angel Fire New Mexico I got hit by a big truck, and sort of bounced off it. Originally (and I still think it is) my name was to be "Dances with Semi's" and some called me Semi Slayer (it seems the truck I bounced off of pulled over around the next curve to let the bikes by and got stuck in the dirt on the shoulder and was towed away) but Bounce sort of stuck, and Clyde (that is the name I had given my motorcycle in 2005 when I first got him) liked it too. $3200 worth of damage to the bike, and all I did was duct tape the side bag, and straighten out the shifter and crash bar, then rode on to DC and back home to Wisconsin. Say what you want to about Yamahas, they are one tough bike. Oh and I am one lucky rider too.
So any way for those of you that read this remember Run For The Wall is a Mission. It is not a party, it is not a rally, and after the first year it is rewarding but it is a tough ride. You do not have to like it, you just have to do it. If we stop riding across the country to make people aware that 17000 plus folks are still not back from Viet Nam, and thousands more are still in Korea, and the Pacific, and Europe, unaccounted for, our Government will forget those that gave their all for this countries freedoms.
Never Forget. Will I be there this year? It does not look like it. My wife is ill, and my job has changed a lot, and I need to keep it. Will I support the Run, forever. I will call in to the usual truck shows and let the drivers know we have two routes and one mission, and beg them to protect my friends especially the FNG's that have never ridden in a ride like this, absolutely. Formation riding is tough, but in a pack of over 500 bikes it is inherently dangerous, and safe at the same time, as there are safety in the shear numbers.
Will I worry about the folks on the Run, no, I will pray that they are safe, but they have a great leader this year, and he will accomplish his mission of safely getting everyone from LA to DC. Will there be mistakes made, probably, but I pray that no one gets hurt, and that the FNG's get the bug that I did. If there is anyway that I can be there I will be there, but for now it will be only in spirit. Thanks to everyone that has praised me, or thanked me or even just put up with me over the years. I hope someone will step up and take over the job I created. If they do I will gladly send them notes, and the SOP that I wrote and presented to the BOD so many years ago.
Run For The Wall is the largest longest Motorcycle Event in the world (this is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records). This event, no Mission, involves thousands of volunteers and riders, it costs $20.00 to register for the 10 days of the ride (this fee is the same if you start on day 1 or day 9) and it costs time, and gas money, and hotel costs. If you camp, at least on the Central Route, there is no place that charges a fee. It can be done with a little planning and saving. I sold my truck this July, and the deal I have now will not allow me to do it this year. I will be back, because I promised a few folks that I would do this until everyone came home. The folks I promised have their name carved in black granite, and there are over 50,000 of them. They and the thousands that are still unaccounted for are reason enough to do this run. They are the reason for the Mission, ride safe stay upright and visible my friends.