Wednesday, May 20, 2009

RFTW 2009 Day 7 Meridian to Chattanooga cont'd

Our mission today is VAMC Tuscaloosa. This is a day of excitement for patients at the Veterans' Administration Medical Center. There is a police escort to the campus. It's a huge facility and the road leading in is lined with flags and patients and staff. They even make patches to sew on your vest. We visit with the residents and they, those who can, walk around and look at the bikes and ask about our mission. There is also time for lunch and conversation. It's wonderful to see the nice facilities and professional help available to our Vets.

A pleasant surprise at the next fuel stop is Ashville, Alabama. It's a small community with a big heart. They have available for approx 500 riders; hotdogs, chips, pop, water, porta potties and warm hearts...its held at a strip mall with a Piggly Wiggly store and its called Thunder at the Pig and they even gave us buttons.

At the end of the day we arrive safely through rush hour traffic in Chattanooga, TN Harley Davidson Dealer who has also provided a meal of burgers, dogs, drinks, chips, slaw, etc and plus they keep the service dept open for anyone who needs it. Krash's starter and battery went bad and they fixed it fast and fairly priced. Sgt Slinky and Hawk have rejoined the fuel crew. Slinky's bike was down and they thought they might have to ship it home and take the bus, alas the god's smiled....

Never forget our warriors....not all wounds are visible

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

RFTW 2009 Day 7 Meridian MS to Chattanooga TN

298 miles today and uneventful. Last year we ran into hail and it was ugly. Still enjoying temps in the 70's and clear blue skies.

RFTW 2009 Day 6 Monroe LA to Meridian MS contd.

Before we get started got a great story. The Fuel Crew is traveling from Odessa TX to Weatherford TX and a trike throws up a big chunk of shredded tire and hits The General who is on his way that moment Hoppy, our Fuel Team Leader, hits him in the saddle bag and actually knocks him back up and they both stayed upright and stopped. Some elevated pulses and one broken saddle bag and it was all good. Hoppy did the great ride through the ditch last year he,s got brass ones like only a Phantom pilot would.

Entering Mississippi is a highlight of the trip. As the main group crossed the Mississippi River a Vietnam era Cobra gunship popped up out of the trees and swooped over. The Cobra lead the group to Harley Davidson of Central MS campus. The whole group was greeted with a free tank of gas and a meal. There were also many dignitaries including Lt Gov of Mississippi and Two generals and three Medal of Honor recipients, Navajo Code Talkers and a Navy Band. On the grounds of the H-D dealer was an era Huey Slick and you could get a ten minute ride for $50 or $40 if you were a Vet. A CH-47 Chinook brought members of The Black Daggers, an Army skydiving team. It was announced that there were 650 bikes there and 6000 bottles of water were given out. The H-D dealer clears its floors to bring in tables and chairs to feed everyone.

The advance team left early to place a wreath and pay our respects at the grave of Sonny Montgomery, Army veteran and Congressman from Mississippi. He was responsible for many veteran related bills including the Modern GI Bill. we were escorted by MS State Troopers on motorcycles. It was hard riding with them as they tend to maintain legal speed and we like it at 80 mph.

I was in my hotel room unpacking when I could hear the whoop, whoop of a helicopter and I looked out my 3 rd floor window to see that Chinook at a couple hundred feet leading 650 motorcycles down I-20 into Meridian. That was followed by Korean era jet fighter and 3 prop driven aircraft. Meridian is a fabulous community and they go way out of their way to make you feel at home...they even give you a laundry bag and wash and dry you laundry and delivered at five in the morning.

1888 total miles so far.

Love you Scooter, Sceeter, Telly and DJ. Miss you also Josh and Jeanna. Especially Zoe and Hershey

Monday, May 18, 2009

RFTW Day 6 Monroe, LA to Meridian MS

Only 208 miles today, but one of the most exciting days of RFTW. 1880 miles since I left home. More tomorrow...too big a day and not enough time to describe. Tomorrow the ride to Hail and Back...Last year we ran into a major hail storm on our way to Chattanooga TN and Skippy almost bought the farm.

Favorite quote from 2008....Life, liberty and the pursuit of those who threaten it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

RFTW 2009 Day 5 Weatherford TX to Monroe LA

350 Miles today and three fuel stops. It's great to see so many of last year's fuelers here. Pennsylvania Phil (West Point 69) is my fuel partner this year. Irish is here and Speedy and Pooh and Longhorn. Sgt Slinky dropped out with a broken bike yesterday. Over all ridership is down by a 100 but there are still enough riders to make it interesting. Numbers picked up at our first stop in Terrell TX. Maybe a 100 more bikes. Many are day riders and will turn around tomorrow. Lots of FNG's (Funny New Guys) and it is so uplifting to talk to them and pump them up. Our first fuel stop was a freebie. Somebody picked the tab for a couple of thousand dollars worth of gas. I think it might have been Too Tall and Too Small like they did last year.

There are about 25 bikes in our advance team. We are rollin like last year, 80 mph and tight. It requires a lot of concentration so you don't get to think like when you are riding alone. It is a rush to ride in that pack and we have a certain leeway with law enforcement and we try to not hinder traffic as best we can. Last night at supper I sat down with Sub Rat and Oscar and another guy. We got to talking and the other guy's initials are DJ and he is from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He had been camping and I had a room by myself so he split it with me. Last year I ended up with Music Man as a fuel partner...DJ the DJ and Music Man...cosmic. All three of us are sharing a room tonight and they are asleep all ready and snoring. Music Man is an artist in the snoring category and DJ has his own special sound...I'll be up half the night.

Our second stop was Longview TX and a lunch provided by the local VFW. We fueled the bikes and ate and hit the road for Minden which was just a fuel stop. We can still do it....300 bikes in 20 minutes. We round off numbers and don't give change. The extra money goes for fuel for chase vehicles that trailer bikes that breakdown or have a flat, etc. The money left over at the end is divided amongst 4 schools we visit. Last year those schools got about $4000 each.

Monroe LA was our destination for the day. Local groups like the VFWS, American Legion and Sons of Confederate Veterans put together a great meal and program. There was catfish, fries, hush puppies, slaw and gumbo. The desserts are all homemade, including pecan pie and banana cream pudding that is fabulous.

Time for bed. Tomorrow is a short ride, 208 miles, from Monroe LA to Meridian MS, but a huge day packed with some incredible displays by the military and private citizens. Last year we met with 3 Medal of Honor Recipients and walked the Trail of Honor in Jackson MS at the H-D Dealer. We end the day in Meridian MS with another great meal, some flyovers and talk with some very fine and gracious folks.

To die for freedom is not the worst thing. Being forgotten is. We will never forget.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

RFTW 2009 Day 4 Weatherford TX

Woke up about 9:30am to rain and I am glad I got here a day early. Too late for the free continental breakfast so I headed to the truck stop next door for something to eat. Breakfast buffet was $7.99 and a little high I thought. They had my favorite breakfast on the menu for $8.19, chicken fried steak, eggs anyway, toast and hash browns. I thought that was a little high also until they brought out the platter, it would feed a family of four easily. It looked like they gave me an extra steak and two servings of hash was worth every penny and more.

The rain has finally stopped and things are starting to dry out and clouds are breaking up. The rest of the day I'll clean the bike and rest and wait for the group to arrive. Looking forward to seeing Sub Rat, Oscar, Hoppy, Skippy, $5 Marty, Enigma, Krash and all the rest of the Fuel Crew. Supper and ceremonies tonight at the local VFW. Tomorrow we head to Monroe, Louisiana and Music Man will join us there. Music Man was my fuel partner last year...cosmic thing Music Man and DJ the DJ.

The excitement is building............We Ride For Those Who Can't.......Our POW's and MIA's and promoting healing for all....Last year's ride was for Matt Maupin MIA Iraq. His remains have since been recovered and returned to his family...God Bless Matt and his family and thank you for your service to our country. The name of Barry A. Olson is close to my heart. MIA Vietnam and remains are unrecovered. His mother died not knowing. Barry A. Olson, Albert Lea, MN, we remember you.

RFTW 2009 Day 3 Emporia KS to Weatherford TX

Another 500 miles today. Woke up Friday morning 7:30am and looked out hotel window to see that it had rained over night. The sky was still dark and it was very windy. I thought I would let things dry off before packing up and hitting the road. At 9am it was already 70 degrees and weatherman said sunny, windy and and temps in the 80's and wet on Saturday so my plan is to go all the way to TX and get there a day earlier, but dry. Yee ha. . .t-shirt weather! I-35 is the road I've been traveling and the next section is the Kansas Turnpike and that means you pay. The road was a beautiful and smooth section with no bumps nor cracks. It also cost $5.25 for a motorcycle to ride that 100 miles...kinda high I thought. It was like night and day when I left the KS Turnpike to regular old I-35. Right at the boundary there was a big bump and pothole. The wind was working against me all day. It was a steady 30mph with gusts to 40mph and kept you working the whole time. By 10am it had hit 80 degrees. Had not seen a roadkill deer all through Kansas, but many a skunk. And then near KS-OK border I saw a roadkill armadillo. They soon became quite common. I next crossed into Oklahoma for the first time in my life. One of the reasons I picked this route was so I could check OK off my 50 state list. I have now been to all states west of the Mississippi River including Alaska and Hawaii. Still working on east coast have Florida and New England states left.

Gas prices have been very consistent the whole way, $2.05 to $2.29 for regular and diesel has been lower than gas all along I-35. Last year everything was doubled and diesel was more expensive than wonder the truckers are smiling.

Stopped in Ardmore, OK to see a friend from high school. She had moved to OK in 1972 to ranch with her family. She now works with an agency that helps children with dyslexia. They diagnose and help these children overcome their dyslexia. Thanks B & D for a great time. After 3 hours of catching up it was back on the road to TX.

Glad I stopped in Ardmore because I avoided rush hour in Dallas-Ft Worth area. Gorgeous drive through Ft. Worth and they have an awesome Interstate system there with overpass over overpass over overpass, higher than most amusement park rides. The temp was in the mid 80's and way hot for me...70 is optimum.

Got to Weatherford about 9pm and headed for RFTW HQ motel to get a room and luck was with me. I got a single smoking room for Friday and Saturday night. Thank you Lord. The desk clerk was Ray, same guy that checked me in last year. Shower and an adult beverage and a couple of phone calls and it's off to bed.

So far no crazed squirrels