RFTW Day 8: Rotors overhead

Today was amazing.  We again visited a VA Hospital (Robley Rex) to interact with patients and staff. Dad and I chatted with several patients waiting for or just completing appointments. We also chatted with the girlfriend of one hero in the surgical waiting room while her beau was undergoing a procedure. The staff and ambulatory patients lined the streets like it was a ticker-tape parade.  While we’ve had big turn outs in places, this rated among the most attended. It was amazing.

At our morning briefing we were told of a gentleman who volunteers at Robley Rex VA Hospital. He is the coordinator for all volunteers there. Billy is a prominent fixture at a popcorn machine in the West Lobby, where he greets patients and family members with his overwhelmingly kind spirit and gentle heart.  We were told at our mass morning briefing that we needed to be sure to meet him. Our Platoon Leader, elaborated in our smaller group safety briefing on “Popcorn Billy’s” story.  Billy and his twin brother Bobby were sent to Vietnam together. They served in the same unit and on one fateful day in January of 1968, Bobby was killed and Billy was wounded.  This changed Billy forever. I don’t know what kind of man Billy was before he lost his brother, but I love the man I met today. God’s light just shines from him. He’s gentle loving and full of life. While we were talking he noticed the Cross patch on my vest and asked if I am a Chaplain.  My answer

Image sourced from Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kentucky_Vietnam_Veterans_Memorial

Image sourced from Wikipedia.

was “not officially” which garnered a huge smile. He pointed to a Cross pin on his lapel and told me that Jesus is his everything. Yup, God is so bright in this man, the leadership of a group of 400 or so bikers made sure to tell us all to go meet him.  What a witness this man has.  I told Billy of our mission to carry the flag of Gunney Shirey to The Wall and about how Gunney loved and served Veterans.  Upon hearing this, Billy turned to a nearby table where he had laid down a small US Flag he’d been handed for waiving as we arrived. He asked if we’d also take that flag to The Wall in honor of his kinship with Gunney.  What a huge honor to be asked to do this! I asked if we could pray over him before we left. It was brief, but a great time where I could feel Holy Spirit in agreement with my prayer for Billy to be a light in a dark place, for provision, and for energy to complete his calling. But, wait! There’s more.

Our Platoon Leader, Tanker and his wife have developed a relationship with Billy over the years, which has resulted in a tradition of Billy, annually, handing them a photo of his brother Bobby and a bag of popcorn to take to The Wall for him.  I didn’t know it but Tanker was watching our interaction with Billy. Upon returning to our bikes to prepare for departure, Tanker asked me to complete the mission of carrying Bobby’s picture to The Wall. Such favor, such honor. It’s overwhelming me as I type.. God is so good.

After our visit to Robley Rex VAMC, we traveled to the Kentucky State Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  I can’t do this place justice, you’ll have to Google it.  The memorial is a sundial that someone has painstakingly completed math, angles, and a bunch of other amazing mumbo jumbo to align just right so that it casts a shadow over the engraved name (see image above) of each of Kentucky’s Vietnam heroes on the anniversary of their death.  It’s absolutely astounding P1000191to see.  Dad and I carried Bobby’s picture and the little flag up to the memorial, found his engraving and took a picture. We’ll do so again at The Wall, and then leave the two articles there. The picture, will likely have popcorn in it as well. Tanker gave that special bag of popcorn to one of our other riders to carry.

The day ended with us arriving in Hurricane, WV to an overflight of the freeway by a Huey helicopter.  What an amazing sight. Too bad I was riding the bike, video of that would’ve been spectacular. I hope Jean took a photo or video of it. 

Jean and Larry, with Dad.

Jean and Larry, with Dad.

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Day 7: Fried foods day!

Have I told you all that every meal is donated during the 10 days of the Run?  The amount of planning it takes to coordinate this must be daunting.  VFW Posts, churches, CMA chapters, Motorcycle Dealerships, various foundations and even individuals sponsor all of our meals and nearly half of our gas stops.  What a blessing!

IMG_1610Today’s lunch was a filling fried chicken feast which could only be topped by a fried catfish dinner! Wowzers, was that catfish good!  Felt like we were on a mash up episode of Wild Hogs, and Duck Dynasty.

The day’s events were better than the food.  Our platoon of riders did a breakout mission to lay a wreath at the gravesite of a recently deceased long-time RFTW and Patriot Guard Rider. Many of our leadership knew him. It was a somber moment, which clearly meant a great deal to his family and those in attendance. It was an honor to represent RFTW for this important mission. P1000186 Afterwards, we visited a VA Hospital and Soldier’s home.  Dad and I laid hands on and prayed for a staff member. We also visited with a number of patients. It was great to hear their stories and to let them know they are not forgotten.  We handed out pins and a shirt as keepsakes before we had to depart.

Dad’s bike is still acting a bit wonky on the electrical side of things. He couldn’t get it to start at our gas stop just before lunch.  Bonus here, lunch was at Waterkotte Harley-Davidson. They pulled and charged the battery for him. This made us miss the departure time with the main group so he and I rode the 160 remaining miles of the day by ourselves. We crossed over the border from Illinois, and nearly rode across the bottom of Indiana to our stop in Corydon.

All said, it was a great day.  We did hit some rain, but the crazy, tornado spawning, storms are still behind us.  God has been oh so good.

Keep watching Jean’s blog for pictures of each day’s events. As a rider, I’m to busy to take many pictures. I do however, have some pictures of the wreath laying which I’ll add to this post later.

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RFTW Day 6: Storms are at our back, looking ahead to DC.

Today started out under threat of severe weather.  Weather.com has been reporting on severe weather in the region for several days and into the days ahead. Tornadoes and hail have been the norm across the region.  We’ve been overwhelmingly blessed as we’ve stayed out in front of it.  Last night, Dad and I were talking about how God could show His power by cutting us a path through it.  This morning’s radar? Heavy thunderstorms to our South and rain to our North! Oh yeah, we have some serious favor with God. I’m pretty sure I’m His favorite. We had a few sprinkles during our morning riders briefing, and a short patch of rain in Kansas City, but otherwise it was a glorious day for riding.  The weather has been so nice, long-time riders have commented on how amazing it’s been.  Ha, ha, we know why!

Today, Dad and I did what leadership here calls a “break out”.  A small group of us, lead by the Communications Coordinator, left one of our gas stops early and motored ahead to do a radio spot on Sirius / XM radio. We were interviewed on why we are doing the run, what P1000178it’s like to reach The Wall, and how our pack is getting along with traffic on the freeways. I can’t say enough about the quality of the folks on this run. To a man/woman, everyone talked about the mission of The Run and the importance of bringing home everyone from every war, past and present as well as what the ride means to them.  I was moved by the passion with which these great people spoke. Patriotism is alive and well and our country is still pure in heart!

At least once each day, something I witness makes my eyes leak. The guys on the Run say “My Allergies are acting up”, when this happens. I just own it.  Yes, bikers cry… at least these ones do.  Today’s moment was when we were leaving our lunch stop in Concordia, MO.  The streets were lined for several miles with flag waving citizens from every age group and seemingly walk of life. It was during this that I had an “allergy” attack. To my left, I saw a young girl, maybe 10 years old, holding a flag and blowing us all kisses.  Really? Kisses?  I find it amazing her family would instill this much respect for Veterans that she would show it the best way she knew how, by blowing us all kisses. As I do with my own daughter, I stuck out my hand and “caught” one then slapped it to my chest across my heart.  Thank God for parents like her’s and towns like Concordia.

Today’s route took us from Junction City, KS to Wentzville, MO. Once the pack hit Moussouri, we picked up a full police escort.  Law Enforcment blocked off all traffic behind us, and at all freeway entrances, giving us free sailing for most of the day’s ride. It was wonderful. Below is a link to a video of what it looks like from an overpass to have a full police escort in Missouri.  The video is of last year’s run.

 

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Halfway there: Wind blown in Kansas.

Today was day 5 of Run For The Wall.  Hard to believe it is half over. We are also about halfway, or a little better across the country.  Today we rode from Goodland Kansas to Junction City Kansas.  Our biggest obstacle across Kansas has been the wind.  We generally ride side-by-side in a very tight formation. Today however, we ran the entire route in staggered.  The last two days, we’ve been blown around a lot. It’s kinda fun for a bit, but several hundred miles of leaning into the wind trying to hold your line and stay in your lane gets old after awhile.

God has been very faithful to us on this trip.  Last night two tornadoes were reported in the areas within 30 miles East of Goodland.  Had those hit while we were on the road, it could’ve been disastrous. I’ve been speaking to the storm clouds telling them they can do their business, but they must either wait for us to pass, or go elsewhere. So far, we’ve been dry save a very short spurt in Eastern Arizona. Then too, I told it to stop, and it did.  Trying to learn from my disciple buddies mistakes.  :)  Matthew 8:23-27   Tomorrow morning is forecasted for rain over the first 100 or so miles.  The remainder is forecasted as dry. I’m planning for the whole day to be dry.

Dad is holding up well, but I can see the lack of sleep in his eyes. This afternoon I asked

Our platoon Leadership. Tanker, Soul Tracker, Pokey and Rock.

Our platoon Leadership. Tanker, Soul Tracker, Pokey and Rock.

our Platoon Leader, Tanker, to let us escape the pack upon arriving in Junction City so we wouldn’t be trapped in a sea of bikes at the donated dinner and ceremonies. On days past, we’ve been locked in and stuck there, late, until others move. We always want to participate in those events as our hosts have gone a great deal of effort to provide for us.  This time though, we came directly to the hotel and got settled.  The early arrival gave Dad the opportunity to take his bike to a local Harley dealer which was open for services tonight.  They fabricated a new air filter for him and now his bike, which was lugging up even minor grades, is running smoothly.  We’ll look to get a new stock filter put in before our return, but this will get him safely to DC. Now it’s off to bed, at a very respectable hour.

Oh, one final note.  Every day, there is at least one something that makes my eyes water. Today it was when we passed a whole row of Law Enforcement Officers who had parked their vehicles in perfect formation across the center median of the freeway.  Each officer was standing at crisp attention and saluting as we rolled by.  I was a mess for several miles.

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RFTW Day 4: All fixed and off to see Toto

Today’s post will be just text for now.  The wifi at the hotel is miserable and it’s also rather late.  It seems each day is more full than the previous.  When the folks who’ve made this run say, “it’s not a joy ride, it’s a mission”, they aren’t kidding.

This morning Pops and I started in Eagle Nest, NM at 39 degrees after scraping frozen dew IMG_1598off our bikes, and ended in Goodland Kansas under a tornado watch. It was a very full day which saw us leave before the pack and ride on our own into Pueblo in search of a dealer to look at my bike. The fine Service Department at Rocky Mountain Cycle Plaza took my bike right in to be looked at after I told them the trouble I was having. About an hour later, it was good to go. The problem was related to dirt and gunk collection in the shifter linkage. They took off the floorboard, removed the side cover and cleaned the entire linkage system really well, then lubed it properly. It’s as good as new!

While we waited, we visited Starbucks and just unwound for a few minutes. Ahh, relaxation, it’s not something we do on the Run. While I walked back to check in on the IMG_1600bike, Pops decided to do something every hard core biker is known to do “wink, wink”.  He got a manicure!  I’m not sure what his road name will be now, but I’m pretty sure the guys on the run will come up with something good for this one. Manicure?  Not exactly a biker kind of thing. While I’m absolutely going to give him a hard time, I’m glad he did it. It’s good to take care of yourself on this Run. It’s very difficult.

Highlights of the day.

  1. Bike was fixed.
  2. Long-time friends, the Nelson’s came to visit us during the lunch stop in Fountain, CO
  3. We rode in crazy winds that had us all leaning our bikes way over just to go straight
  4. Our host city is under a Tornado warning.

Don’t forget to check out Jean’s blog. Her hotel may have better wifi than mine.  We do have pictures, I’ll upload them to this post when it’s more convenient.

One last thing…  Note item 3 above. We started into the winds as we headed East toward

Image from weather.com

the Colorado/Kansas border. It was pretty windy in Colorado, but true to the image from Weather.com, as soon as we hit the Kansas border things got really crazy.  Please be in prayer for clear skies over the next few days.

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RFTW Day 3: Getting the full RFTW experience

Today was supposed to be a glorious ride through New Mexico from Gallup to Eagle Nest with a stop at the nearby Angel Fire Vietnam Memorial.  Dad experienced all of this as planned, I did not.  Instead, I got to experience something called “tapping out”.  Tapping out is two left hand taps on your helmet, then you move off to the side of the road. If you don’t need help, but simply needed a break, were drowsy, or stopped for some reason other than a mechanical issue, you just hang out till the rest of the pack moves on, you take care of business and fall in behind the chase vehicles till we all get to the next stop.

IMG_1592I tapped out today. I didn’t want to but it was necessary. On the 2nd leg of our trip, I started having some issues with the bike. I experienced difficulty shifting the transmission between gears. When we stopped for lunch, I’d intended to look at it, but forgot to do so.  Part way into the 3rd and last leg of the day, I chose to tap out and get the bike trailored for the remainder of the trip instead of endangering those around me. To get the chase vehicle’s attention, we are supposed to wave and jump up and down, do whatever it takes to be noticed and get help.

Because of this circumstance I didn’t really participate much in the rest of the day except for the fine meal put on by the Village of Eagle Nest. They were so very generous. There is more to say about them, the massive cake which was made special for the event and the free 5 min. massages being offered to all of us, but it will have to wait.  I need to hit the rack.  Tomorrow, Dad and I will leave ahead of the pack and limp the bike to a Honda dealership in Pueblo, CO for assistance.  No matter the outcome here, I am finishing what we’ve started. I’ll leave the bike and rent a car to DC and pick it up on the way back if necessary, though I hope it won’t come to that.  Thanks to all of you for your support. It’s needed more than ever right now.

For lots of pictures, check out the link I gave all of you yesterday. Jean is doing a great job of snapping shots as we ride.

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RFTW Day 2: Not enough words.

Today we rolled out of Williams AZ bound for Gallup NM.  The scenery was magnificent and the people I met were more so.  From our hosts in Holbrook to the First Nations people who honored us greatly in Gallup. I can’t stress enough how incredibly difficult it is to put the things we are experiencing into words.

It’s absolutely breathtaking, yes literally breathtaking to be traveling in the middle of the desert with nothing visible for miles but freeway, sage, and dirt, to see standing at attention, a lone solitary person holding a flag and saluting. Sometimes that one individual is 20 or 3o standing on an overpass. It’s sometimes a farmer with his flag in the middle of a field.  Folks, our country is not dead. Contrary to the cacophony of inputs we experience daily, which are trying to communicate misrepresentations for their own gain, our nation is not dead.  For every one of these islands of patriotism I pass, I say a pray of thanks, and a prayer of multiplication.  We need our country to stay strong. We need more of these heros.

Our entry into New Mexico and Gallup was amazing.  The NM State Police met us at the border and wow it was an orchestra of movement.  I was riding as the Missing Man Escort so my position in the pack of 300 some odd motorcycles was 3rd. Yup, way up at the front, so I had a great view as about a dozen motorcycle officers coming from the opposite direction on the freeway took off across the median. This was not your ordinary paved, or grassy median, it was a good 50 yards wide, down a steep embankment and not paved. Essentially, it was natural NM desert. I couldn’t believe any sane person would ride a motorcycle through it. My mind was blown.

We Gallup for the parade through town my mission as Missing Man Escort started in earnest. We rolled 10 miles through Gallup, nearly all of which was lined with bystanders eagerly waving, saluting or standing at attention. I challenge any of you to ride through that and not get choked up. It’s impossible. US Army, SSG Jason Reeves, KIA, Afghanistan, you have now received the Welcome Home parade you should have gotten. Thank you for your sacrifice. You are not forgotten.

P1000172After we were all parked, the Navajo Nation and representatives from some other First Nations People gave us a ceremony that was very special. They blessed us with dances, and had a Flag Ceremony.  They sang several songs and First Grandfather, and Grandmother from each were present. A group of Navajo Veterans rendered a 21 Gun Salute and played Taps in honor of our POW/MIA/KIA Brothers and Sisters. Having spent a little time with our friends, Chief Ben and Denise Charles, at the Lummi Nation in Washington I know just how special this was. I hope the others in our group understand the significance of being honored with a Warrior’s song by these amazing people.

The final moment of the day came as we were gassing up our bikes for tomorrow. Dad and I were parked side by side at the pump sharing the hose when a Native American woman approached us asking for gas money. Since I’m on a mission of praying for healing as we cross this great nation, I gave her some money but under the condition that I be allowed to pray a blessing over her. It was so sweet to have her take my hands and see her bow her head as I asked God to bless her People with provision and to bring healing to her and her family. She was moved by the gift and the prayer and gave each of us a big hug and a huge smile which is still painted clearly in my mind’s eye. It’s a great scene to go to bed with. I wonder what amazing opportunity God is going to present to us tomorrow.

P1000171 P1000170

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RFTW Day 1: Guest post by Duane

We are now in Gallup, N.M. Yesterday was Day 5 for 2 guys on 2 bikes over 22 days. It was also Day 1 of the Run For The Wall. We rode over 400 miles and were hosted until late, so there simply was no time to post anything. As it was, we had about seven hours sleep, more or less, mostly less. Our first actual leg was from Ontario to Barstow. As our Platoon leader, “Tanker”, would say, “It was a little Jinky.” There was a lot of speeding up and then braking, speeding up and then braking. I think you can get the picture. How you quickly gas up 300 bikes is something to behold. They never shut the pumps off and have two bikes side by side during the whole process. On the second leg things were much smoother, but I had to “tap out” to fix my luggage. Gusty winds added to our speed, made my reflective band come off and vanish in the Mojave. Then the rain cover tried to escape. I fixed everything and then, all by myself, raced after the pack. I caught up just as they were pulling off for fuel at Ludlow, CA.

They rest of the day was fine. Except, of course, we were crossing the Mojave. It was HOT. We tried to drink enough, but it was still hot. Lunch was provided for us at Needles where

We've seen scenes like this all along our route. It's amazing.  Image courtesy of "Mama G"

We’ve seen scenes like this all along our route. It’s amazing. Image courtesy of “Mama G”

we experienced an unusually cool day for them–91 degrees. They fed us very well and entertained us with the local high school band and the Indian Marching Band from Fort Mojave. They happen to be the oldest Indian marching band in the U.S. of A. They were founded in 1906. It did cool off some by the time we reached Kingman, Arizona. From there to Williams, our overnight stop. I was privileged to be the Missing Man Escort. Every leg of this trip someone rides as escort for the “missing man.” POWs and MIAs are the main reason for this run in the first place, so on each leg someone rides in the leading group as escort for one of our soldiers who is gone. I rode for Thomas Duane Utter, 2nd Lt, US Army. He was a buddy of Chuck Dalrymple, a friend from Mt. View Church of the Nazarene.

I would like to tell you what that was like, but it isn’t easy. The escort is charged with

Talking with Tom "Bones" Pogue, the Missing Man Coordinator

Talking with Tom “Bones” Pogue, the Missing Man Coordinator

riding at attention for the entire leg. I was told not to wave at anyone, make any signals, or lift my feet from the footpegs. It was like being one of the guards outside of Buckingham Palace. Many thoughts went through my mind as I rode. I was thinking of Andy Anderson, a Navy buddy who died in a car rollover. I was thinking of the thousands of young men who never came back from so many conflicts. When we reached Williams, the entire town had turned out to cheer us. Then I saw several men standing at attention and saluting as we went by. Before we reached the end of the parade, it was “raining’ inside my helmet. My eyes were burning and I could hardly see the lead rider. I was truly hoping I wouldn’t run into him when I was trying to clear my sight. It was an awesome experience. I was honored greatly to be the escort for Lt. Utter. If he is in heaven looking down on us, He got a “Welcome Home” from Williams, Arizona, but I hope he had an even bigger “Welcome Home” from our Lord.

All ready to depart.

All ready to depart.

P.S. from Daniel.  I met a really great couple today; Jean and Larry.  Jean is also doing a blog. Since she’s riding as a passenger, she has the luxury of taking more photos than either of us. I’m also posting from a device that isn’t very conducive to image downloads/editing. So, I’d like to provide you all a link to her blog.  There are lots of pictures from yesterday’s Day 1 and I suspect, there will be a post up later tonight from today. RUN FOR THE WALL Jean and Larry

 

 

 

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RFTW Day 1: Please Stand By

Good day loved ones.  It’s been a crazy long day. Fairly sure it’s the longest of the trip.  We are bushed.  Tomorrow is a good piece shorter.  Dad will guest blog his thoughts on today’s activities and I’ll write something about tomorrow’s adventures.

G’night.

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All ready to go!

Tomorrow is the big day.  Day 1 of The Run For The Wall.

God has been with us every step of the way so far and I don’t anticipate that changing at all. Dad’s bike was not operational on Friday. We drove it down on Saturday and a local dealership completed repairs today. Gunney was a Tanker, our Platoon Leader is a Tanker. We’ve had lots of little details that can’t be explained except through Favor and Divine Orchestration. This mission is ordained, blessed and more than just a trip to DC. It’s a mission of healing for this Nation. Everywhere we go, we change the atmosphere and everywhere we go we expect miracles to be the norm.

pow_mem3We visited Riverside National Cemetery today as a prelude. This prelude was not inconsequential however.  RNC has on average 35 interments each day and sometimes has as many as 85. RNC is home to the National Medal of Honor memorial and the National POW/MIA memorial.  The Sculptor of the POW/MIA Memorial was on hand to answer questions which was incredible.  As a group, we retired the POW/MIA flag and presented the honor of carrying it to The Wall to a really cool participant.  Edwin is a Veteran of the South African Defense Forces who saw action in Vietnam. Edwin currently lives in New Zealand. He had his bike shipped to California and is all set to ride the entire Run to Washington D.C.. I find this remarkable. His love of Veterans and the US Allies he served with is so strong that he has encountered great personal expense to participate in the Run For The Wall Mission. I took some pictures and video of our trip to RNC but haven’t yet download them. I’ll see about updating this post with them later.

One last cool event, story for the day.  I popped into a grocery store to pick up some water IMG_1570.JPGbottles and saw a Vietnam Vet sitting in a motorized shopping cart.  He asked me when the RFTW was leaving, which started up a great conversation. Marvin Westlund told me of his life after Vietnam and how he’s wished to go to the Wall for some time now.  It was an honor to listen to him pour out his emotional story of injury after Nam which has precluded his participation. I asked him if there was anyone whose name appears on the wall that I could capture a rubbing of for him. That’s when the tears came.  I now have another mission. Capture a rubbing of a hero named Gary Miller and mail it back to Marvin upon our return.

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