I took Friday afternoon off to get ready to head to Macksville for our 8th Annual Macksville Biker's Weekend. After I got the BugWing packed I headed down the street for the gas station and I saw some people waving from a motor home as I rode by. After rounding the corner I decided to pull into a parking lot to check the speedometer cable, at which time I saw the motor home pulling in. After they parked beside me I found out they were all from Michigan and in town for a grandmother's 100th birthday. We got to talk for a while before I headed out, and I did this photo of them just before doing that. I gathered they rode GoldWings in Michigan. It was nice meeting you.
After I fueled up I headed on down to Macksville where we set things up, and then we had hotdogs prepared by these guys, along with other food brought by those who could attend on Friday night. Some of the preparations included folding the CMA rag tracts presented to non-CMA members who attended, and some of the older kids trying out the kid's games in preparation for the real kid's games on Saturday.
As the evening wore on and people were preparing for bed, one of the guys in our chapter came to me and said they had a 10-91 in progress. He asked for my camera so he could document the villain in the act and he got this, among other shots of the break-in in progress. The weird thing about it was that the subject caught in the act is our chapter Chaplain, who is also a police officer. You'd think he could come up with a better story than to say his keys were locked inside, and it was his own camper he was breaking into!! Tell us another one, Billy. We went 10-15 with him, and then a number of us went 10-43 at one of the campsites in the park to discuss what we were going to do with him.
After a good night of sleep in the tent we headed out from Macksville to the 281/50 junction to meet up with other riders. After they rolled in and we gathered up the "Run for the Son" packets, we headed on to Pratt and stopped for fuel. The ride then continued to Greensburg where the Gabriel's Thunder chapter, co-sponsors of Macksville Biker's Weekend, and others, joined us. From there we went to Kinsley, and then back to Macksville to complete our 100-mile "Run for the Son." The weather looked very threatening all day but we didn't get any rain, except for a very slight sprinkle after we left Kinsley.
After we arrived in Macksville, Delbert, President of Gabriel's Thunder, and I, President of the Rapture Riders, welcomed everyone to the event. Our former President, Mike B., shown here with Kelly, his wife, provided some other information, and then Billy, our wayward Chaplain, provided a devotional. Larry, Chaplain of Gabriel's Thunder, prayed.
Shortly after that, I found some of the Brothers of the Third Wheel who were able to make it, in spite of the threatening clouds, and I had one of our chapter members get this photo of me with them since I'm also a member of BTW. I had an opportunity to talk with some of them one-on-one, but didn't get to talk with everyone. Wayne, in the BTW group, did this photo of me talking with "Teddybear."
Throughout the afternoon we had games for the kids done by Vic and Yvonne from our chapter, and others, and we had several bike games for the adults. The bike games are always handled by the Boese Brothers, along with Susie and Larry, and those who participate do so with varying degrees of success. One of the interesting games this year included this one. While the games are going on, some watch, and some watch while covered up due to the cool weather. A Thailand taxi that made the entire 100-mile reide with us, also gave kids a ride throughout the afternoon.
Another annual tradition is the judging of bikes by selected Grannys who decide on the winner of the Grandma's Choice award. Irene did the judging this year and happened to select the BugWing for this award. I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with her and doing some photos of her in it, and with me standing beside it. She wore a special purple blouse to have her photo taken so it would go with the color of the BugWing!!
After the bike games were completed, music started in the park bandshell while people watched and listened. Some of the Southern Cruisers Riding Club members came up from Alva, Oklahoma, and one of them, Michelle, must have thought it was a bit cool, too, given the way she was wrapped up.
While the music continued throughout the evening I made my way around the park and talked with people. At one point I came across some of the chapter members from the I-70 Warriors for Christ and did this photo. I kept my eyes on Billy to see that he would not be tempted to pull another 10-91. He managed to control himself Saturday night. There was a nice, strong breeze throughout the night, but the sleeping in the tent was good again........except for the fact I woke up now and then worrying about being chastised by Beth if I didn't make it in time to make the first pots of coffee for the breakfast we serve before the morning service. I didn't make it in time to do the first pots of coffee, but I was up earlier than last year.I tried to explain to Beth I'm training my replacement.
Wayne Harrelson, our Area Representative, did the service on a bright, sunny, Sunday morning. Following that, everyone headed for home after a really good weekend; the purpose of which is to share this message.
While on the way home I thought about the weekend, and also thought about the improvement made in the performance of the BugWing by putting the K & N air filter in it. However, if I run into a really strong head wind, it still feels somewhat like it is being starved for fuel, although not nearly as bad as it had before the air filter change. While riding home I got to wondering how I could improve the flow of air. Initially, I thought of using the old standby; PVC pipe, but, while walking around the garage I noticed one of those spray bottles you can buy and put stuff in. I liked it since the top of the bottle looked like a velocity stack!
I asked my wife where she got it and found out it came from Tru-Value hardware. I went out there and bought four of them, along with a 1 1/4" bit for drilling holes, silicone caulking, and a can of silver spray paint. After I went back home I drilled four holes in the top of the breather box, on the outside of the air filter, I cut the tops off the spray bottles, and then I painted them. I then placed the velocity stacks in place and secured them with some silicone caulking. The finished product is shown here in place on the motor, along with the bottom of one of the spray bottles I cut up, and one of the spray mechanisms. I took the BugWing out fo a ride and noticed even more improvement in performance in a head wind. The feeling of starvation for fuel (actually air) is now gone.
May 10, 2003
Debbie from the Hyway Harvesters CMA chapter in Augusta , with a lot of assistance from Chaplain Lemons (sitting on the bike), and others, put together a "Show and Shine" on McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita today. Activities included a bike show, music, and food for all those on the base who wanted to attend. After Chaplain Lemons learned to do burnouts on Debbie's bike (not really), she checked out the BugWing. Some others did the same thing after it was moved to a different location. At one point in the afternoon we rode out to a road near a runway and watched while planes arrived with some who were returning from operation Iraqi Freedom. Just before I had to leave the Chaplains and other staff members were recognized for their efforts.
While on the way home I met the McGrane's when I made a stop in Haven. After that, I met two guys at a gas station in Hutchinson. While we talked they mentioned they are putting a 750cc motorcycle motor in a golf cart (sounds cool to me!), but had not figured out how to shift gears. I showed them the push-pull cable on the BugWing and suggested a system of that type. I didn't think of it at the time, but one suggestion I have for making an already-unusual golf cart stand a bit further apart from run-of-the-mill golf carts is putting a 4-into-1 exhaust system on it, similar to that found on our chapter drag bike. It would be very clear then it's not your average golf cart. e-mail some photos of the finished project.........
May 18 through May 28, 2003
I just finished the "Run for the Wall," but this is going to take some time to process, write about, and get posted. A friend of mine joined me as we picked up with the group on May 17 when they came into Salina, KS, from Ontario, CA, and his wife joined us in Wentzville, MO. We rode the rest of the way with them on the Central Route all the way to The Wall in Washington, DC, and then the three of us made the trip back home together.....almost all the way. Details to follow. So far, I've had time to upload the digital photos I did on the trip, and now I'm preparing to start the narrative account. A partial daily narrative of the run, starting on Ontario, CA, posted by "Doorgunner," Central Route Coordinator, can be found here. His account is filled with details I didn't have. A newsletter published in July after the run can be found here, and is well worth looking at.
The paragraph found above, minus the last sentence, is as far as I made it in writing about the trip after I returned.......until today, October 25, 2003. I hadn't forgotten about doing it, and I've thought about it often, but I guess I've been dealing with whether to present it in a "Just the facts, ma'am" manner, or whether to present the facts and some of the feelings associated with them. Actually, I've been avoiding it. I'm not sure as I write this just how much of either I'll do, but I guess I'll start writing and see what happens. It may be changed after I finish, and it may be changed repeatedly. Who knows?
What I do know is that I served in the Navy between 1964 and 1967 and I wasn't sent to Vietnam. I'm a Vietnam era vet, but not a Vietnam vet. After I was discharged I started college and observed some of the protests and demonstrations taking place at that time, but did so at a distance usually. I've always had trouble dealing with that time period for reasons that aren't really clear to me. Jake suggested "survivor's guilt," and he may be right for all I know. While in Kansas City for my physical I was given the opportunity to go into the nuclear power program but passed on that, not wanting to double my time in the Navy, and not having any confidence I could complete the program. While in boot camp in San Diego I was given the opportunity to go into the Naval Cadet program and learn to fly, but I passed on that, too. Again, I'd have had to double my time in the Navy, I didn't have the confidence I could complete that program either, and the life expectancy figures given to those of us pulled out of our companies that day to be presented with the opportunity didn't impress me favorably.
I've stayed away from film, TV, or books dealing with the Vietnam era, except for one memorable occasion in 1975 or 1976. For some reason, though, I checked a book out of the library and it was filled with photographs from that war. While sitting on the couch one evening looking through it, I came upon one particular photograph and simply lost it for over two hours. I've known about the Run For The Wall for some time, but had never taken any action to make it. After talking to Jake in Sturgis, though, it seemed it was time to go.
May 18, 2003 Sunday: We meet up with the group in Salina, KS
Speaking for myself, and probably Mauricio and Julie, too, we had no idea what we'd be getting into by making this trip. I got the BugWing packed and all ready to go, and my wife did this photo just before I headed out from Great Bend to Salina, KS, at 2:00pm. Mauricio and I met up with each other in Salina on Sunday afternoon, May 18, and did this photo together shortly after he arrived from Emporia. Others were already in Thomas Park in Salina waiting for the group to ride in today from Limon, CO, after doing a 338 mile day. The group left Ontario, CA, on May 14 and rode to Williams, AZ, the first day, they rode from from Williams, AZ, to Gallup, NM, the second day, from Gallup, NM, to Cimarron, NM, the third day, from Cimarron, NM, to Limon, CO, the fourth day, and from Limon, CO, to Salina, KS, on the 17th, the fifth day.
After Mauricio arrived, I did a photo of him and his bike. I pitched my tent, and then we walked around the park talking to guys who were there already, starting to get acquainted with some of them. Somewhere around 5:30pm I got my first glimpse of the group as they rode into the park. Many in the group started pitching tents almost immediately, and one of the road guards watched while guys were still pulling in and setting up. Mauricio and I stopped at a table that had been set up after the group rolled in, and that's where we registered and got our pins.
Food was provided, and, after everyone ate, I saw something I'd heard about from a guy while we sat on a porch and talked at a campground in Sturgis last year. The conversation with Jake in Sturgis is what motivated me to call Mauricio after I came home from there last year and ask him if he was ready to make the Run For The Wall. What Jake mentioned about the stop in Salina, though, stuck out in my mind more than anything else he said about his experiences on the Run last year. I'm not sure how many were involved in the ceremony Jake watched, but three guys took positions in the park this year, one in a wheelchair in the middle, and names were read one at a time. In turn, those three guys came to attention and said, "Missing in action, sir," after each name was read. That got me when Jake and I talked about it on the campground porch in Sturgis, but I guess I was somewhat overwhelmed and disconnected by all that had taken place already that day so my reaction was more detached as I watched. That would change down the road.
Following that ceremony, people from each branch of military service formed up on the grass when songs from their respective branch of the service were played. I made my way out when "Anchors Aweigh" was played, and backed off for a moment to do a photo of the squids present. I'm not sure what was played after that, but some guys spontaneously started marching with flags while it played, and the group formed a large circle at one point, holding hands, while we sang "Amazing Grace." After all of that I walked around talking with more of those present, and then headed for the Bosselman Truck Stop to get a shower before hitting the rack.
May 19, 2003 Monday: Salina, KS, to Wentzville, MO: 399 miles
Although I could have used a bit more breeze through the tent during the night, I slept OK until 4:30am. That's when the first raindrops started falling, and, shortly after that, the lightning and thunder started. I really didn't want to be packing the tent in a hard rain so I decided to get up, pack up, and wait in a shelter in the park until it was time to head out. Others must have had the same idea since I ran into a number of them in the shelter, and it wasn't long after that, breakfast was ready and served while the rain was pouring. The rain headed east all week as we headed east, and we were in and out of it all week long.
At 8:00am, the group was ready to hit the road and we pulled out, heading down the street a short distance to I-70. Not long after we got on I-70 in Salina I saw something I had never seen before; that being, people standing on overpasses waving flags, or just waving. Some stood at attention, saluting while the entire group rode by. That made an impression on me since I had never experienced anything like that before, and since people weren't so friendly toward anyone or anything military while I was in the Navy between 1964 and 1967.
Another thing that got my attention right away after we left Salina was how fast we seemed to be going in a long formation. We made our first gas stop in Topeka, KS, and I was impressed at how fast and smooth it went. Since I was in a trike, though, and at the back of the pack, I usually had to pull in, gas up, and get back in formation very shortly before it was time to move out again. That became difficult for me several times during the trip when there was no time for a quick run to the restroom, however.
After we left Topeka, we made another stop just west of Kansas City where lunch was served out of a tent set up alongside the area where we stopped. After everyone was parked, donations were requested to assist someone, but I don't remember who or why. (Details I'm forgetting or didn't know can likely be found in the link provided in the first paragraph of the narrative for this trip). Following the food stop, we made our way through Kansas City, we stopped in Oak Grove for fuel, and then continued to Columbia, MO, where we stopped for fuel again. I experienced a bit of trouble as we left Columbia and fell behind a ways since it felt like I was vapor locking. After a couple of very frustrating minutes I removed the rear window, it took off again and I caught up with the group, but the temperature guage started rising as we continued riding. By the time we made it to Wentzville, MO, I was wondering if my trip may be cut short, and if the water pump that had just been replaced two days before was working properly.
When we made it to Wentzville, we went to a VFW down a rural street lined with people as we approached, and we rode in under a large American flag. Again, many on the run started pitching tents immediately, but, hating the humidity, I decided to get a motel room where Mauricio and Julie already had reservations. Julie, Mauricio's wife, joined us in Wentzville for the rest of the ride. We stayed at the VFW for the meal and the ceremony before heading to the motel for the night. I took my tent into the room and unfolded it so it could dry out during the night.
To this day, Mauricio and Julie have one version of something that happened at the motel, and I have a different version. Actually, the version is not different, but the time of day or night it happened differs. They (mistakenly) believe it happened that night, but I'm remembering the encounter happened the following morning. Whenever it happened, we met two guys in the lobby and started talking somehow. One of them served as a radio operator on a B-17 bomber in WWII. When we learned that, Mauricio said something about me knowing Morse code, or being a radio operator. The guy who served on the B-17 didn't hesitate a second before turning to me and saying, "Ditty-dum-dum-ditty?" (Look up ..--..) I cracked up. He had some significant hearing loss, and I have no doubt it's from the noise of the B-17 and from his ditty boppin', but I could be wrong. I think three years of ditty boppin' is to blame from some significant ringing in my left ear, and some hearing loss as well.
May 20, 2003 Tuesday: Wentzville, MO, to Carefree, IN: 272 miles
Anyway, I had a good night of sleep out of the humidity. We made our way back to the VFW the following morning, but not before I made a flying run to a gas station for some antifreeze. I happened to check my coolant reservoir just before we were to head out and found it was low. Some convenience store had antifreeze, fortunately, so I bought some and put it in the BugWing out in the parking lot before hooking up with Mauricio and Julie to head back to the VFW. The parking area is very tight at Wentzville's VFW, but I managed to squeeze the BugWing in somehow and get in formation, ready to leave. Following a very short ride into Wentzville we stopped at a Vietnam Vets memorial. After a brief ceremony there, people returned to their bikes parked in the street and we headed out.
Not long after leaving Wentzville, we stopped at the Jefferson Barracks VA Hospital. I wasn't prepared for this, and don't really know how I could have been anyway. After parking we headed down a ramp into a courtyard area, where, on my right, some old vets were sitting in wheelchairs under a covered area. As I reached the bottom of the ramp I walked by and talked to some of them briefly before I went on into the courtyard area. While there, I learned we could go up on the wards and visit with guys who were in the hospital, so I did that. I'm not sure how many I visited with briefly, but I found myself at the bed of one particular guy where I stayed the longest, listening to him talk to others who were on the Run For The Wall. At some unknown point in time he suffered a spinal injury in an accidental incident involving our own troops, and it was clear the results were devastating. I listened for a while as he talked with the others present, and, at some point, made my way back outside where I ran into Mauricio and Julie and had someone do a photo of the three of us. I was feeling like I was on emotional overload and somewhat like I was in a daze as we stood there and the floodgates just opened suddenly and unexpectedly. Mauricio said nothing, but just put his arm around me and stood with me.
When it came time to leave I made my way out to the BugWing, moved it into position for leaving, and just sat there with tears flowing. Someone I'd never seen before came along passing out water bottles, and, when Kay bent down to ask if I wanted one, she could see what was going on. I think I took some water and she left. She wasn't gone long, however, before she returned without the water, stuck her head in the window, and just hugged me. There was absolutely nothing intrusive about Kay's actions. That was the first of a number of times Kay found me and checked on me when we made stops along the way to Washington, D.C. I'm not sure which stop was the last one where I saw her before we made it to Washington, I have no clue where Kay is from, and I know nothing else about her except her daughter, Jessica, was with her and was a "hugger," too. Even though I know nothing about her except her name and her daughter's name, their kindness and concern was very much appreciated, and I'm sure it was experienced by others on the Run.
When we left Jefferson Barracks we got back on the road heading for our next stop for fuel and lunch in Mt. Vernon, IL. Again, food and other things were provided and the people doing so were very nice to us. Bikes and vehicles were parked in a large parking lot filled with people who were on the Run. After we ate, two children led us in the Pledge of Allegiance, someone sang "I'm Proud To Be An American" and Kay, who happened to be near where I was standing, got a hug from me this time as a result of the impact of the song on her, we then had a brief meeting, and we got back on the road again heading for our next stop in Dale, IN. It probably wasn't done during this stretch, but someone e-mailed a photo of the BugWing to me on the highway at some point on the Run.
During our stop at Mt. Vernon we had no rain, but it started again after we got back on the road headed for the next stop for fuel in Dale, IN. The only trike (mine) and the bikes with trailers were allowed to run closer to the front on this stretch so I got to find out what it was like to get into a station, get fuel, and have some time to take a break. Mauricio and Julie rolled in while I watched, and then I got a shot of Mauricio alone on his bike waiting in line. The stop was brief since we were rolling on the Carefree, IN, to stop for the night.
When we pulled in at Carefree, people started putting their tents up and checking into rooms. I had planned to use my tent a lot on the way, but decided against it again and we started looking for rooms instead since it was raining. We called a Super 8 in Corydon, IN, down the road a ways, we found rooms and booked them, and then got in the chow line. While in the line this lady walked up and handed paper poppies to us. That simple act of kindness got to me so much I couldn't even say "Thank you" to her. I was amazed and overwhelmed at all the acts of kindness and generosity we experienced along the way!! I was blown away when a lady wanted my autograph at the stop in Carefree.
After we got our food we sat and ate on a sidewalk out of the rain up next to a motel. I got to thinking about the lady with the paper flowers and how her simple act of kindness got to me. I had to go find her and thank her. After looking for a little while I found her with some other ladies and that's when I asked her if I could do a photo of her as I had first seen her when she handed the flowers to us. I got the words out and got hugs from her and another lady with her.
When we finished eating, we headed on down to the motel at Corydon where I met two guys from Canada in a street rod. They were on the run and that was the first time I had seen them. It wasn't their first Run For The Wall, either. Unfortunately, I never did get a photo of them, and their names have slipped my mind. I walked around for a while outside before going to my room for the night where the emotional intensity of the trip caught up with me again.
May 21, 2003 Wednesday: Carefree, IN to Hurricane, WV: 268 miles
Mauricio, Julie, and I got up and headed back to Carefree to hook up with group before we got back onto the interstate and headed further east. At some point we rode through Louisville, KY, where we stopped at the VAMC hospital where there was a dedication of a POW/MIA memorial. Being one of the last ones in, the ceremony was well under way by the time I got parked and made my way over to where it was held. This distant photo was done through bikes parked in front of the hospital as I approached the group. As we came into Louisville, and as I rode into the hospital grounds, I heard an intermittent sound that reminded me of metal against metal when I stepped on my brakes, and it was coming from the rear where the GoldWing motorcycle is mounted to power the BugWing. In addition to that, one of the three fender brackets on the left front broke as we entered the city. More on those two things later.......
When the ceremony ended I made my way toward the front where Mauricio and Julie had just had someone do a photo of them in front of the memorial. I had someone do a photo of me there, and then I walked to the front entrance of the hospital and did this photo looking out. As I did that photo, I noticed Val walking up to the steps. I'm not sure when I first talked with Valerie, but she was on the Run in her car with her friend, Judy. I had hurt my back pulling some weeds several days before I left on the Run and really wondered if I was going to be able to make the Run at all. That fact came up in a conversation with Valerie at some point who offered to let me drive her Cadillac and rest my back while she drove the BugWing. Somehow, I didn't get to meet Judy, but she has become a friend with whom I correspond through e-mail. Her account of the trip is found here, and Valerie's is found here.
After we left Louisville, we headed to Frankfort, KY, to stop at the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We parked in a long line and walked over by the marker, and then on to a description of the memorial being read here by part of the group. I did some photos to show an overview of the memorial, and then did several more of some of the stones on the ground at the memorial that speak for themselves. There's no way to describe the feelings a place like this one stirs. All too soon, though, it was time to leave and we headed back to the bikes.
My detailed itinerary says we went on to Mt. Sterling and made a stop at a memorial, but I can't remember a thing about it. When we left there, though, we made our way on to Hurricane, WV. I remember the approach to Hurricane very well, and I'm sure that approach had an even bigger impact on those who were actually in Vietnam. There was no time for watching scenery on the Run since we were in a relatively tight formation all the way and it was necessary to watch those in front of you constantly, but I became aware of a helicopter in the distance heading toward us, flying right over the interstate and the formation we were in. I've seen them on TV and in displays, so it appeared to be a Huey to me. When it reached the end of the line, it turned around and came back over us going the direction we were headed. That was tough enough, but, when we reached the exit into Hurricane, it was hovering over the exit as we came off that interstate!! I couldn't imagine what that must have been like for all those on the Run who were very familiar with that sight and sound.
As we came into Hurricane, people were all over the place, lining both sides of the area into which we were directed next to a motorcycle shop. By that time, the periodic scraping sound of metal-to-metal had become a constant scraping sound and I knew I had trouble. I promptly got stuck in a muddy area of the field where I was turning around, but some people came to my assistance and I got out and moved into a somewhat drier area. Right away, I started checking with employees of the motorcycle shop about having some work done, but they were so busy and booked up with oil changes and other work, it was clear the work I needed would not happen there. However, I did manage to get the numbers of two different Honda shops from them; one to the east 20 miles, and one back in Ashland, KY, 40 or 45 miles back in the direction from which we had come. Some comments made by a couple of people suggested strongly to me my best option was the shop in Ashland so I called, not really expecting to get an answer since it was about 6:10pm by the time I got their number.
Much to my surprise, however, Rick at Ashland Cycle Center answered the phone. I explained my situation to him, told him what I was in and where he could find it on the web to see what I was talking about, and he surprised me even more by saying I could bring it back to his shop that evening if I wanted to do that! I had a room reserved at the Super 8 across the street already so I indicated I could ride it back to his shop early the following morning and be there when they opened, instead of keeping him so late that night. He provided his cell phone number in case I needed to contact him, and I provided mine to him. After we talked, I had some of the food provided there in Hurricane, I talked with some of those on the Run, and I rode over to the motel parking lot across the interstate. I really didn't like the fact I wouldn't be able to ride to Rainelle, WV, with the group the next day, but I had no choice except to have the brake work done.
After hanging out in the parking lot for a while talking with a number of people there, I made my way to my room and wrote in the log I was keeping so I could remember some of what took place on the Run. Things were happening so fast and the emotional overload was so intense, I knew I wouldn't remember a lot if I didn't keep the log.
May 22, 2003: Hurricane, WV, to Rainelle, WV: 98 miles (more for me, given the circumstances)
Bright and early the following morning I got up, packed up, checked out of the motel, and fired up the BugWing so it could warm up and I could head for Ashland. After it was warm enough, I put it in gear and went absolutely nowhere. The rear brakes were frozen and it wouldn't budge. I called Rick from Ashland Cycle Center on his cell phone and explained the new problem I had. He indicated he'd call me back, and, a short time later, he called to say he was sending a couple of guys over. I explained my situation to the clerk at the motel desk and got my room key back so I'd have a place to wait.
Since I knew it would be a while before the guys from Ashland Cycle Center arrived, I walked to a large parking lot across the street to attend the morning meeting of the people on the Run, look at the group getting ready to leave, and then watch as the group rode off. When I went back to my room I looked at a nearly empty parking lot that had been full only a short time earlier, and had to do this shot.
I'm not sure what time it was, but not much time passed before Britt and Michael arrived in Britt's pickup, pulling a trailer. After we introduced ourselves, I learned Britt had put a hitch on his pickup just the night before. They checked it out, and, initially, thought they might be able to fix the brakes in the parking lot. It didn't take long to find out that wouldn't happen, so they pulled the calipers off, I ran it around the parking lot to line up with the trailer, we loaded it and tied it down, and headed out for Ashland. As we came into Ashland, I did one more photo of it on the trailer as I looked out the back window of Britt's pickup.
Very shortly after we arrived, I met Rick, owner of Ashland Cycle Center, for the first time. In short order, they had the BugWing off the trailer and started working on it. Not long after that, these guys rode in on sport bikes, saw it, and came over and started talking to me about it. I'm not sure what all happened while they worked on the BugWing, but, after a while, I got the impression they may not be able to come up with the parts to fix it that day. Feeling pretty discouraged, and wondering if I'd be able to catch up with the Run For The Wall group, I walked a few blocks from Ashland Cycle Center to get some lunch. When I returned a short time later I asked Rick if there was a place in town where I could rent a car so they could work on the BugWing, I could finish the Run to Washington, DC, and then I could return in a few days to pick it up and head for home.
I'm still not really sure what took place after that, but some time passed and some guy I hadn't seen before showed up with the brake pads. Travis got to work on it right away, and, after the pads were on it, Roddy helped bleed the brakes. They pulled the left front fender off after I returned from lunch and Eric welded the bracket while Travis rebuilt the calipers and cleaned out a bunch of gunk that accumulated from sitting all those years. I thought that would have been done when I had the carburetors rebuilt after I first bought the bike for this project a couple of years ago. In addition to having the carburetors rebuilt, I had asked for any other service work to be done that would be needed after it sat so long, but I was mistaken about thinking the brakes were serviced completely at that time.
While all that work was taking place I had a chance to talk with Keith who works there, too, and he showed me his bike. At some point I made my way to Rick's office, and, while I was in there, he took a call and talked to someone about the fact he only carries the "three major brands" of motorcycles. When I went back outside, Jon, who was working on a water craft near where the BugWing was parked when I arrived, came over and sat down briefly while Travis and Roddy finished their work. While they did some additional checking of the BugWing for me, someone noticed I had a loose screw on one of the carburetors. That was causing a fuel leak, so it was tightened, too.
After the brake work was completed, the fender was put back on it, and the carburetor screw was tightened, I ran it through a part of the parking lot and hit the brakes a few times to see if the proportioning valve was set right. Following that test, a couple of the guys from the shop washed it while I went inside and paid an extremely reasonable bill, considering all they had done and the exceptional service they provided. At 4:00pm, I said my goodbyes to Rick and his crew and got back on the road, heading for Rainelle, WV, to catch up with the group after missing out on all the activities in Rainelle that day. Although I missed out on the activities in Rainelle, I was very grateful for getting hooked up with Rick and his incredible crew, and for all the effort they put out to get me back on the road. If I ever buy one of the "three major brands," I'll go to the Ashland Cycle Center to get it. That is one friendly bunch of people and they know how to treat customers!!
Although I rode alone from Ashland to Rainelle, that was OK with me and it was a nice break from having to concentrate so hard riding in a large group. Like I said above, though, I really wanted to be with the group on this day to ride to Rainelle and spend the day there. I'm not really sure how it got started, even though I've heard little bits and pieces, but it's clear there is a real bond between the town people and the vets who come through on the RFTW. If someone knows the whole story, or can point me to a link that would provide it, please write and let me know so I can include it.
By the time I pulled into Rainelle, all the activities had ended so I found the school and parked in an out-of-the-way place. I looked in the gymnasium where many people were stretched out on the floor in sleeping bags already, and I found Julie and Mauricio in a room off to one side. Their room was full, and I could imagine a good deal of snoring in the gym, so I went to a classroom in another building and stretched my inflatable mattress and sleeping bag out on the floor. After that, I went back outside and ran into a guy and his wife who were on the Run. He said something about eating, which I hadn't done yet, so he told me food was available at the Moose Lodge and insisted I take his Harley to go get something to eat. I declined on that, so he got the pickup keys from his wife and I took that instead. How often do total strangers offer their bikes and pickups to you? I made it to the Moose Lodge in time to get a bit of what was left, and I spent some time talking with another guy who was eating alone.
When I left the Moose Lodge I returned to my classroom, got a shower, and eventually did a photo of those who were sharing the room with me that night. J.K. Larrick and I struck up a conversation and sat at the little tables on little chairs talking for some time before we decided it was time to get some ZZZ's.
May 23, 2003: Rainelle, WV, to Washington, DC: 281 miles
Someone made coffee in the classroom in the morning and I had some of that while preparing to leave. I also left a couple of "thank you" notes on bulletin boards in the classroom, thanking those who found them for everything they had done for those on the Run. After warming the BugWing up, I made my way to the Moose Lodge where others were also gathering to line up and attend the morning meeting. Shortly after I arrived, Mauricio and Julie pulled in and lined up, and we did some more photos before we attended the morning meeting, conducted each day by Terry "Doorgunner" Clevenger.
When the meeting ended, we headed down the street to parade by the school, loop around the block and ride by it again, and then head out. We made it to I-64 East and then to I-64/81 North to Raphine where we stopped for fuel at a White's Truck Stop after a 110 mile run. Following that, we did another 93 miles before stopping in Straburg where we got fuel and I did this photo of a lady doing a photo of her two boys beside the BugWing, following which I had lunch at "Badwater Billy's Bar BQ Barn" along with many others on the Run.
When we stopped at Strasburg, the Central and Southern Routes merged to form one pack for the ride on into Washington, DC, and we headed out around 1:30pm. Not long after leaving here is where things got spooky for me. I could have blown the Run and made a mess of things several times after we left this stop, but I must have had Divine guidance.
All along the way I used sticky notes stuck to my dash to make note of the highways we'd be on, the exits we needed to take, and the places where we'd fuel. I don't have the acceleration bikes have, and I also don't have the hill-climbing power bikes have, so I even fell behind Skeater and his Jeep on a number of occasions along the way. I played catch-up at various places and didn't worry about it much, until we started approaching Washington. I was concerned about that, however, since I had no clue exactly how to get where we were going, in case we got separated there. In addition, I didn't want to miss riding to The Wall together.
Well, given the better acceleration the bikes have in comparison to me, the separation from the pack did happen and I found myself "leading" a very small pack of stragglers. Before I knew it, I was faced with a big decision. My sticky note said we'd take I-66 East, but, for whatever reason, I wasn't expecting it to come up as soon as it did after we left Strasburg. It didn't feel right to take it, it didn't feel right not to take it, and I couldn't see the group ahead of me anywhere. I took it at the last possible chance I could do it safely, and could still imagine winding up who-knows-where "leading" a small group right along with me on the wrong highway. I remembered hearing someone say something about The Wall and I-66, but I hadn't heard the whole thing so I kept riding and that little group kept following in some heavy traffic. A good part of the run today had been in the rain, and that made it even more difficult.
There had also been discussion about going to the Iwo Jima Memorial, and, when I saw the exit for it coming up, I didn't know what to do. I still didn't see the group or the escort mentioned in the detailed itinerary I had with me and consulted at fuel stops, and I had no clue where I was or where I'd wind up......with that little group behind me. For whatever reason, I didn't take the exit that would have taken us to the Iwo Jima Memorial, and, all of a sudden, we seemed to be where we were supposed to be and we were directed down a street in front of the Lincoln Memorial where all the bikes were parked. We arrived just as the group was breaking up after having the "group" photo made on the steps in front of the Lincoln Memorial, right by the reflecting pool. I was disappointed to miss that, but also relieved the little group of stragglers had made it at all. I had to have had guidance since I didn't know where I was going!!
Before I left home I knew I wanted to take something to The Wall and leave it, so I reached into the bag under my seat and pulled out what I found on that search through stuff from my time in the Navy. I'd thought about different options as I searched through things, but finally decided on one that was significant to me in several ways. As the group broke up following the photo, I spotted Mauricio and Julie and we made our way toward The Wall. The Wall had been the goal as far as a stopping point, a destination, but so much had happened on the ride I could not have anticipated, and now we were there. I'd been hammered emotionally, repeatedly, and sometimes for extended times on the ride up to that point, and I really wondered what would happen when I saw The Wall. On top of that, I had a "chance" conversation with a guy I work with, just a day before I left, and he learned I'd be gone for a while and where I was headed. Even though I've known him for years, I learned for the first time one of his brothers had been killed in Vietnam. He didn't want to inconvenience me, but he asked if I could try to get a rubbing of his brother's name for him since he'd never been there to see The Wall. I wrote down his brother's name and his request became part of my mission.
As you approach the area where The Wall is located, you're confronted with this statue looking off into the distance toward The Wall. All kinds of thoughts and feelings go through you (at least they did, me) when I saw that statue, where they were looking, and what was represented by the names on The Wall. I wanted to walk on over to The Wall, and I didn't want to go to The Wall, but we didn't right away. The sequence of events is a bit of a blur, but, judging from the numbers on the digital photos I did along the way, we walked over to the memorial for nurses first and I did this of Julie and Mauricio. I didn't talk to Julie specifically about the memorial, but, as an active duty Air Force nurse, I'm sure it was especially meaningful to her. While Mauricio did a photo of Julie in front of it, I did the same, and then we walked over toward The Wall.
On the way over I discovered a directory of names on The Wall, and I found where Dan's brother's name was located. Rain was still falling as we walked along The Wall and I stopped to do a photo of a portion of it, I had someone do a photo of me in front of it, and I did one of Mauricio and Julie. As we continued walking, I turned to do another photo looking back where we had been, showing reflections in The Wall.
A some point I approached Betty, a volunteer, and asked her if she could do a couple of rubbings for me. Dan's brother's name, Virgil A. Murray, was up high, so Betty used a ladder to get up there to do the rubbings while I held the ladder for her. After Betty did the rubbings she turned on the ladder, looked at all the guys in leather who were looking at The Wall, she managed to say, "All you guys......" and she started crying. She came down the ladder, and, when she reached the ground, we held each other's hands and both just stood there crying for a while. Eventually, she got some tissue out for both of us, she hugged me and kissed me on the cheek, I thanked her for her help, and I left so she could help others.
While Mauricio and Julie walked around, I kept circling back around the The Wall. Eventually, I picked a spot and left at the base of The Wall what I had brought with me for that purpose. I had managed to hang onto it since it was given to me in August, 1967, and I guess it was time to let it go for a variety of reasons.
After leaving The Wall, Mauricio, Julie, and I walked around to see some other points of interest in the area, including the Lincoln Memorial where this one was taken, and we got another one of the three of us in front if it, across the street. When we decided to head for the motel I found the BugWing where I left it earlier when the street was filled with bikes, but most of them were gone by the time we returned. While we packed up and let the motors warm up, I moved BugWing over closer to Mauricio and Julie, near the edge of the street. At one point I turned toward it and liked what I saw, so I did this one with the digital and with a 35mm. When I returned to Kansas, I used a scan of the 35mm shot of this view to make some new business cards.
Since I was completely lost, Julie served as navigator sitting behind Mauricio and we got back to the motel in Arlington without any trouble. Afer we got unpacked and cleaned up, we went to a French restaurant next door to the motel. I was impressed with the food. Following that, we returned to the motel where I wrote in my journal and eventually went to bed exhausted.
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