I trust everyone is enjoying a good summer, warmer and dryer in some places than others, but enjoying the spirit none the less.
I’m not getting all the riding I did last year, or the year before that, but I’ve been out and about on some well attended memorial and appreciation rides. And, most of all, enjoying the unblemished highways of America. It’s great to see the highway department out there doing a fantastic job with upgrades and repairs. First off, on my return from a run across American, and Canada, in June, I paid final respects to my old friend Jim who lost out to the friggin Grim Reaper. You gave him a battle and pissed him off before going. RIP Jim.
Weekends to follow I laid tracks with a club up to the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation near Duluth MN for a Veteran Recognition and Appreciation Powwow. They put on a great event true to their culture for recognizing warriors. This was their 20th year for the Powwow. Close to a thousand people camped out to attend the event. 256 veterans were honored one by one. Drums pounded as songs and tales were shouted in their native tongue praising the spirit of the warrior. Throughout the day everyone joined in the traditional dances. It was a true and sincere show of respect from America’s first warriors.
My apology for a late blog; I became occupied with a family matter, then time was critical.
Its 351 days to Memorial Day. The status of Harley Tracks Tales is the only factor to determine how I will attend the next Rolling Thunder. My hope is to join the NVAR riders in California for the full ride. The ride across America and gathering in Washington D.C. are powerful events. I was honored to be counted among those in attendance demanding our government account for, and retrieve, POW’s and MIA’s from all wars. Its also a time to acknowledge and pay respect to all veterans. Sunday’s Protest Ride rolled out of the Pentagon parking lots for four hours. A message carried on the soulful beat of thunderous motorcycles filled the atmosphere of D.C. – over half million people together for the same reason is a humbling, and encouraging experience.
On Monday morning (Memorial Day), Mike and I saluted the departure of the remaining group we had grown close to on our ride. Then, I called my parents, and thanked Dad for his service. I bid Mike farewell and left on my solo ride north. The air was crisp, but the sunshine was brilliant for an enjoyable ride to NYC. After squeezing through a traffic jam before the Holland Tunnel, I rolled, without further delay, through Manhattan, Brooklyn, and right up to my friend’s office in Queens. Not bad for a first time entry. (Kenny Lee was working overtime on this sacred holiday.) Other than a little grey on each of our heads, he looked no different than 13 years ago when we worked together in South China. After two nights of visiting, with a rainy day trip to Ground Zero and Central Park in between, I left with the intention to blog from Boston.
Words from D.C. What a week.
So many Vet Homes, Hospitals, schools, hotels, and meals. I’ve never eaten so much on a road trip.record. This morning we rode over 70 strong through the mountains of West Virginia and Maryland, in a steady drizzle and heavy fog, at 70 mph. And it was cold too, but all part of the adventure. It’s rides like that, that make others more enjoyable. Hosts were ready for us at the Maryland Veterans Cemetery, where we laid another wreath, as we have each day. Silence, before each lone bugler plays taps, commands a focused attention to itself. Thoughts of a life taken pass between the first and last notes, and then a moment of silence returns.
We rode into DC over 70 strong without any formal escort, or incident. Arlington National Cemetery was the first stop for another wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Actually, there are remains of unknown soldiers from WW I, WW II, and the Korean War. Thanks to DNA testing, the remains of a Vietnam Veteran were identified in 1998 and returned per his families wishes. Few people ever set foot into the protected area of the Tomb, and it was a great honor for four of our riders to pay this tribute. Taps followed the setting of the wreath.
Three days on the road now, or maybe it’s four days. Rolling 70 strong and counting. Visits to Veterans Homes, Memorials, and schools are adding up too.
We rip across interstate highways, and roll strong along two lanes into the heartlands communities. People line the streets with cheers and flags waving, cars and trucks in opposing lanes pull over and stop; not only in town, but on open highways. Yesterday my arms burned from intense sunshine, and today an early rain and afternoon clouds keep things comfortable for leathers all day.
We were welcomed at state Veterans Homes and Hospitals by the Veterans of WW II, Korea, and Vietnam. It’s great to meet these guys and listen to a story or two. They get to feeling a little couped up and a fresh face makes their day more enjoyable. Some of the guys outliving their families and friends are especially grateful for the company. It’s important to let them know they are not forgotten. I was honored to assist with the wreath laying ceremony for a Medal of Honor recipient, PFC Daniel Bruce, 19 years old, when he gave his life so his buddies would live.
The rains fell in the right places, away from the ride.
Thirty seven years after the Marguerittaville summer, I returned to Ottumwa, Iowa. I didn’t recognize the place!
Mike gave me a tour of the countryside and his old hometown called Eldon, site of the American Gothic House. For those of you unfamiliar with the artistic significance of Eldon, as Mike was too; it’s home to the second most recognized painting next to the Mona Lisa – see attached photo.
After Mike loaded his toys on the trailer, we dropped off his rig at a friends farm, unloaded the bike, and then headed out to meet up with the NVAR (National Veteran’s Awareness Ride) riders. Along the way, we stopped in Winterset, Iowa. In case that name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s the birthplace of John Wayne. How cool was that.