MARCH

Harley Tracks: Across Vietnam to The Wall

Progress reaches closer to pages and covers. Three years of writing, a winter in developmental edit, and a copy edit have brought my manuscript to the status of proofread. What began as a joy ride from Hanoi in January of 2009 has taken me on a journey I could not have imagined. A book designer did a fantastic job with my idea for a cover and will receive the manuscript in the first of April for layout. I toured Bang Printing in Brainerd, MN, who will manufacture the book, and was amazed by the needs of the book  building business; over 12 acres of machines rolling, sliding, and binding paper. It was awesome to see that many machines and parts cranking like a V-twin engine.

My efforts now shift to the book’s presentation. I wait to hear about a 4th of July debut at a rally in the mid-west, followed with presentations at different sites at the Sturgis Rally’s 75th Anniversary; and then, other venues locally, in the Minnesota region and nationally.

But first things first; while the book is on its journey of a 5 to 6 week print run at Bang, I’ll ride to Auburn, CA to meet up with the National Veterans Awareness Organization for their 11th annual  National Veterans Awareness Ride (NVAR), also known as the Run to The Wall in Washington D.C. A fantastic ride with a great bunch of people.  For 10 days, a rigid schedule leads us to veterans homes and hospitals  to visit and thank our men and women for their service and sacrifice. We also hold ceremonies at cemeteries and memorials for those who gave all. Along the route, riders join our group, and its a humbling experience to pass cheers from the thousands who stand beside city streets and country roads.

Please check back for updates and blogs on the NVAR.

Thank a Vet and Never Forget

Enjoy the Spirit of Freedom

 

 

 

 

On Aug. 23, the ICVMC, (In Country Veterans Motorcycle Club) made their annual honor run to the High Ground Veterans Memorial Park in Neillsville, WI. Memorials rest on a beautiful acre of God’s country to pay tribute to those who served and sacrificed for our freedom. It also honors those who supported them from home, and those left behind. A replica of the Liberty Bell hangs for all to ring in memory of the fallen. Our group counted among a parking lot full of riders on that solemn afternoon.

The NVAO, (refer to web link) held their annual board meeting and reunion in Milwaukee, WI, on the weekend of Aug. 29 – 31. Riders from the reaches of NE to OH, and as far south as AL gathered to relive the experiences of the 2014 NVAR, and plan the 11th annual ride in 2015. Coincidently, the 1st Milwaukee Rally added to the excitement with exhibits and entertainment at the H-D Museum and a big show at the House of H-D. Thunder storms passed timely with our tour of the museum and ride through town and along the lake front. Sunshine graced our parking lot farewells until we meet for the next Ride. Mine returned through the back roads of central WI for another stroll through High Ground, where a rotation of motorcycles, and cars, pass through with gratitude for their freedom.

Regarding the book, Harley Tracks: Across Vietnam to The Wall – In the Spirit of Freedom; years of literary study and rewrites bring it closer to print. The extent and depth of the journey grew beyond my imagination and demands. Its presentation improved with each rewrite . As with many of its structural changes, the title and sub-title have been switched, and the home page of the wet site will receive a face lift to fit it. In late September and October, I will present the manuscript for professional edits and evaluations. Their direction and comments will set me on a rewrite for the final edit – and on to print – early in 2015.

 

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STURGIS 2014

For me, for two nights, a quiet neighborhood existed on Boulevard St. in Sturgis – in recovery from lyme disease that was a pleasure. But that’s not what the rally was about. Four blocks away, national and global riders converged with a controlled force, thanks to the Sturgis PD, on Main Street. Hundreds of thousands parked, rode, and strolled; drank, ate, and gaped; vendors filled every gap with T’s, patches, and anything else one could pin or bolt to a bike. The action reached to Deadwood, Hill City, Lead, and every other watering hole through the hills. Sunshine grace the mountains and riders between sprinkles and powerful downpours.

The Black Hills H-D jammed with inventory and acres of vendors. Bike parking held enough room for 4,500 bikes, which turned over four times each day. Jim Burgess, the owner, gave me a tour and spoke of preparations for next years 75th Rally Anniversary. Expansions will work through the year in expectation for up to double attendance. Jim was generous to offer me a few days in his store next year for a Harley Tracks: In the Spirit of Freedom book signing. I’ll follow up with signings I Deadwood, Sturgis, and the Buffalo Chip Campground.

After two peaceful nights, I joined Hack at The Chip – over one hundred acres of tents and RV’s. A stage sat in a natural amphitheater and rocked with the largest crowds through music, zip lines, and an endless party.  The Field of Flags stood near the entrance. A respected display of history and for those who sacrificed for freedom. It was like a homecoming to bring the Fat Boy to its traveling Wall – a scaled model of the Vietnam War Memorial. In the silence on the field, I was honored to meet JT, a veteran, whose cousin’s name cut into the first center panel on the East Wing.

Saturday night, a storm packed winds in excess of 60 mph. Rain hammered the hills, and my little North Face tent on the hill held against its wrath, however, covered and broadside to the wind, it blew Hack’s bike over – I thought I smelled gas. When I peeked out, neighbors had already righted it. We left Sunday morning at 10 for a 16 hour ride to Mpls – stops, lunch, and coincidental meeting with JT, rain, and a blown fuse on Hack’s bike extended the ride. After Hack turned off 35 W for his last blocks home, I rolled into one more storm for my final miles.

Look forward to next year.

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7,800 miles in 30 days – demanding, exhilarating, and once home – a bit of exhaustion.

Solo to the west, I rolled over the plains and mountains, across spacious southern Idaho, through Oregon’s forests, to a small town near Eugene. Roger, and Ellen, the love of his life, welcomed me after the long ride. I first met him at my resort home west of Nha Trang, Vietnam, in 2009, and we enjoyed a great reunion. I had never known anyone with a transistor radio collection, or who could build a 3-D printer from scratch. I look forward to more Oregon trails on my next visit. Trails then led south to visit Aunt Martha, and Uncle Bob, a WW II veteran in his last days. Cousin Kari had brought me  out to her new country home to meet her pet donkeys,  goats, and cats. Then it was onto the Avenue of the Giants – California’s Redwoods. They stand larger than I remembered. From there to the Golden Gate, where I met a Danish couple, Neils and Dorte, thankful for America’s sacrifice in WW II. And then, I met Mike in Hollister; he rode in from AZ. After a refreshing reunion at Johnny’s Bar, it was a short ride to Howie’s, a friend of long standing, for more Buds and lots of rock ‘n’ roll.

Concentrated time filled the last half of those days. On the National Veterans Awareness Ride, NVAR, each FIVE minutes, and each mile, counted in reaching our next destination on time; to visit veterans, honor the fallen, welcome Iraq and Afghan veterans home, meet school children, and feed on feasts provided by local veteran organizations – hunger was never a concern. Police, Fire Departments, and local Motorcycle Clubs rolled out escorts for our safe and undisturbed passage. People in towns and the country welcomed our pack with celebrations and support. Weather fell favorable on our crossing – especially for those who wore heated liners through the mountains!!

The NVAR family welcomed riders along the route for short rides or, ALL THE WAY. Thirty bikes from Sacramento grew to sixty three in Washington D.C. Each year the bond grows tighter. An absence drifted through the crowd for veteran riders whose commitments prevented their attendance.

As the expanse of the west drifted past, stops and visits closed in. Jerry’s call, “Riders – five minutes,” shouted over the pack often. While I listened, longer than time allowed, to tales from a WW II veteran at an Indiana Veterans Home, I missed the call. I walked out to find the Fat Boy alone on the avenue. Thankfully, the police were busy arranging our escort through Indianapolis; I passed everything on the interstate to catch the pack at the next gas stop.

Emotions within our ride ran deep; the Mid-East Conflict Wall in Marseilles, Illinois, held the names of five of Command Sgt. Major Luft’s men and the cousin of Jerry, the Ride Coordinator. An additional wreath was laid in Arlington Cemetery for Dave’s son, killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On two legs of the ride, I held the honor of riding a position with the missing man. After 41,000 miles around Vietnam in their memory,  I was more beside myself with them in my thoughts.

Thousands of motorcycles packed the Pentagon parking lots for Sunday’s Protest Ride. Significant to our presence, Schneider Trucking sent all six of their brilliant and patriotically decorated Rides of Pride. Motorcycles, trucks, and fans circled the National Mall for hours.

Like last year, Mike and I saluted the remainder of NVAR’s Monday morning departure for points home. In our farewell, we laughed again at the coincidence of our meeting in a bar in Nha Trang, and now, after two years, we’ve made two Runs to the Wall. I rolled out, and he, the last of our pack, would leave on Tuesday for his leisure ride to Arizona. After days and miles of staring at the back of another bike, and hotel check-in’s, I longed for solitude of a country trail and a quiet campground. The Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania was just the place for the scenic ride. But across northern Ohio, I turned onto the turnpike for a stop in Cleveland, then back onto a two lane for an easy ride and quiet camp. A day and two stops later brought me to Muskegon, Michigan, to  visit Doc, Bao Anh, and new baby Chloe. Last year at this time, she was just a bump on Bao Anh. Doc played the fantastic host and tour guide for the day, but spoke often of the September return to their home in Vietnam.

Like last year, the morning ferry boat shot across a calm Lake Michigan to Milwaukee. Another tour of the H-D Museum filled my afternoon. On the road again, I gained an hour in the Central Time Zone, which motivated my ride for a late arrival in Minneapolis. The night air breezed by, the bike ran flawlessly, and the highway tempted me to roll on – another bittersweet end to a road trip.

Thank you for the visit to Harley Tracks.

Keep the Spirit of Memorial Day alive – we can’t thank our veterans often enough.

Mike

P.S. The book of Trail Tales; Harley Tracks: In the Spirit of Freedom, progresses with a tentative print late this year.

Please visit the photo albums for more pictures.

3a Quiet little town7 WY Selfie

 

 

27 OR Roger & Ellen 39a No Stopping 48a Breakfasts for Champions 6 Del wished to just touch the bikes 8 The Salt Flats 26 Mother & Son 49 Stretched out 63 Mike with the Fleet of Pride 77 The longest salute 80 NVAR at D.C. departure 81 Sparking Rides 1c 4a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In route to meet the NVAR, Mike and I stopped for another photo at Johnny’s Bar in Hollister. Fortunately, at 8:30 a.m., they were closed – and we had front door parking. Gloria and Ruth took a moment from their morning walk to talk with us. Back on that fateful weekend, the 4th of July, 1947, young Gloria walked past Johnny’s each day without an offensive word heard – and then we were off.

Thirty riders; veterans of Vietnam, Mid-East, and Afghanistan wars, along with era vets and their supporters, departed on May 14, from Auburn CA for a ten day ride to Washington D.C. Our mission was to visit homes and hospitals to thank veterans of past and present wars, lay wreaths at cemeteries and memorials, and welcome back Gulf War vets with a medal of recognition. The daily schedule started at 5 a.m., pack the bike, eat, ride, visit, ride, visit, ride, eat, ride, visit, ride, visit, ride, eat, social time, and finally, sleep. No wonder I’m so late with this blog and photos – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The sun burned across Nevada, my heated liners warmed me across Wyoming, and the winds knocked all of us around Iowa – there was not a dull mile. The birth of summer laid out across Indiana and all points east without even a sprinkle on us. We now have one more day to D.C.

We returned to visits that have been made since the NVAR began in 2005. Familiar staff and veterans welcomed us at each. Police and local Motorcycle Clubs provided escort service and joined in celebrations. American Legions, VFW’s, and AmVet Clubs set up breakfasts, lunches, and dinners – that stack up more like feasts. Along our pilgrimage, riders join the run, and tomorrow we’ll roll into Washington with over seventy bikes.

Photos below speak volumes of each moment and more will follow.

Biker Birthplace in Hollister 6 Mikes, 3 Docs, 3 Tonys A SEAL salutes our departure Freedom Rock Randy Knight - 2014 Ride Dedication to him Lt. Commander Richard Willis, WW II Navy Tom w:Jim Mongo w:Family, and Brothers names on Mid-East Wall Meeting the kids Spyder-Childhood friend of Danny Bruce - Medal of Honor Recipient Thanks to a Vet Pack Forward Pack Behind Mug shot Riders CA to D.C.