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.

Two weeks away from the computer has been  – pleasant. Now it’s time to entertain you with tales of my travels – Across America in the Spirit of Freedom.

On May 1, the weather was perfect for duck hunting; cold, rain, and relentless wind – the heated liners proved their worth for my departure. At the far end of South Dakota’s prairie, I met Jim Burgess, owner of Black Hills H-D in Rapid city. While service made minor repairs, and threw on new brake shoes and topped off the oil, Jim and I shared mutual views, concerns, and respect in the comfort of their lounge. On a farewell, my wallet was not allowed out of my pocket. It was late in the day, but I stopped at a recommended Sturgis bar for a burger and a Bud, and was not allowed to remove my wallet there either – more kindness to share down the road.

A lot of space laid out across Wyoming. At dusk, I was lucky there wasn’t a fourth deer around the curve. By 10 p.m., 280 miles laid behind me and my camp in Worland. In morning sunshine, I rolled over snow covered passes, then into Jackson Hole. It’s actually a valley that sinks four times faster then the Grand Tetons rise; but their clock runs on a geological timescale – grand spectacles, nonetheless.

For those fond of wide open space, I would recommend anyplace along highway 20 in south Idaho. The scenery projects an otherworldly landscape, so much so, that NASA tested vehicles in the 750,000 acres of crinkled lava in the Craters of the Moon National Monument. The town of Carey sits on its north side, and the good people offered their fairground for my camp site. In Oregon, highway 26 climbed into pine covered mountains along wide fertile valleys. A side trip led deep into the scent in search of a Lewis and Clark Trail, but mud and snow on the track turned me back. Farther on, one of Oregon’s classics pulled up at a gas stop. The 318 cubic inch engine roared true in the 1970 Dodge Charger – a General Lee model. But, it will soon blow away competition with a 429 Hemi engine.

From the town of Sisters, the trail twists off the mountains. Had it not been raining, I would have enjoyed the piney scenery much more. In Veneta, west of Eugene, Roger, and his wife, Ellen, welcomed me to their home for a couple nights. Roger and I met in 2009 while I lived in a resort out in the rice paddies of Vietnam – and a nice home it was too. On my next visit, I will look forward to ride on our Fat Boys, or salmon fishing. A short ride from there brought me to Aunt Martha and Uncle Bob’s, and out to cousin Kari’s home in the wilderness – where her goats, donkeys, and cats guard the yard. Then my direction turned onto the Redwood Highway into California.

Thankfully, the rain slacked off for a quiet stroll through the Avenue of the Giants – some of the largest and oldest trees on earth – one of the most serene and humble places for a walk. The next day, I met up with Mike, another buddy I met in Vietnam. Of all places, we met up at Johnny’s Bar in Hollister. In 1947, a group of motorcycle riding WW II veterans, known as the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club, along with their wives, girlfriends, and other riding enthusiasts, arrived for the 4th of July jamboree. The bash was ‘almost’ news worthy, and to fix that, the media fabricated and exaggerated – mayhem sold in those days too. But, it was the birth of the American Biker, and Hollywood drove a fear of them into the heart of the American public.

Johnny’s owner, Charisse, entertained Mike and I with some of its rich biker history, then we were off to, Howie’s, a friend of long standing. Along with his collection of music, he cares for, and turns a few records he keeps for me. The weekend of tunes resulted in a lot of recyclable aluminum. On Monday morning we bid farewells and rode off to meet with the National Veteran’s Awareness Organization for the Run to the Wall in Washington D.C.

Blogs of the Run will follow.

 

1 - Jim at Black Hills H-D

10 - Jim & Ellen 13 - The Pacific 16 - Big Tree 22 - Breakfast w:Howie & Mike 14 - Elk 7 - Idaho20 - w:Charisse Owner of Johnny's Bar
9 - Lewis & Clark Trail
3 - Grand Tetons

2014 KICKOFF

Greetings,

Spring has sprung.

Well, it did for many who rode their bikes to the Donnie Smith Bike Show in St. Paul last weekend. On Saturday, crowds packed the halls to gaze at all the fine rides – imaginations carry the competition to a new level. The Swap Meet and Hot Rod Show were no less for attention. On a 60 degree Sunday, the crowds must have been in church, or paying praise in the wind.

A late blizzard flirted with Minnesota on Monday to bring back chilling days of old. Covers lay over my boys, the Fat Boys in the garage. I’m anxious to ride, but in no hurry; says the old bull!

But come May, the ’08 and I head for California to join the National Veterans Awareness Ride, (NVAR) for the Run to the Wall – Rolling Thunder in D.C. I’m likely to budget for heated liners for my leathers. Gotta keep this old bull warm. From Mpls, on May 2 or 3, to the Black Hills, and perhaps through Yellowstone to Oregon it will get chilly.

I’ll visit an old friend in CA for a brew or two, and spin a few Lp’s from a large collection he cares for. Then, or sooner, I’ll meet up with Mike from AZ, who I met in a bar in Nha Trang, Vietnam, and introduced me to this ride. We met in Iowa for last year’s Run to the Wall. This year we go all the way.

The manuscript for Harley Tracks: In the Spirit of Freedom, improves with each re-write. Each day I relive the motorcycle adventure with an amazement to its scope, and that I lived to tell the tale. This summer it will go to a professional editor for a proper presentation. Come fall it’ll go to print.

I hope you like the new face and presentation of the web site. By way of coincidence I met a fellow, by way of a good deed, who does this sort of thing.

Once again, I’ll blog the Run to the Wall.

It’s not often I like to be followed, but for the cause, I invite you to return and join me, as I join others, to thank those who served and sacrificed for our freedom. Please refer to last years NVAR run in these archives for some history of a wonderful and humbling ride.

If you ride – ride safe in 2014

To all – enjoy the spirit & never forget.

Best Regards,

6gear

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I waited 60 years to visit New England. Now I’ve made two trips in four months. Upfront, the most unfortunate part was that it wasn’t done on two wheels. Nonetheless, it was a fun time.

Any travel in New England is a tour through history. Significant battle sites or events leading to our United States are at, or near – everywhere. On a beach 50 miles from Provincetown, 393 years after the Mayflower landed, we celebrated Ryan and Kristen’s Cape Cod wedding. We enjoyed clam chowder, lobster, and lots of drink; while those early settlers were happy with turkey and fresh water.

It was an opportune time to visit my friend, Peter, in Vermont, the 50th state I have visited. (It’s a weak technicality, but I once got off a plane in Anchorage, Alaska, while it refueled.) Peter is history literate and takes me to early battle grounds and old trappers routes. Nowadays, the mountains are infiltrated with ski lodges, golf courses, hiking and biking trails, and plenty of Harleys roll over it’s fantastic trails too.

Continue Reading…