| Crosshair’s Journal
2nd Day (5-15-08)
After packing up our bikes, Mustang and I left the hotel and headed for McDonalds. Knowing that plans can go wrong, and usually do, we gave ourselves plenty of time to make the 7:15 mandatory riders meeting. During our cigar and coffee breakfast, I realized that I was now going to use that extra time to ride back to the hotel and hopefully find the cell phone that I no longer had on my person. The desk clerk was very understanding and made me a new electronic key to get back into the room. Retrieving the cell phone, I hooked back up with Mustang, making the meeting with time to spare.
The pre-ride meeting was held at a Little League Field surrounded by hundreds of parked motorcycles. The RFTW officers said the Pledge of Allegiance, sang God Bless America, talked over the previous days ride, and held a raffle that I didn’t win.
With that behind us, we were on our bikes and rolling down I-40. At the 90 mile mark we stopped at Winslow AZ. For fuel and a butt break. Many of the riders, which includes myself, are still feeling the after effects of driving 410 miles the day before.
I’m proud of my 17 year old Harley Heritage. She has been able to stay up with the newer bikes (65 mph – 75 mph). I wouldn’t hold it against her if she just said, “to hell with it, and gave up”. It’s a tough ride both for bike and rider.
We’re back on the I-40 as the temperature starts to drop and the sky darkens. 32 miles down the road is Holbrook, AZ. As we drive down through Holbrook we are greeted by residents waving and smiling. The bikes are parked in a column of three the full length of the street directly in front of the American Legion Post 37. We are warmly greeted by Post members, volunteers and active military. As food lines are formed at the back and front doors, it starts to rain. Caring more about my stomach then the gear on my bike, I go ahead and sit down to hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad and beans. Mustang joined me at the table as the present and past President of the Post were introduced on stage to the lunching riders along with the Mayor extending his greetings.
The rain stops, Mustang and I go out to the street. We are standing next to our bikes when an older gentleman approaches us holding a large framed picture of a young man wearing a Army uniform. With tears in his eyes he says that the photo is of his grandson who was killed in Iraq. Both Mustang and I give the man our condolences. The man is unable to speak, but his eyes say that he wants someone to know that his grandson once lived, and that he gave his life for this country. Without saying anything more, walked away.
A short time later as we rode away from the American Legion building, the old man stood on the sidewalk holding his grandson’s picture up and facing it out toward the street as if he were giving to each one of the passing riders a very special present, a piece of his own personal love for his grandson to carry along on their journey to the wall.
For the dead the pain is over. For the living the unbearable pain of their love lost is only beginning. The daily pain that comes with the thought that so many people will go through their lifetime without ever sharing the enjoyment of knowing the person you loved, and still love so unconditionally.
As we continue up the I-40 I start to notice that we are the only vehicles on the highway. Traffic is not passing us by. There are no trucks, no cars, only the sound of police motorcycle sirens screaming by us. I soon realize that these officers have blocked off the entire highway and are now busy leapfrogging from one on-ramp to another stopping any traffic coming up the ramps. These cars and trucks are honking their horns. The drivers and passengers smiling and waving as motorcycle after motorcycle passes by. The bridge overpasses are filled with people waving, smiling and holding up American flags. The highway is also lined with smiling, waving adults and children. American flags everywhere. It’s a sight that I have never experienced in California.
The police escort takes us into Gallup, New Mexico. Streets are lined with people just as the highway was. We pass under a archway created by two fire department ladder trucks and are parked in the city parking lot at the front of the County Courthouse.
As we walk toward the County Courthouse, I can feel and hear the tribal drums and music ahead of us. Entering the Courthouse square a large banner across the front of the Courthouse greets us with, “Welcome Home, Run For The Wall, Thank You”. The Black Creek Gourd Society is seated in the center of the square providing tribal music. Tribal members are lining the squire dancing with additional tribal musical instruments.
City, State and Tribal representatives speak. An announcement is made that the tribal nations will also travel to the View Nam Memorial Wall this year. This will be the first year.
The ceremonies end. Riders are asked to joint in dancing. Mustang and I go off to chow and go looking for our hotel.