| After a restful night at the Holiday Inn, Williams, Arizona, we entered Interstate 40 at 8:00 AM heading east. After highballing it for 90 miles, we stopped in Winslow for our first gas stop of the day.
The gas-up was uneventful, except for the pleasure of getting out of the saddle for a few minutes. My butt is obviously out-of-shape for this kind of riding. Regardless, after our break we were once again eating up the miles as we moved to our lunch stop in the small Arizona town of Holbrook.
As we exited the interstate we suddenly realized that Holbrook may be small in population (5,000+) but the people who live there have enormous heart. As we drove down Main Street there were hundreds of people standing on the walk ways, including entire school classes of children. Many waved flags and cheered as we rumbled by. The RFTW Vets were waving in return and honking their horns. It was a great experience and one that few will forget.
We moved through town until we got to the American Legion Hall and that is where we put our kick-stands down. Lunch was provided by the Legion and their volunteers - hotdogs, hamburgers, macaroni salad, cakes and cookies - maybe not the table fare of the most health conscious person, but real home-made American food at its best.
After everyone had eaten we saddled-up once again, but this time under threatening skies. The temperature had dropped too, so we readied ourselves for cold wet weather, a thought that doesn't bring smiles to biker's faces.
Back on the interstate and less than 10 miles east of Holbrook, it started to rain - and I mean cold rain that hurt when it hit your face. Add that with the 18-wheelers going 70 MPH plus and the wet blowback they produce on a wet highway and you've got some white-knuckle misery that only a crazy person would endure. Am I calling Veterans on motorcycles traveling 3,000 miles crazy? Well, not all of them, but I can certainly speak for myself and I am certifiably crazy - just ask my lovely wife.
Well, it stayed cold the entire day and it rained on us a few more times before we made it to Gallup, but everyone survived and there were no mishaps or incidents. Now we simply have another story to tell, and I guarantee it will get better as the years pass.
If you just read what I said about the wonderful experience we had in Holbrook when the town folk welcomed us home, then multiply that by 100 and you will get an impression of what it was like when we drove down main street in Gallup. This was the third time that I've been with RFTW; in 2006 I went all the way to DC. But I can honestly say the warmth, the kindness, and the respect the Navajo people willingly give to the RFTW Veterans is hard to compare - they are simply magnificently warm and generous people. But what is important for we Veterans, they see us as "one of them" and they honor us by welcoming us into their family and culture.
The Navajo are a very special people to me. Perhaps it is simply that I feel a kindred spirit with them. And then maybe it's because when we came home from war there was wholesale rejection and in some cases, disdain. This from the country we so dearly loved.
In turn, from the beginning to the end, the Navajo welcomed us home with open arms, respect, and understanding, as they have done for their warriors for centuries.
So on this third trip with RFTW my respect and bond with the Navajo grew even stronger. And that is the way the day ended - with our Navajo family. We danced and sang together and shared a connection that is hard to describe. And when we fired up our iron horses and embraced for the last time until we meet again, two simple words were exchanged with heartfelt sincerity -A HA YE - Thank you.
It's good to be home again.