Helen Cummings in Tennessee

We had a great 7 day visit with Russ & Kathy. Joni & I left her parents in SC at 8:30 on a warm humid morning. It was tough for Joni to say good bye, especially since they live almost 3,000 miles away. We took a route that kept us off the interstates and we had the pleasure to see a lot of cool back roads and farm country. We went through a few state parks and followed a river where there were dozens of converted school buses to take rafters up and down the river rapids. There were a lot of Saturday river enthusiasts out which made for a bit of congestion in places.  We wern’t in a hurry as it is only a 375 mile day, and Helen has a lot to do and will probably be back home late.

Criag & Jack w/shovelheads

We did have to do a little bit of interstate I-24 just west of Chattanooga. We decided to get off at Manchester and do county roads. As soon as we turned north, I spotted two shovel heads at a gas station and we pulled in. We met Craig and Jack, and we had a lot in common right away. Fellow shovel head riders have usually been riding their machines for quite a long time, and tend to know them inside and out. Craig offered to take me to McMinnville to a machine shop that he works at so I could get my siren shaft fixed. I didn’t feel like getting greasy by taking the unit off my bike and apart to get to the ‘rub on the tire shaft’. I thanked him and we talked about his ride that he did to Alaska a few years ago. It was on his BMW, and not on his shovel head. They were both good people to run into and were a pleasure to meet. If we stay on the interstate, chance encounters like this are slim to none, and the personal touch ain’t there. Back road USA is the place to meet “real” people. Thanks Craig & Jack!

We took off and rode past a lot of very neat looking farms and fields that were laid out as even as could be. Up to the old town of Woodbury where the buildings are kept up and are probably a couple of hundred years old.  Very neat town. We went west to Murfreesboro and kept on the back roads up to Gallatin to find Helen’s house.  It was very hot and humid by now and we were looking forward to getting inside. I rode past her house twice looking for 1201. No # to be found, that I could see, so I called her. She looked out the window and said, “are you on a red bike”? That was Joni just pulling up. We were just about in front of her house. She came bounding out and told us that she just got home and was really glad to see us.

Helen's log home

It was almost 40 years ago since I saw her last. It felt really good for both of us to re- connect and talk about people from the past. Around 8:00 she started putting something together for us for dinner. Her fridge was stuffed full. She said she had to get stuff for us that we would like so she had a lot of back up plans. Wow, was she ever prepared. She kept us from going hungry, that’s for sure. A very good chickenstyle salad and a lot of appetizers as well. 

Helen & Joni

Helen is still 4′ 11 3\4″and Joni was surprised when she had to bend down to hug her. Me being 6’5″, Helen said that I have not changed either. I am still tall and she is still short! At 10:30 we were ready to go to bed.

Helen has a giant heart as she takes in a lot of rescue animals. 5 cats and 5 dogs here at her house and a few horses at her barn, which is about 8 miles away from here.

Don & Pat Wright

Up at 7:30 to a big country breakfast that Helen was a fix-en. It was all great. She had a couple of people that she wanted us to meet, so Joni & I got ready to go on our bikes and follow Helen. When she got in her rig, she discovered that she had left her switch on from yesterday. Yep, dead battery. No time to charge it so she called her neighbor to see about borrowing a vehicle. No problem, so we followed Helen to a bit of Tennessee history.

Helen, Pat, Joni

We went to the home of Mayor and Senator, Don Wright and his wife Pat. They have lived in a house, since 1971, that was built in 1793, Walnut Grove, and added on to in 1824. We had the pleasure to tour the house which has 11 fireplaces and a haunted room. There are a lot of awesome pieces of art and very old pictures hanging in every room. Don takes pride in restoring old picture frames and book ends from pieces of marble and brass figures. The house looks like a museum in itself because of

Joni on antique "Ladies" mounting block for horses

all of the ‘period correct’ items and furniture. Joni & I were in awe at the beauty and history of the home. Don said that during the civil war the Union troups took over the house and did not give it back until 8 or 9 years after the war. It sounds like Joan Baez song about “take what you need and leave the rest, but they should never have taken the very best’!

Don pointed to the other side of a creek and said that was the old Station Camp Creek settlement from the early 1700’s. The Indians ran out the early white settlers and took it over for a while. History galore! 

Don also told us of a performance, that he attended many years ago, with an unknown guy who did some singing and dancing on stage. There was a few music scouts there and Don heard one of them say, That SOB ain’t going to make it in this business, EVER!. Most everyone knows the rest of the

Haunted room w/death picture

story, of how Elvis Presley DID make it in the business!  

Joni told Don & Pat about doing the ancestry of her family and threw out a few names that she traced her history back to. They were the same names that are in Don’s background. They determined that they are more than likely related and could be cousins about 4 or 5 generations back! We felt very special to be able to see that kind of history close up and have Helen take us directly to her friends and share it with us.

Next we rode over to David Wright’s house who is Don’s brother. David and Jane were just as gracious for showing us around. David is a fantastic artist who has a lot of his famous paintings just about everywhere you look. They grace the covers of history books and show off his tremendous talent. We were even given a print, our choice, of one of his paintings that he signed for us. He will

Don signing his print for us

mail us the print so it will be at Oregon Tool & Supply when we get back home!

Out back of his house is a beautiful stream that cascades down a lot of uniquely shaped series of blocks, or possibly flagstone, from the old days when there was an old grain mill, that operated with the water going over a large paddle wheel affair. There is history everywhere you look and we were absorbing as much as possible.

Don giving me his MACV patch

David presented me with a patch that he wore during his service to our country in Viet Nam. I put in on the front of the alligator head on the front fender. He called it a MACV patch. Military Assistance Command Viet Nam. David took quite a few pictures of me and the bike and was in awe that I have ridden it from coast to coast as much as I have. They had to be somewhere for lunch so we thanked them for our tour and for the beautiful print that they gave to us.

Helen showing us her barn

Helen took us to her barn so we could see her rescue horses and the other part of her life that demands so much of her unwavering attention. She takes delight in making sure that, as far as the animals are concerned, she can make animals lives much better than their past places of malnourishment and mistreatment. You can not call their past place of residence a ‘home’ as that word symbolises harmony and happiness. When the animals receive Helen’s loving care, they truly are in a ‘home’.

Helen giving me some of Ginger's mane

Helen had to put down one of her horses yesterday. Ginger, a mustang that she rescued 16 years ago, wi

th the help of Dr. O’ Brien, was able to receive 16 years of a life that was not to be with out Helen’s help.  The broken leg that Ginger suffered 16 years ago, usually signals the end for a horse but not when Helen found out about it. She gave me a piece of Ginger’s mane for me to carry on my bike so she could still have part of her “in the wind”.

In another storm


When Joni looked north to a very dark sky, she said it looks like a tornado is a brewing. Helen got in the rig and as soon as we got on the road, the stormwas upon us. Lightning was right in front of us in all of it’s spectacular beauty,  if you were inside that is, and striking ALL around us with the dancing fingers of electricity filling the air. The thunder was just as deafening seeming like we were in a drum and somebody was

Garage host Larry, Thank you!

beating on it relentlessly. No, not a tornado this time but it was a LOT of rain and 60 to 70 mph winds that were throwing us around. I saw Joni duck as a branch was blown out of a tree and Ihad to swerve around it as it fell behind Joni and right in front of me! Wow, the weather found us again. A few blocks later, Helen suddenly pulled into the front yard of a house. We wondered what she was doing when she said we can get out of the storm here. A guy was standing just inside of the open doorway of his garage and looked surprised when we jumped off the bikes and joined him. I introduced myself to Jerry, and asked Helen if she even knew him. Helen didn’t know his name, but once she had stopped by at a garage sale they had. Helen said here in the south, we can stop by anywhere we need to to seek shelter from a storm. Jerry’s wife stayed at the door, talking to us for a while to see what we were doing riding motorcycles in weather like this. We talked for about 20 minutes or so and Jerry told me about the tornado that swept over their house 3 years ago where4 people were killed. He was hoping for no more of those, and we were too. Helen called a friend at the emergency responders office for a report and was told that there was a small 5 minute window between storm cells and it’s now or wait more. Only trouble was it took 15 minutes to get back to her home. Power was knocked out in town as there were a lot of cops out at intersections where the signal lights were not working.

soaked Joni

When we left Helen’s home thismorning, there was not a cloud in the sky and was very warm. I had on tennis shoes and a t shirt. Joni was dressed just as light. By the time we got back, we were absolutely soaked to the bone! Why would one be so prepared for that kind of weather when there was not a cloud in the sky? Just as back home in Oregon, if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.

As I am writing this episode, Helen is busy preparing the evening meal. It seems that we are lucky enough to be able to spend another night, she says she ain’t tired of us yet, as we want to see the storm in our rear view mirror tomorrow……

More from Don & Pats homeItems Don found on property. All Union stuff!Don & Joni in front of over 200 yr old homeanother home view, W/Don & PatDavid signing 'our new' print

David & Jane Wright’s home

David & Jane's homeDavid and our new printDavid's MACV patch on my bike

Posted in NVAR Run 2011 | Leave a comment

Relaxing time at Joni’s parents

Terrie's birthday lunch

We have been at Joni’s parents house, in Anderson, South Carolina, since Sunday, just hanging out and visiting. Russ & Kathy are very glad to have us at their house. Family is very important, and I am glad we can spend the time while we can. Yes, they even like me! And I like them a lot as well too!

Joni's naked road Glide, the problem is in here somewhere!

I had some time to take the fairing apart on Joni’s bike to see why her right turn signal does not work. I found the problem, a pinched wire, and she, her bike, is back to normal now.

This weekend we will go to Helen’s place in Tennessee, who is a high school friend that I have not seen in almost 40 years. She says something about perfect timing as she needs to get hay in from the field. I told her that’s for the younger

Terrie's tax business


We are getting ready to go visit Terry, Joni’s sister. Terrie has a tax and accounting business that we went to see and then took her to lunch for her birthday. We then went to some antique shops in Easley. Joni and her family did, I mostly waited outside. I would get excited about antiques if I found a Knucklehead engine sitting in a corner of a shop! We have had a very relaxing week in South Carolina. 

mom-Kathy and daughters

Terrie's husband Bobby washing Joni's bike?

Posted in NVAR Run 2011 | Leave a comment

Day 13 DC to South Carolina

saying goodby to Grant

Joni & I got up and saw a few people downstairs that we were able to say good by to. Everyone else had either left to ride home or left to ride to the Pentagon Parking lot to stage for the Rolling Thunder XXIV protest parade. We were on the road at 7:30. Gary & Nancy were going to take a different route and be back home in Gurnee Illinois, just North of Chicago, in a couple of days. They (Nancy) still have a lot to do for the preparations for their daughter, Kristy’s, wedding on June 11th. We are going to be there for it after our South Carolina visit with Russ & Kathy, Joni’s parents.

We had a pleasant, and DRY 550 mile ride to Joni’s parents home in Anderson, SC. It was quite a different contrast to the past couple of weeks of every climate change that we encountered since leaving home . It was 92 degrees when we arrived 9 hours later at 4:30. A short time after we got there, Terry, Joni’s sister and her husband Bobby, showed up for a very good home cooked dinner. We plan to rest & visit here for a few days before riding North West to the Chicago area.

Joni has a follow up appointment with the surgeon who did a vascular procedure on her, the middle of March, at Rush University Hospital, in Chicago. For those interested in how it helps people with MS, just google CCSVI and the Liberation treatment.

We can tell you first hand about the tremendous success that Joni has experienced since having it done. Joni was diagnosed with possible MS in the mid 90’s. She had all the symptoms and has been afflicted by MS a lot more since 2002. She has not been able to get on the treadmill for over 4 years before the CCSVI procedure was done. She has not been able to ride her horse or her Harley in over 2 years. She had to talk 2-3 hour naps every day to be alert in the evening. The headaches were always there too. She has episodes of her legs not moving for up to a week at a time and stairs were impossible. I had to carry her up stairs at home on her bad days. (see our 2008 story through Iowa)

The very next day after the procedure, she bounded down the stairs at Gary & Nancy’s house like there was nothing wrong. Her & Nancy went to the mall where Joni was able to walk faster than Nancy! They walked the dogs later and Joni still had energy to spare.

When we got back home a week later, she started back on the treadmill. Just a mile at first and after a few weeks, she worked her way up to 3 miles at 3.5 mph! She has been back on her horse and of course her motorcycle too. The naps and almost non existent as her energy level has increased a lot. What a miracle procedure for MS patients for it to treat the symptoms like it does. It is not a cure for MS, but a ‘beginning’ for MS sufferer’s to be able to better cope with their disease. Since Joni had her procedure done, 3 more people from our Roseburg area back home, have had the same thing done with very favorable degrees of success.  

Please tell anyone that you might know that is afflicted with MS to check into this. The procedure is now being done at a lot more places in the US.

Seeing is believing! I am so blessed to have an energized wife back!

Joni has a follow up appointment next week on the 8th with Dr. Hector Ferral at the same place in Chicago where she had the surgery done. I recon the Dr. will be pleasantly surprised to learn of her new lease on life, including her motorcycling accomplishments, when we show up on the bikes from Oregon, via Washington DC.  and South Carolina, etc…..

Posted in NVAR Run 2011 | Leave a comment

Day 12 Washington DC

We actually slept in till 7:00 this morning and we met Gary & Nancy for breakfast at 8:00. There is an I-hop on the ground floor of the motel, which is kinda handy. We were gonna all leave at 9:00 to ride to the Wall together as a group. We fell a few minutes short of that departure time but we found our group parked on the lawn close to the Vietnam Wall memorial.
We all walked over as a group and found the panels where the names were of the people whose pictures and biography we were carrying across country to pay tribute to. Terry Mooney, from back home in Roseburg, met his wife, Linda, and their daughter, Chris, at Arlington yesterday. They had been there for a couple of days before our arrival and had time to do some sightseeing before our group got there. Chris bought a MIA/POW bracelet to remember one of the MIA’s. What a shock it was when Terry showed his daughter the picture and the name of the guy that he was riding for.  It was the same guy! What are the odds of that happening? Of all of the ones that she could have chosen, it was the same name that her dad was looking at for 10 days on our journey….
We always choose a fallen soldier to dedicate the ride to. It is usually someone from close to the Wall gang’s home town of Michigan City, Indiana. This years ride was dedicated to PFC Michael E. Kelly. We found his name on the wall and said a few words. His brother in law joined us on the ride at Michigan City, Indiana.

It was a very emotional scene for all of us there. Seeing the raw emotion that is expressed just by being at the Wall, is something that can not be put into words. I personally did not know any of the people whose names are on the wall, nor will I ever know the level of emotional pain that Veterans and relatives and friends of our fallen hero’s feel as they take in all that there is to try to comprehend by being there. I have a tremendous amount of respect for each and every one of the people that are personally affected in different ways, just by being at the wall. I hear some talk about a feeling of closure when they are finally able to be there in person. Others talk to the person whose name is forever etched in the granite panels form all to remember. Still there are some who can’t bring themselves to go near the wall, for fear of their past demons, that have not yet been put to rest. Buzz told of the first time, a few years ago, when he escorted Bart, to the wall for Bart’s first ever visit there. Bart went right to the panel he knew his friends were on. As soon as he saw their names, he started to beat the wall with his fists….We got word that Bart died only four days ago on Tuesday.

Dedication by the Norwegian Major general

We then went to another memorial and saw a few Norwegian soldiers dressed in uniform and they did a dedication and a thank you for Americas help.  It was a very heart felt dedication. One of them gave me a pin with the American flag and a Norwegian flag put together. That is very fitting as my dad was full blooded Norwegian, which makes me half.

last paragraph of above dedication

Norwegian dedication

 After that experience we went over to the Korean War Memorial. There was a Korean war Veteran standing there. We went over to talk to him and thank him for his service. He told us of countless friends that never made it back from there. He explained about why there are 19 large figures in different poses looking as if they were marching into another unknown battlefield with looks of frightful concern on their faces. If you look into the reflection of the granite walls to the left of the 19 statues, you see their reflections giving the sense that there 38 of them. Korea is at the 38th parallel. If you look at the layout from the flag pole, it is laid out at exactly 38 degrees. There is water on both sides of the beginning of the memorial, due to the fact that Korea is a peninsula with water on both sides of it. That Veteran of the Korean war might come there to explain about the memorial  for a sense of closure, or perhaps guilt that he survived and a lot of his friends didn’t. One never knows what wounds are deep inside our Veterans that have seen things beyond our comprehension.

Joni & I and Gary & Nancy stayed in town and around noon we rode over to the DC Rambler’s clubhouse. When we got there it was very different. They sold it to a church

Brenden giving me a guardian bell

Brenden giving me a guardian bell

group. We were the only ones there in the parking lot aside from a guy with a video camera waiting to film us all riding in. While I was doing an impromptu interview for the camera, we were joined by a few of the DC Ramblers, who just rode in, to explain that we were going to the fire hall for lunch. Our main group showed up a few minutes later with a lot more bikes. The pastor of the new church showed up with a few of the Deacons of the church and proceeded to guide us in prayer for our safety as we all

Brenden pionting to the fire dept patch

go on about our riding missions. We then did a group ride to the fire dept. The first little guy I saw was 8 year old Brenden, who took a liking to me and the rat bike every year over my 6 year history with this ride. It took some time as the first time he saw us in ’06, he would not even get close to the bike. A couple of years later he finally got on the bike for pictures. This time he got on and I took him for a ride around the parking lot. I have a friend for life! He presented me with a fire hydrant guardian bell to hang on my bike.

Fire dept parking lot

He looked real cool in his little fireman’s turnouts. We all went inside for lunch and conversation. A few of our group left from there to ride home.

A few of us then rode to the party at the Fort Washington Harley dealership. It was another great reception for the rat bike. A lot of people came over for pictures and conversation right away. People were glad to see that it is still on the road. After Joni finished her shopping we headed back. We were stopped at a red light and saw an ice cream shop, with a sign saying “since 1954″. Joni pointed that out and said, ” look, that’s the year you were born!” We just had to pull in for a treat. After our refreshments we rode back to the motel, where Nancy ordered pizza to be delivered to their room. We joined them for dinner and then it was time to go back and pack up and go to bed for another riding day tomorrow.

A lot of the crew is staying to do the protest parade and leave to ride to the pentagon parking lot at 6:00 am. Joni and I are leaving tomorrow morning to go to South Carolina to visit with her parents and sister. Gary & Nancy might ride with us for a while, or they might……

It’s late so goodnight and more pictures will be here tomorrow.

Norwegian Major General & Ben

Joni, Gary, Nancy


Korean War Memorial


WWII Memorial


Marv & Connie, Brookeville, Ohio


Brenden in the Ride for Pride truck


Brenden's grandma, Darlene, and more grand kids

Posted in NVAR Run 2011 | Leave a comment

Day 11 Bridgeport W.V. to DC

This is to be the last official day of the adventure for the NVAR part of it. At the riders meeting it was declared that the original 28 riders from the west coast will ride in the front of the pack of approx. 120 bikes. We headed out on 50 east and then took I-68 east for 95 miles for fuel. It was a very crowded station even though it had about a dozen pumps. Yes, we started the day WITH rain gear on this time. Guess what didn’t happen? Very cloudy but no rain. As I walked by Larry & Teresa, from Michigan, and his bike he said he had ”no go” on the starter button. A few guys tried to push it to get it started. That still didn’t work and we loaded it up in the trailer so Ray could drop it off at the nearest Harley shop. We still don’t know the outcome as of yet. After fuel we went another 16 miles to Rocky Gap Maryland Veterans Cemetery for another wreath laying. We were greeted by many people including the young Marines, who spend the day before this weekend putting out flags on every grave marker in the beautifully rich and fertile green valley nestled in the surrounding hills. It really is the coolest looking cemetery, that Ron and the crew, take pride in making for a great visit for all who enter. There were a few people that spoke and a three gun salute right after our guys laid the wreath.

We were encountering a lot of fruit cake drivers the closer that we got to DC. I figure they must be politicians as they don’t rightly care what anyone else thinks of how they do things! They are only out for themselves! It’s getting pretty scary out on the road, having to be extra careful, of not only what the other motorcycles are doing, but you never know what a car or truck is going to do when they try to cut through the middle of the pack with not one hint of a signal or anything. It kinda gets nerve racking having to play dodge ball with 4,000 lb plus projectiles.

We had another 56 miles to go for our lunch stop, that we were finally on our own to buy. The first 9 days up until last night, I counted about $20.00 per person is what we spent on food! One breakfast in Reno, a subway stop in Wyoming, and a $5.00 donation in Morris Ill. What an inexpensive way to be able to do our NVAR ride. A big ‘Thank You’ goes out to all the state coordinators who put all of this stuff together! I called Randy at KRSB radio, back home in Roseburg, Oregon, and did another update on our adventure. I have been calling Randy on a regular basis to report what, where, & how things are going on the ride. It feels real good to be part of a ‘feel good’ story, amid all the stuff going on in the world. Randy tells me that he gets a lot of positive comments from the radio reporting of our journey.

We got on the road for our last 80 miles to go directly into Arlington Cemetery for our wreath laying. It was getting more crazy by the mile the closer we got to DC. Our road guards were doing an excellent job until a cop lit up the lights on one of our road guards and asked him, ” do you have a permit to stop traffic in my town”? No sir, was the answer and the cop let our guy ride away with a stern, No-No. Some how we all made it to Arlington.

Jerry Conners got there very early so he could arrange our parking and the group pass for a tram tour to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That was covered by the NVAR for all of us. Thanks NVAR! Tony followed us into the parking lot in the Schneider Ride for Pride truck. Ray Adams took his rig and the chase trailer to the motel so he would not have to mess with traffic. It’s not easy to find a place to park well over a hundred bikes, but Jerry got it worked out for us to sail right in and park where busses usually park. Almost all of us were wearing our NVAR run shirts, as we looked like a much older ‘school group’ on tour! We got the real meal deal with the talking guided tour on a 3 car tram, that we filled to capacity. We watched the ‘changing of the guard’ for the Tomb monument and saw some school kids lay a wreath before our guys did it. Then it was our turn. There was Larry Mackay, Mike (Doc) Cline, John (Top) Desherow, and Terry Hoops. They were all dressed in clean black jeans, white long sleeved shirts, a black POW/MIA tie and their black leather vests with the NVAR run patch on their backs, and topped off with a new clean NVAR run hat.  They made us all proud to be an American and proud to be associated with this group. We got back on the tram and got back to the bikes and went the last 12 miles to our motel in Alexandria.

Gary & Nancy, Joni & I and Einer, Keith and Wick all rode to a restaurant, called Alley Cats, that Gary discovered last year. We were able to get a table for 7, barely, as every other table had a reserved sign on it. Friday night was live music night and the 4 piece band sounded pretty good. My back was to the window and Nancy pointed out what was happening outside. The wind was blowing pretty good and the rain was coming down in sheets. AGAIN! We got some of the stuff off the bikes and brought it inside, before it got blown away. The meal was very good for all of us. Einer got the tab for everyone. Thanks Einer.

When we were done and ready to brave the elements again, it had just stopped raining but the streets were still very semi-flooded. We got back to the motel and found a couple of parking places under the cover and I was met by Bill, who I have seen almost every year for the last 6 years here. He is still amazed that the old rat still makes it coast to coast…..

Tomorrow will be our group ride to the Wall for the first time this trip….. more news and pictures tomorrow night. Safe and sound in DC. Approx 3,500 miles so far for our Oregon people and some of the other guys who rode out west first are at approx 6,000.

Posted in NVAR Run 2011 | 2 Comments

Day 10 Brookville Oh. to Bridgeport WV.

When we got down to the lobby, we saw Roy sitting there with crutches by his side. He said they think he might have chipped a bone or two in his knee. He had to wait for an orthopedic Dr to check out the x-rays and call him back. I asked John if he would help Roy by bringing his bike from the motel to his house until Roy could figure out what to do, seeing as he is 3,000 miles away from home. John said no problem ,we’ll take care of him. This too shall pass….

We rode to the VFW post # 3288 for another wonderful breakfast provided for us. Every one did a super job and the mayor came by to wish us well and tell us we are welcome in his town anytime. We left with about 120 bikes and we had rain gear on this time as the storm cells were not over yet. It was not raining for the first 120 miles as we pulled into the VAMC in Chillicothe for a ‘ride through’ to wave at all the patients and employees and stop for a short while to take off raingear as it was getting quite warm. (I’ll tell ya later how that decision works out for us later in the day). After that quick stop, we went to the fuel station and met up with a lot more riders who were waiting for us from Chillicothe. These are really good people to hang around withas is evident in last years story. We rode a couple of blocks away to Southwestern K to 12 school. When we pulled in, there were a lot of kids waving to us with a lot of enthusiasm. The school band was ready to play for us and a few more people spoke before we got down to another fantastic lunch & desert layout that took many tables end to end to hold ALL the food for us.

After a two hour program, visit, and lunch we said thanks and goodby and rode another 90 miles to a gas stop. When I pulled up to the pumps I tried to turn my switch off and it was frozen stuck and I could not turn the bike off. I pulled the wire off to stop the bike, and took care of the gas stop. I put the wire back on and started it and got back in line before getting out some pliers to free the switch. It seemed that it melted inside and failed to function. I spliced the wire for the  head lights, brake and tail lights to the ignition wire and when I want to start it, I push the spade terminal onto the male part of the switch. I just pull it off when I need the bike to turn off. Wiring made simple by rat bike Milo design!

Back on the road again for another 70 miles to the Clarksburg, West Virginia VAMC to visit with the veterans. About 10 miles before we got there, (back to the rain gear that came off a couple of hours ago), the skies opened up so much and so hard that we could hardly even see the bike right in front of us. A few of us turned our flashers on to help guide the bike behind us. There was NO place to pull over as we were on a narrow back road going to the VAMC. We just had to ride with faith in the other riders ability to pilot his or her bike skilfully and not hit anything, or else it would be a very serious domino effect. It was very wild and quite challenging. When we finally pulled into the VAMC it was still raining but had slowed down quite a bit. The people there asked us if we just road through that big hail storm. We just laughed and said, “what hail storm?”, as we were all soaking wet and dripping like a dog who just got out of a pool,  before he started to shake off all the water. Yep, another wrong decision about rain gear!

We then went a couple of more miles to the VFW post# 573 for our last dinner together and certificates of appreciation to be given out to our key people who did a lot to get us from coast to coast safely. Before we went in, we did a few group pictures of the “all the way” people who rode from California to DC. There were 28 of us for the first picture and a whole lot of us, 150 plus or minus, for the big group picture.

 It was a mad dash to get to the bikes and ride the the last 5 miles to our motel, as check in takes a LONG time with this many people. I gave Nancy my credit card to do our room when she got her and Gary’s room, and I had time to go get gas, talk with a lot more people and get back and she still was only half way to the front of the line. Joni and I got some new NVAR run shirts so we can all look like a group when we go to Arlington tomorrow to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Something I had not mentioned yet is the pictures that we all carry. The Sons & Daughters of Vietnam soldiers, that are STILL classified as MIA, gave us about 150 pictures, which has the date when they went MIA and where and a few words about them. They are in a laminated clear sheet to keep them waterproof. When we picked out who we wanted to take with us and remember them, we also put our names and email on a master sheet so the families can send us a thank you. I got Major Lonnie Pat Bogard who went MIA on March 12th 1972. Doing that really does bring the whole MIA/POW situation up to a whole new level of awareness. When we get to the WALL in DC tomorrow we will look up where their name appears on the many black granite panels and lay the picture at the base of where their name appears. That helps it become more than “just a name”.  Thats a pretty heavy thing to think about for the whole trip. What deep meaning that alone brings to just a part of the reason that we do the National Veterans Awareness Ride. More to come tomorrow…..DC!

Posted in NVAR Run 2011 | 1 Comment

Tornado Day 9 Michigan City, In to Brookville, Ohio

Our stay in The Feallock house bed & breakfast was super. Thank you for everything Jan! We went to breakfast at the VFW post 2536 for another breakfast that was provided for us. There were many more bikes and I saw Larry & Teresa from Michigan. Tereasa told me that her son loves his rat bike Milo T-shirt that I gave him last year. After a lot of presentations we were on the road a little after 8:00. It started raining right away. Joni & I did not have our rain gear on, just our leather chaps and leather Jackets. It didn’t take me too long to realize what a bad decision that was for the both of us. At least I had my full face helmet on. Joni had her half helmet on. We were about 1\3 of the way back in a 100 + pack of bikes. We were getting pounded on as we were traveling south on a small 2 lane country road. All of a sudden, between the fogged in face shield, a train appeared in my vision as we also saw a lot of brake lights come on. As soon as we stopped for the train, I jumped off of my bike and got Joni’s full face helmet off the back of her bike and tied the other one on the back of her bike as she was swapping them over. Just as soon as all the bikes in front of us had moved to proceed, Joni was ready to go. Perfect timing. It wasn’t 2 miles later when the hail was REALLY bouncing off of our everything! We saw a few bikes pull over to find cover. Us ‘real motorcyclist’s’, kept going for a total of 50 miles when we pulled into a school where we always stop for 10 to 15 minutes to the delight of all 12 grades of kids outside waiting for us to arrive. We have a tradition of trading out the MIA/POW flag on their main flag pole with a new one every year. Just as soon as we changed it out one of the sheriff’s who was escorting us told us that there were 95 mile an hour winds and a lot of hail about 10 miles down the road where a TORNADO just touched down! They had us bring our bikes to the back of the school where there would be a little more protection for them. They then rushed us into the locker rooms and all the bathrooms in the school. The tornado signals were all around us. Two minutes later the report was it touched down 5 miles south of us and it took the roof off of the Con-Agra building, and was still heading right for us.  Then it was four miles out and taking down power lines and leaving them strewn all over the road.

The next thing we knew, all communication was cut off. The cops could not reach anybody else, no cell phones would work and their car radios could not find any one to talk back to. I walked out of the bathroom to go outside and as soon as I got outside of the outer door a cop told me, “get back inside”! He didn’t have to tell me twice. I was bordering on the brink of excitement and fear as I saw the fear on the faces of the school staff and the cops as well. One of the school staff said they practice tornado drills quite often but this was the first time it was for real! Boy were the locker rooms crowded. I had no idea where Joni ended up. After about 20 to 30 minutes of telling jokes and me doing a video of all of us in our locker room, people started filtering out to see what is going on. We heard that 4 miles was as close as it got to us as it veered off in another direction.

One of the cops went to check out the damage and report back if the road is passable or not. He came back about 15 minutes later and told us that the main road was a mess with power lines down every where. He drove down and returned to report that side roads were passable but they were kinda flooded and we had to go slow. So we saddled up and took off on a maze of back country roads that has us zig zagging to go around lakes that were trying to swallow up the road. Even though the narrow road was paved there were no lines on it and we met a dump truck coming right at us and we had to get really skinny for that. A few miles later we were back on the main road and we never did get to see what the tornado did for damage. It’s just as well cause it’s is bad enough seeing it on TV. We were already soaked so there was no use in putting the rain gear on now. That is as close as I have ever been to a tornado and as closse as I ever want to be! WOW!

We rode for another hour in on again off again rain until we got to the Indiana Veterans home. The weather was too bad for the patients to be outside and we were already about an hour plus late from our previous situation. As we rounded the turn around I spotted Chub, and yelled hi to him as we rode by. Chub is the guy who gave me one of his dog tags on my first stop. See the story of NVAR 2006. When we walked in, I spotted Phyllis,who had a big smile on her face as she spotted me coming over to give her a hug. We spoke for a while and we then went into the auditorium for the lunch. We tried to wrap it up sooner than usual so we could get back on the southern ride so we could try to out run the storm by riding east.

One thing about Indiana is the tremendous police presence for us. We are led through a county by the respective sheriff and when we start another county a new sheriff takes over and the last one drops off and goes back home. As we were still heading south,we stopped at a truck stop for fuel and before all of us got done, the sky just opened up and was flooding the parking lot as the drains could not keep up with the amount of rain and hail coming down. There were 5 state police motor cops waiting to escort us and we all ended up inside for about another 30 minute ‘wait out the storm’ time out. Don (doc) went back to the motel to get something he forgot and while he was trying to catch us he got behind a lady who slowed suddenly to turn without a turn signal. Don was faced with a choice, plow into her car, or lay the bike down and miss the hard impact. He slid and wrecked his bike and he got off pretty good physicallythat is. He says the bike is totaled. I told him, a bike is never totaled. Look at all the good parts still left, so what if a few parts are bent or scratched! Look at my bike! Ray picked up his bike in the trailer and took it to the nearest Harley shop and brought Don to the motel. We decided it was time to go when it looked a little bit lighter as the big rain was tapering off a bit. When we hit the road the bike cops were stopping ALL traffic on all on ramps so we had the whole road all to our self! When we got to I-465 it was a 5 lane freeway going around Indianapolis and then went to a 6 lane. The whole freeway only had us riders in the fast lane and the cops would not let any cars do any faster than 55 mph which was the speed that they were leading us along. What a sight, only bikes and not a car or truck to be seen. It was like the world came to an end and we were the only ones left on a big open freeway! When we got to I-70 east the same thing was happening,only this time I counted 9 motor cops on Harley’s. They were having fun blasting down the open road at probably 115 mph or so to get to the next on ramp to block it for us. There had to be a few pissed off motorists as it was getting to be close to rush hour around Indy. We pulled off at a gas station for the cops to get gas and turn around and go back. We thanked them as they left, for the awesome job that they did for us. Marv and Connie from Brookville were waiting there for our arrival so they could follow us on their red trike.

Lisa, Milo, & John

The rain had slowed a little as we went a few more miles into Ohio and then to our night stop in Brookville. We went directly to the AMVETS for dinner and a great reception by the post commander John and his wife, Lisa. Riding through town we were greeted by a lot of folks out to wave us in and welcome us to town. The town has a lot of banners, flags, and a lot of Memorial day weekend decoration in the Patriotic spirit which the town should be very proud of. It was an awesome display of pride for our country. Thank you, Brookville, and everyone at the AMVETS for making all of us feel very much at home!

After dinner we went to the gas station and to our motel. Just after we got checked in, hail the size of large marbles and small golf balls very bouncing all over the place. Some riders were not here yet and probably got to see & feel first hand how that felt. We were here about 20 minutes when I got a call from Headdog telling me that my friend from Oregon, Roy, dropped his bike in the intersection just outside of the gas station. A few guys saw it and said that he just washed out going around the corner. Too much throttle?  Slippery pavement? He could not stand on his leg as his knee got some damage so he wanted to go to the hospital in an ambulance. He said “I got insurance, lets go”. Headdog rode his bike to the motel and I got the keys for his room and took his gear off his bike and took it to the room and hung it up to try and dry out. I got Roy’s cell # from Mike, who does the registrations for the group. When I called Roy he still had not been seen by a Dr and no x-rays have been taken yet. He is going to take a taxiback to the motel when he gets done. I left his room key at the front desk for his arrival. I will let you know more as it becomes available. Big time storms outside right now still and for the next 24 hours as well. The news has been on nonstop for the tornado, hail, wind & rain damage. The news guys are saying they have not seen hail like this, they just showed 2″ hail that fell real close to here. It is apparently something of a phenomena around here. Tomorrow is another day. Will it be another challenging one?……..Xenia just showed softball size hail in a news gal’s hand. That’s big!

Posted in NVAR Run 2011 | 1 Comment

Day 8 Davenport, Ia to Michigan City, Ind

When I got up this morning, little did I know that this was to be my most personal special stop of the whole trip. After the riders meeting we got on the road at our normal time of 8:00. We had some more new riders join us and the group is looking pretty good. After 112 miles of warm riding weather, we got off at Marseilles, Illinois. This is where Jim Hovious, the chief of police, took his name badge off of his uniform in 2006 and gave it to me for my bike. As soon as we rolled in today, we were greeted by Gary’s wife, Nancy and their son, Mike, and daughter, Kristy. Nancy is going on the rest of the ride with us (Gary). Kristy followed us to Morris for lunch, and Mike went home to go back to work.

Jim was not there today, but I saw Illinois State Police trooper Craig Graham. He helped escort us in and out. He was a real easy going guy to talk too. He tried to unlock the hand cuffs on the front of my bike, but apparently they had seen too much rain as they were a little rusted up.

 This wonderful town has a very awesome memorial to everyone who lost their lives in all the middle east conflicts. On my first stop there, in ’05, they had only 5 panels set up and they were not all full of names yet. Every year since then there have been more panels added as the casualties have unfortunately increased, a lot….There are now 11 panels and they are all full of names now.

 Last year I spent some time talking to Don Dombrowski, who is one of the principals who have a lot to do with the Memorial. I asked him how often do they inscribe new names. Every 6 months is what I believe he told me. I told him about the loss of a son of some friends back home in Roseburg, Oregon. I gave him David Mudge’s name, who is the son of Larry & Judy Mudge, whose life was cut short in an electrical accident while serving on board ship. He told me he would watch for it. Fast forward to the same place now a full later…..

 Don came up to me and shook hands and told me that he did not forget the promise that he made me last year. He reached into his pocket and pressed something in my hand as we shook hands again. It was a special dog tag that he had made for David Michael Mudge, with the panel # and line where his name is forever inscribed into the beautiful black granite panels, to be forever remembered as the hero that he was, along with all the many other heroes, who are memorialized in the peaceful river setting. I immediately went to find David’s name to take pictures for Larry & Judy.

I found David’s name on the far panel on the right side and proceeded to take a few pictures. John then took one of me pointing out David’s name. That point in time became an emotional reality for me, as I recalled when 6 of us Patriot Guard riders rode up to the airport in Eugene, Oregon in 38 degree weather to escort David’s body back home to Roseburg, in December of 2009. Just looking at all the names etched into the panels has a whole new meaning when it hits so close to home………

I did a radio interview with a local station there and then I called Randy at KRSB back home in Roseburg. After telling him about finding David’s name on the Memorial wall I gave the phone to Don so he could explain more about the history of the wall. All this was happening when Keith and Jenni were giving out certificates of appreciation to all involved in the stop here. We also had the privilege to speak with a few older Veterans who were seated up front for the ceremony. Our group did a wreath laying at the main panel to pay respects for all those who given the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Thank you DavidM. Mudge, and all of you other brave souls whose names are there for all to remember..

We then rode to Morris about 19 miles down the road for fuel and a nice lunch that was set up for us. Thank you Julie and John, for all the deserts you had for us too.

On the road again to go to watch the JROTC program that the kids have planed for us at the Portage High School. We were late getting there, even though we has the Indiana State Police escorting us, they could do little to help out when on I-80, 2 lanes are going into 1 and traffic had us STOPPED & stalled for about 45 minutes. It was move a few feet and turn off the bike, repeat the procedure for another few miles and we finally got there.

The kids did an excellent job of their rifle drills and their unarmed drills too. After watching a shortened program of about 45 minutes, we then put POW run pins on all of them. We thanked each and everyone of them as we headed out to the bikes. The temp dropped about 20 degrees it seemed, and we dressed a little warmer for the last 20 mile ride to Michigan City, Indiana. We pulled into a gas station wherefire truck and a lot of other riders were waiting to do a parade ride through town. We ended up by the southern shore of lake Michigan, where we went to the Danny Bruce memorial to do a wreath laying. We then went to the St Joseph club for a full blown dinner layout. Gary & Nancy, and Joni and I went to a very cool  bed & breakfast owner by Jan, who is a super gal. The houses were made in the late 1800’s and have a lot of nice old fashioned charm. This is the 3rd time that I have stayed here. We are getting a chance to do laundry as I am doing this day’s episode. Stay tuned, clean clothes and a new day tomorrow….. 

Posted in NVAR Run 2011 | 1 Comment

Day 7 Des Moines to Davenport Ia

It was another ‘up early day’ to go to another location for breakfast at the AMVETS post #2. They had a very good breakfast provided for us. We were joined by some more new faces for the rest of the way to DC ride. We were escorted by two of the Polk Co. Sheriffs a whole 5 miles through town to our first visit at the VA Medical center. When we pulled up we had too many bikes to park up front so we wedged all the bikes into 3 rows in the isles of the parking lot. As we walked up to greet the Vets outside I saw some familiar faces from last year. I was talking to one guy in a wheelchair named David Folsom. He was in Special Forces in Nam ’66 through ’68. When he got out he settled in the Oakland Calif area. I told him that is where I was born and lived for 21 years before moving to Oregon. After seeing the 1% tattoo on his neck, I asked him with who. He told me he has been a Red & White for over 40 years. He still has his ’52 (I think, maybe ’53) pan head that he has had for over 40 years as well. He told me he has a trike that he can still ride when his MD doesn’t hold him back too much. We talked for quite a while and he rolled over to see my good old shovelhead. He also told me he was blind in one eye but he still has a lot of spunk. Thanks for spending time with me David.

I called Randy, a radio DJ with KRSB back home in Roseburg, Oregon, and gave a live report on the latest happenings with our NVAR ride. He said those radio reports that I call in to him have a lot of positive comments after I get done up-dating everyone almost everyday. Rhonda showed up with her therapy dog as she works with the vets putting smiles on their faces too. We met up with Rhonda yesterday as she rode with us for a while. Joyce, a hospital employee, was quite impressed with my bike and she took some pictures and wanted a group picture of all of us. I helped her into the back of a pickup in the parking lot, and she got a few group shots. There were a lot of Vets who came out as the weather was the best we have seen ALL YEAR! At least all week anyway….

We were escorted by the cops again to I-80 for a short while and we took a few back roads up to Marshalltown to the Iowa Veterans Home. On our way riding through the rural Iowa countryside, the neatly plowed brown fields were just starting to show signs of slightly green growth of the new born corn stalks. In just a few weeks it will look like a fertile green painted picture filling in the landscape. The farm houses look to be quite old but very well taken care of. I can imagine some one’s great great great grandparents homesteading their 640 acre plots a couple of hundred years ago. Oh how time must have have been very different before motorcycles! As we got into Marshalltown, it was apparent of the timeless rich history of the town in the architectural design of the buildings and the town layout. It is a very cool town to ride through, with freshly groomed lawns and neatness everywhere.

When we pulled into the home they has a LOT of veterans waiting for us. there was only enough room to pull half of the bikes up on the sidewalk for them to view. Guess where the rat bike ended up? Yep, the half that was on display for them to see. A lot of them came over to me and said they were glad to see me and the rat bike back again. There was a gal named Bonnie, who was very cool to talk to and she got the closest to my bike without actually getting on.  Next we spent quite a long time talking to Joe. He was in the Army in ’51 & ’52 while stationed in Germany. He told us when he was discharged, he got into riding motorcycles. He had an old English bike and the only way he could get it started was to pull it with a rope behind a car. He also told us he was a bull rider and a bronc buster. We were impressed with all that and Joni asked him why he wanted to ride bulls. He said “cause my dad didn’t want me to do it”. He is quite a fireball. He said in them days they would use a suit case handle tied to the bull. It wasn’t like this new fangled way that these young bull riders do it now a days!

Bob was the next story teller. He was a B-47 bomber pilot in ’57 and they tapped him to be the test pilot to see how there bombs would deploy when the plane hit 66 1\2 degree up angle. He would sweep in real low, below radar, and then pull up a fast as he could and the bomb doors would open and the bomb would automatically get lobbed out during the ascent. If they were lucky, the bomb would go off before they got too far up in the sky as the shock wave would be tolerable. He was very proud to be talking about his accomplishments and rightly so. He was a real neat guy to talk to. Then there was Ray who has his 90th birthday today. He must be a real wild guy as they had what looked like an old fashioned football helmet to protect his head.

Buzz was a Navy seal who said he has his gun all oiled up and was ready to be sent in to get Bin Laden. But alas, they never called him to task. He said he would have loved to have went on a mission like that. He was in Korea when it was 67 below zero and he was in Nam in ’57 when he was discharged. Wow there were a lot of historical stories to come from the minds of those veterans.

Lunch was provided for us inside and I phoned in a live report on KGRV radio in Winston Oregon. Then it was time to do more back roads in the south east direction to get back to I-80′ More rural beauty, not often seen from the interstates.

Our next fuel stop was at a truck stop and was a quick gas and go. The next stop was at the Iowa City VAMC. We all went into the hospital as there were no patients to be able to come out. We spent an hour and a half going from floor to floor and got a lot more stories and saw a lot of happy Vets to be able to have someone to talk to.

Back on the road for a few more miles and we took an exit only to get right back on the highway again. That quick  off & on was to pick up about 50 or more riders who were waiting to join us for our ride into Davenport to the All Veterans Memorial in the middle of a beautiful cemetery. I again saw a lot of friendly faces that I have seen in years past. Frank, who did the whole ride last year, was looking pretty good for having his shoulder operated on 2 weeks ago. Pam was as friendly as ever. Actually everyone was as friendly as ever! Thank you Davenport…..

We then rode to the American Legion Post #26 for a super dinner that was provided for us. Then it was over to the motel where there was time for me to hit the warm hot tub. Breakfast here tomorrow am……

Posted in NVAR Run 2011 | Leave a comment

Day 6 Grand Island Ne to Des Moines Ia

We did not have far to go for breakfast and the riders meeting. The motel actually had great beds for a good nights sleep. The continental breakfast was better than a restaurant, this time. We were joined by a few more riders to go the rest of the way to DC with us. The shy had a giant black streak going north east that looked all too familier. It was going just fast enough or we were going just slow enough that it missed our exact route! In other words, it was our first FULL DRY DAY! The after noon brought out my sunglasses for the first time on this journey. 88 miles into the day was our first gas stop. We were joined by a few more riders as we hit the highway once again.

65 miles later brought us into Council Bluffs, Iowa to Bayless park. There is always a great welcome waiting for us there. They have a beautiful Memorial display for all the wars and the fallen Iowa Veterans. A few people spoke after we all sang the Star Spangled Banner, and said the Pledge of Allegiance. We then walked across the street for a pulled pork BBQ that was provided for us at the Masons lodge. It was a fantastic lunch and they even donated $600.00 for fuel for the chase truck. What a great stop! Before we left a lot of American Legion Riders showed up to ride with us for a while. We left Council Bluffs with well over 70 motorcycles. Our line was fairly long as we proceeded to go another 40 miles for another fuel stop.

I saw a lot of friends from past runs in the new group of riders. We rode 46 more miles to the Freedom Rock, that Ray (Bubba) Sorrenson continues to paint an ever changing patriotic war scene on a big quarry rock. He even mixes ashes of fallen Veterans in the paint to blend into his masterpieces, when asked to. One year a WWII Veteran came by and saw 3 punk kids vandalizing the paint job. He got out and beat the heck out of all 3 of then. Of coarse the judge had to find him guilty (only the bad guys have rights, it seems), and fined him one dollar!  Ray was not here for us to talk to this time, but we have seen him there in action a few times in the past. Our group usually donates some money to him for paint and supplies. We had the pleasure of seeing Jenny, Blue Light, there to ride with us. Her HD Tri-Glide is a very good looking, red glistening trike, that is only out shined by her glowing personality.

 After quite a few pictures were taken we saddled up and hit the road again to go to the Iowa Veterans Cemetery that was 27 miles down the road. We were there last year for the dedication of a new Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Our guys did a wreath laying at the memorial and then we went down to Michelle’s nitch and laid another wreath for her too. Michelle left us in 2009. She was on this ride a couple of times in the past, which is where a lot us us knew her from. The cemetery was laid out in 2006 and looks very empty compared with a lot of cemetery’s that we have visited.

The last 17 miles brought us into Des Moines to the Paralyzed Veterans of America club. They had pulled pork and brisket and chicken that was provided for us too. It was getting kinda warm out. It was something that we have not had much experience with so far on this trip. A few of us left to go to our motel and relax a bit early for once. We hit the gas station on the way and when we got to the motel, we saw Einer, another friend from Norway. He will join us for the rest of the trip. Svein and Einer are both very neat guys to be around. Joni and I hope to get to Norway soon to ride with them as they have offered to show us around Europe. No the Rat bike would not be going, even though that might be a cool thing to do....

Posted in NVAR Run 2011 | Leave a comment