No Pack left behind
The plan was to meet at the most central of the three hotels and have kickstands up at 9:00. Our destination was Little Rock Arkansas. Check in early, relax, then roll thunder 10 deep into Barry Simons’ country club home.
At 7:49am Paco sent a text to ride captains (plural as rolling 10 deep requires) that we should saddle up immediately to avoid the impending moisture in the Dallas area. A mass text was sent out to the Pack and scrambling began. (Bert was to on this text string) Gordito and Papa left their hotel a short 15 minutes later to join the others at the central location. We joined the others in the lobby to gather the riders. Our plan was to go as ready to the RaceTrac fuel stop across the field from the hotel. Bert was seen walking in his pajama shorts a short time earlier. It was just a passing thought. Muratec hero (to be explained later), Brit, rolled in to see us off… in his truck. Seems the hail on his side of town dampened his desire to ride out a way with us. He did give some detail of the biblical moisture heading our way. Again, the scramble to meet at the RaceTrac fuel station. Gordito mounted up and immediately proceeded to the Exon station. Slaw, in lemming style, followed Gordito. Had anyone texted Bert? Slaw assured us he had. The rest of the Pack, sans Bert rolled into the RaceTrac and began fueling. Gordito and Slaw joined the group. Bert? Slaw assured us he was coming… so was the rain. Paco suggested Gordito lead a small group out and get ahead of the rain. They would wait a few miles north, dry, and we would proceed in full formation. Gordito and Lone Star sprang into action, gathered Paco and off they roared. No Pack left behind… unless it’s raining? The three of them left in a hurry (important to note).
About 5 minutes later a hurried and confused Bert rolled in. Being left off the initial string gave him little context to the fire drill. He fueled up. The rain was beginning to fall. Bert had some challenges with his zipper. Papa was asked to grab firmly and pull while Bert yanked on his zipper. It was a struggle but with a bit of patience Bert was able to get it down and back up. This was necessary to keep Bert dry. Finally, Bert fired his engine and the trailing 5 Pack members rolled out, in a driving rain, to George Bush east. About 5 miles out Papa noticed what appeared to be a trike in our formation. This also obstructed his view of the bikes behind. Papa decided to exit the highway and roll into the parking lot of a mall. This exercise revealed that the trike was actually the non-Harley bike that Fish rides. The LED lower lighting, under the dark skies in a driving rain was misleading. All was well and the trailing Pack rolled on Easterly. The skies ahead were nothing short of ominous. The good news is we had but 4 miles to go before merging onto Interstate 30 on a north easterly direction. As soon as we merged, clear skies were ahead. About 3 miles out our roadway was dry and our wet clothes were drying fast. We got the formation into the left lane and proceed on I30. About 12 miles ahead Papa noticed the three early Pack members. Soon we merged the two trains together and proceed as on toward Little Rock.
Papa made an observation due to the unusual formation. Usually Paco is our Sweep. This is the term for the trailing member in the formation. This was the first time Papa has seen Paco’s rear-end for any extended period of time. Papa believes Paco’s rear-end tis the nicest of all the Pack members. Given Paco’s screaming eagle, his rear hangs a little lower over the exhaust but is a nice shape. The German rear-end was a bit wide and heavy. Doc’s rear-end is minimal and firm. Papa was snapped out of this observation as Gordito was moving the Pack to the right most lane and exiting… in the middle of nowhere. We proceeded down the exit ramp, veered left under the interstate and acme to a stop a few hundred yards down the road. Kickstands down, motors off. Perhaps the dry riders stopped to allow the wet riders time to remove their rain gear? Not the case. Seems in their haste, the elder and apparently forgetful Paco left his billfold on the RaceTrac fuel pump. Not to worry. Our hero, Muratec Brit, had located the billfold and was racing his ford truck in our direction for the hand off. Slaw was soon in the weeds peeing. Photo op!!! It was decided to proceed into town to find a convenience store and, as Lone Star exclaimed, properly relieve ourselves. Still in the unusual formation the first three roared off. The rest stayed put as Papa’s bike wouldn’t start. Papa restored the entire sequence and… nothing. On a whim Papa placed the bike into natural and off she roared. The first three had pulled over to wait and as we all approached we again were in formation as we wound through the delightful north Texas city. We road up a via dock lined with flags. It was a very cool sight. All of the Patriot Pack rolling through a flag lined street. Soon we pulled into the convenience store. The pack scattered to the relief facilities. We loaded up on hydration and some snacks. Back at the bikes Lone Star and Gordito assisted Papa in diagnosing the situation. Seems there is a sensor that determines the clutch in in so the bike can start. The rain had caused the sensor to malfunction which is why neutral worked. Problem revealed and a temporary solution was uncovered. Start the bike in neutral. Sooner than expected hero Brit arrived and the billfold handoff was completed. Without fanfare, the Pack was back on the road. This time is proper formation with Paco as sweep. Papa will miss his rear-end.
At this point we had just under 300 miles to Little Rock. The ride was quite uneventful. The traffic as not heavy and for the most part was polite. Coming upon an eight-deep bike formation in the left lane can be irritating. As cars bunched up behind Paco he would routinely signal a lane change to the right to allow the cars to pass. This process worked gracefully the entire way to our fuel stop. We rolled into the truck stop and fueled up. Bikes were lined up after fueling in the shade for a short rest. Relieving was the order of the morning. It was noticed that the Pump Muzak was of a Sunday morning worship service. For few short minutes, we were inadvertently treated to the teachings of Paul. The sun was in full glory so most members applied their sunscreen. Fish brought out tat sleeves for those who wanted a less traditional way to screen the sun. Slaw has photos.
Soon we fired up the engines again, this time with no need for neutral for Papa. This proving the theory of the wet sensor. Next stop, Springhill Suites in Little Rock. Papa has been keeping an eye on the Glimpse app as his son, JBro, was riding solo from Houston to meet up with the Pack at the Springhill Suites. According to the app he was making great time and would only be about 45 minutes behind us. We were also looking forward to connecting with Kory Thompson. Kory and his story are an entire chapter, perhaps book, by themselves. We were all excited and honored at the opportunity to ride with this Gold Star Parent.
Aside from a lone angry driver we made great time getting to Little Rock. Gordito led the Pack to the exit I30 and onto I430 loop around the west side of Little Rock. We proceeded just 5 short miles and exited onto the surface streets. We turned left and the bottom of the ramp and proceed to the traffic light. Papa’s GPS was screaming to turn right. Gordito led the pack forward through the intersection and immediately realized the mistake. The Pack then proceeded up another ramp onto a 4-lane street but needed to get into the left most lane for a left-hand turn in a short 100 yards… or about 90 meters for Fish. One good Samaritan stopped her vehicle so we could get across. We appreciated her gesture but Doc had not anticipated this and was executing a competitive maneuver to allow us to merge. Deft driving and experience was used to get the entire pack safely into the left-hand turn lane. Gordito led the Pack through a complicated 4 block U-turn and onto the appropriate street. 4 minutes later we rolled into the Springhill suites without incident.
We were in an hour ahead of check in time. Lone Star treated us to a beer. Some took the time for a light bike wash. Others caught up on family and email. JBro was indeed 45 minutes out and approaching quickly. Kory checked in and was about 90 minutes out. All was well.
Front desk lady was expertly repositioning cleaning staff to get our rooms ready as early as possible. One by one the Pack retired to their rooms. Papa decided to wipe down his bike. 4 days of road grime needed attention. Before long JBro roared into the parking lot. The two them unpacked their bags and proceed to their room to freshen up for our dinner at Barry Simons’. A group text went out that Barry was lonely and we should come over at 4:30 rather than 5:00. This time someone included Bert. We also noticed the extra bike. Kory had arrived as well. We would be rolling into Barry’s a full 10 deep. As we gathered for the short ride over to Barry’s house we went through the appropriate introductions as most had never met JBro nor Kory. The Pack slotted the new additions and off we roared through sleepy residential Little Rock. Gordito led us into the quiet country club community and into Barry’s circle drive in full formation. Thank goodness the Simons’ had warned their neighbors. We were treated to a video arrival and a warm welcome from the Simons’ as well as their guest, John Kuchta. It was a wonderful industry reunion for many of the Pack. The Simon’s welcomed us into their home and we had a great relaxing time enjoying their hospitality and living room style open air deck. Soon it was time for dinner. The pack was treated to a fantastic spread. We are grateful for the hospitality.
Upon return to the hotel the Pack retired to the alter and sipped on a night cap. We shared stories and explored the real reasons we make this annual sojourn. The sense of accomplishment and the ability to help fund the Jillian Fund Charity are wonderful. These are byproducts of what we do, they are not why we do it. Life is too short not to fix what needs fixing. We are a band of brothers. Honored guest, Kory, joined us giving us the opportunity to relax and welcome him. It was a wonderful evening. The Pack disbursed to their rooms. Papa went to his bike and came back in as Lone Star finished cleaning up our mess. Lone Star, your mother would be proud.