Our day began with unenviable weather reports. Our schedule was to visit Datamax and the Barry Simon team for an 8:30 meet and greet. Our departure time was 8:15. From sun up to 8:15 the rain alternates between down pour and something just enough to make it a waste of time to wipe down the seats. Most of the Pack suited up in rain gear even though the destination was a mere 5 or 6 minutes. This morning the Pack was rolling 10 deep and thus we first set our ride order. No longer would Mikes fine rear end be in Papa’s forward view.
The Pack rolled out of the hotel with mostly clean and dry bikes. The effort lasted for about 200 meters. We soon rolled into a fuel stop just across the street from Datamax. The fuel stop was quite full before we approached. Now it was pandemonium. Apparently JBro laid down his bike. Papa was not a whiteness but Lone Star was at his ready immediately and no harm done. The fuel stop was busy and wet. Soon the Pack was lining up for the quick on and off to Datamax. Slaw hit a wet spot with his feet and did an almost ballerina act but was able to keep it up. The incident probably doesn’t even warrant mention in the blog.
Arriving at Datamax is always a special occasion. Barry’s team is out in the rain introducing themselves, shaking hands, being inquisitive about the bikes and the journey. We were treated to some breakfast snacks, coffee, juice and… wait for it… Chick-fil-A!!! Barry conducted a tour and the Pack was able to mingle with Barry’s team. Once the team was introduced to Kory – aka, Mikey’s Dad, he received his proper hero’s welcome. We were also able to once again connect with Barbara. It was she who two years ago presented Paco with her late husband’s motorcycle vest. He was a Vietnam Veteran and she asked if Paco and the Pack would deliver this vest to DC and place it at the Vietnam Memorial Wall. What an honor it was to serve her and her family in this manner. After some wonderful fellowship Barry led us into a large demo/meeting room for the presentation of a charitable donation. Datamax, your team is wonderful and we thank you on behalf of the Jillian fund and Patriots Pack.
Time to mount up and proceed back to Benton Arkansas. No Paco didn’t leave his wallet, rather another Jillian Fund supporter, ACDI had prepared another world class reception for the Pack. As we exited surface streets and proceeded up the entrance ramps most of the Pack were reminded to be careful on the wet roads. Acceleration to highway speeds on a slippery surface can cause a squirrelly rear end. As a result of experience and attentive riding all Pack members ended up on the highway in formation safely,
We arrived at ACDI a bit early but safe and even a bit drier than expected. We again received a world class reception. There were even some American Legion members who took to Mikey’s Dad right away. Pairing a man who loves to share his story with a group of ladies who truly want to listen and it was magic watching Kory hold court. Inside the Pack were treated with hospitality and respect. There was even a cappuccino machine for our pretentious South African BMW Scooter rider. ACDI honored the Jillian fund with a gracious donation. Meteorologist Gordito had been monitoring the global weather patterns thus were encouraged to saddle up and head to Memphis. This would be a short 152 mile jaunt of about two hours for any normal group. We fell into formation and roared away from ACDI as the sent us out in parade wave style.
A few miles northeast on I30 and then a few more on the I440 connector and we would exit to US 70 due east to Memphis. The last few miles before US 70 were in a driving rain. AccuWeather Gordito had assured us we would expertly dodge the droplet’s. At the bottom of the exit onto US 70 there was a short discussion about plan B. Since we were several miles from any sort of shelter we forged onward. US 7, in good weather, is motorcycle heaven. Often the trees form a sort of tunnel and the roadside farmland is pristine. Making our way east Gordito led us to a small-town fuel station with covered pumps. We were in no need of fuel but the shelter was welcomed. There was some discussion of donning wet weather gear but it was determined to be fruitless. We would be covering wet with dry. The rain had subsided and there was “some” clearing ahead. After about 20 minutes we mounted up and again headed east. Soon we were in the clear and getting dried by the sun and wind. About the time we were drying off another cell blew over the road and we were treated with more showers. Now the upside to all of this is that most of the Pack were in need of a rinse. I say most because our pretentious South African BMW scooter rider had done some laundry. Fish was perhaps the only non-fishy Pack-er.
In and out of showers, the Pack forged on. Speed was at times brisk and at times lazy. AccuWeather Gordito was monitoring real-time the impending weather cells and was literally trying to thread this 10 deep through the openings in the clouds. He was, at times, successful. In one little town, we roared in to a small two pump fuel station and, like rats seeking cover tried to get all of us under the awning. The locals were impressed with the bikes. As soon as the last of us was under cover AccuWeather Gordito roared off and we fell back into formation to forge ahead. We are about two hours into our journey and had traveled almost 75 of the 150 miles.
Again, we had on and off dry riding. It is beautiful country and a great road. About 30 miles ahead we came to one of the only traffic lights on this stretch of US 70. The town folk seemed to be a bit in awe of the roaring thunder slowing as they approached the light needing to turn right to continue on US 70. From the middle of the Pack Papa could see AccuWeather Gordito had a bit of a slide turning while turning right. This tends to bring the rider to attention and as the Pack all turned the corner AccuWeather Gordito noticed ahead a do-it-yourself car wash with three wide bays. On this day, no one would be using the car wash so he made a wise decision to pull in. Seems one of the bays was occupied but the Pack was able to fit all 9 Harleys and the BMW scooter under cover. Kickstands down. It was time for a rest. Miles wise it was no near time for a rest but clock wise it was perfect timing.
Our neighbors in bay 1 were an interesting group of young locals. What would a group of young locals be doing inside a car in a carwash bay on a rainy stormy day? One hint may help you answer. “Cheech and Chong”.
There was time for some necessary phone calls, emails and text messages. After a good 30 or 45 minutes the rain had subsided and without warning from AccuWeather Gordito the Pack was encouraged to mount up. Several Pack members take a bit longer to don DOT approved cover, lift their legs over above their waists to get into the saddle. Soon we were all in formation and heading east to Memphis. About 30 minutes out (and just shy of 4 hours in our short-day journey) we were treated to the slap on hail. It was as though the skies opened up and threw a hail ball at the back half of the Pack. The front members were spared but the back half were ducking behind windscreens. It was a short-lived weather event and we kept moving on. It was clear we were getting closer to West Memphis Arkansas as the towns were more populated and there were actual people on the streets. A few times the locals stopped to watch is proceed and waved in appreciation. Soon US 70 was paralleling I40 quite closely. We were proceeding in warm dry weather and as such were again clean and dry ourselves. It was time for some of the less fuel-efficient riders to get fuel. We were also approaching the west side of West Memphis. Aw roared into a truck stop on US 70 and began the fueling dance. When finished the Pack then congrats in an open area and puts kickstands down for some hydration (ironic) and snacks.
A couple members of the Pack noticed a store across the street that would serve as a wonderful place to purchase after hours hydration supplies. These few fired up and proceeded across the street. The rest of the Pack waited for all to fuel up, hydrate and evacuate bladders. The trading members road across the road to the after-hours hydration supplies store. AccuWeather Gordito determined this establishment was no longer in business. He fired up the two sheeled AccuWeather van and with two Pack members in tow he roared east on US 70. Paco was yet standing next to his ride. Papa stayed put until the rest of the Pack was in formation and led the trailing group out onto US 70 east. The preceding Pack was on the side of the road waiting and again we were in full formation.
A few minutes later we were in the heart of lovely West Memphis Arkansas. Gordito led the Pack into the parking lot of an Auto Parts store. Oh oh! Lone Star dismounted and went it. He came out quickly, pointed back across the street and 4 Pack members turned around and proceeded to another after hours hydration supplies store. The rest of the Pack decided to stay put and not have to cross over US 70 twice. 10 minutes later the success consumers were back and slowing to a crawl so the remaining Pack could fall into formation for the final push across the Mississippi on I55 into Memphis. We proceeded to merge onto I55 from US 70. I55 could have used a resurface 20 years ago. It’s as a bit harrowing to run up to highway speed on a less than ideal surface and a short entrance ramp. The Pack was successful and soon crossing the mighty Mississippi. Memphis drivers are a bit more possessive of their positions on the highways so the Pack quickly determined we needed to go into uber-defensive driving node. Gordito expertly navigated the freeways around the southwest side of Memphis across the southern end and back up the southeastern to our hotel exit. Except for the black dodge challenger who was, quite obviously, the most important person on this road, we were allowed safe passage and arrived at our intended hotel destination. 155 miles in 5 hours. The longest short day on Patriots Pack record… accept for Slaw’s IV day.
The pack checked in successfully. There was some quick hydration and off to the rooms to clean up a bit and prepare for a short ride to dinner. The Berry’s were hosting at their lovely home. The Pack gathered in the lobby waiting for Gordito to lead us out. Then, just like James Dean with perfect half in cuffs on his starched denims, in strides GQ. Finally, the Pack is whole… and cool. The man just appears out of the ether. GQ checked into the hotel and we continued to wait for Gordito and is “let’s go” signal. We continued to wait. IT was then determined Gordito and others were already at the bikes waiting for those in the hotel to exit. Communication is the key to any successful long-term relationship. Even more important when this relationship is with multiple partners.
The pack fell into formation and off we went the short ride to the Berry residence. This is a stately neighborhood that rarely sees this much leather and noise. The guard was ready for us and the gate was up. As we made our way into the neighborhood we noticed a big sign reminding the residents of the evening’s board meeting. We thought about attending but were more interested in the Berry feast awaiting us. We parked in formation outside the Berry home, dismounted and were soon greeted with all the saunter charm and hospitality you would expect from such a gracious family. Scot and Dee Dee, and much of their extended family, treated us to an evening of wonderful food and even more wonderful fellowship. Our Goldstar father was again given the opportunity to tell his story. We all continue to be humbled by his family’s sacrifice. Food, more food, desert, grandkids in the swimming pool, NBA basketball on TV, smiles and wonderful conversation. It was a perfect evening. AccuWeather Gordito determined, before dark, we should make our way back to the hotel or risk another rinse. The Pack mounted up and roared out of this quiet neighborhood. AccuTraffic Gordito led the pack on a new return route. This may have caused some confusion. In this confusion, it was learned that AccuGordito us less than pleased being honked at by the trailing Pack members. In the end, it was a more efficient ride home as the surface of the new route was much smoother. We returned safely and made our way into the lobby.
The lobby staff were gracious in providing supplies for our after-hours hydration. GQ vanished. About 30 minutes later GQ appears again out of the ether… as he is prone to do, with his famous Tennessee home brewed “flavored mineral water”. We were all excited to see GQ had stowed this now famous treat. We were, however, not so impressed with his evening clothes. GQ was in an oversized Jillian t-shirt, golf style visor, beach wear for shorts and sandals… with black socks. Now if anyone can make sandals with black socks work it would be GQ. In any case this is a major violation of couture protocol. We may have to have a meeting. Let’s just say it is a good thing he had his Tennessee home brewed “flavored mineral water”. The day ended with more great stories and a tired Pack retiring early.
Tomorrow the Pack will have a breakfast reception and the Berry’s MCC offices. IT will be another wonderful experience. Unfortunately, Papa and JBro will ride with the Pack only to Huntsville but then must peel off and begin heading toward Minnesota for a family wedding. Apparently, Papa was not consulted by the bride and groom on their scheduling.