5/22/18 – Hey Ma! We are on TV!

Most of the Pack were up early and milling around the bike parking area.  We were not eating much, except for Slaw, as we knew the MCC folks would have some sort of light breakfast for us (little did we know the buffet spread ahead). This morning presented us with wonderful skies and the prospect of a good, morning at least, ride east to Atlanta. The Pack was literally 30 minutes ahead of schedule so there was some light cajoling as we stood in the bike staging area and readied ourselves for the day.

Soon we were off to fight the heavy and dangerous traffic in Memphis. It is a short jaunt over to MCC but the normal route is less than ideal for a string of 11 bikes. “AccuTraffic” Gordito had decided to traverse a new route on surface streets. This was a welcomed change. We had a relatively drama free 10 minute ride to MCC. There was a particularly short green light in one precise left-turn interception where the locals actually paused to allow the trailing Pack to proceed through the now red light.  Thanks Memphis, you’ve been traffically vindicated!

Arrival at MCC was outstanding. We rode in to throngs of adoring fans, cameras, and a path paved with blacktop. As we were dismounting, we noticed the large LED signage promoting MCC that was exclusively promoting Patriots Pack and the Jillian Fund. Very cool!! We also saw a local television crew ride into the parking lot just behind us. This could be a good morning!

Inside, we found most of MCC gathering in their lunch room. Awaiting us was a breakfast feast fit for royalty. There were three massage stations to relax the Pack’s muscles before another day of riding. Slaw didn’t want to insult so he did eat once again. Thanks Slaw. The local TV station interviewed Paco so the Pack is now worldwide famous.  After our meal and massage (not a bad combination), we all gathered in the auditorium for a wonderful presentation by Scot Berry. The culmination of his presentation was a wonderful tribute to the Patriots Pack Patriarch, Paco. It was a detailed and I am sure humbling tribute. Soon Paco brought up the entire Pack and we were given a blessed send off. It is wonderful to be recognized for what we are accomplishing but it is not lost on us that the funds we raise come from the people in the audience. This year we may approach $200,000 if we keep receiving donations like the one from MCC. That is the accomplishment!

We had an ambitious day ahead so the Pack soon began to make their way to the bikes. Much of the MCC staff followed us to the MCC parking tarmac for our departure. There was time for  send-off photos, final goodbye hugs, and “see-ya next years.”

Again, “AccuTraffic” Gordito led the Pack on some of the fine Memphis surface streets until it was necessary to enter onto the freeway loop for just two exits. Soon we were heading east toward Atlanta. First stop is a lovely Harley-Davidson dealership on the severe southeast side of Memphis. Perhaps Gordito just needed to purchase some shirts rather than do laundry. After our not so brief stop, we were ready to depart. Most of the Pack had less than 40 miles on this tank of fuel. GQ, however, was in need as he was not on our cycle. It takes a while for our cycles to sync. We decided to follow GQ to fuel and top off our own tanks so we could depart greater Memphis as a sync’d Pack.

Depart we did, rolling 11 deep. Soon we crossed the Mississippi State line on the road to Atlanta. The Pack rolled fairly smoothly on US highway 72 across northern Mississippi. We rode with precision through the lovely countryside on a beautiful paved highway. We were blessed with partly sunny and dry skies. Soon ahead we began to notice some less-than-sunny skies. “AccuWeather” Gordito pulled the Pack over on the side of the highway. It is truly amazing how much the traffic will move over as they pass by such a large group of riders. “AccuWeather” Gordito notified the Pack that the weather in front was less than ideal and more than an early summer rain. We were given time to don our weather gear and promised time to stop and doff said weather gear on the other side of the long but narrow storm. Soon the Pack mounted up and “No Pack Left Behind” Gordito roared off… while GQ was still not on his bike. Papa kept the back half of the Pack still until GQ was ready to ride.  Soon the Pack united and we roared ahead. About 2 miles up, “AccuWeather” Gordito suddenly pulled into a wonderful rural convenience store with a couple of awnings for the fuel pumps. We packed the bikes into a crowed formation as to keep them out of the rain and leave some pumps open for the proprietor. Apparently weather gear wasn’t going to be sufficient. Lightning is a wonderful deterrent to continue. We wait. It looked like sometime in the next 30 minutes there would be a break in the action. Our proprietor was lovely and accommodating. Slaw was given a sample of the fired catfish with the understanding he would promote this delicacy to the entire Pack. Our proprietor was also willing to open his soft serve and milk shake counter early if we were so inclined. For the most part we are old and lactose intolerant so we declined.

“AccuWeather” Gordito was studying the googles and weathers on his hand held device to look for an opening. Several of the Pack looked easterly to the sky and reported a relatively clear opening to “AccuWeather” Gordito. He concurred after confirming with his googles and weathers on his hand held device. The Pack mounted up and got into formation. Again, Gordito roared off with the first half of the Pack. Again, GQ was not quite ready. It takes a moment for this cool breeze to get into formation. The man doesn’t just saunter when he walks, he saunters in everything is does. JBro has developed a reasonable facsimile of the GQ saunter. GQ is also hampered by his push up challenge. Seems when someone in his crew sends a text with a number the entire crew will drop and perform that number of pushups.  For this we must also wait… happily.

Soon GQ was mounted and the trailing Pack met up with the leading Pack as “AccuWeather” Gordito led us through the weather gauntlet. There was some heavy rain mixed with light rain. We were happy that at one particular traffic light, the rain subsided; however, it then picked up again after getting up to speed. “AccuWeather-Traffic” Gordito expertly led us through and out the other side. In a mere 20 minutes, the Pack was once again pulling off at a convenience store. This time to doff our weather gear. “AccuBladder” Gordito had to pee… outside. Soon, Slaw did the same. Gordito began an attempt so shame Slaw when “PhotoJournalist” Slaw revealed there may have been a pic of the prior bladder void.

Papa and JBro would be peeling off in Hunstville, Alabama. Paco decided to change positions so he could ride behind Papa as a tribute to the 2013 ride where Papa and Paco rode together to achieve Paco’s bucket list item of participating in Rolling Thunder. It was a wonderful bit of nostalgia. Soon, the Pack was off and the Alabama state line was crossed. Progress!!!  As we came into Tuscumbia, Alabama we noticed a Harley-Davidson dealership on the south side of the road. No need to stop as we proceeded through town. As we exited Tuscumbia, Gordito pulled off the road to get fuel. This was perhaps becoming the longest day in the world. The Pack remains patient as we must roll with the weather. This was a good time to hydrate and reapply sunscreen. During this stop, the Pack noticed a crack in Gordito’s rear… tire. Soon, Lone Star was on the ground looking underneath to measure the depth of Gordito’s crack. It was determined Gordito had many cracks. Soon, the Pack had a consensus to travel back to the Tuscumbia Harley-Davidson Dealership to repair or replace “AccuCrack” Gordito’s tire. Papa and JBro decided to continue on their own journey to the family wedding. Goodbyes, hugs, and even some emotion was displayed as the Pack split.

The Brotherhood is intact even if the riders are separated.

Slaw, you really do have the con.  Please use your words and not just photos.

<ENTER ANDY>

Day 6, Part 2

Papa and J Bro have split off and you’re now stuck with Slaw to detail the days’ events from here on out. I’ll pick up where he left off, somewhere in Alabama at a gas station. After hugs, the Brostroms rode off, leaving the rest of the Pack to deal with Gordito’s tire.

Once again, Lone Star’s keen eye spotted a potential problem way before it became an issue. For some reason, Gordito’s tire seemed to be coming apart. Should we ride on? Should we fix it? As we were standing under a local Harley Davidson dealer’s billboard located two miles back, we took that as a sign and headed up the road for a few hours.

A nice relaxing break for the Pack as we waited for the new tire. Bert and Slaw ran next door and secured some grub for the boys. Tire fixed, off we went.

Impending storms on the horizon all the way across the south, but Gordito somehow tapped into “The Williams Way” and we missed it, narrowly jetting through a slim wedge between two big cells (orange/red). I still have no idea how that tiny spot opened up, but we blew through it unscathed.

Fist pumps as we cross the Georgia border and we motored down some beautiful twisties after leaving Tennessee.

Closing in on Atlanta, the Pack lost the sun. And then, they hit rain. Blinding rain. In the dark. No use steering now! While the rest of the day made for great riding, the last 40 miles was a white knuckle run. With sheer determination and help from those we’re riding for (Jillian and Michael), we pulled into the hotel soaked, but safe.

The evening wound down with pizza and martinis and maybe a little singing. A great ending to a pretty tough ride. Off to Milner tomorrow!

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