5/23/18 – Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Day 7: Atlanta to Boone NC

Rain, rain, go away. The Pack woke bright and early to a complete downpour in Atlanta. Apparently, it’s been raining for days and it’s not supposed to stop.

After the previous night’s escapades, what’s a little rain? To be clear, it wasn’t just a little rain this morning, it was probably some of the heaviest I’ve ridden in with these guys. Time to bust out the rain gear.

By 8:15 we were ready to roll. Fish seems to be a bit jealous that his (cough) BMW doesn’t require almost daily service, so he decided he “needed” a new tire and had to split off for a bit while we went to Milner. I think he was just jealous of all the Harley gear we get at each stop and wanted to hit the first BMW store he was probably able to find!

Truth be told, he left after us and there’s a very good chance he went right back up to bed for a while. I still haven’t seen a BMW shirt from that excursion and I didn’t look at his tire. How would we know???

Pulling out from the overhang where most of the water seemed to be coming off the roof, Slaw was pretty sure his rain gear would keep him reasonably dry. He was wrong. He also forgot to wrap his hood up and it filled with water as he rode along, something he would find out when he got to Milner and took the gear off.

We crept along at even slower than normal ATL rush hour speeds, fighting to keep the 9 of us together. Somehow, we did. At one light, I sat thinking to myself…WTF am I doing here? The rain was hammering down, my glasses were covered inside and out…my rain shield from my helmet was covered inside and out, both were fogging up, I was soaked inside and out. I was a bit miserable at the moment.

And then I happened to look up, and between the beads of rain and fogged glass I noticed I was sitting directly under a sign for the street we were crossing; Steve Reynolds Avenue. And I smiled and thought this must be in my head. Is he really literally looking down on me right now???

Steve is one of my two analyst buddies from a few years ago that was taken too soon. He was only 53 when he passed from cancer. Matt Marshall was the other. Matt was going to meet us at the end of my first Patriots Pack mission in DC, but he lost his fight only a short time before the ride. They knew each other and with Steve being Canadian and Matt from England, I’m sure they’re sitting upstairs drinking Jack Daniels together laughing at how wet I was at that moment.

Now I’m sitting under this sign. How could this be a coincidence? I dawned a huge smile as the light turned and we pushed on.

For the last 3 years, we pulled into Milner and Robbie would come out and greet us. This time, they were waiting outside in a biblical storm as we rolled in! Unbelievable! It made our day and it was only 9 AM!

One of Paco’s buddies was also there to welcome us; Bob McGuire from his Minolta days not only came out, but he rode his Harley! All I could think was, “wow, I definitely would have driven!”

After stripping off some of the gear, we went in to say hello and get some breakfast. Charlie and Robbie and their team had a great Jillian Fund spread on a table when we arrived, complete with T-shirts, our signature elephants, etc. A platter of bagels, coffee, juice and we were more than happy.

Kory was soaked to the bone. I mean REALLY soaked, not just his top half (like me and my hood/lake). It turns out his phone didn’t reset the time zone when we got to EST the night before so he overslept and as the new guy, he didn’t want to hold us up to put his gear on. Fortunately, Milner had a locker room where he was able to start over with dry clothes and his rain gear!

Looking around, I noticed a face was missing and I didn’t really want to ask, but I didn’t need to. The Milner people handed out some flyers they had made for Hank, the grizzled, tattooed Milner biker that met us each year and ALWAYS told us he would ride with us “next year.”

Hank, a Veteran and fellow biker lost his battle since our last visit. While he never rode with us physically, yesterday he was definitely with us when we left, at least in our hearts and minds. It’s a truly sad loss and our condolences go to Milner and Hank’s family. He was a really nice guy.

During our visit, we chatted with many of the great people working there. One conversation revealed that one of the employees is the granddaughter of a Tuskegee Airmen! Now 97, he’s one of the last remaining. He was a Code Breaker in WW2!

It was a very short visit to Milner as we had to get on the road before the rain really settled in. Settled in??? I can’t imagine it being worse, but we took their advice and redressed. We were on the bikes shortly after and slowly made our way out of their parking lot into traffic where a wonderful lady pulled up short and let us all out into the rush hour mess.

This was a big deal as 9 bikes crossing 3 lanes to take a U-turn in good weather can be difficult. In this slop it’s downright treacherous. But, there she was, holding up traffic behind her so we could make our move. Thank you Atlanta lady!

We gassed up and headed to the Harley store to wait for Fish to finish sleeping…I mean get his tire.  The further north we drove, the less it rained and soon, we were out of it. Fish eventually showed and we rolled out 10 deep as Bob stayed with us up to the NC border before splitting off and heading back south (to the rain).

We were heading to the part of the trip I’ve been waiting on since we left AZ – The Blue Ridge Parkway. Scenic overlooks and twisty roads were all we saw for the next couple of hours as we raced through the remnants of FDR’s New Deal, stopping occasionally to soak in the scenery or to let slow traffic get farther ahead of us.

After a fantastic run up what has to be one of my favorite routes that we’ve ridden so far, we arrived in Boone NC.

With nothing close enough to walk to for dinner, we decided to order in and take advantage of the beautiful fire pit they had out back. Passing around everything from ‘shine to good bourbon, Irish whiskey, martinis and even an occasional Yaegar bomb, we had a great night by the fire as Fish played the role of DJ until his speaker died, no doubt a sign that we should go to bed. Many cigars were smoked by these boys.

With a messy start, this turned into one of the great days of our ride. Now off to Richmond where we will see Cobb and SOE tomorrow!!!

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