Thoughts: We push the riding a bit hard each day as we have scheduled stops. We never lose sight of the fact that we have a two fold mission. Raise awareness for our Veterans and to raise awareness & funds for the Jillian fund. Riding hard causes the last 50ish miles each day to seem lie 250! Seems the days never end. Then we wake and realize yesterday we completed our 8th day. Time goes by so fast yet at times is stands still.
Morning in Charlotte… Who the heck was Charlotte? Seriously who was she? Charlotte, NC. Virginia has Charlottesville, Charlottetown, Charlottesburg. If you’re from Charlotte are you a Charlatan? (deep thoughts by Papa, the ride must be getting to him). After 9 hours of solid sleep Papa was ready to go early. The Pack had a normal evening. By accident an industry trainer for Sharp corporation had reserved a room in the same hotel. She had been following the Pack on social media and joined for a drink. The Pack were at the bikes early. Again we needed a forced hold so as not to arrive too early to our scheduled destination, Systel. GQ did some recon for our exit from the hotel. We would need to: A: Exit uncontrolled and cross traffic to turn left. Recon determined a hard medium so plan B was hatched. We would need to exit the back entrance and turn right with traffic but we had less than 30 yards to get across the two straight lanes to the far left hand turn lane.
Boner was up for blocking traffic, then the Mars’ Rover Rover would stall almost perpendicular in the road as the Pack rode by into the turn lane. We would admittedly disrupt morning rush for 30 seconds before safely proceeding through our intersection. The oncoming dump truck was nonplused. Actually challenging us as Boner pulled out but he stayed firm. A pickup did go around just before the Mars’ Rover Rover blocked and the Pack proceeded through only to find a red light. Picture: The Mars’ Rover Rover is perpendicular in three lanes of traffic. Pack-ers are on either side with a couple up behind the first left turner… a small Toyota. Boner standing tall against the dump truck, all suspended until we get a green arrow. After a seemingly endless wait the arrow turned green and we all proceeded without further issue. Plan B worked! We had less than a mile before we saw Systel off to our right. We pulled into the business park to find a shiny black SUV marking the parking lot we needed to use. Very smart. The logistics involved in getting us to all these stops is amazing. Jenna Stramaglio and team All Covered back in Arizona have done some wonderful coaching of our stops. As we rolled in the Keith Allison and his Systel team came out for the photo op and greeting. Once inside we were blessed with hospitality, morning grub and a tour/explanation of the Systel empire. Another great group of humans from a wonderful industry. Again we collected a generous donation. Paco was teated to a video and photo montage of the entire Systel extended family. Hospitality over the top!!
Soon Boner and JBro departed. JBro has a Skype appointment in the afternoon. It was decided they would depart separately and proceed the 300 miles directly to Richmond so they could check into the hotel and he could prepare. Boner was standing tall escorting him.
Soon after the balance of the Pack departed as they would be making an additional stop in Marion VA adding 150 miles to the day. We were given specific departure instructions so the Systel team could gather video and photo shots of our departure. Soon we were in the Charlotte rush heading north westerly on I 77. Just gettin onto the on ramp we encounter another hurried Charlatan who was nonplused with our train of bikes and the Mars’ Rover Rover… what has happened to southern hospitality on the road?!
We proceeded north without much issue and the Pack stayed close. 50ish miles out of the Charlotte metro we pulled into a fuel stop. Our Mars’ Rover Rover provided our hydration and snacks. This never gets old!! Judge Goldberg could have a second career as a restaurant hostess.
Paco had a call to make verifying his ride’s ride back to Scottsdale after our Rolling Thunder parade on Sunday. Many of the Pack-ers will fly home and wait for their steeds to arrive by truck. Some of us will man up and ride home. Soon the Pack saddled up and get back on I77 north. Just south of the North Carolina/Virginia border we exited I77 and proceeded northwest on US 21. We had about 75 miles to Marion and our shoehorned stop to greet a new FORZA client. US 21 turned into, eventually even with an unscheduled detour, US 18. Combined these two roads gave us an epic 90 minute ride through the North North Carolina and Southern Virginia mountains and rolling hills. This made our trip to Marion fully worth the extra 3 hours! We arrived in Marion and Hungate offices. The little town was a quaint throw back in time. As we were connoitering in the parking lot a local stopped and collared: “Thanks for stopping and for what you do!” Then she drove off. This happens over and over again. Even the hotel staff along the way remember us from previous years.
Kieth along with Eric and the staff at Hungate were gracious enough to provide sandwiches and cookies. It is fully appreciated. Slaw donned his journalist hat and interviewed the Newest of the FORZA family.
In the middle of our lunch Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne (Drew Cataldo & Adam Rosenthal) arrived from the FORZA sales team. It was a delight to greet the front line personnel! Then it was time to leave… but not before the photo op! We would be proceeding north on I81 now. Trucker alley. Steep up and downs all the way to I 64 east at Staunton about 125 miles north. We roared onto the interstate and found our rhythm. Soon Paco, our tail-gunner, came roaring up to the front to give the phone call signal. Oops! We had previously scheduled time for him to make a call. We were fighting truckers who think their 70 foot Ferrari’s are able to make last second lane changes and pass on the hill. We were close to an off ramp with fuel so we pulled off and topped off the tanks. Paco made his call and all is well. We soon roared back onto I81 to fight our rolling cowboys of commerce. We road hard for another hour or so and our formation was beginning to become loose. This is a sign of fatigue. Papa found an exit and we pulled off for hydration and fuel. We were missing the Mars’ Rover Rover as we were separated due to traffic. We extended the stop a bit to cool off and hydrate. This should be our last scheduled stop before the hotel. We received confirmation JBro and Boner made it up safely to our Richmond hotel. At this stop we ran into two bikers traveling from Tucson.
We roared back onto I81 and headed north another 40 miles before heading wast on I64 for the final 125 miles of our 450 mile day. The temp was 84, a full 10 degrees cooler than earlier in the afternoon. A welcomed break. The truck traffic was lighter but traffic in general was heavy. We stayed in formation and kept moving on. Now and then Paco would move us over into the right lane to be courteous to our fellow travelers. Finally we were on the outskirts of Richmond and a couple of exits before our hotel. The Pack moved into the exit lane and made the tight wrap around exit and left at the first light with our hotel in sight. We pulled in to find JBro and Boner parked in formation and greeting us upon as we arrived. Kickstands down and Mikey’s Dad rushed up to Papa loudly asking… “Did we win!” Seem the pace was not his favorite. Laughs and hugs ensued! That will be the phrase of the day.
It was after 6:30pm so the Pack decided to check in and gather quickly to walk to dinner. Our favorite Richmond spot, Mama Cuchina’s and our favorite server, Tanya. Most made their way efficiently. Literally out the back of the hotel and behind the next hotel. Perhaps 70 yards. Several of the new Pack-ers made the mistake of following the veteran New York members and ended up in South Richmond (exaggeration perhaps) before making their way to the restaurant. The Pack fully gathered around our private and annually regular table. Tanya didn’t disappoint. Actually Lloyd and Harry arrived to join us as well. We put them at a table in the corner but Tanya took great care of them.
To our delight and complete surprise Jim Dotter of Virginia Business, along with his family, were in the restaurant wondering who these rowdy bikers were. It took a moment for each group to recognize the other. This required several photo ops! Also arriving were a couple of ladies from Make Great American Leasing again. Is this group spying on us?! When the moment waned, the Pack turned to recognizing our long-term server Tanya. Paco commanded the restaurant to attention and introduced Tanya followed by his typical over-the-top introduction of Papa. Papa then serenaded Tanya and the restaurant with an Italian love song.
Soon the restaurant part of the evening ended the the Pack slowly and in shifts made their way back to the hotel. It was at this time JBro and Boner informed us they had repaired JBro’s mysterious Harley ailment. We would ride 600 miles and his odometer would read 1000. We stopped at the dealer north of Atlanta two days ago and they told him the diagnostics would require too much time and he should have his local dealer look at it. This will cause his bike to lose value at an accelerated rate. Well… when JBro and Boner took off alone JBro fired up his GPS navigation to lead them to the hotel. After the lovely Harley voice announced for the third of fourth time that he had 3 kilometers to the next exit the lightbulb went on! At the next stop he went into preferences and switched back to miles and… all was well! Fixed!
Now the Pack was fully gathered and we retired to the pool deck for the circle of trust. It was already late so after about 20 minutes this group fully retired to bed! Day 8 is in the books.
Cobb, Stone’s, and our Nation’s Capital tomorrow!