Good morning Richmond, VA! It will be a steamy one! The Pack has two stops in Richmond before a quick stop in at the Richmond Harley-Davidson store and then heading north the short distance to Washington DC. First we must gather the troops. Most were milling around watching Lone Star do his morning checks. I might say, it is good to be king… or prince… or any royalty for that matter. Every morning we get our windscreens scrubbed. Faded DOC stickers are replaced. Oil is checked and topped off. Paco additionally gets his Chicago Bear Flaming Screaming Eagle polished… Mine looks like it has been on the road for 9 days… just say’in.
Again this morning the Pack was rearing to go early. We actually had to put on a forced hold. Our dealer stops are becoming more and more sophisticated. They need time to prepare video drones, wait for news crews to arrive, gather their respective teams for an arrival celebration. When we have an 8:00am arrival we need to plan and time for traffic so we arrive at just the right times. During our hold Paco roared out of our formation under the hotel canopy and set up in the parking lot. We’re like race horses in the paddock. The balance of the Pack stood firm. We must wait. I am in amazement that after 7 years, 2900 miles and 8 days of hard riding this year, that every morning we are raring to go. Soon the time came and we were off to Cobb Technologies. We had a bout 6 miles of morning rush travel but with staying in formation and some patience we traveled with “relative ease”. There were a couple of exiting and merging morning traffickers who were probably very important people and needed the extra 3 seconds they could gain by slicing the pack versus waiting for us to pass.
Nonetheless we arrived in the business park without incident. As we rolled in we decided (Well Papa decided) to enter the front parking lot. Tradition has the Pack entering the back parking by the loading doc. Thus our military precision entrance while in formation was less than. Quickly we recovered and noticed two team member Harley’s parked in a formation so we followed suit and parked in their suggested formation. As we climbed off the Cobb team defended to greet us warmly. It is like a wedding receiving line. Each of them shaking our hand and welcoming us to Cobb. We were mercifully directed to the air-conditioned warehouse for a buffet style breakfast. We see many of the same people year after. year. We become friends rather than acquaintances. It is truly gratifying to continually renew these relationships every year. oni and the Cobb Technologies team have been consistently wonderful to the Pack and the Jillian Fund. This year was no exception.
Soon Toni gave us and the team some wonderful words. Followed by messers Paco and Judge. Seems Judge had never met a crowd he won’t address. Business visits, restaurants, rest stops, bathroom waiting lines. They are all subject to the Judges opinion(s).
Toni presented the Jillian Fund with a generous donation and the Pack began to slowly gather for our short ride across town and the second Richmond stop. Before departing Ms Toni needed a photo op on Paco’s very clean and shiny Chicago Bear Flaming Harley. Where ever we go it’s the one people gravitate to. Probably because Lone Star cleans it every morning. Toni looked great on the bike event hough she had less than desirable riding footwear. It was time to go so we saddled up and rode off in formation and gratitude for the Cobb Technologies’ hospitality.
Just a few short miles across town. We need to make one quick lane change to the right to catch a looped interstate entrance but the locals were patient for us and we proceeded to Stone’s Office Equipment with no issue.
Now Mr. Sam Stone and family (the whole extended bunch) had given us very specific instructions. A separate list for the bikes versus the Mars’ Rover Rover. We would follow these instructions to the T. As we roll into the parking lot we had several people directing us. We noticed four Richmond area motorcycle cops, a state trooper, some local fire and rescue personnel, even a couple of elected state senator. I know Gordito is not with us so it can’t be someone is in trouble… perhaps this is just part of a warm and OFFICIAL welcome. We lined up the bikes in the same (well… similar) precision as the motorcycle cops. Soon the BBQ food truck arrived. The local FOX affiliate arrived. A party tent had been erected. All this and three or four generations of Stones..There were even members of a local charity with a similar mission to The Jillian Fund.
While milling around and attempting to process this over-the-top welcome the Pack soon noticed that George Gorman, the father of Jillian and founder of The Jillian Fund, was present. Even Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dune were back. Executives from Sharp and Lexmark were in attendance. The star of the show was, perhaps, Grandpa’s 50’s vintage Pontiac with a brand new corvette Z06 motor and new GM drive train. Oh my! This is a sleeper car that would cause many a millennial to wonder why their zipped up Mazda can’t keep up. This car would come back later in the story.
Paco, George Gorman and Sam were interviewed by the FOX affiliate. Interesting we have had local press new coverage bookend our journey. Sam will try and get the two affiliates to share their feeds and create a second story for each.
After much fellowship Sam implored the Pack to gather under the tent and get some good southern grub. Paco was waiting in anticipation for some pulled pork. There was wonderful brisket along with green beans and slaw for Slaw. We sat and ate while Sam began a “program”. He had married the Pack’s arrival with a celebration for several other local organizations the Stones’ support. This is impressive! A local Jillian-esc charity, the local fire and rescue, the local police foundation, the state troupers and… a generous donation to the Jillian fund. This was an amazing and magical time.
Soon all good things must cease, until next year at least, and the pack began to say goodbyes. The logistics of getting out of Stone’s Office would be daunting. Mars’ Rover Rover would be heading directly to DC alone. The Pack would be followed by… Grandpa and his Pontiac. We are heading north to the Richmond Dealership and Gramps is heading north another exit or two so he will be our sweeps. Those four motorcycle cops would give us a Presidential style escort out to the Interstate. No need to worry about traffic, stop signs, traffic lights or nasty intersections. We rode out unimpeded. These dudes know what they’re doing! Wow! Perhaps we are Rock Stars!? Probably not because only Paco has a clean motorcycle.
We entered I95 with ease due to our escort and off we rode to the Harley dealer exit about 9 niles ahead. Our flag waving motorcade followed by Grandpa’s Pontiac-Corvette. As we began to approach our exit and slow a bit that Pontiac roared… and I mean roared by is and was off to his own exit. What an impressive machine and the final statement for our day at Stone’s. Actually it was a fitting statement to our entire trip of visits to the generous members of the BTA industry. We are gratified and humbled by all the generosity. Not just writing the check but the efforts to welcome the dirty stinky Pack as we make our way across America in support of our troops AND The Jillian Fund. We are challenged and motivated for next year’s ride (uhhh, next year’s ride??? – Jenna Stramaglio).
The Pack rode into the Harley-Davidson dealership ostensibly to get one last blast of air-conditioning before getting on I95 north into DC. We anticipate this trip to be 90 miles. 60 miles of angry but fast traffic and then 30 miles of stop and go very angry traffic. We departed the dealership to fuel up before entering the I95 fray. This would actually be our final fuel stop before we all disperse after Sunday’s Rolling Thunder parade. It is not lost on us that this band of brothers (and sisters this year) will depart and begin planning for nest year. JBro had left something at the dealership so he roared off from the fuel stop to return tot he dealer. GQ, watching the Google, was informed of an accident just north of this exit so we planned to ride Hwy 1 a few miles north before getting back on I95. We gathered and roared across the interstate back toward the Dealership, pulled off to the side of the road to wait for JBro. Boner did a quick u-turn to go and locate. Soon the two of them returned and we got into formation to pull back onto the road. An 18 wheeler turned the corner and was approaching our rear. This dude saw what we were doing and stopped dead in the road to allow us a safe and seamless return to the road and we were on our way.
We soon turn north on Hwy 1. After a few miles we turned back east to make our way back onto I95. We did this with ease and settled in to a nice formation and rhythm. We had earlier decided to stay right and perhaps under the posted speed so we would be better able to stay in formation. This worked fairly well for a while. As we approached that anticipated 30 mile mark all four lanes were stop and go. Patience patience patience. Soon a Buick SUV came roaring down an on-ramp and timed himself not to be either ahead of or behind the pack, rather right in the middle. Not sure what this clown was thinking. He literally darted in behind Slaw effectively cutting off JBro and Boner and thus the rest of the Pack from Slaw and Papa. Slaw took action and slowed to about 10 mph causing the SUV some distress. He was now part of the patient Pack and a bit fearing for the next move. Thus he used this same darting to the left routine into stop and go traffic. Now a group of motorcycles can separate to let him in. The SUV next to us had no such capability so their respective 4 wheeled vehicles traded paint in the middle of I95! The pack closed ranks with Papa and roared on. Slaw is a New York driver. No Minnesota nice in him. That 30 miles was hot, sweaty, stressful and yet… we kept the rubber side down and moved slowly to our exit.
Side note: I am writing this on Saturday morning in the Sheraton Pentagon City at a breakfast area table. Rover (of the Mars’ Rover Rover) just approached me (If I am lying I am dying) and asked to kiss my Boner. His actual words were: I going to the Mars’ Rover Rover. If you see Boner tell him I want to kiss him. He then waled away with a wry smile.
The Pack spent the last 2 miles on surface streets and made our way calmly to the hotel. We roared in and arrived. WE HAVE ARRIVED!!
It was before 3:00pm in the afternoon. A cold beer never tasted so good. We would meet at 6:30pm and grab the three Ubers to Portofino’s for dinner. We have 7:00pm reservations.
We arrived at Portofino’s and our table was ready. 15 of us. We weren’t the only biker “gang” in the place. I will save the readers the details but the poor rookie server who was left alone with 15 unruly, thirsty, and hungry Pack-ers was unprepared for the onslaught. Paco and Larry who’s coo coo for Coco puffs were all over it. Speaking Italian to the oner and soon stuff got done. On the way out we were greeting a fine looking couple. He in his early 90s and she not foo far behind. She looked like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly had merged and cloned. She was beautiful and had an odd accent. He was distinguished and smoked a pipe. As they approached their car she abruptly did an about face and returned to our group. She told us her man friend was Col Eugene P Deatrick, US Army Air Corp retired and: “you need to talk to him!” So we did. This fine flyboy was THE test pilot for our first 4 B52’s in history. He graduated from West Point in 1946. His lovely “date” is the wife of his commanding officer who is not feeling well these days. This little lady was all of 90lbs with a fantastic little sequined cocktail dress and fancy hat. She did most of the talking. Turns out she… Nour used to perform the “Human Flag” with her husband, Ron David. He flew the bi-plane and Nour was strapped to the wing. A real life wing walker and she… she… yes she at lat 80s, still does it. We have a photo (old school on her business card) of her strapped parallel to the fuselage from a pole on the wing at altitude and s peed. Nour was asked where she was from (remember the odd accent) and her response was : “from mother!” Turns out she was born in Austria, is of Hungarian descent, lived no more than a year in any one place around the globe. She speaks about 8 languages and either does or should rule the world. We know she rules her world. Oh by the way, she races BMW sport bikes. She was telling Fish that the new style with the repositioning of the battery were unsatisfactory for her. She likes the elder models with a much simpler design. WOW!! I want to be her when I grow up!
We honored the Col a bit and then grabbed our Ubers for home. There was a short impromptu gathering in the lobby bar but with the fatigue setting in after 10 days most retire after one drink. GQ and Lone Star just aren’t that smart. The two of them decided sleep can happen next week so cutting short their conversation was unnecessary. This did not happen in the bar rather in the parking garage watching over the Milwaukee metal.
Tomorrow? Thunder Alley after a trip to Arlington to honor one of our favorite vets; Captain Joseph A D’Emidio US Navy.