May 19, 2019: Hashtags and Poopy Pants?

Memphis is our destination. There are rumors of Patriots Pack members who conducted business until after Saturday turned into Sunday. No worries, as we have a planned late start. We expect some drizzle but plan to avoid any heavy rain and weather this day. Papa preformed a visual bike check about 4:30am and all was well. Slowly throughout the early morning the brother/sisterhood (no trousers were on excursion) began to arise. Soon Lone Star was up and performing much more than a visual check on the bikes. Oil checked and topped off, if needed. I may ask for an engine upgrade tomorrow. I am certain he has the necessary parts and accessories.

9:30am came around and most of the Pack and RVers were milling around and preparing to roll. I’ll be darned!  If it wasn’t for Rover sleeping in we could have departed early. Our travels today are:

A: Unhurried

B: Short in distance.

C: Beginning damp (enough to don rain gear)

Lone Star decides to temp the moisture gods and ride without protection.

The Pack rolled just a bit before 10:00am and headed out with RV in tow across the southern end of Little Rock and curled north on I30 to merge with I40 east. This would be for a single exit before departing the Interstate system to head south just a mile to US 70. Our plan is to take US 70 the 150ish miles to West Memphis Arkansas. US 70 is a two lane US highway that has zero commercial traffic as it is just one mile south of I40 and is some places simply a few hundred yards. We truly had no traffic. Most of the ride was spent in 4th gear at 55mph. The beauty of US 70 is that is sits just inches above the water table. The highway shoulder blends directly into the swamp/bayou. Other than a few dead armadillos in our lane we had a smooth ride. The country side is rural. It is truly a surreal experience, like a slow motion montage in an Easy Rider-ish movie. The only sounds are the harmonic convergence of all the exhaust rumbles. No angry traffic. No white SUV’s acting like Whitewalkers.  Just a few locals in the small villages we pass through giving us an interested glance and a welcoming wave. About the half-way mark we were about to accelerate out of a small town and rounded a corner with a convenience store on the left and an open straight road ahead with a wide shoulder on the right.  Papa gave the slow sign, pulled over allowing the bikes to stop on the side of the road in formation with a parking lot available for the RV. Turns out it was a welcomed bio stop. No need to walk the 50 yards back to the convenience story. There is a farmed field on the right and a treelined swamp on the left.  Most walked over to the tree line. If anything moves through the grass, don’t zip, run backward! It never goes unnoticed that as soon as we pull over and put the kickstands down we see snacks and hydration being aggressively offered by the ladies of Make Great American Leasing  again, and again.  Soon, because he is a bit slower, Judge Goldberg  joins in the offering. Our Mars’ Rover Rover and his young protege, Berg, make sure along with the other RVers that we are well cared for. This is a luxury to which I want to be accustomed.

With al the intake and outflows accommodated we begin again our journey east. The country side does not disappoint. It is a magical and thought provoking ride. The speed, lack of traffic, and countryside allows the motorcycle ballet to bloom. Another hour later and we were nearing a fuel stop in West Memphis Arkansas where US 70 is literally adjacent I40. As we approached a 4-way stop, the cars approaching from the north and south honored the Pack with an extended stop so we could roll on through.  Our fuel stop was just a mile ahead. We pulled in and have the Milwaukee steeds a drink and some rest. Earlier in the day a plan was hatched to visit a Harley dealership in the southern Memphis metro before getting to our hotel. It is a short jaunt over from Little Rock and we need to kill some time as it is too early to check-in. The Mars’ Rover Rover needed to dump it’s tanks, mostly filled with Rochester New York bodily fluids (Slaw).  The Rover’s head has become Slaw’s personal office. The RVers rode off to do it’s business and would meet us at the hotel.

The Pack saddled up and prepared to enter I40 for just a few short miles before heading southwest on I55 to cross the mighty Mississippi into Memphis Tennessee. This crossing may have been the first one the Eisenhower crew manufactured or at least the oldest yet to be redone in 70 years. It is an old crossing. Immediately after crossing the river I55 takes a hard turn south toward Mississippi… the state. A few short miles later we crossed into Mississippi. Our exit is just three miles into the great state of Mississippi and the dealer is just off the interstate. As we roared into the parking lot we immediately noticed this was not your average dealership. The parking lot could hold an entire soccer tournament. Huge! Adjacent the dealership was a BBQ restaurant. The Harley dealership itself was large and open, oddly reminiscent of the new Bob Parsons’ Harley dealership in Scottsdale. Turns out… this one in Northwestern Mississippi is also Parsons owned. Small world.

This was a great stop. Boner received a new set of rain gear from Papa (#handmedown). This allowed Lone Star and Papa to purchase matching rain gear (#howcute). Slaw blew the dust from his wallet and spent literally $2.13 on a poker chip (#huh?).  It was a great stop. As we converged on our bikes some were hungry so we visited the adjacent restaurant for a quick lunch. Knowing not to eat too much because we had our Chef Scot Berry and family hosted meal in our near future. One must leave room for the home cooked meal!

Our server was all of 5 feet tall with her healed cowgirl boots. She handled the table well. Also, the staff accommodated these bada$$ biker dudes with smelly leather and unshaven faces with our request to change the tv channels to the golf tournament (#juxtapose).

Our short trip to our hotel was uneventful except for a coupe angry aggressive drivers. It was Sunday so I am sure they were justified in getting to their destination an extra 12 seconds earlier. We pulled into the hotel parking lot and saw the Mars’ Rover Rover… home again for the night!

We would meet again in two hours (6:00pm sharp) to begin our short ride to the Chef Scot Berry and family residence. There was some napping, showering, resting and family check-ins. A good Sunday thus far. At 5:45pm also Pack-ers and RV-ers were ready to go. Papa had to make the unusual call to wait. We were leaving too early! This is ok when the destination is the next bio stop but we cannot rush Chef Scot Berry and family. We had an impromptu rider meeting and soon it was time to roll. This ride is a few miles on city boulevards in southeastern Memphis. We traveled the tree lined lanes with precision. We rolled toward a traffic light rounding a corner and it turned green… we rolled through. Just ahead was a young lady on her bicycle having to wait for the Pack train. On the other side of the road was her male riding partner. The young lady gave an aggressive one fingered salute. To many of the Pack it seemed she was offering this gesture to us. (#what!?). Well, not everyone will be a fan. Turns out it had nothing at all to do with us. Shortly, we turned right into the gated community housing the Chef Scot Berry and family.  The gentleman manning the gate waved and smiled as we rolled into a neighborhood that rarely has 13 loud motorcycle and a RV with all adorned in black leather vests!

Berry Family & The Pack

The Chef Scot Berry family were out in force to greet the extended Pack. Three generations of Berrys. The newest of the generations were excited to see the loud Milwaukee metal.  Boner allowed them to rev the engines and cause the loudness!  Priceless.  We were escorted into the  Chef Scot Berry family home and while the newest of the generations ran to the pool the Pack grabbed steaks, baked potatoes, and corn on the cob. We are certainly well fed. It is nothing short of wonderful to watch such a large and welcoming family host this group with such amazing grace.

Food, soft drinks and juice, along with dessert cookies (dangerously good)! The only rival to the food was the conversation and fellowship. Such a great evening.

Scot Berry (MCC) address the Patriot Pack

Our departure fanfare was spectacular. The newest Berry generation all had a Jillian elephant as they waved us out. I was informed later that some of the newest Berry generation took their Jillian elephants to bed with them in order to sleep well… and it worked!!

 

We had an uneventful ride back to the hotel. Several of the Pack members congregated in a meeting room to break open some adult beverages. We were unable to find GQ and Lone Star.  Turns out GQ purchased an apparatus to attach his cell phone to his handlebars. He chose the one that fits all the large bikes…except his. Never worry when Lone Star is the mix. Boner hooked Lone Star and GQ up with hotel maintenance. Lone Star fired up the drills, tool die machines, quantum accelerator, and a fix was hatched. Late to the game, they joined the Pack in the meeting room.

What is said in the circle of trust says in the circle of trust… or at least won’t be attributed to any single person.  “… well ya know, everyone poops their pants…”

7:30am Monday, wheels rolling to visit MCC, home of the professional Berrys.

Signed,

Papa

May 18, 2019: Toad Suck and SUVs

Early risers were greeted with angry skies and impending moisture. Papa exclaimed the night before that we would ride at 8:30 or 11:00 depending on weather and the decision would be made by 8:00. Watching morning radar and seeing the daily progression, two decisions were made…by 7:00.  Weather forced us to bypass the day long trek to Southern Oklahoma and take US 70 to Little Rock. This would have had us travel on the “Corporal Michael Ayre Thompson Memorial Highway. Michael’s father and Pack member had spent the days prior preparing the sign posts for us. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas. We were heartbroken. We would need to stay on I40 and get East as soon as possible.  2nd decision? We leave ASAP!  The word went out, via the wrong text string (since Papa has the pen in this group we won’t talk about blame) to saddle up immediately. Papa went into the breakfast and told a sweaty post workout Judge in his speedo that we were leaving in 10 minutes.  This was a bit of a stretch but it was go time.

Now it is an understatement that with the Interwebs, smart phones (and watches), EVERYONE is a meteorologist. “We have a 4 minute window if we leave now…”. This group can’t introduce themselves in 4 minutes! All Papa knew is that the East-er we get the sooner (Oklahoma reference) we can do it, the dryer will be our day. The rain came. The rub is that it will not stop coming so we still needed to get East. Rain gear donned. 7:30am is here and “most” are at their bikes. Where’s GQ? We see the Make Great American Leasing ladies enter the RV.  Raj, Judge Goldberg, and Paul Berg Youngberg fire up the RV and the move into position to make a quick exit. Judge wants to know GPS coordinates for the next fuel stop. Papa explains that we’re winging it… Whenever we get dry but not before 60 or 70 miles-ish. There is a GQ spotting. He is hurrying… a GQ hurry is still a saunter. Several Pack members have been attempting to perfect the GQ saunter. JBro has the edge thus far.  Bikes are rolled out into starting positions. Rain is torrential. Some are questioning the timing of our departure in the rain. Boner tells us he is nervous. Meteorologist Slaw is announcing we stay and this will be over in a couple of hours. Perhaps, but it will be heading where we’er heading. Papa sounds the horn. Is GQ ready? No. As Fish explains, GQ must apply his hair product before donning his protective cover. In fairness, it is dangerous to rush rush rush a motorcycle departure when alone… it is worse when in formation.  Finally, GQ is pretty enough to fire up his  Harley and fall into formation. We depart the hotel parking lot, RV in tow. We move through a couple of traffic lights toward I40. IT is 8:06. Papa is internally pleased. We will have 20 minutes of heavy rain and then be in the clear. GQ fell out of rank at the final light and pulls off to the side. Papa continues to lead the pack over the interstate and left onto the on-ramp. Knowing we leave no Pack behind, Papa slows to a stop on the on-ramp. With an RV tow the locals trying to get to work can wait. Also, we will not navigate a temporary fishing hole that the rain has left on the on-ramp. Turns out GQ, in his haste, had neglected to zip us his rain gear.  Thus after a minute or two he is roaring over the over pass and falls into position. We’re off. Slowly and gently. Our hotel was on the West side of OKC so we will navigate the interstate system in heavy rain and night style driving as the morning sun was severely depressed by the angry skies. We progressed smoothly and efficiently. By the time we make the East side of OKC and Tinker Air Force Base the rain was light and steady and nor longer torrential. The Eastern horizon skies were not so angry. We progressed. Soon we had dry road and were able to get to highway speeds. 70 miles out we pulled off for a fuel stop and had been out of rain for 30 miles. Now Papa The Tyrant is Papa the Genius.  At least the Make Great American Leasing ladies thought so.

We intended to make this a quick stop and get going east as quickly as possible. Slaw peed in record time. Some removed the pants portion of rain gear but it is bad juju to remove it all until the skies are clear. The next stop was selected and sent to GQ and the RV. Slaw was informed he would have to hold the bladder for 140 miles. Wince.

The next 68 miles were uneventful. Light traffic, dry skies and road.  It was an hour of so of riding zen. All Pack members in lock step/roll. It is really a heavy metal ballet.

At the 68 mile mark Papa noticed there was a rest stop exit. Signage informed us there were no facilities. The Pack needs no porcelain. We rolled off and into the empty parking area. As the RV followed us in the Make Great America Leasing ladies informed Judge that there were no facilities. Judge informed them that the great green forest would suffice. There are probably photos of this event… unfortunately.

This was just a quick bio break. Papa sounded the horn. Motors were fired up.  Papa looked into his rear view and say Lone star on the ground under Paco’s bike.  Engines off. Thank goodness it was a false alarm. Engines roar again and we’re off to our next fuel stop. This will be a  longer fuel, bio and nourishment stop about an hour out.

Again we had very little traffic, dry conditions and smooth sailing. An hour later we pulled into our stop and fueled up. Most removed rain gear. All went for nourishment. Some abandoned the Wendy’s as this particular fast food establishment was fast food without the fast. Papa, JBro and Boner were sitting and eating the un-fast food. Apparently, in the parking area the wannabe meteorologists were beginning to panic. A coup was formed. Slaw would lead the Papa-JBro-Boner-less Pack back onto I40 east at slow highway speeds and the three of us would catch up. Lone Star was appointed to inform Papa. He sheepishly made his announcement and ran to the parking area. Wendy’s was consumed quickly and the three amigos walked to the parking area. Watched the group saddle up and roar off. No Pack left behind… unless they have Minnesota roots apparently. This was to avoid rain.

Editorial note, too much information is more dangerous than not enough.

Papa, JBro, and Boner saddled up, fired up and proceeded to I40 east. As we hurried east to eventually catch up we crossed into Arkansas. Progress!  We noticed some heavily wet roads but experienced no rainfall. 25 miles ahead we roared past the RV or the Mars’ Rover Rover. 5 miles further we caught the tail of the Pack and slid into position. Lone Star graciously backed off and made room tor Boner. Slaw on the other hand was quite reluctant to fall back and move over. After some gesticulating he acquiesced. Finally Papa and JBro were able to get into formation. Later we learned the coup was successful in riding into rain at 15 mph over the limit. Apparently Slaw thought it a permanent coup. Lone Star backed in down so we could actually gain ground.  Did I mention three of us stayed completely dry?

With the formation reset we continued east. Next fuel stop would be in Toad Suck Arkansas. Look it up. By this time the Pack was riding under clear skies and hot Arkansas temps.  What a change from the morning! Skies were calm but traffic had become angry.  A lovely white SUV  got in between the RV and Paco and caused Paco to experience the rumble strips to avoid contact. This SUV, was someone important and in a hurry apparently. The traffic causing us to be in the left lane quickly impeded our SUV friend and the pack proceeded on without him. Soon traffic opened int he right lane and Papa moved the group over. Soon our SUV savant’ roared up the left lane a bit angrily and made a NASCAR lane change into the right lane causing Papa and therefore the entire Pack to hit the brakes.

Toad Suck didn’t. We fueled and noticed a Toad Suck Harley dealer so we made the decision to stop and stretch. We needed to make a left turn through and uncontrolled intersection. In a retail area on a Saturday mid-afternoon.  Boner and Lone Star rolled out carefully and stopped traffic. All the locals stopped and graciously allowed us to safely reenter the roadway and give time for Boner and Lone Star to rejoin us.

The t-shirts at the Toad Suck (never gets old to say) Harley didn’t disappoint.

After a leisurely stop we fired up to make the final 30 minutes trek to our hotel. Papa put the hotel address into the Harley GPS navigation. Lone Star informed us GQ was still inside sauntering. He needed a part. We were told to go with out Lone Star and GQ and they would catch up. Paco missed the message. We rolled out and to the traffic lights. Paco roared to the front to let Papa know we left the other two. Paco learned it was pre-arranged and we were off. The ride into Little Rock was uneventful with the exception that HD GPS was close… not accurate. A quick use of the interweb’s Google app and soon we were at the hotel. Mars’ Rover was there along with GQ and one Star.  All was well.

Along the way Judge talked with our dinner host, Barry Simon of Datamax, and informed him we would be on time at 7:30pm.  Barry replied that 7:30 was fine with the exception the hired masseuse was arriving at 5:00 and dinner is served at 5:30.  So much for a nap exclaimed Fish.

Severe weather was looming so we made the decision to park strategically under the hotel canopy while leaving room for an auto and fire lane.  Apparently earlier in the day a hotel patron parked his SUV (red not white) in a manner that blocked traffic as well as pedestrian entry into the hotel. After a few hours (or one according to the patron) the hotel had the auto towed..This last sentence is foreshadowing.

Lone Star arranged the bikes to conform to the wishes of the hotel staff. Still out of harms way from the angry skies. All is well. The text went out, to the proper string, that all members were to gather in the lobby at 5:00 for our 10 minute ride to the Simon residence. Our transportation method?  Mars’ Rover piloted by Rover. The Make Great American Leasing ladies called for an Uber.  Can’t blame them for not wanting to join 13 stinky (well the leathers are stinky) guys in a cramped standing/laying room only RV.  Are we in high school?!

The Make Great American Leasing ladies were joined by Lady Patricia Ames from Rota Spain. BPO Media in the house!!! The three ladies called an Uber.

Jennie Fisher (GA), Patricia Ames (BPO Media), Kim Louden (GA)

We arrived at 5:25pm, pulled the Mars’ Rover Rover into the Simon driveway and climbed out… like rats off a ship.. in the rain. The Simon’s welcomed us graciously. Barry led us to his outdoor/indoor man cave… castle. We were treated with adult and not-adult hydration. Better yet a BBQ spread fit for royalty… better still… a masseuse was waiting to give each of us a 10 – 15 minute neck and back kneading. We are shortly going to become entitled Rock Stars! We do believe this is how Paco lives his entire life. He gets home from work and Mrs. Paco provides a beverage and some needed kneading (lol).

JBro, Papa, and Boner (Left to Right)

Thanks to Pack remote support (Jenna Stramaglio) the new cuts (vests for the non-SOA watchers) arrived via UPS on a Saturday night to the Simon residence. This allowed us to make the ceremonial presentation to the 5 new Patriots Pack members. Paco presented  the coveted cuts to Rover, Berg and Judge…The Judge. These come with a price.  Recipients are required to sing their high school fight song, university fight song, or a patriotic song in return for this honored cut. Rover is promising a performance in DC later in the week.  Judge is still contemplating (as judges do) his song of choice.  Berg asked Papa to help with a duet of God Bless America. Apparently this octogenarian had had enough of Papa being the lone pitch bitch and started to sing loud and proud… and very well I might add. Papa backed off and tried a bit of harmony as Berg led the group in song. Epic! Judge and Rover have big big shoes to fill.  Next, Papa was given the honor of bestowing cuts to JBro and Boner. A brief ceremonial presentation and photo op ensued. Next, theses two brothers needed to perform to officially become Pack brothers. They stepped up together and had a look of preparation. Papa was understandably nervous as the 10 and 15 year old version of these brothers may have done….well anything!  Soon a very rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner ensued.  Boner even pantomimed some rockets red and glaring. Toward the end, and if I am lying I am dying, the heavens began rolling thunder as though we had a fighter jet flyover. More than a few had a tear drop. Proud father. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful night. I won’t say it was a happy ending because a masseuse was involved.

The Judge himself (aka Bob Goldberg)

Kick stand up at 10:00am Sunday. Memphis is in our sights.

Epilog. Arriving back at the hotel we checked on our rides and made sure all bags, pockets, and forks were locked. A gentleman was pensively wandering around. A squad car from Little Rock’s finest pulled up. The gentleman had called for the officer. Seems the hotel had his red SUV towed for doing just what these bikers were doing. Gentleman wanted an official civil complaint report. LRPD officer explained that no fire lane was being blocked and no entrance to the hotel was being blocked. Earlier in the day the Gentleman’s red SUV was blocking both. Actually disallowing a disabled wheel chair bound hotel patron access to the front door… while he napped upstairs. As this was being explained the same wheel chair bound patron’s van pulls up and comfortably exited the van and entered the hotel. Case closed… bump bump (that’t she Law and Order scene chime).

Signed,

Papa & The Pack

The Pack

 

Barry Simon (President, Datamax AR)

May 17, 2019: ImageNet Hosts the Pack!

Oh boy.

The Pack was not pleased  with having to be wheels rolling at 6:00am MDT. Our destination was Oklahoma City but… we had an appointment to visit ImageNet upon our arrival.  Little did we know just how vitally important would be our “relatively” on-time arrival. Given we had 522 miles and we lose an hour crossing into CDT. We had 7.5 hours of actual travel time thus in a perfect world we arrive at 2:00pm. Riding on two wheels with a Pack of 10, one of whom has a literal peanut bladder (or a prostate the size of a grapefruit), is not the perfect world. The plan was to stop first in Santa Rosa for fuel and a quick McMuffin. This would be about 110 miles… or 80 in Andymath.  We knew the ride out would be cool but quickly we hit 55 degrees. The air was smooth and calm. The road was virtually trafficless. The sun was rising with some light cloud cover so it wasn’t blinding as we headed east. Shortly after Cline’s Corner the temp dropped a bit. I believe the lowest was 47 degrees. Cool but not uncomfortable. By the time we rolled into Santa Rosa the temp was up.  We fueled and met in the Golden Arches parking lot. The RV had fallen back –   or the Pack had roared off without them and accounting for an RV climb out of ABQ we arrived well before them. It is interesting to note that the gents in the RV make us feel like pampered rock stars. We pull in for gas (or pee) and as we are lingering near the bikes checking messages and planning next stops we have water and snacks handed to us. Quite a luxury provided to the riders by Judge, Raj, and Berg. These dudes are adamant they get to all our stops to serve us refreshments. Thank you.

The ride into Texas and Oklahoma was none eventful… repeated short distance stops… over and over and over and over! The word of the day was WIND. We spent the bulk of the day in a constant reverse NASCAR right hand turn in order to stay straight. We pushed it hard and rolled into the hotel parking lot shortly at 4:00pm. Bert and his buddy Captain had come in from Iowaiga were waiting there to re-join the Pack. Also JBro arrived from H-Town so as we rolled in were are now 13 strong.  Also Jennie and Kim from GreatAmerica  joined the Pack!.  It’s a party now! This place is lit!  It’s going to get turnt! (<—for the record – I, Jenna Stramaglio, do not approve of such language used by someone who is well beyond the appropriate age of using such slang 😆).

To our delight and amazement two of Oklahoma City’s finest, on their motorcycles, were there to give us an escort to ImageNet.  Friday afternoon rush hour traffic and we had a smooth ride in.  All intersections were blocked and we were Rock Stars… Jillian Rock Stars! The motorcade rolled through downtown OKC, up Broadway,  left on 8th street, and we followed the officers into an alley.  As we rolled into the alley we could see a very large contingent of ImageNet personnel waiting in the parking lot. Cameras, cheering, welcoming!  It is such an amazing feeling to experience this kind of welcome. A constant reinforcement of our mission and motivation to do this. ImageNet rolled out the red carpet. It quite literally brings tears to our eyes when we receive these welcomes.

We had an epic meet and greet. The ImageNet team were awesome hosts.  We had a spread of sandwiches, chips, and and and dessert!  An ice cream cookie bar that was outstanding. Monica/Amber (she was confused) gave an awesome tour. I’ve heard that the real Monica gave an equally fantastic tour.  The best part of the evening was Ms. Major Payne (the other Amber) was already working on how to make this stop more epic next year!

We’re amazed and humbled at how this thing grows! Good things beget good things.

We made our way back to the hotel pining for a shower. After showers we congregated at the RV for some wine, cocktails, and Goldberg prepared hors d’oeuvres. We have truly been pampered by the Mars International RV with messers Goldberg, Raj and Youngberg… along with Jennie and Kim from Make Great America Leasing Again.

That would have constituted a Great day but the epic part had just begun.  Boner, JBro, and Fish walked over to get some Buffalo Wild Wings and the crew retired from the RV to the hotel pool deck. This crew took over the area and a lone un-attached hotel guest braved the onslaught and stayed. He was quiet and kept to himself. Soon Goldberg re-opens the bar on the pool deck and our wings arrived. Good conversation and consumption ensued. After dinner we apologized to our guest after engaging him in the conversation. We found his name is AJ and he is in training for the FAA. We needed to be nice to him as he will be keeping us safe in the skies soon. Then we found out he is a Marine Vet. We thanked this Jar Head for his service. AJ decided to participate in the Spanish Inquisition. What an honest young man. Tomorrow will be a weather dicey day. Time to wrap it up and get some rest.

Signed,

Papa

May 16, 2019: Slaw’s Claws

The morning started early.  Primarily due to anticipation.  This will be and epic two weeks. KFly was the first to get to his bike in far North Scottsdale, I am pleased he didn’t request it to spend the night in his room.

We far Northers left the house shortly after 6:00am. First stop, fuel.  Always begin the day with full tanks and empty bladders. As we made our way to the Konica Minolta All Covered BCS Forza MWA ADS (LOL) offices we literally met up with Paco, GQ and Lone Star so the 6 of us rode into the lot together.  Soon the other riders arrived. We expected 10 motorcycles in the parking lot but to our surprise and pleasure Doc’s son Jake arrived on Doc’s chopper. He decided to join the kick-off festivities and ride with us for a mile or two.  He was also wearing Doc’s cut. Powerful!!

A breakfast burrito/coffee food truck arrived and all were well fed. The lot was full of the KMACForza crew, rider families, friends of the Pack, law enforcement, and… the local FOX 10 affiliate. They decided to do a live remote after the 8:00 news update. How cool! Paco and Papa may need agents!

Bishop Staker arrived to send us with off with blessings and positive vibes.  Ken nailed it! Thank you, Bishop Staker.

As the 9:00am hour approached the Pack fired up their Milwaukee metals and got into formation. Sgt. Stumpf, one of Scottsdale’s finest along with one of his brethren led us out of the parking lot and blocked traffic on Greenway-Hayden so we can begin our journey safely. We were off, with much fanfare but… no hitches!  We made our way through Scottsdale toward Fountain Hills.  It was a bit of a learning curve to keep all the bikes and an RV in formation.  By the time we arrived in Fountain hills and approached the Bee Line toward Payson we were in lock step. We roared up to highway speed and rolled on. We made it through Payson and headed toward Heber. About 10 miles out of town, Slaw roared up beside me and gave the signal for pull-over. We safely turned off the highway and put kickstands down. Slaw was cramping… read day one circa 2018!  We know he wasn’t hung over this year. We know he wasn’t dehydrated this year but similar symptoms… crab hands. Not the buttery succulent meat rather the hard shell pinchers! This makes it difficult to brake and clutch.

We made an effort to stop more often for Slaw to:

A) Pee

B) Relax his crab claws.

 

We then stopped in Heber. We roared into the Shell station and fueled up.  Arli$$ rolled in and was inserting his cc when he began screaming and literally pushing the RV away from his bike. Berg was piloting the RV and made the corner a bit too sharp. No kidding, he came within one inch of knocking Arli$$ and his bike into the fuel pump. Crisis averted! Lesson learned. If this were easy everyone would do it.

We changed the route and headed directly to Holbrook, AZ and I40. This way if Slaw’s Claws had issues we were closer to help then we would be out on the reservation. Slaw’s Claws needed a rest just a few mile east on 40. We pulled into an abandoned fuel station. Unfortunately, the RV missed us and rolled past. Therefore, we had no refreshed refreshments so we had to make do.  After 15 minutes Slaw’s Claws were more supple and we roared East to catch up with the RV at the old Giant (now Flying J) 10ish miles east of Gallup.  Construction caused the RV to miss the exit so when we rolled for fuel, pee, and snacks the RV was already East of the continental divide. Once again, we were left to get our own refreshments. Oh what a tragedy!

After about 20 minutes, we saddled up and headed to the Route 66 casino for our last fuel stop before Albuquerque, NM. When we arrived, the RV was in the parking lot. A couple of us were unable to navigate the round-a-bout so it took 15 minutes to get to the pumps! As we were fueling, the RV team delivered DQ Dilly Bars! The treats we all deserve!

After a quick stop we headed toward our hotel in the ABQ. Navigating Albuquerque’s traffic was easier than anticipated and 30 minutes later we arrived in the hotel parking lot along with 400  (yes 400) other bikers on an escorted ride from California. My little buddy Jack would have been in heaven.  Without fanfare or crisis we all got our room keys and took needed showers.  Later we met at the RV’s parking spot. Our RVers have a fully stocked bar!  Slaw and his supple Claws ordered pizza and our night was on!  In oder to get to know each other a bit better we began a new ritual of having a few guys each night go through the Spanish Inquisition (thank you Sarah Spain). While we were attending to this insightful ritual a biker gentle man rolled his machine adjacent our chair circle and exclaimed, “I need y’all to take some popsicles.”  Apparently, he went to Target on his motorcycle to get two single popsicles and bought two boxes! We offered some pizza in trade. He left and soon walked back to take us up on his bargain. Paco asked the man his name.  “Trash!” What we asked?  He then pulled out his lanyard and sure enough… We were in the presence of Trash!  What happens in the circle stays in the circle but I can tell you that Trash went through the Spanish Inquisition and left us all Amazed, Humbled, and Honored.  Wheels rolling 6:00am tomorrow.

Signed,

Papa

May 15, 2019: The Night Before

Glory be! New York’s machines arrived and spent the night safely in far North Scottsdale.  Slaw and K-Fly arrived knowing they will be able to ride on time.  Fish and GQ arrived along with the two east coast elites so Papa car-pooled them from the airport to North Scottsdale.  Fish to meet his beloved BMW at the German dealership.  GQ dropped at the Milwaukee Metal dealership to collect his rental and Papa along with K-Fly and Slaw went to Paco’s office to greet the others.  We didn’t spend much time as K-Fly was quite literally pining for his Japanese mistress.  His words “I need some alone time with her.”  I mean I love my Milwaukee Geezer Pleazer but “alone time”!

News was spreading that the RV crew were in town and had picked up our sweep vehicle.  They had gone to Costco for provisions.  It was time to head to far North Scottsdale to prepare for our kick off ribeye bar-b-q.  K-Fly, besides seeking alone time with his Japanese Mistress ,was infatuated with Arizona’s own saguaro cactus.  This almost seems Freudian.

Papa’s offspring and offspring’s offspring were gathering to assist with the bar-b-q. Boner, a new Pack member, would be the grille master.  The entire Pack members leaving from Scottsdale were in attendance along with some friends, family, and business partners.  Great food, greater fellowship coupled with our kick off meeting.  It was a wonderful evening.  It was, for the most part, an adult beverage free evening… on purpose.  We should be able to avoid a 4 hour ER visit for IV fluids because we took it a bit easy this year…. SLAW!!!  The evening ended with a Papa’s rendition of America The Beautiful, fitting since we will ride for two weeks in witness.  Papa packed up the east coast elite, house guests for the evening, so K-Fly could get his alone time.  Some of the Pack headed to their hotels and a few others toward Paco’s to adorn the RV so it displays our logo and mission.

The rested and refreshed Pack with gather at Konica Minolta / All Covered / FORZA offices bright and early.  Final prep, breakfast, Local Fox affiliate broadcasting, final family good byes and we will be off!

To donate, please visit below:

The Jillian Fund

May 14, 2019: T-Minus 2 Days and Slaw is Already Causing a Problem

I have been texting with Slaw all morning.  As we prepare for our pre-ride kick-off dinner tomorrow night, Slaw still hasn’t located his Harley.  It is on a truck somewhere between upstate New York (lower Canada) and Scottsdale.  Literally 48 hours from wheels rolling and Slaw is already a problem.   Some things never change.

I have seen in the txt-verse that Lone Star and friends are just a few hours from Scottsdale.  Judge (new member) is arriving tonight… before Slaw’s bike,  BTW, Judge is riding shotgun in a following RV because we don’t trust him to drive on 6 wheels let alone 2!  Kick-off steaks are in the fridge, local bikes have had pre-flight inspections, sponsors (THANK YOU SPONSORS) have been generous, vendor/partner stops have been verified.  All systems are a go… except for Slaw!

-Signed Papa

5/24/18 – On the Road Again…

Day 8 – Boon NC to Richmond VA

After a great night by the fire in Boone, the Patriots Pack decided to sleep in and leave at 9-ish this morning, our latest start since AZ. While saddling up, another hotel guest approached and began his story. Courtney (a boy named Sue, according to him) was (IS) a Marine Staff Sargent who had served in Iraq. Courtney told us about a mission where he took 138 men into the field and brought every one of them home. When asked by his superiors how he did it, he told them he was simply afraid of their wives. A great man and an inspiring way to start our day!

We rolled out in perfect (cool) riding weather heading towards Richmond. About 45 miles into the ride, we finally pulled off for gas. A young guy pushing a shopping cart with all his possessions in it and his trusty dog at his side walked in at the same time. While the guy was inside, the Pack bought the dog a few cans of food and left them for the owner, who came out and picked them up. He looked around trying to figure out where they came from and as we were the only ones at the gas station, he smiled and gave us a thumbs up. Eat well my furry friend!

Off we went again on a surprisingly empty road. It was now getting warmer so the hoodies were stored as we blasted east past open GREEN fields! A very different landscape than we had seen just a few days ago.

Unlike last year where we arrived at our hotel in the middle of a massive storm, the Pack rolled in with no problem and were warmly welcomed by the staff who remembered us (and the storm) from last year. It’s funny how many hotels and restaurants remembers us!

After some cleaning up, we headed to Paco’s favorite local Italian restaurant, which we’ve now hit four straight years. Just like at the hotel, our waitress Tanya remembered us! Another fantastic carb laden dinner and we were full of amazing food, wine and martinis. Slaw shared the video that our incoming friend and newest member Gerard Perillo sent, with the Pack being mentioned on the news in the NY/NJ area. Very cool! At the end of our dinner, a wonderful couple sent over a round of drinks and eventually took some photos. Then Tanya took some with us as well, even dawning Slaw’s vest for one. She was great!

Back to the hotel for more martinis (and moonshine and bourbon and Irish whiskey…everyone has a different flavor). And cigars. Don’t forget the cigars! Fish brought enough to supply the entire million motorcycle Rolling Thunder event and he has sworn they are not coming home with him. We’ve made a good dent on the bag so far!

It looked like it was going to be a relatively quiet night, with the Pack listening to tunes and relaxing a bit. Slaw was hanging with his local college buddy, Steve Kelly. And then Gordito does what Gordito does best. He ran his mouth. Again.

You’d think, after Slaw accepted his push up challenge on last year’s ride and beat him he’d have learned. You’d think, after Slaw accepted his SECOND pushup challenge at the Sharp Dealer Meeting in AZ in Dec., he’d have learned. But alas, Gordito did not learn. Time for another lesson, Pack style.

After the humbling experience, the Pack got back to the serious relaxing they’d been doing before calling it a night. Another great day and off to Cobb and Richmond today before heading into DC for Phase 2 of the ride….ROLLING THUNDER!

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!!!

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!

5/21/18 – Cheech and Chong, Sandals with Socks, and Southern Hospitality

 

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.