A blessed late morning. The Pack would be enjoying some morning slumber.
Some site seeing on their own with a few gathering for breakfast before walking to Arlington National Cemetery. Paco led Papa, JBro, Boner, Lone Star,KFly and his girl Christi. It is about a half mile walk to the entrance we have used less than legally in the past. Arlington’s finest was there to direct us to the employee entrance where a nice young officer was turning away motorcycles and cars but frisking pedestrians as they come through. We soon found Capt. D’Emidio’s grave site. From there we made our way to the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. We arrived just in time to see the changing of the guard. What a tradition. Very impressive. Standing on the steps overlooking this procedure one could see the swamp around DC that needs draining. This subset of the Pack then made the long walk uphill back to the hotel.
At noon the entire Pack was to meet at the bikes to make our way to Thunder Alley. Honoring a wager rom the prior evening, Judge Goldberg climbed on Boner’s bike and rode “passenger” the short distance across the Potomac. He was heard to exclaim that by sitting this way he had a Boner between his legs.
Thunder Alley is a side street off the Mall of monuments where many vendors are set up for biker stuff. We parked on the far side of this street and made our way past the WWII memorial with views in one direction of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial the other. It is an impressive walk if you take the time to admire. We made our way to Thunder Alley with instructions to meet at a designated spot at 14:00. The Pack scattered. At 14:00 all were accounted for and we made our way back across the Mall to the bikes. Boner was the Judges only means for returning to the hotel so he climbed on again. We would return without incident to get some rest and relaxation before the nights festivities, sponsored by Clover.
The Pack used several Ubers to arrive on time at Cafe Milano. The event went on flawlessly. When it was time to the table, Paco and Judge offered official welcomes. Papa was brought up to open the ceremonies with a rendition of The Star Spangled Banner that became a sing along.
George and Bill surprised us with a special guest. Stephanie Cisne, a recovering patient with her hair just growing back and an O2 device strapped to her waist, got up and told us first hand how the Jillian fund has helped her and her family. The fund allowed her mother (Maria Sevilla) to be by her bedside for the entire process. The entire bad-ass biker Pack was moved to tears. Then…. More surprise, Steph’s family arrived. Mother, Father Henry and cousin Kiana arrived. More tears. Oh boy! Mother’s name is Maria?! The evening can’t conclude without an impromptu Ave Maria by Papa. Mother Maria was a bit embarrassed by the attention but honored.
Before the evening ended our active leader, and still not emeritus, Paco received a signed bottle of wine. Signed by all Pack members in attendance. Paco being generous decreed we would enjoy the wine tonight and the bottle would join his enormous trophy case. The evening ended with Rover’s daughter, I mean wife (well either he look really old or she looks really young or both), and Papa leading a sing-along to Bohemian Rhapsody. Then the Pack retired to the alley where Cafe Milano had set up a table where the evening ended again with cigars and some beverages. Many began to grab Uber rides back to the hotel where the Pack gathered in the designated outside seating area where the evening ended again with beverages and conversation. It was one of those magical evenings that didn’t want to end… so it didn’t.
Tomorrow is the ride’s ride. The journey will conclude.
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.
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.
Good morning, Hotlanta! After an eventful night, the Pack was moving spry and early this morning. This is a fun and enjoyable event for us but… we never forget our mission. Better said, the public never lets us forget our mission. We are approached in elevators, at stop lights, in parking lots, in rest areas, etc. All are curious who we are and what we are about. “May I ask who is Jillian?” (marketing works!). What we do works! What we do matters!
Today, Papa will escort Paco to Milner. It is a short 2 mile ride. Paco is meeting with some of the Milner team along with some of the FORZA team who are in to work with Milner. Other than a wrong turn, the ride over to Milner was completely uneventful. Paco dropped off and Papa returned to the Hotel to gather the balance of the Pack and prepare for our ride over to Milner. Upon returning to the hotel parking lot Papa could see Lone Star preforming routine bike checks and maintenance. GQ was sauntering too and fro. The Judge was just getting off his private treadmill. JBro and Boner actually needed no wake up and JBro finally took a shower. We believe the first one since Arkansas! Fish was nothing but a tall bigheaded dude with a smile. We’re pleased to have him back on the road with us… if not for anything but his cigars. Slaw and KFly were even milling around in early anticipation for the day. Rover was in and out of the Mars’ Rover Rover. Berg? Even he was up and texting about arrival times at our auto warehouse later in the day at Charlotte. It will be a good day. Perhaps our first Atlanta day in 7 years without inclement weather.
The ride over to Milner, without a wrong turn, was all of 4 minutes. The path avoided all traffic. As we approached the Milner driveway we noticed the entire driveway, parking lot and walk path to the building lined with American Flags in anticipation for our arrival. Cool!! We parked, dismounted and were greeted by Atlanta’s best and brightest. These greetings and welcomes Neve get tired and are always always appreciated.
The Pack was greeted with these bright faces AND a breakfast in the theater room. Paco and Charlie made the warm welcome official and we ate! The Pack were also given a well thought out gift basket and a t-shirt. On these rides a t-shirt is always welcome OR perhaps they were telling us we needed to find a laundry!? Milner was even a little Dusty (pun intended) before we left. It’s always nice to see him. Thank you to Milner for your generous donation to The Jillian Fund. The Milner stop was just about an hour as we need to let the FORZA and Milner teams get back to business work, allowing us to get back to fundraising, vet awareness work!
Lone Star, JBro and Boner pulled out a little early. They would be getting fuel and hustling to our next stop, Friendship Harley Davidson. JBro has a nuisance issue and they wanted to get a head start. Paco eventually climbed on his ride only to realize the key for his bike is in Lone Star’s pocket. A rushed call was made to Lone Star with the hope and prayer they were still at the fuel stop! As luck would have it they were. GQ communicated the issue and a sheepish Lone Star soon returned with Paco’s FOB. Jillian and her brethren were watching over us for this one. This could have caused us a good 90 minutes had we not caught him.
Oh well, we all proceeded to the fuel stop and rode to the Harley Dealership en masse. 25 minutes later we roared into Friendship Harley Davidson north of the north eastern Atlanta burbs. As we rolled in we were being video recorded by our old friend and industry icon, Bob McGuire. What a treat. He would be riding out with us for a while.
Turns out JBro’s issue is something that will need further diagnostics upon his return to Houston next week. It is not mechanical and will not impede his riding. The service tech did replace a rear riding light at no-charge. The Harley dealerships really do take care of bikers on the road. We kid because we care… Lone Star really does put his big Texas arms around our equipment each and every morning and even at some daily stops. In appreciation we presented him with a very cool cooler from Harley Davidson. It is always nice to see this prime example of a good and humble person blush!
A bit more milling around and we sounded the horn for departure… only to find Lone Star, with his mass of tools and sundry for the bikes all played out, working on KFly’s Kawasaki. This was a quick attempt at a seat adjustment and we soon saddled up to depart. Friendship road north east to I85 and soon South Carolina was on our horizon. A couple of hours out Papa was given the sign for a bio stop. Ahead 2 miles was a rest stop. Turns out to be a beautiful setting next to a Carolina lake. This was a good 30 minute stop. IT included more connoitering on KFly’s seat… by 5 people. There were several photo ops and of course… Hydration and snacks from the crew of the Mars’ Rover Rover. The weather was much cooler than Hotlanta. Cloudy at times and cool. Absolutely perfect riding weather. A decision was made to bypass the hotel and proceed directly to Streetside Classics for our wandering of the classic car warehouse and our air-conditioned BBQ. We’re all in!!
Soon we fueled in northern South Carolina and it’s Northern sister was on our horizon. Charlotte in 45 minutes. We navigated west around the Charlotte traffic scrum with aplomb. Soon we were on the north side of Charlotte in the vicinity of the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the warehouses of many famous racing families/teams as well as Streetside Classics. As we arrived, we realized this truly was a warehouse with more than 100 classic cars… all for sale of course. The Pack may have left some drool on the immaculate floors. What a treat. Berg and Rover’s buddy, Larry was our host as many of these autos are his. The BBQ was spectacular. The stories were even better. Best??? Arlington, Larry’s company (formerly Carolina Wholesale and Digitek) presented us with a generous donation to The Jillian Fund. After cleaning tasty BBQ residue from our hands and faces we saddled up and began our trek back to the southwest side of Charlotte. This would eventually require some rush hour traffic time. To our delight only about 5 minutes of our 30 minute ride was congested. With one more chance for Boner to play traffic police we made our way unimpeded to our hotel. (he really loves this move. Flashers, hand gestures to stop, horn honking, aggressive exhaust noice and traffic stops). We checked in and Papa took his migraine to bed at 7:00pm. We will have to report the evening’s activities another day! All safe and sound and Systel in the morning. Then off to a new FORZA account in Marion, VA before resting in Richmond for the evening. After Systel, JBro and Boner will head directly to Richmond as JBro has an afternoon Skype conference. Most of us have real jobs and we would be remiss of we didn’t offer appreciation for our respective organizations being gracious with our time. We thank you and the Jillian Fund Thanks you.
We woke to skies as clear blue as they’ve seen in Nashville. Papa was up early churning words. Lone Star was the first face he saw, before sun-up, and he looked like he could have had a little more sleep. The crew had made their way home from Nashville nightlife in shifts. Some late, some later, and some in the wee hours of today.
Lone Star went through his pre-flight checklist on all the bikes. To Papa’s amazement, the entire crew was at the ready early. Hugs and goodbyes were extended to the BPO Medial Mogul Patricia Ames, from Rota Spain, as well as the ladies from Make Great American Leasing Again. We will be losing them from the Mars’ Rover Rover along with Jim Demidio, the Czar of Muratec America. Since Rover himself was on assignment for 24 hours, the Mars’ Rover Rover will be piloted by Berg assisted by First Officer Judge.
Novatech is expecting us at 8:00am, not 7:59, not 8:01… 8:00:00. This is a precision organization. We had multiple texts and the Pack was sent multiple communiqué with specific approach and parking instruction. Instruction on where and in which formation to park. The last communiqué was an actual video/audio explaining our task. I believe in a past life this dude directed aircraft carrier landings.
As 7:30am approached, the Pack and the Mars’ Rover Rover were in position and ready to go… only we can’t go. In order to arrive at 8:00:00 we needed about 6 minutes of drive time. We have a good 20 minutes to stall. In the past 5 days we’ve gone from searching toilet stalls for Slaw to holding the Pack back from a too early departure… my work here is done! This gave the Pack more time to share our disparate stories from the prior evening… or earlier in the same day.
Time has approached for the Pack to depart. All the bikes have been positioned for a smooth start. Mars’ Rover Rover is taking the easy way from the parking lot but requires an uncontrolled left hand turn into an immediate right hand turn in morning traffic. Papa is leading the Pack out the back of the parking lot to an alleyway that will give us a right hand turn on the only road we need to Novatech. Boner rose to the occasion and blocked oncoming traffic allowing the Pack a perfect entry to the street and we were on our way. 6 minutes later we approached Novatech, pulled into the left turning lane and noticed traffic cones had been put out for our direction. Even thought it is early in the day, Boner again rose to the occasion, blocked oncoming traffic and we proceeded into the narrow parking lot. As directed we were to take the ramp up to the parking structure on top of a building. The ramp was narrow, the ramp turned a bit to the right. The ramp was pitched to the left. Momentum would be our friend. This really is landing on an aircraft carrier. USS Novatech. Now we understand the precision instructions coupled with video and audio. The Pack proceed without incident to the structure. Once we arrived we saw Harley Davidson road glide parked in position to guide us into ours. Magnificent instructions Mr. Charlie Metz!
Upon arrival we also saw we were drone tracked and photographed. Looking forward to seeing that video. Slaw pulled in next to me and looked amazed he was able to navigate this landing…. We were all amazed. Departing would be a similar trick… momentum is our friend.
Several of the Novatech team came to greet us and were were instructed, very precisely (imagine that) on how to gather and pose for our photo op.. .ops really. Once inside we noticed an very clean and sharp looking office. Novatech is an impressive orgainization. We were escorted to conference area with a completely open to the outside wall overlooking Charlotte Avenue and the city of Nashville. We were treated to breakfast fix’ns and good coffee. The staff was polite and generous. Dan Cooper and team presented Paco and the Pack a generous donation to the Jillian fund.
(I am writing this realtime in the Atlanta Marriott Peachtree Corners lobby. Front desk dude is looking crosseyed at an aging motorcycle Pack member in leathers and boots actually working on his laptop. It is not fitting his eye. So much so that security is now lurking. Hysterical!)
But I digress… We were given a brief tour with he highlight being a Game of Thrones style display of a hatchet destroyed server. Guess the cloud is more safe. I hope a photo of this augments the blog. After a tour and conversation about the business we made our way to the deck of the USS Novatech and prepared for takeoff. It would be an aircraft carrier style takeoff down the ramp, a Boner assisted righthand turn followed by another controlled intersection and the I 40 onramp. Simple except the Mars’ Rover Rover was parked in a position that was not conducive to us getting into formation with them until our first stop. This stop had yet to be determined so a bit of communication would be required. We entered I 40 east and immediately veered southeast on I440 toward I 24 to Chattanooga. Just prior to the I440 split Bert and the Captain split off and headed northwest back to Iowa and Nebraska respectively. Neither will be able to complete the ride but we ride with our brothers in their stead. Just as every day we ride with brother Doc in hour hearts. We soon merged onto I24 heading south east to Chattanooga and took the first exit withe a fuel station once we were south out of the Nashville traffic scrum. Papa immediately called to the Mars’ Rover Rover to give them the exit number but Leadfoot Berg was two exits past. We would simply catch up with them after a quick fuel stopl. And Leadfoot Berg would slow a bit. The Pack topped off and roared southeast toward Chattanooga. With a large motorcycle train we would not be pushing the speed too much. Also the truck traffic was thick and we were about to enter a more mountainous terrain. About 80 miles out we had not yet caught the Leadfoot piloted Mars’ Rover Rover and we were in the twisties crawling up Signal Mountan. Two thirds of the way up we pulled off into a rest stop for Slwa. Papa immediately called the Mars’ Rover Rover. Leadfoot had the chase vehicle still several miles ahead of the Pack. It is time for Ladfoot Berg to stop driving his age.
The Pack rolled southeast. After some coaching by GQ a plan was formed. The plan was to stay in formation, avoid the need for lane changing and crawl through Chattanooga. We would enter Georgia, Tennessee again and then Georgia once more. Our crawl was not a crawl at all and with proper planning as well as the GQ coaching we breezed through Chattanooga. Georgia on the horizon. We pushed the speed a bit to catch the Mars’ Rover Rover. We were going about 40 miles into Georgia and then getting off the interstate and too state/county roads for the final 60 miles to the Atalanta Marriott Peachtree Corners. Eventually we did have a slowed Mars’ Rover Rover in our sights. As we roared past, Leadfoot Berg fell into formation as we headed for exit 306 and route 140. We exited and pulled off the road for a bio and snack/hydration stop. Some of the Pack who enjoyed much of Nashville a bit longer than the rest looked a bit rough at 2:00 in the afternoon sun.
Soon we were on our way winding south and east from North Georgia to our destination. This was a smooth and relaxing ride. Please know if you have never been to Georgia, I challenge you to find a straight road. We were often heading north to make our way southeast to the Atlanta metro. Once must trust their instruments. Papa had an internal struggle with on such interchange. With a large train it was too late to make the necessary right hand exit to the next road. This caused an egregious 4 mile detour costing us at least 8 minutes of time. Eventually we approached the metro area and the incessant traffic signals. Traffic was at a maximum. Patience was needed. Boner again rose to the occasion and blocked some traffic at aright hand merge. We roared into the left turn lane. Papa once again trusted his instruments and not his gut and worked the Pack into a straight lane only to change his mind… along with horn coaching from GQ. We needed to go left. Paco negotiated with a car in traffic to let us back in and the turn was managed. We did lose the Mars’ Rover Rover in that scrum but they have GOS to the hotel. We made the last 6 miles without incident and rolled into the hotel parking lot. We will not be allowed to use the entrance canopy for bike parking in a Marriott. The bikes will be parked without protection. The Pack went through the check in process and agreed to meet back in the lobby at 6:15. Upon arrival we were greeted with the return of Fish. He has decided (got spousal permission) to finish the ride with us! Work is overrated.
Papa was greeted with the arrival of cousins Rachel, Joe and Cristy who reside in Atlanta. They would join the Pack for drinks, dinner and eventually some time in the Circle of trust. This meant they needed to endure the Spanish Inquisition.
The Pack anxiously awaited the re-arrival of Rover from the Mars’ Rover Rover. He had been on assignment in Philadelphia. During dinner there was a rousing welcome for his re-arrival. The caucus disturbed the entire first floor of the Marriott. After dinner Fish was searching for his cigars, GQ his Tennessee cool-aid, and Paco his Russian mineral water. The Pack gathered on the pool deck and the circle was formed. The Circle had an uninvited visitor. Much of the Pack is still speechless this morning. It is a good thing we have the Judge combined with the two Papa cousin attorneys in this group. Our guest was inappropriate at best. Let’s just say that if you can embarrass and frighten perhaps even cause revulsion in this group with your feminine antics then you’ve accomplished a feat for which your mother would not be proud.
Nightmares. Apparently our visitor spent the first part of the night on the lobby couch.
This is the second departure in a row that all riders are at their bikes and all RVers are at their stations EARLY! Fear is an effective motivator!
We rumbled off toward MCC. A 10 minute ride on surface streets to avoid the Memphis Blues traffic. On our approach, we had a left hand turn at a controlled intersection… without a left turn arrow. No problem! Boner to the rescue… when the light turned green he rushed the intersection to actively block the oncoming traffic. We proceeded left without issue. A half a block later, we had to turn left across traffic into the MCC parking lot. Again, our non-police escort actively blocked traffic and we arrived without incident… early. Seems the MCC drone was not airborne to film our arrival. No worries, they can get us on our exit.
As anticipated, our welcome to MCC was warm and gracious. We entered the building like conquering warriors. A banquet room was set, after an invocation by Chef Scot Berry (he cannot take credit for actually cooking this breakfast… providing, yes… but not Chef-ing). The Pack was treated to a receiving line of Memphis’ finest group of employees. This crew is as engaging and professional as they come. The MCC culture is enviable. After the receiving line we grabbed plates and loaded up on a fantastic full southern style breakfast. While eating and milling a bit after we were all but coerced into a morning pre-ride massage. We like this theme! We could return home to our individual lives as entitled snots. (Maureen honey, where is my breakfast and a massage?! (Editor Note: That’s a sure fire way to get a divorce, Paco)
After a great meal and fellowship, Chef Scot Berry and Paco were interviewed on camera by a local TV affiliate. Jillian and Patriot Pack on the air… again! After their 15 minutes of fame Chef Scot Berry gathered the Pack and his team into the theater and officially welcomed us with a multi medial presentation as well as providing the Jillian fund with a much appreciated generous donation. Chef Scot Berry we appreciate your gracious words. Paco was given the mic and the floor. After some words of our own appreciation Paco handed the mic to Papa. Since our entire time in Memphis, with the Berry extended family/MCC team, was Amazing and full of Grace, Papa treated the group to an impromptu rendition of Amazing Grace.
Soon it was time to depart and make our way over to Nashville. We have made the decision to stay on US 70 from Memphis to Nashville. The trick was to navigate our way to US 70 during the Monday morning rush. After discussing with the locals the difference between US 70 and US 72 it was determined the street, Summer avenue, is actually US 70. All we need to do is turn right/east out of the parking lot and stay on that road until our hotel in Nashville. The travel gods are with us!!
We pull out in formation with Boner (liking this duty too much) stopping traffic. The further east we rode the more beautiful the Tennessee countryside became. US 70 kept us in 4th gear the entire day! Our first incident was a mixed flock, 15 strong, of ravens and turkey vultures devouring an armadillo on the side of the road. One of them to the head would be painful so we slowed to a crawl as they dispersed causing a short eclipse.
Back up to speed we rolled. A few miles later a red Camaro was on our right entering the road by crossing in front of us and heading west on US 70. This driver had plenty of time to do this but while still perpendicular in the road the driver decided to admire our beautiful train of 13 motorcycles and and RV. The driver seemed a bit surprised at our sudden slow down and shift to single file. I am sure the driver appreciated our ability to adapt to the local conditions. Bless her heart.
We rolled back up to speed and proceeded east. About 60 miles out Papa roared into a Walmart parking lot with a full station. Time to fuel tanks and empty bladders. The RVers went to Walmart to stock up on provisions. It was a long leisure stop as we had a short day of riding. While waiting and resting a red pickup truck came flying into the gas pumps. Jumpin Jacklyn Flash was driving in a spirited manner with a German Shepard tied… literally tied in the truck bed and was rocking/sliding side to side. As Jumpin Jacklyn Flash couldn’t make the tight corner she did the forward reverse maneuver over and over to get into her fuel pump. All the while the Pack was holding breath as she came within inches of several bikes. Much adrenaline but… no incident.
Word came that Rover wanted us to park in a very precise formation in front of the Mars’ Rover Rover for a photo op. As we have become major entitled minor celebrities it took a bit of wrangling to get into formation. We’ve become boyband-ish. You should see GQ’s green room rider. The good news is that we all have the same agent… Attorney Judge Goldberg. He is keeping our egos in check.
After the photo op we were instructed to do a fly by in formation for our fans. Soon the Mars’ Rover Rover was fired up and in line behind and off we were again. Rolling east through the countryside with Papa out front followed by Slaw, JBro and Boner. Soon this group noticed they were alone… this always brings some anxiety. After a few moments the rest of the pack train came rolling over the ridge and joined us again. Seems Paco had saddle bag issues that were quickly resolved. Again we roll.
About 30 minutes out we were rolling the countryside and we could see a gentleman up on the left coming out of his driveway wanting to turn east ahead of us. As he stuck his nose onto the west bound lane he thought better and waited for the Pack to pass. This is good news as he was hauling a trailer. The bad news is that our train was so long the oncoming traffic and his nose in their lane was going to cause a problem for them and subsequently us. Thankfully he had the ability to revers enough to clear the lanes. The curse and beauty of the traffic gods in the same incident. Another hour out and we pulled into a sleepy Tennessee burg for a bio and snack break. Several locals rolled through slowly to engage the Pack and ask about our mission. We are often asked about our mission and always receive a warm response.
On queue we were treated to snacks and hydration by the RVers and the Make Great America Leasing again. Soon we headed east toward Nashville. Papa has some heightened anxiety as his Apple product and paver bricks had a confrontation… bricks won. Getting to Nashville intimate to visit a T-Mobile facility before gather for dinner was not a paramount mission.
The rolling hills become more dramatic the closer we get to Nashville. As we approach about 30 miles out there is a river/stream we are following hat is used for canoeing. One of the canoe rental vans hauling a trailer of canoes this person had no business hauling was approaching from the east… heading west. Seems it was important for him to turn across the eastbound lane to get these canoes to their intended destination 12 seconds earlier than he would had he waited for us. Again the break check was effective. We were so thankful for this test of braking we saluted this fine example of low IQ driving.
A sort time later we entered the hotel parking lot in need to showers, naps, emails, text messages, social media updating and… Papa’s new phone. Papa, JBro and Boner took off before check in to acquire the new phone. This happened without incident, save for the illegal parking. Boner simply went into the establishment in full biker leather WITH his helmet and faded cover (looked like an MC robbery in progress) to ask permission. The establishment graciously complied. About 30 minutes later the three re-arived at the hotel and checked in. JBro, our personal T-Mobile assistant took care of business. Papa is back on-line.
Speaking of entitled boyband-ish behavior… Our Nashville member, Fish, had Mrs. Fish secure a spot for the Pack at a local blues establishment for later. Most often this place is standing room only and we had a ripped off table in a prime location to hear Nashville musicians jam. This establishment was rockin !!… or Bluesin !!
The entire extended Pack was a bit scattered in this part of town. Each group enjoying their personal time. Watching Paco carefully eat so as not to accidentally gnaw on an fired alligator or catfish (fish with whiskers?) was priceless. He did enjoy the fried green tomato. If they fried pasta he would be in!
There was “variable” elating and drinking. The first return Uber was Judge, Paco and Papa. About an hour later Boner and JBro arrived home. Earlier than expected but they had made the most of their short time. As I write this I hear some were very late caused by the ladies Make Great American Leasing again. This crew goes home tomorrow so they made the most of their last night with the Pack. We hope to soon see the ladies of Make Great American Leasing again. Also we will be losing Bert and the Captain Morgan as they must return to Iowa/Nebraska for family duties.
Kickstands up at 7:45am. We have to travel 1.3 miles to Novatech in the morning! The pack rolls.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.