May 21, 2020: Day 6; It’s Cold, it’s Hot, it’s Windy, it’s Not

Papa was up but taking his time in Oklahoma City. Paco and Papa had set a 7:30am departure with 7:15am meet at bike time. As Papa looked out the window he could see Paco was at the bike, packed, coffee in hand and ready to go. Just at that time Papa’s phone buzzed and it was a text from Paco… “I am ready to roll” with a thumbs up emoji. Papa will be right down…. It is 6:30am.

We gathered early at the bikes. Paco presented Papa with a danish and time to have a sip of coffee. Paco was in a hurry. The cloud cover we were experiencing means menacing weather in Phoenix… In OKC it is just another day. Paco asked if we would get wet. Papa showed him the weather radar.  Moisture clear all day and cloud clear by the time we hit the Texas border.

First order of business is to mount up and get out of town still on interstate 40 West. Once out of the city scrum we will stop for fuel and a bio break. We were able to stop about 20 miles out and accomplish both tasks.

The air is a bit chilly so sleeves are required. This is a welcomed change to the past week of riding. Cool riding and no sun. Just wide open beautifully paved roads. Our next stop will be shortly after we cross into Texas. 50 or so miles down the road we pulled out to pass and realized the truck we were about to pass was moving over as well. Construction ahead and the right lane was closed. The speed slowed and required a downshift. We made our way through the construction zone and as soon as the lanes opened and traffic moved to the right Papa revved up to highway speed and hit 6th gear and settled into cruising more. A quick micro check to be sure Paco’s headlight was behind and nothing… only trucks and cars… no Paco!!! As per protocol this initiates a pull off to the right shoulder with flashers on. First a waiting game and then at the time Papa reached for the phone he recognized the Screaming Eagle Headlight in the distance but approaching quickly.  Paco soon came to a strip beside Papa to explain his transmission shifting locked and he was unable to get out of 3rd gear. Long story short… if it doesn’t fit, force it! After using some knee and hip grease (as opposed to elbow grease) Paco was able to jam through the greats and now the bike was performing as expected.  Paco would keep an eye on this as 100 miles ahead is the Amarillo, Texas Harley dealer… just in case.

Papa and Paco are now seeing the end of clouds and the reemergence of a cloudless sky. As we cross into Texas with warm weather and clear skies we experience wind. It is only windy in Texas when the sun is out. At times Paco and Papa were in a NASCAR left hand turn just to keep moving forward in a straight line. Winds out of the South. Given the abundance of wind farms it seems this is the Texas normal. Papa and Paco approached Amarillo and slowed to city posted speed limits. No distress signal from Paco so Papa proceeded through Amarillo, then past the planted Cadillacs (Cadillac Ranch) and once out of the Amarillo scrum we stopped again for fuel.

This part of Texas and then Eastern New Mexico is sparsely populated. Thus fuel stops are  at a premium. At this stop we actually had to wait 10 minutes for a pump to open. Paco and Papa actually shared the pump to expedite the process. Shared some jersey and hydrated before heading west again. (lots of sharing)

The next treat on interstate 40 west of Amarillo is the hamburger and ribeyes.  The feed lot adjacent the south border of Interstate 40 is packed literally with millions of future burgers and steaks. They literally stand there and eat. Then they dispose of their waste so they can eat again. This is not a statement of carnivore-ism or vegetarian-ism or vegan-ism. It is a comment of improper planning. The prevailing winds are from the south. The feed lot is on the South of the interstate. Therefore logic dictates the perfume that wafts across the interstate is less than pleasant. Had the planners placed the feed lot just several hundred feet to the north there may be more meat eaters in this world!

Both Paco and Papa are having an inner dialog about the need now for sleeves. The weather is heating up but at highway speed there is a definite swamp cooler effect in the dry of west Texas and New Mexico. Sleeves stay on. Next stop, Santa Rosa for fuel. The trek to Santa Rosa is a fight through the wind and a fight to not stop early to doff the long sleeves. Both battles were won. The pair rolled into Santa Rosa for a longer fuel and bio stop. More hydration as well. Waiting behind the two at the pump was another biker. This gent was on his way to Pueblo, Colorado this evening to see his daughter.  Poking out from his jacket was his passenger who’s name Papa cannot remember but did notice the dog wasn’t human. Apparently, this pair have 90,000 miles together. Papa and Paco pulled away from the fuel pumps to park and take a quick rest. Pueblo dude and his companion are a carnival act of sorts. This dog, I will call him Gavin because he is long, has a pointy nose and is not very bright. Gavin doesn’t stand next to his buddy, rather Gavin stands on his shoulders. Expertly walking from left shoulder to right shoulder over the top of this dude’s head. Gavin acted more like a parrot. Prophetic isn’t it?

Gavin’s dude came back over to chat and chat and chat and chat… One 30 second conversation (not exaggerating) included his going to college in Minnesota (Mankato State) at the same time his daughter was there, his first-step- nephew once removed who was a former Minnesota Viking and was caught cheating on his newscaster girlfriend, and his past job at the Hanford facility in Tri Cities  Washington. Perhaps the isotopes in Hanford have done some damage. This pleasant and talkative fellow fired up and left. Just before Papa and Paco departed and fine fit gent approached us from his truck. He is hauling a Harley.  This gent is active Army with a couple of tours in the sand box. He wanted to toss some grief to Navy Paco but really wanted to express his gratitude for what we are doing and how we are honoring his brethren. So the dude who has been in harms way is thanking Papa and Paco. We set him straight and thanked him for his service. Another of so many great exchanges the Pack has every time we are out.

Next stop our hotel in Albuquerque. Sleeves are off. Paco later commented that the lack of bulk actually lessened the effect of the wind. Paco still has much to learn. There is a reason Papa wears tight fitting shirts… and it is not to accentuate his 6 pack.

The wind is still constant but Papa and Paco begins to experience the effect of elevation. Albuquerque is at 7000 ft above sea level. If nothing else changes just the rise in elevation will drop the temps 30 degrees…and the sleeves are off. Papa knows that if we soldier through the pay off is the West side of the mountain will be warm. The East side approaching is down right cold even for an old Minnesota boy.

We approach Eubank Avenue exit where our hotel will just off the exit. Pack members will remember this as our first RV campfire experience. Along with Trash our party crasher. He enlightened us that evening on his love of cats.

This year we are joined by at lest 3 other guests… it is empty! Papa got to his room right away. As mom and dad Papa, who reside in Albuquerque would be his private Uber for a dinner visit at home… properly masked and social distanced for sure. Papa insisted so his sister-in-law, Lady Di, doesn’t make him into a steer.

Paco was stranded at the front desk because the desk clerk continued to pine on and on about wanting a motorcycle. Papa got into his Uber and Paco went to join his scheduled conference call.
Upon his return, Papa delivered another of the elusive grey long necked goose as well as homemade BLT and homemade coleslaw. After a brief greeting of mom and dad Papa the two riders sat back on the outdoor deck for a cocktail.  Paco usually does’t “eat” rather he picks. This night he devoured with authority the BLT and coleslaw. Mom and dad Papa’s efforts were rewarded!

Tomorrow is our final leg of the journey. It will be bitter sweet. This FI ride taught us that what we do need to continue. We will be back in force next year.

On a side note. FI is also the shortest prayer in the arsenal of a devout Jesuit.  What does FI stand for? Two words and the last word is “it”.

May 20, 2020: Day 5; In the Shadow of Graceland

Paco and Papa have an 8:30am arrival time at MCC to meet with Josh and Scot Berry and their team. This is always a treat! Preparing for the day we loaded the bikes, cleaned windscreens, wiped down bugs with the proper tools and accessories provide by Lone Star.  I am sure it wasn’t up to Lone Star’s standards but we did try. We had a wonderful conversation with the staff.  They begin to remember us year after year. It was time to mount up and ride the 12 minutes across east Memphis to MCC on Sumner Avenue.

As soon as we arrived we were greeted.  MCC is always on point. We were ushered into the building and shown the way to the presentation room / dining room. Immediately we noticed the effervescent attitudes and pressed white shirts donned with ties. Ladies were neatly attired. Always noticeable.  Also, we noticed we were greeted with a running PPT showing some pics from last year when we were in full force. We were presented fresh coffee and soon arrived hot breakfast sandwiches. The best way to get bikers back year after year is to feed them. I would say it could be the same for a wayward husband but that could invoke gender inequity claims, so I won’t mention it.

There was lively discussions about the state of America and the world in this COVID environment. Scot and Mike took turns enlightening the guest and gathering of MCC team members. It was great conversation.

Scot and Josh then led Paco and Papa to what I will call the CSCC or Client Services Command Center.  (you can steal it Josh). An entire wall, reminiscent military command and control or NASA was lit up with an array of pertinent real-time information. There was a very sharp and disciplined crew following up and acting upon the information at hand. Josh and Scot can come into this room and with a simple glance can get a pulse on their entire empire. Then with remote drill down capability they can get some detail on the anomalies. All of this powered by FORZA and the creative mind of the Berrys. Well done. Dom’s mom, you need to see this in acton. Actually Scot was begging to see you. (Editor Note: I WILL BE THERE!)

Soon we were to be off… but not. The difficult decision was made to head back west due to Arthur… right after Paco’s 10:00am ten minutes conference call. At 11:00am, Papa started being indiscreet about saddling up. And we were sent off by Josh, Scot, and their film crew. Always a class act.

We jumped on interstate 40 around the north of Memphis and soon headed due west across the mighty Mississippi. As soon as we crossed the river we could see the traffic trouble we experienced last evening had not abated. It was horrible. The air was cool and westbound traffic was heave but moving.  This made for uncomfortable sleeveless riding. Papa pulled off into a truck napping ground to allow Paco to sweater up. Quickly, we were back on interstate 40 westbound with almost a full take of gas. We had filled up just prior to arriving at MCC. Then, as soon as we crossed the interstate 55 interchange our world changed. We were among two full lanes of 18 wheel semi tractor trailers as thick as a freight train traveling at 75 miles per hour. In Papa’s entire travel career he has never seen this amount of truck traffic two lanes wide at such a rate of speed… and it stayed this way until Little Rock two hours later! 

We had enough fuel  west of Little Rock before stopping. Two things happened rather simultaneously. Papa was noticing the complete dearth of trucks. The road was wide open in both lanes and no trucks. It was like a Steven King novel. They were just gone. We can only surmise they all proceeded on interstate 30 toward Dallas. It was unnerving. Also at this time, Paco was waving the “need fuel” gesture. Odd as Papa had 80 miles in reserve. We pulled into the next available fuel stop and wondered after all these days Paco had burned through fuel as a rate much higher than Papa.  Something to keep and eye on. We blamed it on the wind and his faltering Screaming Chicken/eagle. Gordito, the cam’ed 107 just simply out performs the screaming eagle.

Well it seems this next tank of fuel will be on a much more quiet road as we move from central Arkansas and cross into Oklahoma where we ill need fuel next. The temps were rising but the ride was flawless across west Arkansas and into Oklahoma. Clear skies and less wind as well as traffic. We are making good time and soon we were pulling off to our scheduled Oklahoma fuel stop.  Slim pick’ins. A ratty old convergence store in a small rural OK town. Fuel pumps that literally only half worked. Your choice of two version of 87 octane fuel for 1.58/gallon… why not. We took a break on this stop and hydrated, stretched and rested. Next stop, Oklahoma City and our hotel for the night.  Oklahoma roads are on par with Texas. We made good time cruising across eastern Oklahoma to OKC. As we approach the city we can see large bombers (we presume) doing touch and gos at Tinker AFB. As we rode past the north end of the runway, on our left, we could see to our right a converted 707 at about 200 ft elevation coming right at us less than 500 yards out… impressive.  COVID traffic causes rush hour to be pleasant in most cities. We soon made it to the Homewood across the street from a harley dealership.

We checked in and invoked our new policy. Do not go the room as this causes bed paralysis. Instead, since there are only single digit rooms rented and the lobby is empty, we spread out, re-open Lone Star’s famed grey long necked goose and wait for door dash to deliver our Ribeyes, asparagus, corn, wedge salad and calamari for an appetizer.  We are roughing it. Papa went to gather ice and some real glasses and real tableware. Upon return Mrs. Paco was on speaker phone. Mrs. Paco was in rare form citing direct and accurate quotes from the week’s blog postings. We discussed her warm and maternal feelings toward Dom’s mom and her big brother. It truly was a Norman Rockwell painted conversation. (Editor’s Note: Dom’s mom must’ve had a glass of wine or two).

We have an early start and a long day to Albuquerque tomorrow. Papa needs to shut down the dinner and get to the blog. We’ve know Rover of the Mars’ Rover Rover is unreasonable impatient with this blog. What had happened is industry stalwarts Slaw and Dom’s mom have become increasingly impatient.  Papa needs to finish the day before he finishes the blog. That long neck has a way of slowing down the memory recall needed to pen such notorious daily musings.

During another text communication during dinner a question was asked of us.  “what is our take on the ‘pulse’ of America as you drive through?”  \Papa’s first reaction is this…”I feel the people we have including industry people, and just plain folk from all of our stops, are of a collective mind. Their pulse is racing.  Reminiscent of horses in the staring gates just prior to a race…. Let’s get this thing going again!!!  …or they have to pee.”

May 19: Day 4; Still Texas! It’s Arthur’s Fault

 

Tuesday began typically early. Papa went to the lobby to put some bags into his Harley and then hunt coffee. The having-difficulty-trying-to-be-pleasant night manager greeted as Papa walked by. On the way back in, pre-coffee mind you, THDTTBP night manager stopped Papa and exclaimed:  “For future reference it is not ok to park your motorcycles under the canopy. This is not allowed!”  With a sort of too late so say attitude, Papa replied:  “Well your evening person didn’t seem to mind. I apologize for causing you or any of your 12 guests any difficulties. (a 300 room hotel). Great Start!!

Papa went to the fancy coffee machine to have the perfect blend brewed.  THDTTBP night manager collared across the lobby, “I have coffee over here.”  Ok Papa thought and began the trek across the lobby. “Don’t bring your cup!” (I guess he didn’t want my COVID coffee cup to contaminate his gloves.”  Papa politely disposed of the contaminated cup and graciously accepted this COVID free brew… Out of the corner of Papa’s eye he saw a weather report about Arthur off the coast of the Carolinas. He then retired to his room for final check and packing.

Just before the appointed time Papa joined Paco AND Lone Star at the bikes.  Lone Star showed up early and checked the oil in both travel bikes. He brought extra oil and left it with us for future use. Lone Star had polished the windscreens and front fairings of both travel bikes. Lone Star is nice to have around. Before we departed Lone Star presented us with:  a full package of motorcycle washing cloths, a special spray on solution to use with the cloths,  and not only the leftover oil but a plastic bag wrapped oil funnel.  Oh and… Lone Star must have been hunting because he also presented us with an elusive grey long necked goose. This will come in handy in the evening as most hotels are only partially open.

Off we depart on interstate 30 East… directly into the sun.  I mean directly!  So direct, that without shielding from ones hand it was not possible to determine if the traffic light was working let alone green, yellow, or red.  Taking one hand off the handle bars is not easy when stopped.  First we needed fuel so we limped with sun shielding to the local Shell and fueled up. Just that few minutes allows the sun to reposition and it was no longer an issue.

We soon rejoined interstate 30 East and proceeded to Little Rock, Arkansas.  Given we are still without Slaw we again were able to get up to highway speed and not leave the interstate, or even slow down for that matter, until we again needed fuel at the halfway point to our scheduled stops in Little Rock.  Having Lone Star in the rear view is a comfort for Papa. We pulled off to fill up and realized we were fully two hours ahead of schedule. It was unanimous that we find a place to have cup of coffee and lallygag. Something that would be impossible with Slaw in tow. 

Paco proceed to walk over to the McDonald’s to scout the option of in facility dining/coffee sipping. Just ponder that for a moment. This is amazing on two levels. Who would have thought, just 60 days ago, a McDonald’s at 9:00 in the morning would have to be scouted for a seat opening. More importantly, who would have thought Paco had the physical capability to volunteer to walk across two parking lots for this purpose. In past years walking across the lobby was a feat. Paco’s physical shape is 10 years better than he was 7 years ago!

While discussing his striking out at McDonald’s, Paco was beckoned from a truck. This gentleman said the greasy spoon was open and gave very detailed directions. That was great because it was all of 150 yards! We decided a sit-down breakfast would be a welcomed attractions. 

As we pulled into this establishment it was obviously an independently owned reincarnation of what was once a Waffle House.  We were greeted warmly and asked of we wanted smoking or non-smoking seating. WTF?!?!  Yes, the dining room was separated by a social distancing table.  Smokers on the left and non-smokers on the right. This was going to be great food!

We had a marvelous breakfast. Smothered and covered eggs, by a different name. Same with the hash-browns. No toast… we had biscuits along with the requisite gravy. It was a stayallday breakfast.

Before leaving we asked to have a photo op in the smoking section.  Paco was accosted by a Vietnam era Air-force Flyboy. After some flyboy vs squid banter the flyboy noted that he new some Marines who were accused of being part of the Navy… “We are… the best part!” they retorted.  We saddled up and roared off the the Southside of Little Rock and the berg of Benton. Still being an hour ahead osf schedule even after the retooled waffle house, we stopped for fuel and hydration and email and text and leg stretching.

About 45 minutes later we fired up the engine and proceeded north two exits to find our way to ACDI in Benton Arkansas. Josh and the ACDI crew were there to greet us.  A little anti-climactic given we had only three riders this year but a wonderful greeting nonetheless. We proceeded into the ACDI lobby to find good people and good snacks. After some small talk it was revealed a masseuse… no, a massage therapist would be arriving soon to take care of each of us. Papa ran to the door like a puppy waiting for her arrival. Lone Star got shy and Paco… no no not me. No way. Not with my back. Never going to happen.

Soon Piper the not-masseuse Massage Therapist arrived with her fancy chair and set up in there direct center of ACDI’s lobby.  Before the chair was assembled Papa was climbing aboard. Piper was a 47 year old singer mother of three (now two) boys and was assembled by god in a proper manner. Papa soon found out she has the fingers and hands of an olympic power lifter.  When whimpering was heard Papa ignored the peer pressure and winced to have the pressure backed off a bit. Soon it was time for Lone Star because we already know Paco will have none of this.

Lone Star is tougher than Papa.  He still whimpered as a result of the pressure but didn’t back it down. Texas Strong I suppose. We continued to learn about Piper’s life and family…because Paco was as inquisitive as Geraldo Rivera. Lone Star finished and Paco decided to position himself into the chair for a photo op only.

Once in the chair Piper accepted the challenge of keeping Paco locked in and begin his massage. The uttering of a blissful Paco are priceless and… unaided by Papa’s Irish embellishing. Someone does have a video in an evidence locker.  Remember this is all on the light of day in the ACDI lobby with a rather large peanut gallery.

Massage is hard!

This where they have a hole for your face?

“How’s your back Paco?” I’m more worried about my font than my back right now.

You’re good at this.

“what’s the difference between a masseuse and a massage therapist?”  Happiness.

After Paco’s ending we prepared to saddle up and head to Datamax but before we gathered at the Ikes for a photo up!  We were asked to go out of our way two blocks and enjoy the stuck-in-a-magical-time Downton Benton.  It was cool.

Off we rode to the other side of Little Rock and our buddy Barry Simon at Data max. The Pack-lite were greeted warmly as usual by Barry’s team. We were invited into a demo room for some refreshments along with a very cool carry bag full of goodies. This was a great little treat.  Barry’s team and Pack-Lite had a spirited discussion about the current state of the USA. We are in very interesting times and makes for some great discussion. As the group loosened up we heard Barry talking about some less than stellar decisions his son made when in high school… haven’t we all!!!!  Then Barry commiserated a bit and gave us a detailed account of a Barry indiscretion. All I will say is that it included Barry, a bum, his kitchen and his back porch.  When Hollywood produces this story, Joe Peci will play Barry and Brad Pitt will play the role of  Dr. Fauchi.

Soon it was time to depart for Memphis.  Lone Star would return directly to Dallas so the OG’s are off to Memphis alone.

Throughout the day Papa has been keeping an eye on Arthur off the eastern coast. The final two stops: Jeyser, West Virginia and Richmond, Virginia will be drenched in hurricane induced weather on Thursday. Following this Bach of weather the remnants of Arthur are scheduled to bye in that area for a few days.  Heavy rain and wind. Mind you, the OG’s are world famous for riding through the Oklahoma City Hurricane of 2013. The truth is we were blissfully unaware the severity of the black storm clouds ahead of us. We didn’t realize why the passers by were honking and gesturing for us to leave the highway.  We finally did and watched the carnage happen in realtime on a television at the OKC Harley Dealership.

Proceeding east from Memphis our heading back West will be an evening decision.

We travel very quickly and efficiently from Little Rock toward Memphis.  We were scheduled to arrive just before 5:30pm so we could get ready for our dinner with Josh and Scot Berry. Papa also had a scheduled phone call at that 5:30pm mark.  We were in perfect weather and moving ahead of schedule… until West Memphis, Arkansas. Literally less than 5 miles from the interstate 55 south exit that takes us around the south end of the metro to our hotel.  Not just heavy traffic but dead stopped traffic.  Then creep.  Then dead stop.  It is 4:45 and we have some time to give.  Having moved forward 300 yards in 30 minutes it became painfully obvious we would miss both appointments.  Paco and Papa decided to move the bikes to a merge land shoulder and shut them down to notify those waiting fur us that we need alternative plans. The Berry’s were most gracious but Papa’s phone call could not be postponed.

It was decided to just wait on the shoulder, take the call there and then get back into traffic. This worked surprisingly well. Off we went and jumped into the scrum for stop and go but more stop.

Not knowing how long would last or if it was accident related or construction related we pulled an audible.  We cruised off the next exit and made our way to US 70 and proceeded until this would merge onto interstate 55 South. We hoped the traffic was unique to interstate 40 and after the split we. Would be fine…. Geniuses we are!!  Interstate 55 was clear and moving above the posted limit. Soon we crossed the might Mississippi River, took the old-school hard right on the Tennessee side and proceeded unscathed to our hotel. We were too late for our Berry dinner so we checked into our hotel and never left the lobby. We decided to field dress the grey long necked goose Lone Star provided and decided a delivered pizza would compliment well.  Ashley the hotel check in person graciously allowed us to pack in ice the fowl Lone Star had captured.  It turned out to be great evening. By all accounts we will be heading west tomorrow. Papa had no interest in explaining to Mrs. Paco just why Papa would lead Paco willingly and knowingly into a hurricane.

If I’s lying I’m dying. Just after leaving the hotel in Rackwall, Texas, Papa fired up the Harley sound system blaring Apple Music’s versions of classic RocknRoll.  Coming out of the speakers was the Scorpions, Rock You Like A Hurricane.  Seems someone was telling us something.

May 18, 2020: Day 3; Still All Texas, All the Time

 

2:00am – never again with the sake.

4:00am – OMG…never ever again with the sake. Have too many people to apologize for the dream from which I just awakened. Sorry Mom!

This morning Paco had an issue with his protective cover. It was not nearly as egregious as Papa’s the prior day so I won’t mention it in the blog.

Paco and Bat Man (Bruce Wayne of Hilliard Office Solutions)

We have a 7:45am departure time. We will travel just 10 minutes to the Hilliard dealership offices in north Midland Texas. We were met with a warm welcome.  Bat Man Bruce Wayne was there to greet us…what more can we ask for?

 

 

Paco, Brent Hilliard, and Papa

It was great meeting the staff and leadership at Hilliard.  After a productive conversation we were off the north east Dallas. The actual town is Rockwall.

We roared off and found our way to interstage 20 East. After a few miles we stopped to fuel. This was a quick stop. A little hydration but then quickly back on interstate 20 East. Traffic was constant and this part of Texas lost its federal highway funds in the mail. Much of it under construction and the other was unfinished. Many many miles of grooved concrete. This is quite pleasant on a two wheeled Harley traveling at 80ish MPH. 

Given our freedom to travel more than 80 miles before Slaw would beg for a pee stop, we make good time.  Even with construction, Texas sees no need to slow traffic… and the Texans comply.  From our first fuel stop we have 340 miles to travel. That means if we can get 170 miles before our next fuel sop then it will be the final fuel stop of the day before arriving at our hotel. The Harley GPS navigation was invoked at about the 160 miles mark and showed a fuel stop at exit #321. There seems to be another one at exit #330 but no need to push it at we are passing mile marker 310 and need fuel soon. We exited at #321 and headed into the little village… at least in 1935, per WWII, it was a village. This place liked like a movie set for a post apocalyptic war epic, staring Mel Gibson and Tina Turner.  Suffice it to say, there was an open fuel station.  Papa led the way on the service road that took and odd adjustment to the right. When Papa stayed forward in a straight manner he soon realized he was heading into a field ready for deer hunting season. He quick gestured to the trailing Paco so he could avoid hunting season. After a careful narrow pitched road u-turn on suspect pavement Papa was reunited with Paco and we found our way back to interstate 20 east and the much better equipped sit #330.   All is well and all will be well.

This fuel stop was also a great time for bio  and hydrations stop. Paco was approached by a retired Army Infantryman and asked if Paco was retired Navy.  The dark blue boldly stated Navy cover was a dead giveaway. This grunt decided to wonder allowed if all this COVID stuff was “crazy as f…”?

We consumed our beverage and had some jerky before firing up and heading directly to our hotel some 165 miles ahead.

The most direct route would have been to exit interstate 20 onto interstate 30 East.  The rub is that this direct route takes us into both downtown Fort Worth and Dallas. These are concrete cluster (what the grunt said) that we planned to avoid. Interstage 20 continued to get progressively more traffic dense and at one point, due to an accident, the traffic came to a complete stop. Papa led the charge to the left shoulder and proceeded onward past the stopped automobiles and trucks. Once past the accident point we “attempted” to merge back onto the left travel lane. Papa moved into a space large enough for a semi tractor and trailer. Seems the trailing Jeep Cherokee was non-paused with our move and kept his speed in a manner disallowing Paco his ability to merge. Before this became a more serious problem Paco was able to merge and did so.

We proceeded on interstate 20 all the way to the East side of Dallas and then merged onto 635 north for a few miles before finally joining interstate 30 Northeast toward Little Rock. This took us across the man-made Lake Ray Hubbard. It is beautiful and a cool calming ending to our hard day of riding.  Without incident we made our way to our hotel and parked under the canopy.

For our check-ins we were greeted by a wonderful check in person with an A+ attitude. She welcomed us and we were soon headed to our respective rooms.  It is approaching 4:00pm, this we have time for a shower before Lone Star and Clamidio (editor note: what a terrible name for poor Jim D’Emidio) arrive to take us to dinner.

Paco, Papa, Clamidio, Lone Star (Left to Right)

We met in the lobby at 5:30am to find Lone Star waiting for us. He will join us on Tuesday as we head to Little Rock for two stops and then on to Memphis for a dinner and hotel. Clamidio arrived and had made the mistake of being out of uniform. Pack members, in good stead, know to never meet other Pack members without the appropriate attire. Worse yet, he had  on a golf shirt!  The one he wears on his course when he uses his 4 wheeled kiddy cart to haul his clubs around the course. The same course where, he admitted,  he avails himself the feminine bathroom on the course because he believes it to be the cleaner of the two.

Lone Star and Paco enjoyed a wonderful meal, paid for by Clamidio. Clamidio and Paco bickered like they were ensconced in a 40 year marriage. They talked about old times and argued the details. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. They talked about hypotheticals which always leads to clear thinking. They talked politics and swapped industry anecdotes. The most poignant being a story about Clamidio stopping on the GW parkway in front to the Pentagon (class move post 911…. Good thing they weren’t the victim of a drone strike). This stop was to accommodate GQ’s need to exorcise the overindulgence of the evening’s beverages… all while with neatly cuffed pant legs. 

Perhaps the highlight of the entire ride was Clamidio’s heartfelt gift to his long time brother from another mother,  Paco. In a wonderful pink gift bag was a decorative board, suitable for adorning any self respecting Harley. This board is adorned with a big read heart and the following exclamation: I AM A Mermaid Unicorn Fairy Princess. Paco was overjoyed with the sentiment and perhaps a bit verklempt. Lone Star will find a way to affix this pretty board to Paco’s bad ass Harley.

Best line of the night began with Paco prefacing his comment with “Maybe I’m too old…”. Clamidio immediately retorted: “you are”.

The foursome found a way to share a night cap beer in the lobby without violating too many social distancing guidelines. It was truly a wonderful evening capping off a great day.

Tomorrow is a busy day but we are blessed to be able to make this trip and astounded at the support for y’all.

May 17, 2020: Day 2; All Texas All the Time

Sunday started early, very early because we, badass bikers, never saw 9:15pm the night before and neither sleep much more than 5 hours in a row. Good news, it allowed for some time to think about the day before. It also allowed for a bit earlier start than anticipated. Our departure began with an ominous “sign.”  As Papa donned his protective cover he noticed it didn’t fit as normal.  As he adjusted he grabbed at the strap only to notice someone had moved the strap to the left side… or… he had just placed his protective cover on backwards!  This was quickly remedied and we were off.

We begin the day with little fuel so we planned on stopping for fuel just as we got to the south edge of town. We pulled in and filed up and properly hand sanitized before mounting up and heading on I10 East in a southerly manner where soon the posted speed limit will be 80.

Papa was looking forward to winding through the West Texas mountains.

Hey New Mexico! I know why your interstate 10 is a crumbling mess. Seems Texas got your federal highway funds. I10 is brand new concrete as smooth as glass for hundreds of miles. Paco and Papa can make great time with cool morning sunshine, almost nil wind, beautiful road, light traffic and the aggressive posted speed limit. Our first stop is 160+ miles. This will put at the first fuel stop after we leave interstate 10 and merge onto interstate 20. Papa researched earlier in the morning to make sure there was a fuel stop shortly after our merge. Using the built in Harley-Davidson GPS navigation Papa searched for the nearest fuel stop and Harley determined this was either 60 miles behind us or 70 miles in front of us. We had 35 miles of fuel at best.

We brought down the speed a bit to conserve fuel but with a posted 80 it gets dangerous much lower than that. The good news is that Google was dead-on accurate and Harley navigation is outdated. Disaster thwarted.

At this fuel stop we practiced proper hand sanitizing. We also chewed on some jerky while hydrating. We also noted how far we can go between fuel stops when Slaw is not along… just sayin.

We are a few hours ahead of our projected schedule so we decided to head first to the Midland/Odessa Harley dealer before we get to our Midland hotel.  We made this short detour and noticed as we rode by that this dealer is closed and it didn’t seem as though it was only for the day. Soon, we arrived at our hotel in time for a much anticipated nap before our evening’s festivities.

After a grand nap it was revealed that due to unforeseen circumstances Paco and Papa were on their own for dinner. This lead to a google search turning up only the Tilted Kilt. As luck would have it they did not answer because the automated voice said the number had been changed and no new one was available. The front desk suggested Volcano.  Volcano is one part Japanese Sushi and one part Chinese cuisine. We walked the 100 meters only to find out they have no dine in capability. The attendant behind the plastic protector said he could not only get us a takeout meal but he could also send along two personal bottles of sake. We gathered our meal along with our sake and headed back to the hotel lobby for a delightful asian fusion meal with wonderful sake.

All in all it was a perfect riding day.  Very little drama and we arrives safe.  …and sake can sneak up on you.

Today was a delightfully staid day. We continue to be astounded at the number of people following us even though we have no GQ on our ride this year.  We may ride one day with our trousers cuffed in his honor. Next year we will bring the cuffed one. There seems to be much anticipation for our daily update… some anticipate (demand it early) more than others.  Monday will be a great day. We will be thinking about all of you:

Family

Friends

Old Friends

Hollywierds

Industry supporters

Industry followers

Pack Members riding in spirit

Most important, those of  you who follow while thinking about a loved one who is suffering and/or who as served.

May 16, 2020: Day 1; Kick-off & Kickstands Up

Day 1

Mother Nature blessed us with a most perfect riding morning. Not a cloud in the sky and temps perfect for short-lived riding across Arizona and New Mexico on into Texas.

The OG Patriot Pack: Paco & Papa

Before we begin, we gathered at Paco’s home or better, I should say, Mrs Paco’s home.

A scheduled “kick off” Zoom meeting was planned. Again, with the day 1 theme, we were blessed to have Bishop Staker via Zoom to bless our ride for travel as well as COVID safety. To our surprise over 50 Zoomers logged in from around the country to hear a few words and our blessing. Even The Judge bestowed a Jewish blessing. Rover, of the world famous Mars Rover Rover  bestowed a more secular blessing as well. Thank you, everyone, it truly touched our hearts. We were also blessed with a few in-person persons. This portended a day with a few welcomed wanted normalities. 

Even the Paco neighborhood showed up to give us a horse and horse-n-buggy parade. It was an amazing morning.

Papa with his CDC approved mask (lol).

After some quick hugs and kisses we were  off! Down the dusty (literally) trail.  Soon we headed south on Scottsdale road, onto the 101, merged with he 60 and headed east. Head East is generally overlooked by class rock radio.

Our first stop was Globe, AZ. We needed to top off the tanks for the more sparsely populated southeast Arizona as well as hydrate and disinfect!  New normal? As we consumed our electrolyte infused beverage we commented on the amount of traffic we encountered. This was unexpected on a COVID era Saturday morning. We also commented on a group of teenagers with no where to go and not enough to do in a parent’s car at the gas station. Thank goodness we were NEVER in that predicament and as such never got into any adolescent trouble!!! Time to head southeast.

Next stop, Lordsburg. I have always thought it takes an interesting ego to name a town Lordsburg. Godsville, Messiahstown, Alhambra, …wait, there is one of those in California. But I digress.

Lordsburg was a stop for fuel and a short break. Here we noticed the COVID changes. Most people wearing masks, social distancing being observed in a stringent manner but, at the same time, typical acknowledgement and greetings from the locals and passers-through. We also commented on how well Slaw was doing this year. No cramping or visited to an ER. This is a true blessing. Also we had not yet heard Gordito complain about our direction or speed. Wonderful!! Although either Papa or Paco needs to clean windshields and check the oil on Sunday morning because Lone Star is on strike.

As we roared East on Interstate 10 we still have beautiful clear skies but the typical New Mexico wind out of the south. Truck traffic seems normal. Just before dropping down into the Las Cruses valley we were deleted by a dust devil and always has a tendency to snap a riders senses back to 100%. Paco is constantly reminded of how grateful he is for finally getting a big boy seat and a big boy windscreen. This makes all the difference in the world on the long haul. It also makes all the difference in the evenings and subsequent days because of the lesser amount of wear and tear.

Soon we are crossing our second state line and find ourselves in Texas about 15 miles from downtown El Paso. Merging onto I10 in going our direction was a large group of bikers, most of whom had high rise bars. Just due to speed and traffic, Paco and Papa ended up in their group while some of their group were cut off and separated form their pack. In some areas of the country this is considered bad form. In an effort to A: avoid downtown El Paso and B: extricate ourselves from the foreign pack we took an exit that puts us on a relatively new bypass for El Paso. It is also a very cool steep mountain climb up and down that takes us around the north of El Paso and ultimately to the southeast side one exit from our hotel. As we made our way around the bypass it did not go un-noticed that one of our earlier biker brethren came flying through at a speed much greater than the flow. He made a quick glance and moved on. Certainly he wasn’t a scout looking for any mischievous foreign biker gangs! The Patriots Pack can be an intimidating bunch LOL.

Our hotel was welcoming and the staff was wonderful. Some social distancing measures and a request to wear masks at least in the lobby to protect the front desk people. This seems reasonable. It was nice to hear the families in the pool. We checked in and went to our rooms for a quick clean up and then back to the lobby to uber to the steakhouse. Who knew that would be a possibility in this era? This was wonderfully normal with a twist of the new normal. Our Uber driver, Irma, was taking a long time to get going form her prior stop and the 7 minutes travel time was still 7 minutes 10 minutes later. A quick zoom of the Uber map and sure enough Irma was in Target when she accepted the call. Multitasking I presume. 9 minutes later she arrived and there was perhaps a Target bag or two in the car. Our steakhouse was all of 3 minutes away so the joke in on her… but now really because Paco, ever the gentleman, gave her an old fashioned tip. It was this green rectangle thingy he had stuck in his pocket.

Paco with his hand sanitizer

As we approached the front door Paco stopped us and pulled out his bottle of hand sanitizer. Rover and Mrs Paco should be proud. This is the solution I almost mistook for sunscreen earlier in the day. Why else would Paco be offering me a bottle of a sticky solution at a few stop?! We cleansed ourselves and entered the restaurant where the host and hostess stoped us to first stand at the sanitizing station before entering. We pleaded this would be redundant and when Paco produced our bottle of hand sanitizer they acquiesced. We were given the options of a booth or a table. The tables were at about 1/3 the normal density.  There were servers, and a bar and diners and bar patrons. It was refreshing. Who knew this would be a highlight of the day?  We were given disposable menus. Our napkin wrapped tableware was itself wrapped in cellophane. Servers all had masks. This is new normal?  What was normal were the cocktails, bread and chips and our ribeyes.  It was the best B-/C+ ribeye I have ever tasted. Just to be back in an almost normal dinner-out setting.

                      No Masks? No problem?

At the end of dinner we ordered another Uber. This time Carlos was 18 minutes away! Oh well, we can just continue our conversation. As we see Carlos is approaching we exited the restaurant to find a “police” situation on the street in from to the parking lot. This was an airbag deployed accident. A Ford Fusion was half on curb and half in the street facing the wrong direction in traffic. The driver was standing and speaking to a masked officer. It was a curious situation as there was no other vehicle  and we couldn’t imagine how this dude was able to get his auto into this position unaided. Carlos arrived and we were off. It so happens that our route of travel took us by the accident and we say the other side of the car. There obviously had been another vehicle involved. Carlos in English said “hit and run.”  Really? Are there many of those here? “Yes, many.”  Mexico is 500 yards directly ahead on this road. They just ride into Mexico and forget about it. Can I say that I prefer Scottsdale as a place to live?

We arrived safely back at the hotel, scheduled our morning departure, used our hand sanitizer and headed off to bed! Day one down.

May 15, 2020: Day T-1; The OG Patriot Pack Rides for Freedom

24 hours to kickstands up. Today is preparation day. At our advanced

“wisdom” it should be Preparation H day! Leathers, check. Riding glasses, check. Sunscreen, check. Statins, check. Pain relief, check.Antacid, check. Calcium Channel Blockers, check.  Monkey Butt, better hope Paco has his!

The ride begins tomorrow (Saturday 5/16) morning. We’re the Michael
Jordans of riding… COVID can’t stop us, it can only hope to contain us!

I swear it is true that even Hollyweird (did I type that out loud?) is following us.  Well it is apparent that my inner dialog has appeared. I know the proper term is inner monolog but in this case there is clearly two voices in here.

This year we ride for no specific reason other than to show support and solidarity to the generous sponsors and donors who have followed us and even hosted us in years past.

May 25, 2019: A Very Special Guest Arrives

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 Gorman, Bill McLaughlin, Step Cisne, Michael Stramaglio (Left to Right)

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.

Signed,

Papa

May 24, 2019: A Day in May

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.

Toni (Cobb Technologies), GQ (David Clearman) & K-Fly (Kent Gaiger)

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.

LEO, Slaw, Sam Stone

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.

Slaw and Phil Boatman (Lexmark)

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.

Signed,

Papa

May 23, 2019: Did We Win?

Thoughts:  We push the riding a bit hard each day as we have scheduled stops.  We never lose sight of the fact that we have a two fold mission. Raise awareness for our Veterans and to raise awareness & funds for the Jillian fund.  Riding hard causes the last 50ish miles each day to seem lie 250! Seems the days never end. Then we wake and realize yesterday we completed our 8th day. Time goes by so fast yet at times is stands still.

Morning in Charlotte… Who the heck was Charlotte? Seriously who was she?  Charlotte, NC. Virginia has Charlottesville, Charlottetown, Charlottesburg. If you’re from Charlotte are you a Charlatan?  (deep thoughts by Papa, the ride must be getting to him). After 9 hours of solid sleep Papa was ready to go early. The Pack had a normal evening. By accident an industry trainer for Sharp corporation had reserved a room in the same hotel. She had been following the Pack on social media and joined for a drink. The Pack were at the bikes early. Again we needed a forced hold so as not to arrive too early to our scheduled destination, Systel. GQ did some recon for our exit from the hotel. We would need to: A: Exit uncontrolled and cross traffic to turn left. Recon determined a hard medium so plan B was hatched. We would need to exit the back entrance and turn right with traffic but we had less than 30 yards to get across the two straight lanes to the far left hand turn lane.

Boner was up for blocking traffic, then the Mars’ Rover Rover would stall almost perpendicular in the road as the Pack rode by into the turn lane. We would admittedly disrupt morning rush for 30 seconds before safely proceeding through our intersection. The oncoming dump truck was nonplused. Actually challenging us as Boner pulled out but he stayed firm.  A pickup did go around just before the Mars’ Rover Rover blocked and the Pack proceeded through only to find a red light.  Picture: The Mars’ Rover Rover is perpendicular in three lanes of traffic. Pack-ers are on either side with a couple up behind the first left turner… a small Toyota. Boner standing tall against the dump truck, all suspended until we get a green arrow. After a seemingly endless wait the arrow turned green and we all proceeded without further issue. Plan B worked! We had less than a mile before we saw Systel off to our right. We pulled into the business park to find a shiny black SUV marking the parking lot we needed to use. Very smart. The logistics involved in getting us to all these stops is amazing. Jenna Stramaglio and team All Covered back in Arizona have done some wonderful coaching of our stops. As we rolled in the Keith Allison and his Systel team came out for the photo op and greeting. Once inside we were blessed with hospitality, morning grub and a tour/explanation of the Systel empire. Another great group of humans from a wonderful industry.  Again we collected a generous donation.  Paco was teated to a video and photo montage of the entire Systel extended family.  Hospitality over the top!!

Soon Boner and JBro departed. JBro has a Skype appointment in the afternoon. It was decided they would depart separately and proceed the 300 miles directly to Richmond so they could check into the hotel and he could prepare. Boner was standing tall escorting him.

Soon after the balance of the Pack departed as they would be making an additional stop in Marion VA adding 150 miles to the day. We were given specific departure instructions so the Systel team could gather video and photo shots of our departure. Soon we were in the Charlotte rush heading north westerly on I 77. Just gettin onto the on ramp we encounter another hurried Charlatan who was nonplused with our train of bikes and the Mars’ Rover Rover… what has happened to southern hospitality on the road?!

We proceeded north without much issue and the Pack stayed close. 50ish miles out of the Charlotte metro we pulled into a fuel stop.  Our Mars’ Rover Rover provided our hydration and snacks. This never gets old!! Judge Goldberg could have a second career as a restaurant hostess.

Paco had a call to make verifying his ride’s ride back to Scottsdale after our Rolling Thunder parade on Sunday. Many of the Pack-ers will fly home and wait for their steeds to arrive by truck. Some of us will man up and ride home.  Soon the Pack saddled up and get back on I77 north. Just south of the North Carolina/Virginia border we exited I77 and proceeded northwest on US 21.  We had about 75 miles to Marion and our shoehorned stop to greet a new FORZA client.  US 21 turned into, eventually even with an unscheduled detour, US 18.  Combined these two roads gave us an epic 90 minute ride through the North North Carolina and Southern Virginia mountains and rolling hills. This made our trip to Marion fully worth the extra 3 hours! We arrived in Marion and Hungate offices. The little town was a quaint throw back in time. As we were connoitering  in the parking lot a local stopped and collared: “Thanks for stopping and for what you do!” Then she drove off. This happens over and over again. Even the hotel staff along the way remember us from previous years.

Kieth along with Eric and the staff at Hungate were gracious enough to provide sandwiches and cookies. It is fully appreciated. Slaw donned his journalist hat and interviewed the Newest of the FORZA family.

In the middle of our lunch Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne (Drew Cataldo & Adam Rosenthal) arrived from the FORZA sales team. It was a delight to greet the front line personnel! Then it was time to leave… but not before the photo op!  We would be proceeding north on I81 now.  Trucker alley.  Steep up and downs all the way to I 64 east at Staunton about 125 miles north.  We roared onto the interstate and found our rhythm. Soon Paco, our tail-gunner, came roaring up to the front to give the phone call signal. Oops!  We had previously scheduled time for him to make a call. We were fighting truckers who think their 70 foot Ferrari’s are able to make last second lane changes and pass on the hill. We were close to an off ramp with fuel so we pulled off and topped off the tanks. Paco made his call and all is well. We soon roared back onto I81 to fight our rolling cowboys of commerce. We road hard for another hour or so and our formation was beginning to become loose. This is a sign of fatigue. Papa found an exit and we pulled off for hydration and fuel. We were missing the Mars’ Rover Rover as we were separated due to traffic. We extended the stop a bit to cool off and hydrate. This should be our last scheduled stop before the hotel. We received confirmation JBro and Boner made it up safely to our Richmond hotel. At this stop we ran into two bikers traveling from Tucson.

We roared back onto I81 and headed north another 40 miles before heading wast on I64 for the final 125 miles of our 450 mile day. The temp was 84, a full 10 degrees cooler than earlier in the afternoon. A welcomed break. The truck traffic was lighter but traffic in general was heavy. We stayed in formation and kept moving on. Now and then Paco would move us over into the right lane to be courteous to our fellow travelers. Finally we were on the outskirts of Richmond and a couple of exits before our hotel. The Pack moved into the exit lane and made the tight wrap around exit and left at the first light with our hotel in sight. We pulled in to find JBro and Boner parked in formation and greeting us upon as we arrived. Kickstands down and Mikey’s Dad rushed up to Papa loudly asking… “Did we win!”  Seem the pace was not his favorite.  Laughs and hugs ensued! That will be the phrase of the day.

It was after 6:30pm so the Pack decided to check in and gather quickly to walk to dinner. Our favorite Richmond spot, Mama Cuchina’s and our favorite server, Tanya. Most made their way efficiently. Literally out the back of the hotel and behind the next hotel. Perhaps 70 yards. Several of the new Pack-ers made the mistake of following the veteran New York members and ended up in South Richmond (exaggeration perhaps) before making their way to the restaurant. The Pack fully gathered around our private and annually regular table. Tanya didn’t disappoint. Actually Lloyd and Harry arrived to join us as well. We put them at a table in the corner but Tanya took great care of them.

To our delight and complete surprise Jim Dotter of Virginia Business, along with his family, were in the restaurant wondering who these rowdy bikers were. It took a moment for each group to recognize the other. This required several photo ops!  Also arriving were a couple of ladies from Make Great American Leasing again.  Is this group spying on us?! When the moment waned, the Pack turned to recognizing our long-term server Tanya. Paco commanded the restaurant to  attention and introduced Tanya followed by his typical over-the-top introduction of Papa. Papa then serenaded Tanya and the restaurant with an Italian love song.

Soon the restaurant part of the evening ended the the Pack slowly and in shifts made their way back to the hotel. It was at this time JBro and Boner informed us they had repaired JBro’s mysterious Harley ailment. We would ride 600 miles and his odometer would read 1000. We stopped at  the dealer north of Atlanta two days ago and they told him the diagnostics would require too much time and he should have his local dealer look at it. This will cause his bike to lose value at an accelerated rate. Well… when JBro and Boner took off alone JBro fired up his GPS navigation to lead them to the hotel. After the lovely Harley voice announced for the third of fourth time that he had 3 kilometers to the next exit the lightbulb went on! At the next stop he went into preferences and switched back to miles and… all was well! Fixed!

Now the Pack was fully gathered and we retired to the pool deck for the circle of trust.  It was already late so after about 20 minutes this group fully retired to bed!  Day 8 is in the books.

Cobb, Stone’s, and our Nation’s Capital tomorrow!

Signed,

Papa