Saturday the 26th

Not sleeping well yet again, my wife and I awoke at 5am before our other roommates, and got ready for the day. Our good friends John and Shiz found us walking around the hotel, and we proceeded to find the hotel’s provided breakfast not being as good as we would have liked. We also found the hotel staff, outside of front desk staff, not to be good English speakers and incapable of answering basic questions such as a request for extra towels or where to get things like toothpaste or even a pickle to munch on.

Saturday was a free day for everybody, to make their own arrangements for the day however they liked. Our plans were to grab six friends, and visit Arlington National Cemetery as well as at least one local Harley Davidson dealership for the requisite purchase of a shot glass for the collection. We had gotten fuel again before returning to the hotel the night before, so we were all ready to go.

Arlington was extremely popular this morning, and our motorcycles quickly went into parade mode (running on one cylinder to reduce heat reaching the rider) as we slowly inched our way around the Washington Mall and onto the Cemetery grounds. Parking was a pain, as the attendants were of not much help, could not properly work the gates, and could have cared less about the tens of thousands of bikers who were sweltering on the asphalt.

I had promised my boss at work that if we visited Arlington, that I would try to visit her dad’s gravesite and get some pictures for her. Her dad was buried there in 2007 with full military honors, having retired with the rank of LTC (Lieutenant Colonel); and she was wanting a nice photo of the permanent marker that had been installed. My wife and friends went on a tour to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well many other interesting sights including the Robert E. Lee Memorial, the Challenger and Iran Rescue Mission stops. I decided to do something personal for somebody that would mean more to them than what a tour would personally fulfill for me.

Knowing the name of my boss’s father, I spent ninety minutes in three different lines to narrow down the location and how to find the gravesite. The final clerk was very hopeful, and advised walking to the location versus moving the bike from its location and trying to get back to that location later to park again by my friends. With temperatures already in the high 80s, I set off for a nice long walk to the correct section…which with what is typically my type of luck, was located at the furthest corner from the visitors center I had spent so much time already.

The thirty minutes each way of walking allowed me to get a good feeling for the volume of individuals interred there, and realizing that this was just one of many national cemeteries forever protecting those military personnel that had fought in wars to protect the things many of us take for granted. Eventually finding the site, photos were taken, the marker was cleaned, and a few words were said that I know my boss wouldn’t mind being spoken. Finding some shade under a tree away from any markers, I texted my boss a few words along with one of the unedited pictures I had just taken. The walk back felt good, knowing that with Memorial Day just two days away, and the loss of her father so recent, I was able to do something that meant so much for somebody I consider not only a boss, but a friend.

Having rehydrated with several trips to one of the drinking fountains at the visitor center, I sat in some of the limited shade and waited for my friends to return. We exited the cemetery, and rode about 15 miles to the HD of Washington dealership, only to find that they were out of free food and water already at about 2PM. Parking was horrendous in poorly managed nearby lots, traffic was outrageous, and the crowds surrounding the dealership seemed to just be taking up space. We didn’t see a lot of buying of anything, other than some people that were happy to pay $30 for the “official” t-shirt; something none of us were willing to do. There was just volumes of people there, but nothing really worth observing. The salesgirl we talked to said they didn’t have the volume of shot glasses needed, so of course I was unable to buy one.

Returning to hotel, a side run was made for fuel for those that needed it, as well as cold beer from a local 7-11 convenience store. When beer is seen, other riders seem to come out of the woodwork, like ants attracted to cookie crumbs. It never fails to amaze me how many people approach us when we return from a beer run to ask where they can buy some. Seriously, every time with large groups of riders, five to ten people ask this question. Why they don’t ask at the local fuel station or even at the front desk never makes sense to me. We come across as kings of riches when we carry beer back to our rooms, or out on a patio to enjoy.

My wife got dehydrated earlier in the day and at the time of this writing, is sleeping at 8:30pm. She grabbed a cool shower on our return and drank a lot of liquids. Our favorite is Gatorade’s G2, as it is loaded with electrolytes for replenishment. Our roommates went out to Olive Garden with one of their local family members. Quiet evening so far, and I hope it stays that way. Wake up call is set for 4am, as we meet at 5:45 to head out to do the demonstration ride tomorrow.

Wireless at the hotel cost $10 per day. I refuse to pay for an Internet connection after paying hundreds of dollars for the room. So, this entry (and Friday’s) will get posted some time in the next couple of days when free offerings are found. Needless to say, a few entries will get posted at once. Not sure I will be typing a blog entry tomorrow, as once the demonstration ride is completed, we will break off and head for Fredericksburg, Virginia.


Friday the 25th

What a wild two days Friday and Saturday have been. Leaving Athens, Ohio on Friday, we all proceeded eastward on our continuing ride to Washington, DC to participate in the POW/MIA demonstration ride. Having not planned the route, I can’t remember exactly all the roads we took, as being further back in the overall groups had me simply focusing on the squad I front of us and the turns that they made. Having a CB on the bike definitely makes travel much easier since I formation is easily passed from one group to the next. When I get back home, I’ll post the roads we rode from one of my favorite iPhone trip tracking apps which is being used each day, Trip Journal.

In a nutshell, the ride to DC was long but fast. Over 300 miles for that day in high 80s heat made each rest stop a revenue producer for the fuel stations when generous amounts of water and Gatorade G2 were sold to each rider and passenger who hadn’t brought their own supplies. The roads were highways and interstates, going through at first hills, then smaller mountains. The closer we got to DC, the faster it was required to ride to go with the flow of traffic. At times, we were taking uphill and downhill curves at over 85mph in order to move so many bikes along to prevent from being run over. The pucker factor seemed to exist the entire Friday afternoon, as the curves seemed to be pretty tight and the potholes seemed to become more frequent.

The last leg of the ride consisted of a nice country ride towards the toll road that we jumped on near Dulles. City traffic was eventually encountered, which caused extreme frustration as drivers of four wheel vehicles seemed to take delight in trying to kill each one of us as they constantly jockeyed for lane position. We spent so much time avoiding eating car steel, that it made it near impossible to keep any of the bike squads together for very long. Sure enough, our once well designed plans of keeping the groups together failed miserably with Friday rush hour traffic,and it became a journey of many groups of just a few bikes. It became so bad, that a few people showed up at the hotel more than an hour later than most of the others as they got lost and had to figure out their own ways to the night’s lodging.

Most of us managed to regroup before the toll road in the breakdown lane on the side of the road. Previous arrangements had been made to make one credit card payment for all our bikes and pulled trailers, and we all went through the toll area without stopping. The escort vehicle supplied by the toll service was not immediately available, so we simply rode on. Out of nowhere from the side of the road, the escort vehicle took its position in front of the pack, and proceeded to lead the way at speeds averaging 90 mph although traffic was only going 65. Nearly everybody got separated trying to keep up and keep from getting hit by other vehicles changing lanes as we moved in and out of lanes as well. It’s hard to focus on using the CB to communicate when not everybody has one…and trying to avoid road debris, potholes, and thousands of pounds of steel zig zagging around you.

We finally exited the Tollroad, and most of us simply glared at the moron escort driver as we rode past him. The hotel was less than two miles away, and we pulled into the parking garage’s first floor which had been reserved for us at the Crowne Plaza at Tyson’s Corner in McLean, Virginia. Tired, sore, hot, and exhausted, we proceeded to our rooms and then to the bar to find cold bottles of beer at outrageous prices. Price was almost no concern, when cold beer tastes so good.

At 9:30 on Friday evening, the entire group met in the parking garage to participate in a recognition ceremony for a participant who was with us. He had been a POW for 63 months during the Vietnam War. That’s 5 years and 3 months, before he was released. An unbelievable amount of time. He is a very quiet person who has suffered so much in his life, and should never have to ever earn another person’s respect. A very emotional experience, hearing his story, and seeing this very humble person standing before us. After the brief ceremony, the group left the hotel to head to the Vietnam Memorial to participate in a night time ceremony of remembrance for all those still missing and for those that gave their lives in the Forgotten War.

As what has become customary riding anywhere in DC with any king of large group, we all got split up and had to find our way in smaller squads to the Washington Mall.we had expected to find the area somewhat quiet and reserved, but instead found tens of thousands of other bikers and tourists milling about the area. Finding parking space limited, we simply found a wooded field and parked in the grass with hundreds of other motorcycles that had found parking refuge there as well already.

Our ceremony lasted about 45 minutes in the darkness, illuminated only by blinking pen lights that we used to symbolize those that were in our hearts and minds, but we’re not able to be present. A wreath was left in remembrance, on which we left behind the dog tags of those Hoosiers that were still MIA and have not come home yet. Some attendees separated to find the names one the seemingly never ending walls, which had engraved into them the names of those killed in the war.

Once completed, about 20 of our friends, my wife, and I decided not to return to the hotel but to walk the Mall. We went to the 3 Soldiers Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial (which all were simply amazing in their own right, and deserve their own blog entry at a later time to explain what is seen at each in person). Having just passed midnight, we decided to return to the hotel on the still heavily trafficked interstate system. Surviving yet another journey with cagers, we all quickly retired to our beds to remedy our pure exhaustion that each of us felt.


What is it about motels?

Friday morning finds me awake at 3am, tossing and turning in a stuffy motel room. Here in Athens, Ohio, the group stopped at the Hampton Inn, a pretty nice layover with comfortable beds and a nice layout. But what is it about motels, in which one can never sleep very well, and the room temperature never gets configured properly? Light sleep all night with first the coolness of the air conditioning, followed by the stuffiness that appears for the remainder of the night. Perhaps I’m still exhausted from work, but with the day’s ride ahead and the planned activities tonight, it will be another long day.

Yesterday morning, we awoke from our bed at home to find that the weather was perfect at 62 degrees as we set out to meet the Indianapolis group that would be accompanying us eastward to DC. Our local dealer got involved with making sure that breakfast sandwiches, muffins, and plenty of juices and coffee were available for our send off. While you may not get the deal of the century when buying a new motorcycle at Indianapolis Northside HD, they are extremely supportive of their HOG chapter, so many kudos to them for their support of our Ride to the Wall.

After a couple of hours of eating, chatting with friends, and participating in some ceremonies that would remind each of us about our upcoming journey, we set out promptly at 10am. The weather had already warmed to the point of having most of us shed our layers, and the sun shined brightly as we departed. Our ride would be police escorted by motorcycle troopers of the Indiana State Police, who blocked all the on ramps as we proceeded around I-465, and eastward. We found the superslab all the way to the Ohio state line to be ours, and ours alone. Kudos again to their participation and support to ensure we exited the state in complete safety.

After a gas stop just west of Batesville, Indiana, we found ourselves skirting Cincinnati around its south side and make a stop just east of the city of the Reds baseball team at the Yellow Ribbon Support Center. The staff at this place for America’s veterans welcomed us with open arms and ensured that we all were comfortable as small groups disappeared and then reappeared after breaking away for lunch and gas. As we exited the parking lot, a parade lap was made by all to the parting waves of our new found friends.

Our journey took us to OH-32 and working our way to US-50 into Athens, Ohio for our last stop of the day. The large group broke up into smaller ones containing closer friends, who went in search of the evening’s dinner, fuel, or to the local liquor store for cold refreshments. Six of our closest riding friends are making the journey with us, and we all walked next door to Leghorn’s,a eatery with an understaffed group of teens working the place. The beer was cold, once it arrived 20 minutes after ordering it; and this was the limit to anything good about the restaurant. We found our food to be overlooked, cold, and delivered by a waitress who never heard the words customer service and being cordial to your customers. Needless to say, the Taco Bell next door got visited, which the quality of food was found to be much better in taste and presentation.

The rest of the evening was spent conversing with friends, and getting showers. We had 5 people in our room, having decided to split a room with John & Shiz, and offering some floor space to Caroline who a few of us are helping out with her rooming needs since the economy issues this country is going through hasn’t been the kindest to her.

I’m taking pictures on the trip as I go, but not on the iPad I’m using to blog with; so the photos will be shared once I return home. I’ll keep the entries coming as I can!

Athens, Ohio

After a long week three days at work, Thursday morning finally appeared allowing for a much long awaited vacation to materialize. Being late and having eaten and just getting settled into the motel for the night, we are exhausted and will have to provide an detailed entry of today’s ride and adventures later in the trip. Tomorrow, we shall reach our destination of Washington, D.C.; and have a late night memorial schedule at the Vietnam Memorial Wall. I’ll try to get a detailed writeup completed in the morning or sometime later in the day tomorrow.

One more entry before leaving for DC

Six days until our big trip of the year…the Ride to the Wall and a week of riding the mountains and curves of Tennessee, North Carolina, and the Virginias. House and dog sitter is arranged so the home will be occupied and the pooches taken care of, clothing all piced out, and bike is mechanically ready to go. Even spot an hour going through the saddlebag to check the tools, and add some other repair instruments that hopefully won’t be needed.

Plans for the weekend include meeting with some of our friends that are accompanying us on the journey to talk about the upcoming adventure and do some riding together tomorrow. We’ll end the evening with a cookout at one of their homes over some burgers, brats, and a ton of sides. Sunday will bring about a day of comradarie as our local HOG group will meet other chapters for a large cookout. Weather will have highs in the middle 80s, so it’s expected to be a perfect weekend of asphalt riding.

The plans are to update the blog as often as possible during the trip starting on Thursday. I’ll be at the mercy of motel wireless connections, but plan to do route updates and writeups as we go whenever possible. Monday through Wednesday of this coming week will finish out the hell month of May for me at work, and it’s ending with a bang as each day will be long in hours. The last several weeks have been just as busy, and the only redeeming action was the constant daydreaming of our vacation that starts in less than a week. Due to the coming few days of labor left, I can’t see having the time nor energy to provide another blog update before we leave.

Keep an eye out for the next entry here, as it should be made while out on the road. And to all those military vets out there…thank you for your service…and hope to see some of you at the Vietnam Memorial or for the demonstration ride a week from Sunday.