Thursday, May 25, 2006


Well, once again we dodged the rain. Things didn't look good at 8:00 this morning so, much to our disappointment, we put on the rain gear. We made really good time today because we knew we had to get north of Roanoke before the heavy rain moved in. A few sprinkles south of Harrisonburg is all we encountered. By the time we got to Front Royal, the skies were turning blue and we bagged the rain gear. Aside from a sunshower yesterday and a few sprinkles here and there, we never rode in any steady rain the entire trip. Wow!

We stopped for brunch near Staunton and got on our way again. Once we got to I66, since the weather was cooperating, we stopped by one of our favorite places to get a drink and some cinnamon apple donuts. We caught up with George, the owner, and let him know we'd see him in September on our Children's Miracle Network Rock-n-Ride.

Then it was time for the home stretch. When we arrived at the Dulles office we were greeted by some of our loyal supporters! We appreciate them taking the time to greet us! It was great to see our friends and family.

These are my guys - Juli and Greg. As chief blog contributor - I can put them in here :)

Juli reported on our ride as her current events assignment last week. Way to go!

Martin from the Loudoun Easterner stopped by to deliver a few of today's paper - with our front page story!

Then it was time for the boys to say good-bye. It's somewhat sad that our journey has come to an end. I will say that this trip was everything I expected it to be and so much more. We met some wonderful people, that we hope to see again some day. This is not the end. Plans for the future are being sorted out, but our soldiers need our continuous support. Our web site will remain open for contributions to the Coalition.

Lastly, there are so many people to thank- mostly Tom for the inspiration to do this. Bob - your time and effort with the logistics, sponsors and the connection with the American Legion Riders made this a journey of a lifetime. To our new friends from Post 593 - you are a wonderful group of people and you brought us into your family and for that we are grateful. You are doing great things down there. To JR, Joe, Daryl, Dan, Tracy, Joyce, Carol and Josh, from the Coalition - thanks for hanging out with us and for all you do to support our young soldiers. To Hugh and his family at Lonesome Dove - thank you for opening your home to us. To Wayne, Chuck and Bob - our fellow RE/MAX brothers - thanks for your time and support. One final BIG thank you to Andrea and Barb of my group. If it weren't for you guys, I couldn't have taken this trip. Thanks for being there and allowing me this opportunity.

Now it's time to blog off. I hope you enjoyed following our journey (all 3606 miles of it!). Your comments and feedback during our trip gave me inspiration to keep you guys included as best I could. Some folks have asked "can we still donate?" The answer is YES!! We will still gladly accept your contribution and submit it to the Coalition. June, July, August, etc. - we still need your support!

As we begin our Memorial Day Weekend - keep in mind - this holiday wasn't created for the SALE at the mall. It is to remember those that made the sacrifice that allows us to embrace the freedoms we enjoy every day. Hooah!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Deja Vu All Over....Back in Bristol!

Ok blog fans, sorry, but not much to report on today. We rolled out of Birmingham at 8:45AM. The story of the day was the weather. It was our best day! Blue skies, warm, but not hot. We actually rode in 4 states today. It's a good thing I checked Mapquest before I left this morning, because I would have become real concerned when I saw a "Welcome To Georgia" sign! That's right, for all you geography buffs, we actually rode through about 25 miles of northwest Georgia on our way from Birmingham to Bristol. When I quizzed the guys before we left, none of them realized we had to ride through Georgia either. We arrived at the Georgia border at 10:44AM....wait a minute...... I suppose it should really be considered 11:44AM due to the time zone change at the border. Then we made a quick fuel stop during our brief stay in Georgia.....where we have a new winner for the lowest gas price on our trip!

All of us were little low on oil, so we decided to head to the Harley dealer in Chattanooga. We crossed into Tennessee at 12:17PM and got to the Harley dealer a short time later. The guys there took real good care of us. Instead of just getting some oil, they performed an oil change for Tom's and my bike while we waited. We got something to eat during the oil change. Oh, and since Bob wasn't getting his oil changed (he has a Honda), he walked over to the Shell station for a quart of oil. Sorry Bob.

We arrived back in the Commonwealth at 7:44PM and at the hotel a few minutes later. Tom and I hit the hot tub real quick (it was hot this time) and back over to O'Charley's for dinner. We saw our waitress, Holli, from last week. She had been following our trip. Her mom, Deirdre, wanted to come meet us, but was at work.

As beautiful as today was, Thursday has the potential to be the worst day. We see a good chance for thunderstorms in the forecast. We are estimating our arrival at the Dulles office at 5PM. Of course, bad weather could delay us. We are not looking forward to donning the rain gear again. We haven't had to use it in over a week! However, we are all looking forward to getting home!

Did you know...... that it's just as far to go from Bristol, VA to Northern VA as it is to go from Northern VA to Bristol, Connecticut? Just a little trivia for you.

A note to some of our blog fans - Debbie - we waved at the hills for you. And for Martha's co-workers - there will be NO Cracker Barrel souvenirs!

Lastly, I decided that the guys should have road names - it's a biker thing. I'm not telling them their names, either they can read the blog or someone else can tell them. I've had many many miles to think about these, so here goes. Tom will now be known as "Rags". The reason - he is forever cleaning his bike and complaining about how dirty it is. Bob will now be known as "Kickstand". I can't tell you why, because I promised I wouldn't embarrass him. Use your imagination and I think you'll get it. Lastly, I guess I'll have to give myself a name. My name will be "Radar", as I was always checking the weather radar every morning, night and on the road.

I will post one finally blog after our return. Wish us luck Thursday.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hitting the Wall

We all thought that yesterday's ride would be the tough one. Actually, just like when you exercise, it's the next day that's tough. Tom did a radio interview at 7:40 and we left Baton Rouge at a reasonable 8:30AM. We decided to go a little south and ride around Lake Pontchartrain and see the effects of Katrina first hand. Everyone that says that TV and photos don't tell the story - it's so true. From I10 you could see neighborhood after neighborhood just wiped out. Shopping centers destroyed. We went around the south side of the lake and then up to Slidell. The photos you see are from Slidell. Keep in mind, this is 9 months after the storm! Again, the pictures don't do it justice. I could take a book of photos and not even touch on the devastation. There is hope though. Some people have already re-built. Amongst the destruction, you see brand new homes. Destroyed businesses next to brand new ones. But there is just so much destruction and debris. This will take a generation to rebuild. Certain areas may never be rebuilt.

Amongst the debris, we found a place to stop for a quick lite breakfast. Guess what? A Cracker Barrel - well, not THE Cracker Barrel. A carton of milk and cookies was my nutrious meal.

Bob had a meal with his new best friend - ibuprofen! The boys were hurtin' today.

One last observation about Louisiana - their bridges don't go "across" the water - you know, from one side to the other. They run "along" the water. One bridge was over 20 miles long!

Then it was off to Birmingham. Today was the only day that we actually were in 3 states - Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. We crossed into Mississippi at 11:19AM. We kept each leg short today, with more stops. Once again, we stopped at a Sonic. This time in Purvis, MS. Our waitress Sam (pictured with Tom and Bob), was diggin' my belt - yes my belt. Believe me, it's nothing special. I wouldn't give it up though.

We crossed into Alabama at 3:25PM and were greeted with a 3 minute rain shower. We didn't see it coming because we basically had blue sky. But this one cloud decided to open up on us. Actually, as hot as it's been - it felt pretty good. We were "blowed dry" by our next stop.

Got into the hotel around 5:45. Not bad for about 450 miles. There was supposed to be press here, but we didn't see any - so we got cleaned up for any early dinner for a change. Tom has a radio interview at 7:40AM again and then it's back to Bristol.

Return Trip - Day 1

Nothing very exciting to report on today. This was our big travel day, as we logged almost 500 miles. We rolled out of San Antonio at 7:45AM and did the first leg of our trip (115 miles) before we stopped for breakfast. We actually ate someplace other than Cracker Barrel! Had a good breakfast at Frank's.

Next we made a stop just east of Houston and had some success with RIDECAM. Some of you may have saw us hanging out at a Sonic. It actually took some ride footage until we went out of range.

We were rolling along pretty good until we hit the the traffic jam from hell on I10 near Bridge City, TX. There was an accident either earlier in the day or yesterday (depending on who you ask) and they had to actually repave part of the highway. It took us almost an hour to go 5 miles. As you can see, we had some time to hang out on the Interstate.

Bob took the "what are you going to do" approach. Tom wasn't happy.

We crossed into Louisiana at 5:03PM. Couldn't resist stopping at the Drive-thru!

We finally rolled into the hotel around 8:30PM. Dennis from ABC was waiting for us and Tom did the honors. Nathan from CBS came a little later and I did that interview for the morning news.

Like I said, a pretty uneventful day. We are probably going to alter the route some tomorrow and go into the New Orleans area, probably Slidell, to see the hurricane affected areas first hand.

As has been the norm on this trip, morning will be here soon. Talk to you in Birmingham.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Down at the Ranch

Today we went to the Lonesome Dove Ranch. What a beautiful place! The owner of the ranch, Hugh Long, is a Vietnam vet that fell on tough times when he returned from Vietnam. He started his own business and turned things around. Now he shares his home with soldiers every month.

Members of the American Legion Riders attend to help with the cookin’. First, there’s an awesome spread of burgers, dogs, sausage, chicken and all the fixin’s. And plenty of desserts. Then there is plenty of recreation. Relax in the pool or grab a pole and do some fishing. The bass were biting.

Another popular attraction was a horse named Early. Early was born last week (2 weeks premature, hence, the name).

Thanks to Stu and Pete, out came the guitars for some easy listening. Of course, Tom couldn’t resist a turn :)

It was an awesome day, just to relax and appreciate life’s better moments. Sunday will be a day of rest for the start of the return trip. Monday we will travel 480 miles to Baton Rouge. We are affectionately referring to Monday as "Dave Harbour Day" - a day that will go down in....... ibuprofen. Anyone that knows Dave, should ask him why we have dedicated this day to him.

Visit to Brooke Army Medical Center

On any given morning, you might hear the news report – “2 American soldiers were killed outside Mosul today when a road side bomb exploded…..” Perhaps they might mention that others were “hurt” or “wounded”, maybe there won’t be any mention about the wounded at all. What you definitely won’t hear are the details about the injuries. And many aren’t aware that there are over 18,000 of these brave Americans.

Today (Friday) we visited the Brooke Army Medical Center and the nearby Soldier and Family Assistance Center (SFAC) at Ft. Sam Houston. This was real. Can you imagine what happens to a person when a bomb explodes nearby? Or the burns from fire, or injuries from shrapnel? I saw what happens. It’s horrific. Fingers, arms, legs blown off. Burns anywhere and everywhere on your body. It’s one thing to meet folks like JR, which has gone thru the 30+ surgeries and have come to grips with their injuries and have found their path in life. It’s another to visit a National Guardsman from Maine injured by shrapnel – that never planned on going to Iraq when he signed up for the Guard. Or a soldier from America Samoa with severe burns almost everywhere on his body. These were healthy young people just days earlier. Now their lives are changed forever.

Next we visited the SFAC and as we were about to leave, a young soldier asked if we had a few minutes to talk to him. Both his legs were wrapped from his ankle to his waist. I’m not sure the exact extent of his injuries. What he wanted to talk about was that his gunner, who was injured with him in Iraq, who died a few days ago. This guy was family to him. His big concern was this. There is a radical religious group in Kansas (led by Fred Phelps) that show up at soldier’s funerals with signs such as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”. You see, they are against homosexuality and since the government accepts homosexuality, they are against our soldiers. Can you imagine what a family is already going through, having to bury their son or daughter, mother or father, husband or wife, only to then have to deal with these people at the time of the funeral. One of the members of the American Legion Riders that was visiting the SFAC with us, Brad Pierce, is also a member of the Patriot Guard Riders. The purpose of the Patriot Guard Riders is, when a family requests their presence at a funeral, they will provide whatever support they can to drown out and to block out these protesters. The young soldier wanted the Patriot Guard Riders support at his friend’s funeral. He could not bear the thought of having these protesters impact the dignity that his friend and his family deserved. He was so appreciative of our efforts regarding the ride.

These guys truly appreciate America’s support. (NOTE TO READER: If you haven’t posted a message in our guestbook for our soldiers – DO IT NOW!) If you don’t think it makes a difference, you are wrong! With all the negative press about the war, they need your support.
These young Americans make tremendous sacrifices to fight the war on terror, so you and I and our children will have a better world to live in. Tom made a comment to the press recently that hits it right on the head. When the media person tried to turn the conversation political, Tom said the following: “It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican, Liberal or Conservative – you’re an American - and these kids are Americans and they deserve our support." Well said.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


We left Mequite, TX at 0645 to meet up with the American Legion Riders (Post 593). 1SG Daryl Eddings was there to roll out with his “troops”. Daryl led us (on 4 wheels) for the first 100 miles down to San Antonio. We then continued the next 100 miles to our meeting point with the American Legion Riders. There we met with 8 riders. They took us the next 100 miles to their Post in Converse, TX. What an awesome meal they had prepared for us!! Our sincere
appreciation to these guys! The riders were: Stu Hutchinson, Randy McBay, Kevin Stockton, Bill Papa, Terry Smith, Mizell Smith, Pete De La Fuente and Mary Ayala. Thanks also to the cooks: Brad Pierce, Rose Lewis, Lori Hutchinson, Carrie Papa, Lee Ruble, Jack Hogge, Debi Pierce and Darvin Cull. I hope I didn’t miss anybody.

From there it was off to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC). Brad Pierce accompanied us as he was bringing gift cards for the soldiers and soldiers’ families. (There will be a separate blog post regarding our visit to BAMC).

The ride from the American Legion Post to BAMC, was in the words of JR, "about 5 minutes." 40 minutes later, in 102 degree heat and heavy traffic, we made it. It is now that I have to let everyone know that our leader, Tom, did not battle the elements with the rest of us. No. Instead he hoped in JR’s air conditioned vehicle for the ride to BAMC. Somewhere along the way, there will be payback!

Friday night, Tom, Bob and myself attended a benefit for the soldiers at the Red Rum in Austin. Many thanks to Dan Vargas for providing transportation for us! Even I felt a little old at this place as the music was "new age" and the crowd was barely drinking age. However, when it was time to present the check, all the patrons gathered around the stage and listened to our message. They support our troops and our cause! It was great to see. And when it was all said and done, we presented a check for $25,000 to the Coalition!!

We will continue to raise more as we make our way back to DC. We arrived back at the hotel around 3AM. What a day!

Friday, May 19, 2006

We're Almost There....

So much to write about tonight, but it's already after 11PM and we are rolling out of here at 6:30AM - so here it goes - fast and furious.

The weather leaving Little Rock this morning was awesome! Clear blue skies, temps in the mid 60s. Once again we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I believe this is a least the sixth meal at CB, so we have dubbed Cracker Barrel as the official eating establishment of the Ride for America's Patriots!

After breakfast, our first stop was Doolin's Harley Davidson in Texarkana, TX. I just enjoy saying, "Texarkana Texas!" (John J. in Weisbaden, Germany - this pit stop was for you.) Pictured in front with Joe and Tom is Callie from the merchandise department. Thanks for your help Callie! We fueled up and got on our way .... btw, gas is a lot cheaper in Texas than it is in Northern Virginia.

As we rode from Texarkana, things were heating up. By the time we hit our next stop (I think it was Sulpher Spring, TX), it was t-shirt riding weather. We stopped off at Burton's. Bob and I just had desserts, but Tom couldn't resist putting down a Texas sized burger and onion rings (which were excellent). Tom is pictured with our waitress Amy. (Don't you think Bob looks like General Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf?)

Then it was off to Dallas (actually Mesquite). By the time we got to the hotel it was some kinda hot. Shorty and Chuck had already arrived (btw - Shortly is the one on the left). We were also met by 1SG Darly Eddings (and that is First Sargent, not just Sargent - make sure you get it right), Sgt Tracy Reep, Joyce Evans and Carol Thorm - all from the Coalition. Bob from somewhere here in Texas (I'll get the town later) arrived a few hours later.

Tom did the media thing with the local NBC station this time. Then it was off to shower up
and head out to dinner at Saltgrass.

I had some great conversation with Daryl and Tracy, who both served and were injured in Iraq. To hear their stories about what really happens over there is incredible. I could talk to these guys for hours. I'll share some of it later....other stuff I can't share - let's leave it at that.

We have a full day tommorrow - it would take me too long to list it here, so I'll recap it for you tomorrow. Actually, it probably won't be until Saturday because we'll be at a concert for the soldiers until after midnight. Tomorrow is the big day, as we meet the men and women at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) and present our check.

Please keep you comments coming, whether it's a post to us or the guestbook to the troops. It helps us keep going and we know it will help the troops.