Monday, May 28, 2007

Time to remember

To be sitting here on Memorial Day as I input my final blog entry, I realize the importance of our mission. We left our suburban Pittsburgh hotel on Saturday morning to make the 60 mile ride to Shanksville, PA - the crash site of United 93 on 9/11. In my opinion, this is the spot where our war against Al Qaeda started. Some might say it started a few hours early in New York, however, this is where we said no more....and fought back.

The current memorial is temporary, with the final one still a few years away.

The actual crash site is located just beyond a large american flag in the field. The largest section of the plane recovered was a 6 by 7 piece of fuselage. However, many personal effects, including jewlery and a flight attendants badge were found and returned to the family. The black box was also recovered which revealed the the cockpit conversation until the final moment. A book with this trascript is available at the site.

A guest book is available for all visitors to sign.

Earlier in the day, we walked over to the Eat-N-Park for the final breakfast of the trip (Mike is doing the photo duty).

We got dumped on between Breezewood, PA and Berkeley Springs, WV. We took shelter for about 20 minutes and kept on truckin'. Drying off was no problem, as it was pretty hot. Temps were approaching 100 in the sun.

We were making good time and had an oppotunity for some ice cream in Winchester, VA. Tom's brother Phil stopped by to say hello.
We arrived back in Fairfax at 5:45PM. With over $20,000 raised for our wounded heroes, plus $2,000 donated to the Ft. Drum, 10th Mountain scholarship, we all agreed that we had another successful mission.

We'll be getting together in the next few weeks to discuss next years destination.
Also, I will be adding some additional photos in the coming days as soon as everyone downloads and sends them on. Thanks to everyone for their support and generous contribution to the cause!

Friday, May 25, 2007

On the road to Pittsburgh

One last look out the window before leaving. Pretty nice, eh?

Here is what is so neat about this trip. We are constantly meeting people involved with supporting the troops. Just before we left the hotel we met Mr. Glick. He is the Chaplain at the 82nd Airborne. He is supporting an effort this weekend by CNN and Fisher House which you can donate your frequent flyer miles to the troops. Airlines are matching your donations! Go to for more info. He also wanted to know if we'd let him ride his Vulcan motorcycle with us next year. He thought we only had Harley's. When we showed him Bob's Honda and Mike's Yamaha, he was very relieved.
Then I got to thinking. What am I going to blog about today. Not a very exciting day to tell the truth. So, I decided that since RideCam was down, that I would be RideCam! DISCLAIMER: I am a professional - don't try this yourself.

Here are the boys riding through Ontario.

Hey, what about me? Here I am riding through Ontario.
Boy, they let you go fast around here!

See, we're not even doing the speed limit.

Wait, what did you say? The speed limit is 80 what? Don't bother me with details! :)

We actually rode about 20 miles, errr.... I mean 32km in Ontario.

The boys are getting close to the border.

We're almost back in the USA.

Here's Tom waiting the customs line. What's he so damn happy about?!

No looking back now.

On the bridge to Buffalo, USA.

Home sweet home .... from a country perspective.

Here's our lunch stop - hey it's an American Classic!

Bob's got this new thing now. After every meal, he's handing out mints. What's up with that?
Time to gas up.

Let me interpret what Mike is thinking...

1. Where do I put my credit card?
2. What are all these knobs on the side for?
3. How do I enter my PIN number?
4. What is this thing?
About 80 miles north of Pittsburgh, the clouds were getting dark, we were starting to get sprinkled on, and the bolt of lightning sealed the deal. Time to don the rain gear.

Good news, bad news. In the 20 minutes it took to pull the gear out, put it on, etc., the storm passed and it's HOT again. We rode with the rain gear for 20 miles and couldn't wait to get it off! Good news- no rain, bad news- we were soaked from sweat.

Smart Tag / Easy Pass was anything but smart/easy. Mr. Toll collector was not happy with us.

We got to the hotel around 5:20 and Bob's off to meet his family.

Tomorrow we head for home, via Shankville, PA to visit the United 93 memorial. One last report this weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Oh Canada

It was time to leave Ft. Drum and start the return trip home. One of our Mountain Warriors Riders, SFC Jason Cardoza came by to see us off. Jason, thank you and the fellow Moutain Warrior riders - CW2 Clint Gessner and CW5 Ken Jensen. We can't tell you how much we appreciate your time and support.

As we gased up on post, Tom went to turn on RideCam. This is a familiar site! For whatever reason, the USB port in the PC is not recognizing the camera. Looks like we are down for the duration. Bummer!

It's off to Niagara Falls. We decided to take Rt 104 around Lake Ontario instead of the Interstate. The first few hours were pretty good, but we should have hopped on the freeway near Rochester as the views were nothing special after that and it took a lot longer.

Our first stop was Brandy's for a little snack.
Then we had lunch on the banks of Lake Ontario. Good choice here!

Here's a new way to describe a Seagull.

We arrived at our hotel in Ontario about 6:30. Here's a photo from the hotel room. Talk about a room with a view!

Then it was off to a great steak dinner. I wouldn't mind staying another day, but we're off to Pittsburgh in the morning. We talked Bob into leaving at 10:00. We had to promise we'd be ready on time. Hey and it's only 12:10AM - not bad!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


What an incredible day! I can’t find enough adjectives to describe the awesome display we saw today. Today was our visit to the Adirondack air to ground range which is run by the New York Air National Guard (ANG). You might ask, what is an air to ground range. Simply put, it’s thousands of acres of land used by the ANG to provide training for fighter planes to blow things up. Is that simple enough? The land (called a range) has various targets on it –moving targets that would simulate a convoy, tanks, missile launchers, etc.

Unbeknownst to us, the show started before we even arrived. As we were riding down the road to the range, a pair of F16s roared over us just over the tree line. We'll find out later that the flyover was ordered just for us by the control tower.

Most of us have heard the roar of F16s, but not many see them dive in to shoot a target. And here’s the best part – we were watching all this from the control tower.

What’s so cool about that you ask? How about seeing F16s and A10s dive down, head straight for you and pass within what seems to be only a few hundred feet. And they do this at what is almost the same altitude that we are at! We’re going eye-to-eye with these guys – are you getting the picture. Good, because they were traveling by us so fast, I couldn’t move the camera fast enough to get a good shot. The earlier photo you saw is an approach shot and doesn’t do it justice. But wait, it gets better. As an A10 approaches us, it unloads its rounds on the targets down range. So close that we feel the air blast of the rounds. Unbelievable!! If you look close, you'll see the puffs of smoke of some of the targets being hit down range.

Then for some extra fun, they shot up some surface to air missiles because let’s face it; the pilots need practice in real life combat situations.

It’s one thing to see what goes on in a routine day. It’s another thing when the routine is adjusted and enhanced (what an understatement) just for our visit!

Here's a picture of all the guys in the tower. On the lower right is Lt. Col. Robert Blank. He runs the show.

Did I mention there is no elevator up to the tower?

And by the way, these guys can cook too! What a feast we were treated to! Some kind of seasoned chicken that was great, homemade tuna/macaroni salad and more great chow. Our best lunch of the week!

This equipment scores the accuracy of the pilots shooting. Each strike is plotted (you can almost see it on the left screen). There are video cameras and multiple microphones near the targets that sense every round and can calculate the position. Pretty cool!

Then we headed down on the range to check out the damage. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

This one didn't go boom.

Our camera guy found some A10 and F16 rounds.

Here is a shot of Tech Sgt Joe Graves (in non biker gear). This guy does it all on the range. And he was a hell of a host, tour guide and just a great guy to us over the last few days. We can't thank you enough Joe!

And last but not least, a big thanks to Lt. Col Robert Blank. You certainly rolled out the red carpet and treated us like family. You put together an event that will give all of us memories for a lifetime.

Here's Tom doing his media thing before we leave.

Then it was time to go home. When we were riding down the road leaving the range one of the A10 pilots flew over the road and waggled his wings to say good-bye. We thought that was it, but it wasn’t. Just as we were approaching the end of the road, out of nowhere and right above the tree line and right in front of us appeared a Blackhawk helicopter. Fist pumps were flying!

Then it was off to get ready for the check presentation ceremony. Thanks to so many incredibly generous people, we have already raised almost $19,000! Because of monies coming in, but not yet received, the group decided to commit to a total of $22,000. $20,000 going to the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes and $2,000 to a scholarship fund at Fort Drum.

A few of our heroes wounded in action.

Oh, and here’s a little side story. I earned my own purple heart (sort of) today. Any yes, I’ll tell this story for the world to know. When it’s warm out, my favorite way to ride is with just a t-shirt. Well, it was pretty darn warm today. Anyone that has driven a motorcycle with just a t-shirt before will be able to relate to this. You see, as you ride bugs hit you – not a big deal. Every now and then a bug will go up a sleeve, down a collar, etc. Anyone that has ridden a bunch has had it happen – and it’s happened to me in the past. But this one is quite unique. You see, I felt something on the back of my neck while I was riding, and I brushed it off and figured it was gone. Well about 10 minutes later, I feel this sting – not too bad though. Then, for the rest of the trip home, I keep having this feeling like when you have a splinter and I figured I knew what it was. I know, get to the point. Well when I got home and removed the clothing where I felt the sting, I was right! There it was – some little bee. What makes this a bit humorous is that it somehow found it’s way down my shirt.... and right to my tush! But as you can see, the bug paid the ultimate price!