Friday, June 15, 2007

Memorial Day Ride - Part 3


When the service was over we said our good-bys. The Georgia group was heading for home. I think it was about 1000 hours.

We went touring the grounds of ANC, saw the tomb of the unknown solder and watched a little of the Changing of the Guard. The shear number of head stones is amazing. "The Old Guard" (Army) at the tomb of the Unknown are impeccable. One particular part that amazed me, is during their turn, when they change directions they have to move their gun to their other shoulder. In one motion, this full size rifle snaps up off their shoulder and stands straight up in the palm of one hand for about a second. Their other had is straight down at their sides, then slowly moves up, then click, snap, slap and the gun is on the other shoulder. It is absolutely amazing to witness.

The Indiana Crew (L to R); Hoss, Larry, Mary, Lloyd, DC, Officer Baby, DNR

After ANC we went to WRAMH (Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital) intending to see an Indiana solder but found out he was not scheduled to be back until after we left. The process to find this out took us to 4 different buildings. The job of finding our intended solder was mine and I had gotten quite frustrated with the whole fiasco. Talking with the group afterwards and looking back, it couldn’t have gone better. We got to greet, thank and shake hands with about 50 solders. Their appreciation of us had several of us in tears more than once.

One young man, obviously in pain and deformed from an IED told us ‘a few more surgeries and I’ll be going home, thanks for coming to see us’,… and the tears flowed.

Another young man was walking around pushing a pole with about 4 IVs attached to him. Behind him was his wife pushing his wheel chair and walking beside him was his daughter, (she was 5 or 6) holding his hand. His wife was asking him ‘don’t you want to sit down?’ I didn’t hear his response, but I could see he was smiling and his daughter was skipping along at his side… and the tears flowed.

At the residence building we pestered a Sergeant and his assistant for what felt like hours. They were gracious, courteous and helpful the whole time. Continuality offering suggestions and even let us use there internet connection to confirm some information off the PGR web site. Before we left we gave them Indiana Patriot Guard Patches. Jokingly they remarked they would have them placed on their uniforms.

When we left WRAMH we went riding through downtown and parked and walked around a bit. It was HOT!!! We visited the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and walked along the Potomac. We headed for the hotel at about 1800.

Saturday we went back into DC to hit the Rolling Thunder booths to get patches and be in the experience.

It was incredible! Bikes rule DC for this weekend. I’m sure if you were stupid or drunk you might have issues, but generally, bikes could do no wrong in DC. When we hit downtown we went into the area of the Lincoln memorial, stopped at a light then John (our guide) turned us across traffic, up a handy-cap ramp onto the sidewalk and we parked in the grass, about 200 yards from the Lincoln Memorial!! It was surreal. We shopped, I bought t-shirts, some patches and some helmet stickers. My favorite sticker so far is “I’m lost and I’ve gone to look for myself. If I should return before I get back, tell me to wait.”

Saturday night, after cooking out brains out in the DC heat again, it was back to the hotel area and then over to John’s for a cook out. I don’t know if it was just being HUNGRY or he had some special sauce, but everything was good, burnt chicken and stuck together pasta salad. Like I said we were hungry.

That's john in this pic.

Sunday – The Ride to the Wall, A Sea of Bikes

WOW – no matter what I tell you here, no matter what emotions you feel, put about 10 times more into it. And maybe, just maybe you’ll understand.

This day was… incredible, awesome, surreal… I hope I can express the idea. Maybe these pics will help. There is no way I can describe to you the sights and sounds associated with 450,000 bikes and 600,000 people.

The parking or staging area was at the Pentagon and opened at 0800.

The group was leaving our hotel at about 0630. I had to be at the meeting area at 0600 so I left the hotel at about 0445 (I was up at 0400). John had given me directions (little better than getting to the Iwo Jima Memorial). “I-66E to I-495N to I-395N” WRONG!!! Following these instructions, I ended up doing a loop around the DC belt-way. That only added about 90 miles and an hour to my trip. (I’ll let you do the math there) I made it to the staging area at about 0630, just in time to head over to the Pentagon.

I had to be there so early because I was part of what was called ‘Gold Star Escorts’. That is a group of attendees that volunteer to carry moms of KIAs (Iraq and Vietnam) from the Pentagon parking area (where we started) to the Vietnam Memorial Wall / Reflecting Pool area. This year there were more volunteers than there were moms, so I did not have a passenger. The ride through DC was about 6 miles. The streets were lined with people, and everyone was cheering, clapping and holding their hands out for a high five as we rode by. Especially the kids, so excited to see the bikes, a little apprehensive of the noise but oh man, their faces lit up like Christmas morning when any of us slowed down and reached down to clap/slap their hands.

We got through town and riding along the Potomac, hovering about 100 feet over our heads, was the Presidential helicopter!!! No way to know who, if anybody, was on board, but I waved any ways. Wonder if he got my picture?!?

The group I was with (about 30 bikes and 20 moms) must have all been new to the ride because we missed the parking sign and anything that said it was the end of the parade. We ended up getting back on I-66W and heading out of town. (Can you say OH SHIT!!!) In a great game of follow the leader we got off the interstate, wound through the burbs a little and ended up… BACK AT THE PENTAGON!!! What did we do there you might ask? We did what any self respecting biker would do, we cut back into line and went through the parade route again!!! As we were going by the Pentagon parking area I noticed that the Indiana group had not left the parking lot yet.

My bike is out there on the left, you can see it, right?
On our second time through, when we got near the Reflecting Pool I turned right into a park and went down a walking trail. I stopped in the shade of a tree. It was so cool, I was about 100 feet from the Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument was to my right and the Lincoln Memorial was to my left. I toured the Lincoln, The Wall and the Korea Memorials. I also watched some of the concert and listened to a retired General talk about the work that was being done to bring home the remaining MIAs and POWs. It was about 1515, maybe a little after when I made it back to my bike. I was sitting in the grass drinking some water when my phone rang. It was the Indiana group wanting to know where I was… they had just gotten there and were going to go tour things. “Want to meet up and come with us?!?” Phft, NO WAY!! I was exhausted. I sat by my bike just living the experience. I guess I left about 1630, the parade was still going, there were still bikes coming into the area. I left the Pentagon parking lot at 1200, I heard that the last bike left at 1830. On my way out, again going down some dirt jogging trail, I passed right under the noses of 3 mounted DC police officers and their horses. They just waved.

The next morning we left DC and headed home. What a ride, what a weekend!!!

My pictures aren’t the best, which is part of the reason I was delaying this post. Mary has a CD of over 400 pics coming and I was hoping to use them here. But, alas, she is busy too. I promise, when I get them, I’ll post a few.

Edit: Corrected Honor Guard Reference (see LL's comment)


LL said...

Oh, ummm, dude, those are NOT Marines at the Tomb of the Unknown. They are Army. Just wanted you to know. They are called the Old Guard.

Kat said...

AWESOME! I finally got around to writing about our side of the adventure...wander on by and take a look. :)

DNR said...

LL - Thanks for the info. I had assumed. I'll have to fix that.

KAT - Glad you liked it. I'll catch yours on the e-mail subscription.

dcsporty said...

I think you covered most of it well, but no mention of the @#**$@ nuts that drive autos in the DC area! We had more close calls in a couple of days there than I have had my 27 years of riding. All in all.....I wouldn't trade the trip for anything!

Freddie said...

Wow! Sounds like an incredible experience.

Thanks for the post.

And Happy Father's Day DNR.

Kat said...

dcsporty....yeah...the car drivers in DC were freakin' NUTS!!!! I thought ATLANTA was scary,lol...It's been 12 years since I was in DC, and I'd forgotten what it was like! :-o Atlanta drivers are totally psycho (I can say that, cuz "I Are one!" lol) but NOTHIN' compared to DC....! :-o