We saw the Atlantic coast, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific coast, and Lake Michigan. We handed out over 700 of my business cards, and found only three people who knew about Gold Star and Blue Star Mothers. For those who don’t know, a Blue Star Mother is a mother who has a child who has served or who is currently serving in our military. A Gold Star Mother is a mother who lost a child while in service to our country.
|The Fallen Heroes Rosters and flags we carried on our Ride Across the USA|
Our Mission began May 3. Chuck Ballas joined us near Warsaw, NC and rode with us to Oak Island, then Elizabethtown. At Oak Island, Brunswick Air flew us along a section of the Atlantic coast in a Cessna 172. That was my first time in a plane.
The next day, we stayed in Raleigh so we could attend the send-off and return of the Triangle Flight of Honor (FOH) at Raleigh/Durham airport. FOH is a non-profit organization which flies WWII veterans to Washington, DC to visit the WWII Memorial.
|Smoky Mountain Lodge, Maggiz Valley, NC|
We rode Tail of the Dragon, then headed south to Destin, FL. I’m the honorary mascot of the MeanStreet Riders, a southern rock band whose music is about riding. MeanStreet Mary (the band’s publicist), members of the Band, and their friends were in a photo shoot. I was in their photo shoot, too.
|Dowlin Mayfield, owner of Slickbacks (can't remember his name), MeanStreet Mary and my driver after the photo shoot with the MeanStreet Riders|
We visited the USS Alabama and Battleship Park in Mobile, AL. They have a cool memorial dedicated to the dogs who served in our military. We spent a day in Marshall, TX with Thomas’ family. While driving across Texas, we stopped at Strokers in Dallas, based on MeanStreet Mary’s recommendation. Our original plan was to stop, walk around a bit, then ride on. While there, we decided to have barbecue brisket for lunch. Strokers was worth the stop. Between Dallas and Amarillo, there wasn’t much to sniff, except the occasional oil cricket.
We had strong headwinds from Amarillo to Albuquerque. We estimated the winds at 30 mph, but we learned in Farmington, NM that the winds were 60mph. This explained why somewhere in New Mexico, Thomas’ GoldWing trike ran out of fuel before reaching the exit to a gas station. There was no gas station before this one, and Thomas had a filled, 2-gallon gas can in his trailer. By the time we rolled up to the gas pump, my Harley was probably running on the fuel in the fuel line because we filled up with 5.1 gallons in our 5-gallon tank. This leg reinforced that if you come across a gas station in the desert, gas up whether you need it or not!
|Four Corners - one paw in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah|
In Arizona, Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona was beautiful! We rode on a section of Highway 89A, which is better than Tail of the Dragon in length, twisties, sweeps, and scenery, particularly on the section from Cottonwood through Jerome to Prescott Valley.
Before this Mission, we had a new rear tire installed. This was the first time trying this more expensive brand on our Harley. My driver checked our tires and pressure frequently. In Amarillo, he was disappointed because he estimated we would need to get a new rear tire in Palm Springs, California, and he began lining up the service. By the time we reached Flagstaff, he didn’t think the rear tire would make it to Palm Springs, so he called dealerships in Arizona. Larry Olsen of Grand Canyon Harley-Davidson in Mayer, AZ helped us out. He worked us into a busy schedule for a rear tire and fluid change. We decided to return to Dunlops, and Larry and CW had one Dunlop tire for our Harley. We normally get about 8-10,000 miles on Dunlops and were hoping to get a bit more from this other brand. Unfortunately, we got about 4,600 miles – very disappointing. We arrived at the Mayer dealership around 8:30am. We learned that Larry and my driver served in the 82d Airborne Division at Ft Bragg at the same time, but were in different units and didn’t know each other. Larry, CW and Jesus had us on the road before noon. Those guys are totally pawsome!
|Iraq-Afghanistan War Memorial, Irvine, CA|
After leaving Irvine, I sniffed the Pacific Ocean at Manhattan Beach State Park in the Los Angeles area. We rode up a portion of the Pacific Coast Highway and rode north to San Francisco. It was drizzling when we rode across the Golden Gate Bridge at night.
The next day, we ran into sleet, then snow showers as we rode in the mountains east of Sacramento. We heard on the road info frequency on the AM radio that snow chains were required, but only a few vehicles were using chains. We tucked in behind an 18-wheeler with chains. His tires temporarily cleared the slush and we stayed in the rough groove. We prayed and trusted God to watch over us. We had a fresh rear tire. Isn’t it cool how that worked out? It took us over two hours to ride 40 miles. In Nevada, one of the truckers talked with us on the CB and told us that he was impressed that we got our big bikes over the summit. Our destination for the day was Ely, Nevada, and we ran into snow showers again about 30 minutes from Ely. The Loneliest Highway in the US (Route 50 through Arizona and Utah) is lonely, but scenic in a different kind of way.
For most of our westward trek and through Nevada and Utah, my driver remained concerned about bad weather in the mid-west. The contingency plan was that if we run into bad weather while westbound, we’ll keep riding through it since weather fronts tend to move in a general eastward direction. If we are eastbound, we will decide whether stay ahead of the weather, or hunker down for a day or two, let it pass, then stay behind it. While driving through Utah, we saw a rainbow. The rainbow wasn’t arched toward the ground. It looked like smiling lips, as if God was smiling at us for trusting in Him. My driver took a picture. After that, we had no heavy rains, rough storms, snow showers or sleet during our Mission.
|Snow in Ely, Nevada|
We rode through the Colorado Rockies. There was snow all around us, but the roads were clear. When we rode through northeast Colorado and into Nebraska, we had 40-60mph crosswinds. Our bike stayed at a 30-45 degree angle. If we only had to deal with the wind, that would’ve been OK. But, we had to deal with dive bombing birds. These birds would gain altitude over the interstate median, then swoop down in front of us about 2-4 feet above the pavement. A few times, it appeared we were going to collide, then the bird would change angles and buzz us. Not only did my driver have the wind to battle and the dive bombing birds, I kept shifting around in my seat because I wanted to get a closer look at these crazy birds.
We visited the 20th Century Veterans Memorial in North Platte, Nebraska. I was barkless at how this one memorial covered all wars in the 1900’s.
|Cantine Lady at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial, North Platte, Nebraska|
In Iowa, my driver had a run-in with a big ol’ bug. I’m sure my riding friends can relate to this…. My driver saw this black dot hanging in the air ahead of us. Time seemed to shift into slow motion. The black dot got closer. It was a big, slow flying bug. We thought it was going to hit the windshield. The bug slipped over the top of the windshield and smashed into my driver’s forehead above his sunglasses and below his helmet liner. I saw my driver’s head snap back, heard him yell, and watched him use his left hand to wipe the bug juice from his forehead and glasses. His helmet got spackled with a few of the bug’s friends. Not that it mattered, but we didn’t know if they were kamikaze bugs flying head-on into us, or if they were trying to fly away from us and we smashed into their rear ends. What’s with these birds and these bugs in the mid-west?
In Carroll, Iowa, we linked up with Bill Brown and his family, and with Terry and Zoe Ruchti. Bill is the Executive Producer of a 13-part TV series about the USO of North Carolina, the oldest USO in the USA. Bill’s team completed the editing of the first show, which I am in. Terry and Zoe own Carroll Cycle Center (Harley-Davidson of Carroll), which is where we chillaxed for a few hours before having dinner with the Ruchtis and Browns. Thomas, my driver and I appreciate their pawspitality! If you ever drive through Iowa, Carroll Cycle Center is worth a visit.
When we arrived at the Harley-Davidson shop in downtown Chicago, the ABC affiliate (Channel 7) was waiting for us. We’re not sure if we were on the news in Chicago, but we know some of the footage made its way to the ABC affiliate in Raleigh (WTVD Channel 11) and was used in the Armed Forces Salute on May 30 that featured Thomas, my driver, the Patriot Guard, and me.
After seeing Lake Michigan in Chicago, we headed home. We stopped again in Maggie Valley, stayed at the Smoky Mountain Lodge, and had dinner at Smackers. We were tired. My mom and a few friends met us at the Harnett County Veterans Memorial in Lillington, NC, which was our start and end point. Our trip odometer read 7,927 miles – all to honor and remember our Fallen Heroes. Hopefully, we carried their spirits with us across the country for which they gave their lives. My driver had spasms in his neck and upper back that progressively got worse during our Mission – we were hit in September 2009 while on our Harley and he was injured. My driver kept going by remembering that Jesus endured much greater physical pain for us, and our men and women in uniform are enduring hardships to protect us and ensure our freedom.
|My Favorite Hotel: Smoky Mountain Lodge, Maggie Valley, NC|
|Checking into the Smoky Mountain Lodge|
God created beautiful lands for us to enjoy. We had time for this trip because my driver is among the millions of unemployed Americans who are looking for work and who want to work. My driver thought about selling my Harley for cash flow reasons, but my mom and my driver made financial sacrifices to keep me in the saddle. I’m glad they did. We had private sponsors who helped us cover some of our expenses on this Mission, and for that, we are truly grateful! We appreciate the many people who prayed for us.
We had planned to create rough cut video blogs daily. We had the video segments, but merging and uploading turned out to be very time consuming, so we went to the contingency plan, which was to post pictures on my Facebook page, and complete the video blogs after we returned home. Would I do this again? Paws up – yes! I think it would be pawsome to ride to the capitals of each of the 48 contiguous states and average less than 300 miles/day so we can spend more time viewing what God created, visiting places, and sniffing people. Hmm… would this be a good TV show for people to see our country while in the comfort of their home and to honor our Fallen Heroes and military, past and present? No drama. Just sharing places to go and people to sniff from a positive aspect, and giving people across the US a chance to have a cameo shot in the show. Does anyone know how to go about finding national sponsors or funding, a film crew, TV network, etc for a project like this?
As with any cross section of patriotic Americans, there are bikers who are Christians, veterans, or who have big, caring hearts. You don’t need to be a member of an organization, ride a motorcycle, or be a veteran to honor and respect our Fallen Heroes, our military, and our veterans. God Bless our Fallen Heroes, those serving now, those who served, their families and our allies.
Find me at www.bikerdoggie.com. Ride safe and keep your tongue in the wind! :oP
(more photos below)
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|Chuck Ballas rode with us on our East Coast leg. (Photo taken as we arrived for lunch at Oak Island, NC)|
|Sitting in the backseat of a Cessna 172, courtesy of Air Brunswick, Oak Island, NC|
|Ol' Bill giving the mission and safety briefing for the Triangle Flight of Honor|
|Harnett County Veterans Memorial, Lillington, NC (our start and finish point)|
|We joined Tim and Chris (my "Road Mom") in welcoming home the WWII veterans returning on the Triangle Flight of Honor|
|Thomas at Salisbury National Cemetery, NC|
|Dinner at Smackers, Maggie Valley, NC|
|Becca (my driver's niece) and I saying "See ya later"|
|The Vietnam War K9 Memorial|
|Visiting Ft Mitchell National Cemetery near Phenix, AL|
|Thomas, my driver and me with a B-52 in Mobile, AL|
|Rolling into Texas|
|I sniffed Santa Claus at Strokers in Dallas, TX|
|Sharing ice cream with Thomas|
|Continental Divide in New Mexico|
|Somewhere in Utah|
|Enroute to the Grand Canyon|
|The horse at the restaurant we ate it in Sedona, AZ|
|View from restaurant in Sedona. Pawrific views!|
|Somewhere in western Arizona|
|Manhattan Beach, CA (Pacific Ocean in the background)|
|We ran into sleet, then a snow storm as we neared Donnor Pass east of Sacramento, CA|
|We stopped in Fallon, NV to help out the High School Baseball team. The school doesn't provide funds for them to play in the championship.|
|God smiling on us.|
|If you see a gas station in the desert -- STOP!!|
|A tank at a gas station in Nebraska|
|The Iowa side of the mighty Mississippi River|
|Entering North Carolina|
|Our final night of this mission was at my favorite lodge: Smoky Mountain Lodge, Maggie Valley, NC|
|Dinner at Smackers, Maggie Valley, NC|
|Ice cream at Smackers|
|Chris and Ellie met us at the Harnett County Veterans Memorial, Lillington, NC|