Hello again, I’m Mike Rinowski (aka Track), a retired Golf Course Superintendent - and also a published author. I'll be your sit/rep author for the 2018 NVAR. A little history and info about me:
In October 2012, a chance meeting in a Texas Barbecue joint in Nha Trang, Vietnam, brought me a humbling opportunity. Since 2009, I had been riding my Harley Fat Boy around Vietnam in honor of those lost on a land of beauty, and now a land of welcome. I bonded with their spirits during 41,000 miles across Vietnam, and then brought the Fat Boy home to join the 2013 NVAR. In September 2017 my Fat Boy hit its 1st 100,000 mile mark in the spirit of freedom, and there was whooping and hollering beside the trail. My story - HARLEY TRACKS: Across Vietnam to The Wall - is now in print (since June of 2015). For further information about my journey through Vietnam, please visit: www.harleytracks.com.
Please follow us across America, May 15-26, as we ride with gratitude to those who gave, and for those who gave all.
Thank you, Thank a Vet, & Never Forget.
Prelude Part 2: (Wednesday, May 9, 2018)
The ride to the Ride is on!
Another year of preparations are complete; bikes ready, reservations confirmed, menus complete, escorts arranged, and thousands of veterans anxious for our arrivals across America.
The outlook for NVAR riders from America’s heartland is fair weather across the prairies, plains, and mountains to our rendezvous in Auburn CA. Last year the elements challenged riders in-route to, and during our Ride; a winter storm in Wyoming, “Victoria” I think they called it, stole a day from our mission. It takes that Act of God to keep us from fulfilling every day of our mission.
A week ago, after some power rides, I arrived at Don and Joel Jenkins in Roseburg OR. (They were wonderful hosts, and Oregon is a state everyone should visit at least twice, or thrice.) Wyoming weather detoured me with a foot of snow in the Big Horn Mts., rain in the valleys, a winter storm warning in the Wind River Canyon, and more snow in the Tetons. More snow and rain then detoured me around the desert in ID, but fair weather waited in Oregon and California. All part of the adventure, I say, and when you’re riding for those who can’t, every ride is a good one!
We, on the NVAR, are not alone on our mission. We represent all of you, and the many who support us. We are blessed to have this honor, and we carry your gratitude and appreciation to all the veterans we meet.
Bruce and Julie Manner are with us in spirit, only, this year, and I will do my best to continue with Julie’s depth of reporting our daily activities.
As you remember our veterans each day, please put in a good word for the safety of our riders on their trip to Auburn.
Mike "Track" Rinowski
2018 Ride Day One (Tuesday, May 15, 2018)
This morning, with sunshine and over 50 degrees, the 2018 NVAR officially began its mission. 43 riders from across the country, and one from Norway, have reunited and are ready for the ride. A few passengers join them, and our trusty chase truck with trailer will follow. Whoohoo!
Each day of our ride begins with a meeting, led by the honorable, Jerry “Five Minutes” Conner, President of the National Veterans Awareness Organization (NVAO). The meeting was brief, as they will surely expand with content, but it was mentioned with reverence that this year’s ride is dedicated to Terry Hoops, who passed away just days ago as riders made tracks to Auburn. Terry also known as “Easy”, or often “Hey, Hoops” was simply called out. He was a man of few words, and hIs reply was often a simple smile and a look, like, “Yeah, what”! He was a Vietnam Veteran, USMC, and had been a rider on the NVAR for many years. Rest in Peace Terry.
This year, “Crazy” Larry McKay handed the responsibility of Road Guard Captain to Patrick “Jackwagon” Martindale, who was brief with instructions for a short ride to our first visit. Those comments will expand as the ride progresses, and riders will listen with interest. I could write a chapter about the responsibilities of our Road Guard Team, the risks they take, and their commitment, but instead, I’ll just say they are without doubt, and have always been, the best.
Kelly Graham, the superintendent of Bowman Elementary School in Auburn, the teachers, and the students were the first to welcome us, once again. After formalities, Jerry narrated a slide show with photos from previous visits and scenes from our ride ride across America. His show pulled a lot of cheers, ooohs, and ahhhs from the students.
They in turn, entertained us with patriotic songs, and interesting questions; one of which was, “How do you plan for emergencies?” The answer expanded from one rider to another, and then, back to Jerry, who snuck in the relationship of their teachers and the students promptly doing their homework. Well done Jerry!
After the questions, members of the Auburn American Legion held a flag raising ceremony with all NVAR, students, and teachers in attendance. The school has grown in recognition and expanse, with a new multi-purpose building, and reconfiguration of the parking lot, which will make for a more thrilling ride through tomorrow morning. Long into their lives, the students will remember the riders who visited them on a mission of patriotism.
This is one of the few places on our ride where we are on our own for lunch, and afterward, California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers escorted us into Sacramento. Maria Almes, Chief of Volunteer Services at the Mather Veterans Administration Medical Center (VMAC) welcomed us back. Veterans Administration facilities across America depend on volunteers to keep their systems and services running smooth. Equally important is the fulfillment one finds as a volunteer and the comfort felt by the veterans they serve.
Before we split into groups to visit the veterans, Steve “Headdog” Moore, our hard core Ride Leader, presented medals of appreciation to two veterans of the Mid-East Conflict. The Vietnam Veterans returned from the war with less than a welcome for their service. It’s an objective in our mission to insure no veteran ever makes that kind of return after service to their country. We find these veterans in hospital lobbies and gas stops, and usually catch them off-guard, which often creates quite an emotional moment. We also present a special pin to spouses of veterans who served in the conflict.
Once inside the medical center, my group visited with veterans who would soon return to their wives and grandchildren. Those visits are on the high end of the emotional scale; visits to veterans with a terminal condition are tough.
The CHP escorted us back to Auburn in spectacular fashion. (Escorts across the country are a blessing to riders, and all traffic in and along their path. We have a great appreciation to them all; many of who volunteer the service.) Then after a NVAR meeting we had a great dinner at Sweet Peas. During the feast, formal introductions are made by each rider, matters pertaining to the ride are explained, and Jackwagon gave an explicit explanation to the rules of the ride. “Headdog” then made a heartfelt introduction into Terry Hoops and an extended explanation into this ride dedicated to him, after which, other riders shared stories of his humor, nature, and commitment to the NVAR. He was a prominent rider on the NVAR, and his presence will be missed with great sadness.
We are fortunate to be able to do what we do on the NVAR. We represent all of you and are grateful for that support.
Please keep our veterans and their families in your thoughts and prayers.
Thank you & Never Forget
2018 Ride Day Two (Wednesday, May 16, 2018)
With only two events on the day’s schedule, it sure was busy to put 400 miles behinds us. And there’s snow in those mountains, but I’ll get back to that!
During breakfast, NVAR certificates of appreciation were handed out to many people who support our mission, and it’s amazing how many there are at each stop. Without them, we’d be in line at McDonalds and waiting at traffic lights, among other inconveniences. Our riders meeting was short and sweet, and, speaking of sweet; each morning, Dan “Sweetness” Kress makes honorable mention to two or three veterans who died in service to our country. He speaks more than just their names; he tells us where they we're from (usually the state we’re in) where they served, their branch and unit, and some specifics of how they died. That’s something to think about as we ride each day.
After Wayne Worden, Ride Chaplain, led us in prayer, we saddled up for an escort through the historic downtown of Auburn, and then made a farewell pass through the parking lot of the Bowman Elementary School. In glorious California sunshine, the students cheered us on our way.
54 bikes rode east on Highway 80 into the Sierra Nevada Mountains; 22 would return to Auburn from Reno. 22 minus 54 = 32 NVAR riders! Kelly “Big Daddy” Rafferty doubles duty as the Missing Man Coordinator, and our Weatherman. With California sunshine and mild temps, we rode into the mountains and a nuisance rain that covered some of Nevada, beyond Reno. And that was an improvement from last year - Keep up the good work Big Daddy!
A police escort met us for a guarded ride to the Reno VAMC where welcome waited. We were separated into four groups, and I didn’t get off the front steps before I was in chat with James, who was brought out to look at the bikes, I tried to catch up, but was drawn into a therapy room where Bill was reaching up and out like the therapist told him to; but it looked to me like he wanted to dance. My request to cut in was met with question! Bill told me he returned from battle on a ship, and a banner of thanks and welcome hung from the Golden Gate Bridge. He then told me how upset and disappointed he was that the Vietnam Veterans didn’t get the same recognition. That’s the short version of his comments on that. He went on to a more bittersweet topic, riding motorcycles. He used to tear up the trails around Eureka CA in his younger days. He said there was nothing like packing a sandwich and his thermos of coffee and riding off. Sadly, those days are gone, but he seemed in good spirits and we bid farewell.
Time was running out when Jerry called my attention to a dark sleek gigantic creature with a petite master. Thor is a service dog, and Kimberly does her best to keep the curious pooch on a short leash. Thor is a pup Great Dane at 185 pounds and slobbers like a camel, if you know how much a camel slobbers, which is a lot. But a pup is a pup, and the patients love to have them both around.
After we chomped on delicious grilled elk burgers for lunch, we laid tracks through sprinkles over I80 to the Northern Nevada Veterans Cemetery for a wreath laying ceremony. But first, Dan had another honorable mention, Michael Casey, a Vietnam Veteran who died in 2013. Last year, Michael’s son, Frank, saw the NVAR at the cemetery and contacted Jerry, who passed on his request to Dan. Frank and his family joined us at the cemetery for that hallowed moment as Bill “Mongo” Luft lead his wreath laying team for the honor; Logan “Gator” Luft, Jeff “The Mayor” Goeing, Don “Quacker” Jenkins, and Bugle - Maj. Kelley.
From there, we grabbed a handful of throttle for our run to Elko. Blue was the color of the sky overhead at our next gas stop, and everyone stuffed rain gear back in their saddle bags. The expanse of Nevada is a sight to behold, and we were no doubt a site for traffic to wonder about. While the world turned and we passed through that great expanse, Dave “Double D” Clemmons rode in the Missing Man Formation with the spirit of Terry “Easy” Hoops beside him. And Easy will be among the pack on every mile of the ride.
The miles passed, and soon we looked to a dark evening sky beyond Elko, with snow covered mountains on the distant high horizon, and I’ll have more on them, tomorrow.
We’re off to a great start. Please check back for a lot more action.
Thank you & Never Forget
Mike "Track" Rinowski
2018 Ride Day Three (Thursday, May 17, 2018)
It’s good to have weather information, a bonus when it’s correct information, and a big plus when it includes sunshine and warm temperatures. A big thanks to our weather team, Big Daddy and his assistant, Sydney.
Sadly, Don Jenkins left us this morning; as in, he left us to ride home; Roseburg OR. He couldn’t convince his grandson’s fiancé to change the wedding date, and he has to fly to Alaska next week. We’ll miss you Quacker.
Our morning meeting was brief; since we’ve not had any accidents or injuries we must be doing well, thanks in part to Wayne’s daily prayers, and the prayers from all of you. Dan Kress gave us the names and specifics of two veterans who died last year. One of whom did not die from enemy fire, but rather from either friendly fire or faulty munitions; it was never confirmed. That’s a tragic event in combat situations; accidents happen in any workplace, or playground for that matter. Human error is natural, but when the tools of the place are made for death and destruction, the tragedy of an accident is compounded exponentially.
We rode into the sunshine on I80; those snow capped mountains stood high to our south, and way off on the northern horizon. On the morning like we had, they were nothing but “pretty snow capped mountains! And we rolled across the expanse of eastern Nevada to a spectacular view from above Wendover, the Great Salt Lake Desert. That is an expanse with a forbidding appearance to it.
We met about 30 UMF and Utah riders at our gas stop, as we do each year, and after a quick reunion we crossed ~123 miles of desert, of which I include the Great Salt Lake, too. Thankfully it wasn’t blistering hot with gale force winds; actually, it was a pleasant ride. At the gas stop before Salt Lake City, we met another ~30 riders and our motorcycle police escort for the ride to the Utah State Veterans Nursing Home. Our pack of 100 or more bikes stretched through a lot of interchanges. Riding into Salt Lake City is a spectacular experience on a sunny spring day. The city tucks into the foothills of mostly lush green mountains not suitable for any development, and some are snow-capped. With a little imagination, it resembles Oz, except for the traffic, of course. And, no doubt, our presence on their freeways caused some irritation, but if they knew our mission, I’m sure they would feel different.
The welcome at the Vets Home was exceptionally warm with many veterans outside to greet us. This is always a great stop with many residents to interact with. Our large crowd gathered around and after formalities, certificates of appreciation were handed out to many who support us. Then, medals of recognition were presented to six veterans who served in the Mid-East Conflict; thank you all & Welcome Home. The UMF, Utah riders, and residents of the home had signed a large “Don’t Tread On Me” flag, and gave it to Jerry to take to Washington D.C.
The formalities are fine, but we were anxious to do what we came to do, and one of the first we met was Noma and her daughter Susi. (Yes, the spelling is correct.) Noma served in WWII as a recruiter. As the men were off to war, there were many jobs to be filled, and Noma recruited women to fill many. At 99 years old, her mind’s as sharp as a tack. I look forward to visiting with her next year.
A group of us went into the memory loss unit. Since there are enough in our group to get around to all the residents, I don’t try to visit them all, and prefer to spend more time with one, a couple, or a few. The two guys I talked with seemed to remember quite well, or, they were very good at pulling my leg. I think the staff keeps a sharp eye on those two.
Back in the main lobby, many of the NVAR, and other riders, were occupied with residents or enjoying a fantastic lunch they always prepare for us. It had the look of a picnic of friends of long standing with plenty of laughter. I met Jim Chapman sitting in his wheel chair and began a chat. He fancied the motorcycles, so I gave him a tour through the parking lot. While I wheeled him among the bikes, I saw about 10 or 12 tykes, 4 years old, taking turns sitting on Uncle Sy’s trike while their teacher watched. (They came from a day care center across the street. )I peaked around from behind and saw Uncle Sy sitting on a footboard entertaining the little ones, just being the grandpa that he is. I greeted them and went on with Jim’s tour. A minute later I heard singing. I turned to find all the tykes lined up in two rows singing a beautiful song to Uncle Sy as he sat on his trike. With the direction of their teacher they sang; “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine - you make me happy, when skies are gray - la da de da da, la da de da da, don’t take my sunshine away.” Uncle Sy sat with a smile like a proud grandpa. Had I not been occupied with Jim, I’d have had a great movie for viral passage on UTube. Good for you and well done Uncle Sy (or should we call you “Sunshine”.)
The time always flies in Salt Lake City, and we soon bid them all farewell. Our escort got us safely into the mountains, where last year snow plows waited in case we need them. HA HA to that memory on this sunny day.
A contingent of 20+ riders joined us about 30 miles from Evanston for a great tour down main street. The police blocked another street for parking, and Mongo and his team, Tony Ivans, Mike & Kat Tipton, and Wayne Worden, placed a wreath at the corner memorial with recognition to veterans from the Civil War, Spanish American War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. That was followed by one of the most beautiful renditions of the Star Spangled Banner by a 9 year old girl.
Places are convenient in Evanston, and it was half block to the VFW Post 4280 for, yet, another feast and refreshments, as usual.
It was another great day on our mission; and there’s much more to come. Please check back.
Thank you & Never Forget
Mike "Track" Rinowski
2018 Ride Day Four (Friday, May 18, 2018)
Some town in Oregon has been without its mayor for the past week, and this morning, Jeff Going bid the NVAR farewell and returned to keep all well. If I were to guess how he manages his town from the way he packs his bike, I’d say everything is secure. We’ll miss you Jeff, and look forward to seeing you next year.
We had better arrangements for breakfast than years past. After a weather report, favorable to noon, we made a spectacular sun rise ride to Rock Springs. On the expanse of Wyoming, as we crested a rise on a turn, the sun cast its rays across the prairie. From the back of the pack, a silhouette of each biker rode ahead with their shadows below them. Red lights from the back of each bike stood out in the silhouette and speckles and streaks of sunshine reflected from paint, chrome, and leather. It was a spiritual scene: a pack of dark angles on a determined mission, knowing they were watched over.
We left Evanston with donations from the VFW and Spanky’s Bar. Again, we are humbled by the support we receive in all forms, and for that, we represent the thousands of people who support us on our mission. All the veterans we meet in homes and hospitals, we tell them they are not forgotten by many Americans. We arrived in Rock Springs to full tanks of gas for all, paid for by the Archie Hay American Legion Post 24. Then, after an escort to the Post, they welcomed us with Flag Bearers, followed by a filling breakfast that a crowd of farmers would appreciate.
In our riders meeting, before the prayer, Wayne read a story about the determination of a single veteran to honor Vietnam veterans in his home state of Colorado. After an organization pulled out of the affair, Delbert took the matter personal and continued on his own. Despite his handicaps, the memorial was eventually built to honor his brothers in arms. When people thought his mission was complete, he decided a memorial was needed for Colorado’s veterans lost in the Korean War. And the moral of the story: never doubt the noble ideas and determination of of a man. Encouragement propelled him to success.
This morning’s tribute was to Army Spec. Alexander Missildine of Tyler, TX, 20 years old, killed from an IED in Iraq in Oct. 2017, and Army Sgt. 1st Class Stephen of Simi Valley CA, 33 years old, killed in Nov 2017 from wounds sustained while engaged in combat in Afghanistan. They answered a call, and gave their lives for the cause of freedom; not only for our own freedom here in America, but for the freedom and well being of those in the countries they died. American’s sacrifices have never been all for America; too many are buried on foreign soil. They are not forgotten.
At Rawlins, we zipped and snapped up in our rain gear to do battle with the elements piled high over the mountain pass ahead of us. (Some needed help, as shown in photo.) As we rolled fearlessly into the threat of the beast, it looked like snow over the mountains and beside the highway, but as we rolled into it, it was hail that covered the land. We blew into the remnants of the storm and and as quickly we rode out of it.
An escort of riders joined us about 35 miles out of Cheyenne and a police escort caught us on the run. Gosh, it’s nice to have that support. Among that escort was Don, who had made rides in the past, and with a little pressure between Mongo and Gator, he was persuaded to join us next year, if he is not in Iraq! We had to miss this visit to the VA Hospital last year because of winter storm Victoria, so it was special to arrive for a long overdue visit. The staff gave us a warm welcome and brought many residents into the meeting room for a visit with all the riders. Some residents weren’t able to leave their rooms, so we went to them. Residents and patients at all hospitals and homes look forward to our annual visits. They’re anxious to chat and tell stories, and we’re thrilled to listen. Even those challenged with memory recall the days of 50 years ago like they were yesterday, and they do so with joy in their voice. They all have incredible stories of their youth; like one who built hot rod jeeps to chase down wild Wyoming horses to sell to rodeos, or another who spoke of his clandestine service on a submarine (despite being discharged in 1957, he didn’t divulge too much information. “Loose lips sink ships.), and then there’s the guys whose job as gunners in bombers made them targets. A 99 year old WWII vet fired from all positions around his bomber; tail gunner, side gunner, belly gunner, which he performed with wild abandon, but it was the front gunner position he didn’t like; that was too much of a target. As this ride is dedicated to Terry “Easy” Hoops, I failed to mention a particular memorial each rider carries in his memory. “Easy” liked to dance, and each year he rode out to Auburn with the boys from Michigan City, they’d stop in Virginia City for a little relaxation and refreshment after the long ride, and before another long ride. In the dance halls, the ladies were happy to follow his lead on the floor, and it was decided appropriate remember him on this ride with a garter belt strapped to riders left arms, or with a similar type ribbon on their vests, each with Easy’s name on them. His spirit rides strong with his Brothers, and the dance floor will never be graced with his feet again. Dinner for the day was a feast with refreshments at VFW Post 1818.
We had taste of weather that we expect will challenge us again tomorrow; but we’re NVAR riders. Whatever the elements, we have the power and determination to overcome and succeed.
Please check back and I’ll tell you all about it.
Thank you & Never Forget
Mike "Track" Rinowski
2018 Ride Day Five (Saturday, May 19, 2018)
Day Five was shut down in Sydney NE
The rain blew into Cheyenne before we checked into our hotel, then fell through the night; but slacked off for our ride to breakfast at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 128.
Thick slices of bacon, lots of bacon, and lots of sausage links, too. Next to them were trays of scrambled eggs and hash browns, and biscuits and thick chunky gravy, with a choice of coffee, juices, and milk. A typical feed at the Aerie. After the feast, certificates of appreciation were handed out to our faithful supporters in Cheyenne. We are grateful.
This days tribute was to three soldiers: Army Pfc. Hansen Kirkpatrick from Wasilla, Alaska, 19 years old, died on July 3, 2017 from wounds after an indirect fire attack in Afghanistan; Army Spc. Christopher Michael Harris from Jackson Springs NC, 25 years old, and Army Sgt. Jonathon Michael Hunter, 23 years old, both died of injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device. These men died for our freedom, in the defense of our nation. and the freedom of others. We’re a nation of compassionate people, who throughout our history have stepped in to aid the oppressed; they died for the freedom of other, also. To live responsibly and celebrate freedom respectfully honors those who died for freedom. For them we ride.
Wayne read another story written by a mother who lost her daughter. Pictures of her daughter were set and hung throughout the house, her smile was there, but she was not there, as people in times of despair may think God is not there there. But he is everywhere at any time; all we have to do is call out his name.
Our meteorological team were up next, and Kelly and Sydney’s report was quite simple today: rain all day, they added a bright spot to say there would be no lightning. Everyone was happy about that. The temperature would drop, and the wind would blow with gale force gusts. Needless to say, but I will, that got them no cheers.
We picked up five more riders going “all the way”, which brought our total number to 38. And the rain sheeted down as we rode from Cheyenne. Visibility was about a quarter of a mile, and a few miles down the road it cleared to about a half mile, or so. Our staggered formation stretched a little longer for safety. When semi’s passed, our path was a dense gray spray of water. The rain came sideways and the wind tossed us around a bit. But to seasoned riders it was all part of the journey. Speaking of that; four of the riders who joined us dropped out not far from Cheyenne. That has nothing to do with their intent or patriotism, but more to understanding what a rider is getting into and being prepared for it. It was also respectful to drop out, rather than put themselves and other riders at risk.
Water found it’s way into every gap in our gear. After 106 miles, we were soaked and shivering when we stopped for gas in Sydney. The full force of the NVAR milled around inside the truck stop & IHop cafe, sipping coffee and hot chocolate while our trusted leaders and state coordinators evaluated the situation. There was not a bright spot in the forecast, and rider safety is foremost in our mission. They decided it was best for us to spend the night in Sydney.
That decision didn’t come easy. From the end of a crowded aisle, all could see our leaders turning over ideas and options, and showing disgust with the consequences. Our visits and ceremonies increase in number each day from here, and to skip one here, and another there, complicates the schedule all the way to D.C. There are just too many people; veterans, escorts, schools, and cooks and buffet’s, who are all prepared and waiting, which makes a hit and miss schedule impractical. The most logical decision was to make a big sacrifice up front and get back on schedule.
So, tomorrow, Sunday, we’ll ride 530 miles, we’ll stop in Doniphan for lunch, and then Des Moines IA, for a late dinner. For the second year in a row, mother nature, or is it an Act, or Will of God, which prevents us from visiting the veterans at the Grand Island Veterans Home, among other regular stops. This is heartbreaking, especially since it’s the last year the veterans will be at their beautiful, historic, and exceptionally convenient home. The veterans love it there, everyone we know wanted to keep it there, but the powers that be decided to spend millions of dollars and build a new home near an industrial park in Kearney, 42 miles away.
The NVAR lives to ride another day. Please check back for more on our mission.
Thank you & Never Forget
2018 Ride Day Six (Sunday, May 20, 2018)
To describe the day in one word, I say - throttle, because we had a handful of throttle all day. After 11 1/2 hours and 540 miles, we are back on schedule.
To add another word, I say - want, because we wanted to stop in North Platte for a wreath laying at the Veterans Memorial, we wanted to stop in Grand Island and visit veterans at the veterans home, and we wanted to enjoy a dinner and drinks at the American Legion in Doniphan. (The vets home is always a great visit, and Grand Island is home to a large group of friends who support the NVAR in a big way.) We wanted to lay a wreath at the Veterans Memorial in Council Bluffs and have lunch at the Masonic Hall, we wanted to stop at Freedom Rock and check out Bubba’s latest painting and give him the ashes of a veteran to mix in his paint, and we wanted to visit veterans at the Des Moines VAMC. (Arrangements for the ashes to Bubba will be made.)
At dinner last night, Wayne read the first of a two part story written by a woman who was call the “Napalm Girl”. In 1972, the South Vietnamese bombed Viet Cong, and in the mayhem, 9 year old Kim Phuc ran from the explosions, but the blast burn all her clothes from her body. Photographer Nick Ut took a photo of her running down a road naked. She had severe burns over the full back of her body that gave her intense pain for years. Because of the international attention to the photo, she was used for propaganda by the communists after the war, and was refused education. As a woman now, she said that photo was a reason she wanted to die afterward, but was too scared to take her own life. But that photo would become her reason to live, and we’ll have to wait for Wayne to read the second part of the story!
Due to schedule demands, and an early start, a tribute to soldiers killed in action was not read; but they are not forgotten, and Dan will double up to make up.
At 30something degrees, gray clouds covered the morning sky to all horizons. But it was dry, however, isolated rain was in the forecast. With freshly laundered clothes and dry rain gear, we bundled for the elements and headed east. As we cross the prairie of Nebraska, that sheet of gray opened a few times in perfect alignment with the rising sun. That lifted our spirits.
A detail of Mongo, Lugnut and Kris, Trevor, Wiley, Noah, Steve W., Patrick Gordon, and Ed Norton, left ahead of us for a special memorial beside the interstate. As the NVAR rides through the interchange of I80 and I76, east of Sydney, they salute as we ride past a memorial to Kathleen “Lovie” Kintzele. Lovie, Ed “Silver Top” Kintzele’s wife, was killed in a motorcycle accident at that spot on the first NVAR. Rest in Peace , you are not forgotten Lovie.
Sadly, Buzz’s bike broke down, which was not good, but it wasn’t the sad part. We hit the road while Ed Kintzele, his wife, Sandy, and a few others loaded and secured the bike in the trailer Ed pulls with his pickup. The sad part was that the detail didn’t know about it and had left the memorial before Ed got there.
Speaking of Buzz; he’s been on this ride since God made dirt. We’ve had family members make this ride in the past; a father and son; a father, son, and son’s wife; and now, we have Buzz, his son Dean and his daughter, Sydney (the weather girl), his other son Derek with his son, Joshua. All from the Ann Arbor MI area. That’s something special, even though all on the NVAR are family!
Someplace back there, it rained, a little. Then we arrived in Doniphan for a fantastic feast for lunch; what would have been a fantastic feast for dinner with drinks had we been on schedule. Bill “Mongo” Luft, the state coordinator, had a hand full of certificates of appreciation to hand out, most to people he has known all his life; besides friends were his wife Nancy, son Logan “Gator” (who was the youngest rider at 17, to go all the way. He’s 21 now), and Mother Mongo. They really like us there, and the feeling is mutual. Local riders have joined for a few miles, but Qtip & Shelly have returned to the ride "all the way."
We powered on with a little more weight than when we arrived, and at a rest area in Iowa, we met with our supporters from Council Bluffs. They has boxes of snacks and cases of water to give us; and to tell us what wee missed by not being able to stop there. First was a woman who served in WWII who had a lot of memorabilia to show us, and that all of the junior ROTC team that graduates (next year?) will go to Normandy, France next year to lay flags on the graves of all Iowans who died in the landing on D-Day. What an honor for those young men. That news drove our sorrow a little deeper for not being able to make the stop, and after the handoff of goods, were back on the road.
Someplace back there, the rain fell, the visibility dropped, and there was a nasty “air” to the atmosphere; something like yesterday. But true to the forecast, it was isolated, and we rode into Des Moines on dry highway. The American Legion Post 663 fed us with their usual meaty meal that stuffed a pack of bikers. They are terrific.
After the long ride, all were anxious to check into our hotel and call it a day.
Two more riders joined us here. Friends of mine from the Mpls MN area. Hack, who’s been with us the past two years, and Ike, a first timer. Both Vietnam Veterans. Welcome Home & Welcome to the NVAR.
Tomorrow we’re back on schedule, and it starts with a visit we always look forward to.
Thank you & Never Forget