Welcome to the 2019 National Veterans Awareness Ride, aka The NVAR.
Freedom, by simple definition, is the absence of repression or personal restrictions by a government. Our colonists' battles with the Red Coats was the birth of our free-spirited and patriotic nature, the essence of American character. We are a compassionate people, and Americans have sacrificed not only for our freedom, but for that of people in other countries as well. People in nations across the South Pacific and Europe enjoy freedom and a free-spirited nature because of the sacrifice of Americans. In Southeast Asia, I witnessed the growth of that nature in Vietnam; a nation with a generation who emulate the American Way.
People in few countries around the world honor their veterans as we do, and fewer with motorcycle events. We take advantage of our freedom, and that's okay, but we must never forget those who sacrificed for it; and that sacrifice must not be in vain.
Riders, and others from around America, came in their roundabout ways, first, to Virginia City NV, and old west town that retains an old west culture. The patriotic owners and patrons at particular establishments generously welcome the NVAR each year; and what happens in Virginia City - stays in Virginia City. From there we converged on Auburn CA to join others for our annual mission to honor our veterans.
We are a blessed group to afford this opportunity. Although our numbers are small, we represent thousands of people in cities and along rural byways from coast to coast who not only cheer us along, but provide the much needed support it takes to fulfill our mission. We tell those veterans about the mass of gratitude from across America, and that they are not forgotten.
Through the year, the National Veterans Awareness Organization, aka NVAO, fulfilled a variety of projects to benefit veterans and their families, and educate school children. Above all else on the NVAR, safety is a priority. In preparation for this pinnacle event, about sixteen riders attended a First Responder training course provided by Emergency Medical Technicians and Nurses. Those professionals taught the guys lifesaving techniques and procedures specific to motorcycle accident victims; great training to have with hope not to use
Once you've made a ride on the NVAR, it's hard not to return, again, and again. The fulfillment, receptions, and camaraderie humble riders year after year. Many regular riders are absent this year, to name the known at this time; Trick, Big Daddy, Quacker, Dirty Mike, Mongo, and Rainman. There will no doubt be others who can't for their own reasons and responsibilities. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers for comfort, recovery, and resolve.
One who will join others who ride with us forever in spirit is Mike "Buff" Manthey, to whom this year's ride is dedicated. On May 6th, the dirty work of cancer took Buff from us. Mike had a lot of love and was all for God, Country, and Family, and a member of noble organizations, such as The Purple Fish Motorcycle Club and the NVAR. We now ride with Buff watching over us on our mission. We'll smile with memories of him, and twist our throttles in his honor, too.
I'll post each days events with photos through Memorial Day weekend. Please return to this page and follow our journey across America.
Thank you & Never Forget
Mike "Track" Rinowski
2019 Ride Day One (Tuesday, May 14)
California sunshine and crisp mountain air greeted us this morning with the promise of a beautiful day. Our schedule began with a brief riders meeting, followed by a prayer from our Ride Chaplain, Wayne Worden.
Included in Wayne’s prayer was a request for thoughts and prayers to Sandy and Ed Kintzel, and their family. This morning, Sandy received the worst news a mother could ever receive; her son passed away unexpectedly from an unknown cause. They flew back to Indiana in the afternoon. Please pray for their comfort.
Gratitude from those who received none!
Vietnam Veterans returned from their tours of duty without the welcome they deserved, which sadly was quite the contrary. They don’t want that to happen to another veteran, ever again. The Vietnam Veterans of America give us medals of recognition to present to veterans we meet who have served in the War on Terror; to thank them for their service and welcome them home. Not to forget the many spouses left at home to carry on with wait and worry, we have a Spousal Ribbon for their sacrifice, also.
The bond between NVAR riders creates a family environment, but there is no bond greater than blood. Don Jenkins - Quacker, and his son John have been regulars on the NVAR. Don’s grandson, Curtis Hannevold, a veteran from the War on Terror, joined the ride this year. Unfortunately, Quacker was here to see us off, but before he returned to Oregon, it was right for him to have the honor to present that Medal of Recognition to his grandson. It was a grand family affair with a weight of pride equal to the depth of emotion.
And Chris had something special to bring to our mission!
Imagine the energy of 500 students reverberating in a new gymnasium! The energy inside the Bowman Elementary School reached a nuclear level, yet, Principal Kelly Graham calmed them for our annual visit. Along with a certificate of appreciation to Kelly, he was presented with an American flag that Curtis flew in Iraq, to include a photo of Curtis and three of his buddies. Principal Kelly will place the flag and photo for permanent display in the school trophy case. Whoohoo Curtis & Welcome Home.
Jerry, then, narrated a slide show about our mission with a message of respect for family, teachers, and veterans, after which, he took questions. The youngsters had a lot of curiosity about riding motorcycles, and some bragged about grandfathers who served in war. Following was a flag raising by the Honor Guard from American Legion Post 84. Thank you gentlemen.
From Bowman, we made a ride for appreciation to Superfast Copy & Blueprint, who support Rick Dyer and Wayne Worden, the State Coordinator and Co-Coordinator respectively, with the bundles of print needed in their duties. The staff at Superfast have been long standing supporters of the NVAR and we do appreciate their service.
From an interview I had with KAHI radio, via phone last Veterans Day, I was invited for an in studio interview to share the NVAR mission. Mary Jane Popp, the host, and wife of a Vietnam Veteran, was full on interested what we do and requested another phone interview when we arrive in Washington, D.C. Spread the word Mary Jane — Never Forget.
At almost 12:30 sharp, two California Motorcycle Highway Patrolmen escorted us safely to the Veterans Administration Medical Center, VMAC, in Sacramento. It was a blessing to have their protection through multiple interchanges and across multiple lanes of congested traffic. Thank you guys.
The staff at the VMAC gave us another warm welcome. After Rick Dyer presented certificates of appreciation, we got down to the business of visiting veterans. About forty of us split into groups for a guided visit through the hospital and clinic. As usual, many patients were surprised to the nature of our visit, and the extent to which we carry it. In our tour, it was nice to meet many with plans to be home in a few days, and there were guys like Alvin and Johnny who waited for that good news. However, they were both in good spirits and in our chat Alvin mentioned a few times about his retirement at eighty, when he didn’t appear to be a day over 72, and yet, he was a young 92. Rock on Alvin. Johnny looked forward to getting out with hope his wife will let him buy another Harley Davidson. The best of luck to you, Johnny, & enjoy the ride.
Our visits always seem too short, and it’s hard to say goodbye, but we do with well wishes to all.
Despite the absence of our very own contact with Mother Nature, and I speak of Big Daddy the weather man, we enjoyed a beautiful day. But Mother Nature may play some pranks in his absence and the miles ahead. Not to worry though, Mike Tipton has stepped under the cloud, or sunshine I hope, and taken the task of forecasting the elements we will enjoy, or endure, each day. However, I suspect Big Daddy will try to twist the winds of fate in our favor from Nebraska. Thank you Big Daddy.
The staff at Sweet Pea’s restaurant prepared another great feast for our fill for a good night’s rest before our big journey tomorrow. Thank you Sweet Pea.
A special note here: all riders on this year’s NVAR join Paul Need, aka Buzz, on his fifteenth ride All The Way, plus the rides he made before the NVAR, for a total of twenty one (21) rides across America for our veterans. The man is a legend with an iron butt!
Tomorrow we ride east, where thousands of veterans await our visit.
Thank you & Never Forget
2019 Ride Day Two (Wednesday, May 15)
I failed to mention that during the feast at Sweet Peas last night, we held our regular meeting, which included introductions from each rider, followed by information relevant to the ride, given by Jerry Connor, aka Five Minutes, (the President of the NVAO), followed by a safety meeting given by Patrick Martindale, aka Jackwagon, (our Road Guard Captain), to include warnings if anyone fails to comply to the rules of the road. One never has too much information. Generous donations followed; to the NVAR, and from the NVAR to support individuals and groups helping veterans and others in need. There’s a lot of good Karma on the ride.
The weight of a hearty meal at Sweet Peas settled through a deep sleep, just in time for a hearty breakfast provided by the Auburn Jeep Club at the Auburn American Legion. Those guys loaded us down with pancakes, eggs and sausage like grandma used to make. Rick Dyer then presented certificates of appreciation to the great support of the American Legion, the Legion Riders, and the Auburn Jeep Club. And I apologize if I forgot any of the many who support us. Thank you all.
After our fill, Jerry briefed us on events of the day and Patrick briefed us on safety. As a tribute to fallen soldiers in the War on Terror, Dan, aka Sweetness, read the names and specifics of two soldiers who sacrificed their lives for freedom and the nature that goes with it.
Sgt. 1st Class Mihail Golin, 34 years old, of the 10th Special Forces Group Green Beret was killed on Jan. 1 in Afghanistan. He had been deployed three times and was awarded Purple Hearts, Army Commendations Medals, and Army Achievement Medals. The guy was a warrior. He is survived by his parents and a daughter. A great loss for them, and all Americans.
Master Sergeant Jonathan Dunbar of International Falls MN, was killed in action on Mar. 29, in Manbij, Syria. He was deployed six ( yes, 6) times during which he was awarded the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Army Achievement Medal, among others. He left behind his mother, a wife, a son, two daughters, and another daughter born after his death. Another warrior and another great loss to his family and America.
Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
Then, before the daily prayer, Wayne Worden, aka Wayne Worden, our Ride Chaplain, shared his story about how he and Rick Dyer learned of the NVAR some 10 years ago, which is similar to many who learn about it, by strange coincidence, or, perhaps from a higher direction!
Mother Nature plays with us this morning; a light rain falls on our parade. But, the wind is light and the temperature is favorable; all things considered. There is promise for better elements this afternoon.
The Auburn Jeep Club and local police escorted us through Old Town Auburn where business owners, patrons, and passersby cheered our parade. We could not leave town without a ride-by at the Bowman Elementary School, where cheers from hundreds of kids waving American flags drowned out the roar of exhaust.
And then we rode into a very heavy drizzle. Mountain scenery is quite interesting and entertaining under those conditions. The steady rain and fog obscured pine, spruce, or cedars which stood like sentinels on their rugged terrain. The heavy dark clouds over the mountain tops seem to send slow swirling whiffs of vapor into hollows, which held them captive. The rain poured down, and the fog laid dense on our trail. Had it been about 70 degrees warmer, it would have reminded me of riding through the monsoons in the Central Mountains of Vietnam. But temperatures at 5,000 feet in elevation made that memory an abstract.
A steady spray shot from the back of each motorcycle and mirrors reflected the dotted lines of headlights as we slowly wound our way up, and down, and up, and down the mountains, while trucks shot sheets of water from each of their 18 wheels. I didn’t wear my heated liners, and at low elevation felt overdressed with leather and rain gear, but soon wished I’d have worn them. But once over the Donner Pass it warmed, and by Reno it was comfortable and dry. All part of the adventure.
The Reno Motorcycle Police met us for an escort to the VMAC, where the Patriot Guard Riders, PGR, honored us with a Flag Line. That is something special. Thank you.
Our regular schedule was changed to allow more time to visit veterans, and that was special, too. After certificates of appreciation to the PGR of Nevada and California, the Reno Police, Sy - whose staff grilled about a quarter of an elk for burgers, and of course, staff at the VMAC, we got down to business of visiting the veterans.
A bunch of us pushed veterans confined to their four wheels on a tour of our two wheeled vehicles. William Daily, a Navy Veteran, was a long time rider with his sons and looked into memories as he gazed at each bike. He left Vietnam in the mid-60’s, then returned in 1971, only to be shot in Saigon— by cupid. His wife was waiting for him on our return from the bike tour.
The veterans and their stories are amazing, entertaining and humbling.
Gary Croft, aka Mr. Wizard met James Rhodes, and once I was introduced, I forgot to ask what branch of service he was in. James is an established book author with 24 westerns, mysteries, and children books to his credit; and he has more to write. We had a lot to talk about, of course, and time was not enough.
Jerry met a fellow who loved motorcycles, as any young man would; although, he never owned one. But his brother did and often lent it to him. In 1957, the handsome young man rode the streets to pick up chicks who loved guys on motorcycles. Some things never change!
Too often, we are humbled in our tracks on introductions to the veterans we meet. Jim Newman, a FNG, aka Fine New Guy (first time rider on the NVAR) reached out to shake the hand of a veteran in a wheel chair and thank him, but the veteran refused to shake. Instead, the man struggled a bit to stand before Jim and salute him in gratitude for the visit. Scenarios like that happen often; the guys we pay tribute to turn the table on us! How do you react to such an act of appreciation? You Never Forget, and ride the NVAR.
Although our time was extended, it was still too short of a visit; as they all are. After the feast on elk burgers we bundled for a potential of rain, which never happened. Courtesy Mike Tipton, our weather man.
There was a bit of emptiness as we rode past the Fernley Veterans Cemetery on the spacious beauty of Nevada, but that stop for a wreath laying was the sacrifice we made for extra time in Reno. They are not forgotten, and I hope they would understand.
Interstate 80 laid looooong through valleys and over a few passes, and back onto distant stretches that seemed to go on forever, and ever, but our gas stops in Lovelock and Battle Mountain broke the continuity. We shared the lanes with occasional rigs, pickups, and very few cars; and we all got along well. An easterly breeze switched to a strong blow from the south, which brought a southerly temperature with it, and a peek of sunshine, which made for a pleasant ride into Elko.
A police escort and a band of bikers from the Elko met us about 25 miles out for an escort into town. They gave us an honorable and royal treatment with unrestricted passage to the VFW Post 2350; at each intersection Police Officers’ stood beside their vehicles with a salute to us as we passed. Traffic stood at a standstill in the opposite lane and pedestrians stopped in awe of our passage.
Social time at the VFW was the first order of business after a long ride. On the patio, VFW guys and gals grilled burgers, franks, and brats for our fill, till breakfast.
As we rode into Elko, a dense cover of snow capped peaks high on the eastern horizon. The fore-cast doesn’t look too favorable for a sunny day, but the weather always changes; for better or worse.
That ends my report of the days’ events. Please check back tomorrow to hear about our ride across the Great Salt Lake Desert, and our visit to the Salt Lake City Veterans Home where they always prepare a great welcome, and have two unique service animals.
Thank you & Never Forget
2019 Ride Day Three (Thursday, May 16)
I left the VFW Post 2350 early last night, and there is a lot of news in my absence!
Les Brown, of the VFW, who is in charge of NVAR activities (thank you Les), and more important in his charge, is as the head of the Nevada POW/MIA Association. In June, Les will go to Washington D.C. for the 50th Anniversary of the association. He will welcome dignitaries from a host of nations, to include; Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. He will also honor families who celebrated the homecoming of loved ones who were Missing in Action. Thank you Les; Forget None.
Also, a Korean War Veteran who had been MIA for 67 years will be honored with internment at Arlington National Cemetery. Welcome Home Veteran. May his family feel closure.
Jerry met a 97 year old WWII veteran, who had a successful career at Heller Financial. He raised a family in Naperville Illinois, and now lives happily at the Utah State Veterans Home—a full life that gets fuller!
Another gentleman who is President of the Resident Association waited outside the VFW waving an American flag. He had toured the motorcycles and shared with Jerry his love of motorcycles; and the fate that followed. As a young man, he introduced his girlfriend and her family to motorcycles. Her parents didn’t like the motorcycles, but they liked him. He was batting 50/50 there, and he had his choices—and the young woman became his wife of 70 years. Wow!
We listen to so many fascinating stories, and usually, all one has to do is be respectful, ask questions, and listen. Everybody likes to hear a story!
We woke to mostly gray skies, but better temperatures. Our morning ritual began with a briefing of the day’s events from Jerry, a short comment/reminder about safety from Patrick (way to go guys, let’s keep those comments short), and then, a reading of the tribute to a soldier who sacrificed his life in the War on Terror. And with that said, I was ahead of myself last night and mentioned Master Sergeant Jonathan Dunbar who died on Jan. 1, 2018, in yesterday’s report. Along with MS Dunbar, United Kingdom Sgt. Matt Tonroe was also killed in action, along with five others wounded by the improvised explosive device. Americans are not alone in this war. Please keep the coalition in your prayers and thoughts, too.
After a prayer and wise words from Wayne, we rode below a few patches of blue, which broke through the layers of dark gray clouds with white edges, which blended in well with a huge snow capped mountain range on our horizon. Some of us dressed for an attack from a rogue rain cloud we were warned about, others rode in defiance of it; and nobody got wet!
I was honored this morning to ride beside the Headdog to our first stop. That is a special position at the front of the NVAR formation, which is its own formation known as the Missing Man Formation. Headdog and another, myself this morning, ride in front. Another rider is chosen to ride behind Headdog, beside an empty slot which is behind my position, in which rides the spirit of the soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice. Behind that are two riders protecting the rear. The Missing Man Formation rides every mile of the ride. It is a great honor to ride in that formation.
The expanse and beauty of the west is unique, and on a motorcycle, it’s an experience to behold. Our formation ran over Interstate 80 like a meteor through the cosmos, and all too soon, the first hundred miles had slipped by.
As we came over the hill before Wendover, the Great Salt Lake Desert came into full view—a vast area of white. The two lanes of I80 laid across it and disappeared in a distant white haze; which we would encounter later.
About seventy riders from the UMF Social Club waited at our gas stop; a reunion we have each year. Their President, Jason, welcomed us, and Headdog and Jerry welcomed them. Among them were veterans from the War on Terror, to whom we recognized with medals provided by the Vietnam Veterans of America, VVA.
Our greetings were brief, and onto the desert we rode. A gale force wind blew strong enough to blow all but a battleship of the Great Salt Lake blew. It swept off the desert into great clouds, which crossed our path for an overdose of sodium. However, it wasn’t strong enough to slow the NVAR, although, it tossed us around as we rode a little off plumb through the gusts. And that was before we rode into the High Wind Area, where it shifted to our front quarter, which demanded a little more twist on the throttle to keep our pace.
After a hundred miles of salt, sunshine, and the gale, we met more riders and our motorcycle police escort for our ride to the Salt Lake City Veterans Home. In route, the Salt Lake City Fire Department parked fire trucks on an overpass with a large American flag attached to a fully extended ladder. It’s awesome to see such displays of patriotism and support. Our escort waltzed us through interchanges and from lane to lane without the slightest threat, confusion, or hesitation. Those guys were good.
One hundred and twenty some riders rode into the parking lot at the Veterans Home to a warm welcome from many veterans and staff anxiously waiting our arrival. Jason and Jerry presented numerous certificates of appreciation to staff at the Veterans Home, the police escorts, and the fire department. Unfortunately, the certificates are not large enough to express the expanse of our appreciation; we could not do what we do without them all. Thank you all.
We met more veterans from the War on Terror, and Fred, Rick, and Larry made the honorable presentations.
Our group was too large for a mass visitation, so, half were to feast on another great grilled lunch, while the other half mingled with the veterans outside, some strolled through the beautiful home to visit others in their rooms, and some of us went into the Memory Care Unit.
I had never met a tap dancer until I met Doug McKendrick, a cheerful chap at 92. He was a guest dancer on the Ted Mack Show; and knowing that show, shows my age! As a Navy Veteran, he also danced on the deck of a destroyer, too. Doug’s memory was sharp when it came to names as he rattled off family and friends, and other show hosts, and wondered if I knew them; but I couldn’t remember!
Then we met Don Robison, whom I did remember from last year. I never forget a face, a motorcycle, or a hat, and his cowboy hat gave him away. Don’s a biker from way back and still owns a Victory, which he last rode at the age of 86, from West Virginia to Utah. His daughter showed up as we were talking, and she told a few humorous stories about her dad. His son rides a Harley, too. It’s always great to meet a Veteran’s family, who are always glad for what we do.
Tony, an NVAR rider, became an instant buddy of Don’s, because Tony rides a Victory, too. They went into the parking lot where memories flooded back when Don saw Tony’s bike. When I asked if he met his wife on his motorcycle, he says, hell yeah.
The threat of rain moved the dining inside, although, it didn’t rain, but in the shaded courtyard crawled the Veterans mascot, a huge turtle. He moves at a pace that makes one think it’s 250 years old, and it may be. I think I interrupted his meditation in the corner, or he was just taking his time moving in, or out of it. A dog has replaced the kangaroo, and it would chase the tennis ball all day if somebody would throw it. The Salt Lake City Veterans Home is unique with a fantastic staff who are passionate about their responsibilities; which come natural to them.
All too soon it was time to bid them farewell, until next year. Another rouge cloud threatened our passage to Evanston, and some defied it. And once again, none got wet as we rode over the pass, through the valleys, and crossed the border into the great state of Wyoming.
Another police escort and a contingent of bikers met us twenty some miles out for a grand entry into sunny Evanston. A wreath laying ceremony was held at a memorial to all veterans, and nine students from the high school choir sang America the Beautiful as well as any American Talent!
Roland Otte, aka Sparky, and his wife, Puppy, along with Dennis and Linda Stucki, known as Dennis and Linda, picked up the duties of merchandise sales in the sad absence of Ed and Sandy (please keep them and their family in your thoughts and prayers). They parked the trailer tight to the Eagles Club curb for some serious sales of shirts, hats, patches, and decals. Inside the club, the cooks prepared another feast of pork, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, bread, salad, and of course, desert. Sometimes they switch out the pork for beef, but whatever, it’s like a turkey dinner!
I had responsibilities to attend to, so I ate quick and left as the certificates of appreciation were given to many deserving people who provide endless support to the NVAR. Tomorrow I may have late news to report, and another exciting day on the NVAR, so, please check back.
Thank you & Never Forget
2019 Ride Day Four (Friday, May 17)
A late story from our visit at the Salt Lake City Veterans Home regarding our presentations of the Medals of Appreciation to veterans from the War on Terror. Among the 22 they gave, one was to a young female who served in Afghanistan. The presentation and recognition put her in a state of confusion, or perhaps, even shock. She was overcome by her emotions. Her brother was there to tell Fred, who made the presentation, that that was the first time she felt welcomed home.
After all the patriotism we see and feel across this great land while on the NVAR, we are stunned that such a lack of recognition could, and did, happen. After all that has happened; since the Vietnam War and then after 911, how could any veteran feel so, unnoticed, unwelcome, that they would be deeply and emotionally startled to receive recognition for their service?
Situation’s like that push us to reach more veterans, and to remind others; Thank a Vet, and Never Forget. Unless you’ve been in battle, one can’t possibly or clearly imagine the turmoil or trauma a soldier endured. They must never feel unwelcome for their service.
Last night’s rain lay frozen on the ground, but brilliant sunshine shone with promise for a good day. Breakfast would be had down the road, so our morning briefing was short.
We rode east into the brilliant glare with a light breeze at our back, however, with a combination of the earth’s rotation, the movement of a weather system, and our direction of travel over the surface of the earth, we were soon shaded below an expanse of stratus clouds. After a few miles we were under a partly sunny sky. Big Daddy explained the simple difference between partly sunny (more clouds than sunshine) and partly cloudy (more sun than clouds). Or was that vice a versa?
We rolled on in a perfect formation, each rider acclimating to the low temps, some better than others thanks to heated liners and grips. Most were dressed to the max for warmth and the potential for rain. Soon, I noticed the air had become calm, but it still felt windy at 70 mph! Early in our day, a meteorological phenomenon occurred, perhaps for the first time ever, in my eyes. Unfortunately, I didn’t stop to take a photo, so I hope my description makes the picture!
The stratus clouds merged with higher altostratus clouds to cover the Wyoming horizon. Our surface winds kicked up again, but high elevation winds must have blown with a super gale force, which formed wisps of cirrus-verticulus clouds below them. (Since I was the first to discover that new type of cloud formation, I named it.) Those vertical wisps blowing below the darker shades at higher elevation had an appearance of a sky full of witches brooms, for lack of a better description, and it was quite ominous. The sky got darker, and soon, electronic signs over our lane warned of winds to 40+ mph. Our tight formation rolled on in defiance to any elements, and I will speak more of that as you follow us to Cheyenne.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the police escorted us to ours. They picked us up (not in a legal sense) about twenty miles out of Rock Springs, and along with the fire department, gave us a royal entrance to the Archie Hay American Legion, where the American Legion Riders stood tall and sharp in a flag line. A fantastic welcome! Thank you.
Mike and Kat Tipton did a marvelous job, again, with arrangements for the escort, and the cooks—artists in the kitchen. Thank You. What we feasted on would have pleased a cattle rancher after chores. Then, after many gracious certificates of appreciation, Tony, from CA, won the Lucky Draw to put $90 in his pocket.
Wayne shared words of wisdom about complacency; we become static to our surroundings and take things for granted, and forget to see God’s glory in every day. Then it was time to go to lunch. Ooops! I mean get back on our track to the next gas stop in Rawlins.
Laramie WY was the gas stop after that, where a wonderful reunion was had. Rick Dyer makes the ride from Auburn, and his wife follows in their truck for further adventures after D.C. A buddy of Rick’s lives in Laramie, and the last time they saw each other was on their tour of duty in C Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Air Mobile Infantry in Vietnam—48 years ago. Wow! Terry Cook, known as Laramie to his Nam Buddies, stood in anticipation as we rode in. Rick barely got his kickstand down for an embrace with his old buddy. I can’t imagine the thoughts and emotions that passed between them. What they had gone through, what only they among us knew and saw during their time in battles; to reunite after that time with one who had your back on the battlefield. That’s gotta run pretty deep.
Our schedule is rigid, and, unfortunately, the reunion was at high speed, but the smiles on those guys was like a child's at Christmas. After a series of photos, they bid heartfelt farewells. Rick sent me two photos of them when in Nam. In the first, Laramie is pointing the finger at the guy next to him and Rick is straight across from them. In the second, Rick is squatting and Laramie is standing next to him with a cigarette.
The clouds were dark over the pass before Cheyenne, and that early promise from brilliant sunshine let us down when a few sprinkles splattered the windshields. They splattered a little more as we closed in on the capital city, where another police patrol picked us up. It’s always nice to see their flashing lights in front of us, instead of in our mirrors! But soon, the rain came down as hard as it did when we left Cheyenne last year. (That’s not funny Mother Nature.) The escort’s lights faded in the deluge, but we slowed and other patrolmen blocked every intersection for the residents to know something big was happening in their town. The rain eased as we rode into the Veterans Administration Hospital.
Sue, who has joined us for a few rides ALL THE WAY, works there and met us inside where it was warm and dry. We sloshed into a day room to store helmets and dripping rain gear, and then split into groups to visit the vets.
Jerry’s family came up from Colorado, and during their visits, his grandson of 10 years and knowledgeable about ships, asked a sailor if he ever got seasick. A very good question. The Old Salt said he never got sick on his ship, but he did get seasick on a cruise ship. He said it was something about the roll of the big tub with so much bulk above the waterline. But, no doubt there were plenty of land lovers aboard whose lunch ended up in the little brown bags, too.
Mike, from Oregon, asked an army veteran what made the best day in his military service. He was sent to Spain, and besides its history of sailors searching for the new worlds and sinking with gold bullion in battles, Spain is known for bull fighting, and this soldier wanted to see a bull fight. He stood on a street in a bit of confusion, and when asked by a stranger what he was doing, he told him. The stranger offered to take him in to the bull fight, which he enjoyed, then the stranger took him on a tour of the town, and then to a very good dinner. That stranger was Earnest Hemingway! A great day indeed.
John, an army veteran, waited for results on tests—the veterans are always tested. After his service in Germany, he spent the next 49 years in construction, and raising a family. He wanted to make 50 years but heart issues put a halt to that. He looks forward to passing his tests and going home to sit on the porch to look out over his ranch and whittle.
Ed, next door to John, had a few successful careers after his military service. Banking, which didn’t afford him enough to help his son through medical school, so, he went back to school, then started a health food company. He named his price when somebody wanted to buy it, and then sold real estate in Florida, sadly, until his wife passed away. He returned to Wyoming, and loves to play and watch golf. When I told him I was a retired Golf Course Superintendent with experience on over a dozen U.S. and Asian PGA Golf Championships, our conversation rose to a new level of excitement for him. We could have talked for hours, but time was too short, as usual, and I’d been left behind before, for similar conversations.
Never turn down an offer for a Milk Can dinner. It’s kinda similar to a crab boil, if you’re familiar with Cajun cuisine, but not as spicy. However, that could quickly be seasoned! Bill Breeden, from the VFW Post 1818 and our NVAR Wyoming State Coordinator, made all the arrangements for our visit and a feast like we’d never had; a boil of whole potatoes, cobs of corn, carrots, cabbage, and tender lengths of sausage. We certainly eat well on the ride, and if you don’t come of it heavier than when you started, you’re a wonder of nature!
We leave at 6:20 for breakfast before we ride into the great state of Nebraska.
Please check back tomorrow.
In the meantime; Thank a Vet & Never Forget
2019 Ride Day Five (Saturday, May 18)
A Vietnam Veteran and his wife, riding a Harley Trike pulling a trailer, were standing at the hotel check-in. I thanked him for his service and introduced myself to meet Felix and his wife, Evelyn. They are on their way to Washington D.C. and hoped to find someone to ride with. Ha Ha! Have I got an invitation for you, and to make a long story short, they are with us to about West Virginia, where they’ll head up to Pennsylvania where they have reservations. By the end of their first day, they were amazed with our mission and want to ride with us again. The NVAR has a way of doing that to people!
About 48 people, on about 32 bikes, with a few in the chase/merchandise truck and a car, rode, and drove, to breakfast at the Eagles Club in Cheyenne. About 15 years ago, they were supposed to provide breakfast for the NVAR’s first visit, and they forgot. A quick decision sent someone to Dunkin Donuts for you know what, and coffee. Since then, they have made up for the donuts every year with a fantastic Wyoming feast. They’ve been a great support for the NVAR in every aspect of our visit to the Veterans Hospital. Thank you guys.
We had our regular ride briefing and words of faith from Wayne. To use riding as an analogy; if a rider looks only at the obstacle he wants to avoid, he most often hits it, and as it is with our problems, look not so deep into them that you are lost in them, look to God for resolve.
We cut through brisk air under the glare of brilliant sunshine across a mostly blue sky. There was only one small sheet of thin cloud, which we quickly put behind us. The Wyoming prairie rolled over hills that spread far and wide in all directions. On our distant horizon, a thin string of puffy, mostly, white clouds stretched from a little south or the highway to Montana, maybe. It appeared as though they were pushed up from the edge of the earth and we would eventually ride straight into them, and off the edge. But, we know that didn’t happen!
We crossed another state line, where a contingent of riders and drivers and passengers from Grand Island met us at the first gas stop in Sydney Nebraska. Their fearless leader, Bill “Mongo” Luft was the first to greet us, and then it turned into a reunion with all of them. Grand Island is home to the Purple Fish Motorcycle Club (PFMC) and many others who have been long standing support for the NVAR, and we love them for who they are and what they do, not only for us, but for their community.
Our first act today was at the interchange of Interstates 80 and 76. At that interchange on the first NVAR, in 2005, an accident took the life of Kathleen “Lovie” Kintzele, wife of Ed Kintzele. Lovie was so named because of an abundant love she had for life and everyone in it, with a special love for veterans. It was a tragic loss for Ed, and all who knew her. Since then, she is remembered and honored with a wreath, but it’s not possible for the whole of the NVAR to perform a regular type of ceremony beside the interstate. Instead, a squad of rider leaves Sydney ahead of the NVAR for a wreath laying ceremony at the modest memorial beside the highway, next to a giant light post. The grass around it is maintained from spring through fall. With the wreath laid, the squad stands at attention to salute the NVAR as it passes, in which Ed has either been riding his bike, or driving the chase truck. I sense a great loss, still, in those who knew Lovie and feel sad not to have known her myself. RIP Lovie, you are not forgotten.
The NVAR rolled eastward under partly cloudy skies, that was mostly sunshine with a rise in temperature. However, the north wind blew, but at less than a gale. The deep green of spring growth covered the prairies like a carpet, and laid softly over hills and on the slopes of buttes. We had become spoiled a bit without much traffic to interrupt our ride, but that was changing in the Central Time Zone, for some odd reason!
More riders met us for our second act of the day; another wreath laying ceremony at the All Veterans Memorial in North Platte. It’s a beautiful creation built by volunteers, and a solemn place of remembrance, and reflection, for those who served. Mongo led the squad for this act of gratitude. They are not forgotten.
The fire department supplied a nice lunch of super subway sandwiches, chips, and cold drinks for our pleasure in a park beside the memorial. The few tables filled quickly, but John Jenkins found the best spot beside a tree, where he would have enjoyed a nap had we not a schedule to keep.
Moving on under a partly cloudy sky, with lots of sunshine, and lots of riders, too, we arrived in Kearney for a police escort to the Central Nebraska Veterans Home. On Jan. 16 of this year, they moved from their home in downtown Grand Island, where they had been for generations. We rode in on the sidewalk around the fish stocked pond to the front of the home. A dozen residents were outside to welcome us, and a few dozen more to visit inside.
Before we split up for visits to residents in their respective neighborhoods, known as; Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Echo, and Foxtrot, Bill “Mongo” had plenty of recognition and gratitude to pass out to the police department, the fire department, the Combat Veterans Association, and the PFMC. I apologize if I forgot anyone. Grand Island was the home of Mike “Buff” Manthey, and yesterday his family had a Celebration of his Life, so there was a deep sense of loss in the audience. But Buff’s life carries on in his family, which extends into many grand children and great grand children. He was a good man who loved being a Grandpa.
We set off in groups to visit:
Trina, from Macedonia (old Yugoslavia) sat in awe of our arrival. A knitted shawl kept her comfortable in light cool breeze coming off the pond. When asked, she said it was a long story from Macedonia to California, where she met her husband, who has since passed away, but her three children live nearby for regular visits.
Inside, Dave Clemmons chatted with Wilma, 99 years old, sharp witted, and knows how to pick the lucky bingo cards. She felt very blessed to live so long. Wilma was a nurse in Europe during WWII. We look forward to a reunion in the dawn of her second century.
In a group to visit those in the Memory Care Unit, half chatted with residents on the patio, and inside, Avery and Delbert were quite sociable in short conversations. Andy, who in a better time, lived life in the fast lane on Harley Davidsons. He had a collection of photos in his room with lots of great memories. He had few words to pass in conversation, until Linda Stuki showed up—then he had lots to say. It’s amazing what the presence of a woman can do.
Time passed too fast, and it was time to go, but it was great to visit them in their new home. We were happy to hear from them how much they liked it. They have private rooms with personal amenities and common rooms for dining and social time. The layout is efficient, and each neighborhood is connected so they don’t have to go outside. The design is tasteful with a strong homey atmosphere. They deserve the best, and they have it. We look forward to many reunions.
Did we eat yet? Ha! No, but dinner was only 55 miles away at the American Legion in Doniphan. Waiting out front was Kay Luft, who is directly, or perhaps indirectly, responsible for all the NVAR coordination in Grand Island, because she is the one who brought a little Bill Luft into the world. A wonderful woman who is known to hang with the big boys till the band stops playing.
The American Legion has supported the NVAR in all ways possible, and Bill had a handful of certificates of appreciation to hand out, and they are only a small token of our gratitude. The photo of the buffet line speaks about only part of the meal, and our appetite, because there was another table like that behind me, beside a desert table! Thank you American Legion.
About ten, perhaps fifteen, Medals of Recognition were presented today to veterans from the War on Terror. Mostly to those we met at the memorials and the vet home, but we meet them everywhere, to include the convenience store of a gas stop. We found a husband and wife who were traveling, and both were young veterans. We surprised them with our award for their service, and we made the presentation inside the store.
This ends my report for Saturday. Tomorrow, we cross another state line with some heavy weather forecast for Des Moines, which is nothing we haven’t been through before. All part of the mission!
Thank you & Never Forget