Ride Prelude - Tom Titus Introduction:

Hello to Everyone!! I hope everyone who is going on this ride, is ready to have fun. Most of all honor our vets past and present. I would like to say WELCOME HOME to all of our vets.
I am Tom Titus, "GHOST' to my vet Brothers & with my wife Michele, we are honored & dedicated to providing the daily blogs/sitreps for the 2012 NVAR. I am a Vietnam Combat Vet, 2 tour, 1st CAV, H Co Rangers 75th, E Co LRRPS 52nd, combat wounded...my Wife's Father served in Vietnam, my Son served with B Co 2/14 10th MTN DIV and was KIA in Iraq 8-2004, so I am also a Gold Star Dad. Our family has been military for decades as a great Uncle is CMOH recipient dating back to the early 1900's. I am also an all weather biker, but this trip we'll be driving our Ford F-150...too much gear to haul for daily blogs!
"Welcome Home" to my Brother & Sister Vets and I hope our daily blogs/sitreps will bring a smile to your face and maybe a chuckle or two. Thank You again for allowing us to be a part of NVAR.

Day One - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The journey begins as we bid Auburn, CA goodbye, after a hearty hot breakfast served by the Auburn Jeep Club at the Veterans Hall. Our route out of Old Town Auburn was speedy and well coordinated Thanks to our Road Guards and the Auburn Police Dept.

At this point we would like to back track and Thank Sweetpeas for providing the riders and NVAR staff an awesome dinner, Tuesday evening.

The morning riders meeting at the Veterans Hall was a mixture of anxiousness to ride and also "who are these riders"?

Michele and Shorty were busy being photo bugs and I played the part of a snoopy reporter, at the stand up. I do believe some of the riders thought I worked for the U.S. Census, or a gossip magazine.

We have riders from many states and I was very fortunate to chat with our "longest distance" rider; Svean Lerbrishk from West Coast, Norway. Thanks Svean for being patient with me. He is a really nice man.

We also welcomed home an Iraqi Vet, Joe Hagerty who is riding all the way. Charles Babcock presented Joe with a "Welcome Home" medal w/ neck ribbon and I had the pleasure to personally welcome Joe as a gold star father of an Iraqi Vet.

The morning count of riders going all the way and day riders seem to change every time "Bruce Almighty" caught me walking thru the crowd. We started with 34 all the way, 17 day riders, then it jumped to 41, 42, then 46 all the way and 28 day riders. At last count we had a total of approx: 80 riders. Tomorrow I'm using a pencil with an eraser to write the changing count, my ink pen definitely made a mess of my notepad.

Shifting gears, we set a good pace on I-80 to Boomtown despite the long intervals of construction. Our group of riders were treated to free gas at Boomtown courtesy of a staff member and his family, then we enjoyed a brief stop at Cabela’s for some snacks and some window shopping.

Upon arrival in Reno, NV. we were greeted by the Reno Police Dept. A big "Thank You" to these officers for the smooth flowing escorts to the Reno VAMC, and our departure back to I-80.

At the Reno VAMC we split into 2 groups, 1 group visited the non- ambulatory patients in their rooms, the 2nd group visited with several veterans in the day room, many of whom were having lunch. I had the pleasure of visiting with 2 veterans, Mr. W.L. Battle who is 90 yrs old, originally from Mississippi, and Mr. William R. Fleshman, who served 30 yrs 3 months in the Navy. These men are the fading generation and many have much history to be shared, which may be lost forever.

Least I forget, several of our riders participated in the VAMC Walk & Roll fundraiser for the homeless veterans, prior to our departure to Fernley, NV. Once were back on the road arriving in Fernley, NV. where lunch at Wal-mart or riding to the Veterans Cemetery was a option offered to the group.

At this point in the daily blog, I do apologize for not being able to report on the groups travel to our night stop in Elko, NV Our vehicle developed a severe mechanical problem in the front wheel hub assembly, so while our truck was in the repair area I waved bye-bye to the riders as they departed.

All was not lost, thanks to 1 of the mechanics that drove to Reno to pick up the much needed part, we were back on the road 2 1/2 hrs later and slightly poorer in the wallet "LOL".

Tomorrow, Thursday May 17th is a new day and hopefully Michele & I will have new interesting segments on the group's travel to Salt Lake City VAMC and our night stop in Evanston, WY

THANK YOU, Ghost, Michele & Shorty

Day Two - Thursday, May 17, 2012

The day started off really well. We left Elko, NV. at 8am to head to Evanston, WY. We left with 52 riders I must say that’s a pretty good number.

Our main stop today was at the Salt Lake City Veterans Home. It was a joy to pull in the parking lot and see the veterans sitting there smiling waiting for us to get there. What an awesome feeling to just be able to visit with all of them.

While there we met some incredible veterans. To name a few we met with: ‘Mayor’ Delbert Boyington of the Veterans Home served in the Korean War; Donald E. Mathews who is 94 yrs. Old served with the US Army on the Pacific Front in Okinawa and Leyte Campaign, also specialized in in Anti-Aircraft and Electronics. Gene Johnson served in the Army and fought in the Korean War; he also has a love for motorcycles’ and raced on flat track with a bike he built himself. Last but certainly not least Mel Larsen Capt. served with General Patton and said Patton cussed all the time and he also had to take care of Patton’s Bull Dog for 2 weeks.

We would like to thank Terry Schow with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Jeff Hanson State Officer with the Utah Veterans Affairs. Would also like to thank the staff at the Salt Lake City Veterans Home, and the cookies were delicious.

Safe travels to all, and remember to smile and always thank a vet.

Titus Family

Day Three - Friday, May 18, 2012

This morning was a bit chilly. Today we left Evanston, WY. To head our way to Cheyenne, WY. The start out was not bad until we hit gusty winds and some light rain showers. We had a few more riders join us today so our total number is close to 60 riders on this journey so far.

As we got closer to Cheyenne we had an escort take us in. When we hit the exit we had to take, we had escorts take us into the Cheyenne VAMC. We would like to thank the Cheyenne Police Chief and the Department, also would like to thank the Larimer Sheriff’s Department for their hard work on getting us there safely.

At the Cheyenne VA we met a veteran who was in the Battle of the Bulge. James Paxton worked on the railroads to help ship the guys to Germany. He got detached from unit to go to Marseilles, Nuremburg then Berlin. They had to travel back and forth for about 4 months. James Paxton is 90 yrs. old and is one of our Medal of Honor recipient’s. Thank You to all the veterans we have met so far for their sacrifice, service and honor “Welcome Home”.

After the VA we headed to the Cheyenne VFW for dinner. Thank you for the food and the hospitality.

Titus Family

Day Four - Saturday, May 19, 2012

Today was a windy and rainy day. We went from Cheyenne, WY to Grand Island, NE.

Our main stop was the Grand Island VAMC. We had a little Ceremony. Wish to thank the Grand Island Fire Department for flying the flag for us.

I do have a story that I need to put in here. It was from our first day. We missed it due to our truck having problems that are now fixed.

Bruce did the story for us.

Back on the road again after leaving the Reno VAMC we headed for the Northern Nevada Veterans Cemetery. This is the second year for this stop and the plan is to make it a permanent part of the ride. This stop has a very special meaning to one of the founding members of the NVAR.

In 2005, the first year of the ride, the bikes pulled into a parking lot in Battle Mountain Nevada and were greeted by a contingent of Indian Veterans. Among them Joe (Indiana Joe) Leonard. Indian Joe was serving in the Army air corps during the Japanese Invasion of Pearl Harbor. As the bombs were dropping, Indian Joe was issued a 45 cal. hand gun and 3 bullets and was told to guard a particular dock.

In 1992 many U.S. flags were flown over Hickam AFB to later be presented to all surviving Veterans serving at Pearl Harbor during the attack. Of course, Joe received one of those flags and he cherished it. Indian Joe's health started failing in late 2005 and 2006. In 2007 he was admitted to a nursing home. As with all Vets we meet, he has not been forgotten by the NVAR, especially by Steve "Head Dog" Moore, who became very good friends with Joe. When Head Dog stopped to visit Joe on the 2007 run, Joe presented his Pearl Harbor flag to him as a gift. Now Steve "Head Dog" Moore has the honor and privilege of owning this treasure that Joe Leonard so cherished. Joe was admitted to the Battle Mountain Hospital when his health continued to deteriorate.

On the 2009 NVAR trip Head Dog and Bruce "Almighty" Manner made a visit to Joe in the hospital. Steve and Bruce were the last two NVAR friends to see Joe alive. A week after we arrived home from the 2009 run, Joe died. He was born 11/19/1922 and died on 6/16/2009. Joe Leonard died ALONE. We paid our respects to Joe with a wreath laying ceremony which consisted of the following riders :

  • Dan (Lugnut) Kuepker
  • Gary Croft
  • Charlie "B" Babcock
  • Doc (Hawk) ?
  • Thank you for your service and rest in peace Indian Joe Leonard.

    Day Five - Sunday, May 20, 2012

    Today was a beautiful day out. Only had wind, so it was a good day to ride.

    In this post I need to put some things in here that was missed. We visited with Grand Island, NE VAMC. It was a wonderful visit with all the veterans there.

    We would like to thank a few people that were there.

    Nancy a representative for the VAMC.
    The Mayor of Grand Island, NE. Jay Vavricek.

    Thank you for taking the time to be there.

    We also had numerous donations and would like to thank and mention them:

    Bill Luft and Family- State coordinator for Nebraska
    Central Sand Hills Legion
    Larry Hobson
    Bennitt owner of T-Bone

    Thank You for all your hard work and effort you put into this.

    Would like to mention a veteran we talked to Bob Waters served in the Air Force. Tour was in Europe. Thank You.

    Sunday May 20th we went to Council Bluffs to lay a wreath at the Veterans wall.

    Then we headed to Freedom Rock. It is an amazing piece of art that one man does. Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II is very talented. He changes the painting on the rock every year.

    Next was the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. We had a beautiful ceremony.

    Then on to our last stop. It was a good time visiting with fellow riders. Also had a wonderful dinner, provided by the PVA.

    We are almost there. Everyone on this ride is a great bunch of people. Last but not least our riders count for the day:
    55 bikes total
    16 day riders
    5 new to D.C.
    So our total to D.C. is 56 riders.

    Titus Family

    Day Six - Monday, May 21, 2012

    Des Moines - Davenport, Iowa

    It was a beautiful day today. The sun was shining and the wind was finally calm.

    We had a busy day visiting veterans at several veterans’ homes and hospitals

    Our first visit was the Des Moines, IA. VAMC. It was nice to see all of them outside waiting for us to come in. They were very excited for us to come in and see them. We met a couple of veterans we would like to mention: Cindy who served with the Air Force for 4yrs, and Phil who served with the Army for 2 yrs. in Vietnam 65 thru 66. Thank You.

    Then we headed to Marshalltown, IA. Veterans home. The group split up and went to all the floors to visit the veterans. They also provided us with lunch. Thank You for the hospitality and the food. Our next visit was Iowa City, IA. VAMC. There we had a tour of their hospital and also visited with the veterans there.

    Our last visit was Memorial Park in Davenport, IA and the Cemetery to honor our veterans of all wars. Last we headed to the American Legion Post #26 for an amazing dinner they made for us. Thank You.

    We would like to thank everyone involved in all the stops today and all their hard work to put it together.

    On another note one of our road guards had a blank moment. He tried to get on the wrong bike and thought no one was watching, but I seen it happen made me laugh. Thanks for the laugh Head Dog.

    Today our daughter “Shorty” got to ride with one of our riders. We would like to thank him for doing that, she enjoyed it very much. Wylie Coyote thank you for taking her for a ride, but I do believe she is ready for more. Next she is going to ask for a Harley. LOL!!

    I do not have an update as to how many riders we had today, but I know we had quite a few join us.

    Titus Family

    Day Seven - Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    Marseilles, Illinois

    We started off today refreshed. There was beautiful weather and amazing scenery.

    As we headed down the road to Marseilles, IL, the group went to the Middle-East Conflict Wall. What an amazing thing to see that they made a wall for them. They held a little ceremony, and also had a moment of silence for Brandon Titus and C. Boyd. We had a chance to look up Brandon’s name and there it was Section 1 Row 31. We broke out in tears having no clue that this was even built. Thank you all the riders who consoled us it means a lot to us that someone gets it. If you even get the chance to go see it you should.

    After that stop we headed to Portage High School in Portage, IN. There we were treated to a program performed by the JROTC, what an outstanding group of kids. They put on an awesome show. We are Very proud of all our young leaders of the future making a difference in their lives. For the seniors who are graduating remember, reach for the stars. Congrats to the Senior Class of 2012 at Portage High School.

    We did a wreath laying at the Danny Bruce Memorial.

    Our stop for the night was Michigan City, IN. At St. Joseph for our welcome dinner.

    A personal message from Tom aka "Ghost": I wish to Thank my lovely wife, Michele for her hard work on the daily blog when I fell ill on the ride!! She has been a valuable asset to me on this ride and hopefully both of us will get much needed sleep when we reach DC!

    To the many riders and VAMC Patients/Vets that I have met these past 6 days...Thank You for allowing me to be a part of your lives! Thank you to those NVAR riders for your words of encouragement & support when I viewed my 'only' son's name on the Middle-East Conflict Wall at 1 of our stops today. Since 1991, I've ridden many miles every year to DC to keep a promise to my brothers on the WALL that I served with in Nam', never ever realizing that someday I would see my son's name on a different 'wall'. Doing the daily blog, driving the 'push truck', relaying messages via CB on the road for NVAR with my family involved helps to ease my pain and makes me feel that I am useful... Thank You for allowing me to be a part of this group.

    Tom Titus

    Day Eight - Wednesday, May 23, 2012

    Michigan City, Indiana

    Thank you to the DAV Chapter 23 for the breakfast to start out our day.

    We went to West Central School today. When we pulled up we seen all the elementary school kids standing there waving their American flags, and screaming all for us.

    Next was the Indiana Veterans home in West Lafayette, IN. We got to have lunch with a lot of the veterans who reside at the home. What an amazing time to be able to sit there and have lunch with them and talk at the same time.

    Today we had a total of about 95 bikes that includes our all the way riders and day riders. The line of bikes never ended. It was pretty cool to ride down the highway and be the only motorist on the road. It was like we were important, had our own motorcade.

    We would like to say thank you to all the Police escorts who helped us today. You guys did an outstanding job keeping us moving and doing it safely.

    Our ending point for the night is Brookville, OH at the Amvets for an amazing dinner they made for us. Thank You.

    Titus Family

    Day Nine - Thursday, May 24, 2012

    This morning we had breakfast at the VFW Post 3288, and what a breakfast it was.

    We headed to the Chillicothe, OH VAMC. Part of the group stayed to while the others went on. They headed to Southeastern High School. They put on a program for us, and had rolling memorial for the Lima Marines. We had an outstanding lunch with them. Thank you.

    From there we went to Clarksburg, VA. To visit the vets at the VAMC. They have a big facility. We met a couple of gentleman there that was Army Airborne, what a joy to talk and meet them.

    Our last STOP WAS Bridgeport, WV. There we went to the VFW post 573 for dinner that they prepared for us.

    Titus Family

    Day Ten - Friday, May 25, 2012

    Again up bright and early to have breakfast, and our riders meeting. I can’t wait till I can actually sleep in or even get some sleep.

    I think we had a great day. We went to the Maryland Veterans Cemetery for a wreath laying ceremony. This cemetery is very beautiful, nestled in the hills.

    From there it was a straight shot to Washington, DC. Our most important stop was Arlington Cemetery to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The NVAR laid a wreath for the Unknown, what an honor to be able to do that. It was an amazing sight and feeling to be there. This was a first for our daughter “Shorty".

    We have 3 days in DC. Saturday we go to the wall to honor our fellow brothers and sisters who were KIA. This will be an emotional day for all who never forget.

    This has been a wonderful experience for our daughter “Shorty”. This will be something she will never forget. Shorty has made some longtime friends on this journey to the wall. You all have made an impression on her as well as we hope she did on you. She will be the child of NVAR to go back, and educate others of her youth on how important it is to remember our veterans. She will be using this experience as a passion report for her 8th grade term paper.

    We would like to thank Jerry Connor and the all the board members for a wonderful experience and letting us join you in this mission to never forget our veterans. Also to the riders for making a memorable moment for all of us. Good health and happiness to all.

    Titus Family
    How far did we go? We went "All the Way".