Day 3 started out great till I moved. However, in spite of the commentary of the body from the activities of the last two days, there was a tranquility that comes from a renewed commitment. In a way, it almost mutes the pain and the mission seems to take precedence.
The sense of urgency of staying connected recedes into the background and the focus becomes coffee and packing for the day. In a way, they go hand in glove as a sloppy packing job means things can come unraveled at highway speed which means instant road kill. The nice part about living on the road is that life is reduced to a stark simplicity of essentials. All of which fits into a bag or two that straps on to the back of the bike.
Not to be forgotten and essential part of getting ready for the road is checking tire pressure, oil levels, working lights, and touching almost everything for loose nuts and bolts as well as oil drips. The last item on the list is to check the navigator for the route. Today it would be easy because it only required following the heard to the Pentagon parking lot and from there crowd control would take over and we would be push, pulled and squeezed into some sort of line up.
For sure I have no real idea how many bikes there were there and can only repeat what the papers say which was 450,000 but this much I can say, have never seen so many bikes at one time in one place. My biggest fear is that I would have to take a leak and would never be able to find my bike again till everyone had pulled out of the parking lot.
By the time the group I ended up with was guided into position, we were left with almost four hours to cook in the sun. It is not so bad when there is a lot of others cooking with you. In the process did have an opportunity to meet and chat with a lot of people. Two conversations stood out above all of them.
The first was with a guy to took a motorcycle trip with his daughter to the artic circle and the total trip was $2,500 which included repairs on the bike. Said he would never do it again the way he did it but the experience was priceless. This I could relate to and it left me with a yearning to do a like trip that included lots of his lessons learned.
The second was with some young vets of a group called the Warrior Brotherhood. They were veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. There was a degree of competence and no-nonsense that rested under their smiles. Then I discovered most were still on active duty and had a feeling that we were in good hands. If I was to characterize the bikes they were riding, it would be black and monkey bars.
Spent more than a few moments trying to figure out why so many were on bikes. Came up with a lot of speculation in talking to those I talked to but there was nothing I could put my finger on. In fact, I could not even tell you why I am still on one after the corner to corner trip last summer. Financing the prison program with the sale of my car was most certainly a driving force but would hate to put a months pay on it.
It took about 40 minutes for us to get to the starting line and I am told that the last bikes did not cross the starting line till about 4 pm. It has been a long time since I have been in a parade and this was quite an experience. No doubt the bikes out numbered the watchers by ten to one to say the least but it was fun. The wildest experience was getting used to the thought that I did not have to stop for red lights while in the parade. The other part was the space between bikes would expand and contract like an accordian.
A lot could be said about the why and what of the parade but what can not be disputed is that is a political statement. One that has been made for 25 years and not to be ignored. No politicians showed up and know that none were invited. However, unlike wars of the past something has changed because the numbers of missing and/or captured is down to almost nothing. This is a big change from the 1,948 dead and missing left behind in the Vietnam War in 1974. For that and that alone the effort has paid off.
The parade ended in this huge grassy field along the Potomac and no way was I going to get caught in a place I could be stuck till a path appeared. So, I peeled off and headed down towards North Carolina. Figured on at least 5 hours of riding till I stopped. Started in some of the most hot and bright weather but mother nature had some surprises waiting for me.
What does not really show up in the photo is that the cars headed towards me had their lights on and windshield wipers moving. That is a bad sign. It means there is some serious rain and not all that far away. Knew there was a tropical storm not all that far away but did not expect to see the bands this far north. Yes, got wet and then decided that I was deep enough into North Carolina that I could find a bed for my head.
Most of the day was spend on the surface of my mind and a lot of processing was going on deep down. What did not change and hope only intensified was my commitment to what I do. In many respects felt very fortunate in that my life had meaning and that so many people had a place in it. Knew at a much deeper level that if I was called to be judged by the company I kept in the last ten years that I would have no regrets.