California to Florida or “Does this road ever end?!”
April 15th to April 19th
We left for Florida on the 15th. I got out of town about 11:00 am after Greg and Jon left Chino at about 8:00 am. We were going to meet up at our first stop over in Tucson, AZ. They were pulling the trailer with the equipment and were limited as to how fast they could go – 55 in CA. I caught up to them just outside Tucson. The wind started blowing hard at about Phoenix and didn’t stop until we stopped for the night in Beaumont, TX. That caused some interesting movements with the trailer.
We got up the next morning to heavy rain that followed us past Lafayette, LA. While driving we had a really close call. It’s a three lane highway through this portion of TX and we were in the middle lane – the trailer in front and I was following behind. Jon and Greg were just passing a loaded 7-Up truck driving on the right. The rain was coming down pretty hard and the spray from the tires even made it worse. Well, I look over at the truck as the cab just comes into view and he begins moving into our lane! I see the cab so close to the trailer I start slowing down and expecting to see contact and all heck break loose. But it moves out of the way and into the shoulder area. Well, Jon and Greg keep driving while I’m slowing down thinking this guy’s going into the grass and trees with all that 7-Up but he keeps it on the pavement and continues to slow down. Well I decide to move past him and as I do I look over at him and he’s looking at me with eyes bigger than grapefruits! It looked like he was going to stop (change of underwear) so we leave him to his business grateful that he didn’t hit them. As we travelled on I got to thinking about him stopping and wondered if he thought he HAD hit us and was stopping because of it. I called Greg and Jon and asked if they saw or felt that guy hit the trailer and they said no. Well we pulled off the highway just to have a look and sure enough, there on the side of the trailer was a 5-inch long scratch at about the height of his fender…of course we were too far down the highway at that point to talk to him and actually it was nothing a can of white paint can’t take care of. It was just what could have been that was scary.
All-in-all the drive wasn’t THAT bad, if you like driving 10 – 11 hour days. DVDs are wonderful. Driving like that and looking at the scenery up close, it’s amazing to see the contrasts of the country side. You hit desert outside of Palm Springs and then don’t see another tree until eastern Texas! But really! Part of Texas has desert that looks like the ocean – flat and featureless from horizon to horizon, the only texture is scrub brush. Louisiana is beautiful and has lots of water – kind of – swampy water. In fact, it seemed like most of the highway was built up in the air OVER the swamps! But it was beautiful and we’re already arguing over whose going to be riding the bikes during that part of the trip!
From Louisiana on into Florida was lush vegetation and beautiful. We arrived in Orlando at about 12:30 pm after finally finding the hotel. Now I had left Greg and Jon in Tallahassee at about 8:00 am and was going on ahead to get the rooms ready and then get Brian and Brian at the airport. Well, I wanted to see more of central Florida and environs around Orlando so I took the long way and actually got to the hotel right behind Greg and Jon – literally! They pulled into the driveway right in front of me! Of course I was looking for a somewhat large sign, somewhat elevated in the air like the other businesses around there. So drove right past it, should have seen the beautiful and functional business marquee out front. We were also greeted by their welcoming committee. As you can see, each room has assigned to it, two or three lizards living in the wall air condition intake. They are cute little things really, scurrying inside when you walk by and then checking things out when it’s safe to do so. We’ll leave some cheese out and see if they actually come into the rooms. So that’s it in a nutshell. After arriving, we worked on completion of setting the trailer, quads and motorcycle up.
We picked Brian and Brian (Doc and Crash respectively) at the airport at about 4:30 pm and they immediately set in about how they were sooo tired and hungry after the looonnnggg flight. Wah Wah wah, all the way to the hotel and then some. HA! We showed them alright, the lizards, raccoons in the trash, the disinfectant. Boy, are they sorry! We took them to dinner (Tony Roma’s) and then tucked them in for the night. Poor boys had it so rough and they were soooo sleepy. You’ve just got to feel sorry for them. Gave them a binky and they shut right up.
Tomorrow (Sunday) it’s off to Daytona Beach and a BBQ with the Fire Department after breakfast with our hosts from Translife in Orlando.
We’re going to try and post some video on Youtube. We’ll keep you posted on how to check it out. We’re still toying around with it.
More to come so stay tuned!
April 20, 2008
Spent the morning with Lesley, Summer and Martha at Translife. We had a breakfast meeting at 9:00 am to go over the program at the school tomorrow morning. It’s going to be quite the affair and we can’t wait to go.
This afternoon we met her and Dee at the Daytona Beach Fire Department for a BBQ (chicken) and all the fixings. We wanted to have our flag folded (the one for the Air Force Reserve shadow box) and Lesley asked the FD if they could help out. They sent three of the Daytona Beach Fire Department Honor Guard to fold the flag and insert it into the shadow box. It was very moving to see them treat the flag with such honor and deep respect. We have video footage of it and we’ll see about getting it up on Youtube.
We then had the Honor Guard be the first to sign the matting around the flag and then the others who were there followed suit. We then sat down and had great chicken and baked beans and spent a little while talking and then headed back to the hotel. The guys at the department got a couple of calls while we were there. It was a busy day and we’re tired – and we’re just getting ready to go!
April 21, 2008
Up at 6:30 am and getting ready to go! We met Lesley and Dee from Translife outside of Pine Castle Christian Academy and discussed what was going to take place when the program begins. They had the 6 – 12 grades assembled in the gym with the cheerleaders and school band. They had us take the quads in the hallway outside the gym and after an introduction we started the quads and entered the gym to the chorus of cheers from the students! At this point I should tell you about 10 year old Jake. He has quite the story to tell and will be better served when I get the written document from his family. I’ll post it on the web site with more pictures! Briefly, he was injured in a home accident and needed to have a bone and tissue graft. However, he eventually had his leg amputated below the knee. He is special boy and quickly won everyone’s hearts – he immediately took to the quads of course and he rode into the gym with us! We almost had to take him with us on our trip as he was definitely glued to the seat, but alas, the parents (Jody and Brett) won out. We had a short program inside the gym where Lesley from TransLife spoke who introduced me. After my short comments Brian Hinsley spoke and we found out afterwards that the anatomy teacher shows the “No Greater Love” PBS video to her classes to explain transplantation. Outside the students came up to him and said “Hey, I know you! You’re the firefighter in that video!”
After Brian spoke, Jake’s mom got up and expressed her feelings about tissue donation and the benefits it gave her son before having his leg amputated. This is a very special family and we’ll speak more on that later.
After the pep rally in the gym we went outside to the field and the students (fitted with TransLife green t-shirts) formed the Donate Life Green Ribbon. 350 students stood at attention and then a helicopter came by circling the field while taking pictures of the ribbon. The pilot did a little barn storming before leaving and then it was time to send us off. The Chaplin gave a blessing and then Jake cut the green ribbon for us to drive through and start our trip! What a day, what a great group of people! We ended the morning having lunch with Summer and Lesley and left at about 1:30 pm for Tallahassee.
We arrived here in Tallahassee at 7:00 pm after a beautiful ride through the lush vegetation in central and northern Florida. One story I will relate is this: At a fuel stop Greg asked us if there was anything missing from the SUV that was pulling the trailer. Brian (Doc) stated it was the two window flags. Greg then related the story that Jon (his son) had a gastronomic event with dire consequences which quickly soured the interior of the vehicle they were riding in. Greg, who was driving, was desperate to alleviate the stressful interior conditions and rather quickly started pushing all the buttons on the door panel only to find the two holding the window flags in place. Down came the window and away went the flags. Oh well!
Starting coordinates: N 30.444100 W 84.282990
Ending coordinates: N 28.472860 W 81.366040
We’ll add the mileage and fuel next time. It was a bit hectic today…
Thanks to Lesley, Summer, Dee and Martha for a great time in Orlando. You are the Bomb(s)!
April 22, 2008
Up today at 5:45 am, on the road by 6:15 am and on to Mobile, AL! Uneventful travel and we made really good time and we finally got the quads down on the highway in Alabama at about 9:30 am. Mobile is on the water and has fantastic bridges transiting waterways. We arrived at Infirmary Hospital West in Mobile at 11:00 am and were then shown the meeting room where a Q and A was to take place. We spoke to about 25 first year nursing students telling them of our experiences and how much patients rely on the nurses to cope with major surgeries. We also talked about the need for donation and how their role might be played out in the process. We answered about 10 questions and then mingled individually while they signed the banner. We also met a couple of recipients from the Mobile area who also related their stories to the nurses. The media was also there and captured a couple of interviews before filming some of the participants being taken on ATV rides! One of the recipients (Dave Miller, kidney) is going to meet up with us in the morning and ride an ATV out of the city.
After leaving the hospital we set up shop at the University of South Alabama where we met some great kids and talked about donation.
Here’s a couple of links to the news stories that were run on line in Orlando. I’m not sure how long it will be active but take a look! Thanks Lesley for sending these!
On another note, if you go to YouTube, type in kevinski1952 in the SEARCH field and check out the videos!
Special thanks to Stacy and Melissa from the Alabama Organ Center for the great day! We hope to have made some impact on those we talked with! Tomorrow it’s on to New Orleans and another full day of activities! See you tomorrow!
Starting coordinates: N 28.472860 W 81.366040
Ending coordinates: N 30.686940 W 88.124930
Fuel used: 59.6 gals/5 vehicles
At issue: Using the starting and ending coordinates, establish the number of miles traveled today and the total average miles per gallon for all 5 vehicles.
April 23, 2008
Tallahassee story here, one that I definitely need to relate to the family and should have last night. The morning we were leaving Tallahassee for Mobile, we had just filled up with fuel and were driving to the highway. As came up on the street we needed to turn on I noticed it was Monroe Blvd. As we turned the corner, there was a business there. It was an older building with a huge tree out front and it had an illuminated sign on the front lawn. The sign said Elliot Mortgage. Yea, he’s still riding with us.
So, up and ready to go by 7:00 am. We went to breakfast at – Micky-Dees of course – and while we were sitting down eating we were joined by Dave Miller, our resident team member! He came all decked out ready to go for a short ride out of town and we were a little jealous of the shirt he was wearing – he only brought one! Well, we set him on one of the quads for the ride out of Mobile. After about 6 or 7 miles we pulled off the highway where he’s parked his car and then wished him well and had to move on to New Orleans. It was great meeting you Dave and we hope to meet up again! The drive into New Orleans was quite spectacular. Over Lake Ponchartrain Bridge which just kept on going. We were told that the lake was high due the rains up north. There’s still a lot of damage visible as a result of the two hurricanes. It’s unimaginable just how wide-spread the damage was to the city. It’s very sobering.
We got off the highway at the place where we thought our hotel was, just to check in and freshen up a bit. But we quickly found out that the area was not what we would consider an appropriate area in which to keep our equipment over night so we left and got a hotel near where the Wellness Fair was located.
We arrived at the West Jefferson Fitness Center at about 12:00 pm to a Wellness Fair. It’s amazing how the time flies when you’re meeting people and talking. It seemed like we just got there and then they were taking stuff down to call it a day. That was about 4:00 pm. Cheryl, our Louisiana contact pointed her finger at me and said we had talked more on the phone today than at the fair today. I couldn’t believe how the time just flew by! I feel bad about that because Cheryl was the key person in getting that set up! Brian took her for a ride on one of the quads and she yelled and screamed all the way and back! HA! She’s a great person and look forward to talking with her again as we go forward. We had a great time there. We also met Jeanette who was instrumental in getting permission from the Governor to allow the ATVs on the highway. We also met Colleen from the eye bank and too many more to be named here. They are great people and honored to have met them and worked with them if even, only for a short time. We gave a few other quad rides and had people signed our banner and shadow box. People are definitely grateful for the sacrifices made on our behalf by the men and women of the Armed Forces.
Harley Davidson of New Orleans stopped by (Ada and Kelly), and presented a few gift items for us and wished us well. We miss Jeni, our Harley representative, as she would have loved talking to them and especially tomorrow’s activities. We’ll be in Baton Rouge and Lafayette at their Harley shops talking and handing out information. Team member Renee Rhodes arrived tonight to spend tomorrow with us. We’ll leave her in Lafayette and then she’ll catch up with us again in San Antonio and head for the coast. But the next few days are going to be packed with activities around here and there’s a lot of work to do yet. Check back tomorrow!
Starting coordinates: N 30.686940 W 88.124930
Ending coordinates: N 29.953900 W90.069480
Fuel used: Did not yet fuel the vehicles, will add those numbers tomorrow.
April 24, 2008
Hectic day today and it began at 0600. Team member Renee Rhodes drove in from Lafayette last night to spend the day with us. We were scheduled to be in Baton Rouge by 0800 to spend a couple hours at Harley Davidson of Baton Rouge. We got on the road a little late but still in enough time to make the appointment. We stayed the night on the West Bank of New Orleans and you have to cross over the Crescent City Bridge to get to it. Going north on the bridge you have to pay a toll to cross, and as we were waiting to go through the toll booth, there was a police unit that lit up and began going up the bridge with sirens blaring. When we passed the toll booth we saw that the police unit was stopped about half way up the bridge with its lights flashing. As we approached it looked like they were going to give us an escort over the bridge and that was pretty cool because the state had said it might provide escort for us. Turns out the Crescent City Bridge has its own police jurisdiction and does not answer to the normal state police. Well we got stopped and tried to explain to the officer that we had permission and such but when she asked to see it we couldn’t produce it because it was in the Chase Car that got hung up at the toll booth! We explained what we were doing and then she said she wanted us to move over the bridge to a more secure area so we could find the documents. After looking at the document and talking with her supervisor she said we checked out and let us go. She explained the relationship with the state police and the Crescent City Bridge Police and said that they entirely different. Seems we can’t possibly cover all scenarios! Count that as stop No. 2 (No. 1 was at the West Jefferson Mall by the Mall Cops. Seems they didn’t like the ATVs giving rides to people in the parking lot – but they ended up letting us do it anyway! Now this is FUNNY! Take a close look at the picture above. That’s Renee Rhodes and Greg standing with the officers who stopped us…checkout the white rectangle at Renee’s waist…can you guess what that is? It’s the MANUFACTURER’S TAG! Can you say Minnie Pearl!! HA!
The drive to Baton Rouge was fantastic even though we were about an hour late (Crescent City Bridge Police). We ran into fog which at times limited visibility to about 100 feet. It was also very wet fog. Looking out over the side of the road (which was over swamps and lakes) it seemed like we were traveling over nothing. Once in a while, we’d see Cypress trees that looked like the trees you’d see in a B horror movie…it was quite spectacular! Well the weather cleared and it was a great ride into Baton Rouge.
We set up shop at Harley Davidson of Baton Rouge and met some really great people. One man, Richard, was a November 2007 heart recipient who was out for a drive on his Harley and decided to stop in at the shop. He came over to us and asked what was going on and was quite surprised at what we were doing! He thanked us for our efforts and signed our shadow box and banner. One worker at the shop, Melissa, lost her mother about 6 years ago and she was a donor. She wrote a dedication to her on our banner. Seems everyone we met had some connection to donation and was already registered. We did sign a few people up that morning before heading off to Lafayette.
At one stop for fuel we noticed one of the quads was making a funny noise so we loaded it up and drove into Lafayette to an Arctic Cat dealer who looked at it and discovered a loose nut. They tightened it up and sent us on our way.
The drive to Lafayette was beautiful again, traveling over lakes and swamps, moss hanging off the trees. It had a Gone with the Wind feel to it! We set up another booth there and talked to people and had them sign the banner and shadow box. We met up with Renee Rhodes mother and son who took us to dinner at Prejeans (I’m told it’s not pree-geens) and it was great Cajun food, music and atmosphere!
Well, it’s going to be an early start to another busy day tomorrow. We’re meeting with some folks outside of Lafayette at 0600 that are going to escort us a portion of the way to Houston. I’m told some state troopers are going to meet us out there along with the coroner. Seems the coroner is a biker and he wants to ride a little ways with us…even if it is at 0600 in the morning! He is also a support of donation and understands the need of those waiting.
Tomorrow in Houston we’re going to two hospitals, one with a children’s wing. It’s going to be very emotional. See all y’all tomorrow…
Starting coordinates: N 29.953900 W90.069480
Ending coordinates: My bad. I’ll have these tomorrow. I wanted to make sure this got sent out tonight…
Fuel used: 29.4 gals total
April 25, 2008
We had to be in Houston, TX at 10:15 am to meet Meredith (she’s our coordinator there in Houston) so we got up and were on the road by 5:45 am. We also had an appointment that morning to stop in Jennings, TX to meet Pam (she’s part of the Louisiana Organ Procurement Alliance (LOPA) and a few of the city council members, the coroner and a couple of state troopers. We traveled about 40 miles and then stopped at a lake and a small alligator exhibit off the I-10.
It was still dark as we were travelling and we could see lightning off in the distance, then just as we got to the lake and had our introductions it started pouring down rain. We were able to duck under a porch covering to stay dry. The building was a replica of one of the early homes in that part of the country; it had stairs on the porch that went right up to the ceiling. Funny that they would put the stairs on the OUTSIDE! The rain lasted about 10 minutes and stopped while we were inside the Alligator exhibit.
They have two alligators in the small caged ponds there, one was about 6 feet in length and the other was 11 feet. They also had a fairly large turtle named “Rambeaux” (this is Cajun country remember!) in the pond area of the smaller alligator. He was REAL ugly and I guess that’s because he was 118 years old! They also had two baby alligators and the curator took one out and let some of us hold it. Cute little thing but you wouldn’t want to get your finger in the way of its mouth! After talking a while with everyone we departed for Houston. The State Trooper escorted us about 20 miles under full lights – kind of cool stopping traffic so we can merge into the flow.
The road dried out fairly quickly and we made pretty good time however when we got to Houston the highway we took to get to the LifeGift Building was jammed like a parking lot due to some construction material on the freeway being cleaned up. Well, seems Doc was talking with someone (he was riding the motorcycle) and told them what we were doing and the gentlemen handed him $10. We’re quite a site all right! People are always asking questions! Well, long story short we only made it to the hospital right at 12:00 pm at the start of the forum. There were 5 speakers of which I was one. Each person that spoke got about 5 – 7 minutes to talk about their experience with donation and included 2 kidney donors (myself included), a donor daughter, and two liver recipients. The audience included nurses, doctors, administrators, recipients, coordinators, ALL aspects of transplantation from donor family members to recipients and everyone in between. I met a man (the Chaplin Coordinator at Memorial Hermann) who has donated 60 – sixty! – gallons of blood and counting, and I also met Nicholas, who was 17 months old and received a liver at only 4 months you would not know anything had ever been wrong. We met so many wonderful people. I met one woman who stopped by because she had heard what was going on and wanted to listen. She was at the hospital because her Dad was waiting for transplant (liver) and I think we made her feel good knowing that people like us were out there working for her father. Brian Hinsley, left right after our little gathering to attend another speaking engagement at BenTaub Hospital right next door.
After pictures with everyone, we went got with the pediatric AND transplant director there at Memorial Hermann and she took us up to the pediatric ward to see the kids who are undergoing dialysis, or waiting for a transplant. The youngest receiving dialysis at that time was about 2 years and the oldest was about 16. There were 6 kids in there and we gave them all either a toy car or motorcycle or a stuffed animal. In the transplant ward we had the difficultly of meeting a mother who had just been told her 11 month old son would probably not be able to make to transplant if they didn’t get one soon. It just breaks your heart to see this. The boy was very jaundice and you could tell he had difficulty breathing, typical of liver failure also is the very large abdomen, but he was so cute. His mother was very accommodating knowing what we were doing but it still very difficult for all of us. We gave him a Beany Baby and wished his mother God speed then left with a hollow and heavy heart. Moving on to other patients we woke a couple up to the site of a Beany Baby and they would smile when they saw it. Knowing that we could bring a smile or two to these kids was uplifting but we left the hospital in very somber moods.
We went back to LifeGift for a tour and to have a late lunch. We had another appointment at BenTaub Hospital later that night to speak to health care professionals about our experiences and how important they are to a patient. The LifeGift building is a new state-of-the-art building that houses two ORs, a morgue, offices and Communications Center. The center boasts a 100% call-in after death from all hospitals in the Houston area to facilitate eye and tissue recovery and is manned 24 hours a day. It’s kind of a mini UNOS. After touring the facility we left to go back to BenTaub for the evening’s presentations. I think we reinvigorated a few people that evening and left very tired.
We left Meredith and LifeGift to go to our hotel for the night. It’s difficult to leave everyone after only a short stay each day. I’ve spent months talking to them on the phone and through emails and then it seems that we come and then go and it’s all a blur in between. Everyone has been so great to us and has really made all of us feel so welcome and then made sure they put us to good use during our short visits.
We left and actually drove about 40 miles towards San Antonio to make the next day’s travel shorter. Big parade tomorrow night and we need a lot of sleep! G-nite!
I didn’t get any coordinates and haven’t looked at the day’s receipts to determine that fuel usage. It’s been really hectic and I’m even late with sending this update off. Hope ya’ll don’t mind. I see about getting better but don’t lose any sleep over it! Thanks!
April 26, 2008
We got up at 8:00 am and found out it had rained during the night (woke all of us up). After a great breakfast we were on the (dry) road to San Antonio. We want to be there early enough so we could decorate the quads for the parade. We met up with Mela (the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA) contact) at her house where we met her family. After short introductions, we were off to a late lunch and then over to the site where we would enter the parade.
The San Antonio Fiesta Flambeau Parade has been around for about 60 years, is about 2 ½ miles long, winds through downtown and is said to be the largest night parade in the United States. Participants are required to decorate themselves and floats with lights – any shape, color or amount. It is one of the last events of week-long festivities in San Antonio.
We decorated the quads with snap-lights and papier-mâché flowers and we had students from one of the elementary schools carry the TOSA banner that preceded us. We were positioned near the front of the parade that started down Broadway at about 7:20 pm. It took us about 1 ½ hours to navigate through downtown and boy was it a sight! There must have been 400,000 to 500,000 people lining the route and hanging off buildings! It was a fantastic night. I understand that this is the first time Texas Organ Sharing Alliance was represented in the parade so we made some great in-roads tonight! It was a lot of fun waving to the kids and seeing them perk up when they realized I was looking at them!
San Antonio is a beautiful city. I had been there once before and seen it but it was just as impressive this time as we traveled through downtown. The parade took us right in front of the Alamo which is quite the sight. The mission has a very solemn atmosphere because of what occurred there. The battle of the Alamo was instrumental in helping Texas gain independence from Mexico even though almost all were killed there. It allowed other rebel forces to gather strength while the Mexican army tried to handle those at the Alamo. The building itself is quite small. You have this image in your mind because of the history and all you hear about it. Then when you actually see it, it’s much smaller than you think it is. But just the same, it’s very impressive.
Now here I have to tell you a funny story that happened tonight after the parade. Greg and I had gone ahead, riding the three-wheelers, of those walking back to the car because they told us to meet them at Frio Ave. which was about 3 blocks up. When they hadn’t come after a short time I started walking back one block to see if they were held up at a signal. I also called Brian (Crash) on the phone. They had already made it to the car and were on their way to meet us. Well they came pretty quick so I jogged back to the three-wheelers and Greg, jumped on the bike and took off to follow them. When we got back to the restaurant parking lot, Dominic (Mela’s youngest son about 14) said I ran like a girl! HA! I think I do very well for a man my age thank you very much. I then see Crash give him a 5 dollar bill. What’s this? Apparently Dominic made that statement in the car as I ran back to Greg. Brian did a double-dog dare to tell me I ran like a girl. And you know what that means!
Well, I told him I could run a little and he said he could beat a girl. I said okay, I’ll bet you that five dollar bill there that I wouldn’t have any trouble out running you! And the haggling began! He said let’s go down to the end of the parking lot (gravel) and run to here and I’ll beat you! I said hey, I won’t even tie my shoes! So we walked down to the end of the lot and his brother Matthew joined us also. He counted down and we took off! I ran about ¼ speed and he was running as hard as he could! It was beautiful and I got his five bucks! HA! HA! But it wasn’t finished. After beating him and getting the five bucks he then said he was embarrassed now because was beat by an old man!!
We have a day off tomorrow for site seeing. We lose Doc in the morning but we pick up Dan and Renee to finish out the trip and then in El Paso we pick up Chris Klug. Doc, did I ever say thanks for coming with us?
I also received this email from Renee after leaving Louisiana that contained the following piece. It’s her impressions of the ride while she was able to spend time with us!
So, the journey began to meet the guys in New Orleans for Ride Across America.
I headed out of Breaux Bridge at around 7:30pm. The trip went very well until I got to my exit (9B) that was really supposed to be 9A... Already - Renee is lost! Thank gosh the hotel was not too far off the exit (whichever one I was supposed to take in the first place)! The guys were very nice and decided to "wake up" when I got there. First to say hello was Kevin - My friend from the Rose bowl Committee and partner in crime that invited me along on this trip! Then there was Greg, Kevin's brother as well as his son John (Greg's son) who will one day on this trip show me how to ride his Honda (I hope!) Then Bryan and Bryan... One we call Doc (the EMT/Fireman/Liver Recipient) and then there is Crash - O yes, there is a story behind this nickname. I believe it has something to do with crashing a quad in to another vehicle or quad.hmmm... I'll let Crash, I mean Bryan tell the real story at a later date. (And to think I let this guy drive MY car from New Orleans to Lafayette) ha!!
Anyway, on with the story. I got up at 4:30 this a.m. b/c I could not sleep any longer. The excitement of the day was getting to me and there was no way I was going to be the "late" one out of the bunch. (I'm the only girl on this trip!) We headed for breakfast around 6am and then made our way to the parking lot to practice riding the "quads" as the Californians like to call them (down here in the south we call them "4 wheelers"). Kevin thought I should practice a little on the "quad" before heading out on the open road. After explaining the details of the bike to me, there was one important part he left out - take the brake off... So for a few minutes the brake was on and it looked like I was doing burnouts in the parking lot (in front of cops).
After finally making our way on to the freeway of New Orleans, less than a mile in to the trip, the sirens were in the background. We had to pull off the side of the road and wait, and wait and wait as we showed the Crescent City Welcome Committee our permit to ride the quads on the freeway. We were able to take a few pictures with the cops and thanks to Mr. Cop (don't remember his name) he notified me that my price tag was still on my jacket (thanks for telling me, guys!) We started our journey once again after being delayed by about 45 minutes only to delay the trip a little further when someone (I won't say who - because you know it was... ME) said we needed gas. Hmmm. The guys love me already I can tell! Ha...
The ride started once AGAIN and this time - was successful. We went through a bit of fog over the Ponchartrain Bridge but the quads were full speed ahead (67 miles an hour!). We arrived at Harley Davidson in Baton Rouge at approx. 9am. Nyla did a wonderful job in setting up our LOPA table and the media was waiting on us to arrive. We did several interviews that turned out fantastic with not one news station but two. We had a few people come register at our table to become organ donors and one man (not knowing what was going on) had his own story to tell. Mr. Richard Taylor received a heart transplant on Nov. 17, 2007 and is back on his Harley after just a few short months. He was the perfect picture of a successful transplant! Then there was Shani who donated her mother’s organs six years ago and was very proud of her for giving others the gift of life.
Before heading out on the highway to our final destination in Louisiana, we had to make a phone call to the Arctic Cat Dealership in Breaux Bridge. It seemed one of the "quads" (of course it had to be the one I was riding earlier that day) had to go in to the shop. (Guys, you just can't take me anywhere!) While on our ride in to Breaux Bridge, we have to make yet another stop. Of course, my four-wheeler needed a little more gas. What, I thought we "had" to go 67 miles an hour to keep up with traffic? (Snicker, snicker)
By the time we made it to Breaux Bridge we had yet another welcoming committee. This time it was a celebration by a wonderful little boy. My son Taylor and my mother were waving us in while taking the exit ramp in to Breaux Bridge. We took the quad to the repair shop then made a quick dash to Taco Bell for a bite to eat before heading out to Cajun Harley.
We arrive at Cajun Harley at approximately 2:00 pm. LOPA was waiting with the camera's flashing and hot boudin inside for the guys. We had a donor quilt hanging inside for all of those to see as well as the flag for everyone to sign. The crowd was a little thin so we left early to go get the other quad from the repair shop (guys - do you think we can give them names? Quad is getting a bit repetitious. We said goodbye to AJ and the gang at Cajun Harley and headed East to the hotel and then to the repair shop. I took off from there and went to church with Taylor and since the guys were so nice to me today and letting a "girl" tag along on the trip, I treated them to supper at Prejeans (pronounced prey - johns, not Preeee Jeans....) I think the guys enjoyed the atmosphere and the food because we all left full and very tired.
The guys have to get up very early in the morning and I have to sleep in and relax (sorry guys - I just had to say it!). Taylor took pictures with everyone and he seemed to enjoy them all very much. Guys, thanks for making him feel so special and for hanging out with us today.
Hey Kevin, When you are heading to exit 64, just go “under the overpass!”
April 27 – April 28th and 29th
Got up about 8:00 am and two team members left this morning. Jon and I talked with Greg late last night and decided it was best for his health if he went home so we booked him a non-stop in the morning. Greg has diabetes and has neuropathy in his feet. Last night his ankles were swollen and he was getting blisters on the bottom of his feet. We all decided it was best to send him home. I was pleased that he made it this far actually. Two years have gone by since we did this last and he’s had two years of fighting diabetes but he did really well. It’s hard to see him struggle but he’s a real trooper. Thanks for your help Greg. So Greg and Brian left and we’re picking up Renee and Dan this afternoon. It was great having Doc on board again and I have to say “Doc – did I ever say thanks for coming along with us?”
I picked up Dan first and of course the first words out of his mouth when he got in the truck was “Boy, that suuurrre was a looonnnggg flight!” Yes, we’ve been on the road for two weeks and yes, by the evening about all we want to do is rest! Renee got in almost immediately after Dan so it worked out very well. We went back to the hotel and Dan, Renee, Jon and Brian (Crash) went downtown to see the Alamo. Of course, when they got back I found out that they had ice cream as Renee was wolfing down like a gallon of something – had it ALL over her face and shirt. Boy that girl can eat!
We walked to the Texas Roadhouse, about a half a mile away, for dinner and had a really great time. It didn’t appear that anyone had spoiled their appetite with the ice cream at the Alamo. Everyone ordered the extra-large steaks AND the Brian ordered the Big O’ Brownie. It looked like a giant ding dong with a huge scoop of ice cream. The waitress brought plates and spoons for everyone and of course, we all just had to have some!
After returning to the hotel we decided to play a friendly game of penny-ante poker. Renee started playing the rookie role by asking what poker was and wanted to know what beat what and then went out and won the first hand played. She held her own very well and we’re still not convinced it was her first time. We enjoyed the evening and then went off to sleep and get ready for the trip to Fort Stockton tomorrow.
So in the morning it was off to Fort Stockton. I wasn’t too impressed with the hotel we stayed in there while driving out to Orlando – it was the same one we’re scheduled to stop in on the way back – so we changed out the hotel to a Quality Inn. Good choice! Fort Stockton is a town of about 7500 and it’s very spread out. It’s dusty and fits into the southwest mode very well. Got into town about 4:30 pm, checked in to the hotel and then went to the world famous K-Bob’s for dinner. You guessed it! At least I had the Ka-bob and it was very good I must say!
The owner (John) was in the lobby when I went to get receipts for the nights stay and we spoke for a couple of minutes and he offered to comp a room and then took ANOTHER $20 off the special rate we were going to pay. He said good luck and keep up the good work. We had him sign the shadow box and we were off to El Paso. It was going to be a great day!
We needed to be in El Paso by 12:00 pm to pick Chris up at the airport and we made really good time on the road. There’s also a time change going into El Paso so we arrived by 11:00 am. We decide to move on to Las Cruces, NM as we need to be at Onate High School at 8:00 am. One student had an ATV accident and became a donor. Her mom is planning to be at the event. It promises to be one of those roller coaster rides again meet Sabrina’s family.
We get to the hotel and we have a lot of work to do but we take a couple of hours and go to a NM historical site. We visited the area where Billy the Kid was held in jail and placed on trial. Very old buildings with original roofs and all made out of branches and mud. We took some pics and then visited an ice cream shop where we bought root beer floats. Everyone that is except Renee, I guess she got enough ice cream on her face and clothes the other day in San Antonio to last until we get to Phoenix!
So back to the hotel and as we are getting settled in Maria Sanders from the New Mexico OPO shows up at the hotel! We show her the quads and of course wants to ride one…after that we order pizza, watch hockey and basketball and then play a little more nickel-ante poker. Chris and Jon are the big winners tonight. Maria left prior to the poker run. We’ll see her tomorrow morning.
It’s late and we had a great night with everyone, it’s great spending this time with everyone, especially Renee. We sat and talked this afternoon over lunch while waiting for Chris. She’s serves on the Rose Parade Float Organizing Committee with me and the more I talk with her the more I find that she’s like Leslie. I think those two should get along very well together. It’s also great to spend time with Brian and Jon, seeing them meet the kind of people that I work with nearly everyday – recipients, donor family members and everyone in between. Great trip so far guys, just a few more to go until we’re home with our families and we’ll put this one to bed. Speaking of bed, it’s late and I’m falling asleep typing. G’nite. God speed to you all.
Arrived at Lafayette airport at 9:45 am.. I had to go through security twice because my toothpaste and perfume were too big. So off to TWA I went hoping my luggage was still there. Made it just in time!
We had a 20 minute delay due to some overbooking problems. I arrived in Dallas with 20 minutes to spare to get to my connecting flight. I arrived in San Antonio at approx 2:30 pm and it’s a bit chilly and windy! Yikes! I didn’t pack very well for this trip it seems. Dan Sandoval (blood donor) from California arrived just minutes before I did so Kevin was still at the airport when I arrived. Thanks for waiting guys! We are greeted with hugs , and Kevin (being Kevin) throws my suitcase in the back of the truck with this look “what the heck is in this suitcase”.. Insinuating that I am a girl, it must be all my make up and primping items (boy, he really doesn’t know me very well). It’s the Chocolate, magazines man, really. On the way to the airport, I find out that Greg had to return home early from the trip because his legs are swelling pretty badly. Bryan Hinsley also went home today for another fundraiser event he was doing with his family. Thinking to myself then saying it out loud, “So Kev, you’ve been here at the airport all day - that’s so nice of you? Heck no, cab fare girlie, cab fare! Ha! Glad I don’t have to go home early, since I’m not family, no telling what they would make me do (probably would have to thumb it back to the aiport)!! We finally made it to the Econo Lodge around 3pm and were greeted by John and Bryan. Kevin advises us that he has some work to do but the rest of us can head down to the Alamo and down town San Antonio. (aw, see Tom, Kevin IS responsible after all!) After Bryan (with assistance from the Tom Tom) we park and hope for the best that Kevins’ truck will be there when we get back. (after all, it’s not our truck - right guys? Good thing we got all of OUR stuff out the truck just in case!) The Alamo was quite interesting . There were a ton of flower arrangements in memory of the anniversary of the Alamo. Throughout the inside of the Alamo, There were signs all over stating we could not take pictures but it seems between the 5 of us, we took about 30 pictures! (And I thought I was snap happy. I have nothing on John and Bryan). After about an hour, we all decide we have had our fill of education/history of the Alamo and it’s now time for ice cream!Nothing like having desert before supper! We meet Kevin back at the hotel and head (on foot) to Texas Roadhouse! The food was fantastic and we all have full bellies! Desert anyone? O no, we couldn’t. Bryan is the only honest one and pipes up that he would like the brownie and ice cream! It’s amazing to see how the rest of us really weren’t that full after all because between the 5 of us, that desert was gone in about 5 minutes! Once back at the hotel, everyone heads back to their own living quarters for about 10 minutes - must I say why? Dan meets us all in Kevin’s room with a poker set - it’s time for some cards, fellas. “Guys, I’m a girl - I don’t know how to play poker, really! Can I see the cheat sheet? We were all surprised when I won the first hand. Hmmm.. I have now been labeled “The Ringer”.
The poker game lasted about 2 hours and we will resume the game tomorrow. At one point in the game, Bryan has to use his laundry money to stay in. Whew, glad I’m not riding in a car with him!
Before playing poker, we all decided to watch the 2004 Ride Across America on DVD. I don’t think there was a peep in the room for about 20 minutes. The video pulled at our hearts and somehow we all managed to hold back the tears. I’m learning that these guys are truly amazing people and I am very lucky and honored to be a part of such a wonderful journey/mission with such a great group of guys! By the time this trip is over, I will have formed a bond with each one of them and have a new sense of the word family.
During the poker game, they fill me in on the events I have missed. They gave out Ty beanie babies, toys and bracelets to the children at Memorial Hermann and BenTaub Hospitals in Houston. While in San Antonio they rode in the Fiesta Flambeau parade and a group of 8th graders from the local high school held the Donate Life banner . They met some very interesting people here in Texas and I can’t wait to share the rest of the journey with them. It seems that they have had a fantastic time so far and we will all have memories that will last us a lifetime!
It’s getting late and we actually get to sleep in til around 8am and are heading to Ft Stockton which is about 314 miles west!
April 28th Leaving San Antonio heading to Ft Stockton
We are up at 7:30, start putting the decals on the trailer and head west! First stop – IHOP! The waitress was great – didn’t even need to write our orders down and the food was yummy! We shared stories about Travis and Elliott and realized all the signs that are truly out there that our loved ones are still with us somehow. How Elliott always had “magic” (candy) in his pocket for the children. How the grandchildren could see him that were born after he died. How Travis has been with me every day by the times on the clock or how God was preparing us for his death weeks and months before he died. Our loved ones are all around us and sharing our stories with each other put smiles on our faces. Before leaving IHOP we met Ryan, Jesse Diaz, and Tara Frederick. Ryan is 2 years old and such a cutie pie! Dan and I gave him a stuffed animal and took a few pictures and went on our way. Back on the road, Kevin and I worked on the blog again and Dan took off on the Honda. He seemed to enjoy his time riding but after about 100 miles, he was pretty pooped. Kevin took over from there. I drove Kevin’s truck (man, you are brave letting me drive your truck – you must not have seen my driving record yet!) while Dan relaxed for a bit. Dan seems to be a very cool guy and hearing the passion in his voice about donation is so inspiring. Over the past 5 years, Dan has donated almost 4 gallons of his O+ blood. WOW! Now that’s volunteering! Kevin is now tired and Dan is ready to get back on the saddle of the Honda. This time with a passenger – ME! The weather is beautiful, the sun is shining and dirt and tumble weeds all around us! This side of Texas is pretty flat with a few dirt table tops here and there. While on the bike, I have time to take pictures, enjoy the breeze, look at the windmills and the oil thingies (Guys, you know what I’m talking about) and time to think. To think about how lucky I am to be on this journey promoting organ and tissue donation in memory of Travis , think about how Taylor and Scott would love to be on this trip right now and how I am missing everyone that I love back home (you know who you are!) While riding the bike, we pass a vehicle carrying a cute dog with his head sticking out the window! We now know how he feels and why dogs stick their heads out the window! This trip is full of emotions and the people we have met along the way have supported us in some way or another.
We finally arrive in Ft. Stockton; population 7500! That’s almost as big as Breaux Bridge. The hotel is in Comanche Springs and we are all pretty hungry and tired (no poker tonight guys). Before heading out to find dinner, we want to make sure all the rooms are securely shut. “hey Brian, John, you left your door open. O my bad, your door is shut with a 2 inch gap!” ha ha ha.
We take a quick trip around the town and they show me the famous Motel 6 that they stayed at a few days back. We have many options to choose from for dinner (sonic, McD’s, K-Bobs). K-Bob gets our business. The food is pretty good but no dessert this time. Before heading back to the hotel, we make a quick stop at the local Wal-mart. We grab a few snacks, toiletries, and head back. We all retire back to our own rooms and relax. Tomorrow we are picking up Chris Klug in El Paso so a few more hours and miles on the road.
Good night, guys and see you outside at 7:15 a.m.
April 29th – Leaving Ft. Stockton heading to El Paso
Rise and shine everyone! We get the magnets (sponsors) back on the vehicles and head to the hotel continental breakfast! Texas shaped waffles – how cool! While having our breakfast (fruit loops for me!) we meet two small children – A precious little 2 year old girl named Nevaeh (Heaven spelled backwards) and Xavier who is a 4 year old little boy. We try talking to them but I guess mom taught them well “don’t talk to stranger”. Dan heads to the truck for some beanie babies and these kids just didn’t want them! What, children that don’t want toys? Mom, which we find out is grandma who works at the hotel (she’s raising them) says it’s ok to have a toy and they take them with excitement. We take a few pictures and finish our breakfast. Through the window I see Kevin bringing the flag to the front desk of the hotel. The managers signed it and even comped us one hotel room (free!) and 20.00 off the others. Awesome! Our first compt room. Good things come to those who wait! We hit the road, Kevin on the bike, John and Brian in the Yukon and Dan and I in the truck. This time I’m letting Dan drive! (typing on a computer and driving just don’t mix – although texting and riding the quad does!) snicker snicker!
The sun is shining and the hills (look like mountains to me) are beautiful! Kevin flags us down that he has about 3 bars left on the tank. Next stop – Gas station! Wow 3.59 a gallon! We take a break and get some snacks. The guys check for state magnets and I head for the candy (what else would I be buying). I bought a few pins for Taylor (Talledega Nights “If you’re not first, your last” John and Brian didn’t find the magnets we needed and Kevin was dying for popcorn! What’s up with the popcorn guys? I find the popcorn (must be plain) and off we go! While getting in the truck, Kevin notices a shiny penny on the ground dated 1944. Dan pipes up – “what year was Elliott born?” 1944 – Coincidence? I don’t think so.
We get back on the road and take the scenic route. “Scenic route?”, the guys ask. “Well it is for me guys. We don’t have dirt and desert and cactus.” We arrive in El Paso at about 10:30. We decide that after we pick up Chris Klug at the airport, we are going to just drive to Las Cruzes and stay there for the night. Dan, Brian and John head to Las Cruzes and Kevin and I decide to hang out a bit before getting Chris. We head for some lunch and Sonic it is. We take this time to have a few heart to heart conversations about life, kids, and the mission. During the conversation, we both realize that in the beginning of our journey with organ and tissue donation (not just on this trip) but our mission was for Travis and Elliott and then everyone else waiting on a transplant or lost a loved one. Now the roles have been reversed and it’s about the mission, those waiting and then Travis and Elliott. We realize that they are with us on this journey no matter what and it’s ok. We miss them dearly, but it’s a positive that we are moving forward! It was great spending this one on one time with him and hearing all his stories about Elliott. During the conversation about Elliott he tells me he died on 10/10/01. Wait, when? Kevin, that’s my anniversary. How cool is that? Another coincidence? I think not.
Chris’ plane finally touches down in El Paso and on the road again we go. Once at the hotel, we start cleaning the trailer and getting all the goody bags of toys ready for our event at the local high school tomorrow. In 2002, a local girl named Sabrina was killed on an ATV and donated her organs. The town is welcoming us with open arms.
It’s about 4pm now and Chris is whining (just kidding, Chris) that he has not had any ATV time so we take them for a spin around the town. The town is famous for “Billy the Kid” but if you ask the guys in the group, it’s the root beer floats.
Finally back at the hotel I beg and plead to please let me drive the Honda street bike. It doesn’t take long to convince Kevin that I can do this so a few trips around the parking lot and I’m ready for some asphalt. The excitement goes from ear to ear and I’m hoping the guys are catching this on video because the people back home will never believe I was riding a street bike! This experience will last me a lifetime and I can’t wait til tomorrow when I get to ride the bike on the interstate! Once back at the hotel, I’m jumping up and down and can’t wait to tell Brian and John what I just got to do (John didn’t look to happy since it was his bike – or maybe I was just in the way of the hockey game on tv!) Brian, Chris and Dan decide to go swimming and the expression on their faces tells me all I need to know about the temperature of the water “COLD”. Thank gosh I didn’t bring my swimsuit!
Kevin comes out daring the guys to push me in and if they succeed, then it’s pizza for everyone! Guess what Kev, we are eating pizza anyway! So I dare Kevin to jump in with all his clothes on and I would do the same. Haven’t seen Kevin since! Ha!
Around 7:00 pm Maria from New Mexico Donor Services arrives at our hotel, we take her around the parking lot on the ATV and she’s loving it! We order pizza and chat about the ride with everyone and just relax a bit.
We say we are going to play a bit of poker but I have a feeling we will not be playing tonight. Late to bed and early to rise!
More later guys!
What’s with this He Said/She Said stuff anyway? Her impressions have always been off and I’ve had to correct her on just about everything! Just keep reading and you’ll see what I mean!
We’re up at 6:00 am to begin the pack up for departure. We need to be at Ornate High School at 8:00 am. When we arrive, there are all ready kids hanging out and the area is set up very nice! We meet Sabrina’s parents and talk to them a minute and then we set up our shadow box and banner and then the program begins. Maria introduces me and I introduce Chris who speaks and then Sabrina’s parents speak about their daughter and what it means to them to have Sabrina help so many people. Sabrina’s mom is very grateful that we stopped by and we were all very touched by her story.
There are two Saturn Skys there and some of the team members go for a test drive. How cool are these roadsters? VERY! Ms. Rhodes thinks she had the fastest but that goes to show you how much a girl knows about cars. I had the one with the turbo.
After saying our goodbyes it’s off to Phoenix! We need to be there by 3:00 pm but the road doesn’t cooperate! First the wind – 50 to 55 mph headwinds, then the high profile Chase Car doesn’t go very fast nor do the quads. When we go through the vehicle inspection area, there’s this man waving a flag. At first I’m thinking he’s an inspector and we’ve won the lottery. When we stop he says they passed us on the highway and saw the trailer with all the decals and quads and wanted to know what was up and give us a window flag of there unit. Come to find out they are Army personnel travelling from Texas to Fort Bliss. Well, we take this opportunity to thank them for their service and sacrifice they make for us and then we showed them the flag. We introduce them to Chris Klug too and they were thrilled to meet him. They were very touched and then wanted to know if they could sign it. After all, they are here in the states and their comrades are fighting in Iraq. So they sign the flag. One of the soldiers commented that they were grateful that they actually saw someone doing something for THEM. Sometimes all it takes is a thank you to let them know how grateful we are for the work they do. We drove away from there amazed at the encounter and it’s one we’ll remember for a long time.
About 10 miles down the road and battling very strong headwinds, Dan pulls up along side and says to pull over and tells me that one of the quads is leaking oil. We take a look and find that one CVC boot on each quad is leaking so we trailer the quads and keep the bike on the road. We’ll have the Arctic Cat dealer in Phoenix take a look and hopefully fix them. Chris finally gets a turn on the bike after the wind dies down a little but by this time it looks like we’ll be about an hour and a half late for our appointment. We call and they are patiently waiting for us. The wind continues to hammer away at us all the way to the Phoenix and we arrive at 4:30 pm.
We meet a few recipients and the OPOs who helped us organize this event. Chris and I are interviewed by the Arizona Republican and then by this time it’s getting late and Chris needs to get to the airport by 6:15 for his 6:45 flight! Chris is off signing photos for the kids and I tell him we better go – he says what times my flight? 6:45! Oh! I was thinking it was at 7:30! He does make it there but just barely!
We say our goodbyes to everyone and then it’s off to dinner with family. Elliott’s son Cort lives here and he and his family came out to see us. It was great seeing them and I don’t see enough of them.
Well, it’s late (again). I’m sure there are a lot of typos here but hey, read Renee’s…just got say about Renee and BBQ. Just like ice cream – face shirt and in this case, on down the legs…amazing.
April 30th Leaving Las Cruces and heading to Phoenix, AZ.
Early to rise and off we go to Onate High School for 8am. Before leaving the hotel, I am noticing a conspiracy that seems to be happening in each one of my hotel rooms. Before getting in to each one of my rooms on this trip, something always seems to be open such as bars of soap, bed unmade, trash on the counters. The guys all had the keys before me (to cool my room off) so hmmm. Could it be the guys playing a trick on me or just bad hotels along our journey? Dan, Chris and John are on the quads/bike this a.m. Once at the school we are greeted by Maria from New Mexico Donor Services, Recipients, Sabrina’s parents, students, Saturn,and the media! We have an hour to chat with the students and do our presentation about donation and it seems everyone is having a great time. The flag is signed by many and Chris’ hands are tired from autographing all his pictures. We take pictures with the students, and hear Sabrina’s mom talk about how wonderful she was and how donation has helped her through the grieving process. You could hear a pin drop while she talked to the crowd. It is amazing the strength this family has. Before heading out, the guys get the opportunity to test drive the Saturn Sky Roadsters. They take a spin around the parking lot and had a blast. And now, it’s my turn (thanks for saving the best for last). See ya guys and off I go as if I’m stealing the car! Kevin has to chime up that the reason I didn’t get the car with turbo was because “you can’t handle the turbo”. Sure about that Kev?
It’s been a great morning but time to get on the road and head to Phoenix. Once out of Las Cruces we hit the “border patrol” and there’s a guy running toward us with something in his hand. Oh gosh, I’ll never make it back home now! We pull over and the van is full of service men and women. They had seen us on the highway earlier and wanted us to have their Air Bourne Gator flag to take along on our trip. They all sign our flag, take pictures and once again, off we go.
Once out of Las Cruces, the guys on the bike/quad are getting hammered in a dust storm. (what’s a dust storm I ask?”) Chris relates it to a Louisiana Hurricane. Ouch! Guess we need to load up the quads. Once off the road, we notice the boots on the quads have failed. Dan is still gung ho about riding the bike and trying to convince him that it’s probably not safe he says “this is for organ and tissue donation awareness” and off he goes. While stopping at a gas station near the New Mexico border, we meet a serviceman by the name of Heatherage. He thanks us for what we are doing for the troops and take pix.
Before leaving the gas station, Kevin decides it’s his turn on the bike. I ask “you got it old man?” His reply, “I got my helmet on”. Not only is he old, and runs like a girl, but his hearing is going too! Ha ha
We finally arrive at the Arctic Cat dealership in Gilbert Arizona (right outside of Phoenix). The media and the employees greet us with smiles and cameras flashing. We take pics again, meet a heart recip by the name of Bill Wohl and liver recip Dianne Miller. They are amazing people and are both transplant Olympic athletes. Chris has to leave out on his flight for 6:45 and he seems to be running a little late. Bill takes him to the airport and as we are about to leave the store, Kevin is looking for the key to the bike. John, Brian, Dan – you got the key? No they all replied. We all stop and look at each other “ugh oh. We bet Chris still has it”.. We call Chris and sure enough – he’s got the key. “Hey Chris, pull the key to the bike out of your pocket and give it to Bill.” There is a long pause and Chris says, ugh oh. My bad. Thank gosh for the spare!
We are pooped and very hungry so we head to Joe’s Real BBQ (must be a fav out here). The food is great but too much to eat it all (even I can not eat it all).
Once at the hotel, we all head to our own rooms. No poker, no chit chatting, just time to sleep!
More later from,
May 1, 2008
Up and on the road to Palm Springs after a leisurely morning doing some wash and having breakfast. The quads were serviced this morning at W & P Industries of Gilbert, AZ for the final push. W & P Ind. Is the business that provided our Arctic Cat ATVs and did the modifications for the safety equipment. They are a great group of people there so if you’re in Gilbert, AZ stop by and see them! Thanks Jerry!
Going out of Phoenix we were stopped by the highway patrol. An officer got behind the bike I was riding and decided to stop me. Dan and Renee were in the truck behind me and pulled off the road stopping behind the cop and me. She didn’t like that particularly and wanted me to stay put and when she looked behind at the truck, Dan and Renee were clicking away with their cameras. The officer wanted to know who these people were and I wanted to say, “Well, that’s Renee, and that’s Dan driving.”! Of course I didn’t say that but I told her they were with me and she explained that they should have pulled up ahead to wait. By that time another officer pulled off the road (a motor cop) and asked what was going on. I again explained what it was that we were doing and by that time, the lady officer, Brenda, spoke to Renee and Dan and asked them to come over. The officer was telling me about the street gangs there who ride these type bikes and place their license plates up under that rear fender so they are difficult to read, so she wanted to stop me and tell me I had to change the plate but when she saw we were from California she changed her mind. Well, after a couple of minutes of Renee the cops were all smiles and even posed for some pictures with us! I’m not telling whether or not she actually wrote me a ticket. So that stop was number two no matter what She Says. The Pool Rule(s) is(are) simple: A STOP means that “…when a vehicle is moving on down the road and made to stop by means of a law enforcement car or other legal entity, it constitutes one – and only one – stop.” It matters not how many cops show up to look, talk, or provide assistance during the course of that one stop. The vehicles have not progressed on down the road during this one stop and it cannot be said that they have been stopped two, three, or four times counting each officer at the scene (Pool Rule Section 1, paragraph 3, lines 4 – 5). It also states that this is non-negotiable and not subject to protests – HE SAID.
About 25 miles outside of Phoenix, we see a car with the Arizona Donate Life license plate. We all wave at each other. That was cool! The wind was not as bad as it was yesterday but it still had it’s moments. We had a little trouble on the road as we approached Palm Springs and we’ll add that at another time because it’s a long story. Let’s just say that the Lord watches over His children and blesses them and we are so grateful that He does.
One of our previous stops was at a high school in Las Cruces and we talked about motorcycle and ATV safety and about how important it is to make sound decisions and pay attention and it became very obvious today how important that advice is!
We have about 70 miles to go and we are looking forward to seeing everyone again. It’s been a long road trip and it’s late – about 3:00 am by my clock! 6:00 am comes around pretty fast and I still have some work to do tonight to get ready for tomorrow’s return! See you tomorrow!
May 2, 2008
Up early today to get ready for the final push into March Air Force Base, actually, it was so early I didn’t even mess the bed up. I was up all night counting signatures on the shadow box and printing the script for the presentation. Of course, sleep doesn’t usually come when your mind is racing at 5,000 miles per hour about the ‘what ifs’ but we were on the road at about 8:00 am. Jeni showed up the night before with her riding buddies, Harriett and JJ and we were glad to see them for even this small part of the trip. It was a quick trip to the Air Base and our families. We saw some of them waiting at the Main Gate but turned the other way on the street to regroup as we were a little too early to enter. After a couple of phone calls we were escorted into the base to our waiting families at 10:30 am! How great it was to see them all again after being gone three weeks on our trip!
We talked for a minute and then Master Sergeant Welz escorted everyone to the Media Tent where we would be making the presentation of our shadow box to Colonel Robertson, the Staff Commander. How cool is this – we got center seats and first row to watch the pilots practice for the air show while waiting!
At 12:00 pm we congregated next to one of the Thunderbird fighters outside the Media Tent and presented the token to Col. Robertson of which he gratefully accepts, it was very much appreciated by him and we are so grateful that we were able to present this to them. Our presentation script is added below these entries for you to read. We actually had the script framed and presented to Col. Robertson in addition to the shadow box.
The rest of the day was spent with family and friends talking and watching our magnificent air force go through their routines. We have some amazing machines and some amazing pilots operating them. We’ll be back next year for sure!
So we’ve come to the end but I’m not going to go through a long list of thank yous because I think you all know how very much we appreciate all your support, from our sponsors, to our friends and of course, our families. We love you all so very much and could not have done this without your help.
I do want to say that this trip was very special in a lot of ways. Meeting the people, getting to know the team members better and spending time with them, I want to thank their families for sending them along with us. I learned too that there are a lot of things out there that we might be searching for and never seem to find, but that’s precisely why we don’t find them. Let life take its course and if we do our best then good things will come out of it.
And Ne’, remember, there’ll always be pennies from Heaven – shiny ones at that…
God Bless you all,
Lakewood, CA May 2008
IN HONOR OF OUR MILITARY SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN
On April 20, 2008 three members of the Daytona Beach Fire Department Honor Guard folded this flag of the United States and placed it in the shadow box you see before you in honor of the many service men and women who valiantly serve our country. Since placement, it has traveled almost 2,600 miles to be here today May 2, 2008 at the 4th Air Force Reserve at March Air Force Base, Riverside, California.
Along its journey, as the flag has been displayed for all to see and with each person having seen it, placed their name for YOU to see, in an expression of deepest gratitude and thanks. They could not be here with us today, but they want you to know they are thinking about you.
Integrity, Service, Excellence: Three words each taken on its own accord are enough to drive people to achieve new heights. But when combined together, form an inseparable bond that will not tarnish with time, nor lose its tug to the heart. These few citizens, 400 who have signed this matting, representing the millions of others who also support you, send their deepest and most heartfelt gratitude for your service and sacrifice.
But the true heroes are those who are missing, those who have been or are being held prisoner of war in lands far from this gathering today, or those who have given the full measure of their devotion to their country and to its citizens. We remember them and their loved ones.
Please accept this token of our gratitude from a small portion of the citizens of these United States. You have given more than can be repaid. Thank you and may God Bless you all.
4th Air Force Reserve
March Air Force Base