I'm still out on the road following the American Legion Legacy Riders on their trip to Milwaukee. Due to some 'technical difficulties' (read: no internet) in the hinterlands of Minnesota, I've not been able to post the last segments, so I'll take up here and catch up.
As I posted before (here and here) the ALR is riding to collect for an education fund for the sons and daughters of the fallen. What I incorrectly stated was some of the totals involved- so to correct that, I got some info from the top. To date, the American Legion, as a whole, has collected over 4.1 million towards the fund goal of 20 million. They have been giving out money to the families for education, and still have that much remaining so far. The riders themselves have collected just over 1.2 million, and as of this writing had collected just over 191k on this year's ride. There is more than that in total for the year, but those will be announced during the upcoming convention. Either way, it's STILL a VERY impressive bit of work to help the kids.
Now, on to the ride- which is going fantastic. Our previous day's rides were during hot, humid, disgustingly sweaty days between Indianapolis and Kansas City. Today's ride started out cold, but then became gorgeous. The roads thru Minnesota and Wisconsin were ribbons of glass compared to I-70. Surprising, considering it gets far more winter weather up in these parts.
Yesterday we rode into Camp Dodge, Iowa, home of the Iowa National Guard. As a former member of the Iowa Guard, I spent time there in Camp Dodge about 20 years ago; I was floored by the changes and upgrades. FORT DODGE is more like it. We were warmly welcomed by Legionnaires from Iowa and the Iowa Army National Guard commander. Former Legion National Commander David Rehbein passed out food to the riders as well.
A true surprise were some performances by a bagpiper, and a ceremony by the ALR 5 Star Freedom Riders. I'll put up video of these performances as soon as 'technical difficulties' are fixed- the are CERTAINLY worth the wait- the Freedom Riders ceremony was outstanding and a fitting tribute to the fallen.
After we finished in Iowa, we headed into Minnesota, and boy what a welcome for veterans was on hand there. Starting at the state line, every bridge into the state had banners and American flags flying, with people waving and shouting support at the riders. Our last leg for the day ended in Albert Lea, MN, with the whole town done up. This was, by far, one of the greatest shows of support we'd experienced so far. They were thrilled to be able to see so many veterans and riders come into town. I hope to get pics from the fireman who was a few hundred feet up in the air on a ladder truck, snapping photos of the event.
We woke this morning to unseasonably cold weather, and I'm glad I brought the fleece. Fleece? Well hey, we were going thru Minnahsotah, dont'cha know... and I know it can be cold ANY time of the year. Yeah, that haul paid off. (And Thursday morning bodes to be even cooler).
-Some of the 'non-American bike' riders made a request to be able to start their bikes before the Harley's do. Seems they can't tell when their bikes are running after the Harley's kick in...
-Getting to meet quite a few veterans from all over; most of these guys are in their 60's and 70's; their stories are great, and I'll share a few soon. They've given quite a bit to the servicemen and women of today; patches from Vietnam, Germany, and other places are everywhere. Plenty of stories to go with those patches, too.
-Many of the posts are dwindling due to the ages of the members. But that doesn't diminish the histories of some of these posts. One we visited today, Post 326 in Brody, WI, has just such a history. A former 'bunker' that was also a cheese factory on the site, it's now also a community meeting house with about 70 active members. A very comfortable place in the heartland of America. If you really want to see what 'America' is like, just look at places like the legion posts. You won't find places anything like them in NYC or LA; it's true Americana in a small building. They are some of the most welcoming places on earth.
-We were able to tour the Harley Davidson engine and bike factory outside Kansas City. A first-hand look at how 'the parts equal the price' of the bikes (that's yours, Grim!) Best.Job.On.Earth. Now, if they can find a way to squeeze that V-rod engine into a Ultra Glide, I'll take one NOW. Of note was the fact that in the employee area, not only did they have a huge American flag flying, but the service flags from every service were hanging. These people are committed to veterans, for certain. And no, there were no free samples...
-Logistics: if you REALLY want to understand what it takes to do this ride, just watch the riders go thru a fuel stop. This, this is where you can see how the military backgrounds of members breeds efficiencies. Some people have showed up at stops just to see it in action. Here is how it goes:
An advance team arrives at a pre-determined fuel location, and sets up operation. 4 or so fuel islands are set aside (only certain places will work due to the size of the group; there has to be enough pavement to accommodate all the bikes after they fuel) and riders are queued up in lines; as riders pull up, they open tanks, then pull to a pump. There, a volunteer attendant hands the pump to the rider (we have to fuel our own bikes) and after filling, calls out the number to a 'writer' standing behind. That writer calls out the total to a collector; after the rider fills, he rides up to the collector, and pays for his gas. ALL the pumps for riders are pre-paid; that is, one credit card is run thru all the pumps used and a running total is kept. This saves a lot of time. Another neat trick is that if you pump 5.40 of gas, you are charged 6.00. The 'extra' is used to pay for chase truck fuel and other needs to support the ride. Using this method, they can fuel all 350+ bikes in usually under 30 minutes. By the end of the ride, this gets very quick to do.
Tomorrow, we end up with the ride's conclusion in Milwaukee- and the convention.