Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day 27

When we got moving around Dad and I found Reverend Mark busy cleaning his bike. We made breakfast for ourselves and him. It was pretty good.

Dad had found an abandoned cot with one corner ripped. Seeing that it was compact enough to fit on the bike, he took it in and tried to sew it up.

We also washed our laundry, being that we would soon be leaving the church.
When it was time for lunch, I got out some clam chowder. Pastor Lynn dropped by with some burgers, giving me a double lunch. Soon after that Reverend Mark had us go with him for some fried chicken. By this time I was stuffed, so I just got some soda and pies.

Dad worked on his bike a little and we had another restful day. I was still full by the time we started dinner, but I ate some of the BBQ that appeared out of nowhere in the fridge. It had been labeled, "For Curtis and Zach." The people at the church are very nice.
Reverend Mark was leaving the next morning for a bike event, so we said goodbye to him and then also to Pastor Lynn, who was going to bed. With that we got to bed ourselves after a restful and not too eventful day.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day 26

We started the morning as usual, making breakfast by ourselves again before Reverend Mark was able to join us. Pastor Lynn was with us as well, because the kitchen had been locked and she had had to open it. Then Pastor Neubauer came, bringing extra food from McDonald's. We had quite a breakfast.

Dad wanted to see a movie in at the theater that day, so Pastor Lynn drove us to the gigantic mall of Arlington. There we went up three floors to the theater. None of the movies we really wanted to see were playing and the one that we thought might be worth watching didn't start until hours later! So we walked around in the mall for a while, checking out the numerous stores in the building.

We entered a video game arcade, but prices were so high we stopped after one game. After more walking around, Dad stopped at a group of massage chairs. He gave me a dollar and we both sat down for three minutes of relaxation.

At least Dad enjoyed it. For me it was like someone was poking me in the back. It felt kind of good when it massaged the lower back, but when it did the neck I thought the chair was trying to strangle me!

After some time Dad gave up on the movie and Reverend Mark picked us up. The movie tickets were expensive anyway, Dad reasoned. Reverend Mark took us to a guitar shop, where we played some guitars for a while. It was fun, but the day was ending and we needed to go back to the church. We stopped at the grocery store, but ended up buying only some ice cream.

It was raining the hardest I had seen yet. It had already been thick earlier, but now it seemed like whole sheets of rain came dumping down in flood-like conditions. We had dinner at Reverend Mark's house. I got to meet the rest of his family over a dinner of take-out Chinese food. Then, after of course a long conversation, we walked downstairs to see another movie. While we sat down there Reverend Mark gave me a belt with a Harley Davidson logo on it!

The rain had stopped by the time the movie ended. I was just about ready for bed, but as we got outside I noticed three people following us--Reverend Mark and two of his three daughters. We all got into his car and it dawned on me. Earlier he had commented on seeing DC at night. And that was what we were going to do!

The cool air was perfect and a small bit of the moon glowed, giving the night a certain feeling that something special was happening.
The Lincoln Memorial was very different. The large structure was lit up and Lincoln himself was pure bright white. As we walked up the steps Reverend Mark showed us that in the steps was writing. It said in big letters "I have a dream." He told me that this was where Martin Luther King Jr. gave that speech.

After a while we looked at the Vietnam Wall. The sober feeling that surrounded it was not lost with lights. It was very dimly lit so that I could make out letters and names but my camera could not--at least not without a flash.

From there we moved on to the Korean War Memorial. This was the first time I had ever seen it. The white, life-sized statues, also dimly lit, looked like ghosts. Their faces were not very detailed except, my Dad said, for one. I thought I might have seen the one, but I'm not sure.

There was also a wall. It looked like any other wall until I got close up to it. Then I saw faces appearing everywhere. Etched in stone were real pictures from the war, faces that now could probably only be seen in memory or on this wall.

We made our way back to the car and drove along the Reflection Pool until we found the World War II Memorial. We found a large arch and walked under it onto a ledge that overlooked a huge pool of water with a fountain in the middle. Fifty pillars surrounded it, one for each state. Lights were everywhere, making the memorial as a whole beautiful, a place that I will not forget.

With that we got into the car and drove back to the church. I saw the Iwo Jima Memorial on the way, dramatically lit up in the night. Then it was gone as we drove away.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Day 25

We slept in until eight-thirty in the morning! When I looked at the clock I was startled. Dad and I got up and quickly started breakfast. It wasn't like we had a busy schedule, but we didn't want to sleep through the day.

Dad and I made breakfast, but Reverend Mark was not there until the job was done. We had the usual breakfast we had been eating for days now: eggs, sausage, toast. But instead of toast I made mini pancakes, which worked just as well.

After breakfast Reverend Mark took us to the National Firearms Museum. We got to see centuries-old guns with complex ways of firing. Some designs looked more like a knife with a trigger than an actual firearm! Computers placed here and there let us type in a gun that we wanted information about--first, we would put in the number on the glass case it was in. Then, we would type in the number next to the gun. Once that was done, they usually had a few paragraphs explaining what the gun was, when it was made, who made it and all that good stuff. We saw a gigantic gun that looked like a cannon! I looked it up and the computer said that it could take down one hundred birds in one shot! I also saw an elephant gun, used in the search for David Livingstone.

We spent about an hour there, then went back to the church. We helped Pastor Neubauer by helping him move some computers and other things from one room to another. While doing that, the pastor handed me a high quality leather wallet with a chain that could attach to my jeans so I would not lose it. It looked like my Dad's, but a little smaller-sized, just right for me. I have been wearing it ever since.

Then we got tacos for lunch and had a great time. When we got back we rested a while. A meeting of the board of the church was about to start, so we left with Reverend Mark to a nearby store. There we got chips, salsa, soda and more. We went inside his
house and watched a movie before we went to bed.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day 24

Breakfast that morning was particularly good. Dad, Mr. Mark and I all worked on it together. It did not take much time to eat, but at two in the afternoon we were still talking!

Finally we stopped talking long enough for us to get into Reverend Mark's car and go to a different Harley Davidson Dealer. We looked around a lot and talked about bikes for a little while. Then we moved on and went to a Target store, where Dad looked for a tent and I looked for a certain ink that will not wash off of the patch that I had bought at the beginning of the Run For The Wall. Neither of us found what we were looking for, so we looked in one more store. We had no luck there, either.

We rode back "home" to the church in the car and arrived about an hour before the Wednesday night church service began. In that time Dad and I went back to the office basement and got some rest.

We got some dinner that the church was serving, then walked into the room where we had church. Because it was church for kids that night, we sang songs made for kids. We used hand motions and repeated the songs faster than before, things that I think were used so that the kids would not get distracted.

Dad and I then walked up on the platform where we would both speak. I talked to the kids about what it is like to be a missionary kid (because I get to travel with him on missions trips). I was nervous, but not nearly as nervous as when I had to speak to the adults on Sunday. Later Dad said I did okay. I hope so.

Then Dad preached a sermon he had many times before. But this time he added a few more jokes and played around a little more. The kids seemed entranced, being happy when the story he was telling was happy, and when it was sad the kids were, too.

After an hour or so we went back into the dining room of the church, where we had cake to celebrate both a birthday and an anniversary.

Pastor Lynn, Dad and I were the last ones in the church, talking late into the night.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 23

We started the day much like the one before--we got up slowly, then Dad and Reverend Briley made breakfast. Then Mr. Mark got his car out and he drove us around DC a while.

We saw historic buildings such as the Capitol, the Library of Congress and more. We stopped and walked over to the White House, where some protest was going on. Mr. Mark commented, "There's always a protest going on here."

We moved on and stopped at the Smithsonian American History Museum. We had been planning on going there since the beginning of the trip.

As we walked in I was glad to get out of the cool and rainy weather we had had to walk in near the White House. The first thing I saw was a giant mass of mirrors all placed along the wall and at different angles so that it looked like a shiny, waving flag!

But the day would go by fast, so we had to get to business. We entered an opening in the wall that led us behind where the glass flag was. I would have taken some pictures, but a man next to the entrance told me I could not in this area.

We saw artifacts from the Revolutionary War--pieces of wood from a ship, scraps of the Star Spangled Banner, cannon balls, then the flag itself.
The Star-Spangled Banner, the centuries-old flag that our National Anthem was written about lay there in front of me. It was much larger than had I thought it was, and much more worn, too. There were holes in it. Some pieces were cut out and other parts looked stained. Yet there it was in front of me, still together and surviving after all these years. It was amazing.

We had to move on. We saw the statue of George Washington, holding the hilt of his sword out as if he was giving his defenses to the people.

Then we got to a room that showed recent inventions like bullet-proof material. We did not spend much time there because we needed to hurry to see most of the museum. Some places we would slow down if we were really interested, but this was not quite one of those places.

We passed through a maze of a room. Hallways and walls and little areas set aside were everywhere. The one we were walking through was about technology like electricity, then generators, then light bulbs. We even got to see one of Thomas Edison's notebooks!

Then we moved on. Cars of all sorts dotted the room. Then I saw one car that we owned! One that back at home we used regularly! If our van is old enough to be in the Smithsonian Museum, maybe it's time to get a new one.

We also saw one that my grandparents used to have, but I think they had gotten rid of it by now.

We traveled up to the third floor. We saw The Philadelphia, a boat that had been sunk in the Revolutionary War. It stayed under water in an upright position for centuries before it was found!

We stopped for lunch. Our two burgers, the fries and a drink ended up as a $20 bill! But what can you expect in Washington, DC? Or what's more, a Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC?

Then we entered an exhibit called The Price Of Freedom. It was one of the most memorable parts of the museum for me.

There I saw information and artifacts from the wars that America had been in--from the Revolutionary War to the war in Iraq. I saw George Washington's suit and his sword, a submarine from the Revolutionary War, a tree that had been completely split in two by the bullets of the Civil War, artifacts of the Spanish-American War, many televisions stacked on top of each other that all helped tell the story of the Vietnam War, packets of food that are dropped in Iraq and so many other things that it would take days to write about. I learned new things about the World Wars and the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the Korean War and many others. I don't think I will ever forget that part of the museum, because I really had seen just a little bit of the Price Of Freedom.

Then we went into the Abraham Lincoln Exhibit. I saw many things like his hat, suit, two molds of his face and more. I compared my hand with a mold of his and found that his are pretty large!

But when I got to the part where John Wilkes Boothe killed Lincoln, I was surprised to feel kind of angry. Before it had been a simple fact: After the Civil War, Lincoln was assassinated near the end of his Presidency. But now, when I saw his life with such detail, it became a reality: Just when life was getting good for Lincoln, when he could stop worrying, be happy, have the burden of the country lifted from his back, a vengeful man with a hatred of the North and of Lincoln killed him while he was finally doing something for himself rather than for others--relaxing at a theatre. And now he was dead.

But the killer could not undo what Lincoln had done and slavery was gone. With that thought, I left the Lincoln exhibit satisfied, with a new appreciation for our 16th President.

It was near closing time now. The day had gone by so fast! We got to see a few last things on the 2nd floor before leaving, like the Kermit the Frog puppet, a live-scale house from the pioneer days and more. My head ached from all the new information.

Mr. Mark picked us up and we went back to the church. On the way he ordered pizza. We walked to his house across the parking lot from the church and watched a movie while eating dinner there. It was a great way to end the day.

Finally we climbed into bed, exhausted and full of new memories.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day 22

We stayed in bed until nine in the morning, but I still felt tired. Then Dad made breakfast from some of the supplies in the church. Mr. Mark Briley came over and we talked a while before getting the shuttle ready for a trip to the Patriot Harley Davidson dealership, a short drive away.

Some other people temporarily staying near the church in tents tagged along. At the Harley Davidson store we looked around and Dad got some parts for the bike.

Then Mr. Mark took us to the Iwo Jima memorial. I recognized it immediately. It was much larger than I had thought it was. A marine agreed to let me have a picture with him while Mr. Mark took the picture!

Then we went back to the church and got Dad's bike in a shed. He worked on it for most of the day.

Someone bought tacos for lunch and I was glad to grab a few.

Once Dad was done with the bike (which was quite a while later) we went inside to make a dinner of ravioli. Then we planned on watching a movie that evening, but suddenly everyone was feeling very tired, so we just went to bed. It was a very restful day. Not much happened and I was grateful. Sometimes it's nice to take a day off.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day 21: Lingering In DC

Once again Dad and I did not have to go anywhere soon that morning, but Pastor Arnie Swift, the assistant route coordinator who had let us stay in his hotel room, was leaving for home. We said goodbye to him and he left. Then we spent much time saying goodbye to Chaplain Dean, who had now been with us for about two weeks. Then he left for Texas to go home.

We got packed on the bike and left for Arlington Assembly of God, where we would be staying for the next week.

We arrived a little before Sunday morning church began. We met our good friend Reverend Mark--not the Mark who was on Run For The Wall, but a different one we had met the year before.

Then we saw Pastor Neubauer, who had taken us to Amish country last year. And then Pastor Lynn, who showed us around and let us stay in the office both this year and last. I meet a lot of pastors and chaplains.

While church was getting ready Pastor Neubauer asked me if I would like to talk about what it is like to be riding on this trip. I figured this would end up like when I had to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the Kentucky Memorial, so I reluctantly agreed.

For about an hour I dreaded it. In Kentucky I just had to quote words that I knew and could repeat easily. But this time I had to think about the words.

Finally I found myself on the stage with the microphone pointed at me. Dad and I had been introduced and Dad was going to speak after me. But now it was my turn.

In a few words I talked about the ride, how great it was and the places I got to go. It was weird at the end. I was searching for words to say: "Sometimes when I see other kids I think to myself, 'Their Dad should take them on a trip like this.'" I'm not sure how it all came out because I kind of blacked out for a few seconds. But somehow I said it and with those last words I finished.

Dad spoke, then several others spoke including a girl my age. I could tell she was nervous too.

We went through seven other speakers before we got to Mr. Russ Cockrum, who was the official speaker of the day. After all of us he only had a few minutes left!

Then Pastor Neubauer took us to "Metro 29," his favorite restaurant in the area. I got stuffed as much as I could, then we went back to the office, where we rested before the evening service began.

There, a guitarist sang and played many Christian songs then preached a little.

After that we went to the same place we had had lunch and stayed up late talking. Finally we went to bed in the office.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day 20: The Wall

I slowly woke up, happy to be in a warm hotel rather than a tent. I had nothing to take down, no morning meeting deadline, no long motorcycle rides. In some ways I was glad we had finished the Run.

But we had one or two last things to do. After getting ready for the day we got on the bike and left for the Vietnam Memorial--the long black wall that I so looked forward to visiting each year.

The day was perfect for riding. The temperature was great, the sky was clear and we were on our way to DC. We crossed the historical bridge that took us into DC right behind the Lincoln Memorial. I saw statues along the road. This was no ordinary bridge.

We parked on the grass across the street from the Lincoln Memorial. Then we headed for the Vietnam Wall, where we would finally finish the "mission" of Run For The Wall.

It was longer and taller than I remembered from last time. As we walked along the black wall I saw all the tens of thousands of names. All those people died for my freedom, I reflected. It was humbling to see all those names.

Even at such a memorable place I could not hardly stand the heat--black walkways, the huge black wall and the crowding people increased the heat and I felt like I was baking. But those men on the Wall had suffered so much more than heat, I reminded myself. I could stand it, if I thought of it that way.

Dad ripped both arm bands off my arm and lay them at the wall. Finally I had something to drop off at the wall, unlike the year before.
We quickly got some lunch at a nearby gift shop. It was very expensive, being located near all the memorials.

We then went to the Lincoln Memorial, where we got pictures with the rest of the Run members on the numerous steps. Then we actually went inside the memorial, which we had failed to do the year before in our excitement to get to the Wall.

The statue of Lincoln was larger than I had thought. We gazed up at it for some time before moving on.

We met with Chaplain Dean and once again visited the Wall, this time with him. He had left earlier to visit the Arlington Cemetery.

We looked at the men's and the women's memorial statues near the Wall. Then we walked among the trees on a path, cooling down. After that we went back to the hotel, where I got a nap before dinner.

We went outside after a couple of hours and were picked up. So many people got in the small bus that the back end was weighed down and rubbed against the tires. By the time we reached the church one of the tires had blown!

We had a great dinner of ribs. Then we went to the last Run For The Wall ceremony, held in the church parking lot. And no ceremony is complete without plaques...

Then we went back to the hotel for the night, ready to get to bed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 19: The Final Day of The Run

When we got up it was cold, but not very wet. We had camped in grassy fields at a state fairgrounds and the tent had mostly dried off from the night before.

We got repacked and went to a hotel parking lot, where the last morning meeting was held. After it ended we got on the road. We had three eighty-mile long legs of the trip to go.

The first one was pretty nice. We stopped and, since we figured out the refreshments truck would not be with us any more, stocked up on the free snacks. We had to take off soon.

It was hot on the next leg. Chaplain Dean's bike was acting up and he rode in the back near us until we stopped again for lunch. Dad fueled up quickly and tinkered with the bike a little. The clutch was not working right and it looked like it might stop working completely on the next leg.
We got some lunch and took off, hoping we could make it to Washington DC on this very last leg of Run For The Wall. I prayed the whole way, with Dean and Dad both having bike problems.
We had the smoothest, most weather cooperative ride into DC there had been in years. The bikes worked well too.

We rode into DC, parked and were there. We had finished the ride from LA to DC in ten days. The Run was over.

But not the mission of the Run--we still had to go to the Vietnam Memorial. But that we could do later. For the day, we just got into the hotel room we were sharing with Chaplain Arnie Swift, the assistant coordinator. We bought some pizza and spent the day there, trying to get some rest after ten long, hard days of riding across the country. We had started with over 100 bikes. But as we rode into DC there were around 1,000 people, all riding their motorcycles!

We had finished the long trip to DC.

Day 18

In the morning we got up, took down the tent and got some of the typical Run-For-The-Wall breakfast, consisting of biscuits and gravy, donuts and coffee. Then we got to the riders' meeting. Afterward we were delayed by a huge crash and some young people were killed. So we waited in the parking lot and, much off schedule, we all rolled out.

We went through a short leg and stopped at the West Virginia State Capitol. We got a huge picture with the whole Run gathered on the steps of the gigantic building. We would have gone inside, but we had to catch up and left soon after the picture.
The ride started to get interesting as we went into the mountainous forest. The road twisted and curved in fun but sometimes dangerous ways.

Then we turned around for the best accident we had ever had.

One person's bike quit running. I didn't get all the details, but I know that the person was not hurt at all, the bike only had a few scratches and that this was not a bad accident at all.

This gave us the opportunity to ride back alone. On the way Dad stopped for some ice cream. It was a nice break before returning to the stressful pack.
When we got to the school of Rainelle, where we stayed for much of the day, bikes filled the road. Children filled the schoolyard and we went among them, passing out tracts and signing papers. It is a big event for the kids because they have much respect for the Run. All year they look forward to this day. We went inside for lunch. While we waited in line I noticed several essays were posted along the wall about "the price of freedom." They were interesting and sometimes cute when you could figure out it was written by an eight-year-old.

We ate lunch in a gym and talked with Chaplain Dean, who had by then found us, until we were some of the last people still eating in the room.

Then we rode away to Lewisburg, West Virginia, and into a store where we looked for a new tent again. And, again, we walked out, dissatisfied with the high prices and the awkward shapes of the tents. Maybe the zipper could hold out for one more night.
We set up the tent, rested awhile, then went and got dinner. Then, exhausted, went to bed.

Day 17

It was cold and wet when I got up. Dew had gathered all over the tent and outside the grass was soaked. But we had to get up and go.

At the meeting Dad got me set up with the computer and I tried to get an internet connection so I could post all my blogs. I missed the meeting and was not able to get on the internet, but Dad kindly got me some breakfast while I was at work.

Then we took off. Everything was very green--grass, trees and bushes everywhere. Unfortunately Chaplain Dean was still having allergic reactions, but he was doing a little better and could ride with the rest of the bikers.

We passed through Louisville, one of the largest and most dangerous cities between us and Washington DC. We had no crashes and we made it through fine.
It was not a long ride to the Veterans Administration Medical Center, where of course there was a ceremony and plaques to give out. We skipped most of it so that Dean, Dad and I could pass out shirts to veterans. Some of them had fought in World War II! We talked to one vet who had air-raided multiple times in Germany.
We left and, ten miles and one state line later, we stopped again at the Kentucky Vietnam Veteran's memorial. It is a giant sundial. Surrounding it is cement with the names of Vietnam Vets from Kentucky. The shadow of the sundial rests on the name of a vet who had died at that time of day. There was a ceremony, but this one I will not forget. The man heading it asked me before it started if I would like to help with saying the Pledge of Allegiance on the stage. I thought he was joking, so I just said no. But when Dad said that he wanted me to do it, I figured out that this was no joke.
So I got up to the microphone and repeated the phrases I knew so well. Looking back, I think I did okay.
Dad opened up in prayer and some people came and spoke. One talked about his son whose name was in the cement in the memorial. It did not belong there because he was still alive. He talked about the needs of making another search to recover and identify those who we did not know about or who had been misplaced in Vietnam.
We left once it closed. We rode for over forty miles before stopping again. We got lunch at a fast-food place because no lunch was provided by the Run. Then we fueled up and set off again.

It was a long leg in the heat of the day. It was also getting late, so we were tired as well. But we made it off of I-64 East and stopped at a water park in Wentzville, West Virginia, after being paraded by people again.

We had a nice dinner, set up the tent, took showers and got to bed.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 16

In the morning we woke up to the sound of our alarms. It was five in the morning as usual. We remembered we could sleep in half an hour more, so we stayed in bed. Only fifteen minutes later we were up and getting packed.
We ate a large breakfast at the same VFW outpost that we had used the night before, then hurried over to the morning riders' meeting. We did the opening ceremonies but were mostly occupied with talking and getting ready before our first leg.
It was two miles long!
We stopped at the Wentzville fire station. Before the first long leg we watched firemen hold up flags and a band played the national anthem. We all looked up the the flag, towering above us all. It was memorable.
Then most of the Run members gathered together in front of the fire station and I and many others got pictures of them. Some of those in the crowd even let me take pictures of the group with their cameras! I got to us a huge camera with a zoom that was worked by hand, rather than buttons. It was much different from my digital one.
Then we set off again. We went through a large, crowded city. We were constantly aware of all the cars around us.
We had gotten out of it pretty far when four cars got into a wreck. I was looking the other way at the time, but when I turned around I saw a car turned upside-down and a man crawling out of it. I later heard that the cars had hit each other and that one of them flipped over--which was the one I saw. It could have gotten very dangerous for Dad, I and the others around us had the cars tumbled toward us in the crash. Chaplan Dan broke off from us to see if he could help (even though it was not related to the Run). We rode on.
Just before crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois, we stopped at a nursing home where they had veterans only. Some had fought in World War II! Dad was able to say a few words to a couple of them and he prayed for one.
Before leaving we had to get some fuel from a gas can because we could not fuel up at a station for the moment and the bike did not hold enough gas for two legs.
It was not long before we went over the Mississippi River on a large bridge after getting on our bikes and leaving the hospital. Trees, grass and all kinds of new vegetation opened up to me in Illinois. I was used to the prairie, so this was very different. There was hardly a breeze from the wind and the day was absolutely perfect for riding.
We stopped for lunch at a large gas station near Mt. Vernon. Someone sang up on a stage all the time we were there. We had a good lunch, but there was no shade from the sun.
We got some more water, then left. We had no accidents, no bad weather, just over an hour of good riding.
We stopped again. Chaplain Dean was having allergic reactions to all the vegetation of the East. His eyes were swelling and he did not feel good enough to ride with the larger group of bikes. So first he was going to ride behind the trucks. But when Dad saw him, he got Chaplain Dean in a truck for the last leg and his bike was put on a trailer for the last leg.
Someone spilled off his bike and as we rode by it looked scary, but Pastor Dan (who had, after catching up from the first time, once again stopped) later said that there were no injuries.
We got to the dinner and camping site. The line was very long, but we eventually got some fish and some sides. We ate in the bleachers at a stadium in fairgrounds and, after some discussion between Chaplain Dean and Dad, we set up our tents and went to bed.