2020 Tour of Honor – Riding with my brother

Most rides are fantastic. Then you have those that bring a tear to your eye, not because of the memorial or where you go, but who you ride with.

This ride was very special. I have been riding off and on since mid 1970’s. I have had motorcycles off and on until 2007 when I have had at least one motorcycle in my garage. My brother, never really picked up the enjoyment of riding. He thought about a Spyder a couple of years ago. When my wife got one, he fell in love with it and has been trying to find a way to get a Spyder. A few months ago, he decided to take his riding course. The course was through his local Harley-Davidson dealer. He realized that he COULD handle 2-wheels. A week after his endorsement was added to his license, he got his first motorcycle.

Friday, he calls me to say that he has left his house in Georgia and is on his way to see us for the weekend. He shows up on at the door and has all his riding gear “just in case” he can rent a bike.

We spend some time on Saturday trying to find a place that rents motorcycles in my area, but no luck. A friend sends me a note Sunday morning and says that we can borrow her bike. Jeff has his boots on before I can get off the phone!

Back to why this ride was so special, I got to ride with my baby brother! He signed up for the Tour of Honor without having a motorcycle, or even a license! He has since earned his license and bought a motorcycle. But this weekend, he rode a friend’s motorcycle.

We had tried to take a ride yesterday, but about an hour into the ride, I wasn’t feeling well. My stomach started bothering me and I was getting a screaming headache. We pulled over at a parking area on the Natchez Trace. I explained to Jeff what was going on and he agreed to turn around.

We got home and Jeff admitted that he wasn’t feeling well either. We determine that we were both dehydrated. After some Gatorade and Pedialyte, we were much better.

This morning we tried the ride again. Jeff wanted to leave to head home by about 2:00pm, so we left early. A gas fill-up for both of us near the house and we were gone. We took a new route to the Natchez Trace, then south until we got to MS-30, then headed to our first stop, Boonesville, MS.

I had visited this Huey last year. Today, the town was empty. We parked on the side and Jeff and I worked to get some pictures. After the pictures that we would submit, I told Jeff to follow me. We walked around the courthouse and saw other memorials.

We road back roads until we got to Ripley, MS. Jeff parked in front of my and got a picture. I had to show him that the statue he photographed was a Civil War memorial, not the Doughboy we needed to photograph. We get the photos and continue on back roads to Walnut, MS.

Not only have to visited the Huey in Walnut already this year, but I have visited each of the two previous years I have participated in the Tour of Honor. I realized that the sample photo in the Tour of Honor app was my photo from last year!

While in Walnut, Jeff starts explaining what he did for pre-flight and post-flight checks when we was the crew chief on the Huey helicopter. The excitement and enthusiasm that he has when talking about it, I was paying more attention to his face than to what he was saying, but I did hear a lot of what he said.

I sent a text to our friend to let her know that we had originally planned to be back by 11:00, but it is looking closer to 11:30.

As we start to leave, I ask if he would like to stop to visit the graves of our paternal grandparents. He has never been to their graves. Our grandfather was killed in an automobile accident a year before I was born. We remember our grandmother.

We turn onto US-72 and this is the first time that we are able to get get up to highway speeds. I don’t doubt that he can keep up with me, or that he can’t handle riding at 65-70mph, but this is a bike that he is not familiar riding and now is not the time to test limits. Besides, the bike belongs to a close friend of mine.

We pass through Corinth, which is usually slow due to traffic. We pass one 18-wheeler in town, with only a few cars on the road. We get to Iuka, MS and exit US-72 onto MS-25. We make the turn to ride through town instead of the by-pass. We pull into the cemetery and I quickly find the mausoleum where our grandparents are buried.

We exit the cemetery and back track to US-72. MaryJo calls to tell me that she is at our friends’ house, I tell them that we are about 20 minutes out. They tell us to meet them at a gas station on US-72 near their house. Their driveway is gravel and this might be a better idea than Jeff and me riding on their driveway when neither of us know the nuances of their driveway.

We pull into the gas station and they are already waiting on us. We gas up the bike and chat for a few minutes. The smile on Jeff’s face is something to remember.

To the special friend who loaned us her bike for two days… Thank you!