This is the first of a series of articles called the Muleshoe Chronicles. Muleshoe is a retired U.S. Air Force veteran living in Benton.
Muleshoe is my road name. It’s the tag I go by in my motorcycle riding association. Motorcycles are my passion. I live to ride and ride to live. Cliche I know, but it becomes more and more true every time I climb aboard. One doesn’t just ride, but instead you pretty much wear a bike. It becomes a full extension of your body. It’s like I can fly anytime I am on the road. It is all about the rider and the ride. It becomes a part of your DNA. And so, with my liberated spirit I will share my adventures as I travel over the region.
I have been on two wheels for ten years now. A late comer to the sport, if it can be called a sport, I see it more of a therapy of sorts. Life today is so complicated. Its trail is lined with potholes and hurdles that challenges even the most saintly. Everything seems to have an immediate deadline at the end of a bureaucratic gauntlet. But our great state has a remedy for all those everyday stresses. Arkansas is blessed with back roads equaled by none. You may find a stretch of pavement here and there throughout the country that has some notoriety. But within the boundaries of Arkansas we have a gold mine of twists and turns. Just a simple ride to Hot Springs turns into an adventure every time. Hwy 5 and Hwy 70 are known far and wide as a must ride. And such a great run for a bite of lunch.
I began my newfound life in 2009 when I bought my first bike. It was a smaller 750 CC Japanese made beauty. It was on that little gem I learned to ride. Most of my biker ed began with short spurts up and down our road, never leaving the neighborhood. When I became familiar with the controls and keeping it upright, I soon began to range farther and farther from the house. On top of all the safety matters, one must become proficient with being a part of the traffic. How quick can you stop, how fast can you accelerate, and how much you have to slow and speed up in a curve. These are all questions that must be asked and answered without hesitation, without thinking. An intuitive moment that doesn’t take away from your attention to rest of what is going on around you. Even today I still experience a pucker moment from time to time. I continue to learn every time I hit the road.
I ride with a riding association. So we ride. I have had so many great journeys over the last few years that to list them all in one sitting would take away from the whole. A few however will always stand out in my mind.
One of my first out of state runs took us to Salinas, Kansas for a rally. My first encounter with toll roads on a motorcycle was a real challenge. At the toll gate, first you must come to a complete stop, put the bike in neutral and then dig around for the change. To minimize the frustration when with a group, the lead rider pays for everyone and then falls back. At the next toll both the rider in the rear races forward and once again pays for the whole group. Not only does it significantly speed up the process, but it helps to solidify the fact we are all brothers and sisters in our organization. Even if some do not end up paying the tolls while on a trip, things are always settled up with a round of beers, or the purchase of a vest patch for the group. As we pressed northward from Wichita, a storm on the horizon to the North West forced our sanctuary at a interstate truck stop. As we took shelter inside, the wind blew so hard it literally bowed the windows inward over an inch. It was a miracle they didn’t shatter and blow in.
In early 2017, I rode with the Patriot Guard escorting a WWII veteran to his final rest. He had passed away in New York and his remains dumped near Des Arc. His care givers were trying to hide his death so they could continue to collect his benefit checks. The leadership of the Patriot Guard heard of the veteran’s fate and arranged for his cremation and transport across the country. As our procession of over 400 bikes rolled towards Memphis where he would be handed off to the Tennessee Guard, we were met with people on almost every overpass – all there to honor this Greatest Generation hero. Many were holding flags or banners to pay their respects. When we arrived at the large Bass Pro parking lot in Memphis, we passed under the extended ladders of the city’s fire trucks and firemen in formation. There, with great reverence, this forgotten soldier’s ashes were transferred to the waiting Guardsman who would carry him to the next group in Mississippi. The two-day relay would eventually bring Private First Class Robert D. Brooks to his home land of South Carolina for his burial.
Many who I ride with are veterans. We are always aware of our brothers and sisters in uniform and always pay respects. It was announced this year’s Rolling Thunder Rally in Washington DC would be the last. After 32 years of hundreds of thousands of bikers spending their Memorial Day Weekend paying honor to all of our POWs and MIAs, the Pentagon and the District of Columbia have asked that it cease. So I knew as a veteran who rides, I was obligated to make the pilgrimage. In late May, four of us, all vets, took off on a three-day run to be a part of the ceremonies. There may be still some unreported prisoners of war and over 75,000 missing in action from all our wars dating back to WWI. A record one million three hundred thousand bikers, mostly veterans, were there to pay honor individually and as one. The most emotional scene was of course at the Viet Nam Memorial Wall. I was in High School during the late ‘60s. There I saw men who were just a few years ahead of me in school, now old and gray. It doesn’t seem possible, but their war was over 50 years ago. I could see on many of the countless faces the pain they suffered and still carry with them today. Despite the extreme heat and the long hours on the bike, I am glad I didn’t miss this last ceremony.
My view of the world has taken on a new perspective since I started riding. On a motorcycle you see, hear, and smell things around you from a whole new angle. Gas stops become more of an event of rest and relaxation. You will never hear someone ask, “are we there yet?” I now experience life more close-up. All bikers are not the rough and angry gang members one often sees in those who ride. Bikers today come from every station in life and come together on an equal plane. We seem to form a family of who all enjoy life in the same manner. In the coming months I will share my view of the world on two wheels and the adventures I embark on. I hope you will ride along as I recount those times on the road. Until next time, ride safe. Muleshoe