Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thanks-Veterans Day 2009

In honor of our veterans on Veterans Day 2009, re-published below is my post, “Saying Thanks With Old Glory.”

Saying Thanks With Old Glory

Friday, February 15, 2008

We were five off-highway dual sport motorcycle riders recently enjoying a long weekend in Death Valley exploring dirt roads avoided for years when riding our Harley Davidson motorcycles. Death Valley is a marvelous place for re-cementing relationships spanning many years.

Russ announced that he was packing a 5 foot by 3 foot American flag for the express purpose of displaying the flag should an American military jet pass by in his proximity. That fired-up the group’s enthusiasm. Not only do we love riding motorcycles, but also we avidly support our military. Russ’ plan was a fine token of appreciation for all that our military personnel do for us. And, the plan was not far-fetched since military jets routinely fly low and fast along the Panamint Valley skirting the Western edge of Death Valley National Park.

Homeward bound, two pick-up trucks loaded, we headed southbound on Highway 178. There was mellowness, tiredness, from two days of negotiating dirt/gravel byways and snow. Roads which tried their best to topple us should we get too slow and allow the front wheel to plow. One second you’re upright, and the next you are down, or struggling to keep the motorcycle from pitching you head over heels.

Then it happened: on the horizon coming toward us; two F-16’s fast and low.

Russ slowed his truck to a stop, and I bailed out from the passenger side struggling to deploy Russ’ flag. The lead F-16 passed just to the West of us at about 500 feet of elevation, and I’m not sure that I got the flag out in time for the pilot to see it. But three seconds later, Ol’ Glory was fully displayed for the Wingman, who came straight up the road, northbound, and directly over our heads. If you have never had a close-up experience with a low flying military jet, let me tell you this: it is an incredible sight and sound to behold.

Russ and I were high-fiving when I observed that both jets were banking to a southbound heading. I shouted to Russ that they were going to come around for another pass. I can imagine the radio conversation between the pilots.

Wingman to Leader: “Did you see those guys holding up Ol’ Glory? Let’s go around.”

Leader to Wingman: “Roger. There are two stopped vehicles about a mile apart. I’ll take the first, and you take the second.”

Wingman to Leader: “Roger that.”

The leading jet buzzed our partners and climbed up and away to the Southwest. Seconds later, Wingman flew over our partners, descended to about 200 feet off the deck and thundered up the road directly at us. Russ and I, holding Ol’ Glory stretched out between us, were eye-ball to eye-ball with Wingman. Whooom, he passed over us and immediately pulled a high-g ascent: as straight up as an F-16 can do; propelled by the flaming jet engine; followed with a barrel roll. Wingman was gone as fast as he arrived leaving us with the smell of jet fuel and a memory of a lifetime. Russ and I went nuts, like a couple of kids.

That’s the way it happened when we said, “Thank You.” And, they said, “You are Welcome.”

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