American Legion Multimedia Editor Steve Brooks is traveling with the Legacy Run Home's National Commander's Ride, sharing a minivan – and satellite radio – with photographer Amy C. Elliott and videographer Derek Tow. He'll file reports from all three days of the ride.
4:45 a.m. – Wake up to sound of motorcycle rumbling. Start to call front desk to complain. Then reconsider.
8:30 a.m. – At the urging of Amy and Derek, we illegally park along the Charles A. Edison Memorial Bridge over Sandusky Bay – ignoring the "Emergency Only Parking" sign posted 10 feet from the Caravan. Derek crosses two lanes of traffic to get video; Amy does the same to grab some photos. I stay in the van.
10:15 a.m. – Illinois Legionnaire Bob Emerson has served on the Legacy Run's advance team three times. As he stands at the entrance to the Red Barron Express Truck Stop in Carleton, Mich., he watches as more than 200 motorcycles refuel. And he's never less than amazed by the efficiency in which it's done. "Last year, during one stop, I think they did 300 or so motorcycles in a half hour," Emerson says. "It's just set up so well, and they really know what they're doing." It's Emerson's fifth Legacy Run. "I just want to be a part of the Legacy Fund," he says. "I think it's one of the best things The American Legion ever did, and I want to be a part of that."
11:30 a.m. – We pull down Middlebrook Road through the center of Garden City. People line both sides of the streets, waving their flags as they await the Ride. A lot of people brought their dogs.
11:40 a.m. – At Garden City High School, Legion Riders from throughout Michigan join Legion family members and the general public as a welcome party for the Ride. John Bowman is one of the Legion Riders responsible for guiding the Ride into the parking lot. He's also a member of Post 396 in Garden City, where the Riders were founded in 1993. "It's quite an honor having the Ride come here," Bowman says. "I think they're here to honor us, and we're here to honor them."
11:45 a.m. – Around 19 years ago, the Riders were founded at Post 396. Pam "Lips" Globke was one of the original 19 members; 14 still are alive today. "When it formed, my husband asked, ‘What happens when it goes big?' (Original co-founder) Bill Kaledas said that it wouldn't go big. My husband asked, ‘But what happens if it does?' We never imagined it would go this big, though. But we did a lot of promoting of it, and it really took off."
12:05 p.m. – The Ride begins pulling into the high school parking lot. One block away, the grilling crew puts the finishing touches on lunch, which comes courtesy of Smokin' Bones BBQ: BBQ chicken and ribs, garlic bread, baked beans, coleslaw and watermelon. Inside the post, several cakes – one decorated as a red, white and blue United States, another with the Legacy Run symbol – and ice cream await the mass of riders and passengers.
12:25 p.m. – I grab a few minutes with Kaledas, who I interviewed back in 2003 and have seen a few times since, though none recently. He never imagined the idea that he and Chuck "Tramp" Dare had back in '93 would take off as it has. "Not in my wildest dreams," he says. "I'm so very proud of the Riders and all the good that they've done. I'm really sort of astounded by what it's become. When I saw them pull into our city, and I saw people standing there greeting them, I had to shed a tear. Everyone leaves something behind. When it comes to that time for me, if this group is what I leave behind, that's a pretty good legacy to leave behind."
12:40 p.m. – Eleven-year-old Jared Glasel belts out an impressive rendition of the national anthem. That kid has some lungs.
12:55 p.m. – Prior to the presentation of donations, six of the remaining 14 charter members of Post 396's Riders are honored. Then the money rolls in – nearly $40,000, to be specific. The host Riders chapter is responsible for $8,200 of that. Marion, Iowa, Chapter 298 and Post 35 in Wasilla, Alaska, each hand over checks for $4,000.
1:20 p.m. – National Commander Fang Wong, and his wife Barbara and aide Doug Malin are riding the next 64 miles on the back of "trikes." Barbara says she's not worried; neither is Malin. And the commander already has experience riding a motorcycle. Sort of. "I've been on one when it was stationary," he jokes. "But I trust Earl." "Earl" is Earl Ruttofsky, past national commander of the Sons of The American Legion and a Legacy Run veteran. Ruttofsky says he's given a ride to all but one national commander. "And that one was in a sidecar, and the motorcycle turned over," Ruttofsky says.
3:32 p.m. – True to Ruttofsky's word, Wong survives his ride. "It was capital," the national commander says. "It was a very nice ride. I really enjoyed it. I expected to be hot, but once I got out there you start feeling that wind." Wong says he's got an even better perspective of the Legion Riders in the two days of this year's Ride. "You see how they pull together for a cause," Wong said. "They say, ‘We can do better. We want to do better.' They take it a step further. Being around them, it's contagious."
5:45 p.m. – Dinner is served: grilled hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken, along with macaroni and potato salad and a variety of cakes. Among the guests at dinner are local government officials, including representatives from the Village of Quincy and the state legislature.
5:50 p.m. – Jay R. Ritter, the founder and now director of Post 157's Riders chapter, cannot contain his pride in watching the Ride come to his post. "These are some of the best people in the world that I know," he says of the Riders. "I call them ‘Biker Trash,' and they know I mean that as the best compliment." Ritter went on the 2010 Legacy Run to Milwaukee, so he knows the kind of camaraderie that is developed on a Run. "I was seeing a lot of guys I've seen before," he says. "I couldn't hide the smile on my face when I saw this group coming down the street. And when I saw the five guys from our chapter here, it was like I was seeing my best friends come home."
6:20 p.m. – The donations again pour in – around $24,000, bringing the total to nearly $138,000 raised so far. Post 177 in Fairfax, Va., donates $5,023, while its Riders chapter contributes another $3,000. Wong is presented with a bottle of whiskey by Post 157; he offers it up for auction, with the money going to the Legacy Fun. Steve "Doc" Jones of Post 37 in Ames, Iowa, steps up, paying $70 for the bottle.
Today: The run stops for lunch at Northside Harley-Davidson in Indianapolis before taking a lap around Indianapolis Motor Speedway and finishing up at Speedway Post 500.