Sometimes, something just catches your eye or peaks your interest, and you have to either have it or try it. You might see a restaurant review and feel like you have to go there. It might be a movie trailer that says to you, "Every critic in the world hates this movie, but we are convinced that you will like what you see." Or you might notice a golf club on sale in a newspaper ad and decide it's what will finally allow you break a score of 80 on a regular basis. Convinced the club is a necessity, you'll wind up dragging your wife with you to the store, waiting for it to open that morning and telling yourself that maybe, just maybe, the purchase of the golf club is a bit more important than paying a few bills or getting those repairs done around the house.
Or, if you're six members of the Royal British Legion, you see something online about the Legacy Run, decide that it's for you, plan for it for two years, arrive in Chicago Aug. 20, rent some motorcycles and then ride them down to Indianapolis to participate in the run.
That's what Mike Baxter, Robert Bradbury, David Gibson, Tony Lewis, Andrew Trickett and Martyn Lewis are doing. The group of six, along with two passengers, have been with us since the start of the Run, and they've come away pretty impressed.
"It's been absolutely fantastic. The people on the ride are fantastic, and the people who have been welcoming us have been fantastic," said Baxter, who hails from the Wiltshire area of England. "The support we've seen at every stop is something we wouldn't see at home. It's outstanding to see that kind of support."
The group is raising money not only for our Legacy Fund, but also for the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal, which provides care and support to all members of the British Armed Forces.
"Brits like a challenge, and we've been known to be a bit crazy," said Lewis, also a Wiltshire resident. "With us and The American Legion, we're all brothers. We share the same beliefs and same values, and we share the same love for motorcycles. Meeting other people with the same values was an opportunity we couldn't pass up."
Like Baxter, Lewis has been impressed with what he's seen on the Run. "I've been overwhelmed by America's response to you guys and to us," he said. "Everybody - other Legionnaires, the public, the authorities - it's been amazing, and it's so nice to see. True patriotism exists in this country."
Crazy enough, the Royal British Legion Riders aren't the only participants who joined the Run from another continent. Ride chaplain Rev. Ron Moore, a resident of Germany and member of the Department of France, is actually a four-year veteran of the Run. Twice he's purchased bikes on eBay to take on the ride; he tried to use the bike that he bought in 2008 for this year's Run, but it broke down, forcing him to travel by rental car. "I'm probably not going to keep that bike much longer," Moore told me with a laugh.
Like everyone else I've spoken with this week, Moore told me that the cause behind the Legacy Run - The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund - is what brings him across the Atlantic Ocean every August. "I love the feeling of doing something for our veterans and their families," he said. "I'm proud to do that, and I'm going to try to keep doing it for at least five more years."
One thing I've noticed this week, in addition to the fact I am a much neater person if I don't have more than one night to mess up a hotel room: The men and women on this run are some of the most dedicated people I've ever met. And they all have a soft spot for children. This is fact, not opinion.
Moving on. Sentry Insurance - which, for 37 years, has provided accident insurance for American Legion Baseball and also insures Boys State/Nation - hosted a dinner of bratwurst, barbecue chicken, corn, coleslaw, baked beans and salad. During the dinner, John Gundersen - business segment executive for Dairyland Cycle, the motorcycle insurance division of Sentry - presented National Commander Clarence Hill with a $2,500 donation to the Legacy Fund, helping bring this Run's total to more than $286,000.
Earlier in the day, between a bratwurst lunch at Post 326 in Boyd, Wis., and the day's final stop in Stevens Point, Wis., a gas stop provided a reunion between two Vietnam veterans. Legion Rider David Adams of St. Louis met up with Dennis Gutowski of Wausau, Wis., who he had served with in Vietnam from 1967-1969. Adams hadn't seen his fellow corpsman since Gutowski's wedding in 1970.
"I called him and told him we would be this close, and he said he could take off from work and meet up with me," Adams said. "It was great. You don't always get to see someone you spent time with like that."
Cool stuff. Just one of the dozens of stories that come from this week. We finish up tomorrow, arriving at Post 537 in Milwaukee at 12:45 p.m., and I can honestly say that I'm glad I got this assignment. You don't fully understand exactly what the Legacy Run is all about until you see it firsthand. I've tried to share the experiences via my words, but I've only captured part of it.
Still, it's nearing time for things to wrap up. I travel a lot, but there is something to be said for traveling to one spot for an extended period of time, as opposed to moving from city to city each day, making a new home of a different hotel room every night. There have been some long days - especially for those actually riding on the Run.
"It's time to relax a bit," said Larry Hisko, a member of Post 178 in Murrells Inlet, S.C., and participating on his third run. "The job is done (Thursday). It's time to start planning for the next one."
Until later today...