7:55 a.m. – In the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express in Danville there’s already a different feel in the air. It could be from the fact the sun is shining. Could also be the 85-percent humidity.
8:02 a.m. – Chief Tail Gunner Dennis Joynt of Post 136 in Mulvane, Kan. – “the home of the Patriot Guard,” he tells me – said having the sun out and not already being drenched from rain is just a perk to the ride. “You get to wake up in this country and see the sites,” he says. “You’re around friends. It’s just awesome. Nice weather is just an added bonus.”
8:25 a.m. – The air horn goes off, signaling it’s five minutes from kickstands up. One of the female riders vocalizes what is likely the group’s thought: “Sunshine, Sunshine!” she says rather giddily.
8:57 a.m. – The Run pulls into Dan Daniel Memorial Park for a group photo. One of the ladies trying to organize the group for the photo mentions she wishes she had a whip to crack.
9:12 a.m. – A blessing is provided by Pastor Meredith Williams of Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville.
9:17 a.m. – National Commander Dan Dellinger does an interview with River City TV, praising the reception the Run received in Danville.
9:23 a.m. – Breakfast is served at the park: a variety of biscuit sandwiches, along with juice, water and coffee.
9:42 a.m. – Nalena Klaas got tired of getting on the back of her husband’s Harley-Davidson, so four years ago she bought herself a Can-Am Spyder (a three-wheel motorcycle with two wheels in the front and one in the back). The treasurer for Post 284’s Legion Riders in Colonial Heights, Va., Klaas says going with a three-wheeler was an easy decision. “I’ve rode two wheelers, but I’ve also dumped two wheelers,” she says. “I’m 68 years old, so I’m too old for that. I like the stability of the Spyder – and I really like all the storage space.”
11: 57 a.m. – Under police escort, the Run pulls into Post 55 in Winston-Salem, N.C., where a lunch of subs – or possibly heroes, grinders or hoagies – awaits them. Members of the posts Scouting program help serve the food.
12:06 p.m. –Commander Tommy Coggins starts to choke up when talking about the Run making a stop at Post 55. “I get a little sentimental here,” he says. “It’s such an honor for us to have the ride stop here. And I think it turned out really well. A couple people told me it was the best police escort they’ve ever had.”
12:17 p.m. – While accepting donations, National Commander Dan Dellinger notes that the ride was “a lot easier this morning than it was yesterday.” Coggins then announces that he’d like Riders to sign the banner that was hanging from the overpass so that the post can then raffle it off and donate the money to the Legacy Fund.
12:25 p.m. – David Windmiller of Post 177 in Fairfax, Va., tells the group that his wife, Madelyn, started up a conversation in their parking lot hotel earlier in the day. The man found out about the Run and gave Madelyn $20 before pledging an entire day of his radio show – “Tabernacle Time,” based out of Danville, Va. – to talk about and raise money for the Legacy Fund.
12:30 p.m. – More than $14,000 is donated during the stop at Post 55, bringing the total to nearly $310,000.
1:50 p.m. – The Run pulls into Tilley Harley-Davidson in Statesville, N.C., where the employees have put out cookies and water. Seems like a fair deal, as dozens of Riders immediately head inside the retail section of the dealership to shop.
2:02 p.m. – Temperatures are in the high 80s in the parking lot of Tilley H-D, which is nothing to Mike Amig, who is a member of Post 316 in Jacksonville, Fla., and spends much of his time as a Northrop Grumman defense contractor working in Afghanistan. He’s on his third full Legacy Run and schedules his “R&R” back in the States around the ride. “It’s a great program that supports the children of our fallen heroes,” he says. “I’ve been planning this for a year out.” Amig didn’t get home until Aug. 6. A smart man, he had his wife, Robin, join him on the Run.
4:30 p.m. – The Run arrives at the parking lot of the Gaston Gazette in Gastonia, N.C. USAA has provided a meal of grilled chicken, pulled pork, rice, chips and drinks.
4:41 p.m. – Assistant Road Captain Tim Cowley, now on his seventh full Legacy Run, said he’s not starting to think about how the ride is getting close to being finished. “I’ll probably start thinking about that at 3 o’clock on Thursday,” he says with a laugh. “It’s day by day, trying to make it the best possible day you can.”
5 p.m. – I’m still pretty intrigued by the story the Windmillers told at lunch so I track down Madelyn for more details. It turns out that the Christian radio show she mentioned earlier is the oldest-running daily religious broadcast in the nation, now having been on the air for more than 82 years. Rev. R.J. Barber Jr. has been doing the show for 53 years himself. “He believes in doing it to help others,” Madelyn says of Barber. “That’s what we do. The first words of our preamble are ‘For God and country.’ A lot of military members have given their lives for us. It’s the least we can do to make sure their kids have an opportunity to go to college and aren’t forgotten. I think that’s how he saw it.”
Today: The Run makes stops at Post 47 in Waynesvile, N.C.; and Post 2640 in Buford, Ga.