Friday, November 11, 2022

~ Veterans Day 2022 ~

 


I painfully know the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day, yet, they blend into my mind, especially this year. My brother, Leo Griego, first cousin Enereo Griego, and our son-in-law's grandfather, Darold Rice, passed away this year. Enereo Griego and Darold Rice were WWII veterans; Leo was a Vietnam veteran. They will be dearly missed.

Today, we recognize and thank all Veterans.


Friday, October 28, 2022

Motorcycles ~ Flags ~ 9/11

Motorcycles ~ Flags ~ 9/11





The roar of six-hundred motorcycles can take your breath away, especially when the police are your escorts, and allow you to run through all traffic lights along the Pacific Coast Highway like a bunch of outlaws. 


Hundreds of bikers on the PCH for the 2022 Ride to the Flags. Photo by Windy Wise, Fire Hogs M/C.


The invite from the Fire Hogs M/C to attend the 2022 Ride to the Flags came at the perfect time. The summer weather here in Three Rivers, CA has been blazing hot — 112 degrees. This patriotic motorcycle ride along the Pacific Ocean with cooler temperatures is appealing and an honor. My Indian Springfield with my normal camping gear was washed and waxed the day before in anticipation of this ride. As fate would have it, it began to rain around Kaweah Lake, just five miles from home. By the time I passed McFarland on Highway 99, the water spray from vehicles and semi-trucks stuck like glue to my bike. You’d never think that it was clean only a short time ago. The highway sign at the base of the Grapevine on Interstate 5 warned of high winds, and I was already prepared for the slower freeway traffic near Castaic due to the recent wildfires. I was thankful to arrive at Cronies Sports Grill near Camarillo in one piece and did my best to clean my bike as other bikers arrived.


Robert Griego, Jack Wise, and Tom Overstreet are ready to ride for freedom.


 NEVER FORGET

Sponsored by the White Heart Foundation, the Ride to the Flags is an annual event honoring the lives lost on 9/11 and those injured in military service ever since. Their mission, to help one warrior through donations raised by this ride, is commendable. I knew nothing about this year’s recipient – Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, 2nd Class, Jordan Stevenson. The White Heart Foundation website stated that “Jordan Stevenson…entered the Navy June 2006 and spent 7 years active duty in the Navy…On his first deployment to Afghanistan with the 3rd/75th rangers he sustained a gunshot wound…caused him to fall from the 30ft wall he was standing.” I read the rest but I wanted to see him personally and hear his story as we arrived at the registration check-in station at Naval Base Ventura County - Point Mugu.


Welcome Bikers.


Registration comes first.


Pick a bike, any bike.


Purple Heart. Some gave all – All gave some.

We were given a registration band and directed to the base where we lined up like sardines, four abreast to accommodate the hundreds of motorcycles arriving by the minute. The ceremony began sharply at 10:00am and included a WWII flyover, a rifle salute, guest speeches, and a wreath-laying ceremony.


Recounting the events from 9/11.


WWII flyover remembering 9/11.

The singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" put goose bumps on my neck, as did the ringing of the bell to remember those lives lost twenty-one years ago. I wasn't the only biker wiping away tears. 


Not a dry eye as we listened.


Navy veteran Jordan Stevenson reminds us that "Hope is a powerful tool." - Photo by Ensign Drew Verbis, courtesy U.S. Navy.


HOPE IS A POWERFUL TOOL

Stevenson captured my heart for his determination to return from hell and learn to talk and walk again. He spoke about being injured in Afghanistan during a deployment supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. While atop a wall getting eyes on the enemy, he was shot through the left side of his head, through his helmet, through his head, and out the back of his helmet, causing him to fall 30 feet. Surviving such a wound is a miracle. He was told that he would never walk or talk again – that really hurt. His military training had prepared him for death in battle, but he was “pissed off” with what the doctors told him. 

“Hope is a powerful tool,” he said passionately. “If the doctors had instead said that your right leg and arm are paralyzed, with a lot of hard work, you could get better. That could, is monumental. I could run with that; I could work with ‘could.’ Can’t is hard to work with.” 

He was not prepared to be disabled. He got to a point in his recovery where he had to decide “to get better” – I was impressed with his determination in the face of adversity. He chose not to focus on his pain, and through hard work, rehabilitation, and family support, he learned how to walk, speak, and ride a bike again. He wants to be an encouragement to others going through similar problems. He made me proud to be an American.

In 2023, he plans to ride his bicycle from Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland to Balboa Medical Center in San Diego to challenge himself and raise awareness for veterans' health. Perhaps, I’ll see him riding his bike on some secondary road out West. I’d love to invite him to my camp and learn more about his courageous journey.

White Heart exceed its goal to raise $40,000 with this year's event. The proceeds will go towards retrofitting Stevenson's bathroom for easier access and building a physical rehab area in his home. How cool is that?


RIDE TO THE FLAGS 

OK, fire up your bikes was all that was left to be said. “You’ll ride two abreast with a full police escort. Be cautious as the ocean waves are splashing over the wall onto the PCH,” said the announcer. The roar was deafening as we fired up our motorcycles. If the sound could be heard, you’d swear that you were at the Indianapolis 500. Leaving the Naval Base, we were split into pairs of two. On both sides of the on-ramp to Highway 1, about 50 Boy Scouts in full uniform with American flags stood tall at full salute to send us on our way as if we were heroes. They honored us and those who lost their lives during 9/11.


Ladies and gentlemen, "Start your engines."


The sound was deafening. 


Over 500 motorcycles begin to move as one.

Bystanders all along PCH watched hundreds of motorcycles moving as one. Children jumped up and down, surfers waved flags, and some stood at salute. It didn’t take long to see the waves crashing over the wall as we were warned. I recall one guy who was standing on top of his camper waving a huge American flag with the beautiful Pacific Ocean in the background. I felt proud to be an American.


Bikers on PCH near the beginning of the Ride to the Flags. Photo by Windy Wise, Fire Hogs M/C).

Law enforcement and first responders, the Boy Scouts, and traffic volunteers were heroes for coordinating 600 motorcycles to travel safely without stopping from NAS Point Mugu to Malibu Bluffs Park at Pepperdine University.

After the ride ended, bikers remained to walk among the 2,977 flags paying tribute to those who lost their lives that tragic day 21 years ago. Never forget.


Our escorts were incredible.



A patriotic welcome at the start and end by the Boy Scouts.



Love the flags and all the bikers.


Perfect place to check out motorcycles.


Time for refreshments and music.


I found all bikers courteous, thoughtful, and respectful.




Monday, October 24, 2022

~ RIDE to the FLAGS — Remembering 9/11 & Honoring a Wounded Warrior ~

 





I'm proud of this article and the bikers, especially my Fire Hogs M/C friends, who rode that day in tribute to those lives lost on 9/11 and to honor and support a wounded warrior — Jordan Stevenson. 

The entire article, to be released November '22, can be found in American Rider Magazine

HOPE IS A POWERFUL TOOL 

"The recipient of donations for the 2022 ride was Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, 2nd Class, Jordan Stevenson, who had spent seven years on active duty in the Navy and spoke at the ceremony. Stevenson was grievously injured during a deployment in Afghanistan with the 3rd/75th Rangers. While atop a wall getting eyes on the enemy, he was struck by a bullet that went through his helmet, through his head, and out the back of his helmet, causing him to fall 30 feet. Surviving such a wound is a miracle, and he ended up with paralysis of his right leg and arm. Stevenson captured my heart for his determination to return from hell. His military training had prepared him for death in battle, but he said he was “pissed-off” when doctors told him he would never walk or talk again. “Hope is a powerful tool,” he said passionately, adding that it would’ve been better if the doctors had instead..."


RIDE TO THE FLAGS 

"The roar was deafening as we fired up our motorcycles at NBVC. We would ride the 30-mile route south in pairs, accompanied by a full police escort. On both sides of the on-ramp to Highway 1, about 50 Boy Scouts in full uniform with American flags stood tall at full salute to send us on our way as if we were heroes. They honored us and those who lost their lives during 9/11. Bystanders all along PCH watched hundreds of motorcycles moving as one. Children jumped up and down, surfers waved flags, and some stood at salute...


After the ride ended, bikers remained to walk among the 2,977 flags paying tribute to those who lost their lives that tragic day 21 years ago. Never forget..."





Monday, June 27, 2022

~ The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest ~



The Ancient Bristlecone

 Pine Forest




"Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world."    David McCullough Jr.



The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is home to the oldest trees on Earth bristlecone pines. Some exceed 4,000 years old and appear sculptured by the wind. I’ve never seen them before and I’m looking forward to this adventure. The name alone conjures wild images about this natural area situated off SR 168, about 24 miles from Big Pine, CA, along Hwy 395. New destinations are an attraction to me, especially when riding my motorcycle.


I intend to camp at the Grandview Campground, situated at 8,600 feet.



The Grandview Campground can be seen below.

It’s Memorial Day weekend so I arrive early on Thursday, increasing my chances of a campsite at the Grandview Campground. My brother, Gilbert will arrive on Friday, and if the campground is full, our backup plan is dispersed camping in the Inyo National Forest.

Then, we'll ride to Bishop, CA, for the annual Bishop Mule Days. The parade begins sharply at 10 a.m. This is the longest, non-motorized parade in the country. It’s a favorite of mine, and I'm hoping to see our Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks packers compete.

Grandview Campground is five miles from the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, but I’ll save that for tomorrow. Now, my priority is searching for a campsite. As luck would have it, there is an empty, secluded spot, that is perfect. The campsite borders a large meadow and has a huge tree for shade and shelter. There is a table and a fire ring. Without hesitation, I stake this camp and begin unloading my gear. 


This huge tree at the Grandview Campground provides excellent shelter.

It’s quiet here, and as evening approaches, my campfire glows beneath an incredible sunset with the Sierra Range in the background. My gourmet dinner is saved for tomorrow night when Gilbert arrives. Tonight, it’s Dinty Moore Stew with a Hostess cupcake for dessert. My transition radio picks up a country-western station from nearby Bishop. I’m thankful for such an incredible camping spot with an ever-changing sunset. The stars are bright and will be my companions tonight. My finger follows several satellites that in seconds crisscross the entire sky. 


Reflected on my Indian Springfield is a beautiful sunset.



Nature paints a spectacular sunset.


Laying in my sleeping bag, I consciously breathe in life and exhale gratitude. A simple, yet deliberate act. This is one of the best campsites ever. Before the natural light disappears, I thank the universe for this moment. 

Tomorrow, I'll explore the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest situated at about 10,000 feet. 


HIGH ON THE MOUNTAIN

The sweeping view of the Sierra Range is stunning. Looking to the northwest, I can see Bishop far below, looking like a small postage stamp. It’s colder at the higher elevation. The wind begins to blow stronger. It’s invigorating. My bike does not falter as we climb higher.


The road is paved to Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center with a dirt road beyond there.




The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center at Schulman Grove.



"The ability to use adversity to its advantage
allows bristlecones to evolve into living monuments of time."



There are several easy-going self-guided trails to explore the forest.



The view leaving the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is stunning. A short walk is invigorating.

Walking, I feel shortness of breath. Then, nature whispers, “Rest." Enjoy the view.” I listen, grateful for this moment. It's quiet and I can hear the wind coming up the canyon from far below. The screech from a redtail hawk startles me. I watch it decent towards Bishop in seconds. 


COMPANY ARRIVES EARLY

I heard Gilbert's motorcycle well before I saw him. I could tell, from across the open meadow, that he was looking for me. From a good distance, I waved my arms hoping he would see me. He followed the dirt road and was headed towards my campsite. He made a good time traveling from Apple Valley, CA and arrived two hours before I expected him. We had plenty of daylight for him to set up camp and for me to prepare that gourmet dinner tamales.


Robert and Gilbert Griego  Grandview campsite.

The tamales are slowly heating on my Pocket Rocket. We have Fritos and bean dip as hors d’oeuvers. It’s good to have company. Gilbert quickly unloads his camping gear behind the massive tree. The tamales are delicious! It’s been a while since we’ve ridden together.


Two American legends  Indian Springfield and Harley-Davidson Street Glide.
Our secluded campsite beneath this massive tree.

“I’m approaching 100,000 miles on my bike,” Gilbert says. Now, that’s special. There aren’t many bikers who can say the same. Thinking back, I know we’ve traveled over 25,000 miles together across Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and our favorite –– New Mexico. Riding with a like-minded brother is rewarding.

Today is special. The evening sky is ever-changing. The gentle wind picks up and the temperature dramatically drops. Our fire is warm but the heat quickly dwindles a few feet from the fire ring. The breeze becomes a strong wind. It’s much colder now. We kick the remaining logs into the fire and talk well into the night. 


A campfire, brothers, and a sunset.

Without a lot of fanfare, we slip into our sleeping bags while our fire glows into the night. The massive tree helps divert the fierce winds, while our bikes do their best to block the rest of it. At 8,600 feet, it’s cold. 

Morning arrives slowly for me. Gilbert is an early riser, unlike me. As I crawl out of my sleeping bag, I smell coffee while he's preparing a special breakfast. He calls it a Wham Bam Special  Spam, New Mexico green chile, tortillas, leftover bean dip, and two hard-boiled eggs, fried together. It was the best breakfast ever!


Breakfast with a grand view.


BISHOP HERE WE COME

We brake camp quickly and begin riding towards Bishop for the parade. Privately, I hope to see my friend, Jim Harvey, celebrating his 86th birthday. He’s a regular and can be seen at his security post directing the traffic of horse and mule contestants.

Today, old-timers stop to talk and swap stories. Young contestants pause as well, tipping hats as they ride past. They know that he's a Sierra legend. Respect.

Jim taught me everything I know about horses, mules, and living in the backcountry. In years past, I’ve dedicated several stories about him Call Me Jim and Cowboy Legends.


We pause to remember family veterans no longer with us this Memorial Day.
*Sebastian Griego, *Valentin Moya, *Buddy Moya, *Gene Christiansen , *John Lopez.



Robert Griego and Jim Harvey. Today is Jim's 86th birthday!
In his prime, at these events, he was the No.1 All-Round Cowboy.



11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Horse Detachment lead the parade.
These boys are from Fort Irwin Military Base, near my home town Barstow. 



This cowgirl races to the finish line.
Her horse is full of determination.



Two cowboys drive a big rig.
I wonder what they're talking about?



Amigos Mexican Restaurant in Bishop offers great food.



THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

This was not a long trip when measured in miles, yet the time bonding with a like-minded brother was rewarding. Exploring the White Mountains and attending the Bishop Mule Days was perhaps our best ride together in a long, long time.

I arrived by myself I left with my brother. The journey continues.



Before leaving, we make one final ride up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.




I arrived by myself, I left with my brother.
The journey continues...






Tuesday, May 24, 2022

~ WILD WINDS across the Badlands of New Mexico ~

 WILD WINDS

across the

Badlands of New Mexico


The Wind, the Open Road, and My Motorcycle.
This is my mantra.


Rarely, do I heed a warning before a long-distance ride. This message, however, is from my nephew Ruben, who is a wildlands firefighter stationed in Silver City, NM. A credible source. 

His message, "It's supposed to be very windy across New Mexico, starting tomorrow." He is also a biker, so I listen. He adds, with a bit of humor I'm sure, "Hopefully, it will blow in the right direction for you."

He is currently fighting a large fire, outside of Santa Fe, NM where the intense winds are feeding a devastating wildfire. I heed his words as I leave Three Rivers, CA, for the Badlands of New Mexico  "It's supposed to be very windy...."

I'm on a mission, heading for the La Joya, NM cemetery.

Fortunately, the wind is blowing at my back from Mojave, past Barstow, CA to Kingman, AZ. A tailwind is a biker's dream, but that would change.

My first camp is 9 miles south of Ash Fork, AZ on Highway 89. I look intently for the Forest Service Road 38 which is not easy to spot. This is a favorite campsite, which I call Middle Satelite. There is plenty of firewood and volcanic rock for a fire ring. This dispersed camping is isolated and I see only one other camper in the far distance. 


Middle Satellite Camp.


The stars are bright, almost blinding, as the universe looks down at me. A satellite crosses the entire western skies in seconds. My fire is burning brightly. A can of Hormel Tamales, my gourmet dinner, is warming nicely by the hot fire. 

My small transistor radio picks up the Window Rock radio station. It's mostly in Navajo, and although I do not know the language, I listen. I record some of the Navajo chants on my cell phone for my grandson, Kai, to hear.

A billion stars above, perfectly shining their light on me. Or at least that's what I'm thinking  magical, assuring my spot in the universe. Another shooting star passes, pure energy. I love the stars. It's dark and my campfire provides adequate light. I lay awake staring at them, hoping to see another shooting star, but it's pointless, sleep soon will consume me. 

Then, I see the unique pattern of stars that I affectionately call, the "Circle of Eight," representing my brothers and sisters. It is peaceful, my fire burns slowly, a perfect end to my first day, a lengthly 540 miles. I think about Ruben's caution, "It's supposed to be very windy...." The stars soon disappear as my fire burns slowly. Morning comes quickly.

The wild winds, for the moment, are calm as I pass Flagstaff, AZ along Interstate 40. La Joya, NM is still a distance away, and I need to be there on Saturday by 2 p.m. Then, as I cross the Buffalo Range, the winds return. My bike rocks violently left, right, left. It's tiring, but I push forward. My destination is El Morro National Monument. It's Friday and the 9 free campsites might be full. As I circle the small campground, there are two remaining campsites. The water has not yet been activated due to the freezing temperatures so I go to the nearby visitor center for water and set up camp. 

I think about a story written a few years ago for RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel magazine, called In Pursuit of Wildness: El Morro National Monument. I highly recommend this monument which is rich in history.


Getting water for my campsite.


This suite comes with a ground-floor view.


Best breakfast in New Mexico  Huevos ranchero with hot, red chili.
El Cafecito, Grants, NM.



I love New Mexico.



A cool Ducati pulls up next to me. El Cafecito, Grants, NM.


A SOMBER MOMENT AT THE LA JOYA CEMETERY

The Rio Grande is flowing quickly. As a 12-year-old kid, I was terrified by the river as it rushed wildly past me. Today, I'm safely on the bridge seeing the wild river from a new perspective. Years ago, I was afraid that I could fall into the raging river and be swept away forever.


The Rio Grande and my awesome Indian Springfield.

Today, I see birds flying above the river, protected by the nearby Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. I'm 6 miles from La Joya and it's 1:30 p.m. I can't help but stop for pictures on my journey to the La Joya, NM cemetery. I've got 30 minutes before the services begin. 

I love these final 6 miles. La Joya is like a magnet, it's always pulling me back. La Joya is the village where I was born in the adobe house built by my dad. My mom and dad lived here and raised my sister Paula, my brother Leo, and me here. 


6 miles to La Joya. This is a historical, iconic sign.


Wow, a Griego Road — Las Nutrias, NM, so near La Joya.


MY ROOTS RUN DEEP IN LA JOYA.

Our family is already gathered at La Joya Cemetery. I join my sisters, first cousins, and friends to bid our final farewell to our cousin Tudie Romero. La Joya is a small village along the Rio Grande where Tudie was born and raised. 

"La Joya is like a magnet, it's always pulling me back," he would tell me.


Arthur "Tudie" Romero
Nació 1/14/1953 y Murió 3/5/2022.




1st cousins - Sammy Aragon, Elva "Griego" Esquibel, Robert Griego, Susan "Griego" Aguayo,
Benjie Moya, Lou Moya.
We gathered on April 30, 2022, at the La Joya cemetery to honor our 1st cousin, Tudie Romero.


La Joya cemetery.


Leaving La Joya, the wild winds begin. I'm heading west on Interstate 40 battling heavy crosswinds. Near Gallup, NM I decided it would be better to head north towards Utah to escape the fierce winds.

Wrong decision.

The winds intensify. With the blowing sand, it is hard to see. The electronic sign says it all, "Visibility may be zero, use extreme caution."

The wind is wild. 

The blowing sand across the road is intense. My motorcycle is struggling as it rocks left, then right. I'm focused on the road, keeping my boots firmly on the floorboards while my hands tightly grip the handlebars. Ahead, I see a pickup truck hauling a trailer traveling slowly with its emergency lights flashing. I hunker down and follow closely behind. Otherwise, it's unsafe and I'm afraid that a vehicle will plow into me from behind. The dust dorm lasts for 150 miles. There is no shelter.

Shiprock, an iconic rock formation in New Mexico, should be visible from 50 miles away. Today, I don't see it until I'm within 100 feet. The sand is blowing hard and at times I can't see the road. The gas station ahead is heaven-sent as I pull over to rest.

By my calculations, I have another 80 miles to Bluff, UT where I plan to camp at Sand Island Campground. The wind is relentless. I'm tired. 80 miles may not seem like much, but in a blindly wind storm, it could easily be 800 miles. I cautiously push forward.

The Sand Island Campground appears to be full. I'm disappointed as I circle the entire campground. Then, I spot lucky site #7 which is the last available campsite. It is located next to the San Juan River and is perfect. Exhausted, I set up camp. The wild winds are finally dying down.


Sand Island Campground, site #7.



San Juan River, the view from my campsite.


ON TO MONUMENT VALLEY AND GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK

If I traveled this route a thousand times, I'd always leave with a big smile. The sweeping views take my breath away. I think of Forrest Gump, running across this iconic landscape. I take a million pictures. The winds have stopped, entirely. 

I see a young couple doing the same, capturing the moment. "Could you please take a picture of me as I ride my motorcycle past you?" "Absolutely," he says. "I love these moments," he adds. As it turns out, there aren't any cars behind me when he snaps the picture. I thank him as he leaves. It was only miles later that I viewed his picture  priceless!

A few years ago I accompanied Jim Parks on a Blue Rim Tour. The story, Into the Wild West's Four Corners, is a favorite of mine.


These bikers were camping in Monument Valley and out for a day ride.



My dependable Indian Springfield. Parked, soaking up the views.



I love seeing other bikers riding their dreams.



A lone biker riding west.



The landscape is priceless.



The bikers keep coming.



I really don't want to leave.



One final picture and I leave sacred, Monument Valley.

In Kayenta, AZ, I stop for gas and breakfast/lunch  green chili posole and Indian fried bread. A group, of twenty or so bikers, is filling up their motorcycles. They speak French and say they are on their way to Las Vegas. They too are exhausted, and I can see them brushing off the sand.


Green chili posole and Indian fried bread.

Their leader explains that yesterday they were hit by a terrible sand storm. They are headed for Monument Valley and eventually Colorado. I explain to the leader that the ride will be awesome. He begins to earnestly check out my Indian Springfield, and then the entire French bikers circle my bike. He explains that he is leading this Eaglerider Tour. "On this tour, we do about 300 miles per day. Yesterday was a rough day for all of us." 

I liked him immediately. I call him Big D. We take a few pictures, then the group sets off for Monument Valley. I love these encounters, if only briefly.


Big D and Robert Griego.



Elephant's Feet along the Navajo Trail, Highway 160.

It's here in Kayenta, after looking over my map, that I decide to visit Grand Canyon National Park. This route, past the Cameron Trading Post, is relaxing. Once near the Grand Canyon, the views are awesome.

There are so many overlooks, and I select Mather Point. The views are breathtaking priceless  perfect.


East Entrance to Grand Canyon National Park.




Near Mather Point, Grand Canyon National Park.



Mather Point, Grand Canyon National Park.

Arrived home in Three Rivers, CA safely after 7 days and 2,200 miles, I'm still a bit dizzy but it was a heck of a ride. 

My nephew was right, "It's supposed to be very windy across New Mexico, starting tomorrow."