Thursday, December 1, 2016

~ 11, 11, 11 ~

“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.”  Dakota saying

This rest stop, 50 miles from Barstow, paves the way

The alarm rings precisely at 4 a.m. without any guilt whosoever.  My mind and body move slowly.  I remind myself to not think, just react.  Just react.  The celebrations begin precisely at 11a.m.

My bike in the garage was prepared last night and all I have to do is turn the key and fire it up.  It is dark and I mentally go through my safety checklist: Check all lights, it will be dark so watch for deer, and go slower than normal around the lake.  There is no traffic but animals are active at 5 a.m. as I leave Three Rivers, CA for Barstow, CA.  

It is still very dark and my lights lead the way.

Freedom Riders arrive at the Barstow cemetery

My plan is to arrive at Valero’s gas station on Barstow Road sharply at 10am.  Danny Griego and Joshua, Hanna, and their dad, David Alexander plan to meet me.  They agreed to join me for a Veterans Day motorcycle ride to the Barstow cemetery for the annual celebrations.  In years past, there have been fifty or so bikers, and today there are five of us.  Two Yamaha’s, one Honda, and one cool 1965 Triumph Bonneville, custom hardtail.

Danny Griego, Joshua, Hana, and David Alexander ~ Freedom Riders

Our ride, down Barstow Road then onto Main Street and down 1st street is historic.  The five of us ride together; I call this our Freedom Ride.  There is one veteran among us ~ David served in the Marine Corps who celebrated their 241st birthday the day before.  As we arrive at the cemetery, we see other family members who have come to celebrate Veterans Day.

Susan Aguayo and grandson Tristan Aguayo who's dad, grandfather, and great grandfather are veterans!

I lean over to my sisters and whisper: “Do you know why we have these ceremonies on the 11th month, on the 11th day, at the 11th hour?”  Their eyes tell me that they do not know.  I whisper, “World War I officially ended at that precise time.”  A few years ago, we added the 11th year, to the 11th month, and the 11th day, the 11th minute, and the 11th second.  It was a historic monument.  An Air Force jet flew over at that exact time and the roar took my breath away.

My family has my back

As I look over the crowd, I do not see my good friend Mike Ulibarri.  It just doesn’t seem the same without him here.  He was a member of the Vietnam class of 1967.  I do see another Vietnam veteran who I remember from years past – Dennis Stickland, a member of High Desert Vietnam Veterans.  He’s a biker and has traveled extensively all across America.  I graduated with Mike and Dennis in 1967 from John F. Kennedy High School.

1967 John F. Kennedy High School graduates, Robert Griego and Dennis Strickland

Without delay and precisely at 11am Mr. Ulibarri, Master of Ceremonies begin the Veterans Day celebrations.  All of the speakers are inspirational.  

There is a special tribute to Gold Star mother Ramona Griego, who lost her son during the Vietnam war.  His name was Clarence Griego.  His brother Rick was a school mate of mine and graduated with me in 1967 from John F. Kennedy High School.  I ran track and field with his brother Clarence who was pretty good on the high hurdles and shot put.  She remembers me as I give her a hug and thank her for her son’s service.  She reply’s, “Thank you, I remember you too.  I also have a son named Robert Griego.”  “I know," I tell her giving her a final farewell hug.

The Center of this picture is Gold Star Mother, Mrs. Ramona Griego

These celebrations take place all across America and this is the spot I choose to be on the eleventh day of November.  The Army soldier playing taps is amazing and the twenty-one-gun salute put an exclamation point on her notes. 

An Honor Salute ~ Barstow Veterans Day

Today, a few bikers and many Barstow residents pay honor to our Veterans.  Our family joined us afterward for lunch at Plata’s Mexican Restaurant.  Salvador greets us warmly.  The food is so good, and sharing this time with family is special.

Robert Griego remembering 1967 John F. Kennedy High School friend, Gene Christiansen (from the original Yamaha gang).

Robert, Wil, and Leo Griego

Normally, I head back home after the ceremonies but not today.  My sister Paula has been telling me that Barstow is highlighting Route 66 with murals all across town.  Barstow is such an important link along the route 66 that runs from Chicago to Santa Monica. 

Happy 90th Birthday Route 66 ~ Route 66 Mother Road Museum

The Route 66 Mother Road Museum displays a collection of historic photographs and artifacts related to Route 66.  The Museum is located at the Harvey House at Barstow’s train station.  I did not know it but today they are celebrating their 90th birthday.  After touring the Museum, I set off to see the numerous murals up and down Barstow’s main street and they are amazing.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act

My sister Elva and her husband Robert frequently attend the Veteran Day celebrations.  They are in New Mexico and they were not able to attend.  Elva sent me this beautiful poem that I like very much:

“What we are told as children is that people when they walk on the land leave their breath wherever they go.  So wherever we walk, that particular spot on the earth never forgets us, and when we go back to these places, we know that the people who lived there are in some way still there, and that we can actually partake of their breath and of their spirit.” ~ Rina Swentzell, Santa Clara Pueblo

Sebatian Griego (dad) and Nancy 'Moya' Griego (mom)

Danny Griego on his 1965 Triumph Bonneville, custom hardtail