Thursday, July 6, 2023

~ Ride of Honor ~

 "In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors."    William Blake

Walking back through this door in time.


July 3, 2013


This is an Open Letter to the families of the elite, Granite Mountain Hotshots—all twenty members.


I’m a biker and on June 3, 2013, I was camping on USFS land near Happy Jack, Arizona. I had forgotten my Therm-a-Rest in La Joya, New Mexico, so my camp was especially hard. The pine needles gathered helped to soften the ground, but only by the smallest margin. I didn't mind too much as I love camping under the stars. However, I did move slowly the next morning. There is a small cafe nearby and I'm looking forward to a hardy breakfast. I think it’s called the Long Valley Cafe, but I've always called it Happy Jacks.

The fire trucks parked out front do not register in my mind—I'm only thinking of coffee and hot food.  As I walk into the small cafe, I see a whole bunch of firefighters. "This is a big mistake; I whisper to myself."  I see one waitress moving quickly and I can only imagine how long it will take for my breakfast.  The waitress is very fast and coffee and water are on my table rather quickly.  


Time is on my side, so I relax. I look at the young men next to me. They appear to be very well-fit, happy, and so enjoying their breakfast with enthusiasm. Secretly, I hope there are a few eggs left over for me. They all look like they could be movie actors in this period of time. They remind me of my son.


The waitress jots down my order—eggs over easy, hash browns, corn beef hash, and pours more coffee. The young firefighter next to me says, "That's what I ordered; it was very good." I see this as an opportunity to make small talk, so I ask: "What fires are you coming from?"  Many quickly begin to talk at once describing what, where, and how they left the last fire. I’m impressed. "Where are you going now?"  "We are going to fires in New Mexico," they say almost at the same time. I tell them that I just came from New Mexico and that there was severe lighting and rain two days ago. I tell them that I like their shirts, and the words, something like Granite Mountain Fire, stick in my mind. I wished them well and say lastly, "Be safe."


The fighter fighters move towards their trucks and are quickly gone, or so I thought. A young man comes back into the cafe and simply says, "Thank you, sir."  At the time, I thought he must be a bit homesick but I appreciate his comment immensely. 


On July 1, 2013, the headlines immediately caught my attention—nineteen firefighters die in Yarnell, Arizona. They are the elite hotshot crew from Prescott, Arizona. I read slowly knowing that the guys I met earlier were part of the Granite Mountain crew. Maybe this tragedy involved another crew. The words became harder to read but I continued until the end "....the elite firefighters are known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots..."  


They are the same guys I had breakfast with at the cafe; tears fill my eyes—my wife comforts me but does not really know why I am upset. I begin to explain the news and my connection to these young men.


Even now,  days later, I cannot stop seeing those young firefighters in my mind having breakfast at that small cafe. To their families, my tears do not stop and I send you my most heartfelt condolences.


To the survivor of the twenty-man Granite Mountain Hotshots, "Thank you, I am so proud of you and your service."


  /s/ Robert Griego




It's early morning in Three Rivers, CA and I've got a long ride ahead despite the cobwebs in my eyes. When I fire up my bike, the sound triggers a familiar, yet primitive sound. The initial coyote howls come from the souththe Dinley River pack. Immediately to the north, the La Cienega pack responds in kind. It's 5:15a.m. and my motorcycle awoke sleeping coyotes who misinterpreted my motorcycle noise for some kind of rally cry. That's my send-off as I depart home for Prescott, AZ some 587 miles away.

My mission is to ride in a motorcycle procession to honor 19 firefighters, known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Perhaps the coyote howling was simply nature's words of encouragement.

June 30, 2023, Daily Courier headlines define the importance of todayNever forget.

The USFS came to honor the fallen 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots.


Hundreds of motorcycle riders participate in the Honor Procession as it begins.

The Fire Hogs M/C came in force from California. I'll follow this red H-D some 50 miles to the Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial State Park near Yarnell, AZ.


Our first stop along a journey in time.

Brothers and sisters ride proudly.

The IAFF-MG sponsored the Granite Mountain Hotshots Ride of Honor.

We pause to honor and remember the 19 fallen firefighters.

I love how these heroes are depicted in their prime.

I remember you, Kevin Woyjeck from Happy Jacks.

Riders from Arizona, Florida, Colorado, Utah, and California honor the 19 fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots.

D.I. Johnson with my memorial shirt and his cool-looking Can-Am.
The IAFF-MG, Arizona chapter sponsored the Granite Mountain Hotshots Ride of Honor.


Motorcycles dot the landscape at the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park.

Robert Griego came to honor the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

~ Andrew Ashcraft, Robert Caldwell, Travis Carter, Dustin DeFord, 
Christopher MacKenzie, Eric Marsh, Grant McKee, Sean Misner, 
Scott Norris, Wade Parker, John Percin Jr., Anthony Rose, 
Jesse Steed, Joe Thurston, Travis Turbyfill, William Warneke, 
Clayton Whitted, Kevin Woyjeck, Garret Zuppiger ~

Bikers could be seen for miles along Hwy 89 riding to the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park.

Tom Overstreet, Fire Hogs M/C rode from California to honor the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

The Hotshots Trail climbs through the Weaver Mountains to the observation deck and is about 3 miles one-way from the trailhead. In May 2018 on a return trip from Big Bend National Park in Texas, I hiked the entire route in my cowboy boots. With a 1,200 ft. elevation gain and a 5-8 percent grade, it was a hump. I remember seeing the 19 granite plaques set into rocks with a photo and a story of each fallen Hotshot. It was an impressive tribute. Today, five years later and a tad older, I walk a portion of the trail while still wearing my cowboy boots.

The Hotshots Trail is a strenuous hike, wear a hat and carry water.

Resting often along Hotshots Trail is important.

The first interpretive plaque is for Eric Shane Marsh.

This tribute is for Kevin Woyjeck.

Granite Mountain HotshotsWe will never forget.


A moment lost in time.

The ride to Jerome is laced with curves.

Jerome State Historic Park provides a glimpse into the past.

At an altitude of 7,000 feet, the temperature noticeably drops.

Adrian and his dog, Pow-Pow from Georgia are having fun exploring nature.
We talked for a good hour but Pow-Pow never spoke a word.

It's a busy July 4th weekend and I gratefully grab the last available campsite.

Home-sweet-home for the next two days.

The Potato Patch Campground is cool and quiet.


Leaving Prescott there is a tribute to Chief Joseph, Nez Perce.

Prescott is one of the most beautiful cities in Arizona.

This patch of shade was a relief as the temperature soared.

The temperature hits 121 degrees between Laughlin, NV, and Needles, CA.

My mission was fulfilled after 5 days and 1,336 miles.
Never forget.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

~ Our 52 year Journey ~

Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  John Muir.

Denise and Bob Griego, Pinnacles National Monument, CA— married June 14, 1971.
photo by good friend, Greg Gnesios.


Bob and Denise Griego, Three Rivers, CA — 52nd anniversary, June 14, 2023.
photo by our daughter, Lori Jimenez.

Monday, June 12, 2023

~ Riding the Range ~


"The greatest adventure is what lies ahead."  - J.R.R. Tolkien

This picture is dedicated to my niece, Emily Rose Griego.
4/12/1996 ~ 5/16/2023

It's been nine months since my achilles injury in August 2022. This is my first long motorcycle ride and campout, and what better place to go than the Eastern Sierra. My heart, however, is heavy with the passing of our niece, Emily. I'll think about her often as I approach my first camp at the base of the rugged Sierras covered with snow.

It's memorial day weekend and I plan to attend the annual Bishop Mule Days. The Lone Pine Campground is closed due to the recent flooding and Tuttle Creek Campground is full, so I push forward along Highway 395. There is dispersed camping in the Alabama Hills but that too appears full and congested with RV campers. I spot a sign pointing to Goodale Creek Campground between Lone Pine and Bishop. I've never been here and stop by the campground host to inquire.  "Are there any available campsites?" I nervously ask. "Sure, pick out anyone you like, there are some nice quiet spots, like site #8, down this road," I tell him I've never been here before and it's such a beautiful area. He nods in agreement. 


Site #8 was heavenly.

I felt like I was camping on the open range.

My campsite is perfect. There is a small stream nearby, and a lady is fishing. The views are breathtaking as I set up camp and prepare my first gourmet dinner—tamales. It's windy, a common occurrence, along the Eastern Sierra. The picnic table blocks the wind just enough to heat up dinner as I peek toward the west.

Improvising with my pocket rocket and mess kit.

I never met a tamale, I didn't like.

Dark clouds gather to the west, but the wind blows them north. I plan to sleep out in the open but I always have a backup plan, in this case, Denise's backpacking tent. I skip a fire tonight as the winds continue to blow. Anything that can blow away is securely tied down. It's dark quickly. Gazing upward from my sleeping bag is a billion stars. I try to keep my eyes open to spot, what I affectionally call, 'the circle of eight,' but the diamonds in the night sky encourage me to sleep. During the night, the wind stops. The silence awakes me and my cell phone displays the time—2:30 a.m. The light from the stars is memorizing, and there miraculously, I see the 'circle of eight.' This group of eight stars in a semi-circle, to me, represents my brothers and sisters. I thank God for this experience after my long absence from camping and riding my motorcycle, reciting my mantra—breathe in life, exhale gratitude.

The dark clouds are concerning.


The Bishop Mule Days parade begins promptly at 10am so I break camp at 6:00 a.m.  The parade is the longest, non-motorized one in the country.  I grab a spot with my good friend, Jim Harvey who turns 87 years old tomorrow. He was once the top all-around cowboy at these events and has been to the Bishop Mules Days for the past 52 years. We all stand and remove our hats as the military horseback color guard passes by with the American flag. There are marching bands, packers, cowboys, cowgirls, wagon trains, horses, and of course mulestall ones, short ones, and everything in between. 

My new friend, Kent Reeves (a.k.a. diamonds4mules on Instagram).
He takes a break to watch the stiff competition.

Nick Knutson (#091) is one of the top Cowboys.

Bob Griego, Jim Harvey, Nick Knutson.

These Cowboys are my heroes.

The picture below reminds me of the song, El Paso by the late, Marty Robbins:

"One night a wild young cowboy came in, 
Wild as the West Texas wind. 
Dashing and daring, 
A drink he was sharing 
With wicked Felina, 
The girl that I loved..."


This year Nick Knutson led a new team, Cloud Canyon Packers.
Photo courtesy of Kent Reeves.


Near Magee Creek Campground, the snow turned me around.

My Indian Springfield was dwarfed by this snow bank.

 Crowley Lake and Highway 395 are below.

On my way home this Memorial Day, I deliberately take a detour to pay respects to my brother, Leo at the Barstow Cemetery.  He was a Vietnam Veteran who served his country as a paratrooper in the United States Army.  Among many commendations, he received the Bronze Star. 

Each Veterans Day, I would stop by his house and thank him for his service. I would always ask him, "Leo, where's your 50th Anniversary Vietnam pin," and he would point to his heart where it was pinnedLeo, thank you for your service.

Leo loved jumping out of planes.

Leo Griego
nació 2/23/1947 y murió 7/22/2022.

Home after 3 days and 884 miles.

~ breathe in life, exhale gratitude ~