On December 12 and 13, 2014 five of my friends and I served as part of the motorcycle escort for Wreaths Across America as they transported Christmas wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery. This was the third time in the past four years that I have done this and each year it seems to get bigger. There is no way that this ride report can do this event Justice. We picked up the convoy on Friday at 7:30 am at their hotel in Middletown DE. We arrived just as they were lining up and were informed that all the bikes were to be at the back at the request of the State Police. That was new for us, but nothing we could really do. We pulled out and proceeded on our way to the first stop, breakfast in Stevensville MD just before the Bay Bridge. We were escorted there by the DE and then the MD state police. As we have come to expect from the past they did a fantastic job with the escort, blocking intersections and closing on ramps as the convoy approached them. We did not stop or put our feet down for almost 90 minutes. Had a bit of a delay as the convoy crammed into the parking lot at American Legion Post 278 in Stevensville, Maryland where they served us a fantastic breakfast. The food was great, they had a high school band playing when we arrived, and probably 100 school kids lining the road chanting USA USA. What a welcome! As we were finishing breakfast they had a short presentation for us, and then we were briefed that we were skipping the Naval Academy in Annapolis and heading straight to the Pentagon. I have yet to go to the Naval Academy and each year something has come up. Maybe next year. We were also informed we would have a police escort to the Pentagon.
At 10:30 we were outside lining up and this time bikes were up front. We pulled out and were on our way. Again the escort did a great job. Once in Washington DC their motor patrol picked us up and did a great job even though they were shorthanded. As they did not have enough support they could not block the on ramps until the entire convoy passed and of course as soon as they left the cars started flowing again. One woman got a little too close to the escort and I am surprised the look he gave her did not turn her to stone. He pointed to the shoulder and she pulled over and made it clear that she was to wait. That was the last we saw of her. A few more motor patrolmen joined him and we had no issues. We got to the Pentagon around 11:45 and were bussed over to the 9/11 memorial. They had a presentation by the head of the memorial fund and by the Asst. Secretary of the Army. She explained her office was directly where the plane hit and she has a picture on the wall of her office showing the burnt out hole that it was after that day. I could not imagine looking at that every day. After the speeches were done they proceeded to hang 184 wreaths on the fence next to the memorial, one for each person lost at that site on that day. After that was done we were informed there was no escort to the hotel so we were on our own, so the six of us headed out and got to the hotel in College Park 45 minutes later without incident. We were lucky that we got our rooms even though we were early, took a shower, and then headed down to the bar for a drink and something to eat. We had a great early dinner and the Police Chief from Maine who was in charge of the entire convoy joined us for a drink. She thanked us for participating and we thanked her for the fantastic job she had done. She laughed and explained that most of the escort was confirmed only minutes before it was needed. After dinner we headed to our rooms for sleep since we were exhausted … at 6:30 PM! Boy we are getting old!
We rose bright and early on Saturday December 13 and were at our bikes at 5:15 am. At 5:30 we were kickstands up and on our way to the Branchburg FD for another fantastic breakfast. The food and company were great and we could not have been treated any better. After we ate we were briefed that our escort was going to be the US Park Police and they would take us all the way into Arlington. Bikes were in the back and we were told that when we got to Arlington the trucks were to turn left as they have in the past and go into the Cemetery. The rest of the escort including the bikes were to turn right and proceed through the cemetery and park in Ft Myer just outside the gate. When we got outside we saw the motorcycle escort had grown to about 70 bikes. There were more police motorcycles than I had ever seen before, plus many police cars. Just before we left they raised a huge US flag over the road suspended between two ladder trucks.
At 7:00 or so we were off and on our way. Rather than follow US 1 and go through the heart of Washington DC we took highways to Arlington. As was to be expected the escort was fantastic and all on ramps were blocked until we passed. We got to the Cemetery and were cheered as we passed. Anyone in uniform was saluting us! As a friend of mine stated the first year I participated they cheered us like rockstars! As in years past I went into emotional overload, first at a high due to the reception we received, then the realization of where I was and the fact that I was riding my bike on hallowed ground surrounded by those that had fought for our country and many had given their lives for our country.
We proceeded through the cemetery and into Ft Myer and parked. This year the opening ceremony was at the McClellan Arch rather than the amphitheater. As we were not familiar with where that was located we proceeded down to the section were we would be placing wreaths and along the way we each got two wreaths from one of the trucks. Along the way we split up and headed off in our own directions. This year I had a mission, to confirm that a wreath was placed at the grave of a fellow long distance rider and if there was no wreath I was going to place one myself. I got to the grave in section 65 and there was no wreath on the grave, so I had the honor of placing on at the grave of someone I knew. The rest of our group placed wreaths and we regrouped and headed towards the bikes. Along the way we came across a truck that still had wreaths so we each grabbed a few more and placed them on graves we came across. Around 12:30 we were all at the bikes and headed out towards Baltimore for lunch at Dick’s Last Resort. As we pulled into Baltimore we ran smack into a traffic jam at the stadium and that is when we realized we ran straight into the Army Navy game. We had a slight delay but found our way to the parking garage and parked our bikes around 1:30. Dick’s Last Resort is an interesting place where essentially the staff is rude to their customers. It’s not for everyone however we enjoyed it as it made us laugh which is what we needed after such an emotional day. Food was pretty good and afterwards we headed to our bikes around 3:30. From there it was an uneventful trip home.
Here are some photos from the trip
Bikes lined up in Middletown DE
Convoy pulling into the American Legion Post in Stevensville MD
Our escort for the first leg on Friday. Note the BMW police bikes
Breakfast at the American Legion Post
Pulling into the Pentagon parking lot
Wreaths being placed at the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial
Saturday Breakfast at the Branchville FD
Part of our police escort on Saturday into Arlington
The motorcycle escort from the convoy
Huge flag raised as we were ready to head to Arlington
Pulling into Arlington
Cemetery with the wreaths placed
Where I placed one of my wreaths
Some of the notable graves we came across
Some of the monuments we saw. The mast in the center of the photo is from the USS Maine
War Correspondent memorial
Confederate Circle where veterans from the Confederacy were buried