WELL..... 1Bad and I played tag all day.... Dunno if he ever made it to the event, but I hope he did so, and safely.
As for the event itself... HOLY COW. I still have goosebumps. Today was seriously one of the most amazing shows of community support and patriotism I've seen in a long, long time. There were 35 bikes when we left our meeting spot ... mostly sportbikes, two cruisers, couple of sport tourers. Along the way, we had other riders join the group, so we were probably about 45 strong as we roared through downtown Jacksonville to the Church.
Once we arrived, we were
to see HUNDREDS of bikes and riders all proudly waving American flags, as well as several engines from the Jacksonville Fire & Rescue, and even Gainesvlle F.D. (they brought a big crane truck, and hanging from it was a huge American flag). It was absolutely awe inspiring. Several news crews were out there as well.
Shortly after we arrived, they instructed all of us with flags (I bought 8 medium sized flags, and 16 smaller ones, and some of our other friends had fullsize 3'x5' flags as well) to line both sides of the street to the church, where we stood for about an hour until the family and police escort came through. After the family's procession came through, it was absolute silence.... Never have I witnessed such a large group of people standing utterly silent for so long. While I don't have an exact idea of how many people were there, one of the organizers said he lost count at 650 bikes.
For another hour or so, we waited out with the bikes, and eventually staged up to ride to the cemetary (the procession consisted of the police escort, then the bikes, then the family). A few people in our group somehow managed to secure huge flagpoles to their bodies/bikes, while many of us had smaller flagpoles down the backs of our jackets, flags flying in the breeze behind us.
The ride to the cemetary was right at 7.5 miles, at 10 mph or less. When I said it was amazing, that doesn't even begin to describe it. EVERY side street and intersection was blocked off by a fire truck, police car, or police bike. When we'd pass a fire station, all the fire fighters stood outside, hand on heart, or saluting. People going the other direction as well as from businesses along the way stood outside waving, saluting, waving their flags and taking photos of the procession (which seriously, went on as far as the eye could see). We even had a short stretch of freeway, and every onramp was blocked, people out of their cars waving and standing in awe of the procession.
Once we arrived at the cemetary, several of us broke off and headed out. While I was glad to be there in support of the fallen soldier, I felt like the actual burial was something sacred that should be for his family, only.
All in all, a really amazing day.... one of the Patriot Guard Ride leaders came to us as we were staging up for the procession and said he's never had a group of sportbikes come out to support one of their missions, and he was really pleased to have us there. He also said that in the last two days since they announced today's event, membership in Jacksonville has spiked sharply.
Oh, and the protesters? Yeah, they didn't show up.
I've got pictures... once I cool off and get the ones from some friends, I'll post some up.