Restore Honor Ride cycles into Needles, CA
We’ve completed our first week of cycling across the country for LGBT Veterans! That’s 6 days of riding and almost 280 miles. We will take a well-deserved day off tomorrow in Needles, and begin again on Sunday.
Aside from the almost constant head or crosswind, today was a great day! What made it especially great is that I got to meet some really special people. The first one appeared as a white light slowly moving toward us. Bill and I looked at each other as we tried to figure out what it was, and as it got closer, we realized that it was someone riding a recumbent bicycle with an American flag waving behind it. Of course we had to stop and check it out. Turns out it was Jeffrey Heller and his “kangaroo court” puppet Joey, cycling from NYC for Ride For Human Rights. He was very interesting to talk to and he told us about how his organization helps refugees win asylum in the United States. It’s really appalling how our government treats refugees and I’m glad to know that there are people working to make changes in this area. Way to go, Jeffrey! Please support him if you can.
Shortly after meeting Jeffrey, I started seeing homemade signs advertising pistachios and honey. I like both, so I decided to stop and check them out. There was a very nice lady, Michelle, working the booth and I noticed a POW/MIA flag on the wall behind her, so I asked about it. She got a little choked up and then said it was for COL (I’m sorry I don’t remember his name). I felt bad for bringing it up because it was obviously still painful for her. Then I told her why I was cycling cross country and she was very appreciative. We got a picture together and Bill and I were on our way, after buying a bag of pistachios and a jar of honey. M-m good!
A little later, I met some really nice folks at the 19th Hole Bar and Grill, which seemed like a great place to complete my ride for the day. They had cold beer and a view of the river, which both sounded good after a day of riding against the wind. I met Renee and Jacob there. Jacob is a combat Veteran who served in the Air Force and was discharged for a medical condition but was denied a disability rating. He said that he applied 4 times and was turned down each time. I told him not to give up and I hope he eventually gets his rating so he can get medical benefits. It seems like veterans have to fight for any kind of compensation and it’s just not right. He went to war for his country and when he got sick, they discharged him with no benefits. Hmmmm… sounds similar to what happened to LGBT service members who were discharged. Shame on us!
Last but not least, I had an interview with a reporter from the Needles Desert Star newspaper. The reporter, Saul, was pretty busy this afternoon covering the high school softball and baseball games, which I guess is pretty big news in Needles, but he made time to interview me for an article in the paper. Here we are in a small city in California, and I meet a reporter from San Antonio, TX. Anyway, he’s going to write something up and it should be in the paper on Wednesday. It should also be in the online edition. I’ll post it whenever I see it.
It must have been a POW/MIA kind of day, because along the road leading to the RV park, someone had created memorials to all the branches of the military, as well as a memorial to POW/MIAs. It was a fitting end to my day.