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Charley Barnes Recounts His 10,000 Mile Honor Flight Northern Colorado Endurance Ride – Leg 1

Official send off from the Weld County Veterans Memorial on June 4, 2014. Photo by Jordan Dawson/TSM

Today starts the first of what will be a nine day series recapping each day’s “leg” of this motorcycle adventure of mine – my 10,000 mile Honor Flight Northern Colorado Endurance Ride. I think each day deserves its own story, so here we go.

This epic adventure started bright and early at the Weld County Veterans Memorial in Greeley at 0700 hours while friends and family came by to sign witness forms and ride out with me at 0800. We made a quick stop at Agland off of 35th Avenue for my first gas receipt that would mark the official start time; 0803 hours.

From there, I was escorted into Cheyenne where most of the send-off crew turned back, and myself and Mike Neuerburg continued on to my first scheduled gas stop in Wheatland, Wyoming. Then, it was a final goodbye to Mike as he reassured me I would see him in 8 days in Wisconsin. I can’t even begin to describe the mixed emotions of seeing him in my rear-view mirror; sad to see him go and being alone now vs. ready to just get in my zone and start riding like the wind. Little did I know, this wouldn’t be the first time I had to forge on ahead with him in my rear-view.

The rest of my journey on that first day was pretty uneventful. I had beautiful weather all the way into Shelby, Montana, where the sun had just began to set and the sunset was just amazing. I had a feeling of elation and couldn’t wait for the next day that would truly start this journey, and my first real test of endurance…the Border-to-Border run.

The only issue of the day was when I had taken off the Honor Flight hat that was given to me that morning by Matt Voris and Colonel Cass. I had tucked it under my lap somewhere in Wyoming so it wouldn’t blow off and to give my head a break and had forgotten I was sitting on the hat when I went to adjust the legs and stretch a bit. Woooooooooosh, off it went. Are you kidding me?  I was so jacked to put 10,000 miles on that hat but was so in my zone, I waved it goodbye, watched it get run over, several times, and moved on.

It was the first of many things I would lose on this adventure.

While checking into the hotel, Kelvin Angeltvedt came out to smoke a cigarette and asked what I was up to. For the first time, of many, I uttered seven words that came out of my mouth every time someone asked me that question, “Have you ever heard of Honor Flight?” He told me he hadn’t, so I began to explain and handed him a flyer of what I was out doing, and took my first load to my hotel room.

While walking back down the hallway with the rest of my stuff I heard someone call out “Charles.” I didn’t think much of it, and it came again. At this point I am wondering who knows me in Shelby, Montana and kept walking. The third time I heard my name it was much closer, so I decided to stop and turn around and it was this guy following me to my room. Turns out he and his family are Canadians and were on their way to Butte, Montana for a wedding. He told me he was so impressed with what I was about to do, whipped out a wad of bills, and peeled off a fresh $100 to donate to our Northern Colorado Veterans.

In that very moment, I knew what I was doing was the right thing. The whole idea was not only to raise money for our local Honor Flight hub, but just as importantly, to spread the message about Honor Flight and to make sure I told anyone close who would listen. The awareness issue was much more prevalent than I thought, and that will all come into play in later stories.

The feeling I had going to bed that night was one I will never forget. I had already made a difference in the lives of one family, and had hoped to touch more along the way. It was an easy day of 900 miles, and as I sat down to log my receipts, take a shower and watch some TV, I thought this was going to be much easier than I had thought.

Little did I know…

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