The body had not yet been embalmed.
The mission was to assemble at Phoenix International Airport and from there, escort the remains an hour South to a Mortuary outside Casa Grande, AZ for embalming and internment.
I was a little concerned I'd get the same reception from this group as I had gotten during my last "Patriot Guard" event.
Fearing traffic around the airport I arrived almost an hour early.
Interesting- three bikes were there already... another GoldWing and two "Harley Clones", a Yamaha and a Suzuki "Boulevard" Trike. Not surprisingly, I sensed no "Attitude" about my choice of conveyance.
Over the next hour 30 or so bikes made their way to the assembly area. Of that number, I counted five Harley-Davidsons.
I have NO idea whether or not the group composition had anything to do with the atmosphere, but from the beginning this ride was different. Everyone was friendly. Everyone seemed to be focused on the fact we were there to escort this hero to his final resting place.
We were FAMILY.
We saluted as the body was loaded into the hearse, then lined the bikes behind it to tackle what was now Phoenix "Rush hour" traffic for the start of our ride South on Interstate 10.
Can you imagine the difficulty? Try throwing a hearse and 30 bikes onto a slow-moving, six-lane highway!
It was exhilarating.
The Arizona "Patriot Guard" works with local Law Enforcement authorities and trains and equips "Road Guards" to go "Code 3"... lights and sirens to move and block traffic.
And folks on the road cooperated magnificently.
We moved through the cars like a knife through... well, ALMOST like butter!
Clear of traffic South of Phoenix we SAILED.
Have you ever been relatively at the end of a line of 30 bikes in staggered-left echelon going 70 mph on an Interstate Highway?
I now have.
And lemme tell ya... IT'S A THRILL.
At the facility in Casa Grande we were met by the widow, standing next to the drive as we filed by, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Folks, if that don't make you cry, you ain't human.