Friday, May 20, 2011

IFMR Arrival in New Orleans

   What an exciting day!  We met in the parking lot of the Baton Rouge Harley dealer at 9 AM for coffee and fellowship.  As we waited for the arrival of the Blue Knights (off-duty motorcycle policemen who provided the core of our escort), more local Rotary motorcyclist joined us for the final ride to New Orleans.  By the time the Blue Knights arrived at 9:30 we had a total of 52 motorcycles, plus several passengers; and we had them pose for a photo before we left.

We were escorted by a squadron of 8 Blue Knights, including police from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and cities along our route, plus numerous state troopers' vehicles and local police in the cities we passed thru.  Once we got on the interstate, the Blue Knights and other police vehicles blocked every intersection as we progressed.  We traveled most of the 85 miles from Baton Rouge at 70-75 mph to minimize the time we were tying up other traffic on the route; and the police were traveling faster past us as they finished blocking one intersection then raced past us to block intersections ahead, or blocked traffic to permit us to change lanes when required enroute.  It was quite an impressive performance!  And we all arrived safely and on time at the convention center.  Here's a photo of a line-up of some of our bikes in the convention center parking lot.

   We were greeted on our arrival by a huge crowd of Rotarians and photographers along the street.  After we parked our motorcycles and went inside, we were welcomed by RI President Ray Klinginsmith and Rotary Foundation Vice-Chair John Germ.  We held a brief ceremony and press conference in which I presented John Germ with a ceremonial check prepared a couple of days in advance and I indicated that we had continued to receive donations since the ceremonial check was prepared, so that we estimate that IFMR riders have collected about $50,000 for POLIO PLUS.  John Germ and I were then interviewed by video crews, as well as posing for this photo of me presenting John with the IFMR check for POLIO PLUS.

As we finished the check presentation and the press conference, there was a big round of applause and congratulations from the crowd that had gathered around us.  It was really exciting to be part of something like this; and we were all proud of having contributed to the success of the campaign (and to POLIO PLUS) while also enjoying our love of motorcycling.  It was a marvelous day!!!   And thanks to all of you who helped us make it happen.

I want to especially thank Mark Shirley, who orchestrated the arrangements in Baton Rouge and our police escort to New Orleans.  The Blue Knights deserve a huge 'thank you' for their outstanding performance of moving us 85 miles in heavy traffic and arriving safely and exactly on time.  I also want to recognize the Ride Captains who led their groups to New Orleans from various parts of the country -- Marc Baker from Seattle, Doug Holck from Sacramento, Dave Phelps from Chicago, and Allan Leggett from Miami.  And my co-Ride Captain from Albany, Charlie Foote, who helped me keep up with 17 motorcycles in our group by the time we arrived here.  POLIO PLUS rider Bob Mutchler in his side-car rig, who was instrumental in helping me initiate the idea for this fund-raising ride in the first place and whose bike is on display in the IFMR exhibit booth at the convention.  Foundation Vice-Chair John Germ and Foundation chief executive John Osterland also provided exceptional assistance and encouragement all along the way, as did numerous other Rotary leaders and staff members.  Without the participation, encouragement, and support of all these key people this project would not have been possible.  It has been a HUGE team effort we can all be very proud of.

           :-)   Bob Shriner, President, IFMR-NA

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The IFMR POLIO PLUS Treks to New Orleans Have Begun

   IFMR members Marc Baker, Otto Rieve, and Elisabeth Saunders reported that they hit the road yesterday morning and ended their first day on the road at Meridian, ID.  They also reported they were bringing over $13,000 in donations for the Rotary POLIO PLUS campaign to END POLIO NOW!

   IFMR members Bob Shriner, Charlie Foote, and Blair Campbell report they are now in Albany, NY, and will depart on their trek to New Orleans tomorrow morning.   Bob says the riders in their "Albany" group, most of whom will be joining the ride as it progresses southward, have also collected about $13,000 for POLIO PLUS so far.

   Stay tuned!  Ride Safe!  And we look forward to seeing everyone in New Orleans on Friday.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mississippi Flooding Update


    As you've doubtless heard, the Mississippi River is setting all-time records for flooding as the crest moves southward toward Baton Rouge and New Orleans from Memphis.  It is expected to reach Baton Rouge and New Orleans about the same time IFMR riders do, or a day or so later.  We've been watching this situation closely because of it's possible impact on IFMR riders and others traveling to New Orleans.  I checked yesterday evening with Mark Shirley, our Baton Rouge IFMR liaison (and pp of RC of Baton Rouge Capital City, plus past area HOG board member) for an update. 

    Mark reports that local officials are fairly confident that their existing levee system and other measures by the Corps of Engineers are sufficient to protect both Baton Rouge and New Orleans from flooding, but outlying areas may be affected.  In order to lower the level in the river itself and reduce the strain on the levees, the Corps is opening the flood gates of tributaries all along the river, which is resulting in flooding in low-lying areas along these tributaries, often as far as 30-40 miles from the Mississippi itself.  Interstate highways are unlikely to be affected; but state and local roads may be.

    If you are traveling to Baton Rouge/New Orleans from the west, to minimize the risk of encountering flooded roads, Mark recommends that you plan to cross the Mississippi BEHIND the crest of the flood, which means at Vicksburg, MS, or further north.  This may mean changes in your current route plans.  He suggests crossing at Vicksburg and continuing east to I-55, then using I-55 or one of the other major US highways to travel south toward New Orleans.

    Mark is coordinating with RI convention staff and local law enforcement on changes in the route from Baton Rouge to New Orleans due to flooding.  He will also serve as a 'control center' for IFMR riders enroute to Baton Rouge who want to check with him about changes and local conditions as they aproach the area.  I encourage you to do that.  You can reach Mark at his office 225-769-5711 or cell 225-931-9744.  If you call him, be sure to thank him for the great volunteer Rotary service he is providing to help make the IFMR POLIO PLUS rides a success.