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

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