Reflections of the reunion from George Clay. AKA Delmar Ray

Entering the Red Oak resort I noticed several tents, trailers, and Wings parked right up front, looks like I'm in the right place! Then I pass by a small green tent with.........Air Conditioning! Yep, an actual window air conditioner propped up on a plastic chair and sticking out the window of the tent. Surely that wasn't one of our guys? Upon checking in I head up and around to the back of the building to the hospitality room(HR). As I head up the stairs I see two guys sitting on the deck overlooking the swimming pool. I recognize Greg Hayden right away, then Robin Perna, and introduce myself. Ultra Steve comes out from the HR just then and introduces himself. It turns out there were about 40 Steve's at the Reunion, so when ever I mention Steve, I'll be referring to Ultra Steve unless I attach a last name. Steve and I hit it off, as I expected we would, considering our usual banter on the GoldWing message boards. I had also emailed him a couple of weeks before to see if he would be interested in pulling some pranks or practical jokes, which of course he was whole-heartedly in favor of. After a few back and forth emails we decided on invading the Saturday night dinner as twin nerd hillbillies looking for our mama, and I started to work up a rather feeble little skit for the limited time we had left.

Before heading to my room to unload the Wing I tried to meet as many folks as I could, matching names and faces, AND trying to remember both. My goal was to meet everyone there. I'm sure I missed a few, but made up for it by introducing myself 2-3 time to a few people, and at least twice to Don Pigott and Blaise Konicki. Most of the campers were set up East of the HR and most of the hotel rooms were to the West at the bottom of a fairly steep hill were the boat launching docks are. Getting to the room I found several folks already setting out on tables outside the rooms and visited there for a bit before heading back to the HR. After changing into some shorts and sandals I walked back up to the HR because I was planning on having a few beers and relaxing, little steeper walking up that hill than riding down! By the time I get back to the HR Steve and Bonita Woodin and a few others are bustling around setting up a buffet style dinner and before long dinner was served! I sat down with Bill and Linda Hines who were eating from tinfoil pouches they had cooked at their campsite. Linda mentioned that they didn't know about this dinner and I realized I didn't know about it either until I walked in and started helping myself. Turns out that Steve had the idea on the trip there and several others pitched in and got R done! Hot dogs, baked beans, melons, a regular old picnic. What nice folks. Soon the original Hines Wing video was playing, this was the first time I'd seen it.

I figured I'd seen enough on the websites and everyone's pictures and comments, but I was wrong. Fortunately Tim Bowman brought extra tapes with him and I bought one. Tim and Angela flew in for the reunion and I was glad to hear they were able to rent a convertible and had brought a GPS and a CB for going on the rides. Kind of amazing to see people that were at Gratis for the presentation, and have seen the tape a few times, still get misty-eyed watching it again. Greg's daughter Erica was our hostess, bartender, watergirl, ice gopher, cup filler, and mostly importantly, it was her duty to never stop smiling the whole weekend. If they were side by side, she would have made the smiley face logo look like grumpy the dwarf. She had plenty of help from Nick Perna too, both are pretty cool kids. I continued to try and meet and get to know more of the folks there including Bob Pratt, a world traveler, very bright, and ready to jump in and do what it takes to get the job done, whatever that job may be. While my trip down was uneventful, that wasn't so with everyone. Rob Perna had lost the license plate off his trailer on the highway, a few had tire problems, and Brian and Doris Cress had trailer axle/frame problems along the way and it just so happened that the guy who stopped to assist them had a welding shop close by and got them back on the road in just a short time.

I think Brian referred to him as a guardian angel, I think I'd have to agree. Wingers helping wingers you know. And wingers helping others...we had round one of the 50/50 raffle that night with the proceeds going to a local domestic violence center, and from what I could tell, the winners were returning their winnings back to the fund for the center. We also got our first look at a quilt being finished up by Linda that would be auctioned off tomorrow. The panels of the quilt were pictures of the Hines presentation from last year and along the outer border were the written names of contributors. I watched for a short time as her sewing machine continued to "write" in more names.

Later on I got to meet Don Pigott, Steve Hatten and his daughter (a 6-yr AF veteran, now going to school), Carl Jones, who had a license plate for me, and Gary Shepherd. Things started to wind down about 10 and I caught a ride back down the hill with the Woodin's. They had brought the van as well as Steve's cross-breed Cowaharley and their son Bradley. Back down at the rooms several folks were still sitting out talking, Mike Jennings, Wes Quick, and Jerry Treadwell. I stopped to listen for a few minutes but I was ready to hit the sack and headed up to the room to call Helen first.

I was up early Saturday morning and goodness gracious if there wasn't already coffee made and sitting outside by the tables. Lois Robinson had somehow wrangled a large coffee pot and an extension cord and had the pot set up beside the stairs so that everyone could help themselves. I had planned on hitting a few campsites in the mornings to get coffee but we were too far away in the hotel rooms so Lois was a lifesaver. I had signed up for the ride around the lake and over the dam so I thought I'd go into town and gas up, grab some breakfast, and head back to Red Oak. I stopped at the HR and Steve said several guys were heading over to Ma Barker's for breakfast so I headed over there after getting gas. Pretty good company at breakfast with Steve, Randy Pippin, Gary McQueen, Randy and Jane Lewis, and a few others. Steve had asked if I was going with the Lambert's group for lunch and I said no, I had been to the Lambert's in Sikeston, and thought I'd do the lake/dam ride. But I enjoyed the company so much at breakfast that I decided to head to Lambert's anyway.

We got back to Red Oak just in time and the Lambert's group followed behind another group ride for several miles before they turned off. Our Lambert's group consisted of Steve, Randy Pippin, Don Pigott, Gary McQueen, Dave and Julie Basham, and Steve, Bonita, and Bradley Woodin. It was a pretty nice ride down through slight hills to Springfield. Lambert's restaurant is known for their "throwed rolls" (a waitperson will throw them to you if you want) and their pots of home-cooked veggies (fried okra, potatoes, etc.) that they bring around and dole out in large portions. We had to wait at least an hour to be seated but we found ways to entertain ourselves. I suddenly realized that I had been on the road 3 days and hadn't even taken my camera out, so I figured it was finally time to start snapping some shots. Somehow we got started playing with one of those muscleman games. You have to squeeze the horns of a bull together and the little gauge above it will tell everyone how much of a muscle (or lack thereof) man you are. We all seem to hit right at pencil pusher.

That wasn't good enough so we started putting one guy, and then two, on each horn. Moved the gauge up one whole notch! Among the many metal signs and old license plates adorning the walls Dave noticed one that said 1 58NAVY. He thought that would be a good replacement for Robin Perna's missing trailer plate and subsequently talked the manager out of it! Finally we were seated at two tables and began to order. Dave started snapping pictures of our waitress's butt and then another waitress. The second one even allowed him to photograph a tattoo on her lower back and the Waitress Best Butt Contest was in full swing. We had our fill of home-cooked food and a couple of over-sized salads for Julie and Randy and were about to head out when Steve stated he would buy my lunch if I could hit a sign on the wall behind the next table, just behind Steve Woodin's head. I figured I could and I did. Steve promptly snagged my ticket, despite my (mild) protest and headed for the register. I was waiting by the exit when Steve came up and said Dave had thrown a roll at him. Well, I was going to have none of that. I found Dave standing in line, Steve moved an elderly lady out of the line of fire, and I nailed Dave with a shot to his right shoulder. Mission accomplished, time to go! Steve Woodin wanted to dip down to Arkansas to fill another spot on his state badge, so he, Bonita, and Don headed South while we saddled up to head back to Red Oak.

Dave and Steve decided to swap bikes for the trip back to camp. It's amazing how quickly you can get used to seeing someone on a particular bike. Steve looked rather strange on the red Wing, and Dave and Julie looked just as odd on the green Ultra Classic. Bradley hopped on with Randy, Gary took the lead, and I brought up the rear as we headed out. The great thing about the return trip was that neither Dave or Steve could talk after changing bikes, but they could hear everything the rest of us said, so it was a nice peaceful ride. About a half an hour into the trip Gary had to pull off to the side of the road. His odometer had just pushed over 100k and he wanted to stop and take a picture.

Dave & Julie, and Steve and I split off from the rest of the group a little later to look at a Time-out trailer, and then we hit the DQ before getting back to camp in time for dinner. While at DQ Dave, yep Dave again, talked to the manager about getting a receipt for 125 milkshakes charged to the account of one MIA Tommy Englett, they were more than happy to oblige us. Back at camp Steve and I ran through our upcoming skit for the dinner and I went back to my room to relax a little. As usual a few guys were sitting outside the rooms talking. Mike Robinson and I got into a conversation about our families, quite different, with mine being spread from California to the East Coast, and his pretty much intact in Southern Indiana, but we share a common experience in the joy we receive from being around our families, kids, and grandkids.

Later I made my way over the Gary Shepard's campsite to get a look at the trailer cover he had painted a dragon on, pretty impressive work, his first time trying the airbrush. Now it was time to get into my Delmar Ray outfit and see if Steve and I could liven things up a little at the dinner with our twin nerd hillbilly skit.

That seemed to work out pretty well and we escaped with teeth and limbs still intact. Next Dave presented Rob with his ‘new' trailer plate. I grabbed a plate of BBQ chicken, cole slaw, and a few other treats and sat down with the Lewis' and Blaise Konicki and his sister Sue, and Bear McQueen. Steve then joined as well, but he had already changed out of his Billy Bob outfit! Blaise and Sue are NASCAR fans and we talked quite a bit about Blaise's ‘fondness' for Jeff Gordon. Blaise is a lurker off the boards who rides a Harley so Steve was encouraging to join full time....C'mon Blaise, we know you're out there now! After dinner was the impressive auction for the quilt Linda made and then it was off on our evening dessert ride. And Nick Perna did a heck of a job selling tons of tickets for that night's 50/50 raffle. What a perfect night for a ride, clear skies, full moon, and about 30 bikes. Amazingly the girls at the frozen yogurt place got the approx 50 people served in no time, and it was enjoyed by all. The trip back was just as nice and the evening ended all too quickly.

Back at the rooms it was more time sitting around the tables. At one point Mike Robinson asked me what color blue my bike is...all I could come up with is BLUE! Well, that's not a good enough answer in a group of wingers! Steve Paske went and got a book from his room and soon had the answer: Pearl Concordia Blue. We also had Jim Wise close by, so between him, Steve's book, and a GoldWing history printout that Wes had, I don't think we would have been stumped on any Wing question. But for now it was time to give Helen a call and hit the sack.

Sunday morning I decided it was time to really get busy with the camera. Got some shots of the area and the hotel, plus just about everybody that was at the breakfast. Steve, Dave & Julie, and I were planning on heading out right after the breakfast so we were packed and ready to go before we ate. When I made it into the HR the smell of bacon was already streaming from the kitchen. Rob, Greg, Bill Hines, and Bob Pratt were already hard at it and before long Bill was serving up double scoops of a hearty and tasty breakfast. Steve found me and had a couple of black plastic zip ties to show me. A prank that didn't work out. Rob and Greg had tried to trap Steve in his little air conditioned condo tent, but had failed to block his exit through the window that the AC was sitting in. Steve was busy plotting his retribution with the help of Rob's wife Jean. No doubt it will be a good one. I had the pleasure of dining with the MN crew, Wes and Karen Quick, and Brian and Doris Cress, plus Clayton and Odessa Boltz.

The cameras were flashing all around the room and then it was time to form up for our big group picture at the entrance to the campground. Took a little effort but we "Got r done"! Steve, the Bashams, and I waved our goodbyes and hit the road. Heading up Hwy 44 towards St. Louis we hit a bit more traffic than expected for a Sunday morning. Dave and Julie were heading back to Ohio, Steve back to Michigan, and I was going to St. Louis for a small family get together before heading out to South Carolina in the morning. We stopped around Union, Mo to gas up, take a break, and say our good-byes. Spending the weekend with these guys was a blast, Steve, Dave, and I have similar humorous and fun-loving dispositions, and Julie was a gem putting up with our stooge-like antics. Not to be outdone Julie had her share of witty quips along the way too. So it was hugs all around and we were on the road again. I left them at the I-270 exit and wished them well while we were already brainstorming future get-togethers, I certainly hope we do.

-George Clay