PIF 2006 Paying it Forward in Eureka Springs Arkansas
In the south during July you would expect some hot & sticky weather. On Thursday, July 6th 2006 as I crossed the Mississippi River on route 60, twice, going from Kentucky, 1 mile of Illinois, and then on in to Missouri with my friends, Ron Bien, and Steve ‘Polecat’ Snead, I could just tell I was in for a treat as we headed for Eureka Springs Arkansas where we were about to PIF a true Patriot. The weather was a comfortable 64 degrees with low humidity as we started our second day of the trip, and the forecast was to remain the same for our entire trip. Cool, comfortable, and a slight risk of emotional. Emotional because we were on our way to meet some old friends, and make some new ones, and share what proved to be an awesome event.

PIF 06 was our 4th official event as PIF. Gary ‘Bear’ McQueen convinced us that we needed to go to Arkansas this year to see all the beauty offered up by the Ozarks, and we were not disappointed. After kicking around some ideas amongst our friends we decided that Eureka Springs would make a great place for us to go. There were beautiful roads to ride, plenty of hotels and restaurants, so all we need now is to find our gathering place/campground. Bear and Ultra Steve looked in to a couple of options then finally settled on Wanderlust. Wow! What a find! Wanderlust turned out to be one of the highlights for me. Jim & Cindy Hilligas, owners of Wanderlust, are some of the friendliest folks you’ll meet. They will jump through hoops to make sure your stay is a comfortable one. They pride their campground on cleanliness, and comfort. I camped the way I love to camp best. In a plush air-conditioned cabin complete with coffee maker, shower, and all the amenities you would expect from a fancy hotel. If you find yourself in Eureka Springs, I highly recommend Wanderlust whether you’re a hard-core camper, or a….camper like myself.

As I mentioned, we needed to find a PIFie, and Ultra Steve went to work on that. He did a great job communicating, and researching. He communicated with different folks, but eventually connected with the Chamber of Commerce, who then hooked him up with Sarah from the food bank. Sarah considered some people from the criteria Steve gave her, and convinced us that Harold would be a great candidate. Harold is a Vietnam Vet who was awarded the Purple Heart for an incident that happened to him while in a foxhole. He was hit in the shoulder by a big shell, which was similar to a grenade that bounced off of him, and then blew up. When this happened, it literally missed the three other guys in the foxhole, but injured Harold with severe burns. You and I may think he was in the wrong hole at the wrong time, but that isn’t how Harold looks at it. He considers it being at the right hole at the right time because three guys were uninjured, and he figure God had a plan. Because of the fact he survived and is still with us, he believes that more now than ever, and has come to the food bank to help do whatever he can do to help others. He consistently puts other people ahead of himself and serves his fellow man.

Now, I mentioned the Chamber of Commerce. Well, they were happy to hear what we were up to so they wanted to do something for us. Ultra Steve always brings his weenies from Michigan so we can have a weenie roast, and the Chamber of Commerce supplied all the condiments, chips, watermelon, cases of pop, and a big cake. That was so nice of them, and is something we’ll never forget. We also have some new members from Eureka Springs now too. Along with Marvin & Donna Shepard and Jeff Feldman, from the Chamber of Commerce, Jim & Cindy from Wanderlust is now a part of our group too. One of our members, Joe Austin, even seems to get special treatment from them too, but you’ll have to ask him about that. I’m not about to tell you how he takes of on excursions with them in the golf cart, or the shuttle bus, and comes back with icing on his face from some rolls they provided us with.

Bear led us on a great ride Friday, which started off kind of rocky. Deb Gentry had a mishap in a curve, but came out of it ok with some scratches. She kept her sense of humor, and said her body was now in Technicolor from the bruises. After that, we continued on our ride down route 23 in to Pig Trail where we saw a switchback curve covered with feathers. Apparently we just missed a chicken hauler that had an accident there. After the Pig trail we got on to route 7 where Bear lead us to a beautiful stop for a snack, and a view at the Cliff House Inn. As we started to mount up to ride back to Eureka Springs, we were buzzed by 2 low flying C-130’s, which looked like they were headed right for us, and then climbed to a higher altitude. That was exciting to see. We headed back to camp where we made it home in time for Ultra Steve’s weenie roast. Steve and Ron Bien were slaving away over the campfire roasting the weenies, and Joanie, Lois Robinson and others were setting up the social room for our feast. After the feast, Curtis Pierce held an auction that turned out to be quite successful. Everyone was very generous, and there was some pretty stiff competition on some bids. When the bidding was over it was my turn to do the raffle, and we had many prizes to hand out. The big prize was a beautiful ring, donated by Ultra Steve, and won by Mike Robinson who promptly gave it to his lovely bride Lois. Timing was excellent since they just celebrated an anniversary.

Saturday was the day we all were waiting for. It was the day of the PIF. That wasn’t going to happen until 8pm so we went for another ride. This time some of us we went over to Oklahoma for the heck of it, and others rode to Lamberts to have rolls thrown at them. My bet is Curtis and Mike didn’t let one of them rolls hit the ground either. The plan was to meet up at a local restaurant at 6pm for dinner. For all of those who showed up they got a ticket. Ultra Steve had another surprise for us. This time it was a beautiful watch. Jim Snoke was the lucky winner of the watch. Ok, now that dinner is over with we head to the parking lot, mount up and had a little parade of our own. 28 motorcycles went 8 miles to the McDonalds where we planned to introduce ourselves to Harold, with some help from Sarah. We all waited outside while Sarah enticed Harold to come outside to look at all the motorcycles. When he got out there, Curtis was there to greet him, and start the PIF. Way to go Curtis, you did an outstanding job, and there weren’t too many dry eyes to be found, including Harold’s. After Curtis’s presentation folks lined up to shake hands, and hug Harold, and to also thank him for his service, and to welcome him home. Something that never happened to him, or other vets for quite some time. After that, we mounted the bikes, and headed back to camp. This was the sad part, as tomorrow was the day to head home.

The amount raise this year was $3533. $3233 went to Harold, $200 to the food bank, and $100 for Wanderlust for use of the social room and pavilion.

30+ motorcycles, and 58 people.

Those who attended were;

Greg Hayden     Ron Bien     Steve Snead     Ultra Steve     Ultra Joanie     Don Ferguson     Deb Gentry     Mike Goodwin     Joe Austin    Mitch Seaman     Bonnie Seaman     Larry Butts     Carol Butts    Larry Swearingis     Mila Swearingis     Dennis Hentgas     Colene Hentges    Gary Shepard     Marilyn Shepard     Mike Walker            Brenda Walker  Mike Lewis     Sherry Lewis     Randy Pippin     Gary Meyer     Alice Meyer     Berniece Condrey         Gil Harding        Bev Harding     Leon Stearns     Nancy Stearns     Gary McQueen     Connie Hulett     Harold Taylor     John Wood     Jeff Feldman                Mike Robinson     Lois Robinson     John Busek     Brenda Busek     Kevin Kraemer         David Basham     Julie Basham     Jim Snoke     Debbie Snoke     Marvin Shepard     Donna Shepard     Curtis Pierce     Vilinda Pierce     Herman Burney Jr     John Laughlin     Jim Hilligas     Cindy Hilligas      Robert Cathey        Richard Smith     Jim Wise  Dean Updegraff    Jan Updegraff