Bob Provine and Jim Tackett say they’ve taken their motorcycles on trips around the United States and into Mexico together more than 50 times. Next week, they’ll join bikers from across the country as they ride from California to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The 31st annual Run for the Wall is organized under the motto: “We ride for those who can’t” with the mission “to keep the spotlight of awareness of POW/MIA issues and to support past and present service members, family and friends from all wars.”
Tackett, 69, served in the Mississippi National Guard, and Provine, 72, in the Marine Corps Reserves, during the Vietnam War. They’ll ride with two other friends: Ken McIntosh, 69, of Jackson and Jimmy Blessitt, 69, of Monroe, Louisiana.
Their bikes are already on their way, being trailered to California, and they’ll meet up at the starting point in Ontario, just east of Los Angeles, on May 15.
Run for the Wall is divided into three routes: central, middle, and the route Provine and Tackett will take, the southern route.
An expected 625 riders will travel the southern route for 10 days across California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia. Along the way, they’ll take part in memorials, ceremonies and dinners commemorating those who served in Vietnam.
The caravan will arrive in Washington on the Friday before Memorial Day, when they’ll join with the 1,000 other riders from the other routes.
As new guys to the ride, the Mississippi men will be part of a group that rides into Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The men have known each other since about 1974, when Tackett hired Provine to spray some fields using a helicopter. They ran into each other at Giardina’s restaurant in 2009 and talked about Tackett’s plans to ride his motorcycle to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for an annual air show that draws aviation enthusiasts from around the world. Provine asked to join him, and they took their first long-distance ride with a friend.
Since then, they’ve ridden thousands of miles together, Provine on his Harley Davidson Street Glide and Tackett on a Harley Davidson Ultra Limited, seeing some of the country’s national parks, such as Glacier in Montana, Bryce Canyon in Utah, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, and Big Bend in Texas. They’ve crossed the country before, riding from Portland, Oregon, back to Mississippi with side trips and detours to check out points of interest making it a 3,400-mile journey.
A couple months ago, they had their bikes trailered to Del Rio, Texas, on the Mexican border, met up with a Mexican guide on his motorcycle, and rode 1,200 miles to Mazatlan, then turned around and came back.
“That was a good trip,” Tackett said. “Good roads. We felt safe the whole way, never had any issues.”
But this ride will be different than a small group in wide-open spaces.
“We like riding motorcycles, and we just kind of wanted to go for the thrill of being with the group, the experience,” Tackett said.
Provine said he read about the ride in the Harley Owners Group magazine. He said he’s known a number of people with military experience through his helicopter business, Provine Helicopters at Greenwood-Leflore Airport.
“I just want to be part of a group that recognized the military,” he said.
Their friend Henry Flautt, a retired insurance broker, embraced the idea of the Leflore County men taking part in the ride and organized an effort to get Greenwood residents and vets to travel down to the Harley-Davidson of Jackson dealership for lunch on May 20 as the group passes through Mississippi. Tackett said they also expect Gov. Phil Bryant, another motorcycle enthusiast, to join them on the ride across the state.
Flautt also gave Provine a letter to President Trump that he’s carrying with him to Washington in hopes that one of the Mississippi legislators would be able to present it. Flautt, who served in the Army in the period between the Korean War and Vietnam, said the letter deals with veterans’ issues.
•Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.