By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — Frank McAtee is going to sleep on the ground for three weeks, without so much as a camping pad under his sleeping bag.
He’ll spend more than $1,000 on gas. He’s asking his metallic purple 1987 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide — which already has seen 108,000 miles — to carry him around the perimeter of the nation, to roll another 9,000 miles under her aging wheels.
McAtee doesn’t have to do any of this, but he’s doing it anyway.
He’s doing it for the troops. Not just for those engaged in war, but for all the men and women in uniform.
“Someone should do something to show ‘em the little guy in America still has got their backs,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the politics are.”
He leaves today.
McAtee, 50, served in the Marine Corps from 1977 to 1982. The idea for his trip came to him after the shootings in Fort Hood, Texas, last November that left 13 people dead and 30 wounded, he said.
McAtee will collect donations along the way for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the USO, two worldwide organizations that provide financial assistance and other help to military personnel and their families.
He’s already personally collected about $500, he said. He’s selling pins that say, “We’ve Got Your 6” and “9,000 miles across America,” for $5 each. The “6” is military lingo for the area behind one’s back.
Other donations may be made directly to the organizations on McAtee’s trip website.
Robin Rosander, 59, works as a relief service assistant at the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society in Smokey Point. She’s spoken to McAtee about his trip.
“That’s a very nice gesture to help out an organization that helps out the Navy and Marine Corps,” she said.
She has three sons in the Army, with one doing his third tour of duty in Afghanistan and the other two headed there. She bought a pin for each of her sons, she said.
She was touched by a video on the trip website that shows a soldier kneeling and praying. “It made me cry,” she said.
McAtee has been planning the trip for several months. He’s been in touch with military bases and many others letting them know he’s coming through, and has received welcoming responses, he said.
He has his route mapped out: 23 stops. He’ll stay just a day in most places, for two or three days in others. He’ll first head down to California, then eastward across the South. He’ll go all the way to Key West, Fla., then up the East Coast and across the northern tier back to Marysville.
McAtee drives a truck for a living, moving boats around the country for Associated Boat Transport of Marysville, so he’s used to long trips.
In fact, when he’s not on the road, he sleeps in his truck in the company parking lot, taking showers in the office.
“I’ve been on every inch of that interstate before, except for Miami to Key West,” he said of his route. “It’s not a sightseeing trip.”
He won’t stay in campgrounds. He’s asking people to put him up in their yards or wherever they have room. In some places, he’s already lined up a place to pitch his tent. In others, “I’m just going to show up at the VFW,” he said.
He’s sleeping on the ground without padding because that’s what soldiers do.
“I’m going to be reminded that I’m not 18 anymore!” he said.
A couple of motorcycle groups have contacted McAtee and said they’d ride with him.
He expects his bike to hold up. He’s carrying only what will fit in three compartments.
“She’s a good ‘ol girl,” he said. “I just take care of her.”
Rosander said she plans to go out this morning to see McAtee off.
“I’m going to go out and tell Frank good luck and drive safe,” she said.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frank McAtee plans to send updates to HeraldNet.com from the stops on his trip. Click on each point on the map to see updates from that place. For more information, go to www.wegotyour6.southernwebsolution.net. Donations may be made directly to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the USO on the website.
View Frank Mcatee’s Road Trip for the Troops in a larger map