Motorcyclist, son-in-law ride 1,900 miles to attend military reunion

Published 7:54 pm Saturday, July 26, 2008

It would be an interesting sight to see a 3-month-old raccoon riding on the shoulder of a motorcyclist.

It gets better when you notice that the rider is 88-year-old (as of August 12) Homer Wheat of Calera.

He has been riding motorcycles since 1946, and hasn’t wrecked any of his 19 motorcycles yet.

Earlier this year, the Navy World War II veteran rode 1,900 miles with his “favorite” but only son-in-law Roy Thrift to his 60th Destroyer Escort Squadron 48 (DesRon48) Reunion in Hershey, Penn.

Wheat was an anti-aircraft gunner on the USS Chauncey during WWII. He has collected 6 medals and 11 battle stars.

“I had the best job in the world,” Wheat said. “I had a good time in the Navy.”

The pair are both members of the Christian Motorcyclist Association, but, unless upon close examination, they could pass for members of a rough-neck motorcycle gang with their leather vests covered in patches and pins.

“We ride nearly everyday,” Thrift said.

The patches and pins dotted over the leather represent places Wheat and Thrift have been or memberships of organizations they have been a part of, but some hold sadder meanings like a blue cross pin that symbolizes a friend who died in a motorcycle accident.

It’s a road map of their lives. Memories of the trips they have taken and people they have met.

While on their journey to the reunion, Wheat and Thrift made another memory because of the record cold weather.

They stopped in Chattanooga, Tenn. at Wal-Mart for some rain suits, duct tape and baking bags. No, they were not cooking in the rain.

With the baking bags taped around their shoes for warmth, they set back out in the 25-degree weather to head north 860 miles.

Wheat and Thrift are planning their next trip to Miami in the fall. Wheat would also like to buy a new motorcycle as a 100th birthday present to himself, he said, if he makes it.

“I’m very proud of him,” Thrift said. “A lot of folks don’t realize we don’t have a lot of World War II vets left. We need let them know how much we appreciate what they did.”