Day 1. September 6th, 2017.
Chattanooga, TN to Clarksville, TN. 181 miles
The day had finally come – the beginning of an important mission! We were about to leave after several months of preparations, waiting and anticipating! 5,000 miles and almost 2 weeks of sacrifice lay ahead – all for the Fallen 5!
Since we did not raise the full $5,000 we personally saved the money. By working overtime and getting our work finished up we were able to make the mission possible. Michelle Cantrell contributed money and time to make this mission possible, and I am so thankful! We installed new natural gas and propane computers, replaced the front wheel bearing, a u-joint, a steering joint, rewired the truck, and other updates. Also, the day we left we also made a new top! Last year we made a top the same day as well – perhaps it’s a tradition!
We arrived at the Armed Forces Recruiting Center off Lee Hwy where the shooting began on July 16th, 2015. This is where our mission begins. After paying our respects we began our journey by taking the path of the shooter. We recorded our short drive by going on Facebook live. Check our our Facebook page – Fallen 5 Drive. We arrived at the Naval Reserve Training Center, dipped our tires in the Tennessee River and put water on the flag. In this way we will connect the bodies of water – the Tennessee River and the Pacific Ocean by putting water on the flag and on the tires.
Since we left late we made it to Clarksville, TN to spend the night. On day 2 we will be making up for the lack of mileage on the first day. Our next stop will be in Salina, KS. Stay tuned as we put on more miles for the Fallen 5!
Day 2. September 7th, 2017.
Clarksville, TN to Salina, KS. 688 miles
In Clarksville we awoke in our comfortable Red Roof Inn room and ate a delicious little continental breakfast. The night before was a bit long in time and short in distance. Traffic was largely to blame as we were caught in some road construction…
Day 2 was all about making up for the lack of distance we didn’t make on the first day of travel due to a late start. The destination was for Salina, KS. Last year on the trip we stopped there on the way back because we were out of propane and decided to try and get some in the morning. It seemed fitting to stop there again – also because it was 688 miles away to make up for lost mileage the day before.
On this “Northern Route” we drive through Saint Louis, MO which is quite beautiful. As we drive the challenge for us is to use as much alternative fuel as possible! That means planning fuel stops for propane and natural gas. We are challenged by availability on the route and prices compared to gasoline. Natural gas ranges in price from $.79 to $2.49 per gallon. Propane ranges in price from $.1.68 to $4.99 – so you really have to pay attention to where you fill up. It is important we use these fuels because they are American and clean!
Since we have so much fuel on board we are not limited much by our needs to stop. We drove across Missouri on Highway 70 and would continue on this highway for many more miles to come on this mission. We did make a stop along a detour to check out some awesome corn nearly ready for harvest! We drove through Kansas City near Topeaka, KS and ate at the Texas Roadhouse! They have the best meals and steaks! Thank you Texas Roadhouse!
After eating we resupplied at the local Walmart and shared our mission with some intrigued locals. We also picked up an awesome pumpkin as a side kick! One of our messages is to never let anyone stop you from achieving your dreams! We arrived late in Salina, KS as our final stop for the day.
Day 3. September 8th, 2017.
Salina, KS to Breckenridge, CO. 512 miles
Starting this day we turn on the TV and watch the news to see the Governor of Florida issuing an evacuation notice. Later that day we would see many people with Texas and Florida license places loaded with personal items.
In our process of acclimating to the journey, we first get a plan going of where we are headed and how far it is in miles and hours. We then look up fuel stops for propane and natural gas based on how much fuel we have on board. I try not to run with full tanks of all the fuel due primarily to the weight. I like to see about 1/2 a tank of gasoline which equals 20 gallons. Then we try to keep one alternative fuel tank full as a reserve and one at least 1/4 tank. This way if there are any problems we can simply switch fuels.
After tuning up the truck with a gasoline fuel filter change and a fluid check we ate breakfast and got coffee. Next stop was the parts store for a tee fitting for my propane and natural gas regulators. It uses engine vacuum to help regulate the fuel flow so this was an important part to fix! Then the best part of the trip thus far occurred, Propane Central filled our propane tank for free – 35 Gallons in honor of the Fallen 5! It’s always a great reminder of the kindness in Americans hearts! Visit their location for your propane needs in Salina, KS!!
As we traveled westward, elevation ever increased and Denver was our next major stop along the route. Nearing the city we noticed a haze from dust or smog, perhaps from wind or congestion. The truck needed natural gas so we stopped and paid $1.99 per gallon and filled a record of over 27 gallons in the tank! The 125 octane rating is good for high altitude and for air pollution. I noticed that there was 85 octane gasoline for $2.59 or so and 87 octane for $2.89 per gallon.
The city was pretty and in leaving Denver, you will see the majestic Rocky Mountains. Traffic was heavy for us around 5-7 pm. Departing we encountered a major issue with the Blazer of Glory! The oil gauge pressure line ruptured and
was spraying oil on the motor and exhaust causing a lot of white smoke going up the hill so we pulled over. After quickly crawling under the truck I spotted the source, but not without first getting burnt with hot oil! Michelle and I worked for about 30 – 45 minutes fixing it the problem and were back on the road.
This part of the trip is perhaps the most beautiful! Crossing through the mountains and old mining towns… One of the most special moments for me was the opportunity of cruising with another ’72 Chevy Blazer in the tunnels of Colorado! It was awesome!! We reached Breckenridge, CO that night at approximately 10:00 pm. I got altitude sickness and almost passed out, but was relieved after drinking a Dr. Pepper and eating. We found a wonderful hotel with an amazing view and finally went to bed.
Day 4. September 9th, 2017.
Breckenridge, CO to Salina, UT. 389 miles
On day 4 we awoke and departed the hotel on our way to Salina, UT. The Blazer of Glory needed some oil due to the leak the day before – our roadside repair was working! On our way out of town we noticed the Oktoberfest and our hunger so we ate some delicious traditional German food. As we left a sleet / snow / rain fell on us to leave a reminder we were in the mountains and in a convertible truck!
The terrrain and the day rolled along. The mountains have a quiet wonder about them, it gives you time to think. I wondered about what it was like to cross this terrain by wagon long ago. The early settlers of this land sure had a difficult road ahead with no guarantee they would make it to where they intended. This is similar to life’s road in many ways… This trip to honor the Fallen 5 takes us to places we never expected. On nearly every stop we are asked about the truck, the ‘writing’ on the side of it – and so we tell them and they remember the Fallen 5!
During the day we filled up with propane and natural gas later that night. A resupply stop was also needed. Somewhere outside of Salina, UT we pulled off and camped out in the Blazer of Glory for the first time on the trip. The temperature was perfect!
Day 5. September 10th, 2017.
Salina, UT to Yosimite National Park, CA 612 miles
The sun warmed the day as it rose over the canyon walls. Parking at night always leaves a bit of question in your mind as to where you really are. Sometimes it can be a good spot, others not so much. However, this spot paid off greatly! It was so beautiful! We planned on sleeping outside a few nights of the trip to enjoy nature and save money. We packed warm clothes, rain gear, and sleeping bags. Also added were rolls of garbage bags, zip lock bags, and a new tote. Keeping things dry in an open top truck is a must!
In the good practice of keeping expenses down, our goal was to have plenty of snacks and food packed with us. At the store we picked up food to make sandwiches, but also sausage and bacon to cook from the Blazer of Glory! The grill attaches to the truck’s propane for cooking. Somewhere in the desert we pulled off and drove up a large hill to cook our bacon and sausage for breakfast.
After our little off-grid experience we were back on the road to California. We arrived at Yosemite National Park after dark and decided to pull off into a cove. Michelle would say ”Slept outside in a cove with the bear sniff’n my meaty breath…”
We decided to sleep outside in the truck at Yosemite…with the bear! We hadn’t realized we packed so much food with us including the day’s trash. The signs were everywhere warning about bear and food! So we sat there in the absolute dark making ham sandwiches and thinking about the pan with bacon grease on it and how the bear would love to check us out.
The Bridge, Setpember 11th, 2017
This day is about hanging the flag on the bridge. Alive and not eaten by any bear, we awoke to a rather cold morning. A silent epic-ness screamed with the daylight bringing alive all of God’s creatures. The site was really just a parking lot, fairly open with campsites and campers off into the woods.
Since we weighed the options of spending the night in San Francisco vs. the Yosemite National Park – the park won, even with the bear! Day 6 was certainly the most exciting one for me. It was only a couple hour drive so we left early that morning. The sights were beautiful and gave me a chance to reflect on the importance of our mission. So close to completing the flying of the flag, I was eager to drive.
After negotiating the usual traffic and after a quick propane stop, we were in San Francisco! The bridge came into view and it was a proud moment. For the second year in a row we brought the flag to the bridge to remember the Fallen 5. Crossing the bridge was a proud moment especially since it was September 11th. After parking and snapping a few pictures we began the long walk to the center of the bridge. It’s a walk in which you think about these men that died. I also get really excited to finally fly the flag.
After getting the zip ties ready, I reached for the flag from my pocket. Michelle got the camera ready and went Facebook live to record the moment of hanging the flag. It was an amazing feeling to see the flag flying for a second time in honor of the Fallen 5! I spoke a little bit on the moment and then we paused to show our respect. Over a period of time we watched people stop to take pictures withthe flag. Couples, selfie-takers, and photographers all stopped to take pictures. Then a police officer on a bike approached and my sixth sense told me that we were about to have our flag forced down. I allowed the police officer to explain himself, and he allowed me to explain our mission and purpose. We both understood that the flag must come down or force arrest – sadly. The cop, a former marine himself, did not agree with the order but still enforced it.
Michelle and I folded the flag after cutting it down. It will remain folded until it flies again next year off the bridge. The flag again sought its place in the dash of the Blazer of Glory until next year. The last part of the mission was to put ocean water on the flag and blazer tires to connect the bodies of water. After loading back up we headed over the bridge for a final pass. Our mission was complete! We did it! Now the flag will return to Chattanooga, TN with us. We will NEVER FORGET the Fallen 5!!