I’m taking a few days away from stationery and heading to D.C. this weekend to participate in Rolling Thunder. I realize most people don’t know what on earth I’m talking about when I say that, so I figured I’d share a bit about it.
Rolling Thunder is an annual motorcycle rally held in Washington, DC on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. It’s purpose is to call for the government’s recognition and protection of Prisoners of War (POWs) and Missing in Action (MIA). The tribute to American war heroes started out in 1988 with 2,500 participants and has grown to approximately 900,000 participants and spectators.
According to Trip Savvy, “Rolling Thunder is one of the best patriotic events held in the nation’s capital and a unique experience not to be missed.”
Taken from a previous post I wrote on May 29, 2012.
I can’t remember exactly what year it was, but around five or six years ago I found myself sitting on the curb of the Memorial Bridge in Washington DC with my dad, on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, watching hundreds of thousands of motorcycles ride past me in an event known as Rolling Thunder. I remember the intense roar of the bikes literally reverberating through my body. I was enamored with the entire event. I wanted to be a part of it.
So I decided that would become one of my life goals, to ride in Rolling Thunder.
Since then I’ve put out pleas to see if anyone knew someone who might be riding and had an empty back seat they wanted filled by me. Each year, nothing. But that all changed this year. Through a friend of a friend, I got connected with Tom. Tom and I talked by phone just two weeks before the big day. He has been riding bikes for 35 years and has participated in Rolling Thunder seven times. He was more than happy to know he would be fulfilling one of my “bucket list” items.
I was ecstatic.
We arranged to meet bright and early in Arlington, VA. So, at 6:00am this past Sunday morning, I stood on the curb and waited for my ride. Tom arrived with helmet in hand for me and after a few short minutes we were off for my big day.
Admittedly, there was a brief moment of panic that went through my body as we rounded the corner to get on the highway and I realized how easy it would be to die on a motorcycle, but that feeling lasted all of 5-seconds and then I was good to go.
We spent time at a pre-rally event before we arrived at the Pentagon parking lot around 10:15am, joining the roughly 600,000 other bikers there for the 25th anniversary of Rolling Thunder. The run officially starts at noon and since we were in the last parking lot to be released for the ride, we knew we had a few hours to kill. We made the trek over to the North parking lot where all the vendors were setup, had lunch, and wandered around looking at all the different types of bikes.
Around 3:00pm the South parking lot was given its 20 minute notice. Everyone began gearing up and soon hundreds of thousands of bikes began to thunder down the Memorial Bridge.
One of the most moving moments along the ride was seeing Tim Chambers standing in full salute knowing that by the time we passed him he had already been standing there for over three hours. So inspiring.
We ended our ride at Thunder Alley where I got my official Rolling Thunder XXV patch and pin. And now the next item on my shopping list is a vest to put them on.
Diane, Tom, Billy, and I walked to the World War II Memorial to look up Billy’s grandfather and my grandpa in the veteran database. We then headed to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial where Tom showed us his second cousin’s name on the wall. These were very special moments.
And then it was time for the ride home. I wanted one last photo with Tom to commemorate the day. I had a hard time balancing wanting to capture the whole day in pictures and video and really being present and soaking up the experience. I am so thankful to Tom, Billy, and Diane for making my day so incredibly memorable in every possible way. I will be seeing you next year.
And they did… I rode again in 2013.
And I’m back for the 30th anniversary this year. Follow along with me on instagram.