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Rolling Thunder® Motorcycle Rally

By Walter F. Kern

Rolling Thunder® - Introduction

Rolling Thunder® is listed in my Motorcycle Rallies article but I had never had the chance to attend. My wife had cornered a forum member, Spanky, at the 2004 BuRP Forum rally. He's a former Marine pilot who has been part of Rolling Thunder® for a few years. He invited us to come on down and be part of Rolling Thunder® XVIII.

I also don't venture out on the road much during heavy holiday traffic but decided to take a chance to find out firsthand why others had spoken so strongly that it was an event not to be missed.

Rolling Thunder® was started in 1987 by two Vietnam vets, Artie Muller and Ray Manzo, who wanted a way to draw attention to the plight of our country's Prisoners of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA). They decided that a gathering of motorcycle riders would have the biggest impact.

In 1988, the first Rolling Thunder® "Ride for Freedom" was held in Washington, D.C. over the Memorial Day weekend with 2500 motorcycles and 5000 marchers. The marching portion of the event was dropped after the first few events but the number of motorcycles steadily increased over the years with recent numbers around 250,000.

My wife and I rode our Honda Gold Wing trikes down from New Jersey to Spanky's house in Virginia arriving Saturday. Spanky was hosting a cookout for the Southern Cruisers Riding Club (SCRC). We would be part of the SCRC group riding to the north parking lot of the Pentagon on Sunday to line up for Rolling Thunder® XVIII.

The riding pictures in this article are courtesy of Spanky's wife, Darlene.

Here's a picture of us and our trikes.

North Parking Lot at the Pentagon

We met up with the SCRC for breakfast at a local restaurant. The group was too large to ride together so it was split into two groups.

We rode up I95 and soon entered the center HOV lanes. We arrived at the Pentagon and weaved our way around the building to the north parking lot. This is the parking lot on the opposite side of the building from where the damage occurred during the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks.

There were numerous volunteers trying to direct us to our final positions in the parking lot. We were trying desperately to at least stay together with Spanky so we tried to ignore most of the frantic hand waving by the volunteers and kept our attention on Spanky's bike.

Bikes were packed together tightly in long columns and completely filled the lot within a few hours. We were at the head of a column looking directly at the Pentagon.

A grassy slope was way off to our right where many sat sunning themselves, waiting.

We arrived by 9 a.m. but the ride was not expected to begin until at least noon. There was no shade and the sun was hot. Many wouldn't get out until after 4 p.m.

Someone in the crowd had borrowed a ladder and climbed it to get a better picture of the crowd. That started a line of people wanting to use the ladder for their pictures too. Finally, someone stepped in and cut off the line so the poor guy could return the ladder. Here's a picture my wife got on top of that ladder.

=> Go to Page 2: The Parking Lot - a Gathering Place

Visit the Rolling Thunder® Website.

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