Living so near to DC, it's hard not to take advantage of all the city offers on the major holidays, and Memorial Day is a big one in our nation's capital. Rolling Thunder is one such event. It began in 1987 as a demonstration to bring awareness to the plight of prisoners of war (POW) and to those missing in action (MIA). I think it has also evolved into a more general tribute to American war heroes and soldiers. It has grown into a motorcycle rally that draws in well over a quarter of a million riders from all over the USA. Since John has a Harley, every few years, we will participate in the ride. Many of the riders assemble in the Pentagon parking lot, and then as an organized group, file out and ride along Constitution Avenue. The streets are lined with spectators.
This year, we decided to ride down in the very large group that leaves from the Harley Davidson dealership in Fairfax, VA. (As a side note, motorcyclists of all kinds participate, not just the Harley stereotype.) The shop is located on Rt. 50, a very major East/West highway. The east bound lanes are actually closed to car traffic in order to let the motorcycles queue up. The line starts forming around 7: 30 am and leaves for DC around 9am. It has become such a large group that the police actually close a full route going into DC and provide a police escort.
Here are a couple pictures from our place in line.
|Yep! That's me there in the mirror!|
|And again, me, in the reflective glass of a nearby office building.|
We all got rolling, and the route ran east on 50, turned off after a bit and headed to east 66. Now 66 is the region's major east/west corridor, a full highway, and yet it was closed to car traffic so our group could proceed easily into DC. I felt sorry for the car drivers as this created some huge traffic jams! Every on-ramp was blocked by a motorcycle cop, with long lines of cars backed up.
Every overpass was lined with people, waving us on....
Here's a view of our group, looking east toward the city.......Nothing but bikes as far as the eye can see.
And turning around to look behind me.....
We wound our way to the Pentagon parking lot, but didn't stay. We left the group and headed downtown to park and find a place to people watch and see the start of the parade.
Going past the Washington Monument....
The motorcycles started filing out of the Pentagon lot and toward Constitution Ave. at noon. We were right at the corner, so could watch as they turned.
A Marine in full dress uniform, stands at the start of the parade. He holds his salute for the entire time it takes for all the motorcycles to file past. He never puts his hand/arm down. And it was a very hot day....
This truck comes every year, bearing flags....
There was even a large Canadian contingent.
With the large crowd, it was hard to get many photos without someone's head always popping in the frame at the last second. Needless to say, there were many, many bikes, some decorated with flags, some towing displays, and many ordinary riders. It takes a long time to have that many file past. In years past, we have opted to ride in the parade. This year we wanted to spectate.
Whether you are a fan of motorcycles or not, it is very hard not to be moved by the patriotism this event represents. It is a very emotional day.
And of course, there is always someone that goes to the beat of a different drummer.......Parked among the thousands of motorcycles, a bicycle built for two! Amid a sea of powerful engines, a father and his young teen daughter rode off, powered only by their feet.