And it has begun -- Rolling Thunder 2019 and the very last national Rolling Thunder. I'm happy as all get out to be here for the final run.
Here's the schedule for Rolling Thunder XXXII
Friday, May 24th
5 PM - Washington National Cathedral - 'Blessing of the Bikes'
9 PM - Candle Light Vigil at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Saturday, May 25th
9 AM- 9 PM Thunder Alley The official vendor site for Rolling Thunder XXXII is on 22nd Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest. Official Rolling Thunder patches, pins and T-shirts are on sale in Thunder Alley, along with food and biker related goods.
Sunday, May 26th
6 AM - Reveille - Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Wake-up call for all riders taking part in the Rolling Thunder XXXII First Amendment Demonstration Run. Bikers rally in the North and South Pentagon parking lots at 7 AM for a noon departure.
9 AM - Thunder Alley Opens: Location: 22nd and Constitution Ave NW
12 PM - Rolling Thunder XXXII First Amendment Demonstration Run
First Amendment Demonstration Run - Bikes leave the North Pentagon parking lot to begin their run through the Mall area. After the run, police will direct riders to West Potomac Park, where they will pay tribute to their fallen brothers and sisters.
1:30 PM - Rolling Thunder Speakers Program (Lincoln Memorial)
3 PM - Musical tribute to Veterans - TBA
8 PM - Memorial Day Concert - at the Capitol.
Monday, May 27th - Memorial Day
9 AM - 5 PM - Thunder Alley is Open at 22nd and Constitution Ave
9 AM - WWII Memorial Wreath Laying Ceremony
11 AM - Wreath Laying Ceremony - Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery.
1 PM - Vietnam Veterans Wreath laying ceremony
2 PM - Annual Memorial Day Observance at Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Honoring the fallen service men and women of the Vietnam War.
2 PM - National Memorial Day Parade - Marching bands and veterans' units from all 50 states. Begins at the corner of Constitution Avenue and Seventh Street Northwest.
3 PM - National Moment of Remembrance
This event started with the "Blessing of the Bikes", that we attended at the Washington National Cathedral. A number of clergy from various faiths all said a quick prayer each and then went into the audience of hundreds of bikers to bless them and their bikes. I was told that something like 95 biker chapters would be on the run, but only about 10% were at the blessing. It was very interesting to see all the different "colors" being worn, but all had the same theme -- "Not Forgotten", "Support of Military & First Responders", etc.
Tomorrow is the opening of Thunder Alley, the official vendor site. We plan to visit and share some photos with you. The actual run starts on the 26th. I'm following the advice of local experts of where to position myself for the best view. Hope I get it right.
There is a lot to learn about Rolling Thunder, but I don't have enough space here so I am just encouraging you all to "google" Rolling Thunder and see what has happened over the past 30+ years.
Today we visited "Thunder Alley", which was, basically, a swap meet under tents to sell bike stuff to bikers. We looked, but didn't buy. We were actually looking for something from Rolling Thunder 2019 to buy, but the crowd was too huge for the tiny area and we were getting crushed. (That happens a LOT to short people like us)
We did get to visit with old friends from Korea, the Elliotts, who are now living and working in the DC area. FINALLY got to meet those two little cuties they call "daughters".
Also got to visit with Bill Kubik and his brother. Bill lives and works in Alaska, but flew into New York just to ride with his dad and brother in the final Rolling Thunder.
Really looking forward to the “First Amendment Demonstration Run” as they call it. Based on what we have seen these last couple of days, there promises to be a huge crowd participating and watching. As previously mentioned, short people like us don't usually fare so well in crowds. We're going to try to get there early enough for decent viewing positions.
IT’S ROLLING THUNDER DAY !! Last year we had planned to attend Rolling Thunder 2018. Due to some medical problems, we weren't able. Daughter Lona reached out and let Rolling Thunder know of my problem. Travis Haymore is an Air Force vet and is in charge of the Rolling Thunder outreach program. He posted a "wish you were here" sign on FB last year, which was MUCH appreciated. We tried, REALLY tried to find him this year to thank him, but were not successful. Travis, if you're reading this, Thanks Bro !!
So, another item crossed off my bucket list. Rolling Thunder 2019 is just about history. According to the powers that be, a "national" Rolling Thunder will probably not be in the future mainly because of costs and logistics, but regional (state or adjoining states) will be encouraged to continue the tradition of the past 30+ years.
Trying to describe Rolling Thunder to someone who hasn't been here is like trying to describe the Grand Canyon. Yeah, you can get something of an idea of what is being described, but you really need to be there to touch, smell, feel and hear what makes up Rolling Thunder. As we were advised, we positioned ourselves on the Veterans Memorial Bridge and saw all the riders after they excited the Pentagon North Parking. The noise, the smells, the sights...… all GREAT!!!
It was, at times, very emotional. Seeing all the support our military has from the riders AND the observers, the respect and fond wishes for the POWs/MIAs/KIAs and the comradery among the riders, most of who served in one branch or another of our military.
The Run was led by motorcycle police, so many I thought it would be a good time to rob a bank in town, but I wanted to see the parade. Then came Rolling Thunder -- small, large, young, old, cheap, expensive, skinny and fat....a lot of fat. The motorcycles fell into the same categories with the riders. Most of the bikes seen must have cost a pretty penny. I, personally don’t know one from the other, but it was obvious that a lot of time, effort, pride and love went into each individual bike.
Most of the bikes had at least an American flag flying on it somewhere in various sizes and others had POW/MIA flags, military flags and Vietnam flags. Some bikes were blasting patriotic songs such as Proud To Be An American, God Bless American, Green Beret, etc.
I was really surprised how well Julieann adapted to the festivities. Not satisfied with just participating, she was usually out front directing. We had a great time although I did manage to get sunburned……again. But, WE DID IT!