The story of my adventures traveling to Rolling Thunder 2017…………………..
The original plan was to take two days to travel to central Pennsylvania and stay overnight at my cousin’s house then leave for the Washington, DC area on Thursday. I had my motorcycle loaded and headed out on Tuesday, May 23rd. I planned a stop just north of Clarksburg, WV. and then head on up to central Pennsylvania on Wednesday. The truck and trailer with the motorcycle rode better than I expected so I got to my stopping point very early Tuesday. I wasted as much time as I could and finally gave up and went to bed very early. I was then up very early Wednesday. I had breakfast then headed toward central Pennsylvania. I got to my friend Jim’s house around 10AM on Wednesday morning, May 24th. I dropped off my camping equipment and spent some time with Jim, his lovely wife Joyce, and Stan. I then headed out to my cousin Lee’s house. I spent some time socializing with Lee and then got a call from Jim. It seems the weather was suppose to be very bad on Thursday so the plans changed and he wanted to start down Wednesday. So I off loaded the motorcycle and got it geared up and headed up to Jim’s house. Jim, Stan, and I headed up to Altoona to pick up an additional member of our party, Diane. Then headed south to the DC area. We got to our camp site late Wednesday evening in Lorton, VA. We quickly set up camp before the rains. We had eaten on the way down so we didn’t have anything to eat at the campsite. Thursday we spent the day completing the campsite setup and went shopping for food supplies. It had rained the night before and we had some issues with tents leaking so we got some tarps to cover them. Friday we went to the Marine Corp Museum located adjacent to the Marine Corp Base at Quantico, VA. If you are ever in the area this is a must see. This blog entry is about Rolling Thunder so I might comment more later about the museum. Two additional people showed up Friday night late and set up their tents. Saturday we went into Washington, DC to Thunder Alley. Then visited the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Sunday was the Rolling Thunder ride. Monday we traveled back to central Pennsylvania. I stayed overnight at my cousin’s house and came back to Kentucky on Tuesday, May 30th.
OK, let’s continue with an explanation of the players.
From left to right. We have Brian and his daughter Brianna. Brian had to work Friday so he and his daughter rode down Friday evening. Brian is Jim’s Nephew. Next is me. Then Debbie. Debbie lives in the Virginia area close to where we camped. She didn’t camp with us but was there a good bit of the time. She rode in Stan’s Spyder. Debbie is friends with Dale, a girl that used to run the camp site. Dale mentioned to Jim that she had a friend that wanted to ride in Rolling Thunder. So Jim told her to come on down. She has been a member of the group ever since. Next is my friend Jim. Jim and I go back a long way. We both worked at the radio stations in central Pennsylvania then got jobs for AT&T and shared an apartment in Oxon Hill, MD. Jim went into the Air Force and when he came back got married. I was best man in his wedding. Next is Diane who rode with Jim. When Jim came back from active duty he joined the reserves in Altoona. He met Diane there and they have become close friends. Last but not least is Stan. Stan is from Bellwood, PA where Jim is from and now lives in Ohio. He is retired from the nuclear industry and he brought his Spyder to the ride. (I have a picture of that later) So that’s the crew.
Another couple we ran into at the campsite on the right also joined us a few times. That is Mary and Jim from Raleigh, NC. They brought a motor home up with their motorcycle in an enclosed trailer. They rode in to DC for Rolling Thunder with us.
A few pictures of our campsite:
My motorcycle is on the left. Jim’s trike in the middle and the spyder on the right.
Jim doing his favorite thing. He loves to cook and he is very good at it. I think he cooked every meal for us at the campsite except one. He wasn’t feeling well so I filled in. Of course we always pitched in when needed. Diane was a cook in the reserves and managed to burn the bacon one morning so that become my detail.
Just across the road from our campsite was the comfort station. It was very well equipped and very well maintained. Thank God it had a laundry in the center section where we could dry our clothes which we did several times. So many times in fact that we got several rolls of quarters at the bank to do it all.
Friday and Saturday we got a break from the rain. Friday we went to the Marine Corp Museum. And Saturday was Thunder Alley.
Parking was not an issue as they let us park anywhere we wanted. So the lawns in and around the area of the Vietnam Memorial and Thunder alley where heavily populated with motorcycles.
This is a close up look at the Spyder we had along with us as it was parked on the grass at Thunder Alley.
This was Thunder Alley. They closed a street near the Vietnam Memorial wall and let all kind of vendors set up. They had everything from food to riding apparel to patches. Many patches. My prize take at Thunder Alley was my first leather riding vest. I have since acquired several patches for it and after Christmas I have a lady lined up to take care of the final assembly.
This is the Vietnam Memorial wall. Many people where lined up to show their respects at this awesome place on this special weekend.
Many people place special items at the base of the wall. Usually at the particular section with the name of a particular person who never returned.
Others brought large wreathes that were on display next to the wall.
Jim and Diane located the name of a soldier they knew from Altoona. Diane had written a poem to him shortly after she learned of his death.
Diane laid her framed poem at the base of the wall with the name of the man from Altoona. I will comment more about this later in the blog.
Sunday was the day of Rolling Thunder. The day started out beautiful. We got an early start from the camp grounds and headed into the DC area to stage in the pentagon parking lot. The various publications indicate up to 900,000 people are involved as either participants or spectators. I would roughly estimate this year there were at least 300,000 motorcycles involved in the ride. And to my knowledge not one news network made any mention of it.
They also had a special area set up for the Gold Mothers.
There was a hush over the crowd as the buses came in with the Gold Mothers and when they stepped off the buses there was applause.
We also had the presence of military helicopters keeping and eye on things.
We got to the parking lot area very early. The actual ride didn’t start till around noon. We never got to leave the parking lot till mid afternoon.
I’ve shown you all the pictures I have. The only thing remaining is the GoPro video that I took. I mounted the GoPro on the front of my motorcycle and you can see it here:
Be careful when you watch this as the file is around 500Mb in size and will eat up some of your data if you are on a cell phone without wifi. The length of the video is about 20 minutes. The spots on the video is the rain and the noise you hear in the background is a combination of the rain hitting the camera and the motorcycle engine noise.
A few personal notes here. I started this adventure as a total stranger. This was the first time I have ever done anything like this. I hadn’t seen Jim in almost 30 years and had never met any of the other people. But we all got along well. No hassles, no complaints. Everyone there for a common cause. We had some ups and downs. One injury with Brianna burning her ankle on the exhaust pipe of her dad’s motorcycle. I had my trusty first aid kit so I put a water jell dressing on it and wrapped it. Otherwise, we all meshed well and had a wonderful time. It wasn’t always comfortable with all the rain but we made the best of things. We talked, we laughed and we picked on each other. All in good taste and with humor. I could not have hand picked a better group of people to be around.
On the other end of the emotional ruler, it was a very somber experience visiting the Vietnam Memorial wall. It was extremely emotional watching Diane put the framed poem she had written at the base of the wall with the name of the man she wrote it to. But that was really what the whole thing was about. To pay tribute and show our respect to a lot of people that should never be forgotten.
It has been several months since I took this adventure. I probably forgot a lot and may have some details confused. I’m sure I will be corrected it that’s the case. Although it’s probably good I waited awhile to do this as it could have been much longer. Anyway, that’s the story and I’m sticking to it.