Rolling Thunder is an immense, moving tribute to our nation’s fallen heroes that is held every year on the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend. Every year, approximately 900,000 riders join their brethrens in riding to Washington, DC’s Vietnam Memorial Wall to honor those who were killed, lost or held prisoner during our nation’s wars, especially the Vietnam conflict.
This is the largest single-day motorcycle event held in the United States, with bikers traveling from all over the nation to attend. Many motorcycle clubs and groups in different states organize rides so that they can travel together to attend the Rolling Thunder ride.
The first Rolling Thunder ride occurred in 1988 when 2,500 bikers showed up in Washington, DC to demand that government officials work on recovering or at least finding out what happened to the prisoners of war (POWs) and the missing in action (MIAs) of the Vietnam War, as well as other wars. The founders vowed to continue riding to DC every year until all POWs and MIAs could be accounted for.
Each year, on the day of the Rolling Thunder ride, motorcyclists are asked to meet at the Pentagon, which is located in Arlington, Virginia, right across the Potomac River from Washington DC. Since this is such a large gathering, bikers are released from this area to join their fellow riders in stages. Helmets are mandatory to participate in this ride.
It is important that riders who participate in Rolling Thunder understand that this is not a parade and that they need to act respectfully. The organizers call this ride a demonstration and it is held each year to honor the men and women of the Armed Forces who have lost their lives or who went missing while defending the freedom of this nation.
After the riders rumble into DC, they head to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, where they will listen to a number of speakers and musical tributes.
There are actually a number of other activities that occur in Washington, DC during the Memorial Day weekend, as well, including a candlelight vigil held on Friday night. Rolling Thunder also hosts a gathering area for bikers known as Thunder Alley, where motorcyclists can enjoy food and purchase ride memorabilia. In addition, a local Harley Davidson dealership, Patriot, in the City of Fairfax hosts a number of activities for bikers during the Memorial Day weekend.
For information on this rally and help with finding accommodations, riders should check out Rolling Thunder’s website, which has all the information they will need to participate in this ride, as well as a list of hotels and campgrounds in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area: http://www.rollingthunder1.com/