01 June, 2010

Rolling Thunder

I didn’t live in this part of Virginia very long before I observed a Memorial Day celebration unlike anything I had ever seen – Rolling Thunder.  

I grew up where Memorial day meant the start of the water skiing season.  It was the beginning of time spent at the lakes, in the woods, or in the yard.  School ended before Memorial day so it also meant catching up on soaps and sleeping in or spending the day with friends or with great books (or not so great books).  Memorial day, in other words, had everything to do with vacation and the season and little to do with anything else.  This holiday, this time of the year, means so much more to others… and now to me.  

For my daughter, Memorial day is about Rolling Thunder.  Sure, she enjoys the annual trip to the town festival (leaving us feeling like we live in a small town over just minutes from DC) and she loves the movies we see and the time we spend together and the opening of the pool… but the highlight is Rolling Thunder

This year marked the 23rd riding of Rolling Thunder.  Starting at 11:00 AM on Sunday, thousands of motorcycles rode from the Pentagon to the Mall for a celebration – a remembrance.  

For 5 years my daughter has rejoiced at the site of these groups of men and women traveling down the local roads as they arrive in the area.  She counts, and waves, and smiles… We stop in our tracks to watch the riders pass – some riding in groups as large as 20.  We marvel at the vibrations of the bikes – the earth really does shake – the thunder really does roll.  

I have yet to take her into the city or close enough to see the thousands who participate in this annual celebration, though I want to take her.  I want to share with her the site of this ride – the crossing of the bridge from Virginia into DC, and the sound… I can’t even imagine the sound or the vibrations of the earth as well as the air.   Perhaps next Memorial day we will venture in to discover that aspect of Rolling Thunder.  

This year, as in years past, we watched, we embraced, and we openly welcomed these weekend guests.  This year we marveled at the time and commitment these riders give as they travel from their homes and take time from their jobs (possibly their families) to journey here, for this rally in memorial.  To think that they take this time – they give this time…

For those who have not experienced Rolling Thunder – it is something that truly has to be seen to be felt.  It is difficult to fathom how a lot of motorcycles can be an emotional experience, but… it is.  

But it isn’t just the sounds and the cyclist and their being in one place at one time – imagine all those things we don’t have time to do in our every day lives.  Imagine all the things we say “I will do it tomorrow” or all the friends we don’t see or talk with due to lack of time or the time we don’t give ourselves or our loved ones?

Now imagine a group of people, men and women, taking hours if not days to connect, to remember, to celebrate, to commemorate, to give, to share… that is Rolling Thunder.  


chaniagirl said...

This sounds like so much fun, TE. I LOVE bikers and not-so-secretly would love to be one myself. Does it count I ride on the back of a motorbike through the streets of Greece every day? ;)

Thank you for sharing this story.

giulietta said...


Rolling Thunder must be multi-sensory experience. Sight, sound, smell, touch, maybe even taste? I can hear the rumble through your words.

Glad to see folks doing what they love! That's what makes life worth living. Glad your daughter can experience that.

See you. Giulietta

Tess The Bold Life said...

Wow what an amazing commitment to life and a testimonial to how you raise your daughter. Thanks for sharing...I knew nothing of this event. It brings me joy to know how we all play a special part in the PLAN no one else can.

The Exception said...

CG - Yes, that counts! I rode on one such bike through the streets of San Francisco when I lived there - loved it! I want my daughter to try it Roman style!(We will visit there in two summers)
Giulietta - It is an amazing thing to see. We only have a little piece of it but when a group of twenty or so go by... wow! It is about everything including the heart.
Tess - We each play a little part... and I want to expose my daughter to the world in which she lives... which means the bikers that ride hours upon hours if not days to participate in this. She has a life different than mine, but I want her to appreciate the diversity that life offers and see all that she can (or experience what she can) while we are here.

Mark said...

Rolling Thunder sounds like a fantastic way to pay homage to those we remember. Thanks for sharing your experience.

dadshouse said...

Funny how Memorial Day can be so different for everyone. The important thing is to remember all who serve!

Mark said...

You are correct this is a wonderful and wise quote! Thanks so much for sharing. Serenity is found in the moments and it is a string of these moments which builds our serenity. Thanks for sharing your serene moments.

Anonymous said...

It has taken me a while to get through so many stories on Rolling Thunder as Media Chairperson for the National organization. Your story is heart-warming and I hope you and your daughter can join us at the stage for RTXXIV. It is truly an experience you will not forget! Thank you. "When one American is not worth the effort to be found - we as Americans have lost."