Rolling Thunder II
My sister and I have gone to the Rolling Thunder Run the last three years, since Memorial Day weekend 2012, when we dumbassedly ran across Constitution just ahead of the police escort that begins the ride.
We’ve become expert attenders.
The Run is meant to bring attention to POWs and MIAs. Many of the riders are veterans themselves and supportive of military causes.
I hesitate divulging this, just as I closely guard the secret rush hour route home that bypasses a mile of backed-up cars at my beltway exit: The Lincoln Memorial is the best place to watch the start of Rolling Thunder. Lincoln is high enough to see the motorcycles coming over Arlington Memorial Bridge and, just around the corner, the Marine, who stands at attention on the median at 23rd Street. This year, the memorial had more spectators, getting in my way and in general annoying me, so someone must’ve blabbed.
For the first time, we walked down to the packed 23rd Street corner where the Marine, who was standing nearer to Constitution than in the past, stands and salutes. We saw up close the bikers who slowed to salute or stopped to take pictures and the spectators who darted across during short lulls to give him water.
We heard him responding “oorah!” to many of the Marines driving past. He hugged a woman in motorcycle attire and a man with amputated legs who was rolled up in his wheelchair. Someone left what appeared to be a medal in front of him.
I’m not positive it was a medal, though, because I didn’t run across to the median to take a closer look. I like the loosey-goosey nature of the event, which allows the bikers and veterans and good samaritans to approach the Marine; permits him, an unofficial but increasingly recognized part, to be there at all. This is why I was irritated at the gawkers, with no obvious purpose beyond their own curiosity, darting across to snap a photo. At one point, oblivious to their being in the way, the congregating crowd was impeding the flow of traffic, and a beleaguered city official had to shoo them off. Fellow spectators: If you have no business on the median, then stay off the effing median.
From there, we walked along Constitution stopping occasionally to wave at the bikers, who often ride close enough to high-five. One traffic director kept motioning for the bikers to rev their engines as they rode past. I appreciated her enthusiasm, but that stuff is loud. We crossed near her during a break in traffic and when my sister chirped, “Thank you!” she responded, “You’re welcome, sweetie!”
One cop rode his motorcycle along the sidewalk, pushing people back and admonishing them for standing in the turn-only lane — not the road in general, but the turn-only lane specifically — which was strange because no turning was happening; the road was closed.
Tourists, not caring what they could be interrupting or putting in danger, slowly moseyed across Constitution during breaks. One cop yelled to the approaching bikers, “Just run ‘em over!”
The highlight of this part of the route was The Hippies. Both gray-haired, he was wearing a tie-dye t-shirt and she had a Vera Bradley bag slung across her back. I needed only 10 seconds of observation to glean that they had done a lot of experimentation back in the day and were likely even high on something right then. They were waving peace signs at the bikers and enthusiastically bowing up and down before them, the man smoking a cigarette and sloshing whatever was in his red dixie cup.
Just after we saw one passenger on a bike riding along with an ipad, we turned up 7th for tapas and a carafe of sangria.