The Last Rolling Thunder?

October 16, 2019 4 min read

The Last Rolling Thunder?

For over three decades, on the Sunday prior to Memorial Day, hundreds of thousands of bikers descend upon our country’s capital to pay homage to the military men and women who proudly served in the US Armed Forces. A big part of that tradition has become the motorcycle parade known as The Run to the Wall.  This custom is not just popular with the biker community but also to the vast number of flag waving patriotic Americans who line the streets along the route in a show of support for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of their freedoms. Last December, the Rolling Thunder organization; the group who took on logistics for the run shortly after it began in 1988, made a surprising announcement. After years of dedication, Rolling Thunder would be stopping the popular motorcycle event.

So was 2019 the last time we would hear the parade of thousands of motorcycles roll across Memorial Bridge and rumble down Constitution Avenue for the annual Run to the Wall motorcycle rally? Well, that depends on who you ask. If questioning any of the members within the Rolling Thunder organization, the answer is a resounding YES. According to Rolling Thunder, the decision to stop the popular event was a difficult one but this will indeed be the last year that Rolling Thunder will orchestrate the Run in Washington DC.

Organizers cite escalating costs, difficulties getting permits, and a total lack of cooperation from the leaders within the Pentagon and DC Metro Police as reasons for the event’s demise. “The cost for those items has gotten outrageously high,” a spokesperson told us. “Too high to maintain the run at its current levels.” The price tag for the event in 2018 was approximately $200K and with the bureaucratic obstacles facing them, the Rolling Thunder organization simply couldn’t cover the spread. A large chunk ($80K) went to the Pentagon for the use of their parking lots on a day when the lots would normally sit empty anyway.

The Pentagon claims the cost goes for covering security and cleanup on the day  of the ride. The balance goes toward city permits, porta-potties, escorts for the ride, cleanup after the event, etc. In the past much of the costs were paid for through contributions, vendor fees and the selling of merchandise at the run itself. Perhaps due to the recent announcement, the attendance at the run was slightly higher than normal. One count had an estimated 750 thousand bikers staged in the two parking lots this year. However, last year, a security debacle had police turning folks away, stating the lots were full as the secondary lot actually laid completely empty. This cut 2018’s participation by almost half, which severely cut into Rolling thunder’s bottom line. Maybe they should ask for a refund on some of those expensive security costs. Added to that pile of trouble was the loss of some of the major corporate sponsors and sizable charitable donations. So, after 32 years, they have had enough and are throwing in the towel.

That is, however, only where it concerns Washington, DC. The new plan for Rolling Thunder’s Memorial Day events in the future will be to divide the run into regional runs around the country. Regional chapters will coordinate runs to memorial parks in their area in an attempt to allow more people to participate. By covering a nation as opposed to one city, it will be less costly to the organization  as well as the individual participants. This should allow more riders to get involved and more than just DC will be exposed to their important message concerning the Vietnam MIA. It’s sound logic.

As a Veteran myself, I have long wanted to make the Run to the Wall. Let me just say that I don’t make a lot of money. Like many in this country, I’m on a tight budget. I own a used Harley Sportster and I spent months saving up for my trip from North Carolina to Washington DC. Still, I wanted to take some tunes with me on my journey. I chose Steel Horse Audio’s ST200 motorcycle audio system because it is a lot of sound for just $279.99. PLUS I got the Military Discount! The ST200 is the original motorcycle speaker system that started them all. It uses Pioneer speakers and an in-house amp and has a USB port for charging your cell phone.

My ST200 made the ride up to D.C. a pleasure. Once I arrived on Saturday, the day prior to the run was a mix of celebration and patriotic honor. Some biker games, live music, a few smoke’em till they pop burnouts, good chow and several honorary ceremonies took place before Sunday’s massive run to the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

If you are a Veteran or are serving in the Military, check out Steel Horse Audio’s 10 percent Military discount. Just enter the Promo Code MIL10SHA when you check out.

—William Diggs