Running To Washington

May 16, 2010

All Posts, News

These are the weeks the thunder rolls.

The twenty-second annual Run For The Wall pulls out of the parking lot of the Victoria Gardens Mall in Rancho Cucamonga, California this Wednesday, May 19th. From there the riders follow one of two routes.

What is called the central route stops in Williams, Arizona; Gallup and Angel Fire, New Mexico; Goodland and Junction City, Kansas; Wentzville, Missouri; Corydon, Indiana and Lewisburg, West Virginia before pausing in Arlington on May 30th. The southern route passes through Phoenix; Las Cruces; Odessa and Weatherford, Texas; Monroe, Louisiana; Meridian, Mississippi; Chattanooga; and Wytheville and Roanoke, Virginia.

You can join the ride anywhere along the way. You will wind up in the Pentagon parking lot and from there you will ride to the Washington Mall at noon and park and listen to some music and some speakers. The ride from the Pentagon to the general vicinity of The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is officially called Rolling Thunder.

A Little History

This year the speakers will include a retired Air Force General named Richard B. Myers and a man named Artie Muller who runs this annual event. The music will be made by Nancy Sinatra, a singer named Gordon Painter and the Loch Rannoch Pipe & Drum Band. It used to be a little edgier.

Nobody seemed to like The Wall very much when it was dedicated in 1982. Most of the country did not think Vietnam Veterans deserved a memorial. Most Vietnam Veterans thought The Wall was kind of understated. But, the thing grew on Veterans and in 1987 three guys named Ray Manzo, John Holland and Walt Sides rode their motorcycles there on Memorial Day. The next year The Wall was vandalized so the three men returned with some friends. Artie Mueller and the Vietnam Vets Motorcycle Club helped organize the event. Two thousand bikers showed up and the Park Police arrested some of them for demonstrating without a permit.

Mueller, soon fell out with the VNVMC but he made Rolling Thunder his life’s work. Rolling Thunder is now a non-profit corporation that lobbies and advocates on behalf of veterans of all wars.

George W. Bush was a very visible supporter of the event. Bush actively avoided Vietnam. And, he never did understand that The Patriot Guard Riders was an entirely different organization but he was sympathetic to the idea of Rolling Thunder. He liked to be photographed every year with Mueller in the Rosa Garden. And he liked costumes so two years ago Mueller gave Bush a Rolling Thunder cut.

Now The Backlash

That was the year a back lash against Rolling Thunder emerged. The Gelded Age’s most beloved humorist, Garrison Keillor, was infuriated by the 2008 parade.

“A patriotic bike rally is sort of like a patriotic toilet-papering or patriotic graffiti,” Keillor wrote. “Somehow a person associates Memorial Day with long moments of silence when you summon up mental images of men huddled together on LSTs and pilots revving up B-24s and infantrymen crouched behind piles of rubble steeling themselves for the next push,” he explained. “You don’t quite see the connection between that and these fat men with ponytails on Harleys.”

“If anyone cared about the war dead,” Keillor continued, “they could go read David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War or Stephen Ambrose’s Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army From the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944, to May 7, 1945 or any of a hundred other books, and they would get a vision of what it was like to face death for your country, but the bikers riding in formation are more interested in being seen than in learning anything. They are grown men playing soldier, making a great hullaballoo without exposing themselves to danger, other than getting drunk and falling off a bike.”

Keillor also actively avoided service in Vietnam.

Last year President Obama skipped the media opportunity with Mueller. A White House spokesman later explained that Obama had “brief but cordial” private meeting with representatives of the event.

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31 Responses to “Running To Washington”

  1. Miss Krista Says:

    Awesome link thank you very much.

  2. DocB Says:

    Thanks troyez



  3. troyez Says:

    You’re welcome. Thanks to my friend Tom, who sent it to me.

  4. Not Surprised Says:

    toyez, thank you very much for posting this link.

  5. troyez Says:

    Way to go, Devil Dog!

  6. Grumbler Says:

    We’re not exactly deprived of rides up here in Idaho. ;)

    Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway from Boise to Stanley then Salmon River Scenic Byway (couple of miles) to the Bridge Street Grill in Lower Stanley. Sitting outside on the deck overlooking Salmon River with the Sawtooth Mountains in background while masticating a buffalo burger with a cold Moose Drool works for me. :)

    We’ll be doing Hells Canyon, Rattlesnake Grade, Spiral Highway, Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, Payette River Scenic Byway, and Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway as an overnighter in about two weeks.

  7. Miss Krista Says:

    ;) no better rides in the world.

  8. Grumbler Says:

    Have ridden on Mattole Road from Ferndale to Humbolt Redwoods SP. Stunning views of the coast from crest outside Ferndale (cool victorians and not much else). Road turned gnarly from Honeydew bridge to 101. Avenue of the Giants at dusk (hardly any traffic then) while hauling ass rocks. Road btw Westport and Leggett is a blast. Usually stayed in Fortuna next to Eel River Brewing Co. Walk over, stumble back. :)

  9. Miss Krista Says:

    Humboldt is the most amazing – have to do the lost coast road, actually start in Shelter Cove, then go over the backroad over horse mountain up to Honeydew and then the World Famous Honeydew store for a cold one or whatever :) and then up to the beach where the Mattole River meets the ocean, then up the coast road to Victorian Ferndale. Nothing like it in the world, except maybe parts of the Ring of Kerry in Ireland, but they don’t have the giant redwoods there, so…

  10. Grumbler Says:

    Miss Krista – never stopped in Strawberry Valley while on La Porte Rd. Haven’t been out that way for 5 years. Last two road trips to CA were in Humboldt County. We relocated to Boise almost 8 years ago.

  11. Miss Krista Says:

    Sweet – thanks for the links – ur right about Washington and back in the mountains Strawberry Valley is the same – I’ve gotten some dirty looks on the way to parties where the building materials for the house were helicoptered in, but oh well – keeps out the riff raff haha

  12. Grumbler Says:

    BTW, the 2nd Annual Grass Valley Roll-In will be held at Foothill Custom Cycle on July 17th. Here’s a slideshow from last year by Holly:

  13. Grumbler Says:

    Miss Krista – we’ve stopped at Toki’s Cafe in North San Juan for breakfast, and over in Belden Town (when open) for cold ones. Have done the 49/Feather River Canyon Loop countless times over the years. Stoney’s Country Burger in Quincy is a favorite.

    Am a little surprised that we haven’t mentioned the Washington Hotel in Washington. It’s next to the South Fork of the Yuba River 20 miles northeast of Nevada City. The patio overlooking river for suds and grub is hard to beat. Real interesting characters in that town. ;)

  14. Miss Krista Says:

    Sled Tramp – Brother you and me both – with the loss of my husband after finally meeting my sole mate after so many years of thinkin I was solo with babies forever – and now 2 more!! has made it sweet to have these things to remember. Would love to talk sometime get my info from Rebel – he will give it if I ask I think :) Man oh Man – Northern California Summers – nothin like em. Muck1%er The stories are unforgettable – no hand overbackward shots at the Downieville Saloon – Strutton Jr. and I were engaged…when I was just a young little innocent girly across from mother truckers – and we built my favorite panhead together in the kitchen – yeehaw!

  15. sled tramp Says:

    Yeah Muck, you and me are goin’ to get along jussssst fine amigo….
    Miss Krista,I miss those days so much it has actually wrecked a few of the present days I’ve had. Those days are gone down a road that Id give anything to find again.

  16. Muck 1%er Says:

    If you mean Strutton, now there was a legend of his own kind. What a character the man was. I had many a wild time runnin amok with him and could tell some unbelieveably hilarious stories about his antics. I miss him. Rip Jim

  17. Miss Krista Says:

    Oh man those are the old days you must know Pig and Carol, Struttin and Sweet Bill? and Moonshine Road barefist boxing? and “Ladies” boxing in Nevada City?

  18. sled tramp Says:

    Many,many days and nights on the South Yuba,have family in Dogpatch,family used to own Grass Valley Lumber,Nevada City breakfasts,Old cafe at the corner coming in from Truckee in Sierraville on the way to Greyeagle always welcomed scooter folk.Always camped at Prosser cheap.But the Yuba, man those were gooood days (and better nights ;-)….I miss CA a lot. Santa Cruz hippy girls and Yba river nekkid girls….uh, I have to go be alone now….sigh….

  19. Miss Krista Says:

    It’s all beautiful but that last section you mentioned really primo. If you’re ever there again be sure to stop in North San Juan at the bar and have a cold one – quality folks and rare fun, and a dip skinny or otherwise at the south fork of the Yuba – walk up the river and it gets skinnier if ya get my drift – is awesome and great waterslidin on the rocks.

  20. Grumbler Says:

    Miss Krista – led a bunch of friends on HDs out on Sheep Ranch Rd and Avery Sheep Ranch Rd btw Sheep Ranch and Avery back in 2000. Got a lot of dirty looks out of it. Too funny. They forgave me as it certainly was an interesting ride. A lot of folks who move out along the Hwy 49 corrider are totally unprepared for how *hot* it gets out there during the summer months. Personally, liked 49 btw Nevada City and Sierraville with a stop in Downieville best.

  21. Miss Krista Says:

    yeah and only those old kickstands’ll keep ya home too from what I can tell :)

  22. Miss Krista Says:

    Shows does it – well like I always say – yep I’m an oakey – right from Oakland. And the memories – you aint kiddin – I still can’t help lookin for squaw rock when I go by and have in mind someday to ride down that old 101 past the roadblocks to dive in just below there. I guess that’s why the Cove is still my favorite place, too hard for the rubbies to ride down to! Drop by if you’re in the area – we’re the lighthouse next to the lighthouse…can’t miss it! (Rebel has my e-mail address and phone number – he can give it to ya) we’ll be here at least through the redwood run weekend – although I must admit I’ve only been to the run site once since it moved…And as for the older models, they’re the best, and I’m sure your old lady knows that new chrome won’t get ya home :)

    yer pal too

    Miss Krista

  23. sled tramp Says:

    Miss Krista,
    Takes a girl that’s seen the streets of Oakland to edjumacate them RUB’s…:-)
    Before they all got built up, Murphy’s,Arnold,Avery,San Andreas were all cool little towns to get a beer. Ain’t Squaw Rock and the river a nice memory?
    As regards old bikes still ridden,My wife still likes my kickstand…I lean a bit more but I can still hold it up, nuthin’ wrong with older models…And I’m a LOT cheaper to maintain than that RUB shit.
    Yer Pal,
    sled tramp

  24. Miss Krista Says:

    RVN69 – Again I concur with your thoughts, but unfortunately that is the way I feel about almost all runs at this point which is why I really only go to those that my old scooter tramp friends are at, and typically that’s at the same location, near the actual “run” whatever or whereever that may be, that we’ve been going to since day one. I mean I did a 3 gear burn out down the middle of main street in Murphy’s a few years ago and you would have thought everyone there broke their jaws at the same time with all the mouths hanging open. Years ago no one would have thought of leaving without laying down some rubber. Listening to all the BS and attempts to put me down for having the same bike for all these years, yet having no one take me up on my offer to take a quick ride up to Avery to see how their $80,000 pieces of shit whoops I mean beautiful show bikes ran…I just had to show them why…Luckily the cops were pretty awestruck too…and since just like the rubbies they were all walking along the street – it was good for me too :) although I think a couple of them left some rubber in their shorts when I got sideways and grabbed more throttle – that’s what I’m talkin’ about – we all still need a little excitement like the old days once in a while, and personally I think the rubbies need an occasional reminder of what it really all started with and for some what it’s really all about – that’s freedom, pure and simple, at whatever the cost. Just my thoughts…Thanks everyone for listening – love this site – keep it up Rebel – you’re helpin’ some of us keep at least a bit of the faith.

  25. YYZ Skinhead Says:

    Wow, it doesn’t seem as though it’s been 22 years. (!!!)

    YYZ Skinhead

  26. RVN69 Says:

    I was at the first couple of Rolling Thunder rides and everyone is right it has changed. No disrespect to what Artie Mueller has accomplished, but sometimes it appears that he has forgotten that without a certain veterans MC he probably wouldn’t have a Rolling Thunder “event” to claim. And make no mistake it is now an event, the great yuppie/rubbie masses think of it as somewhere to “be” just like Myrtle Beach, Laconia and Sturgis. They do not know the original intent of the ride, only that it is on their list of places to brag about being. All that being said I ride it for the original reason and I’m not about to be chased off by the pretend biker fools who come, or Garrison Keillor explaining to me how in his opinion I should remember my fallen brothers. I did write Mr Keillor a very nice letter explaining how I disagreed with his assesment and offering a one on one meeting so that we could exchange ideas, but alas he has declined to reply.

    Repect to all that have earned it
    Si vis Pacem, Parabellum.

  27. ShootFirst Says:

    I might get shot for this one but here it is.

    I think the original meaning of Rolling Thunder is lost on alot of the people that attend. I’m not talking about the Veterans that go but the RUBs that show up just to get a t-shirt and say “I was there”. To me it’s just like any other big run, totally corporate.

    We always go up on Saturday to pay our respects in our own way. We go to the wall then roll over to Arlington to visit our brothers who are no longer with us.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way agreeing with this asshat, just saying I think Rolling Thunder isn’t what it used to be.

  28. DocB Says:

    Dear Mikonos:

    His Quote”
    If anyone cared about the war dead,” Keillor continued, “they could go read David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War or Stephen Ambrose’s Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army From the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944, to May 7, 1945 or any of a hundred other books, and they would get a vision of what it was like to face death for your country,

    Your Quote:
    Maybe the silent guilt of him being stoned in a dorm room while his fellow young men were fighting and dying for his country.

    My Quote:
    We don’t need to read a book to to get a vision. Isn’t it interesting that a guy who has never been in the shit, but read all the books is an expert on respect for the guys we saw die? What an arogant bastard.

    Have a great ride man.

    To any of you guys just getting back from the desert……. Welcome home and condolences for your lost brothers.

    None forgotten, none left behind

  29. TigGirl Says:

    I think Keilor is one of those men like the one I saw in traffic this weekend. They all have that look of near tears as they watch me ride past their car. In the passenger seat is the everpresent nag telling him which socks to wear with what tie and the incessant “NO don’t even think about having a motorcycle.” The word emasculated comes to mind.

  30. Mikonos Says:

    Keillor, whom I generally like, saw too many SOA previews. Vets and American VTwins go together like hand and glove. Where the heck does he think silence and respect for battle dead come from? The silence of a 21 gun salute? The silence of July 4th? Maybe the silent guilt of him being stoned in a dorm room while his fellow young men were fighting and dying for his country.

  31. troyez Says:

    God willing, I will make this run, I have many friends and brothers who served in Vietnam and I need to show my support with something other than words. Eternal thanks to you who fought, bled, and didn’t come back, God bless you and yours, you are my heroes!

    As for backlash, Garrison Keillor is an ass-clown! And Obama met with whom? If he did, there would be a photo; we all know how much of a photo-whore he is (remember the WV miner’s funeral?).


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