The 31-year tradition of Rolling Thunder has finally come to a close. The organizers of the annual rally have decided to stop the ride due to increased costs for organization and multiple conflicts with Pentagon security. So for the last time, on May 26, thousands of motorcyclists rode to and through the capital. Rolling Thunder was originally started as a protest to draw attention to lack of accountability for prisoners of war (POW) and those United States service members missing in action (MIA). It still serves that purpose, but is also a display of patriotism and a way for bikers from across the country to come together.
Junior Kathryn Bell has been going to the Rolling Thunder rides with her dad for eight years now.
“I originally started going with my dad to the Ride of the Patriots, which is almost like a pre-ride to Rolling Thunder, and we would just go do that and go visit the Air Force memorial afterwards,” Bell said.
Bell enjoys going to the ride each year because it is a tradition in her family. Her father has been doing it for multiple years, and her sister had done it with him before she grew up and got married. Bell loves the experience, and says it is such an amazing environment to be in.
“It was pretty crowded, but everyone that came by was very friendly and welcoming,” Bell said. “Normally you don’t think of bikers that way, but they’re all very nice and cool to be around.”
Bell’s dad had a unique look to his bike this year. In the early morning, flashing lights could be seen bordering the whole body of the bike. In addition, once they get to D.C., he raises an American flag over 20 feet in the air from the back of his bike.
“We get a lot of people that come by to admire it,” Bell said. “I get to hear a lot of stories from bikes and veterans. It’s a really cool experience.”