Rolling Thunder 2019

Mission Accomplished.

The primary mission was to participate in the 2019 Rolling Thunder demonstration.  We had ten riders on nine bikes participate in the demonstration.  Our contingent was four chapter members (Dewey, Kirk, Richard and Jon), Tammy, her daughter Amanda, her daughter’s boyfriend Dan and three friends of Dewey’s: Ron, Randall and Bryan, one of whom (Randall) is an airborne Vietnam vet.

Our secondary mission was to tour Thunder Alley the day before the demonstration.  That didn’t happen, due to bike malfunctions, but we did have an adventure.  More on that later.

Our other secondary mission was to ride over some twisty, hilly, challenging roads through beautiful scenery.  Dewey’s friend Randall led us through a few of those on the ingress operation.  Dewey’s friend Bryan led the exfil using routes suggested in part by Jon, so that mission was also accomplished.

Dewey was primary mission control.  He did all of the planning, training and logistics for the mission.  His house was the first rally point.  Dewey, Randall, Ron and Bryan left from there at 0900 to avoid the rain.  The second RP was Harvest Moon Cafe in Ypsilanti, where Rich Smith and Jon Luker joined the formation and we all had breakfast.

After a bit of expressway driving, we followed US 20, US 250 and other roads (good scenery, some fun riding curvy roads) through four more states to get to Tom’s Brook, VA.  Randall arranged for us to have use of a family homestead for the week.

The trip was not without incident, however.  Dewey’s bike hooked a patch of gravel at the edge of a road on a curve and slid into a ditch.  Dewey got a road rash on his left arm but otherwise escaped injury.  His bike took most of the slide, scraping this and bending that, but remained road-worthy for the whole trip.  As of this post, the road rash is almost healed.  By the time we arrived at Tom’s Brook, our contingent had traveled through Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.

The plan for the next day did not survive first contact with reality.  We hoped to link up with Kirk and Tammy for breakfast just outside Washington and then to spend the day on Thunder Alley.  On the ride in to DC (about 86 miles from the farm in Tom’s Brook, VA) we noticed that Richard’s lights were not working properly, so we diverted to the Harley dealer just outside Washington.  But several thousand other bikers had the same idea.  Between outrageous traffic, construction delays and detours, we didn’t arrive at the Harley dealer until after noon.  Rich bought what we all thought was the faulty part, but it only partially solved the problem.  We learned later that his front brake lever was constantly holding the break lights on.  But service said they would not be able to help for hours.  By the time we did all we could to get Rich’s bike back in action (and looked around the dealership) it was late afternoon.  Traffic toward Thunder Alley was ridiculous and Kirk and Tammy were ready to head back to their FOB, so we decided to go find some food and head back to the farm.  Although it was hot, crowded, and not what we planned, it was an adventure, and that is exactly what we signed up for.

When we got back to the farm, the power was out, but there were enough candles and lanterns and flashlights to do what needed to be done.  We ordered pizza and enjoyed the silence of the farm community, broken occasionally by bird songs or cows mooing.

The drive in to DC the following morning started out nicely enough.  We made the first 60 miles without much problem, cruising fast enough to stay cool in the sun.  Then we hit construction and inbound congestion at the same time.  We made the next 4 miles in first and second gear before the traffic was just stopped.  Based on instructions from the police, bikes weaved in between the cars and construction barriers to the next exit.  By the time we got there, our bikes were overheating.  Come to think of it, so were the riders.  Then relief!  (Although temporary).  We got a police escort from that exit almost all the way to the Pentagon Parking lot.  For a while, we were able to cruise at regular speed, but things came to a grinding idle when we linked up with a few hundred thousand other motorcycles trying to get in to the parking lot.  Everybody was supposed to stage in the parking area on the North side of the Pentagon.  But, by the time we go there, it was full and we were so hot we just got out of line an parked on the South side, along with thousands of others.

The above picture was taken of the north parking lot.  We never did hear a final count on the number of bikes that showed up that day, but they were expecting a million of them!  There were bikes in all of the parking lots.  There were bikes parked on most of the roads leading in to the Pentagon.  There were more bikes parked on the roads leading out of the parking lots.  There were even bikes parked on expressway bridges and such.

A small group of us ventured out to find water.  It turned out to be nearly a four mile round trip that took a couple hours.

Most everything was sold out by the time we got there.  Several vendors had packed up.  But we did get enough water for the crew.

Out of those hundreds of thousands of bikers, Kirk was able to find and link up with Scott and Bill from the 7th group.

By the time we got the water back to the group, we were told to mount up.  But it was 90 minutes before we actually got to move.  And that was just to get in line, where we waited more, before the line started to move.  Nobody is really sure how people decided which bikes to send out of the parking lot next, but it scrambled everybody up, so that nobody rode out with all of the people they rode in with.  So, when bikes hit the open road where the demonstration began, there was a lot of crazy driving to watch as people tried to find and catch up to the rest of their riders.

By the time we got on the demonstration route, the gathered crowds were apparently getting bored with all of the bikes.  Many were walking somewhere.  Several times, we had to come to a complete stop because pedestrians started to cross the road like nothing was going on and they had all day to get to the other side.  It was disappointing, in those respects.  However, other people were showing respect either for us, or for the fallen or for the POW/MIAs, waving flags, high-fiveing riders, and such.  The demonstration was having the desired impact on at least some people.

By the time our contingent arrived at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington was full and bikes were being diverted to other staging areas.  Our plan was to rendezvous at the McDonald’s just off the expressway on the way back to the farm.  Kirk, Tammy, Amanda and Dan went back to their FOB.  A couple of our riders just beelined back to the farm due to exhaustion.

Those who meet at McDonald’s got caught in the rain on the way back to Tom’s Brook.  It was refreshing, though viability became an issue from time to time.  It was a fairly gentle rain where we were, though there was thunder and lightning a couple dozen miles to the west southwest.

The next day, Randall decided to stay an extra day at the farm to take care of some things for the family and to cleanup our mess.  Thanks Randall!  Ron and Richard had to get back home as soon as they could, so they headed back home via the expressways.  The rest of us planned to embark on a more leisurely trip back.  However, we found out that Tammy bought a bathtub and did not get the help she needed to load it on the trailer, so we left Tom’s Brook and headed back to DC to help load the tub.  Again with the traffic and the heat.  Only, this time, the GPS failed to account for construction detours, so we ended up taking a scenic tour of DC, Alexandria and the surrounding area – both going in and coming out after picking up Kirk, Tammy and the tub.

The best part was that Kirk and Tammy decided to take the twisty roads back home with us, so our group was five strong – four on bikes and one in the truck.

We mapped out a path to get to Zanesville Ohio using twisty roads in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and, finally, Ohio.

Our journey took us along US 50, US 250 and US 48 (including some of the same roads we took to get to Tom Brook) to get us to the Ohio border.

Even the parts of these roads that were more like expressways were fun to ride, partly because there was almost no traffic on the road, partly because the scenery was interesting and partly because the roads were hilly and curvy and fun to negotiate.  The parts that were not like express ways, such as pictured above and below, were more exciting, especially since we were all hyper-sensitive to gravel on the road.

Not to mention rocks, deer and other chance encounters we had.

Once we crossed in to Ohio, we followed Ohio route 7 south to 78 west to county road 536 south.  536 is a fun road with nice twists, turns and views that keep a rider interested at all times.

In some places, it could seem like you were riding right through the farmer’s field.  A few times, the road went right between the farm house and the barn.  Other times, you were cruising the top of a ridge, or following a creek or valley.  We ended up back on seven and down near a town in Ohio called “Fly” of all things.

We stopped at a rest area in Fly that was on the edge of the Ohio river.  After the break, we crossed the river back in to West Virginia, and followed the river all the way to Parkersburg, WV, where we crossed back in to Ohio.  A little bit further to the west, we hit the bottom of what is called the Triple Nickel – Ohio route 555.

The Triple Nickel has been described as Ohio’s Tail of the Dragon.  The longest straight stretch couldn’t have been much more than half a click.  There were triple s curves, a few hairpin curves, and lots of hills.  Some areas required so much attention, you didn’t get to check out the scenery.  It was a 75 mile roller coaster ride where we controlled the speed, more or less.

Just south of Zanesville, near the end of the Triple Nickle, we took a short break and found a bit of a snack and water.  It was a good ride.

Just after we closed our eyes in the Hotel at Zanesville, a tornado came through reeking havoc on most of the roads we drove on in Ohio that day.  Our timing was perfect.  The rain stopped in time for us to pack up and make the rest of the trip home without incident.  We did hit a patch where the fog was so thick we felt like we were riding in the rain, but the engine heat kept us dry.  The roads were good.  Once we got back across the Michigan border, we started going our different ways home.  Everybody got back without difficulty.  Well, not completely without difficulty.  Kirk and Tammy still had to unload the bathtub.

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