Every year this weekend, the “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle event occurs (the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.) Bikers ride to the parking lot of the Pentagon building in Arlington, Virginia, then ride into Washington, DC, along a route that swings by the U.S. Capitol Building, the White House, then ends at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial (near the Lincoln Memorial.)
I have ridden on this ride several times, but years ago. Why not now?
We all have our reasons, mine mostly personal diversions for other activities.
Over the last 15 years, I have usually had to go to Pittsburgh for the weekend to look after my mother-in-law. We would have been there this year, except The Spouse had a serious and disabling reaction to a combination of new prescription drugs, and I was up all night with him on Thursday calming his pain, then taking him to an emergency visit with a doctor on Friday. He is a bit better today, but still not feeling well.
Canceling the trip to Pittsburgh and The Spouse’s recovery meant that my time was “freed up.” I could have gone to a local motorcycle dealership where bikers are assembling for a police-escorted ride to the Pentagon. It is kinda cool to ride with thousands of others on major DC roadways and not have to stop.
However, the majority of other riders on that ride are really, I mean really, bad riders. “Unsafe hotdogs” is a mild term. They are downright scary to ride with. They ride all over the place, cut people off, don’t maintain speed, and dress poorly — shorts, sneakers, t-shirts, and some don’t even wear helmets.
Then by the time you do get to the Pentagon, you have to wait and wait and wait for the official ride to take off. The waiting is exhausting, especially if the weather is hot and sunny. No shade and no seating available (except on your own bike.)
By the time the ride takes off, it can still be hours before you actually get going. The ride itself passes quickly. Then you get to the destination memorial area, and there are already so many people there, it is not possible to find a place to park.
Regardless of the challenges of logistics, the main reason I am not riding today is the weather. The forecast is for strong thunderstorms. I will not be on the road, or waiting in an open parking lot, when lightning threatens. I can wear a rain suit to keep dry, but that won’t protect me from a 50,000-volt shock.
Instead, I will pay my respects to those in my family who served in the military and who have died. In my particular family, all of those who have served in the military came home. We have to remember, thought, that this day — Memorial Day — is to honor those who have served and who died in action (or were prisoners of war). Today is not a general day to honor military veterans — that is what Veteran’s Day is about.
Life is short: remember what the holiday is actually for.