Hundreds of thousands of bikers rumble into D.C. for Rolling Thunder

  • Washington Times Reporter, Meredith Somers, holds her arms out as she is rides down interstate 66, during the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013.  (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)Washington Times Reporter, Meredith Somers, holds her arms out as she is rides down interstate 66, during the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013. (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)
  • Volunteers and members of the Fairfax VA Chapter, Harley Owners Group, check their bikes as they to prepare to ride to the Pentagon in the annual Ride of the Patriots, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013.  (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)Volunteers and members of the Fairfax VA Chapter, Harley Owners Group, check their bikes as they to prepare to ride to the Pentagon in the annual Ride of the Patriots, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013. (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)
  • Motorcycles, many of whom are veterans, ride across the Memorial Bridge during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)  Motorcycles, many of whom are veterans, ride across the Memorial Bridge during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Fairfax county motorcycle police park their bikes in a precise line, outside the Patriot Harley-Davidson in preparation to escort rides in the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013.  (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)Fairfax county motorcycle police park their bikes in a precise line, outside the Patriot Harley-Davidson in preparation to escort rides in the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013. (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)
  • Motorcycles drive over the Memorial Bridge during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)Motorcycles drive over the Memorial Bridge during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Fairfax county motorcycle police park their bikes in a precise line, outside the Patriot Harley-Davidson in preparation to escort rides in the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013.  (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)Fairfax county motorcycle police park their bikes in a precise line, outside the Patriot Harley-Davidson in preparation to escort rides in the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013. (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)
  • Beth Carmen, holds her dog Tiger in a chest pouch as they prepare for the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013.  (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)Beth Carmen, holds her dog Tiger in a chest pouch as they prepare for the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013. (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)
  • Spectators wave a cheer as the Fairfax VA Chapter, Harley Owners Group rides down Route 50, during the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013.  (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)Spectators wave a cheer as the Fairfax VA Chapter, Harley Owners Group rides down Route 50, during the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013. (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)
  • Ken Caryl of Dale City, Va. salutes the motorcyclists, many of them are veterans, as they ride across the Memorial Bridge into Washington Sunday, May 26, 2013, during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Monday's Memorial Day celebration. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)  Ken Caryl of Dale City, Va. salutes the motorcyclists, many of them are veterans, as they ride across the Memorial Bridge into Washington Sunday, May 26, 2013, during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Monday's Memorial Day celebration. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Fairfax VA Chapter, Harley Owners Group, ride down the entrance ramp onto Interstate 66 during the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013.  (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)Fairfax VA Chapter, Harley Owners Group, ride down the entrance ramp onto Interstate 66 during the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013. (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)
  • Fairfax VA Chapter, Harley Owners Group, ride down Interstate 66 during the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013.  (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)Fairfax VA Chapter, Harley Owners Group, ride down Interstate 66 during the annual Ride of the Patriots, in support of Rolling Thunder, in Fairfax, VA., Sunday, May 26, 2013. (Andrew S Geraci/The Washington Times)
  • Motorcyclists right across the Memorial Bridge into Washington Sunday, May 26, 2013, during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)  Motorcyclists right across the Memorial Bridge into Washington Sunday, May 26, 2013, during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Motorcyclists ride across the Memorial Bridge into Washington Sunday, May 26, 2013, during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Monday's Memorial Day celebration. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)  Motorcyclists ride across the Memorial Bridge into Washington Sunday, May 26, 2013, during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Monday's Memorial Day celebration. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Motorcycles drive over the Memorial Bridge during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)  Motorcycles drive over the Memorial Bridge during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Motorcyclists ride across the Memorial Bridge into Washington as Jen Caryl, right, and her mother Connie of Dale City, Va., hold appreciative signs Sunday, May 26, 2013, during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Monday's Memorial Day celebration. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)  Motorcyclists ride across the Memorial Bridge into Washington as Jen Caryl, right, and her mother Connie of Dale City, Va., hold appreciative signs Sunday, May 26, 2013, during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Monday's Memorial Day celebration. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Police officers lead the way for the motorcyclists, many of whom are veterans, across the Memorial Bridge into Washington during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade Sunday, May 26, 2013, ahead of Memorial Day celebration in Washington. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)  Police officers lead the way for the motorcyclists, many of whom are veterans, across the Memorial Bridge into Washington during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade Sunday, May 26, 2013, ahead of Memorial Day celebration in Washington. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Marine veteran, retired Staff Sargent Tim Chambers, salutes as motorcyclists, many of whom are veterans, cross the Memorial Bridge into Washington during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade Sunday, May 26, 2013, the ahead of Monday's Memorial Day celebration. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)  Marine veteran, retired Staff Sargent Tim Chambers, salutes as motorcyclists, many of whom are veterans, cross the Memorial Bridge into Washington during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade Sunday, May 26, 2013, the ahead of Monday's Memorial Day celebration. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Motorcycles ride near the Lincoln Memorial during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)  Motorcycles ride near the Lincoln Memorial during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Motorcycle riders participate in the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)  Motorcycle riders participate in the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Motorcyclists ride across Memorial Bridge into Washington during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)Motorcyclists ride across Memorial Bridge into Washington during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Motorcycles drive past the Lincoln Memorial as Colin Morris, of the US Army, salutes during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)  Motorcycles drive past the Lincoln Memorial as Colin Morris, of the US Army, salutes during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • A motorcycle participates in the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)  A motorcycle participates in the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Motorcycles drive past Marine veteran retired Staff Sargent Tim Chambers as he salutes, during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)Motorcycles drive past Marine veteran retired Staff Sargent Tim Chambers as he salutes, during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
  • Motorcycles drive over the Memorial Bridge during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)Motorcycles drive over the Memorial Bridge during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
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Perfect temperatures, a bright sun and blue sky commanded Sunday’s forecast, but it was the sound of thunder that stood out for the D.C. area, as more than a half-million motorcycles rumbled through the city for the 26th annual Rolling Thunder.

Thousands of locals and visitors lined the roughly 10-mile loop along the Potomac River and across Memorial Bridge, around the Lincoln Memorial and east to the Mall.


SEE ALSO: Rolling Thunder riders roar through Northern Virginia


“Nobody else loves America the way you love America,” Rolling Thunder founder Artie Muller told hundreds of riders just hours before they assembled in the Pentagon parking lot in Arlington. “Our veterans, our clubs, veterans organization and the public are unbelievable.”

The event got its name from the rumbling sound made by the thousands of motorcycles cruising into the District. The bike ride Sunday was the exclamation point for the weekendlong event, which included speeches and ceremonies to recognize prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action.

As the sun rose on what turned out to be a beautiful day, the parking lot at the Pentagon buzzed with the low rumble of bikes whose riders caught up with old friends, introduced themselves to new acquaintances and jockeyed for parade positions.

Standing alongside his Harley-Davidson, Pete Clark, 65, said this was his first year riding with Rolling Thunder and his first visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

As a Vietnam veteran himself, the McKinney, Texas, resident said he spent several hours at the memorial wall Saturday.

“It was emotional,” said Mr. Clark, who served as a staff sergeant in the Army.

Despite the heartache, Mr. Clark said he was glad he traveled the hundreds of miles to be a part of Rolling Thunder.

“I just texted my wife to tell her I’m going to do this every year now,” he said.

Taking a break from polishing his bike, Boone, N.C., resident Bill Gorman, 56, said this Rolling Thunder was his fifth ride.

“Originally, I came out for my uncles and father, who were Marines,” he said. “Then my daughter joined the National Guard, my son is in Iraq, so I’ve got quite a few reasons to come.”

Mr. Gorman and Mr. Clark were just two riders in an ocean of gleaming chrome and vibrantly painted metal surrounding the Pentagon. The scene at the outset reflected the wide range of participants in the ride, which began a little after noon and concluded around 4 p.m.

American flags, black-and-white POW banners, and a variety of colored signs dotted the mass of people, while the bikes themselves ran the gamut of colors. Some bikes were a midnight black, while others boasted bright orange flames, sparkling swirls, white-walled tires and quirky stuffed animals tied to the frame.

Larry Heaton, 76, made the roughly 2,700 mile trip from Klamath Falls, Ore., with his old college roommate and fellow Army buddy.

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