Before the Thunder

WCT7

West Coast Thunder is a motorcycle event sponsored by Riverside Harley-Davidson held each Memorial Day to assist The Riverside National Cemetery. Around 6,000 motorcycles parade through Riverside, CA, past the National Cemetery, and end up at a venue for a concert. 

It’s actually colder at dawn than in the waning night hours. And your Harley can get soaking wet sitting outside without rain falling on it. Two things I learned at this year’s West Coast Thunder.

Frank and I joined crazy HOG members that met at 3:30 a.m. the morning of the parade. After setting up behind the barricades (already at least 50 bikes ahead of us), some hiked over to Denny’s a few blocks away. Monika, Jeff, Frank, and I opted for the pancake breakfast at the dealership. (The bacon was surprisingly perfect.)

All was quiet, except the golf carts rushing around. (Watch out for Mitch!) As the sky grew light, the rain-threatening clouds pulled back, and it got colder that when we first arrived. Monika and I shivered in our leather jackets, chaps, and gloves. Frank, as usual, was barely cold. After what seemed a very long time, riders started to walk up to the dealership.

Sitting at the First Aid booth inside Riverside Harley-Davidson’s parking lot gave me a front row seat to observe the variety of riders that participate in West Coast Thunder. Ladies dressed alike in white and purple. Grey-haired men in patch-covered vests. Grandfathers with their excited granddaughters. Young men sucking down their cans of Monster. Couples dressed in leather, holding hands.

Riders stopped by to visit. I met the director of the Pomona HOG chapter. One of my relatives rides with them. He reminded me that they came to one of our activity meetings to see how our chapter got so many rides on the calendar. So many things about IE HOG I take for granted, and yet other groups aspire to our success. Which wouldn’t even happen if not for our great members who love to ride and hang out.

And just in case you wondered, Monika and Steve (the only member of our team who was qualified) gave out two band aids, so we earned our positions. Frank and I passed out small water bottles.

Hours passed, and I grew drowsy at the edge of the crowd’s hum. Then the speakers came on, and it was time for the opening speeches and flag ceremony. The people surrounding the color guard were ten deep so I knew I would not catch a glimpse from our booth. Last year, Frank and I had staked ourselves a spot watching it. The solemn pageantry was unforgettable.

To wake myself up, I walked out to our bike to grab snacks. Imagine my surprise when I discovered our bike soaking wet from the morning dew. Some more intelligent riders had covers, but I stood there looking at yesterday’s wash and polish literally drip away. Oh well, two hours of my life I’ll never get back. (Add it to that one time I had to go into the DMV.)

Finally, finally, it was time for Kick Stands Up. Our fellow HOGs and I strapped on our helmets and got ready to go. The beginning of the line, with the color guard, leaves at 9:11 a.m. We sat on our bikes and waited, looking for movement in the line ahead of us. Then suddenly, we were off and riding under the huge flag that swung over the middle of the street. West Coast Thunder was on.

 

 

 

 

West Coast Thunder Weekend

 

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In the teachers’ lounge, someone asked, “What are you doing over Memorial Day Weekend?”

“Riding in a parade with 8000 other motorcycles,” I said.

Each Memorial Day, West Coast Thunder sponsors a motorcycle ride that goes through Riverside, California, past the Riverside National Cemetery, and to a concert destination (this year Lake Elsinore Storm Stadium). It is a charity event that supports the Riverside National Cemetery.

Riverside Harley-Davidson sponsors the starting point, and our HOG chapter is there to help. Some will flip burgers at the dealership Saturday and Sunday, while others will man the stops for the Annual Poker Run.

But Monday is the main event. My husband and I plan to meet other HOG members at 3:30 a.m. to secure our place in the bike lineup. There are so many different kinds of motorcycles, not just Harleys, that show up for the parade. Walking down the rows of bikes staged between k-rails helps pass the time until the 9:11 a.m. KSU (kick stands up).

So don’t call me Sunday night. My phone will be on “Do Not Disturb.” And maybe I’ll wave to you as you sit with your beach chairs and flags along the route.