Last week, I had a special column for Memorial Day that honored the men and women of the Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice and never came home. This week, I am continuing kind of in the same vein with more adventures from our times in Washington, DC during Rolling Thunder. Last week, I skipped some of the funnier stories from our trips because it would have been out of place on that day. So, without further ado, here are some of the stories from a decade of travelling to DC with my dad and our friends.
Some of the stories won’t make it into print. What happens in DC sometimes is better left unsaid. They are stories just for those of us who made the trips. Still, there are some great stories from some great times with some great people. I hope they enjoy re-living some of those moments as much as I have. And I hope some of you enjoy reading about some of our hi-jinks.
The first couple years we all rode down. I rode on the back of my dad’s bike. My cousin, Matt, had a sportster that he rode down on. I think it was our second year, or maybe the third, when Matt’s bike broke down while we were still fairly close to home. We were far enough away that going back was a possibility. We got Matt’s bike to a dealership and then tried to come to a decision about whether to go forward or go home. I remember that Dave Caton stayed with us, even though he really didn’t have to, while the rest of the group rode on.
Anyway, we decided that we’d put Matt on the back of his dad’s bike, and we shuffled luggage around so that it all fit. We either made record time getting to our hotel in Maryland, or the other group rode slower on the off chance that we’d catch up. They had barely been at the hotel an hour when we pulled in. We had spent hours trying to get the bike to the dealer. One of the things I remember was going through a town near the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland. It was like a 1950s town from a Norman Rockwell painting. As the sun was setting, the reddish glow cast shadows across those picturesque, historic buildings.
Because of the issues with Matt’s bike, the next year we began the tradition of driving a chase truck with the group. Most of time Matt drove his truck. I was his passenger. Those were some interesting rides. We sometimes got laughing so hard over something we saw that it was nearly impossible to drive. We also planned out where we wanted to visit while we were down at the Mall. It was during the chase truck years that one of the funniest things to ever happen on the trips took place.
One particular year, we rode out from the UAW hall with another group. They were a group of religious riders. Despite their moniker, they weren’t exactly the friendliest people. We started off together, but stopped for breakfast in Batavia kind of in order to let them go on without us. As we were leaving and rolling through East Bethany, one of the riders from that other group was waiting on the side of the road. He waved as we rode by. Matt and I in the chase truck, waved at the end of the line. We didn’t think anything of it until we got to our hotel in Frederick, MD.
We went over to the steakhouse across from the hotel to get some dinner when the leader of the religious group asked if we had picked up Joe, the guy on the side of the road. No, we hadn’t. He had just waved, not flagged us down. Apparently, he had a flat tire and was told that we were coming and would give him a ride to get the bike fixed. Now, this leader was angry with us, but how were we to know?
An hour or so later, in walks Joe, the guy who had the flat tire. He sat down next to us at the bar, ordered a beer and then started swearing about the ride. We were taken aback. Wow, these religious guys were pretty liberal. He finally got the bike repaired and made it to the hotel. He wasn’t really a part of the religious riders, but he didn’t know anyone else to ride with. After making amends for leaving him on the side of the road, we became pretty good friends. And he never lived down his new moniker, “Flat Tire Joe.”
There was a bar, Charlie’s, around the corner from the hotel that we regularly visited. After leaving the bar one night, several of us decided that we were hungry. Lucky for us, there was a McDonald’s on the way back. Unlucky for us, only the drive-thru was open, but we were on foot. The people working the drive-thru were not exactly keen on having us walk through the car lane. One guy from our group decided to flag down a car driving by and convinced the occupants to let him go through the drive-thru in the backseat. I don’t remember if we actually got any food, but Hank sure did.
I always found it amusing that the same weekend of Rolling Thunder was the same weekend as a youth soccer tournament. We all stayed at the same hotel. It was interesting to see the looks of horror on the faces of those soccer moms and dads when they pulled into the parking lot and saw us sitting outside our rooms. They sure had no idea what to expect.
The people who ran the hotel were fantastic. We’d pull our chairs out of the rooms to sit along the sidewalk in front of our rooms. This was my favorite place to hang out and listen to all the stories. The hotel also left extra towels,in the room that were to be used for wiping down the motorcycles. It’s not something they had to do, but after a couple years of using the hotel, the towels were always waiting in our rooms.
One year we found a BBQ place that had pictures all over the wall. These were pictures of famous people. Someone in our group thought it would be funny if we had a group picture taken and snuck it onto the wall. Not sure if it was a coincidence or not, but the place closed the next year. Another restaurant that we visited in Bethesda closed a couple years after we made it a regular stop. Maybe we were bad luck?
Those trips to Washington were a ton of fun. I miss it sometimes. In fact, as I wrote this, my mind wandered back to that hotel in Frederick, MD. I offhandedly told Wendy that at that exact moment, I should be at the hotel hanging with the guys on yet another trip. I had a lot of great times. I enjoyed it so much, that I took Wendy one August to DC. We even stayed at the same hotel I stayed at on Memorial Day. I got to show her all the sites that I had become so familiar with over those years. Maybe someday we’ll make one more trip with the group. If it ever comes up in conversation, I’ll be ready to go.
Craig Bacon loves Washington. There is so much history and so little time.
Next Week: It’s Prom Season, and You Look Wonderful Tonight!