Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Veterans on motorcycles rumbled into town as they always do for the big “Rolling Thunder” parade this Memorial Day, and, again as they always do, some encamped on the Arlington Assembly of God Church at the corner of N. Pershing Drive and Arlington Boulevard.
Bill Francis, of California, made the annual drive with his friend, Phil Vasquez. The nine-day trip was a first for both of them.
Despite the sometimes vulgar warnings on his helmet (“I’m not prejudiced. I hate everybody.” And “Do I look like a people person?”), Mr. Francis was very friendly and in the mood to talk Sunday morning.
By then, about 8:30 a.m., the other riders had decamped for the Rolling Thunder staging area in the Pentagon North Parking Lot. Participants had to arrive at 6:30 for a 12 o'clock ride.
Mr. Francis and Mr. Vasquez were heading for North Carolina, and had no real interest in sitting on their motorcycles in a parking lot for six hours, they said.
A highlight of the event for Mr. Francis, a Vietnam Veteran, was carrying a placard of a fallen Marine to the Vietnam Memorial. Organizers ask new riders to volunteer for the honor.
“I was lucky enough to get my hand up first,” he said.
Dozens of tents and hundreds of people slept on the church's grass for all or some of the weekend.
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