Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rolling Thunder

So we moved this weekend, which required quite a few trips between old and new apartments. In the course of all this back and forth driving, I noticed an unusually large number of motorcycles in the area, many with American or POW/MIA flags attached to the back. The Pit said they were veterans in town for Memorial Day, and we continued arguing with each other about the need to lock an empty apartment.

See, before we completely moved in, I had transported some clothing and dishes into the new apartment, and then left it unlocked. To hear The Pit tell it, I had committed an insanely serious security faux pas. Silly me, I thought that the building was locked, and our neighbors unlikely to help themselves to our winter sweaters. The Pit insisted that some sort of crazy hobos were going to sneak into our nice neighborhood, penetrate our locked building through ninja stealth, and then shit on our living room floor out of spite. You could say we have somewhat divergent views on security issues.

Anyway, back to the veterans. This morning we went down to Home Depot, and the carpool lanes in the middle of the freeway were filled with what looked like thousands of motorcycles. It was a pretty amazing sight, and there were people on all the overpasses watching and waving American flags. There was even a fire truck with all it’s lights blazing, and uniformed firefighters waving to the motorcyclists. Turns out this is an annual tradition around here, and all these vets on motorcycles belong to a group called Rolling Thunder, which holds a rally at the Pentagon every Memorial Day to remember prisoners of war and those missing in action.

Apparently they expect 400,000 vets this year. Which got me thinking…that’s an awful lot of vets with motorcycles. And that train of thought led to an obsessive need to figure out what percentage of veterans ride motorcycles.* According to the ever trusty internet, somewhere between 2.1 and 2.5 million Americans served in Vietnam (although other estimates range as high as 3.1 million).** If we assume that all 400,000 grizzled men are Vietnam veterans,*** then that means that roughly 13% to 19% of Vietnam vets ride motorcycles. Crazy, right? That’s got to be a much bigger percentage than the general population.

I think what all this means is that next year, The Pit and I will have to go to the Pentagon and observe this massive sea of leather and chrome. Someone remind me about this thought before May 31st, 2010.

* My previous workmates will attest to the OCD nature of my internet searches. I once spent a whole working day investigating a mythical albino village in New Jersey. But I ask you, how could such a thing go unexamined?
** In a mind-boggling display of ineptitude, due to faulty record-keeping the Department of Defense actually does not know how many men and women served in Vietnam. Veterans groups estimate that this…err, troubling lack of attention to detail…has resulted in 9 to 12 million people fraudulently claiming to have served in Vietnam.
*** Okay, so that assumption might be rather unwarranted, but roll with me.


  1. Sheesh, I seem to developed into quite the target on these walls. No wonder I'm always cautious!

    However, I've found the perfect antidote. Yana's dig at my personality quirks sound a lot like:

    Note me in the red shirt, attempting to take her seriously at first, and then losing it.

  2. I was once driving out of town for the weekend with a friend when we got stopped because the Beltway was closed with no traffic on it. We were annoyed at first, but then !!ROLLING THUNDER!! came through and made it all worthwhile.

    Nice find, Mike.

  3. PS If you play this video in another window at the same time, then you can recreate the Yana and Jenya experience:

  4. Of course he immediately played the videos in two windows, and found the resulting effect hilarious. Thanks a bunch Eric.