West Coast Thunder XIV has become a standing tradition in the Inland Empire and each year they bring something new and exciting to the event to honor our Veterans that have passed on.
My day started before 5:00 am so that I could make it down to Skip Fordyce Harley Davidson in Riverside by 7:00 am. By the time I arrived, the bikes were rolling in from all directions and stacking up west down Indiana Ave. It was perfect morning to greet old friends and to say thank you to those in uniform.
The Lucas Oil Parachute Team jumped in for their first trip to West Coast Thunder floating across perfectly blue skies to make a picture perfect landing on Indiana Ave.
The annual event began with The Pledge of Allegiance and The National Anthem. The flag was presented and folded then placed on the back of a Black Harley Davidson with the boots, followed by a military rifle, a set of dog tags and the Marine Corps helmet. The crowd fell quiet as the Chaplain offered a silent prayer. The ceremony ended with the Bags Pipes playing Amazing Grace and finally the dirge of Taps.
This year the Saluting Marine, Sgt. Tim Chambers joined the event. After Saluting riders at Rolling Thunder in Washington DC he hopped on a red eye flight and joined us here in Riverside to salute West Coast Thunder attendees. He spent time speaking with riders, veterans, mothers,fathers and grand parents of the fallen and taking photos before stepping out to his place at the beginning of the parade. Once the parade dignitaries passed, he boarded the Fire Truck which took him near the entrance of The Riverside Veterans Cemetery where he stood in salute to the 8000 riders that joined in on the Memorial Day Event.
West Coast Thunder is now a 14 year tradition that has grown annually. The funds raised from this event are directed to the Riverside Veterans Cemetery Support Committee that uses the money to create new memorials, maintain the current ones, and to place flower containers at the graves of service members that have no family or can not afford one. Each veterans cemetery is responsible and pays for the memorials in each location and is funded solely by donations from the community or corporations. The Federal Government does not fund these in any way.
Riverside National Veterans Cemetery
Over the past several years the ride has become so large the parade is no longer able to ride into the Veterans Cemetery for the services held there. However, many riders did split off from the parade as it passed by the cemetery to pay their respects and attend The Memorial Day events. There are 225.000 graves at the Riverside Veterans Cemetery, It is the largest VA cemetery in the country. In addition to the Veterans of wars long past, Riverside is now home to the graves of 737 men and women killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. California has lost more service members to these two wars than any other state.
The parade route was lined with people, young and old waving American Flags or saluting riders as they pass by. They came out in pick up trucks and on horseback to watch the spectacle of 8000 motorcycle pass in a roar of thunder in respect and honor for the men and women who have fought for their country.
Soboba Indian Casino
Soboba Indian Casino is the final destination for West Coast Thunder. It is the perfect place with ample parking for the thousands of motorcycles that descend on the casino for an afternoon of food, vendors and good music.
For the Second year, The Farm came not to just perform for this event, but 2 members of the trio, Krista Marie and Nick Hoffman rode the parade route on Harley’s lent to them By Skip Fordyce with the rest of the event goers, Damien Horn, was happy sit in a convertible and let some one else do the driving. No word yet if he will ever get a license for two wheels.
Craig Morgan took stage, I had forgotten how much I liked his song, That’s What I love About Sunday’s and I stopped taking pictures long enough to sit and just listen.
Both The Farm and Morgan kept the crowd going and dancing in the isles. The weather was just perfect to celebrate and give thanks for those who have served this great country with pride and honor. It was a great day to Be Grateful.