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Sunday morning was bright and beautiful as several thousand motorcyclists roared out of the parking lots at the National Museum of the Marine Corps and Quantico Harley-Davidson and headed north toward Washington, D.C., to participate in the 27th annual Rolling Thunder. Rolling Thunder is an annual motorcycle rally that held during the Memorial Day weekend to call for the government's recognition and protection of Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action. The tribute to American war heroes started in 1988 with 2,500 participants. Now approximately 900,000 participants and spectators are involved with this annual demonstration along the National Mall.

Photo by David M. White

Uncle Sam’s Motorcycle Club riding safely on base

28 May 2015 | Eve A. Baker Marine Corps Base Quantico

Uncle Sam’s Motorcycle Club, a lighthearted acronym for USMC, is a phrase that pays homage to the large number of motorcycle riders in the Marine Corps. Here at Marine Corps Base Quantico, there are hundreds of registered riders.

To be authorized to ride on base, riders must possess a state-issued motorcycle license, registration, insurance and proof of Motorcycle Safety Foundation training, said Ed Billig, traffic safety manager for MCBQ and the National Capital Region. Further, all riders must wear a long-sleeved top, sturdy trousers, over-the-ankle boots, full-finger gloves, and either a helmet with a face shield or a helmet and separate eye protection. All helmets must be Department of Transportation approved.

In terms of the safety training, that can be accomplished on base through the Basic Rider Course and the Advanced Rider Course, Billig said, which people can sign up for using the Enterprise Safety Application Management System website. The BRC is a two-day course that takes riders "from crawl to walk," according to Billig. They will learn how to operate the controls, get the bike moving, stop, corner and maneuver.

If, after taking the course, riders decide to purchase a motorcycle and proceed with getting a license, they need to take the ARC within 90 days of completing the BRC. The ARC provides more in-depth rider training and helps the riders learn to complete more difficult maneuvers.

The BRC is offered every week on Monday and Tuesday, and the ARC is offered every other Thursday. In 2014, 319 riders completed the BRC, and 134 completed the ARC. The training takes place at Camp Upshur. According to Billig, if riders take an MSF course off-base, they do not need to take the BRC or ARC on base.

Kenny Wright, Lejeune Hall building manager, has been riding motorcycles since he was 14, though he has only been riding on base since 2009. Wright prefers to ride a three-wheeled motorcycle these days and had to take a safety course off base because the ARC and BRC do not cover that type of bike. Wright said he rides his bike to work periodically but does most of his riding off base and puts approximately 21,000 miles per year on his bike. Last summer he and his wife rode out to Durango, Colorado, and back, a trip of about 5,000 miles, and he has also participated in two 9/11 memorial group rides, which followed a course from Pennsylvania to the Pentagon to New York City.

Wright said he follows the same safety standards off base that are required aboard MCBQ, even though the state of Virginia only requires a helmet and eye protection. He actually goes a few steps further in terms of safety and has a CB radio and both forward and rear-facing cameras attached to his bike to record any potential incidents as well as the trip in general.

"It was amazing to see the open plains," said Wright, reflecting on his recent cross-country trip. "I ride for the pure joy of it, and that my wife enjoys it as well makes it twice the enjoyment. I love the wind on my face, sights, smells and sounds zipping in around me, the fun and adventure of riding across multiple states and taking roads that the average motorist would bypass."

Erik Rodriguez, senior paralegal for the base counsel’s office, has also been riding motorcycles since he was 14, when he started out with a dirt bike. He rides because he enjoys the freedom of not being cooped up in a car. He said riding is an outlet for him, much like running is for other people.

Rodriguez participated in the annual Rolling Thunder ride over Memorial Day weekend and described all the safety precautions that were taken for such a large group ride, including safety inspections ahead of the ride, police escorts, road closures and support vehicles. Though he spoke about the freedom of a motorcycle as compared to a car, Rodriquez said "safety is huge — safety is paramount."

— Writer:

Marine Corps Base Quantico