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West Coast Thunder motorcycle run has become a destination Memorial Day event

Participants and spectators crowd the route for a festive, family-friendly event with a serious purpose.

A rider waves to the crowd of onlookers with a peace sign (Photo courtesy Stanley Fry).

West Coast Thunder has become a destination event for motorcyclists on Memorial Day. Close to 8000 motorcycles will make the run from Riverside Harley-Davidson to the National Cemetery and eventually to the Diamond at Lake Elsinore for a car show and concert featuring American Idol winner Chayce Beckham.

The event started in 2000 with a handful of local riders. The number of participants and spectators has steadily increased, and affinity events have been added over the years. It is now the largest Memorial Day ride in the western United States.

The festive environment does not mask the purpose of the run. Veterans have always been a significant part of motorcycle culture. West Coast Thunder is an opportunity for Riversiders to honor the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who lost their lives in service to their country.

The tradition extends beyond the riders. Families gather along the crowded route, cheering and waving flags as the motorcycles pass. The car show and concert are open to the public. Event information and tickets for the concert can be found on the West Coast Thunder website.

The route goes from Indiana Avenue up Arlington to Allesandro Boulevard, then makes the turn at Trautwein and finally turns left at Van Buren, past the National Cemetery, to Highway 215. If you don't have anywhere to go, grab a chair and a cold soft drink and find a spot along the route. If you have someplace else to go, avoid those areas; traffic will be significantly affected for much of the early part of the day.