Issaquah biker roars to Rolling Thunder rally
July 26, 2011
By Emily Baer
Dave Scandiffio, 55, has been riding motorcycles since he was 8 years old. But on June 12, having returned home from a monthlong, 8,965-mile trip across the country and back, the Issaquah man set a record for himself — and for most people.
Scandiffio began in his trip in Issaquah with four friends from the area. The group motored to Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., where they united with other bikers in the Run for the Wall. The ride is an annual 10-day ride to the nation’s capitol as a gesture of appreciation for the sacrifices that veterans have made for the United States.
Upon arriving in Washington, D.C., the 900-strong pack joined what Scandiffio estimates were more than 500,000 motorcyclists in the annual Rolling Thunder demonstration. The demonstration’s mission is to educate the public about the many American soldiers who were left missing in action or as prisoners of war.
“It’s an emotional trip and there’s a reverence about the ride itself,” Scandiffio said. “The main message is that there are soldiers missing in action and prisoners of war left after every major war. It’s holding the government accountable for finding out what’s happened to them.”
Scandiffio served in the United States Navy from 1974 to 1979. A committed biker, he used to take his motorcycle aboard the ship. From 1983 to 1987, he served in the Oregon National Guard.
Though many of the riders were veterans, others joined the cause because they wanted to support those who fought for this country.
“It’s an honor to be a part of,” he said. “There are a lot of people who did amazing things. Medal of Honor recipients ride, and there are more people who received bronze stars and silver stars.”
The motorcyclists carried sheets of paper with names of and stories about soldiers who died in combat with them as a way to reconnect with the past and remember those who gave their lives for our nation. They stopped at every Vietnam memorial on their route and visited several Veterans Affairs hospitals to meet and talk to men and women about their war memories.
Scandiffio spoke about the appreciation he felt from the people that the brigade met as it rode through the Midwest.
“The outpouring of national pride in the central part of this country is overwhelming at times,” he said. “Schools empty out, entire towns empty out holding flags when we pass through.”
Scandiffio first became interested in a cross-country trip when he decided to visit some close military friends in Florida. At an Eastside Harley Owner Group meeting, Scandiffio heard a couple of men talking about the Run for the Wall.
“The more I listened and did some research on the Internet, the more I wanted to go,” he said. “I’ve always been proud of being in the military and this was a chance to go across the country with a very large group.”
Scandiffio said the ride, which is split into a central route and a southern route, is laid out with “almost military precision.” It has to be — the motorcyclists ride side by side at 70 miles per hour, covering a three- to five-mile stretch of road.
He also warned that the ride is not for the faint of heart. The pack made its way through heavy hail, dense fog, the Eastern Californian and Arizonan deserts, and snow six inches deep — you name it, the motorcyclists rode through it.
When the two Run for the Wall groups reunited in Arlington, Va., before taking part in the Rolling Thunder demonstration, they were honored to be given the opportunity to view the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
As the Rolling Thunder brigade made its way through the streets of the capitol, the President and other dignitaries came out to wave at and talk to the demonstrators.
“They don’t make a big political show of it,” Scandiffio said. “ They make sure not to lose the message about the meaning of Memorial weekend.”
Scandiffio has been home for five weeks now and has had time to reflect on his trip.
“It was probably the hardest thing I’ll every put my bike — or me — through,” he said. “But if I had the chance, I’d leave next week and do it again.”
Scandiffio is part of the Thundering Angels, a local motorcycling club that annually hosts a charitable motorcycle show at the Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-In. In the past, the club has donated its proceeds to organizations such as Life Enrichment Options and the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank.
Emily Baer: 392-6434 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.