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Rolling with Pride

Annual motorcycle ride to honor veterans this weekend.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

The seventh annual Ride of the Patriots will be held this Sunday starting at 8 a.m. at Patriot Harley Davidson on Route 50 and will include a parade and comments from local politicians before an estimated 3,000 motorcyclists from around the area ride in pairs to the Pentagon. There, riders and observers alike will be joined by veterans and motorcycle enthusiasts from around the country who descend on the capitol in a procession called Rolling Thunder to honor veterans, those who currently serve and those who have given their lives.

"We can have as many as 400,000 bikes in the Rolling Thunder procession," said Larry Larson, president of the Harley Owners Group (HOG) of Fairfax. The Rolling Thunder parade makes its way from the Pentagon to the Mall in downtown Washington, D.C. This is the 18th year for the event, Larson said.

The morning starts at Patriot Harley Davidson on Route 50, when motorcyclists line up at the dealership and down the road beginning at 7 a.m., said Roger Minardi, one of the dealership's managers.

"Eastbound Route 50 will be blocked off from Route 123 to the dealership for our staging area, but the road will be one lane in each direction in the westbound side," he said.

The line is expected to wind down Route 50 to the Brown Lincoln Mercury dealership near Route 123, Larson said. "It's really kind of impressive."

A community parade will begin at 7:45 a.m., with the Fairfax High School Marching Band performing and presentations from county Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald Connolly, Congressman Tom Davis (R-11), Colonel Jay Harmon and members of local fire and rescue departments, he said. Following their comments, at around 8:30 a.m., the motorcycles will begin their 35-mile-per-hour trek to the Pentagon, following a course that will take them from Route 50 to Nutley Street and onto Route 66 to the Pentagon.

"We want this to be a community event," Larson said, inviting motorcycle enthusiasts, pedestrians and patriots of any age to participate in the day's activities. "This is not just for bikers. The whole idea of the event is to remember those who have served our country."

ON SATURDAY, there will be an open house at Patriot, Minardi said, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. to welcome riders from out of town and start the celebration for the holiday weekend.

"It's a parking lot party," he said. "There will be food and bands and lots of bikes," he said.

The main event, however, is Sunday's ride.

"We meet up with people from across the country at the Pentagon and leave from there around noon to ride down to the Mall," he said. "It's quite a sight for people to see. We ride over the bridge into Washington and ride in a circle around downtown before stopping at The Wall."

Larson said the event will take place rain or shine.

"The weather plays more of a role with the local riders," he said. "The guys who come out from California or Texas or places like that, they're going no matter what."

More information on the Ride of the Patriots and Rolling Thunder is available at the event's Web site, www.rideofthepatriots.com.