West Coast Thunder 2019

By Tom “Bomb” Christian

Memorial Day this year was the 20th anniversary of West Coast Thunder, which made it a very special event for all the folks who have been enjoying this ride over the years. As I rode into Riverside the weather was on my mind after all the rain that southern California had seen in the last few weeks, but it turned out to be a beautiful day for this event. I personally would like to thank all the folks that helped put this event together to make it a super success.

Jim and Sharon Bridges have worked together for a few years organizing West Coast Thunder. Sharon has been the Executive Director for about eight years. Jim was in the Navy for 26 years serving our country all over the world. During the past fourteen years he’s been helping with West Coast Thunder ceremonies and working with the rider training academy at Riverside Harley-Davidson. This year I rode in the memory of all of our service personnel who we have lost over the fourteen years while Mr. & Mrs. Bridges have been working with West Coast Thunder.

After parking my bike the first thing on my mind was a few cups of coffee; so after grabbing my cameras, I was off to enjoy the five dollar sausage and pancake breakfast with my coffee. Everyone was very happy to see all the bikers join in this event as they enjoyed their breakfast and coffee. Now it is time to go to work with cameras in hand off to the front of the dealership where the gals from Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys were gearing up for the rush of riders coming though for breakfast and sign-up, or checking out all the happy things going on.

After taking a few pics of the Russ Brown gals with the folks entering the driveway, I took a stroll through the dealership where there were plenty of things for anyone who wanted a bike or clothes, gloves and accessories to look good or keep warm. Sunglasses were a hot thing along with some sexy boots, then get a hat to top it off. Sharon told me I could take a ride up in a man lift to take a few photos from quite a ways up in the air. It was very scary but fun at the same time going up as high as the power lines overhead. WOW that was a sight to see! Looking down the road you could see the Law Tigers Motorcycle Lawyers’ booth with the big tiger attracting the riders to pick up some promotional items.

Then, Vanessa “Lace” Borrego called to tell me that her husband Dennis just dropped her off to be my wingman taking pictures from the back of my Harley on the way down to Lake Elsinore. I wanted to capture some of the people on the curbside enjoying the parade of bikes going through their neighborhoods. Laura D from Shark Squad Motorcycle Attorneys was handing out cards to the folks, and it was a great time to grab a picture of her in front of the Stater Brothers vintage show truck. We then headed toward the coffee station so we could refill our cups before the ceremonies started. The riders were coming in very strong with their pride shining to show their appreciation for the sacrifices that were given so all of us would be able to enjoy this great day together. I never get tired of seeing American pride in action and this ride always fulfills that goal. It should be on everyone’s bucket list to watch or participate in.

The time for the Ultimate Sacrifice ceremonies in front of Riverside Harley-Davidson has come. Thousands of American patriots who came to witness these ceremonies started gathering and heading towards the front where it was about to begin. Everyone was just shining with pride as we watched the Color Guard march out for this event to start. Wow it just cut through you like a knife in warm butter watching the Color Guard performing in these Ultimate Sacrifice ceremonies.

Thinking ahead, it was time to get back to where I parked my bike where it was the best place for catching pictures of the riders leaving for Lake Elsinore for the concert. I asked the team that was handling traffic control if I was going to be able to leave after the riders headed out so it would be easier to take pictures on the route of all the great patriots enjoying the parade of bikes.

There were thousands of bikes. Lace and I waited for over an hour and a half being the dead last bike out.. I wanted the best pictures of the folks cheering on the riders. Lace did a great job on the back of my bike with my camera and doing a few videos with her cell. It was a super sight to see all the folks cheering and showing their colors of their military service with all the American flags everywhere. We caught up with the last of the riders en route to the Storm Baseball Stadium just in time to ride through Lake Elsinore. I was wondering because of the new route, if it was going to be full of onlookers cheering and waving to all the riders.

Well, the town was decorated for this event with the people out cheering everybody as we rode through. As we entered the street where the parking was across from the stadium, the sight of all those bikes just took your breath away. It was a sea of bikes as far as you could look, and we had to park on the far back corner, but it was a great place to take pictures of the bikes.

Once inside the stadium grounds there were vendors here too, including our friends 7eye by Panoptx with some great wind-blocking riding eyewear.

The stadium was packed with people waiting in line to enter the concert area. The first band Tucker Beathard was getting off stage. It was time to grab a bite to eat before Randy Houser jumped on stage to light up the stadium with his overwhelming voice. The K-Frog FM 95.1 crew was there keeping us informed with the country music playing.    

Jim Bridges with the rest of the Color Guard performed the Ultimate Sacrifice ceremonies again here before Randy Houser started his performance. The ceremonies remind us of why we are so blessed to live in America. I am sure we all thank every one of them for their hard work and dedication and keeping up the great tradition for all of us to enjoy.

Randy Houser wanted all the fans to come down by the stage to enjoy his music as his daughter sat on a stool on stage. It was the best seat in the house while looking as cute as can be for a four-year-old young lady. It was fun trying to take great pictures of his band with all the folks dancing and singing to all of his music. Watching the fans cheering and clapping as Randy sang his heart out for them; it was what the crowd wanted. “Like a Cowboy” was my favorite song he sang and I think it was everyone else’s favorite song too. Randy really played to his fans; that made it fun for them to be a part of this concert. He is a very down to earth person, real country folk.

The time finally came to see who was the lucky winner of that 2019 Harley-Davidson Street Bob– It was Dave and Donna-Gale Braly. Dave was a crew chief in the United States Air Force for five years on the mighty B-52 bombers. Dave was one of the founders of the Color Guard twenty years ago for West Coast Thunder. Donna-Gale was also was part of the Color Guard for about ten years. Let’s give these folks a great big hand for winning this beautiful bike.

To let everyone know, this is the last year that Jim and Sharon Bridges will be working with West Coast Thunder and Riverside Harley-Davidson. Let’s all thank them for their dedication and wish them well in their next adventures in life.

I hope everyone enjoyed this event as much as I did, and hope to see you all next year!