Offering no advanced notice of when and how she would arrive at the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin swooped into the Pentagon parking lot where all the bikers were gathered on the back of a motorcycle, a half-hour before the procession started. As recognition dawned on the crowd, Palin was met headlong by photographers who hustled past parked bikes to snap images of her arrival.

Palin hopped off the bike, with her husband Todd and daughters at her side, smiling and shaking hands and signing autographs for more than 20 minutes as the media scrum pushed and shoved past bikes and bike owners to get a good look.

Above the roar of rumbling engines and shouting photographers, Fox News' Peter Doocy asked Palin if all the events on the bus tour would be this loud.

"It would be a blast if this were this loud, if they smelled this good," Palin said with an enthusiastic smile. "I love that smell of the emissions."

A man in the crowd shouted, "Are you running?"

Palin, shining and happy and seemingly unrustled by the crowd, shouted back, "Don't know yet."

It took a lot of forceful crowd control by law enforcement officers and burly men familiar with motorcycle rallies to clear the onlookers for the noon start.

Contrary to the speculation, Sarah Palin did not ride on the back of Todd's bike. Instead, Piper hopped on and Sarah sat in the back of a Willow's bike. Bristol rode the back seat of another.

When they were properly situated, the official procession began and the Palin family soon followed at the front of the pack, behind them what seemed to be the endless thunder of thousands of motorcycles.