June 16 2009 by Jason Fogelson
Forget everything that you think you know about motorcycle rallies. Erase the images of drunken bikers rampaging through town, terrorizing the locals and leaving chaos in their wake.
Replace those images with friendly, considerate motorcyclists, gathering in a beautiful corner of the world to share a common interest, socialize, celebrate and (gasp!) learn. That's Americade, billed as "the world's largest multi-brand touring rally."
The rally started as "Aspencade East" in 1983, taking on the name "Americade" in 1986, founded by former Harley-Davidson executive Bill Dutcher, who still runs the show. In the ensuing 27 years, Americade has grown to a spectacle that attracts a reported 50,000 riders every year.
Lake George, New York is the site of the event, and a major part of Americade's appeal. Beautiful roads, gorgeous scenery and a wide variety of local activities make Lake George a great destination year-round. History buffs will appreciate nearby access to Fort William Henry and Fort Ticonderoga. Nature fans will be overwhelmed at the hiking, wildlife observation and fishing opportunities. There are even three preserved shipwreck sites in Lake George, accessible by boat. Not to mention the outlet malls, antique stores, restaurants and other shopping clustered all over the region. Lake George really does have something for everyone. Americade attendees can take advantage of guided group riding tours or self-guided tours with maps.
During Americade, the town is literally swarmed with motorcycles and rally-related activities. An enormous motorcycle-related vendor fair with over 200 merchants, TourExpo, is set up along the Lake's Million Dollar Beach. Americade secures an enormous parking area in a local park adjacent to the beach, and the sea of motorcycles parked there every day is a sight to behold. TourExpo features everything from food to motorcycle accessories to jewelry to clothing to pinstriping and tires. If bikers buy more than their saddlebags can hold, there's a convenient UPS shipping store onsite to help get purchases home safely and inexpensively. The sheer variety of vendors is overwhelming. It's a great chance to touch and feel and try out products that you're considering buying, even if you don't purchase anything at the show.
Another attraction at Americade is the seminars and presentations on a variety of motorcycle-related topics. Safety and riding skills are always popular, with experts on hand to discuss trends and provide tips. Other topics this year included motorcycle touring, women in motorcycling, the AMA and road stories, with speakers like Lee Parks, Clement Salvadori, Fred Rau, Christa Neuhauser, Pete Woodruff and Rob Dingman.
And there's the fun stuff, too - like the Looney License Plate contest, the Stuffed Animal contest, the Light Parade, the Rock 'N Roll Cruise, scavenger hunts, poker runs and a trip to the Great Escape amusement park. Add in demo rides from several manufacturers, and you've got a recipe for motorcycle nirvana.
Harley-Davidson brings out a great fleet of current year motorcycles for demo rides. Even with 50,000 riders in town, the lines move quickly and the process is smooth. You can sign up to ride multiple models, and if you devote the time, you can test ride a wide variety of bikes. Harley Owners Group members can pick up a special event pin at the HOG Pin Stop adjacent to the demo ride.
Registration for Americade runs from $20 for a Daytrip Pass to $100 for a Full Package that includes all activities plus a choice of meal activities. Pre-registration for Americade 2010 will open in early February, 2010 and will close in early May. Onsite registration opens June 7, and Americade 2010 will run from June 7 through June 12, 2010.
Where to Stay:
The Best Western Lake George Hotel is a Rider Friendly resort, and a very convenient home base for your Americade adventure. The hotel features a series of convenient, money-saving packages year-round, each of which includes breakfast each morning and combines tickets to various local activities and attractions. If you're planning to attend Americade next year, don't delay - hotel rooms book quickly, well in advance. You can call the Best Western Lake George Hotel directly at 1-800-234-0265 to reserve your room, though the room rate won't be set until October 2009.