My internal clock would have me sleeping until noon every day if I let it. When I’m on a motorcycle trip, I set an alarm every morning, and I always find myself waking up before the buzzer. I do love to ride.
This morning, I peek out the window to see grey skies, as I expected — but no rain! That’s very good news. I dress quickly, then head to the lobby for some free hot grub. Will I ever get tired of the breakfast that’s included with my stay at the BEST WESTERN? I don’t think so. Especially not when it’s free.
I check out of the hotel and load up the bike, which is thankfully quite dry, as Kristi let me park under the front entry canopy last night. One look back at the BEST WESTERN of Lake George, and I’m off.
I turn north for the short ride into the heart of Lake George Village. I have been to the area many times over the years, as my uncle has a house in nearby Fort Ann. I’ve also been to Lake George for Americade, the “world’s largest touring motorcycle rally.” Americade was last week — I just missed it — and as usual, tens of thousands of motorcyclists swarmed the town all week. Americade is about the most family-friendly, civilized rally imaginable, and the town loves having the bikers visit. From all reports, this year’s rally was a big success.
Right in the heart of Lake George Village sits Fort William Henry, a reconstructed British military fort from 1755. The original fort was destroyed during the French and Indian Wars in 1757 (made famous in “The Last of the Mohicans”), and was abandoned for two centuries. The current structures and museum were built in the 1950s, and provide a great view through history as a living museum. Fans of forts and Colonial history will want to visit nearby Fort Ticonderoga as well, just an hour’s drive north on the shores of Lake Champlain.
I like the history of the area, but what I really love are the roads. Lake George is in the Adirondack region of New York, and is adjacent to the White Mountains of Vermont. After riding around in Lake George Village for a while, I head off toward my next destination. Dipping south below Lake George on Route 149, I pick up US-4 and turn northeast again. The route takes me through Whitehall, NY, the birthplace of the U.S. Navy — which is funny, since it is nowhere near the ocean. The U.S. Navy was born on Lake Champlain. Oh, well.
US-4 cuts directly across Vermont — already the third state that I’ve entered during this ride, if you’re keeping track. There will be more. Even a highway in Vermont is extremely beautiful this time of year, with lush greenery, beautiful hills and mountains and lots of color to catch the eye.
I have to admit that I’m giving Vermont short shrift on this trip — just using it as a way to get to New Hampshire. I breeze through Rutland, cruise across the Coolidge State Forest, and hardly slow down until I hit downtown Claremont, New Hampshire.
Claremont catches my eye because it really fits my aesthetic. It used to be a mill town, situated on the Sugar River. An ambitious project has restored the abandoned mill buildings, and is putting them to new use as restaurants, office space and living space. The cool thing is that these old brick buildings are centerpieces in the small town, and as they are revived, a whole economy builds up around them. Other entrepreneurs spring into action, renovating other classic buildings, and soon there’s a thriving town where there was once despair and neglect. Claremont is in the middle of one of these boom cycles, and it’s a very inspiring thing to see.
I don’t want to get distracted, though. I stop for my traditional road lunch, a Rockstar Lemonade and some beef jerky, fill up the Electra Glide with some premium, and continue my blast across the state. Motorcycle traffic has picked up substantially, and I’m starting to see signs all around that say “Welcome Bikers!” I must be getting close.
Finally, I enter the town of Laconia, New Hampshire, and I follow the signs to Weirs Beach, the headquarters of the Laconia Motorcycle Week. This is the 88th year of “America’s Original Riding Rally,” and my first visit ever. Laconia grew up around motorcycle racing, and the highlight of the week is the races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. I’m just dipping my toes into Laconia — I won’t be hanging around for the races, just exploring the daytime activities on this sunny Wednesday.
I ride past rally headquarters and turn down the Weirs Beach waterside, which has been closed off to four-wheeled traffic. I find parking among the thousands of motorcycles (80% Harley-Davidson) in the middle of the street. I lock my helmet and jacket to the Electra Glide, grab my camera and explore. Dozens upon dozens of vendors hock their wears, from event t-shirts to motorcycle gadgets to special anti-fog glasses cleaners (I always fall for that one). Across the street, there’s a music tent with live rock bands. The Harley-Davidson demo fleet is in town with a HOG Pin Stop, so I drop by to pick up a “2012 Laconia” pin to add to my collection. The vibe is very friendly, but decidedly grown up. A few area Hells Angels chapters have vendor booths, and are selling t-shirts and memorabilia. I steer clear — I don’t begrudge the Hells Angels, but I don’t want anything to do with them, either. Just as prominent are the Christian Motorcyclists Association, sponsoring AA meetings and proselytizing, so there’s a balance. The scene is like a tamer version of Sturgis, the hardcore biker rally in South Dakota. I really enjoy walking around, people watching and exploring. It’s a little early in the week and early in the day for the real grownup excitement, like bikini contests and biker build-offs yet, which suits me fine. I get to see hundreds of amazing motorcycles, chat with dozens of bikers and pick up a few souvenirs. I can’t imagine wanting to spend the whole week at a rally, but I’m not really a crowd guy. Your results may vary.
I rely on the Interstate to get me to Manchester quickly, jumping on I-93 for a quick trip. I arrive at the very elegant BEST WESTERN PLUS Executive Court Inn & Conference Center before sunset, greeted by the very loud sound of bullfrogs croaking and crickets chirping. They caused such a cacophony that I record a minute of audio on my iPhone and emailed it to my wife. Technology is amazing and dangerous.
I check in to the hotel, and I’m thankful to discover that there’s a restaurant on the property so I won’t have to saddle back up in order to get some dinner. The Yard is just across the expansive parking lot of the BEST WESTERN PLUS Executive Court, and they offer either in-restaurant or in-room (room service) dining. I’m very hungry, so I decide to hike over to the dining room for some food. I have a very delicious stuffed baked haddock plate for dinner — the seafood is going to be very good for the next few days of this trip, and this is just the start of it. I somehow resist dessert — am I maturing somehow? Nah — I’m just stuffed with haddock.
I fall asleep with a smile on my face, thinking of bullfrogs.
Miles ridden: 237.6
NEXT: NEW ENGLAND BY MOTORCYCLE, DAY FOUR: MANCHESTER, NH TO PORTLAND, ME