Part 1. Boston, Blackstone and Patriot Place.
My friend Matt from Blackstone, Massachusetts, invited me to go over to his home so we could ride up to Laconia Bike Week in New Hampshire this year. This year, 2016, is the 93rd year of this iconic festival of biking. The oldest national motorcycle rally in the U.S.that owes its origins to a group of less than 200 motorcycling enthusiasts that toured the lake and mountain region in New Hampshire in 1916, has evolved over time into an institution of Motorcycling that attracts hundreds of thousands every year. You will wonder then why I hesitated to accept Matt’s offer to visit the Laconia and Weirs Beach area this year. Well, I knew that I couldn’t stay for the full week because of other commitments and thought it was probably better to postpone the visit until I could be there for the full week. I started planning a trip to Northern France and the D-Day celebrations instead. I have motor-cycled through Northern France before, and will do it again, but some buddies regularly attend the annual D-Day celebrations and it has always been an ambition of mine to be there some year. Various forces were at work to scupper this planned visit and when it seemed that it wasn’t going to work out, thoughts of a shortened spin to Laconia Bike Week re-entered my head. I contacted Matt and yes, he was still on for a visit to Laconia. I booked the flight to Boston and I love it when there is only a couple of weeks between booking and travelling. When I landed in Logan airport, Matt and his two beautiful daughters, Marissa and Hannah, were there to pick me up.
On the way from the airport to Blackstone we stopped for a snack in a “Friendly’s” just across the road from Gillette stadium in Foxborough, home of the New England Patriots. Friendly’s is a long established food and ice-cream chain. As we sat at the window in Friendly’s, Matt and I noticed a lot of vintage cars drive by. They are referred to as Old-timer cars in the States. Matt suddenly remembered that it was Thursday night and every second Thursday night there is a “cruise night”, organised by Mass Cruisers at Patriot Place, a shopping Mall just across from Friendly’s, and adjacent to the stadium. After our food, the four of us went across to take a look. Wow! Thousands of beautiful, and some not so beautiful examples of American metal. A guy we spoke to told us that on a good night there could be well in excess of two thousand cars there. Every era of car manufacturing in America, back to the 1930s was on display and we couldn’t get enough of it. Matt pointed out the line of deck-chairs, on the road into the parking area in the mall. Lots of people try and get there early to find a nice spot to get up their deck-chairs, and they just sit there with a soda and maybe some nibbles and get the best view of the cars, as they queue up to drive into the cruise area. It seems that retired people have the advantage, as they can get there a little earlier a get the best spots, and it saves having to walk around the huge parking lot.
I didn’t mind walking around the lot. The cars were fantastic! The owners were only too happy to talk to us and tell us about their cars. Rows and rows of great cars. Some were absolutely pristine and the owners prided themselves in presenting them in the perfect state. Trucks, muscle cars and daily drivers, all parked in the spot decided upon by the organizers appropriate to the era, type or maker. Some fine European examples too. All the names that make you think of American cars: Chevrolet, Ford, Camaro, Corvair, T-Bird, Buick and Cadillac. Sedans, Saloons, Flat-bed trucks, Hot-Rods and even a 1932 school bus! Every make and model. All too soon we had to leave. Matt’s wife Cheryl was preparing dinner for us and we didn’t want to be late.
When we arrived at the family home, I met Cheryl who was a gracious host for a beautiful dinner. The family’s home is a fabulous house set in a lovely residential, wooded area on the outskirts of Blackstone. The house is very much in keeping with the setting, as it is stone and cedar wood. In the garage I spotted four motorbikes and a 1968 Camaro. One of Matt’s project cars. Two motorcross bikes and two Harleys’ of an older era. The absolute star of the show was Matt’s pride and joy, a 1977 Harley Davidson, customised to give it the appearance of being from an even older era. Matt’s priority was for sleek lines and perfect paintwork and he certainly has achieved that in this bike. It is a thing of beauty. Cheryl told me stories of the many long journeys they travelled on this bike when they were together first. It is possible to bolt on a seat over the back mudguard on the bike but it must have been hell to travel on for any distance. In recent years even Matt accepts that this bike is not for long distance hikes and both he and Cheryl agree, they need a modern tourer to get back into the bike adventures they used to have before house, mortgage, responsibility and their much loved girls entered the frame. I was glad to have met Matt again and to be introduced to his beautiful family. I was also glad to head upstairs and sleep. I was looking forward to the next few days. A trip to Boston to experience the city and a trip MOMs motorcycles in Foxboro also, to see the bike I would have for the road trip to Laconia.