Part 5. Trump, Mount Washington and The Kanc.
I was travelling with Matt, a buddy of mine, in the Laconia area of New Hampshire, driving a 2013 Harley Electra Glide. We were visiting to get a flavour of Laconia Bike Week 2016. It is a truly beautiful part of the world. I had known from the outset that this trip was going to have to be cut short because of other commitments back home, but the few days we had up there flew by and it was almost time to set a course back towards Boston. I had hired a Harley Electra Glide at MOMS Motorcycles in Foxboro, and initially I had found it very heavy and unwieldy, especially as we were hitting some seriously challenging roads. Roads that would be really great for enduro or adventure style bikes, but not for the Lincoln Town Car, as I had christened the Harley. I have to acknowledge though that this bike was definitely growing on me. In fact it didn’t put a foot wrong, and even when the conditions became demanding, I was getting a kick out of leaning it into the corners and it behaved absolutely impeccably no matter what I or the roads threw at it. It had great weather protection and even when it rained, hardly a drop got by the big fairing. I am very accustomed to changing weather conditions so rain and wind don’t deter me from completing a motorcycle trip. It is undeniable though that weather imposes additional problems and even danger for the rider. The Harley was totally sure footed and the screen, which is big, totally negated the problem that riders usually face. Reduced visibility in the rain. Normally rain causes helmet visors or goggles / glasses to become very difficult to see through. The big windscreen which sits on top of the fairing worked extremely well for me. Riders who are taller might not have the same protection, but I think a rider would have to be much taller than I am before they would have problems.
During our stay in the area we found the people to be very friendly. This was not just a biker thing because everybody from store assistants to security staff at the event, fellow diners in restaurants, and anybody we interacted with were very friendly and talkative. I noticed a regular topic of conversation was the Trump campaign. I intentionally didn’t say the Presidential Race. The topic was whether Donald Trump was to be supported or opposed. There was almost never a mention of Hilary Clinton. We met a lovely, older couple who had differing views on the matter. We met the woman first in the absence of her husband. She told us how her husband was a big Trump supporter and he had put a Trump banner up at the front of their house. He didn’t even consult her, even though he knew she was no Trump supporter. So, when he was gone to town, she took it down and threw it behind a hedge where he wouldn’t find it. When he replaced it, she did the same again. A little time later we meet her husband and he told us he was a big Trump supporter. Trump was going to clean up America and as soon as he was elected, which was a forgone conclusion. Things would begin to improve and America would be great again. Crime is a big issue and did we know that you can’t even put up a sign or a banner outside your property without some low life coming along and stealing it?
One of the “must do” activities when you are at Laconia Bike Week is to visit Mount Washington and the Mount Washington State Park. It is the highest mountain in the North Eastern U.S. at 6,288 feet (1917 m.) and has a very erratic and dangerous climate. The highest wind speed ever recorded, other than in a cyclone, at 231 mph (372 km/h) makes this a place to be taken seriously if you want to make a bike trip. In fact there is a visitors centre on the way up on the Mount Washington Auto Road and when conditions are bad you are not permitted to go beyond the visitors centre. There are many activities on the mountain every year, gliding, hiking and running as well as a day where the road is closed to all but motorbikes, during Laconia Bike Week. When we arrived up there we were disappointed to learn that the road to the summit was closed. It had snowed about three inches earlier with wind speed recorded at over 100 mph. The snow ploughs were out even though it was June, and it wasn’t going to be possible to ride to the top. We weren’t going to be there on Thursday when the bike ride was taking place. The parking lot would usually be packed at this time but because the road was closed with temperatures at the summit between 15 and 34 Fahrenheit ( -9 to +1 Celsius), taking the wind chill into consideration, and winds too high, there were just a few visitors in the souvenir shop and the restaurant. The Mount Washington Auto Road is just one of the many attractions that will just have to wait until my next visit to Laconia.
Another attraction well worth visiting in the Laconia area is the “Kanc”. The two major highways in the area go North/South and the Kancamagus highway, or Kancamagus Scenic Byway, connects these roads East to West. The Kanc is very popular in the Autumn for “leaf-peeping” tourists that visit to see the beautiful foliage while it’s turning it’s fall or autumn colours. It is open most of the year, except for during really heavy snow, unlike some other roads in the area. It is a 32 mile or 52 km stretch through the White Mountains, connecting the towns of Lincoln and Conway, that is also a favourite with bikers because it is a winding mountain road, that seems to go from one left hand to right hand sweeping bend, interspersed with hairpins and continuous inclines or declines. The views are spectacular with some great viewing points to look out over the beautiful mountainous scenery. It you travel east from Lincoln, you enter the White Mountain National Forest following a branch of the Pemigewasset River, ascending until you reach the summit at Kancamagus Pass where there is a viewing point. Then you start down by the Swift river, all the while enjoying some great riding because of the sweeping bends which sometimes tighten into hairpins. Eventually the terrain begins to flatten until you find yourself on the Main Street in Conway. I cannot emphasis enough how beautiful this whole area is with fantastic viewing points to pull over, rest the weary bodies and enjoy the spectacular forest, mountain and valley views. Quaint small towns, river crossings with covered bridges and many other quintessentially American attractions abound.
Back at Weirs Bridge, after the “Kanc”, we went across the street from the Boulevard to an area know as “The Funspot” or Funspot Family Fun Centre, which was originally a huge gaming arcade with ten-pin bowling, video gaming and pinball machines. During Laconia Bike Week it was filled with vendors and stalls selling biker stuff, clothing and food, as well as an enclosure for many other activities including a big stage for the live music which is an important part of Bike Week. Steven Tyler from Aerosmith was the biggest name on the board for 2016 and for a lot of visitors the live music is the biggest attraction. At the entrance to the enclosure there were security barriers, with security personnel searching everyone going in. A number of police officers were close-by keeping an eye on proceedings. As I was in the queue to be searched, a young guy in front of me muttered something about his knife, and when he wasn’t willing to hand it over, he was refused entry. He, and his bemused looking female companion, had to turn around and walk away. The highlight for me was Keith Sayers freestyle motocross show. There was a nice crowd of people watching the show of top class motorbike aerial acrobatics, where Keith Sayers with Todd Potter and James Carter wowed the crowd, jumping from very steep ramps and doing amazing somersaults and other aerobatics. The show started off with one bike in the air, and culminated with all three bikes spinning through the air at the same time. At the end of the show the guys came and spoke to the audience and I noticed Matt having a long conversation with James Carter. Matt and his family are big fans and Carter regularly comes to speak to them after the performance. Before we left we had a look at the fantastic custom bikes at the Infocus Mobile Audio Stand and let me tell you they were so impressive. These custom bikes have massive speakers built in behind the fairing and in the side boxes. The sound systems are integrated so seamlessly that they enhance the appearance of the bikes.