I had travelled up to Laconia Bike Week in New Hampshire with my friend Matt. I wasn’t able to stay for the full week because of other commitments at home. We headed back down the Interstate towards Blackstone, where Matt lived about an hour out of Boston. There was so much we hadn’t got to do up at Laconia. So many essential activities that are a traditional part of Bike Week that I suppose I should have been disappointed. Bike Week wasn’t popular with locals for many years, due in part to a riot by motorcycle gangs in 1965. Because of the problems caused by trouble at the rally, it gradually declined to a three day event. It was revived with the help and support of local business exploiting it’s potential to attract large numbers of visitors to the area. Bike Week is actually nine days long now, and is organised around the traditional bike racing and hill climbing events. Guess what? We never even managed to get to one of these events. I am not disappointed though, because I will go back for another visit and when I do, there will be plenty of new events to experience as well as re-visiting the sites and sights I have already seen.
Matt couldn’t resist stopping to take a closer look of a 60s’ Chevrolet Camaro that we had seen displayed on a grassy bank overlooking the road. We had passed it a number of times and I knew we would eventually stop to see it and enquire into the terms of sale. It looked really great and I was glad Matt wanted to see it up close. The owner confirmed it was for sale and was more than happy to show us the car, and tell us all we needed to know about it. It turned out to have a few features that made it less desirable. It had only six cylinders instead of eight, and didn’t have the right kind of roof, as I understood, so apparently we weren’t going to be looking for transport back to Blackstone for a new purchase. We continued on our journey South towards Boston.
At a rest stop, where we were resting our weary old arthritic bones in the shade, on a particularly hot day, I noticed the driver of an articulated lorry or semi-trailer truck, visiting the drivers of the other trucks. I had seen him trying to make some repairs on the trailer so he was obviously in some difficulty. He was returning to his truck, unsuccessful in his mission it seemed, when as an afterthought, he came over to us, sitting in the shade close to our bikes. His air suspension had sprung a leak and as a result, his trailer was dragging a bit. Did we have any duct tape? Matt rummaged in the saddle bags on his Harley and while he did I asked the driver about himself. Adam was from Poland, and he and his family moved over 12 years before to Chicago, and he was driving big rigs out of Illinois since then. Matt had a roll of duct tape and was glad to help out. We saddled up and headed back out on the highway, leaving the duct tape with Adam.
I reflected on the trip that was so close to coming to an end as we rode the rest of the journey to MOMMS motorbikes in Foxboro. I was really glad I had made the decision to come over to the U.S. to meet Matt and his family and take the trip up to Laconia Bike Week. This year, 2016, is the 93rd bike week and I intend to attend at least a few more between now and the 100th anniversary. Maybe the one to be at will be the 100th anniversary bike week, and that’s fine by me. There are too many highlights of the trip to dwell on, but the most significant one was meeting and enjoying the hospitality of Matt, his beautiful wife and daughters. I hope we can repay the hospitality when they visit Ireland. Warmth and friendliness was a common theme throughout the whole visit. Everyone we met on the trip was so friendly and just a note to demonstrate that: on one occasion that we pulled over to enjoy the view of the White Mountains I had parked the Lincoln Town Car in a depression of the ground on a hill. Matt said he would give me a hand to push it backwards out of the depression (as I couldn’t go forward because of a big rock just in front of the front wheel). As he was just about to push, a guy stopped his truck, jumped out, and asked were we in trouble and did we need help. He was probably a biker as that is “the biker code”, but he may have been just a random passer-by. Either way it is indicative of the easy, friendly and helpful attitude we met as a constant on this trip.
After returning The Lincoln Town Car to MOMMS Motorbikes in Foxboro I had one more opportunity to admire Matt’s pride and joy, a beauty of a vintage Harley, and then it was time to pack for the journey to Logan Airport in Boston for the flight back to Ireland. Having been surprisingly abstemious during the whole trip, there was time to blow the froth off a few cold ones before the call to board came, and then off back to the old sod. I wonder did the guy that coined the phrase “the old sod” actually mean “the old sog”, because of course it was teaming down rain in Dublin, and that is never a surprise. At home I was trying to give “Herself” an account of the trip but she had other things on her mind. She was too busy thinking about her impending holiday in Northern Spain. She was going on a walking holiday with her two friends, Camino (Spanish for Kevin) and Santiago (Spanish for Seamus). They intended to go for long walks in the lovely hills in Northern Spain. Yeah right. If I declared my intention to go travelling anywhere with my two” bestie” female biker buddies it would go down like the proverbial lead balloon. And anyway, who do you think you are kidding? Everyone knows that Santander is a bank, not a place. Walk 800 kilometres? Yeah right. Public transport hasn’t made it’s way to Spain yet? Whatever about public transport, motorcycles have been there since at least the fifties. How do I know that? She brought back a picture of a motorbike hanging in a Café in Colunga, Asturias, Northern Spain. A Moto Guzzi Hispania (circa 1953). So I am not fooled. Nobody has to walk that far, even in Spain. Next year, she and I will do Northern Spain, French Way, Northern Way and Portuguese Way and anyway she would like, but the proper way: on a motorcycle. Kevin and Seamus can find their own way around. I think a ramble around Spain would be just the ticket, and we won’t even have to carry a rucksack or worry about “Pedamed” for our feet either.
So, just a final word about The Lincoln Town Car. The Lincoln Town Car was the Harley I hired. The bike was a full dress Electra Glide from 2013 with a 103 cubic inch engine (1670cc), in an attractive black and silver livery, with the full tour pack, weighing in at 857 lbs (398 kgs) which is massive. Initially, I had thought it was just a beast, with weather and wind protection being it’s saving grace. As I became accustomed to this bike I have to admit it really grew on me. I really enjoyed throwing it into the twisties and loved the way it soaked up bad road conditions without a murmur of complaint. Compared to Matt’s older Heritage Softail, it was much easier to start in the mornings, positively frugal with fuel, and laden down with creature comforts and incredible passenger accommodation. I know the arguments in favour of a sporty Japanese or a sophisticated BMW for example, but this bike is not aimed at that market. Harley seem to intentionally made it an experience that is reminiscent of an older era. Harley have been a successful marque for many, many decades. It would appear that they know their demographic intimately. If it’s power and comfort, and engineering ingenuity that’s required for their customer base, they appear to have it in spades. They may have lost a little ground to Polaris, with their Indian and Victory brands, but Harley are still the heavyweights in this market.