Visiting the 93rd Laconia Bike Week.

We finally get to Laconia Bike Week and begin to explore.

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Cruising down the Boulevard at Weirs Beach.

Our accommodation for our visit to Laconia Bike Week was at Ossipee Lake which is a popular holiday area. The land surrounding the lake is home to many cottages, cabins, and lake houses, some of which can be rented for holidays. The cottage we were staying at was a beauty and owned by a friend of Matt’s family. DSC04482The family have rented the same cottage for many years and the whole family spend weeks or months there every year. The cottage is about 150 yards from the lake front and there is a beautiful beach and launching area for their pontoon boat from which they swim and fish. The owner, Frank has become a close family friend, and he was more than happy to have us visit for a few days. DSC04665We went for something to eat in Conway and as it was cooler, dark and raining lightly when we rode back up to the cottage, I was glad of the heated grips on the bike and while I had been critical of the amount of heat coming off the right side of the bike, I was glad of it now. The light rain was no match for the massive fairing and it was great to have the chance to give Matt a ribbing about my hands being too hot until I got the setting just right on the heated grips. After a good night’s sleep it was great to sit out on the deck the following morning, and look over lake Ossipee and plan the day ahead. A trip to Weirs Beach was a must, but there is so much more to see in this area that it was hard to know what to prioritise. Matt said, quite correctly, that a trip to Rosie’s had to be our first priority. In America, breakfast is an institution, but when you’re in New Hampshire for Bike Week, Rosie’s is the epitome of that institution. The restaurant is on White Mountain Highway and when we arrived there we parked beside the many other bikes, and some trucks in the parking lot. The booths were full and mainly the occupants were bikers, as well as some local regulars.  Rosie’s is famous for pancakes and Matt ordered one. One? I had never witnessed him order just one before. I soon understood why a man, who is a multiple pancake consumer, would order only one pancake in a restaurant where he professes them to be amongst the best he has ever eaten. This offering was big. Really big. A size or two bigger than the dinner plate it was served on and probably an inch thick.

Weirs Beach, Laconia is the place to be during Bike Week. When I say the place to be, read: the place to be seen. The Weirs is a large sandy beach on the south shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, with a boardwalk and a wide boulevard that is taken over every year by vendors and arcades for the summer visitors. During bike week the boulevard is host to thousands of bikers. A one way system is in place to allow parking on both sides, and the centre, for the huge number of bikes. The biggest difficulty is just finding a spot to park your bike. We cruised down to the Weirs and started our search for parking. A few hundred feet down I spotted a gap, and Matt found one a little further down, and we carefully backed our bikes in. The space for the Lincoln Town Car, the massive Harley I was riding, was just abouDSC04554t big enough, and after a few moments I successfully navigated the back wheel to the footpath. No tug boats or barges were required in this manoeuvre. Jackets, helmets gloves and the kitchen sink disappeared into the cavernous top box and we were ready to wander around. The vendor stalls and larger stores are mainly stocked with clothing and biker stuff. Tee-shirts, leathers, luggage and general bike equipment are the staples. The best part of the visit was the chance to view the fantastic customised bikes and I was delighted with the quality and variety of what was on view on the boulevard. Of course we checked out all the merchandise that the vendors had on display and I got a few Laconia Bike Week 2016 Tee-shirts and Matt got a really nice shirt for himself, and Tee-shirts as presents for some of his biker buddies back home. The hours rolled by and before we knew it, it was time to head back to the cottage. We stopped at the Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant. Hart’s started as a small family farm business in the 1940s, delivering chickens, eggs and turkeys in a small truck. In 1954 they opened a family restaurant that grew into a successful business even after they stopped raising their own turkeys. It is now a 500 seat restaurant, and a catering business, about five miles from Weirs Beach. It is well worth a visit and the food we were served was very tasty and there was plenty of it.

It had started raining hard just as we reached Hart’s restaurant and it was dark and blustery. When we set off back to the cottage the rain had lightened but it was still very windy. I really appreciated the protection I had on Electra Glide. I had put on my rain jacket for this trip but I need not have bothered. The rain didn’t seem to come in contact with the jacket and my boots and trousers were not affected at all. Visibility had remained relatively good because the screen on the fairing mostly prevents the rain from obscuring the view through your helmet visor or glasses. So it was time to plan the next day which we talked about for a while and then we turned in for the night after I took a quick walk down to the water’s edge of Lake Ossipee to enjoy the view.

Look back on Laconia Bike Week, 2.

93rd Laconia Bike week. A tour of Boston. Then pick up my bike at MOMs in Foxboro and drive up to Ossipee Lake near Laconia.

Boston and the ride up to New Hampshire.

Last year I visited my friend Matt who lives near Boston so we could travel up to Laconia Bike Week in New Hampshire. Matt and Cheryl invited me to a tour of Boston before we set off on our motorcycle trip to Laconia, and I was happy to see a few of the sights and attractions. We visited Faneuil Hall and the Quincy Market area which is a busy down-town historic indoor market that is particularly well known for food. I sampled a lobster roll from Ned Devine’s Irish pub which is at the back entrance to the market which was great.  We did the Charles River by Duck Boat, which are derived from World War 2 amphibious landing vehicles. The tour is very popular, mainly because the “conDUCKtors” that drive and pilot these vehicles, or vessels, give a comic running commentary while they point out the interesting attractions in the city. Our guy was Canadian, known as Tim Burr (as in when somebody shouts: TIIMMBEER, when felling a tree), and his gag is that he fell into the Charles River and floated down from Canada to Boston where someone on a DUCK boat pulled him out of the water, and he has been working the DUCK boats ever since. The boats are a great additional perspective from which to see the city.

It was time to take a look at the bike I was taking up to Laconia. I was highly impressed when I got to MOMS Motorcycles in Foxboro. This is a Polaris dealer through and through, and the first thing that impresses you is that there is a lot going on here. The parking lot is full of motorcyclesharley1, cars and people. As you walk into the shop you see new Indian motorcycles. A new Roadmaster with what I think is the most impressive paint job on the market was right next to the door. MOMS Foxboro are Eagle Rider agents, and I soon discovered that my bike that was held for me was the last bike available. The bike was a full dress Harley Davidson Electra Glide (FLHTK) from 2013 with a 103 cubic inch engine (1670cc), in an attractive black and silver livery. It weighed in at 857 lbs (398 kgs) which is massive compared to what I am used to. This model has ABS, cruise control, a smart security system, an attractive two-tone paint scheme, the tour-pack and a luggage rack,  and heated hand grips. I was looking forward to getting out on the road and seeing how I and this big girl were going to get along.

Matt and I set off on our road-trip to Laconia. It’s a couple of hours trip on I-95 or I-495 up to The White Mountain Range where I-93 becomes the most important highway. I have to admit that I was a little worried about how I would get on riding the Harley. I had tried Harleys a couple of years ago and while friends had told me about how comfortable these big cruisers are, I had had a different experience. I had found it hard to get comfortable riding cruiser-style bikes but it didn’t take long for me to realise that I was going to have no problem on this trip. Matt stopped after a short time in a gas station and I was grateful that I wasn’t the first one to start bemoaning the onset of old age, arthritis, and old injuries. Furthermore, I discovered that the older Harley that Matt was riding, a Heritage Softail, didn’t have a sixth gear and didn’t have electronic ignition so we were going to have very regular refuelling stops / rests. Matt’s bike only had soft bags and the Electra Glide I was riding had the full tour pack with hard cases and a massive top box.

Matt and I were born the same year, long before 6th gears, electronic ignition, World Wide Web or mobile/cell phones were known to the world. So to apportion all the responsibility for sore hips and backs on the bikes would be unfair.  At least we could laugh about our age and injury related issues, which we did quite regularly on the trip. When we got back on the Interstate I concentrated on getting comfortable and getting used to this big girl. It takes a bit of getting used to a bike that heavy and even when you are getting it upright from the side-stand you really feel it. The front of the bike seemed to carry a lot of the weight and that’s no surprise when you take into consideration what’s going on up there. There is a very large fairing which shelters the rider and a massive amount of equipment. There is a radio and large speakers housed in the fairing and lots of clocks and a considerable amount of chrome. It wasn’t long before I started referring to it as the Lincoln Town Car because of it’s size and weight.

On one of our stops for fuel Matt announced that he would like to visit a property belonging to a friend of his that was being renovated. We turned off up mountain roads and started searching for some familiar landmarks so Matt could navigate to the house. Straight up steep inclines with high trees on both sides with the finest switchbacks, hairpins, loose surface and subsidence known to man. Matt is an avid motocross man and if we had the motocross bikes I had seen in his garage this would be a great place to motorcycle. Let me tell you it was worth it. Matt’s friend’s property was on a high crest with a view to die for. In the middle of the White Mountain Range, there was a mountain peak in every direction you looked. The extension on the house was three stories, with picture windows facing in every direction, and a mountain to look at from each one. Over the next few days I hecropped 1ard about so many mountains that I can’t remember for sure which mountains I was looking at from the house. Mount Washington for sure, but there were many more. This whole area is known for it’s views and famous worldwide for fabulous scenery and the mountains and mountain highways and lakes. These are what make New England synonymous with Autumn beauty and winter holidays as well as summer visitors. It’s a backpacker, snowboarder and skier’s paradise in the winter and the summer visitors include mountaineers, hikers, water sports enthusiasts as well as a huge influx of motorcyclists for Laconia Bike Week. It was late evening when we reached the shores of Ossipee Lake and the gorgeous cottage we were going to stay in while visiting Laconia.

 

 

Summer is Coming…

A look back on a fantastic bike trip to Laconia Bike Week 2016.

Laconia Bike Week in New Hampshire.

This year my big bike trip will involve taking the ferry from Ireland to Cherbourg in France and travelling through France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Austria. Nothing is set in stone and I generally don’t book accommodation until the day I need it so I can ramble wherever I fancy. I have to admit though, I am thinking back to the great trip I had to Laconia Bike Week in 2016. I won’t be there this year for the 94th bike week. Last year 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. 2016 was theDSC04774 93rd year of this iconic festival of biking. It’s the oldest national motorcycle rally in the U.S.  It began when a group of less than 200 motorcycling enthusiasts toured the lake and mountain region in New Hampshire in 1916. It has evolved over time into an institution of motorcycling that attracts hundreds of thousands every year. I booked the flight to Boston and 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 near Gillette stadium in Foxborough, home of the New England Patriots. It was Thursday night and every second Thursday night there is a “cruise night”, organised by Mass Cruisers atPatriot Place Car Show Patriot Place, a shopping Mall, adjacent to the stadium. Wow! Thousands of 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.

When we arrived at the family home, I met Matt’s wife 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 made of stone and cedar wood. In the garage there were 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 to have 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. Both Matt and Cheryl agree that they need a modern tourer to get back into the bike adventures they used to have before house, mortgage, responsiDSC04746bility 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 to MOMs Motorcycles in Foxboro also, to see the bike I would have for the road trip to Laconia.

Surprised by Spring.

Spring has come but I am not able to get out on my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure.

Spring is here and the temperature is up, but…

It’s spring here in Ireland all of a sudden. You’re wondering why I am so surprised. Well, the seasons here only barely tip their hat at the date or time of the year. You can get full blown winter in June and fabulous sunshine in December. In this instance though, all the signs are there. Blue skies and lambs sunning themselves in the green fields. Ah, Spring is in the air and it’s bloody useless to me. I had surgery last week and I have to take it easy. No lifting or straining for a while. So that means no rambles on the motorcycle. My nearest and dearest don’t go for my argument that the motorcycle does all the work and I just sit there. The arguments are “you’ll burst the stitches and have to go through it all again”. Wouldn’t  you agree it’s so unfair to apply logic in an argument. How can I counter it? In the meantime the Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000cc that I bought from AMI in Gorey, for my own adventures is lying idle in the basement. No adventure motorcycling for me at the moment.

Sunshine and warmth on your back when you go outside. Normally it is what I am really looking forward to. I don’t allow winter to stop my biking but good weather is a pleasure. Today is warm, but not as warm as the weather station on the counter in our kitchen would have you believe. It’s not 35 degrees Celsius, even inside, but rather the warm sunlight is streaming in on the counter warming it up to give that high reading. It’s showing a 15 degrees Celsius outside temperature, and I would say that is fairly bang on, judging by the comfortable and relaxed demeanour of the lambs and their mums in my neighbour Bob’s field, as you can see in the photo. So, just as I am sitting here at the kitchen table, writing my post and contemplating my woes, I hear the distinctive sound of a Milwaukee V-twin burbling towards me on the road outside. I catch a glimpse of a beautiful sky blue Harley cruising by on our little road. “Little road” because there can’t be much more than a dozen houses up here on our hill. It can only be my neighbour who only just traded up to a black and red Harley last year, with this year’s new model, taking advantage of the nice sunshine today. Insult to injury comes to mind. Not that I begrudge him his new bike. Best of luck with it. Just that some of us are in here writing posts when we should be out riding…

So Suzie is just sitting in the basement, apparently oblivious to the arrival of SONY DSCSpring and doesn’t appear to be upset at all. And there was I thinking Suzie and I were going to be natural allies in this debate. Sitting there nonchalantly as if nothing was wrong. I even opened the basement door so the sun would warm her up a little. Nothing. No reaction what so ever. Just sitting there benignly as if there wasn’t a care in the world. I am just going to have to suck it up, I’m afraid and wait until I get the chance to go on fresh rambles in the near future. I have already set the wheels in motion in relation to planning a very big ramble that involves a ferry from Rosslare in the South-east corner of Ireland, and quite a few border crossings. Mostly the best kind. The ones with no customs posts or passport controls. There will be mountain roads and local roads and as much as is possible, little in the way of motorway or highway riding. More about that in future posts though. For now I have to content myself in scheming and crafting a plan to get out on the road with Suzie before Spring descends, in good old-fashioned Irish weather form, into dismal winter weather again. You know, the kind that might even last a whole day…

Suzie Stars in Dancing On Ice.

A scoot to Kilkenny, icy blast to Mount Leinster and a run to a bike show in Dublin before a date with a man with a scalpel.

About to suffer an absence from biking, I got out on the V-Strom in spite of very wet and cold weather.

I had a date with a scalpel wielding medic yesterday so, knowing there was going to be a period that I would not be able to take Suzie, my Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure out to play, I took the opportunity to get out last week. My first destination on Thursday was  Gorey Business Park in Wexford, the South East of Ireland, to the guys in AMI (Adventure Motorcycles of Ireland). David had a few spare tickets for customers for the Carole Nash Motorbike and Scooter Show, in the RDS (Royal Dublin Society) Showgrounds, starting the next day, Friday. He kindly gave me my ticket and I had a coffee and a browse through the motorcycles on offer in the AMI shop, and as usual there were many fabulous examples to ogle.  After a chat with Derek, the Patriarch of the Ryanhart motorcycle dynasty, I headed off again on Suzie to Kilkenny.

One of my favourite short rides is to Kilkenny and a quick visit to Sullivan’s brewery Tap-rooom. I wrote about it in an earlier post about medieval Kilkenny (http://wp.me/p7IHqF-K2)sullivans and my feelings on their beer have been vindicated. There is a medal hanging on the beer taps indicating that the experts at the recent beer judging in the Alltech Dublin Craft Brews and Food Fair event, rated it very highly too. I ran into Ian, their Master Brewer while I was parking the V-Strom in the car-park at the rear of the premises. He is also an avid motorcyclist and we swapped a few war stories on our biking adventures abroad before I went in to order my pint of Sullivan’s Maltings Red Ale and Tikka Chicken Pizza. A pint and a pizza for 12 euros is good value in my book and the chef busied himself with their own wood-fired pizza oven making me a gorgeous crispy based offering. Ellen the bartender was kind enough to advise me to move Suzie into the covered area that is the walkway into the Tap-room to prevent it getting too wet. Which I gladly did because the rain was now teeming down. I had a  browse in their excellent wine and liquor shop at 15  John Street, before heading out on Suzie in the rain again.

A quick scoot to Borris, a small town in the general direction of home and I made the decisionninestones to go over Mount Leinster which had a little snow on it when I looked out my front door in the morning but I didn’t think that was going to be a problem. The rain was coming in heavy intermittent bursts but it wasn’t really an issue either. I made it up to the Nine Stones which is the viewing area at the bottom of the road to the Mount Leinster TV Transmitter mast or antenna, and took a snap with my phone showing a wet and misty County Carlow. I noticed that the gate to the TV mast road was open, which it almost never is, but knowing that the road is really only for RTE TV (national television broadcaster) personnel I wouldn’t be going up there. After all, it’s probably not allowed. And anyway there could still be ice and snow and the usual gale force wind so it would be dangerous up there. So, of course I set off up the road to the mast knowing there were a couple of places I could turn so as not to get to the icy, snowy and blowy bit. Which I duly ignored and got the full dancing on iceblast of the icy gale-force wind I was expecting when I rounded the last bend before the mast compound. Even so, it was hard to battle the wind, but at this stage you are totally committed, no turning back, with a nice covering of ice on the very steep narrow road and snow on the banks. The wind kind of picked me up and deposited me in the middle of the compound, wheels and boots sliding gracefully along in our version of “Dancing on Ice”. I think the judges would have been impressed. I was swiftly reminded why the RTE four-wheel drive vehicles have a little shelter built there to protect them from the large lumps of ice that fall off the mast and could easily damage a vehicle. It’s not a pleasant feeling thumping off a helmet either. I killed the motor briefly, and hanging on to the bike with my knees, I managed to retrieve my phone for another quick snap before the old adage: “discretion is the better part of valour” kicked in and I got out of there, rather gingerly.

The next day, Friday saw me heading off in nasty sideways rain. Real rain. If you get straight down rainDSC05578 in Ireland it’s not considered real rain. Straight down rain brings the comment “it’s a grand soft day” instead of a hard day with proper sideways rain. Straight down rain is kind of summer rain, but don’t let that fool you because summer is a moveable feast in Ireland that doesn’t follow any real seasonal occurrences or dates. I rode up to the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin for the Carole Nash Motorbike and Scooter show and luckily found a nice sheltered place to get the bike out of the nasty weather. The show itself was excellent. The AMI & Overlanders, Touratech Stand was one of the highlights and their customised black Africa Twin was a sight to behold. It’s theirs for the year for tours and demo rides and I hope I am back fully fit in time to get a jaunt on it before it goes on a holiday abroad. I am not sure DSC05599how to give you an idea of the scale of this event because it was way bigger than I imagined it was going to be. All the major manufacturers of bikes and suppliers of clothing and protective gear as well as many other organisations were present. There were lots of exhibitions too, custom bikes, vintage bikes and the myriad prizes, cups and medals, as well as the leathers of a certain Mr. Joey Dunlop. A Northern Ireland motorcycle legend, Joey Dunlop was voted the second greatest motorcycle icon ever by Motorcycle News, and many would argue should be considered number one. DSC05666Some living legends were called to the stage in the Main Hall and gave interesting accounts of their racing experiences too. Of course there was food and drink stands and at times when the rain eased off a little it was possible to go outside and see the stunt riders performing their skills in a fenced off paddock. I imagine it is more usual to see four legged steeds being lead around there because the RDS is most famous for equestrian events. I could have stayed ogling the bike beauties for days. All the best adventure bikes from Honda, Yamaha and many more as well as fabulous cruisers from Indian and BMW. Ducati, Yamaha, Harley, Suzuki, Triumph, Husqavarna, Royal Enfield and many more were also showing their fabulous wares. As well as the beautiful vintage Indian in the featured image, the modern “behemoth” Indian Roadmaster was spectacular, but all the manufacturers did themselves proud. Kudos to Carole Nash for a fine spectacle. And that was only Friday with two more days to go in what had to have been a brilliant weekend for all the motorcycle enthusiasts who attended over the weekend.

I met Colin, an old school friend, also a big bike fan, and we nattered away for about an hour and then it was time to gear up and head back out into the heavy traffic and sideways rain. It was a rotten dark, wet evening heading down the M11 on Suzie but it was worth it.  Now lying convalescing in my sick bed (read: being spoiled rotten with beverages and tasty bits) I know I will again be suffering some withdrawal symptoms (http://wp.me/p7IHqF-ST) and worse than the last time, because this time I have a bike in the basement but am just not allowed to use it for a few weeks, or maybe a week, or maybe… We’ll see.