Herself and I decided to fill the saddlebags and head to County Waterford on the Southern Coast of Ireland. Lismore is a beautiful village, some miles inland, and that was the first port of call that we decided on. Take the M9 motorway south from the capital and in less than two hours you will make Waterford City and then take the N25, in the direction of Cork, until you reach the outskirts of Dungarvan. You turn right onto the N72 and after a half an hour you pass through Cappoquin. A few miles (or kilometres) further on, on the N72, you will approach the town of Lismore. As you approach Lismore, the castle comes into view, and it is very impressive. It belonged to the Earls of Desmond and then the Dukes of Devonshire. Famous people associated with the castle include Sir Walter Raleigh; William Cavendish, a British Prime Minister; and, Charles Cavendish (9th Duke) who married Adele Astaire, sister of Fred Astaire. Part of the castle is now open as an art gallery and the castle gardens are also open to the public. But Lismore offers a lot more than the castle, impressive as it may be. It is a very picturesque town and there is an abundance of interesting buildings and a beautiful park to visit. When we arrived we were a little peckish and I remembered a pub / restaurant where I had eaten on a previous occasion that I had rode down on the bike.
We walked up the street to where the pub was. It is called Eamonn’s Place but when we went in, there was just one gentleman at the bar reading his newspaper. He told us that there is a full menu there Monday to Friday only, and not on weekends. This man was possibly Eamonn himself, and a little later when we got food in the Hotel, we noticed quite a crowd eating there, and we wondered if Eamonn might reconsider not doing a full menu at the weekend. As we left I decided to snap a pic of the outside of the pub. Herself jumped into the shot and when you consider she was just wearing her underwear, far be it from her husband not to go ahead and publish the snap. What do you mean underwear? Thermal underwear for the motorcycle and not sports top and leggings like she would say. Now, lingerie (another word for underwear) models are usually on the sunnier side of fifty, and not imminently about to become grandmothers, but if she throws herself in front of a husband, known for publishing images, acquired during motorcycle rambles, well then, I am afraid she has become fair game. I have no doubt that there are thanks due to me for making her a lingerie model, even if she didn’t necessarily see that as her career path…
Just down from Eamonn’s place was an interesting old shop front with a lot of old packaging and products from years gone by. The name over the door was Greehy. The products on display included Aladdin’s Blue flame Heater Wicks and Imp Washing Powder, amongst many more products from an older era. The shop front brought Ireland in the fifties and sixties to mind, though it was well cared for. The old enamel signs displayed on the wall outside the premises for Gold Flake and Coca-Cola gave it the air of authenticity as did the meticulously painted doors and old style windows.
I also spotted a Motto Guzzi from the late seventies parked on the street between Eamonn’s place and Greehy’s shop. It was a Moto Guzzi 850 T3, which I think was a forerunner of the first Moto Guzzi California. This bike might be just a display piece, pushed out on the street everyday. I rather like to think though, that instead, it is somebody’s everyday ride. It was not in perfect condition, but it had that look of a bike that is being used, and cared for, because it is someone’s everyday bike. Maintained is the word. Yes, it is maintained because it is in everyday use. I hope I am right. In any event it was nice to see such a handsome bike there on the street and in fact, every time I have been to Lismore, there always seem to be interesting bikes there to see. On this occasion we also saw a collection of old Kawasaki Z1s and Z900s. I have to admit I have a soft spot for the Z900 in particular. This group of vintage Kawasaki bikes were being lead by a big GS, and they stopped for a little rest in Lismore, for about 20 minutes or so, before getting back on the road, after their break.
I mentioned earlier that Lismore is a beautiful town with bountiful flowers. There is also a great park called Millennium Park. The townspeople obviously put a big effort to have such a great display of flowers. There is a plaque on the park wall indicating it won a European competition for towns and villages in bloom in 2005. The park has a fountain and a waterfall as well as a fantastic wood carving on the trunk of an old tree.
We went to the Lismore House Hotel for food, which was standard fare for pub grub, in the bar. A very nice meal, after which the staff graciously agreed to allow us to leave our jackets and helmets in a secure area, while we wandered around the town for another hour or so. We discussed going on to Ardmore, a lovely seaside and fishing village, about a half an hour from Lismore. Instead we decided to watch the hurling semi-final between the teams from Waterford and Kilkenny, in her sisters house, half way between Waterford City and the seaside resort of Tramore.
If you are looking for a great place to visit, Lismore should definitely be on your list of possible destinations. Good quality motorway, or highway, gets you quickly to within striking distance of the destination, and then the roadways to the town are interesting, picturesque and nicely challenging. You wont be disappointed with the town of Lismore when you get there. Well worth a visit.
Weirs Beach, City of Laconia, Belknap County, New Hampshire, U.S. during Bike Week
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.
How much luggage do you pack for a solo ramble?
Tent, ground mat, sleeping bag on the seat. Clothes (rolled not folded) and toiletries in panniers with shoes. Top box with gas cooker, pans, cooking utensils, towel, map and chain oil in top box. Spare gloves and tools under the seat. What do you pack?
Went for a ramble today. Herself stopped off to do a little shopping. New helmet and gloves. Not the usual kind of fashion she shops for…
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.