It was only Tuesday but motorcycles already stretched as far as the eye could see down Lakeside Ave on Weirs Beach.
Banners strung over roadways proclaim ‘Welcome Bikers,’ every restaurant marquee and business billboard in town expresses those same sentiments, and yellow “Look Twice – Save A Life, Motorcycles are Everywhere” signs on the side of just about every road signal that the town of Laconia is embracing the thousands of motorcyclist here for the 87th annual motorcycle week with open arms. It’s refreshing to see. Even the churches have signs that say ‘Welcome Bikers.’
This amicable attitude appears to be extending to attendees as well. According to Laconia Police Chief Mike Moyer, there have been fewer calls and fewer arrests than in 2009, a rally which set lows in both categories. For the most part, the various patch-wearing clubs have been on good behavior. The rally so far has been void of major accidents or motorcycle-related fatalities, a small blessing in its own right considering the thousands of bikes that are on the roads.
The glorious amount of sunshine on Tuesday brought out motorcyclists by the droves. A self-professed Laconia virgin, I was eager to take my first ride down Lakeside Avenue. Pulling out of the Landmark Inn, another Laconia newbie on a BMW sport-tourer asks me where all the vendors are. I act like I know my way around town while telling him to head straight on Union Avenue, then turn left on Lake Street and it will lead you straight to Weirs Beach. Gotta love Google Maps.
We end up riding in together. There’s no mistaking we’re in the right place by the thick crowds that begin to line both sides of the street. ‘Parking’ signs begin to spring up in almost every driveway, $5 for bikes and $20 for cars. Poor cagers are getting bilked. Luckily, I’ve done my research, and I’m wagering I’ll find a free parking spot on the main strip.
A giant blue Weirs Beach neon sign with a big red arrow point the way to my destination. The air is filled with the
sounds of rumbling motorcycles and music. The smell of greasy food from the numerous carnival-style vendors peddling fried dough and cheesesteaks blends with the cacophony of sounds. The Weirs Beach Bridge is closed to cars, another exclusive perk that makes motorcyclists feel welcomed. The first-gear crawl down Lakeside Avenue is incredible. It’s mid-afternoon on a Tuesday and every possible spot you can squeeze a bike in on the street is filled. Besides the normal parking spots on both sides of the street, the middle of the road has been converted into a two-deep parking strip for motorcycles as well. Chrome is reflecting in the midday sun from everywhere. One side of the street is packed with people checking out the vendors that are packed into every inch of storefront on Lakeside and the other side is filled with others who are enjoying a stroll down the boardwalk that runs along Lake Winnipeasaukee. Then there’s the handful that are filtering between the rows of motorcycles admiring the myriads of makes and models. Riding down Lakeside Avenue for the first time is an ethereal experience, comparable to the first time I drove down Main Street in Daytona Beach or Lazelle in Sturgis.
I luck out and find a spot to plant the Dirico Flyer I’m riding into and start pounding pavement. One of the cool things about rallies is that you never know what friends you’re going to bump into. I hadn’t been there but about 30 minutes before I bump into somebody from my home state of Oregon, Solomon Harris, the president of Cutting Edge Illusions out of Eugene. The guys can work magic with powdercoating and paint. I’ve got the tank, fenders, headlight housing, and covers off our Honda Fury project bike waiting to go up to Cutting Edge for a custom paint job, a priority as soon as I get back. We talk shop a bit before I’m back on the beaten path.
Heading over to the Laconia Roadhouse to check out the action over there, I run into my new buddy Dave ‘Letterfly’ Knoderer. ‘Letterfly’ is an incredible pinstriper and artist I met in New Orleans during its Bike Week. He and I hit it off well and we actually ran a little article Dave submitted about his career on our site. He’s a regular that travels around spreading his talent to many tanks and fenders across the country, so it was good to see him again.
At the Lobster Pound inside the Laconia Roadhouse area, they’re holding a Biker Build-Off between six custom bike shops from throughout New England. They’ve got eight days to complete a ground-up build for a crack at winning the grand prize, $5000 cash. It’s winner-take-all in a competition that will be decided by ‘People’s Choice.’ For the complete low-down on the event, check out the Builders Battle for Bucks at Laconia Roadhouse article we posted yesterday.
A crowd gathering in front of the Tower Hill Tavern makes me curious to see find out what’s going on. Turns out a little brunette girl in hot pants and a bikini top who works at the Tavern has come outside and is trying to learn the fine art of kickstarting on a patron’s motorcycle parked out in front. I’m sure her skimpy outfit was the first attraction for most of the hounds hanging around, but her attempts to get the bike started turned fairly comedic. She couldn’t weigh a nickel over a 100 lbs, and her frail body could barely push the pedal down, let alone conjure the force needed to turn the engine over. Finally, a burly girl who had been watching in the wings stepped up to show her how it was done, drawing a round of ovation from the crowd. Gotta love a rally for some free, mindless sideshow entertainment.
After working most of the morning Wednesday, I needed to release a little pent up energy so I took a ride over to the Broken Spoke Saloon to check out what Jay Allen and the crew had going on there. The band onstage was doing a wonderful rendition of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ when I arrived, an appropriate song for the follies at the Spoke. I met Jay not long after walking through the gates and asked how things were going. He was upbeat and said everything was about par, with the sunshine on Tuesday bringing out a good crowd but the greyer skies of Wednesday cutting into biz a bit. Friday night he’s expecting to blow it out with the band Warrant taking the stage. Saturday we got an invite to
participate in a Broken Spoke tribute ride that Jay will head up along with custom bike builders Dave Perewitz and Wink Eller, who are holding an interactive Bike Build-Off all week at the Spoke. We talked a bit about how fun Bike Week New Orleans was and I told him how much my wife and I enjoyed the Plantation Poker Run.
The Broken Spoke never fails expectations. I spent time checking out the exhibit of Michael Lichter photos and original artwork by industry people like custom builder Paul Cox, who not only builds incredible bikes, but is a master leather craftsman and is talented with a paint brush as well. The band ran through renditions of classics from Bad Co. and Ted Nugent, but the highlight had to be when Broken Spoke bartender Cristi got up on stage and convinced them to play her favorite Stevie Nicks song. The lead vocalist breaks out in this high-pitched, girly voice as he does his best cover of Nicks’ song, stating he’d only do it for her. It actually didn’t sound bad.
I break out of the Spoke just
after 10 hoping to catch the fireworks show at Weirs Beach. I’m running a few minutes late, but the beach is only minutes away, and when I get there, I’m looking at the sky expecting to see the rocket’s red glare but all I see is the purple of night. I’m still on the bike wondering what’s up when I get my answer a couple of minutes later when the first drops hit my visor. I quickly find out that my new AGV Sport Pella perforated leather jacket isn’t waterproof. I lose the race to the rain back to the hotel, but there’s no chill in the air and the deluge is actually a bit refreshing. I squish, squish, squish back to my hotel room to get a little shut-eye already anxious to find out what the next day will have in store.