The forecast looked dismal. Tropical Storm Andrea was pummeling the East Coast and I was headed right into the eye of the storm. Waiting for my flight out of San Francisco, I read the news and saw a story about a plane getting struck by lightning and making an emergency landing in Newark. The same airport I’d be landing at in about seven hours. Then I
When we saw the giant question mark, we knew we were at the right place. We made a pit stop on the 2013 Victory Cross Country 15th Anniversary Limited Edition while making our way to Laconia to visit our friend Bobby at Indian Larry Motorcycles.
was going to jump on a motorcycle for the ride up to Laconia.
At least I brought rain gear.
A bumpy red eye flight meant I landed in Newark with little sleep. But I was in luck. The storm had drenched the area the day and night before, standing puddles everywhere testament to the heavy rains, but the storm had passed while I was flying east and the roads were already drying out. Groggy but happy that at least I wouldn’t have to battle a tropical storm on a motorcycle, soon I was on a shuttle to Lebanon to see the guys over at Rollin’ Fast
Rollin’ Fast is a Victory
and Polaris dealer in Lebanon that also sells Royal Enfields. Just as the shuttle was dropping me off, owner John Costa came out the side door. I had gotten there before the shop opened so we headed down the street for a hearty breakfast and some good ol’ Jersey hospitality. Tried my first slice of pork roll for breakfast, a regional standard, and the breakfast and banter was just the tonic for jet lag and sleep deprivation.
John and Greg from Rollin’ Fast had the mac daddy of all rides prepped and waiting for me, a 2013 15th Anniversary Victory Cross Country Tour
Limited Edition. It’s a strikingly handsome motorcycle, Antares Red and Black with gold trim, special chrome trim and guards, heated seats and grips, satellite radio, and, best of all, the most storage space of any stock motorcycle out there. After riding a standard Cross Country Tour around Sturgis last year, I was already well versed on how well this motorcycle handles the curvy stuff. Considering I’d be living off the back of this bike for the next nine days, I was pleased to have a ride that pampers riders with its combination of comfort and class-leading storage.
Before heading to New Hampshire though, I charted a course for the city to visit my buddy Bobby Seeger at Indian Larry Motorcycles
. I’d never been to the shop in Brooklyn before and, since I came in a day earlier than expected, took advantage of the opportunity to see my friend. I also had never ridden a motorcycle in the Big Apple, something I had always wanted to do.
I have to confess. Heading toward the city, seeing the spire of the Freedom Tower above the skyline struck an emotional chord. Last time I visited NYC, it was still in the developmental stage, and to see it now pointing toward the heavens in all its 1776-feet of glory put a lump in my throat. It stands as a symbol of the strength and resiliency of not only New Yorkers, but Bostonians too, and Americans as a whole. Made me proud to be an American riding an American-made machine.
Doc Batsleer and friends pose for a picture at the USCRA vintage motorcycle races held at the 2013 Laconia Motorcycle Rally. Doc said he was going to send a copy of the photo to Ed Kretz, Jr.
We kicked off Laconia Motorcycle Week 2013 with a trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway to take in some vintage motorcycle racing action.
The moment was short-lived though as it didn’t take long to get lessons in New York road etiquette. First off, New York City roads are brutal. It goes beyond potholes. Chunks of asphalt are missing in some areas, and the wheel-swallowing ruts on the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge were an ominous sight. Made me glad the guys at Rollin’ Fast had the suspension on the Cross Country Tour dialed in for me because the big tourer was a champ on the rough streets of the city as I rolled over everything no worse for wear.
I quickly learned that if you give a New Yorker an inch, they’ll take a mile. Leave a crack between you and the vehicle in front of you and drivers here will merge on you in a heartbeat. Turn signals are an accessory on cars that seldom get used. Between dodging pedestrians, taxi drivers and buses in Soho, I felt like I was in a video game. Luckily, I like video games.
The toll roads around every corner were slaying me. Twelve bucks to ride a motorcycle through the Holland Tunnel! They’re momentum killers because every time it feels like I’m just getting rolling, I’d have to stop, balance an 800-pound motorcycle between my legs while standing up to fish a few more dollars out of my pocket. Before I was done, it cost me $20 to escape New York because I didn’t know the routes to circumvent the fees. At least people behind me weren’t on their horns like they were in New Orleans when I had to dig in my pockets to pay the bridge fee. Makes me appreciate the free access of the West Coast roads I call home even more.
Brooklyn was a bustle of activity, a steady stream of humanity shuffling through the streets. Sidewalk cafes were filled mid-afternoon and music competed with a street prophet armed with a microphone for auditory rights. Before long the red brick building with the larger-than-life question mark on its façade came into view and I knew I was in the right place.
A visit to Indian Larry Motorcycles’ showroom was like stepping into sacred ground. The privilege to see motorcycles made by his hands and to inspect the creativity behind bikes like "Chain of Mystery" up-close-and-personal instead of on the pages of a book was like feeding an addiction. Bobby was kind enough to give me a tour of the shop as Sebastian busily grinded on a tank, John the Painter welded clean beads and Dave serviced a bike on a lift. Seeger showed me a roller with the classic twisted downtube paired with an S&S Knuckle and a Baker gearbox they’ve got in the works for Buckcherry’s guitarist. Better yet, he said next time I’m in town he would let me help twist up a downtube. Business as usual at Indian Larry Motorcycles, and right now business, apparently, is good.
High-flying fun was to be had at Laconia 2013 courtesy of Haywire Action Sports and their giant leap onto a stunt-man like airbag.
Nothing like some good ol' grilled rally-style grub to sate a hearty appetite.
He then took me over to his wife Elissa’s cool little shop, Genuine Motorworks
, which just celebrated its fourth anniversary. Seeger shared with me how nothing good was going on in that neighborhood until the landscape recently changed in a positive direction. With a bevy of American-made work clothes, boots, belts, and Indian Larry merchandise for sale, Genuine Motorworks offers a cool collection of goods so it’s easy to see how it’s made it to four years despite starting up in the middle of a recession.
As much as I wanted to hang out, I hit the road that evening in order to make my ride shorter the following day. Considering I barely slept the night before on the red-eye flight, I didn’t push it too far but put in enough miles to make the ensuing run to Laconia a bit easier.
The next morning brought gorgeous sunshine and ideal riding conditions. I had put enough distance between the city and myself to get into open roads without tolls every 20 miles as I rolled through the lush greenery of Connecticut. It felt good to be able to open the Victory up, the motorcycle rock-solid stable at 80 mph as I turned up the tunes and made good time on my way to Laconia. The vintage motorcycle races were being held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and I was hoping to catch a few hours of the races. Nothing like watching pieces of history blazing around a track like in their glory days and the smell of burnt oil that goes along with it.
The action put on by the riders of the US Classic Racing Association didn’t disappoint. Honda Singles dueled with restored Triumph and BSA adversaries. But my favorite part of the event was the collection of vintage Indian Motorcycles brought out by Doc Batsleer and his compadres. They ran the gamut, from dressed-out Chiefs with their valanced fenders to old Scouts shod in knobbies looking the same as the day they engaged in wars on flat tracks of yore. I also came bearing a message from Greg Frazier
, as our correspondent and resident world-adventurer had asked me to tell Doc hello for him when he paid a visit to our offices in Oregon last week. When I asked Doc Batsleer if he knew a Dr. Greg Frazier, he replied, “Yep, I taught him everything he knows. He raced Indians for a little while. He even blessed my daughter’s bike.”
Satisfied in the fact that I had done my part in delivering the communique between old friends, I got to hear the history of a classic Chief from another man in Batsleer’s entourage. He said the Indian had been bought by a soldier when he got back from Vietnam. He proceeded to ride it along with a couple of buddies up to Alaska, one of his friends on a Honda, the other on a Harley. According to him, the Honda went through a set of tires, the Indian went through tires and oil, while the Sportster went through every Harley dealership along the way. Da-da-dum. Rim shot, please. And while most of this tale is true, it illustrates that all of these motorcycles have their own remarkable story to tell.
After watching the races for a couple hours, I made the ride into Laconia to check out the action at Weirs Beach. Even though it’s the first weekend of the rally, Lakeside Avenue was packed and I had to look hard to get a parking spot. The sun shone brightly overhead, boats were buzzing around Lake Winnepesaukee, and if it’s any indicator, the 90th
This parrot likes to take motorcycle rides with its owner and was a big hit with Laconia visitors of all ages.
anniversary of the rally is destined to be record-breaking. I made a quick stroll along the avenue before heading over to the Lobster Pound to get a peek at the crews competing in the biker build-off. Five shops are competing for the cash prize this year, many of them taking different approaches to the competition. We’ll provide a list of competitors in another feature article, but teams are making good headway considering they’ve only had a couple of days to work on their builds. Organizers also made a few upgrades to the area where the contest is held, adding a stage and live music, expanding the bar, and Jack Daniels has its rig set up there, too. The atmosphere is much livelier this year which should bring more people in and get more exposure for the hard-working shops in the build-off.
The rally has just begun, but check back for more reports from the scene. Rain is forecast for tonight and into tomorrow, but it wouldn’t be Laconia without at least a shower or two. Did I mention I brought rain gear? Always helps to come prepared.