Vacation rally lives up to anticipation

By Frederick Freudenberger | Jul 28, 2010

Laconia, N.H. — It was my first vacation as a "working man." This year I decided, after waiting for several years, to make it to the 2010 Laconia Motorcycle Rally in New Hampshire.

After making a list and checking it twice I packed my bike and set out for the two and a half hour ride down to Laconia. There, I planned to have as much fun as I could muster.

For those who don't know, the rally is an annual gathering of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts in New Hampshire. It takes place around the Laconia area, including Weirs Beach, and, according to the organizers, this was the 87th anniversary.

The trip turned out to be just as good of a time as I could have hoped.

First off, I was luckier than a lot of the visitors because a good friend of mine lives in the next town over. Not only was I getting to see a good friend for a few days, I had a space to crash without scouring for vacant motels.

I left on June 15 so I could be there in time for the hill climb at Gunstock the next morning. The ride down to the meet could not have been any better. Lady luck was on my side, as I didn't meet hardly a cloud or any traffic on the way down.

I arrived at Weirs Beach sometime in the afternoon and was excited to see what was going on. I found a place to park my bike, confident it wouldn't get pillaged, and went off.

There were even more bikes there than I ever had thought and it sounded like I was inside a thundercloud at full rage.

Harley's dominated the crowd but over the course of the next few days I saw Triumphs, Honda's, Yamahas, BMWs, Guzzis, and about any other make of bike you could think of. Don't forget all the custom jobs either.

The first day I mostly saw newer Harley-Davidsons but as the festival heated up I came across plenty of older bikes. There were a lot of shovelheads, a few panheads and even some vintage, working knuckleheads as well as older European and Japanese bikes.

My favorite group of bikes was a few from Ohio. I think all of them were no newer than 1982 and I'm pretty sure the owners rode them all the way — I respect that.

I was a little surprised by the amount of t-shirt and souvenir vendors taking the place of what I thought would be parts suppliers, though. However, I let that go and focused on the bikes.

Oh, on a side note: the Hell's Angels sell clothes now.

The people were interesting to say the least. There were the gang types but they were the minority. It was mostly just people who liked bikes.

There were sport bikers, fair-weather riders, experienced motorcyclists, leather junkies, vets, women riders, grease monkeys, wives, spectators, a few carnies, and local teens all out to enjoy the atmosphere.

Eventually, after scouring through throngs of people in the heat on the first day, my friend called me at the end of his workday. It was time to relax.

We went home where I was surprised again. I expected to be sleeping in my tent outside or maybe lucky enough to get a spot on the couch.

Oh no, Nick told me "that's not how we do it."

He showed me to the guest wing of the house. There was a big screen TV room, at least a queen-sized bed in a separate bedroom, and a bathroom with whirlpool tub included.

This was going to be a great vacation.

That night I spent some time with my friend and his folks then went to bed; I needed to rest up for the hill climbs the next day.

I have been a fan of hill climbs ever since I knew they existed. I really enjoy looking at pictures of the old climbs in the 1970s with the racers struggling to make it up the hills in their muddy, vintage machines.

When I got to Gunstock the climbs had just started and the youngsters were racing. It's amazing to watch a child, who probably isn't ready to read the Hardy Boys, riding a miniature motorcycle up a ski hill.

Although there wasn't a vintage racing class I had a great time watching. The bikes were all different sizes and the racers were young, old, male and female. There were a few spills, some close calls, and a lot of a good time.

The following day I went to go test some bikes. Harley-Davidson had a tent set up where you could test ride a number of bikes for free, as many times as you like. Even though I ride one back home, I spent a long, long time testing everything till I got my fill.

I spent the next few days motoring around and checking what else the festival had. I took a look at all the vendors I could, checked out the Harley-Davidson dealer, went to the Broken Spoke Saloon (apparently a big to-do at the festival), and even got my bike pinstriped.

Seeing all the motorcycles in their prime was great. That's what I really took from the festival. People were just there to enjoy the weather and motorcycles just like me.

I got to ride down, see the sights, relax with my buddy, and ride back. I don't know if the week could have gone any better — maybe if I had bought a Hells Angels' shirt.

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