Cruise on in for Bike Week
For most people, spring starts with the peepers’ evening serenade and the daffodils’ splash of early color. Yard work begins, we change the clocks, windows open and the sounds of the season surround us. The birds playfully speak their mating call. The neighbor’s lawnmower calls out with its meditative hum. Best of all, the road warrior down the street jump-starts his Harley from a long winter nap. Here, spring is motorcycle season. First, it might be a simple backfire or two, but then the full effect of the baffle-less beast rocks your serenity, as well as your dog, china cabinet and every living thing in your cul-de-sac. There is no definitive date that starts the motorcycle season, but Laconia’s Bike Week is generally accepted as the Super Bowl for New Hampshire motorcyclists. For the non-riding citizens, Bike Week is an annual nuisance akin to the marathon for Boston residents. However, even the most conservative and starchy New Englanders have a curiosity about it. We’ve all heard the stories of mass arrests and mayhem. Each eager new governor gets ready to call out the militia to save the state’s citizens from the biker wars that are always rumored but never take place. Today’s biker is more likely to be a banker than a felon. The motorcycling demographic is 46 years old, $85,000 annual household income, 60 percent are married and 50 percent hold white-collar jobs. With the late Boomer generation being the bulk of the motorcycle market, the new biker is more apt to order an Ultra than a shot of bourbon. Nobody should deny themselves a peek at Laconia’s Bike Week. If you lived in Nevada, would you never visit Vegas? It would be sacrilege. Would you deny yourself a stop at Graceland if you lived in Tennessee? So I am giving you a personal invitation to join us. There is no tattoo required. You don’t need to dress in leathers or own a motorcycle. I’ll even let you forgo shaving your head and growing a goatee. Just come as you are. Enjoy the sites, the cold beer and, at least for one day, you can live like you’re an Easyrider. Read on... Intimidated? You don’t have to be. Here’s a step-by-step plan for total immersion. STEP ONE “The Annual Hillclimb” June 14 in Gilford, Gunstock Ski Area This event is fun, down and dirty. Two hundred professional and amateur riders rip up a 70-meter ski jump landing hill. It’s loud and has all the elements of danger that brings people to motorcycling. There’s excitement, crashes and cool bikes. All for $15. Gates open at 8 a.m. The good news is coolers smaller than 14 inches are allowed, but no glass bottles, so leave the chardonnay at home. STEP TWO “The Ride to the Sky” June 15 in Pinkham Notch, Mount Washington This is a good way to get a filtered taste of Bike Week in a small dose. The historic Mt. Washington Auto Road is reserved for motorcycles only on this day. The base of the mountain is loaded with vendors with all the swag you can drag. There’s also a cookout by the Mt. Washington Valley Harley owners group, H.O.G. This event is perfect for the toe-dipper, so bring the kids. STEP THREE “The Strip: Weirs Beach” June 10-June 18 in Laconia This is Hollywood, baby. The constant parade of motorcycles is endless, going up and down the boulevard that runs through Weirs. Every inch of the street is covered in chrome and Harley black. In the course of the week there can be up to 500,000 visitors, making it the second largest motorcycle venue in the country. There are hundreds of vendors selling everything from handcuffs to motorcycle rally T-shirts. At the south end of the strip in the drive-in movie theater, there is the Coors beer tent. I.D. is mandatory and, like the sign says, “No Weapons Allowed.” There are no cars allowed at Weirs during Bike Week, but there are some good ways to get there without joining an outlaw biker gang: Easy Walks on the Wild Side: Weirs 101 If you want to take the plunge but avoid traffic, the Winnipesaukee Railroad is an easy ride into the action. You can pick up the train in Meredith and take the short run to Weirs. The train runs at hour intervals so it’s also easy to make your escape. The M/S Mt. Washington is the famous sightseeing boat that takes thousands for scenic cruises around historic Winnipesaukee. You can jump on in Wolfeboro, enjoy the cruise and be dropped right into the show at Weirs Beach. Just be aware that the ship stops only three times during the day, so relax and enjoy yourself. That’s really what motorcycle week is about. Phil Englehardt is the owner of Honeybee Donuts in Seabrook and author of the Motorcycleman series. His second installment, “Voodoo Moon,” will be out this summer. Englehardt is also the founder of The Ride, a national tour of Harley dealers, heading out this June from the Weirs to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters.