LAKE GEORGE, N.Y., JUNE 1-8–The trip from Long Island up to the Lake George area started off with warm and sunny skies on the Sunday before the beginning of Americade. However, unsurprisingly, about 30 miles from our destination the skies opened up. Now this was not just one of your everyday common rains, but one that when you opened your luggage… something was wet.
As usual my friends and I took up residence at the Lake George Quality Inn on Canada Street, across from the Americade headquarters. Back in the day we use to rough it in a cabin, but the heated pool, spa, workout room, continental breakfast and the efficient and friendly staff changed that. Christina Ruggiero from Northville, New York, who has been the breakfast hostess there for the past seven years and is from a biker family, said about the bikers staying there, “I love them! They are polite, fun and respectful.”
As Sunday was a washout, we sat on the terrace and watched the “real” bikers arrive riding into town in the rain. After registration on Monday, a trip to Tour Expo down at Million Dollar Beach was in order. I was a little disappointed, as some of the bigger vendors were not represented this year. The nicest part was there were no crowds to contend with, as many Americaders had not yet arrived.
On Tuesday, I visited the Indian demo ride area. I have been told that there are more motorcycle manufacturers that show up and set up demo rides here than at any other event in the United States. Indian Motorcycle unveiled its new Thunder Stoke 111 motor at Daytona Beach earlier this year, and the complete bike is to be unveiled with the new motor at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August. The reason that Sturgis was chosen to unveil the 2014 Indian is that in 1936 the Jackpine Gypsies, a motorcycle club founded by local Indian dealer Pappy Hoel, started the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. While I was at the Indian setup, Mario Tittley from St-Esprit, Quebec, Canada, pulled up on a mint 1940 Indian Chief. The bike had a 1200cc flathead engine that had a design similar to the 111 engine. When I asked him about what he thinks about the return of Indian he said, “Oh boy; I like it.” He also remarked that he met Willie G. once at Daytona who told him that his Indian was the best restoration he ever saw.
I had the opportunity to interview the 2013 Americade Director Christian Dutcher. Christian took over as director this year from his dad, founder Bill Dutcher. I asked him about what was new this year and what his vision is for the future of Americade. He said that this year they added three days to Tour Expo, and that after the numbers and the feedback comes in from the vendors, it will determine the future. A Globe of Death (motorcycles riding inside a metal ball), horseback riding, Party at the Ranch, hot-air balloon rides, and the zip line adventure have returned this year. He said, “It’s always important to remain true to the roots of Americade. It should be about the experience and memories.” When asked about why some of the bigger vendors were not represented at Tour Expo, Christian explained it was economics and the economy. He also noted that, this year, Americade was hosting Deaf Bikers of America.
After speaking to Christian I decided to check out the hot-air balloon ride. I was met by owner/commercial pilot Todd Monahan and today’s pilot/biker Michael Hernandez. It was about 6:30 p.m. when our group of eight arrived at an open field in South Glens Falls, New York. Two of the group were Americaders Kim and Vicky Houle from Watervliet, New York. They had gotten the tickets for the ride from their children last October for their 40th wedding anniversary. Now they were checking off one more thing on their bucket list. After the balloon was set up, loaded and up, up and away, I joined the chase team as we followed and chased the balloon, which at times was over 2,000 feet up. I heard later that a plane flew under them. The balloon floated gently across the farm fields of South Glens Falls for over an hour. Finally, the balloon was set down in a schoolyard. When our chase team arrived at the landing site, I could see local residents helping hold the balloon basket upright. After the balloon was wrapped up and put back in the truck we had the traditional celebration of a champagne toast, which included a little cheese and cracker picnic. Next year, I plan to be onboard!
The next day I joined about 20 Americaders at Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course in Bolton Landing, about a 20-minute ride from Lake George. This the third year that Americade has made this one of their special events, and from what I understand it is getting more popular each year. I noticed that the average age there was well over 50 years old. The zip line, I was told, was about 60 feet above the ground at the highest point. I spoke to Cody Nizolek, one of the Rescue/Instructors. He said that the average age is about 23, but to his surprise not only are most of the Americaders older, but they do well and keep on pushing through the course, sometimes even better than younger people.
One of my favorite stops is the Harley demo rides and this year I took out a 2013 Street Glide… and fell in love with it. Is there one in my future? Harley also has a program called Dare to Compare, where you are given a bike of your choice for the day and Harley even pays for the gas. It has become so popular that next year you may only get a bike for half the day.
At the Tour Expo Center, I met Scott Kolb from Saugerties, New York, who holds the AMA national speed record of 146.368 mph on a 125cc motorcycle at Bonneville Salt Flats. He had the motorcycle on display, and is working on building a new bike to break that record. Scott said he is looking for sponsors. If you are interested, contact him at Scott@Kolbmachine.com for more details.
Bill Dutcher’s wife, Virginia “Gini” Dutcher, told me how much she appreciated the great staff at Americade, as well as the volunteers. Many of the Dutchers’ family members are also involved with helping out at the rally. This is not a rough and tough biker crowd, but a mix of young and old, sportbikers to Can-Ams and everything in between. It is a place where you can bring your family and everyone can enjoy themselves. You might call it the ice cream crowd. Americade is about doing things that you can share with your loved ones or friends, whether it be riding the spectacular roads in the area, a boat ride, rodeo, quiet dinner, seminar, comedy show with biker/comedian Alonzo Bodden and the list goes on and on. From the opening ceremony on Monday night to the closing on Saturday, there is something for everyone.