Ten Ways to Enjoy Americade
By Walter F. Kern
Don't Worry About the Weather: Americade occurs in the first full week of June. Its location is Lake George, NY in the Adirondack Mountains. That means the weather is totally unpredictable. Just the week before, it rained every day. The week we went, rain was predicted. We had rain on one day at lunch and dinner and both times we were inside. Some of our friends took a day trip to Vermont and had to ride through rain. Some years it's cold. Some years it's hot. You just bring clothes for both conditions and forget about it.
Get a Motel in Town: Americade is spread out in several locations. Canada Street that runs right through Lake George is the place where all riders cruise and park. Of course motels are all over but my recommendation is to get a motel on Canada Street, park your bike, and walk the streets. Walking is faster than the traffic most times. We have a motel near the north end of Canada Street. That way, we can zip out to I87 (the Northway) and head up to Roaring Brook Ranch or bypass the town. We walk to restaurants and ice cream shops.
Meet Other Motorcyclists: Riders are everywhere. They park their bikes on Canada Street and sit on the park benches behind their bikes. Motorcycle conversations occur whenever you open your mouth to another rider and there are plenty of opportunities. Go to the seminars where riders go to hear the experts. Ask questions. Talk to riders on the street about their bikes. If you have an unusual bike, riders will seek you out. Ride a trike as I do and you'll find you get stopped a lot. Got a dog? You get stopped all the time.
Take a Guided Tour: When you register for Americade you can signup for guided tours. These tours start off about 8:00 a.m. and head out for scenic routes that often end up in Vermont. They tend to have a great lunch associated with them too. Don't expect to be back before about 4:30 p.m. and to have covered up to 200 miles. The tour guides are locals very familiar with the routes. There are also self-guided tours where you get a map and you're on your own. Some riders will make up their own tours. To each his own.
Test Ride Motorcycles: Many people ask me where they can test ride a motorcycle. The answer is to go to a major rally like Americade. Almost all the major manufacturers bring a fleet of bikes and offer group test rides that are led by expert riders. Harley-Davidson likes to let you go on your own -- just follow the orange arrows that lead you around the prescribed course. BMW is well known for their long test rides over scenic roads. So get in line early, register, and take as many test rides as you want.
Go to the Seminars: One of the advantages to registering at Americade is being able to attend the many specialized seminars given by leading experts. 50 seminars are typically offered each year. Pete Woodruff holds seminars on Trikes, Trailering, and Co-riders. Carol "Skert" Youorski gives a seminar on Women Who Ride and gives her famous Dropped Bike Demo. There are even featured speakers at night such as Fred Rau. Fred's talks fill the complete seminar area. Learn more about motorcycling -- attend a seminar.
Buy Things: Most rallies have a vendor area. Americade has TourExpo which is a gigantic display of vendors selling almost everything you would ever want for your bike or yourself. Get your bike pinstriped. Buy chrome. Test ride a trike. Buy tires, helmets, raingear, jackets, leather, boots, radios, accessories, trailers, decorative lights, you name it. When you get tired, eat in their huge food court. They even have a second location, The Forum, and a special trolley to carry you back and forth.
Hang Out on Canada Street: Many park their bikes on Canada Street and just hang out talking bikes to anyone who'll listen. The traffic builds throughout the week with the loudest, densest traffic on Saturday night when the town's young people seem to appear in force. The police are usually present to keep things calm but sometimes things get out of hand with a few burnouts and disagreements. It's all very exciting but noisy. I enjoy the scene but others hate it. Often the rescue vehicles appear because of accidents.
Take a Ride Somewhere: The area around Lake George is beautiful. The roads all seem to lead to special lakes and mountains that are even more beautiful. Many riders forego the guided tours and just head out in small groups of two to six to enjoy the ride. I've been on group rides with Motorcycles Forum friends as we headed up to Lake Placid, NY. We even had a member with a GPS but we still managed to get lost -- that's a good thing when you're out riding looking for adventure. So, take one long ride away from town.
Expect to Be Surprised: Sometimes a rally just seems the same as it always has until something unusual happens. So, expect to be surprised. One year, for me, it was the sudden realization that the Orange County Chopper (OCC) cast from the Discovery Channel's American Chopper (now on The Learning Channel), was going to be in the area. This was not an official Americade event. It was thought up by the town fathers of Bolton Landing, a town 10 miles north of Lake George. They felt that they needed to do something to attract some of the 60,000 or so Americaders and get them to spend some money in their town. Turns out that a few emails and a phone call did the trick and the whole cast of Orange County Choppers (OCC) showed up for a 4-day run to meet with their fans and sell a few autographed T-shirts. The Teutuls: Paul Sr, Paul Jr, and Mikey have to choose carefully their visits to rallies to allow them time to build the theme bikes required on their TV show. They skipped Laconia that year and instead did Bolton Landing where they brought 20 of their most popular theme bikes. That's Paul Jr signing my T-shirt in the picture, above.
Another unexpected thing was encountering the wedding on Canada Street. See picture, above. I was just walking along and there it was. The fact that the bride was in a wheelchair made the event even more unexpected.
A third unexpected event was the unruly crowd on Canada Street late on Saturday night. It's hard to know exactly what happened but police appeared to be attacked by a few people unhappy about the prospect of being arrested. Five police cars were soon on the scene and people spilled into the middle of the street. It was soon over and under control but no doubt will be a cause for concern and remedial action for next year's event.