Ten facts about Laconia Bike Week

For nine days each June, the sound of Harley’s is heard everywhere across the Granite State. The annual Laconia Bike Week schedule ends on Father’s Day, just before the traditional summer vacation season begins.

  1. It’s the oldest rally in the country. It originated in 1916 when hundreds of motorcyclists convened on Weirs Beach in the city of Laconia. It was officially organized in 1923 as an annual event.
  2. A 1965 riot between motorcycle gangs and police cast a pall over the rally. Attendance plummeted.
  3. Civic boosters revived the event’s popularity in the 1990s to enhance tourism revenue.
  4. New Hampshire does not require motorcyclists to wear helmets. The freedom to feel the wind in your hair – or these days, for many, bald head, is a huge attraction as they tool along scenic, winding highways in the state’s mountainous Lakes Region.
  5. Deaths often accompany the rally. There were at least two fatal crashes in 2018.
  6. Weirs Beach on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee is Ground Zero. It’s filled with vendors and jammed with parked bikes during the rally.
  7. It has the third- or fourth-highest attendance (400,000). Sturgis, North Dakota, is first (500,000 to 700,000 in August); Daytona, Florida, is second (450,000 to 550,000 in March); and the Bikes, Blues, and BBQ in Fayetteville, Arkansas, comes in about the same (400,000 in September).
  8. The event brings an estimated $100 million into the state.
  9. The Mount Washington Ride to the Sky is a bikes-only event to the top of the tallest summit in the Northeast. Snow is sometimes part of the attraction.
  10. The crowd is graying – but still mostly male and white.

The Orpheum

Shaping up on Washington Street.

Three blocks southwest from the Cocheco waterfalls, a cluster of dilapidated storefronts have fallen to make room for an imposing five-story mixed-use building. The design makes high-impact use of a somewhat triangular site and, in a deal with the city, a traffic bottleneck on the busy Chestnut-to-Locust streets connection will be eliminated, hopefully lessening congestion on Central Avenue as well.

Named for a small, long-gone movie theater in one of the storefronts it’s replacing, the Orpheum is adjacent to two landmark buildings of similar height. It shifts the center of gravity in the central business district from buildings facing Central Avenue, repositioning the center around the Lower Square intersection with Washington Street. City hall, the post office, public library, community center, and a new parking garage are all within a one-block orbit.

Visually, it’s also filling in the skyline – not one of high-rise towers, but one of some substance.

In contrast to what’s happening in Boston and, I assume, many other urban centers, Dover’s renaissance is small-scale. For me, that’s part of what makes all of this so exciting.

Visually, I like the way it looks like two buildings from some angles while giving a backdrop to lower buildings along Central Avenue when seen from others.

It looks like two buildings from this side. Or, from the rear, like a small courtyard. City hall is to the right.



Third Street

Three blocks northwest from the Cocheco waterfalls, this development is arising on a former narrow, triangular parking lot sitting between active railroad tracks and the downtown.

Having stores on both sides of the street should be more inviting to pedestrians and definitively anchor the north end of the downtown. The two buildings already make the street look more urban rather than fading away to one side.

It also gives the central business district more width than the Central Avenue spine alone. I am curious to see how it will appear fully clothed.

The Amtrak station is a block to the left, just out of sight, across from St. Mary church.

The walkway between the two buildings suggest a narrow European street to me. It does break up what might otherwise feel like a monolithic wall.
The view along Third Street.


Ten facts about American subway systems

The Big Apple isn’t the only North American city to have a subway system. Underground rapid transit is a defining quality for a great metropolis, after all. Here are ten related facts.

  1. A shared dream: Two brothers – Henry Melville Whitney in Boston and William Collins Whitney in Manhattan – vied against each other to create the first public subway system in North America. Boston won in 1897. New York’s opened in 1904. Who says sibling rivalry doesn’t have its place?
  2. Chicago: While the Windy City is known for its “L,” those elevated tracks running in a loop through downtown, Shy-town also has a portion operating underground. That was a late entry, though, opening in 1951.
  3. Washington: Opened in 1976, the spick-and-span Metro has 117 miles of route, six lines, and 91 stations. It’s the third busiest rapid transit system in the country. Just don’t get caught snacking en route to work.
  4. San Francisco: The Bay Area Rapid Transportation system has six lines connecting 112 miles of route and 48 stations. It carries an average of 423,000 riders daily. Opened in stages from 1972, it was hailed for its technological advances. And then for its glitches.
  5. Philadelphia: SEPTA’s modes include about 25 miles of underground route in the center city, mostly as the Broad Street Subway, opened in 1928, and the Market-Frankford Line. As for safety? It’s far less terrifying than those Jersey drivers across the Delaware.
  6. Cincinnati: Abandoned tunnels and stations from the city’s efforts to build an underground rail system haunt the city. Construction halted during World War I and was officially cancelled in 1928 but bonds for the project weren’t paid off until 1966. Some fans say the failure to complete the dream caused Cincy to fall from the front ranks of American cities – traffic congestion remained a big headache until Interstate highways brought some relief.
  7. Montreal: Canada’s busiest system opened in 1966, running on the then innovative rubber tires. Le Metro now has four lines, 68 stations, and 43 miles of routes serving an average of 1.3 million riders daily – third highest in North America.
  8. Toronto: Opened in 1954, the TTC has an average of 915,000 daily riders on its four lines, 48 miles of route, and 75 stations. Its Yonge-University Line has a U-shaped route. Two others run east-west, while the fourth heads north and then turns east.
  9. Mexico City: The second-busiest in North America, with an average 4.6 million riders daily, it opened in 1969 and now has 12 lines and 124 miles of route. It’s likely the most colorful system on the continent.
  10. Los Angeles: Metro Rail, which opened in 1990, has two lines operating fully underground. They run 36 miles and have 22 stations. They carry an average of 153,000 riders daily – a low figure that stymies observers, considering the region’s notoriously jammed freeways. But poor connecting bus service may be part of the problem.

One on each hand

Wendell Berry’s two Muses (Standing by Words – highly recommended – page 204): “There are, it seems, two Muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say, ‘It is yet more difficult than you thought.’ This is the muse of form.

“The first muse is the one mainly listened to in a cheap-energy civilization, in which ‘economic health’ depends on the assumption that everything desirable lies within easy reach of anyone. It is the willingness to hear the second muse that keeps us cheerful in our work. To hear only the first is to live in the bitterness of disappointment.”

Here, a different slant on work from an unabashedly Christian poet and essayist. (North Point Press, San Francisco, 1983.)