Laconia Bike Week – more formally, the 93rd Laconia Motorcycle Week – comes to a climax this weekend, and in New Hampshire the annual event opens the summer tourism season. Even where we live, more than an hour away, you can hear it in the air, especially if your windows are open at night. Let’s call it a buzz. Everybody who can wants to be out on the road with the wind in their hair – New Hampshire is, after all, one state that does not require helmets be worn by either the driver or the passenger. Some wags do, however, suggest the state motto should be changed slightly, to Live Free and Die. A bit of risk does have its attraction.
Always scheduled to end on Father’s Day each year, the legendary name Laconia lands somewhere between Daytona, Florida, and Sturgis, South Dakota, both on the map and on the calendar of avid motorcyclists. The Weirs Beach landing in the small city of Laconia is the centerpiece of the gathering, promptly teaming with black-clad riders and vendors of all sorts. Since local schools are usually making up for days that were closed for snowy weather, families don’t arrive for vacation any earlier than the Fourth of July anyway, and any earlier than mid-June, the weather can be a tad too cold or wet for other folks. So the thousands of bikers who show up are a welcome boost to the hospitality industry, not just in the mountainous Lakes Region but across the state as they seek meals, entertainment, and lodging in the midst of roaming the wooded landscape.
It wasn’t always so. Before motorcycles became respectable, fights and even riots could break out. I’ve heard plenty of stories.
Now, however, things have mellowed out to the point many of the activities are labeled family-friendly. A majority of the iron horses seem to carry two, one clutching the one proudly clutching the handlebars. That, in itself, may have a calming influence. And then there are others who simply want to show off their impeccably polished machines. We were passed on the highway this morning by a small trailer carrying two such Harleys from New Jersey. The owners obviously weren’t going to subject them to the long road itself.
Unlike many of the names in the region, Laconia is not one given by the Native peoples. Rather, it’s originally a city in Greece. That might not be the only reason for the New Hampshire city’s name, though. In 1629, a partnership called the Laconia Company organized to prepare much of colonial New Hampshire for development; while I’m finding much of that history hard to follow, it does appear that one of the partners soon became a pirate. Really. I’m sure you can find many pirate flags and images at Weirs Beach this week, so maybe there’s an underlying connection. Who knows?
For those who do ride into the Granite State, a reminder: when you’re on your way home, be sure to pull over and put your helmets on before you cross the state line. It’s a safe bet the Massachusetts troopers will be waiting for those who don’t.
Let summer begin.