Radio Field Trip: Meeting Bikers and a Puppy During Motorcycle Week in Laconia

Jun 13, 2018

Over 300 bikers line up along Lakeside Avenue in Laconia, ready for a charity ride to support the New Hampshire Humane Society.
Credit Rick Ganley / NHPR

This week on Radio Field Trips, Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley met up with some bikers for Laconia’s annual Motorcycle Week.

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(Editor's note: we highly recommend listening to this story.)

It’s a gorgeous, spring day, mid-60s, and sunshine. It’s the perfect weather for a motorcycle ride.

I’m walking along Lakeside Avenue near the shore of Weirs Beach and it’s lined with hundreds of bikes.

I clearly stand out among these riders. I’m wearing my typical New Hampshire dad uniform – a plaid shirt and jeans. Most everyone else is dressed head to toe in black leather.

They’re here to take part in the world’s oldest motorcycle rally, which first began in 1923.

Charlie St. Clair is the executive director of bike week.

“We have a lot of pride with people in this area that know that when they go around the country, when they say oh I’m from Laconia, New Hampshire, people immediately go oh, that’s where the big motorcycle rally is,” Charlie says.

This year marks its 95th anniversary, and he says the turnout has been great so far.

“Obviously in New Hampshire we’ve got a great, great riding capabilities.” Charlie says. “We’ve got a beautiful state, and we’ve got longevity. So people are excited about the fact that this is the 95th anniversary.”

Over three hundred motorcycles are gathered, ready to go on one of the many coordinated rides scheduled for this week.

The ride begins here in Weirs Beach and ends at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where the motorcycles will take a lap around the track.

“It’s no easy feat to get this many motorcycles from A to B safely, without interfering with traffic too much and things like that,” Charlie says.

With a police escort in the lead, the bikes take off – a few at a time until they form a long motorcade.

This is the Mae West Memorial Ride, not in honor of the Mae West, the 1930s film star, but in memoriam of Charlie’s cat Mae West who he adopted from the New Hampshire Humane Society. All the proceeds from this ride will go toward funding programs for the pet rescue organization.

“This event has just got bigger, and bigger and bigger every year,” Mary Lee said. “I think we’re 30-40 percent more riders this year than the year before, and it just keeps turning over to more and more.”

She says this event has raised over $40 thousand dollars so far.

Riders J.P. Kerkeslager and Jenienne Arnault brought their puppy – a Maltese-Yorkie mix – on the ride with them.

“We call him Clutch,” J.P. says. “Chupacabra’s his nickname because he’s very naughty.”

J.P. and Jenienne traveled with Clutch all the way from New Jersey for bike week.

“I love New England,” J.P. says. “The ocean, the scenery, the people. It’s a great place. The roads are fun. You’ve got the windy roads in the mountains. It’s definitely a joy if you ride.”

Jenienne says once they found out about the charity ride for the Humane Society, they knew they had to take the puppy with them. Clutch is in good spirits and it looks like he had a great ride.

“He’s ready to go, ready for more,” J.P. says.