With hundreds of motorcycle vendors at Tour Expo and the roar of Canada Street, it is easy to think of Americade as a “motorcycle-mall” or a seven day parade. While there is truth in these generalizations -- and reason enough to love Americade -- Americade is more.
This year, I had three days at Americade and my goal was put the “tour” back into America’s largest motorcycle touring rally.
Located in the southern third of the Adirondack Park, Lake George is close to some of the best motorcycle riding in the Northeast. The area is vast -- the Adirondack Park is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States; full of history – the Park is a National Historic Landmark; and beautiful, with quiet lakes, rivers and mountain vistas. If you go to Americade and see only Canada Street or the Interstate highway you have missed why Americade was located in Lake George to begin with.
Each year Americade assembles a series of guided and self-guided tours through the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains. This year, you could choose from six guided tours and five self-guided mini-tours. As if that wasn’t enough, all Americade attendees got a Road Runner magazine tour map with five more recommend rides.
The guided tours are for those who like their fun well organized. They are best enjoyed with a CB radio so you can hear the tour guide’s commentary. The group is broken into small waves that have staggered departure times. Each wave proceeds in formation at the posted speed limit.
Guided tours are not my style, so I opted for a self-guided mini-tour for my first day of riding and sampled the Road Runner recommendations for my second day.
Self-guided Mini-Tour: Olympic Park
The self-guided tours are the perfect combination of freedom and group. Americade provides easy to follow, turn-by-turn directions with mileage. There is no set departure time and you ride at your own pace. There is a catered lunch with drawings and prizes, giving you the opportunity to hang with other riders at lunch. After lunch, you return to Lake George at your own pace, enjoying the freedom and space of the place.
View of Lake Durant from Route 28 Rest area
I choose the 200+ mile, Olympic Experience tour sponsored by the Rider’s of Kawasaki (ROK). The lunch stop was at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex in Lake Placid. The complex is used as a training facility and was the site of the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympic ski jumps. There are 90 and 120 meter launch ramps at the complex and three freestyle ski jump practice ramps.
The ride to the Olympic complex combines mountain, lake and forest scenery with fast sweeping corners and fun twisty bits. The pavement is good with few potholes or patches and plenty of smooth tarmac. The speed limit is mostly 55 mph, but not overly tight or technical, allowing me keep a fun quasi-legal pace that is engaging and leaves plenty of head space for touring.
Arriving at lunch at the bottom of the ski jumps, I was awed by their size. This is clearly a case where the scale of reality does not translate to television. The jumps rise like office towers at the top of a black diamond pitch ski slope. I smile with anticipation when the Americade rep promises a post-lunch ski jump demonstration.
The catered BBQ lunch was a choice of meat – brisket, pulled pork, chicken or ribs – coleslaw, potato salad, fresh green garden salad, lemonade and a cookie for dessert.
After enjoying my lunch, I watched the athletes jump from the 90 meter jump onto a special grass-like, plastic carpet (road rash anyone?). The jumpers launch themselves at 60-miles per hour off the 20 foot high lip at the jump’s end and sail into the air as the ground drops away beneath them. The jumpers were graceful in the air, sailing on a cushion of air, landing in a Telemark stance.
The 120-meter ski jump
Skier jumps from the 90-meter jump
The mini-tour included a pass to ride the elevator to the top of the 120 meter platform and see the jumper’s view from the launch ramp. Watching the jumpers from below is majestic, but seeing the jumper’s point of view from the top of the ramp heightens your respect for their sport.
The jumper's eye view
On a clear day, the launch platform provides views of the Adirondacks, Vermont and Canada. As I peered down the ramp at the landing strip below, I wasn’t tempted to give it a try: I’ll stick to sports that keep me on the ground, thank-you!
Raquette Lake Tour
For my second day of riding, I choose the Raquette Lake Tour from the Road Runner tour map. Unlike the self-guided mini-tours, the Road Runner tours are completely on your own. The map provides key information, like suggested gas and lunch stops, attractions and vista locations. There is no time table and you’re free to ride and explore at your own pace. Road Runner also provides a GPS download of the route from their web site, so following along is easy.
Raquette Lake, NY
The tour had me riding into the mountains, past Gore Mountain ski area, along the banks of the upper Hudson River, through tall pines and flat water lakes. The sky was mostly overcast and sometimes misty, adding to the drama of the place. This is a mountain tour.
Raquette Lake, NY - looking west
My destination for the day was the Great Camp Sagamore, a 27 building Vaderbilt family retreat on Lake Sagamore in Raquette Lake, NY. The buildings were built during the late 1800’s and are now a National Historic Landmark.
You can tour the property and buildings May 24th to June 14th on weekends only, or daily between 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., from June 21 st to Labor Day. Since the tour wasn’t running, I walked around the empty grounds, thinking about the days when this was a vacation get away for the super-rich.
Returning to the road, I take NY-30 to 28-N, past Long Lake. The road is smooth and fresh, making an easy, pleasant ride to Lake George.
Back to Lake George
Riding back into town after 200 miles on the road I’m ready share the ride with my people -- motorcycle people – because they understand my smile. Walking down Canada Street and through Tour Expo, I look at the bikes and talk to other riders. This is why Americade has flourished for over 30 years: it is a special thing to find others who share your passion, the love of the road and the adventures that it holds. Is there a better way to end a day’s ride than talking motorcycles with new friends? I don’t think so.
Rider on NY-28N