In 1983, Bill Dutcher decided to throw a little party. He organized a motorcycle rally in Lake George, New York, and called it Aspencade East. It was hosted by a local ranch/resort, and a modest vendor area was set up at the Glens Falls Civic Center, 10 miles away. And no one was more surprised than Bill when more than 2,000 riders showed up.
By 1986, the rally was forging its own identity apart from the original Aspencade. The vendor area, now in Lake George Village, was dubbed TourExpo, and on a suggestion from Bill’s wife, Gini, the event’s name was changed to Americade to reflect its multibrand, multipurpose appeal. That year, nearly 10,000 rode to attend Bill’s party.
Today, tens of thousands of motorcyclists descend on the Adirondacks the first week of each June to take part in The World’s Largest Touring Rally. No matter the brand of bike, no matter the riding style, no matter the preferred destination, touring riders from all over the Northeast make the annual pilgrimage to Lake George, and 2012’s 30th anniversary edition was a celebration of the diversity and camaraderie that have made Americade the third largest motorcycle rally in America, behind Sturgis and Daytona Bike Week.
This year’s event, held June 4-9, was marred only by unpredictable weather. Real riders know better; they check the forecast, and then ride anyway. Showers came and went, but most people did not mind — the hardiest among them were throwing the term “liquid sunshine” around like a beach ball at a barbecue — and conditions improved as the week went on. Americaders found silver linings in temperatures that hovered in the 70s, unlike the heat and humidity that usually blanket the area in summer. Early in the week, the vendor area at the indoor Lake George Forum was crammed (rain suit vendors cleaned up nicely), but by Friday, most of the precipitation had blown through, just as a majority of the attendees were blowing into town. The shopping crowds moved outdoors to Million Dollar Beach, and all weekend long, the whole of Adirondack Park was a biker’s playground. Even though the turnout wasn’t as robust as the organizers would have liked for the event’s pearl anniversary, by most accounts this year’s Americade was another slam dunk.
“The weatherman was probably our worst enemy, the actual weather, not so much,” said Christian Dutcher, Bill’s son and right-hand man. “Most of our major events escaped the rain, but the dire forecasts likely kept some folks home.”
No one stayed home from RoadBike’s sponsored events! Our Indian Lake Unguided Mini-Tour drew about 125 riders over four days. The twisty route offered tantalizing lakeside views of Luzerne and Sacandaga, and then ran north into the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, where lunch was provided by The Inn at Speculator. Door prizes, in the form of subscriptions, T-shirts, and coffee mugs, were awarded to randomly chosen winners, and the out-of-this-world maple meatballs were devoured at a pace that would’ve made American Iron’s Joe Knezevic blanch.
But, alas, Big Joe would not get to experience those mouthwatering meatballs, as he was too busy stumping at the RoadBike/American Iron Magazine/Motorcycle Baggers booth at the Lake George Forum. Staff from the TAM Communications family rotated in and out of the booth all week long; in addition to me and Joe, Steve Lita, Tricia Szulewski, Tyler Greenblatt, Matt Kopec, Joe Russo, and Terry O’Brien all took turns pressing the flesh. It seemed we shook a thousand hands. Dozens of Americaders signed up for magazine subscriptions, both corporeal and digital, and were rewarded with a spin of our Awesome Prize Wheel of Fantastic Fortune. We handed out tons of swag, including Küryakyn farkles, Royal Riding gift certificates, a couple of gallons’ worth of S100, a Killington Classic grand prize package (more on that in the sidebar), and much more. And no one landed on Bankrupt!
Our resident rideologist, Dr. Lee Kessler, hosted a well-received seminar, discussing the science of motorcycling with dozens of Americaders, and AIM’s safety guru, Don Gomo, talked about touring safety. King Gomo is the reigning king of Americade, and this year no one knocked him off the throne. (They actually don’t even do that contest anymore, so Gomo may get to retire as champion.)
On Saturday, the last official day of Americade, the annual bike parade made its way down Route 9 to the RoadBike-sponsored Party at the Ranch, which took place at Wild West Ranch just south of town. Fresh-faced, tie-dyed reps from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream were on hand to scoop out free ice cream, Bill and Gini Dutcher personally handed out door prizes worth thousands of dollars, RoadBike contributor Fred Rau was spotted in the crowd, and all the while Miller’s Barbecue & Catering of Esperance, New York, served up slow-cooked, finger-lickin’ ribs and chicken to the masses. The ghost town décor only added to the flavor. Attendees also enjoyed other fun stuff, like a trials stunt show, hot air balloon rides, and a lively paintball shooting gallery.
All in all, Americade 30 was a resounding success; if you missed it because of a wonky weatherman, remember: real riders know better! Here’s to another 30 years. —Jon Langston