A mecca of sorts for motorcycle touring believers, the Americade in Lake George, NY, draws riders from throughout the U.S. and Canada to make this epic journey each June. For six days, heaven on two-wheels ensues, as countless tours, demo rides, vendors, and camaraderie fill the Adirondack Park. Ken Engelman, my riding partner, and I arrive in Lake George a week early to greedily claim these roads for our own.
Ken’s riding experience has been limited to regular day trips from his home in Connecticut, so he’s eager to begin his first tour. The excitement runs high for me, too, for even with thousands of miles and countless travels under my belt, riding with someone new can be exhilarating – especially someone as highly enthusiastic as Ken. And Ken has much to be enthusiastic about, with his 100th Anniversary Edition Road King® Classic, loaded with cool accessories. I’m aboard an Electra Glide® Ultra Limited, which I’ve dubbed The Mother Lode, since it’s one of the most comfortable motorcycles I’ve ever ridden. An optional backrest and lower windscreen are the only accessories I need on this ultra-sofa. Our iron ponies for this tour complement the roads of the Adirondacks perfectly.
This trip has special significance for me, not just because of two highly motivated riders on capable machines, but also because of the location. The Americade is one of my favorite annual events, and for the past seven years, I’ve made my pilgrimage to this holiest of holy motorcycling places. The Adirondacks have always been dear to me, as they resemble Austria, where I grew up. The trees, the plethora of lakes, and the empty roads all remind me of that long-ago home. I just have to imagine taller mountains that reach well above the tree line in the background. All the elements of a successful tour are in place.
Lake George - Saranac Lake - Whiteface Mountain
It’s 7 a.m. and we’re fully packed and geared up for today’s ride. Ken and I wave the Nassau Motel good-bye and head into Lake George in search of breakfast. The only place open this early is From Bagels to Burgers, so a bagel and coffee it is. On 9N we ditch the lake for the mountains, and take a left on Diamond Point Road, the day’s first gem. The road ascends steeply with the lake disappearing in my rear view mirror. The road surface on Highway 9 becomes less than acceptable, so we’re glad to take a shortcut onto White Schoolhouse Road, which offers much better conditions. 28N isn’t in great shape either, but as soon as we turn right on Blue Ridge Road, the world looks a whole lot different: newly surfaced pavement, zero traffic, no shortage of curves, and the best views of the surrounding Adirondacks.
For the first time, we sample what this grand region has to offer. The Adirondack Park is approximately 6.1 million acres – the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States. It’s greater in size than Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and the Great Smokies National Parks combined! New York state owns 2.3 million acres, all of which are a constitutionally protected forest preserve. We see every shade of green imaginable. Dark blue sky and dense forest is everywhere. It’s a sensory explosion. We pull to the side of the road, remove our helmets, and wander around to take in the sights, the sounds, the scents. The sounds of traffic and a busy city are replaced by the rustling of the trees. Birds chirp away and the smell of the pines fills the air. The silence is only broken by Ken’s ongoing need to share.
Absolutely thrilled, Ken talks nonstop like a waterfall about his observations so far… and it’s only been an hour. But that’s what motorcycle travel is all about – exploring backroads, meeting new people, and taking your time. There’s just no need to hurry. For the first time, Ken discovers that motorcycle touring is easy. Just take a bag, fill it with the bare necessities, strap it to your trusted steed, and go. It’s that simple. Leave the complications and clutter behind to make room for all the impressions you’ll collect along the way. It’s a beautiful thing.
Back on Highway 9, then 73, the first sign for Lake Placid appears. As we near the major tourism area, traffic picks up considerably. At Green Point Foods in Keene Valley, we stop for coffee and a light snack, which we enjoy while watching the wind tickle a field of grass across the way.
It’s not long before we see the two ski jump ramps that indicate our arrival in Lake Placid, two-time site of the Winter Olympic Games—once in 1932 and then again in 1980. The latter games are best remembered, perhaps, for what was dubbed the Miracle on Ice, when the U.S. men’s hockey team beat the Soviets 4-3. The U.S. won the gold, which further strained tensions already heightened by the Cold War. We pass the ice rink and my memories awaken. In the summer of 2001, I attended an ice hockey camp while my parents explored the surrounding area on their motorcycles (see Adirondack National Park, Fall ’01 issue). Before we make our last stretch to Saranac Lake, we grab a late lunch just outside of town.
It doesn’t take long to find the Adirondack Motel, our accommodations for the night. We spend the rest of the day sitting by the lake fishing and talking to Fred, the motel’s owner. Fred was a RoadRUNNER subscriber for many years before giving up motorcycling. He still recalls fond memories of riding in the nearby mountains, and he persuades us to visit Whiteface Mountain. Although not originally on our route, sometimes the best places are discovered through improvisation. We plan to visit in the morning and be the first ones to reach the top of the mountain.