Riding is ‘way of life’ for Indiana farrier

LACONIA — One of the many motorcycles garnering attention at Weirs Beach yesterday was one owned by Daniel Johnson of Brookville, Indiana, that has a buffalo hide seat, bobcat skull, Native American beads, and other embellishments that identify the places it has been.
Johnson says he soon will have 193,000 miles on the motorcycle, which he has ridden every chance he could in the four years and 11 months he has owned it.
“But that’s nothing,” he said. His previous motorcycle, which he also had for four years and 11 months, had 227,000 miles on it when he was involved in a crash coming out of New Orleans.
Johnson has ridden throughout the United States, including the entire length of Route 66, from Chicago to the Santa Monica pier in California.
“It’s a way of life for me,” he said.
His motorcycle is equipped with everything he needs for long-distance journeys, including a faucet for dispensing water. He has affixed PVC tubes to hold his tools and other items he may need, and he even has a holder for a walking stick.
“It has everything a man needs to survive,” he said.
Johnson said he wears chaps made from deerskin because it is light and waterproof without getting too hot.
But it is the bones, beads, stickers and ornaments on his motorcycle that catch people’s attention wherever he goes, and inspire them to offer their own mementos of each location.
“People from all over the United States — even complete strangers — will invite me into their homes,” Johnson said. “You can’t be out here like I am and treat people badly.”
He said he likes to tell people, “Common courtesy will take you further than money.”
He enjoys letting elderly residents and handicapped children sit on his motorcycle, noting that he always tells the youngsters, “This is what good, honest, hard work will get you.”
A farrier by trade — he is responsible for shoeing and caring for 300 horses — Johnson said he dropped out of high school and joined the Marines, serving from 1973 to 1977. Being in the Marines allowed him to visit three foreign countries when he was 18 years old, he said.
He was injured in the service, and is classified as 40 percent disabled, but that has not stopped him from the difficult trade of a farrier. He said he has been kicked by horses and sustained injuries that included ripping the biceps on his left arm.
Still, his passion is riding, in all locations and in all kinds weather.
He said he has been on a bike since he was 6 and he saved money he earned by baling hay to purchase his first mini-bike at age 12 — a Rupp Roadster that he said he wishes he still had.
He commented on how much he appreciates the beauty of the Lakes Region and the great weather for Motorcycle Week.
He clearly enjoyed the attention his motorcycle was getting, and welcomed opportunities to talk about his journeys.
“Not to detract from any of the beauty of this area,” he said, “but my favorite place to ride is Montana.”

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Daniel Johnson; who has ridden his motorcycle throughout the United States; including the entire length of Route 66; received a lot of attention in The Weirs with his customized 2012 model. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Daniel Johnson, left, speaks with one of the visitors to The Weirs who stopped to admire his motorcycle, decorated with animal skulls, Native American beads, and other mementoes of his journeys around the country. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)

  • Written by Tom Caldwell
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Hillclimb drew 5,340, Gunstock happy with turnout


GILFORD — The return of the Motorcycle Week Hillclimb to Gunstock Mountain Resort's 70-meter ski jump hill proved to a financial boost for the county-owned recreation area.
The event drew 5,340 paid attendees according ti Gregg Goddard, general manager, who said that count doesn't include competitors.
“We probably had 5,600 to 5,700 people here. We were thrilled with the turnout and look for it to grow in the future as people get used to the event coming back here,” said Goddard.
Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, attended the event and said that he was pleased to see the size of the turnout. “This was always one of the premiere Motorcycle Week events and it's nice to see it back at Gunstock.”
He expressed his appreciation to the management of Gunstock, especially Goddard and Marketing Director Mike Roth, as well as the members of the Gunstock Commission, for their decision to resume hosting the event.
The Gunstock Hillclimb was first held in 1946 during Laconia Motorcycle Week and was run at Gunstock until 1962 and again from 1993 until 2011, when Ridge Runner Promotions, which sponsors the event, and management of the resort failed to renew their contract. For the past five years, Ridge Runner Promotions held a competition in the Pro Hill Climb Series at the organization’s site in Canaan.
The event reached the height of its popularity around 2003, when it drew 12,000 spectators, but attendance dropped sharply after it was shifted from the ski jump hill to the Lower Ramrod slope at Gunstock starting in 2007.

  • Written by Roger Amsden
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Cycle Week fans cheer return of Hillclimb

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This driver crests the top of the hill of the hill at Gunstock’s Hill Climb event on Wednesday.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


GILFORD — The return of the Motorcycle  Week Gunstock Hillclimb to its original location at the 70-meter Torger Tokle Memorial Ski Jump hill at Gunstock Mountain Resort was warmly received by those who turned out to witness yesterday’s event.
Several thousand people turned out for the hillclimb and cheered on the daredevil riders who pitted their skills against the steep slope, with some of the loudest cheers going to those who had spectacular failures on their way up the hill.
The Gunstock Hillclimb was first held in 1946 during Laconia Motorcycle Week and was run at Gunstock until 1962 and again from 1993 until 2011, when Ridge Runner Promotions, which sponsors the event, and management of the resort failed to renew their contract. For the past five years, Ridge Runner Promotions held a competition in the Pro Hill Climb Series at the organization’s site in Canaan.
Dennis Vallee of Laconia, who is himself a motorcyclist, marvels at the risk-taking by those riding their bikes up the mountain. “I like watching it, but I wouldn’t do it.”
And he’s glad that it’s back at Gunstock. “It’s back here and I’m coming back here because of that. It’s a lot better than it was up there in Canaan. It belongs here and it’s the best place to watch it.”
Others echoed that sentiment, including Paul Cantin of Peabody, Massachusetts, who said he’s been coming to Motorcycle Week ever since 1982 and has missed taking in the hillclimb for the past five years.
“I came here in 1982 and returned the next year with my own motorcycle and have been here every year since then. But it wasn’t the same without the hillclimb,” said Cantin.
He said that he was celebrating his 55th birthday that day and that hillclimbs are a part of his family’s history. “My grandfather, Bill Rheault, was a hillclimber in the 1920s and ran an Indian motorcycle. It’s a lot of fun to watch,” said Cantin.
Others taking in he hillclimb for the first time included Frank Sura of Malone, New York, who owns three motorcycles, including a Harley-Davidson Street Glide. “It’s a beautiful spot. I love it,” he said.
Also impressed with the beauty of the area and the event itself was Cliff Baker of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who attends the Sturgis Rally every year but has missed out on its hillclimb event.
Baker said that he’ll be staying in the area right through this coming weekend and is glad that he made hist first ever trip to take in Laconia’s Motorcycle Week.
Hillcimbers were equally pleased to see the event return to Gunstock.
Lou Welch of Glastonbury, Connecticut, said that he took part in the hillclimb when it was revived in 1993 and recalled that there were so few riders that “We kept riding the hill all day.”
The hillclimb reached the peak of its popularity about 10 years later and drew as many as 12,000 spectators, But attendance declined after the event was moved from the ski jump hill to the Smith Slope near the Gunstock Base Lodge.
Welch, who now rides in the over-50 category, was riding a Honda CRF 450 which he shares with his son, Kyle, 24, who has been involved in motorcycle racing for 12 years.
Welch’s daughter, 21-year-old Samantha, also races in the 450 class and 200 class, and was having some success at Gunstock.
Welch said the cycle he and his son were riding was set up for Pro Hill Climb competition and was once owned by Ian Loud, a pro competitor.
“I’ve owned it for six years and we’ve done pretty well with it,” said Welch, adding that he and his on had both made their first runs up the hill in 7.1 seconds.
Josh Kobel of Holden, Massachusetts, said he was enthused with his runs on his Kawasaki 450 and Kawasaki 500. “I love this hill. I haven’t been here for 10 years and it’s great.”
Kobel, who is a truck driver for Harvey Building Products, was a champion in 2012 when raced a Yamaha 250 and won 10 of 12 hillclimbing events and placed second in the other two.

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Lou Welch of Connecticut takes off from the boards at Gunstock's Hill Climb event on Wednesday in the over-50 category.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Crowds gathered at the base of the 70-meter jump for Motocycle Week’s Hill Climb at Gunstock on Wednesday.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

  • Written by Roger Amsden
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