Motorcycles and their riders basked in the sun on Lakeside Avenue on Tuesday. Temperatures hit the high 90s on the third day of a heat wave. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
Harley Owners Group is leading 36 rides this year
By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — With a Ladies Ride today and the Ride to the Sky tomorrow, Winnipesaukee HOG Chapter 2529 is making sure its membership has plenty of choices for fun activities.
In fact, the local Harley Owners Group this year will offer the largest number of rides ever — 36 this season — as a way of keeping its members engaged.
Ronald Egalka, who took over as chapter director this year, said his group has 210 members and regularly sees 50 of them attending their monthly meetings. Fifty to 60 riders will participate in the big rides, and the Ride to the Sky during Motorcycle Week will likely attract some 200 riders interested in making the trip up the Mount Washington Auto Road.
The Winnipesaukee group is one of the oldest HOG chapters in the nation, dating back to 1986, a year after the establishment of the first owners’ group. Like any club, it has seen its ups and downs, Egalka said, but with vital support from its sponsor, Laconia Harley-Davidson, the club has remained strong and this year is more involved than ever in Laconia Motorcycle Week.
In addition to staffing a hospitality desk at the dealership, the Winnipesaukee Chapter is assisting Harley-Davidson Motor Company with its demo rides at The Weirs and at the daily cocktail party for Harley owners at the Broken Spoke Saloon. Members also are assisting at Rally Headquarters, providing information and answering questions.
“We’re mobilizing our entire membership for Motorcycle Week,” Egalka said.
Ladies of Harley Officer Cindy Lou Gray is leading today’s Ladies Ride — which Egalka noted is not limited to women, and he will be accompanying the group as a road captain.
He explained that leaders and road captains are responsible for the dynamics of the long rides, making sure that the route is clear and the ride is safe. They work with local police departments to arrange for escorts or to have routes shut down while they pass through, and prior to every ride, a road captain does a pre-ride to make sure there is no road construction or other impediment that would cause problems.
“When someone signs up, they can rest assured that it’ll be safe, on good roads, with appropriate breaks for food and fuel and rest,” Egalka said.
Keeping the group together is very important, he said, explaining that, while those in automobiles may find it inconvenient to have to wait 10 minutes for a procession of motorcycles to pass by, entering and exiting from the group could cause an accident.
Typically, there will be four to five road captains on a ride, but tomorrow’s Ride to the Sky will require a dozen road captains to ensure the safety of everyone.
Earlier this week, the Winnipesaukee Chapter led a ride to Bentley’s Saloon in Arundel, Maine. Later this summer, the group will participate in Heather’s Ride, a fundraiser for the Boston Children’s Hospital.
“We as a chapter have always supported Heather’s Ride, from its first year,” Egalka said. “It’s always been the favorite charity ride for this chapter.”
Former Winnipesaukee Chapter director Carl Harris organizes Heather’s Ride with his wife, Barb, who is editor of the club newsletter, and historian C.J. Harris.
In addition to the rides, the chapter will be holding its Spring Fling on Saturday with a 7 p.m. pig roast at the Gunstock Inn. There will be food and entertainment by a Las Vegas comedian, Egalka said.
The club also supports the Lakes Region Food Bank and assists in decorating Christmas trees for the Altrusa Club’s Festival of Trees in December.
The club holds monthly meetings throughout the year, keeping the business meetings short during good weather so members can fit in a ride; while off-season meetings can last an hour or more.
Historian Joe Boucher does a profile of one of the members at each meeting, and Egalka said he’s often surprised to learn about the person who has been riding next to him. Members include a state Supreme Court justice, a surgeon and a mechanic.
“We all share the love of Harleys, and the rides create a sense of camaraderie,” Egalka said.
“I don’t know of a stronger marque than Harley-Davidson, and I’m so proud to be part of that,” he added. “I’m so pleased that Harley-Davidson Motor Company and Laconia Harley-Davidson have stepped up to the plate, and we have a wonderful new location in The Weirs. I believe there’s a commitment to be there up to our 100th anniversary.”
Egalka said he has been involved nationally in a Harley Owners Group since 1992 and with the Winnipesaukee Chapter for 10 years.
“My hope is that I can continue the trajectory of the great strides we’ve made in recent years,” he said, giving credit to the support from Laconia Harley-Davidson’s general manager, Will Swart, and the dealership’s chapter manager, Rick Basset, who also is the chief instructor for motorcycle courses.
The Winnipesaukee HOG Chapter, based at Laconia Harley-Davidson, is holding a motorcycle drawing, with tickets available at the hospitality desk in the Meredith dealership. From left are club secretary Lana Dearborn; Will Swart, general manager of Laconia Harley-Davidson; chapter director Ronald Egalka; and chapter manager Rick Basset. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)