LACONIA — Trump T-shirts are still popular. It’s handy to have a gun pocket in a leather vest. Dogs make good traveling companions.
Those are some takeaways from a visit to Lakeside Avenue on a sunny Motorcycle Week Monday.
Polished bikes were parked fender-to-fender. Cobalt-blue Lake Winnipesaukee shimmered under clear skies and mountains towered in the distance.
Motorcyclists were pleased with the scenery at the 96-year-old rally.
Sitting astride his Honda Gold Wing, Rick Thompson summed it up in four words — “The ride, that’s it.”
There are bigger rallies with more excitement, but where are you going to find this kind of backdrop? The Lakes Region has the kind of views that motorcyclists like to see as their loud, powerful machines gobble up the pavement.
“My brother and I come up from Boston,” said Thompson, 64. “We rent a cabin on the lake and take rides on our own.
“We’re not too wild and crazy anymore.”
The brothers and a couple other friends seek out the most pristine rides and enjoy the freedom of country roads. The Kancamagus Highway is one of their favorites.
Mount Washington was discussed.
“I tried to get these guys to do it, but they were too scared,” Thompson said.
Ten feet behind him were the bustling shops that take shape overnight for the rally.
Switchblade knives compete with leather goods for the most attention. T-shirts with sayings you wouldn’t want your mother to see swayed from awnings in the gentle breeze.
Some of the tamer and most popular shirts bear the image of the president of the United States and his famous sayings, “Make America Great Again” and “Drain the Swamp.”
Salesman Liam Andrews, 18, of Levittown, Pennsylvania, said Trump hats were flying off the shelves. Yes, they have the trademark red, but they also have a camouflage version.
Every rally is different, but this is really different, Andrews said.
For one thing, there are the French-speaking people from Canada who enjoy riding here.
“I had to learn a little French,” Andrews said. “I had to learn how to say, ‘It comes blank.’”
First you pick your T-shirt, and then you decide what you want it to say.
Farther down the line of vendors, Austin Ruark of Athens, Georgia, was selling leather chaps.
These and leather jackets are more than style statements. They block the wind and provide protection from stones that can fly off the road or save your skin if you have to “lay down the bike,” or otherwise hit the pavement. Functional, yes, but some leather comes with shiny buttons and can be a blingy or sexy fashion statement.
Another form of protection can be carried in a special concealed carry pocket of a leather vest.
“It’s perfect for a .380,” Ruark said.
Sitting outside the shop was Jimaye Sones, 65, and his dog, Harley, a rust-colored Boykin spaniel who is 2 years old and hops into his sidecar on command. His name is on the side.
“Some guy in Daytona asked me his name, and I’m like, “Can’t you read?”
“Safety first. I buckle him in. I trust him, but I love him to death, and what would happen if we’re going 80 mph and see a squirrel?”
Sones figures by the time he makes it back home to North Carolina, he will have traveled 3,200 miles.
He slowed down on the way to the rally when he noticed he was on Rollercoaster Road.
“It was up around, come down, go sideways,” he said. “I took it slow, but it was beautiful.
“You’re not going to get this anywhere else. This is a good ride. We old guys need this to retire to.”