Laconia & the NYC Fire RidersFire Riders
During this past June we sent a group of NYC firefighters to the Laconia Rally in New Hampshire. Each day we had one of their representatives relay the days events, at least what was fit to publish here, to our beat writer Dawn. -Ed.
The New York City Fire Riders MC was founded in January 1985 by the late Battalion Chief Junius Rahn of Engine Company 263 in Queens, New York, to help unite firefighters and promote motorcycle safety. The club started with 16 members, and has since grown to over 250 members, expanding to include honorary membership to other first responders as well. These guys don't just ride, they've also been involved with hundreds of charitable events, especially after Sept. 11.
I used to host a local motorcycle show on the CW Network in South Carolina, and was down in Myrtle Beach covering Bike Week when I first met some of the Fire Riders. I taught computer classes at the Pentagon for years and was in the Pentagon on Sept. 11. After finding out I had lost a good friend, Army Major Cole Hogan, I had the date tattooed on my arm the next day. Hughey Lennon, one of the club members, noticed the ink right away. I found out later he was the only one brave enough to come over and talk to me - but it's led to a great friendship with this club over the years. Several of the club members were on-sight busting their butts and risking their lives at Ground Zero, so if you ever see that patch make sure to buy them a beer, or four.
The camaraderie in this club is like nothing I've ever seen. On one hand, they always have each other's back and on the other, they are completely relentless with never-ending one-liners for any member who gets out of hand. They definitely know how to have a good time, but they're always quick to help out if any emergency situation arises. I first met Ken "Whitey" Christiansen at one of the Fire Riders parties during bike week in Myrtle Beach. An instant bond was formed, as we both sported matching Indian Larry tats (the red question mark accented with an Iron Cross). My class schedule in June blasted any plans of being able to make the Laconia Rally this year, so when I found out Whitey was heading to Laconia with the club, I asked him to be my eyes and ears.
A little background on Whitey. He was a Lieutenant with Ladder 78, who, after being diagnosed with Sept. 11-related breathing issues, had to retire about two years ago. He's been riding since he was 18 and has been a member of the Fire Riders for almost seven years. He's happily married to a great woman who supports his many road trips, and has two daughters.
Laconia is celebrating its 86th Annual Rally. The record books say the rally actually started in 1923 with the Loudon Classic motorcycle race, although motorcyclists had started gathering there in the summertime as early as 1916. In 1930, the Federation of American Motorcyclists officially recognized the event as part of the Gypsy Tour, and the rally became famous for its motorcycle races and hill climbs.
Sunday Morning, 8a.m., June 14th
Ok, pretty psyched about heading out today, although the weather along the route we've planned is looking pretty iffy. A few of the club members headed out Friday and said the weather Saturday was awesome in Laconia, so we're keeping our fingers crossed. Six of us departed Staten Island today, all on Baggers and some Harley-Davidson Fire Fighter Edition Road Kings. Bikes are loaded to the teeth and rain gear already on. No one is sweating the distance or the rain though; we've ridden from New York to Myrtle Beach, Key West, Sturgis, you name it. Several of our guys have done cross-country trips out West several times. We don't need no stinkin' trailers...it's not the official motto of the club, but it could be. As club member Rob Carlo said a dozen times, "the Fire Riders never trailer any bikes. We ride, period." We've got a nine hour scenic route planned that starts out through the Catskill Mountains...gonna be a great ride.
Sunday Night - 5p.m.
Rolled into Weir's Beach about 5p.m., a bit of rain but no break-downs, so no complaints out of anybody. Well, except for all the belly-aching about me not wanting to constantly stop along the way. So now I'm the beer-n-food Nazi...ah, I've been called worse.
Four of our guys were already at the house and partying. We rented a great house, but darn it was hard as heck finding it in pitch-blackness! Didn't miss much today I guess; they said they had torrential rain storms and the streets proved it, not a whole lot going on downtown. A lot of the events and rides were cancelled today. After dumping the gear at the house we're all in need of a cold one, so heading to the Broken Spoke Saloon in a bit. Guess they've already had one wreck-big one, too, on Hwy 16 Saturday afternoon. One guy crossed the line on his bike and hit another biker head-on, and it created a domino-effect with a bunch of other bikes. Man, just wicked. Local Fire Chief said no life threatening injuries, that's good. But on the bright side - there was also a huge poker run (3rd Annual Pete Makris' Memorial Run) Saturday that raised $25,000 for the Laconia Fire Department's Life Saving Fund. (Dawn: Makris was an attorney and member of the City Council, as well as a member of the Leathernecks MC. Semper Fi!)
Monday Morning - 11a.m.
Pretty decent crowd at Broken Spoke last night. Big biker build-off going on all week between Paul Cox of Brooklyn, NY (Indian Larry's former partner-in-crime) and Chica, the Japanese legend from Huntington Beach, California. Winner being announced next Saturday, but we're all in agreement that Cox is gonna take it.
Little rain here and there, but nothing like the torrential downpours from Sunday. Met some folks who recognized our club patch. That happens a lot. Our club goes to just about all the big rides and rallies: Rolling Thunder, Daytona, Myrtle Beach, you name it. Some other riders told us about lots of scenic mountain rides, so since it's looking like the skies have cleared up, planning a route up by the city of Madison on the Kancamangas Hwy (Kans). The Kans is supposed to run right along side of the Swift River and is supposed to have awesome views. Expecting four more club members today, so the house is definitely filling up. The guys are already talking about heading to Mt. Washington tomorrow, but right now, I think we're going to head out to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the US Vintage Motorcycle Grand Prix. Hearing about a poker run around the Big Lake, so think we're going to try and hit that, too. Wow, just heard some chick from Playboy is supposed to be at the Broken Spoke Saloon later. Looks like we're going to have to head back there again. So much to do, so little time. But, plenty of beer.
Man, those motorcycle races were pretty wild. Those guys lean those bikes at a 45-degree angle to corner, crazy, especially racing on a wet track full of puddles. Heard a guy broke some ribs in a wreck on Saturday during the prelims. The rest of our guys came in tonight and said they hit a crazy hailstorm coming through the Green Mountains of Vermont. Rain is bad enough on a bike, but hail? Ah, but they're fine. Just minor brain damage-you barely even notice the slurred speech.
Nice thing is we're not having any issues with colors. Plenty of clubs here and patches everywhere, but haven't seen or heard of any incidents, which is cool. In Myrtle Beach one year, the local cops told us we had to ditch our colors at Broadway at the Beach. Seconds later, the drummer of the band playing the concourse, passes out, puke everywhere. We ran up to the stage to help; turns out to be heat exhaustion and probably a few too many beers, but we took care of the guy. After the cops thanked us, we asked if this gave us a pass on the colors restriction. Yea, we thought so.
But just once I'd like to be able to get back to this house without having to use GPS. It's just pitch black out here and not a lot of street signs; we're getting lost every time. Well, the night ended a little earlier than planned-we kinda all got kicked out of the Roadhouse. They were nice enough about it. Too much alcohol and too loud-well...It's a bike rally isn't it?
Good timing though, us older guys are spent. Can still hear the younger knuckleheads downstairs, blasting Johnny Cash and banging on pots & pans...are you kidding me?
Tuesday Morning - Got to bed at a decent hour, no hangover. Should be a good riding day. Woke up and headed out to wipe the bike down. What the hell, just about every bike has bits and pieces of burnt rubber on it! I can see the friggin' donut marks on the road in front of the house. OK, time to wake up the kids (the under 30 guys) and see who the hell is gonna be cleaning our bikes today.
"Angry Bob" was the only one who wouldn't make eye contact when we confronted the little bastards. I figured we'd just have him pick up the next few bar tabs...or ten. Damned if he didn't pack up and head home. That's ok-we know where he lives.
Rode about 300 miles up into Mount Washington today. Temps really dropped when we got to the top, all covered in snow. Crazy! Awesome day and ride, highly recommended for any trip to Laconia. We had the NYC Fire Rider's banner that we hung when we got to the top. But saw something so crazy today, I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself. Coming down the mountain, a friggin' deer comes flying off of a cliff and does a belly flop in front of three of our guys, putting everybody into a full emergency stop. A miracle that no one was injured. Do you know the deer actually got up and ran away? Hey-I've got witnesses. Forget Red Bull, we're all really wide awake now.
Well, having to head back home today-got daughter's graduation, and back to reality. But packed a lot into a few days. Weather definitely could have been better, but a day riding in the rain is still better than a sunny day at work.
DAWN - Well, talked to Whitey this morning and the club made it home safe and sound. Already hearing rumors of retaliation against "Angry Bob", but that will have to be another story.
I spoke with a few of the City Council members in Laconia, real nice folks. Let's just say Myrtle Beach could learn a lot from them. The city allocated $226,700 for the Laconia Rally this year, but they were actually worried that the rain and lousy economy would keep the riders away from the rally this year. The Council decided to allow vendors to set up a day early, hoping to help them recoup profits they might have lost due to the inclement weather. Wow, imagine a City Council actually concerned about the vendors? It's nice to know there are still city governments that look out for the interests of their constituency.