Bikers, by thousands, roll into Lake George

LAKE GEORGE -- Motorcycles are rolling through this Adirondack resort this week by the thousands -- big machines with rumbling tailpipes, comfortable seats for aging backs, and riders who rev up sales at local businesses.

The annual Americade rally running through tomorrow bills itself as the "world's largest touring rally," referring to the larger, highway-friendly motorcycles that typically feature windshields, saddlebags and seating for two. Ralliers here seem more intent on riding mountain roads than raising hell.

"It's a touring rally. It's a friendly rally," said Joe Zimmerman, who has been coming here annually from Queens for more than two decades. "We just have a great time. "

Zimmerman is one of the many here with a gray beard -- or a gray ponytail. Americade is dominated by baby boomers, many of them couples. While Harley-Davidson bikes are common, they seem no more numerous than Honda Gold Wing touring motorcycles. There are even a good number of three-wheeled motorcycles in the mix.

"We say it's a mom-and-pop crowd," said Pat Giannetta, who rode from Parsippany, N.J., on a Gold Wing with his wife, Derna. "We're in our 50s and 60s and with our wives. It's a family thing."

Americade director Christian Dutcher expects around 50,000 paying attendees by the time the eight-day event ends tomorrow. But Dutcher said the total number of people who show up at Lake George could be double that.

The bump in two-wheeled traffic is welcome by many businesses in the village of Lake George.

Americade is usually the best week of the summer at Riley's at the Lake, a souvenir shop that displayed Americade T-shirts this week, said assistant manager Zeke Merchant. Down the street at From Bagels to Burgers, managing partner Scott Rothbort said he likes the down-to-earth clientele.

"They've got families. They've got good jobs. They just like to ride motorcycles," Rothbort said.

Dutcher's father, Bill Dutcher, got the idea for the annual event more than 30 years ago from the old Aspencade rally in New Mexico. Bill Dutcher thought that Lake George -- with its motels, restaurants and proximity to East Coast population centers -- would be a great place for its own rally.

The first rally in 1983 drew about 2,500 people.

The Dutchers have built it up with a packed schedule of events that includes cruises, a pig roast and hot air balloons. But a big draw still seems to be meeting up with friends and cruising along winding, tree-shaded roads. "Up here . . . you're on the mountain roads -- freedom, if you want to say," Zimmerman said. "You can relax."

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