The third Adirondack Mountain Lakes Moto Guzzi rally was held last year during the fourth weekend in August, again at the Paul Smith's college alumni campground, in Paul Smith's, near Lake Placid.
I have ridden in the Adirondacks a couple of times, and I've always enjoyed the scenery and roads, so after several of my friends came back from the second rally and said what a good time they had, I thought that I'd better get down there.
I loaded up my trusty "T" and started out for eastern New York from my home in Barrie, Ontario, at about 8:30 on Thursday morning. Barrie is a little north of Toronto, but the roads around Toronto are not good places to be on a motorcycle during most daylight hours, so I set off on the back-roads across country. I had all day to ride about four hundred miles, so why go along boring freeways? I had been riding for about an hour and a half when I suddenly realized I had not packed my passport, which, as a British citizen, I theoretically need to get into the States. Now I know that the immigration people at the border have all my details in their computers these days, so I figured that I could probably talk my way through on the strength of a photo ID in the form of my driving license. Then I thought about my chances of getting back into Canada and promptly turned my bike around. If I was a terrorist or drug smuggler or illegal immigrant, I had no doubt that I'd be able to get in with no problem, but disguised as a law abiding, upstanding citizen, I would have no chance, so back to get the offending document I went. It was good that the weather was fine and the bike was running well, otherwise I would have been in a foul mood for the rest of the trip after wasting three hours, but I arrived in at the rally site about 7:00 in the evening after a great ride.
As I couldn't find anybody at the rally site, I rode into the nearest town for supper. Paul Smith's is a small place. There is a college, started by some guy called Smith, and a small church where he's buried, and not much else. So I rode to Saranac Lake, about twelve miles down the road. Just as I was about to start looking seriously for somewhere to park and eat, my back tire went flat. It was just outside a gas station, but their air hose couldn't re-inflate it, so I got a room in the handy local motel and started making phone calls. After a couple of hours worrying about being stranded in a foreign country with no money and no transport, the phone rang. My phone messages had been answered and salvation was at hand!
Keith Smith, upstate New York MGNOC rep and rally organizer, showed up next morning with his pick-up truck, and we were soon at the rally site. We pulled in through the gate and drove down a sandy track that disappeared into some trees a little way ahead. Driving towards the trees, Keith said, "This is it." I must admit, when he said that, I was a little bit confused. I had expected the track to go through the trees, leading into a large open camping area, like the campgrounds in which most motorcycle rallies seem to be held. Not this one. The campground is pretty much a wilderness camping area. There was a small area by the gate where we set up a registration table, with a blueberry patch off to one side where Klaus and Rose Schulz and several other Canadians set up their tents (complete with Maple Leaf flag). Off to the left there was a fairly flat open area where most of the trailers and faint-hearts camped, but the main campsite was up the hill, into the woods and down by the lake.
At first, I was a little bit unsure about the suitability of the place, but I soon started to see the attraction. I am no stranger to wilderness camping, but I've usually done it when back-packing in the mountains, canoeing in northern Ontario, or dirt bike riding in Mexico, not Guzziing.
Down by the lakeshore were several picnic tables where the main rally activities would be, and spread on the surrounding wooded hillsides were several wooden lean-to structures for those whose mattresses were better than their tents. I was in the reverse situation, so I chose a spot among the trees with a thick carpet of pine needles. After setting up camp, it was down to the registration area to greet lots of old friends, or make some new ones, as they all rolled in to enjoy the rally.
In this beautiful setting there was no shortage of things for everybody to do, whether it was exploring the woods, swimming or canoeing in the lake, or riding some of the great local roads.
I had heard a great deal about the food at this rally. As I said before, the main reason for the village of Paul Smith's is the college. It's a culinary college and it's right next to the rally site. Guess where we ate, that's right, sit down meals in the college dining room, with several choices of appetizer, main course and dessert, all help yourself, as much as you want. And it was all included in a quite modest rally fee. Does it get any better than this? Maybe in your dreams! Friday and Saturday dinners and Saturday and Sunday breakfast were all in the college, breakfasts being a similar setup to the dinners except that you also got the chance to make your own omelet, if none of the other choices were to your satisfaction. Underneath the dining hall there were the college showers and washrooms, which we also had access to throughout the rally.
Friday night was the usual rally first night, swapping stories with old friends, telling of all the adventures you've had since you last saw them, and telling all your favorite stories (again) to new friends and anyone else who's had enough beer not to remember them.
After Saturday breakfast, exploring the beautiful mountain countryside seemed to be the favorite pastime, and the group that I was with decided to go up Whiteface mountain, just to see what we could see, as they say. The bottom of the ski lifts was high enough for me, but several others went up to the top while I was just hanging out trying to identify the motorcycles coming up the switchback road by their sound, and looking down on the aircraft flying past.
After all the pictures and cups of coffee had been taken, more corner carving was the order of the day, interrupted by some more good food and beer, in a place called Keene. The food must have been good, because the restaurant was world famous, or so the place mats said. Funny I hadn't heard of it before....
We arrived back at the campsite in time to cast votes for our People's Choice award before we headed off to the college again for Saturday supper and the awards ceremony. It's a lot of hard work to organize a motorcycle rally and this rally is pretty much organized by one man - Keith Smith. Because of this, there's not too much fancy stuff, but we really didn't care because it's the people that make a good rally, and with great Guzzi people, you have a great time. Even so, Keith had managed to gather together a pretty good selection of door prizes, which were given out after another excellent meal. The People's Choice award was won by Joe Simiana, of Burlington, Ontario, who bought his whole family along just in case his nice Mk. 4 LeMans couldn't get enough votes on its own! If there had been a long distance award it would probably have gone to Elisabeth Joy from Quebec City who was on an extended tour, on her very nice '72 Eldorado, that included the national rally in Virginia. Attendance for this rally has been increasing year by year, as the word of its success gets out, and this year it was in the high sixties.
In 2002 the 5th Adirondacks rally will also be the 31st MGNOC National rally, and I definitely think you should plan on being there for a different, but very enjoyable event. There's plenty of flat ground for the trailer types, nice blueberry patches for the guys who get hungry in the night, and great wooded camping for the adventuresome who don't mind a little Guzzi-cross. The local scenery is outstanding, and there's no shortage of places to go and things to do.
Thanks Keith, for a great rally, and your help in fixing my flat tire. You can count me in for this year.