To whom it may concern (or not): I just came back from a ride to my local dealers with my April copy and read about Felicia Morgan’s desire for memorable ride stories. I’ve been riding for 50 years so I have quite a few. After reading Robert Filla’s column, however, one particular one came to mind. It was in the 90’s sometime; I can’t really recall exactly. My wife was out of town; it was Labor Day weekend. So I thought it a perfect time to go camping on the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire. I’ve often said a motorcycle trip is like shooting a gun, off a little here, way off at the target. Make a mistake at home, pay dearly at your destination. Well, word to the wise, pack the warm sleeping bag, not the one that packs well. I live in Rhode Island, so 180 miles later I’m in Lincoln, New Hampshire. I start up the highway and stop in the first campground. No vacancy. It hasn’t dawned on me it’s Labor day Weekend here too. A few campsites later, no dice. The nice lady says don’t go any further; there is no vacancy anywhere. “Well,” I say, “I guess I turn around and go home.” She says, “Unless you want to try dispersion camping.” “What’s that?” “What it is, is go back one exit and ride into the woods. The Shack guy will take your money and tell you what to do.” So I go. $16 for three nights has to tell me something. Now, I’m on a dirt road and every site is filled. So I take a left on a windy dirt road that goes up. I ride until I’m at the base of a mountain. I turn around and halfway back I see a small patch of grass and pull in. As I’m unloading the bike I hear a voice yell, “You gonna camp there?” “I guess so,” I reply. “No, no, come on over here.” So I do. I go climbing out of my gully and bound over the dirt road and up a small hill and arrive at this enormous campsite with a roaring blaze, three tents, and four guys and two girls. Introductions are made, and I’m not allowed to do anything, As I’m plied with questions as to whether I do this often, I am handed a beer, a burger and beans, and my tent gets set up. To quote Robert Filla, “It is one of my fondest memories—unplanned, unscheduled, a happenstance, seat-of-the-pants experience.” I had a wonderful time that night; froze my ass off. I mean it was 37 degrees and I had the wrong bag, but oh well. I rode home the next day; I couldn’t take another night. My wife said, “Please don’t do that again,” and I didn’t. Oh wait, that was another time and another even more interesting tale which was at Laconia Bike Week, sometime after the year 2000.
P.S. What doesn’t kill you may make you stronger, but not necessarily smarter. What it does do though is make me believe someone’s watching out for me, because I do such a poor job of watching out for myself. I’m talking 50 years of riding and not exactly being careful; makes you wonder… happy trails.
—Bill O’Connell, North Providence, RI
Hi Bill! Thank you so much for the note and for sharing your adventure. Sounds like an exciting one, except for the freezing part. I’ve spent many a night shivering in an inadequate sleeping bag so I can relate. But 50 years, wow, you’ve got me beat by just a few. Glad to hear somebody’s looking after you and you’re still around to tell the tales. Happy trails.