Newry, Maine, Aug. 2–4—“Location, location, location” have been the buzzwords for success since the first settler erected a mud hut overlooking a river. So it was with the Iron Adventure H.O.G. Rally near Newry, Maine, which, in early August, camped out at the Sunday River resort in the mountains. Over 1,200 H.O.G. members gathered at the first rally in the Northeast since the abolition of state rallies two years ago. In its 200-year history, Newry’s population has never reached 500, so imagine what 1,200 Harleys sounded like. Your town is surrounded. It is ours.
Was it a success? By any measure, yes. It was impossible to come away from the rally feeling that anything could have been better. How good was it? Think Dirty Dancing with Harleys.
The Sunday River resort—you’ve got to love that name—is nestled in the midst of Norman Rockwellesque villages, each town replete with a white church steeple, a bandbox for the high school homecoming, and a town square for holiday celebrations. No IHOPS here; the villages have their own mom-and-pop pancake enclaves, serving the community and tourists with maple syrup siphoned from a nearby tree. If you had to pick an ideal place for a Harley rally, this would be high on the list.
The H.O.G. brand has started recovering from the kerfuffle that accompanied the disbanding of H.O.G. assistance to state rallies. It was a long association, 30 years in some states. But the quality of state rallies was always uneven; volunteers were burned out, and the H.O.G. experience was mixed. Last year’s attempt at a regional rally was not much better than a mediocre state rally, but this year’s rally rebounded spectacularly, thanks in part to leadership from the rally committee.
Led by H.O.G. Regional Manager Bruce Motta, the rally committee comprised some expert hands. Corey Zahares from Southern Maine H.O.G. was rally coordinator. Barry Bricarell of Hartford H.O.G was site Coordinator. Tony Baker came in as rally treasurer and Susan Lamontagne was registration coordinator. Dan Barnette worked as events coordinator, and his wife, Janine Barnette, was the PR media coordinator. Peter Guillette served as volunteer coordinator, and Barbara Harris was the rally secretary.
In addition, there were a half-dozen delegates from neighboring states, appointed to spread the word to their H.O.G. chapters. Delegates included Sandy Leal (Connecticut), Dan Poirier (Maine), Ken Kavanagh (New York) Nora Grossbard (New Jersey), Mike Egler (New Hampshire), and Francie Kraft (Maryland). For good measure, the rally went international, with Martin Lemire, a Canadian delegate.
As with every H.O.G. rally, this was an amateur effort. No one got paid, except Bruce Motta, and he’s probably underpaid; happy but underpaid. The folks on the rally committee were good; they knew what they were doing.
There were several activities, the proven events that make a rally successful. The best rallies have empty parking lots, and the self-guided tours were as Mae West once advertised, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.” With names like Three State Border Ride, Snow Falls Gorge Loop, Coos Canyon Byron Ride, Screw Auger Falls Loop, and L.O.H. to LL Bean, you had merely to make a pick and follow the directions for a guaranteed good time. Choosing which ride to take was like choosing a favorite child. The Harley demo truck was present, always in demand with those in the market for a new bike.
The Chinese auction (never knew where it got its name), scavenger hunt, tattoo contest, chapter challenge, and dodging raindrops kept people busy. Attendees were spread out over four hotels, all within five miles of one another, and a shuttle bus was kept busy ferrying registrants from one location to another. Conversations in hotel lobbies helped pass the time, with topics ranging from Trump (naturally), the weather, the beauty of the mountains, and H.O.G. chapters. There were intricate puzzles that fascinated the math minds in attendance, and they became as popular as kicking tires.
I sat next to one rider on a bench under an overhang outside the hotel during the rain and remarked on how well the rally was organized. He looked at me and smiled, and I kept talking. More smiles, more talk. A woman saw us together and said, “He doesn’t understand you. He only speaks French.” And that’s how I met Jean Pierre Tremblay from the Montreal, Quebec, H.O.G. chapter. Salud, Jean Pierre.
Unique to this rally was the presence of the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Born in 2003, the QVF started in a sewing room of a Blue Star mother in Delaware whose son was deployed to Iraq. She made him a quilt, and it was so well received that she started making more for other servicemen and women touched by war. She linked quilt top makers with machine quilters in a national effort to show appreciation to returning veterans. To date, QVF has donated about 200,000 quilts. It’s a neat thing, and you can help by contacting any of the regional offices at www.QOVF.org.
For history buffs, Newry, Maine, is located on U.S. Highway 2, an east-west highway spanning 2,571 miles across the northern continental United States, ending in Everett, Washington. US-2 consists of two segments connected by roadways in Canada. It was designed to be separated, a freakish occurrence which makes US-2 unique. US-2 ends in upstate New York and picks up again on the northern border of Lake Michigan.
Highways were given numbers in a 1926 master plan. US-1, also starting in Maine, was the first highway to be numbered, and all odd-numbered highways were to run north-south. US-2 was the second highway to be numbered (there is no US-0), and all even-numbered highways run east-west, a numbering plan that was continued with interstate highways. US-2 follows what was once the Theodore Roosevelt International Highway. Before the road was paved, auto travelers would ship their cars between cities on flatbed railcars. Now, the highway is a beautiful and curvy road that lends itself to some fun riding.
No highway is complete without Harleys, so the final event, a Parade of Flags, attracted about 500 bikes flying around the mountains. No flag? No problem. The roar was deafening as hundreds of bikes took off out of the parking lot and into the proverbial wild blue yonder.
Will state rallies be missed? Probably. There was something fun in planning a lengthy vacation that took in a different setting. At their height, there were 30–40 state rallies packed into 8–12 summer weekends. State rallies showcased the best of the state, and were a welcoming sight to Harley riders who were on the road for a week or two. I’ll miss the state rallies, but maybe they’ll come back around again. H.O.G. is like that.
The Iron Adventure wasn’t Sturgis, it wasn’t Harley’s 115th, but for those who couldn’t make it to those, it was a great way to spend a weekend in August. Next year’s rally is in Ludlow, Vermont. Can’t wait.