We not only attend motorcycle rallies to sell product, introduce people to our brand, and have a little fun, we also attend rallies to learn things. I learned many things at Americade this year. Some good. Some not so much.
First, the good. The only things better then the scenery in the Adirondack wilderness were the “bikers.” They were all super friendly. I enjoyed talking with just about all the attendees I met. Even if the attendance was only half that of the previous year.
Unfortunately, that’s about all the good I have to report. I can handle a bit of rain, which is inevitable at Americade. After all, it’s the Northeast for eight days in the spring. However, what was less tolerable were the Americade management, staff, and security who were unhelpful and over-bearing. They also came across as unwelcoming and seemed unappreciative toward both the guests and vendors. The $15 entrance fee to access the vendor area was a bit off-putting. It doesn’t seem right to pay to go shopping.
About the only thing worse than the Americade management and staff was the Warren County Sheriff’s Department. These guys are about as hospitable as Buford T. Pusser from Smokey and the Bandit. State law enforcement was also conducting mandatory biker checkpoints. To the unfamiliar, a mandatory biker checkpoint is where only, and all, motorcycles are pulled over and inspected. Not cars or trucks. Only motorcycles. Sound like profiling? These checkpoints were not only unconstitutional in my opinion but also discriminatory. I asked many attendees over the course of the event what they thought of these checkpoints, and every single one said they were totally against them. Whether Harley or Honda riders, they all opposed these Gestapo-style checkpoints where riders were forced at gunpoint if they resisted to forfeit their time (don’t believe me? Try not stopping next time), and then subjected to numerous inspections and possible fines.
When I kindly asked the Sheriff’s Department officers at their vendor tent to please explain the reasoning behind the motorcycle checkpoints, as I was not familiar with them and many of our customers were complaining about them, they quickly became offensive and challenging with a belligerent tone. They asked me, with that vocal quality that is accusatory and threatening, if I wanted Americade to end up like Sturgis, where there are outlaw bikers present. I responded by asking all six officers if any of them had ever been to Sturgis. Not one had. I told them that I had been to Sturgis numerous times and found it preferable and more welcoming than Americade. If I hadn’t been so flustered, I would also have said I felt more threatened by the Sheriff’s Department than I ever have by a bike-gang member. After all, a bike gang has never shaken me down without reason. Actually, they’ve never shaken me down. When I innocently asked if probable cause was required to pull someone over, they asked me if I considered driving my vehicle on a public roadway equal to the sanctity of my home. I responded yes. And besides, I had already succumbed to a motorcycle safety inspection several months earlier as part of the Massachusetts requirements. Then they put on the mean cop face big time. So I thanked them and went back to my booth as it started to feel like I might end up in jail.
Upon my safe, un-arrested return home, I called the Warren County Sheriff’s Department and talked with the person in charge of their booth. I wanted to share my experience with him so they might learn and improve. He said that although he was not present when I was at his booth, his officers reported to him that I came to their booth and was anti–law enforcement and argumentative. Anti–law enforcement and argumentative? Because I asked a few questions? Questions should be considered an opportunity to educate and explain rather than be perceived as a threat or provocation to quash.
Later in the show, when one of the Americade security guards was acting roughly with a vendor who was trying to drive into his booth space after the show was over for the day, I attempted to intervene. The security guard stuck his finger in my face and the police officers rushed over, shouting that it was the second time they had had a problem with me. The second time? Asking a few questions nicely was the first? So much for public service…
It seems odd to me that every person I met at Americade was against motorcycle-only checkpoints, and viewed them as discriminatory and unjust, yet we all endured them without even conveying our discontent.
One of the attendees I talked to, named George, said that when he gets pulled over at these motorcycle-only checkpoints it upsets him because that is HIS time that is being infringed upon. They are HIS ten minutes. Not anyone else’s. And he should not be forced to oblige to the interruption for no reason. If you feel like George, and me, I urge you to have a look at the American Motorcycle Association (AMA.) They are the largest motorcycling rights and event-sanctioning organization. The AMA advocates for rider’s interests at all levels of government and sanctions thousands of competition and recreational events every year. Please follow the link below to become familiar with their efforts and consider becoming a member. Without advocates like the AMA fighting for our rights, who knows what other infringements will come next? Membership is only $49 annually, and it also comes with a lot of other benefits. And even if you, or I, never get pulled over again without cause, I’m happy to contribute $49 to possibly prevent it from happening to someone else.
I learned a long time ago that it is not helpful to offer criticism without also offering a solution. So, in a nutshell here is my solution. Face your fears, Americade staff and N.Y. law enforcement officials. Go to that far away place of terrible myth and legend, “Sturgis,” and you just may learn that your prejudice and anxiety is unfounded and unwarranted. Bikers are not all bad people. And by practicing discriminatory methods to catch a few bad apples, you spoil the whole bunch’s perspective of you and ultimately undermine your cause. Also, if you are welcoming, you will be welcomed.
Typically businesses only publish positive articles, and it has been suggested that we refrain from posting this critique as it may have a negative impact. But, as one of Americas best champions of independence and foe of tyranny, Ben Franklin, said: “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
I would like nothing more than to write a positive review of my experience at Americade. However, since some folks can only afford the time and money for one rally a year, I am obligated to call them like I see them. Although Lake George is a beautiful region with great touring opportunities, I felt unwelcomed and uneasy at Americade. We will not be returning to Lake George any time soon, and until show management and law enforcement shift their position and attitude, we do not recommend the rally to other motorcyclists who value freedom and fun.
Charles F. Giordano
Von Braun Exhaust
Visit the American Motorcyclist Association: http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/