Americade's appeal: escape, friendship, tours

Two Harley bikers were converted.

A few steps nearer to the registration table - about a half hour away - were longtime friends Ken Biles and Jeff Bettinger of East Brunswick, N.J.

The two were garbed in black leather and headwraps. For years, they'd been members of a local Harley riders' group, but they got bored with taking short trips from one bar to another merely to drink, and they sought more adventure, Bettinger said.

"At Americade, it's all about riding, and everybody's so friendly," he said. "The staff is always asking how you are doing."

Staff volunteer Ray Vaillancourt of Delta, Ohio, waved Bettinger and Biles forward, and asked them how they were doing. The two took a few steps closer to the registration tables.

Vaillancourt was wearing a double-billed baseball cap covered with Americade pins, representing all 29 years of the rally's history. He's volunteered every year since 1983.

"It's how I get away from my wife for a week," he explained. "I plan to come here every year for the rest of my life."

Bikers: 'It's all about the touring'

Tim and Kathy Leary, of Batavia, were 40 yards back in a dim hallway, moving forward a few feet every several minutes. They've attended Americade for the last 12 years, Tim Leary said.

"Coming to Americade means once a year, we get to ride through these beautiful mountains," he said.

"And we're not at work" chimed in Kathy, an office manager at an auto dealership.

At the front of the line registering were John Tachuk of Salem, Mass. and Paul "Payo" Odierno of nearby Billerica. The two, both 67 years old, have been vacationing at Americade for 11 years, with a group of up to 16 of their friends, depending on the year, Odierno said.

"It's an incredible adrenaline rush of seeing all the bikes together in the village," he said.

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