WHEN SEAN REID invited me on one of his Northeastern Motorcycle Tours "First-class, gourmet tours," he was taking a hell of a chance. He knew I would end up writing about it in MCN, and he also knew that I am the direct antithesis of anything that could be labeled either "first-class" or "gourmet". In general, I don't care much for group riding, my lodging of choice is usually a KOA camping cabin or a Motel 6, and on-the-road dining generally consists of the nearest Waffle House. Alone, quick, convenient and cheap are my bywords. Sean's only hope of not having his business sliced and diced in my word processor would be by way of spousal influence, since Cherrie's idea of roughing it is having to get dressed and take the elevator down to the Hilton coffee shop, rather than just calling for room service.
I agreed to go only because Cherrie deserved a vacation, and because the location and timing of the tour coincided perfectly with a business trip to Americade. This was going to be one of those grin-and-bear-it episodes that every husband has to put up with at times for the sake of matrimonial harmony.

My securely anchored negative attitude began to come loose the very first day of the tour, when our group met for dinner at a bed & breakfast near Brattleboro, Vermont. The inn was an old converted farm house, own and run by a pair of Cordon Bleu chefs. Sean had informed us earlier that there were no restrictions on our meals - we were to order anything we wanted from the regular menu. I didn't recognize the names of fully three-quarters of the items listed, so I opted to play it safe and order a tomato bisque and filet mignon. As fabulous as the filet was, I almost couldn't eat it from having first gorged myself on the incredible bisque, which I later found out was a personal creation of one of the owners. I would gladly swear to you that this was one of the best meals I have ever experienced in my life.

Yet as great as that first night was, filling up on fantastic food and drink while getting to know the delightfully eclectic group of people we were to be riding with, it was merely a harbinger of the five days to come.

Sean and Lillian Reid run Northeastern Motorcycle Tours from their home in Vermont. They feature 10 different itineraries in three different formats each (four, five and six nights), plus some special "Best of New England/New Scotland" tours that run as long as two weeks. Costs can run anywhere from around $550 - $6400, depending on which tour you take, when and whether you are single or riding two-up. Price includes your breakfasts and dinners (from the regular, unlimited menus), lodging, tips, luggage service, maps, an emergency bike trailer and a full-time tour guide (usually Sean himself).

Still, value is my number-one yardstick for measuring most everything, and the concept upon which MCN was built. Applying that yardstick to my NMT tour came out something like this:

The average cost of the tour Cherrie and I took breaks down to approximately $150 per day, per person. When I first figured that out, before the tour, I was fairly certain it was too high a price to pay. But that was before I saw the rooms, ate the meals and luxuriated in having someone else make all the arrangements and decisions. Even on a strictly pragmatic level, most of the rooms we stayed in were easily in the $100-$150/night range, and we often stuffed ourselves with sautéed lobster dinners and the like that would have cost me over $100 for the two of us. Add on some equally impressive breakfasts, plus all tolls, tips, entry fees and such that were taken care of, and we've gotten back our $300 per day already. And that's without counting the other things that you really can't put a price on. Things like never having to think about finding decent lodgings for the night, or a place to eat. Things like not worrying about luggage space, or even carrying your luggage to and from your room. Things like trying to find all the best routes in unfamiliar country, especially when you have limited time.

On our tour we rode to the top of Prospect Mountain and through the Appalachian Gap. We visited the Norman Rockwell Museum and toured the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream factory. We rode through covered bridges, shopped in the quaint village of Lake Placid and rode a ferry boat across Lake Champlain. The roads were twisty, well-maintained, almost devoid of traffic, and wound through some of the most breath-taking scenery imaginable. The riding pace was brisk without being overly-threatening, and each day ended with either a dip in the pool or a lounge in the hot tub, followed by yet another incredible dinner. I can't remember when I've felt so relaxed or enjoyed riding as much.

After interviewing a half-dozen of Sean's previous customers (just to make sure I wasn't getting some sort of special treatment). I highly recommend Northeastern Motorcycle Tours - especially to other Westerners like myself that have never really tasted the full riding flavor of New England.

- Fred Rau