Professionally organized motorcycle tours usually stick to the same formula, with priorities based on the perceived likes and dislikes of the customers’ often mainstream demographic. The portion of the tour behind the handlebars tends to take center stage, followed by preferences in lodging, food, and then topped off with as many amenities as time allows. It’s a good system, and one that works well for the majority of people inclined to sign up for a tour by motorcycle.
About a decade ago, Sean Reid had a vision for modifying this traditional mix. Reid had noted that within almost any tour group, there were always several riders—typically couples riding together—for whom the more “challenging” parts of the route were of less importance. They were more interested in the sights, scenery, lodging, and food along the way. Unlike the majority of riders, they weren’t focused on riding just as far, or as fast, as they could on any given day. Sometimes, the significant other would ride along in the tour van, rather than on a bike, and the rider would opt for the shorter daily routes, so that they could arrive at the hotel earlier in the afternoon with time left to enjoy the spa or pool, or a shopping stroll through the local village before dinner. Although these couples were usually a minority within each group, Reid wondered if they didn’t constitute a large enough niche market to support a separate, more specialized motorcycle tour designed with their priorities in mind. They do, and thus Northeastern Motorcycle Tours (NMT) was born. (Click image to enlarge)
Though NMT is still very much about motorcycle riding, and the center of the tour’s attention is still on the roads to be ridden, there is considerably more emphasis on the lodging and food than you find on other organized motorcycle tours. With a family history stretching back through the Acadian immigration of Nova Scotia and a personal fluency in the eccentric French/Acadian dialect, coupled with 20-plus years of riding in the Northeast and an abiding interest in the culinary arts, Reid set about finding the very finest gourmet restaurants and five-star Victorian bed-and-breakfasts all around the northeastern United States, Nova Scotia, and Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula. Once he had completed his exhaustive search for the best of the best, he set out to design attractive motorcycle touring routes, connecting the dots, as it were. Over the past decade, he has refined these routes and locales into a dozen tours of various lengths and complexity, each specifically designed to pamper the tour participants with the very finest in gourmet dining and lodging while still riding the finest roads available.
Though participation was initially light, it has grown with each passing year, thanks mainly to word of mouth accolades spreading literally throughout the world. To date, NMT has hosted more than 1,000 riders and, as Reid points out, over half of his business is from returning riders, who often bring along friends to share the experience. Several major corporations, such as Chrysler and Honda, have contracted with NMT to provide tours for their dealers and corporate executives.
Doubtlessly, the food and lodging is what sets Northeastern Motorcycle Tours apart. My raw notes from my first NMT encounter tell the story: “The inn was an old, converted farmhouse, very large and comfy, completely furnished in Victorian-era antiques. Our room featured a mahogany four-poster bed, complete with a canopy and a down-filled mattress. The inn was owned and run by a couple who had met and married while both attending the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school in France. Reid had informed us earlier that, unlike with other motorcycle tours, there would be no special menu, or restrictions of any kind on what we ordered for dinner. Looking over the menu, I have to admit I didn’t recognize over half of the items listed, so I opted to play it safe and ordered tomato bisque and filet mignon. As fabulous as the filet turned out to be, I almost couldn’t eat it from having first gorged myself on three helpings of the truly incredible bisque. Later, I learned it was a personal creation of one of the owners, from a carefully guarded, award-winning secret recipe, and not to be found anywhere else on the planet. I have no compunctions at all in swearing that it was one of best things I have ever tasted in my entire life.”
Having since returned for two more NMT tours, I realize that, of the ten best meals I have eaten in my life, at least six of them came from one of Reid’s handpicked restaurants. The focus is so delightfully on food that, on each of those tours, I found that at least one of my fellow riders was a professional chef, from cities such as New York or Boston, who came along on the tour specifically to experience the culinary excellence for which NMT has become so famous. Entirely unlike any other motorcycle tour, NMT allows the indulgence of freely sampling absolutely anything the restaurant offers, in any quantity, or to custom-order anything else you might like to try. It is all included in the tour price, with no additional charges, except for alcohol. It truly is a gourmet’s delight. (Click image to enlarge)
Naturally, NMT tends to attract a slightly older and more affluent clientele—people who have come to appreciate the finer things in life, and yet still enjoy a certain degree of adventure enhancing their luxuries. You might find yourself viewing a herd of wild caribou on the stark and windblown plains of the Gaspé in the morning and marveling at a pod of whales passing the rugged cliffs of Nova Scotia in the afternoon. That evening, you will be sitting at a table covered with embroidered linen and arrayed with antique silver and crystal, as you dine on duck l’orange and a fine French wine. Such vivid contrasts only serve to enhance both experiences.
A typical day on an NMT tour begins with packing your luggage and simply leaving it in your room, or in the hotel lobby. It will be picked up by the NMT staff. Then, as you enjoy a fabulous breakfast, you will be provided with maps and explanations of the day’s various routes. You can choose to ride with a tour leader on whatever route he is taking, follow one of the other routes by yourself or with friends, or simply make up a route of your own to the day’s destination. You will be provided with a list of suggested lunch stops, though, naturally, you are free to search out your own among the picturesque villages you’ll be passing through.
Sometime that afternoon, you will arrive at yet another remarkable lodging encounter, where you simply park your bike, give your name to the desk, and pick up your key. Your luggage will be waiting in your room, and you’ll have time for a shower and, perhaps, a short walk around the grounds before dinner. Alternatively, you might choose to unwind your muscles in a giant hot tub for an hour or two. Whatever options you choose, they are simply a precursor to yet another night of unforgettable gourmet dining, further augmented by lively conversation about the day’s ride with your comrades. Then, finally, you may choose to close out your evening with wine and cigars, alongside a pool or a lake, or overlooking a notable mountain view from a comfortable patio. At this point, you’ll be totally relaxed and sated, ready for a satisfying night’s sleep before doing it all again the following day. (Click image to enlarge)
All makes and models of motorcycles are welcome on the tours. Most riders prefer to bring along their personal bikes, though Reid can arrange shipping of your own bike. Rentals of BMWs, Hondas and Harley-Davidsons can be arranged as fly-and-ride options. Although sport bikes are welcome and present on some of the tours, in general, the less-hurried pace of NMT’s tours appeals more to riders of touring, sport-touring and cruising machines, many with couples riding two-up. But if the weather turns sour or your co-rider simply prefers a break, there is also a full-amenities tour van that follows along enjoying the same scenery and stops along the way. Also, every tour includes at least one two-day layover at one appealing locale or another. This gives tour participants a day off the bikes, to sightsee and shop, or to just lie around the hotel and relax. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from riding that day either.
BMWs are a popular choice of tour mounts, though other makes are available.
Tour groups are intentionally kept small, with no more than ten bikes or fifteen participants, total. Reid says that the camaraderie around the dinner table, or on the walking tours of attractions and such, seems to suffer with larger groups, so he insists on keeping the groups small and cordial. Having ridden on three of NMT’s tours, I can assure you that, unless you are a total recluse, you will come away from the tour with several newfound friends.
www.motorcycletours.com | 802.463.9853
Pan seared scallops, polenta and basil sauce
Country paté maison with toast points
Sauteed lobster with vanilla beurre blanc
Portobello mushroom Napoleon
Sauteed crabcakes with capers
Mesclun greens with Maine crabmeat and Thai basil dressing
Udon noodles and Maine shrimp, lobster broth
Maki sushi with grilled tuna and cucumber
Sauteed Shrimp with Pernod Sauce
Grilled Vegetables Fra Diavlo
Angus Beef Tenderloin with Morrell Mushrooms and Green Peppercorn Demi
Braised Cavendish Game Hen, Fresh Herb Aujus
Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon with Braised Leeks and Lemon Beurre Blanc
Mustard and Rosemary Crusted Rack of Lamb with Bordelaise Sauce
Pan Seared Duck Breast, Dried Apricot Demi
Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin
Roasted Lamb Rack Scented with Thyme & Garlic
Pan Seared Duck Breast with Bourbon Molasses Glaze
Steak Au Poivre with Merlot Basil Sauce
Rainbow Trout Fillets, Sauteed & Ripe Plum Tomatoes