So I did it.
People warned me not to, said I'd regret it and certainly would never want to do it ever again.
I can say here and now that not only did I enjoy the Fort Lauderdale 18th Fun in the Sun Toy Run but its easy to imagine doing it again next year.
Actually, there was an air of doubt that I'd even make the run. My company holiday party was the night before with someone there mixing some great drinks and since the girlfriend was driving home I could join in the fun. She told me and everyone at the party that she didn't want to get on the back of the bike if I was too hung over and who can blame her. Personally I was more worried about being able to get myself out of the bed, forget about making it to the bike!
Popping the Toy Run Cherry
Even though everyone told me not to bother since it would get dirty anyway, I was up at 6am to give the Deuce a quick clean. I was also told that no on ever gets out of second gear, and of course wanting the bike to look it's best (i.e read looking cool) I decided to take the windshield off. At around seven when the bike was looking just right I woke up my girlfriend who didn't want to get up until everything was ready to go.
I never know how she does it, literally rolling out of bed, throwing on some clothes, just a few minutes in the bathroom and she was looking as cute as always. Even when I stopped off at the ATM to get some cash for the event, she sat on the back of the bike looking as pretty as ever.
As you can see, my suggestion that she wear a low cut leather vest, chaps and g-string were totally ignored.
Maybe next time.
I thought it was warm enough to go without the long sleeve t-shirts and was tempted to leave the leather vest at home. Without saddlebags anything I took would have to be carried around the event so the idea was to travel light. I realized being the wiser biker paid off as the cold morning wind blew around my body sans windshield and made me appreciate the vest. It was such a thrill to come across riders at every light, in groups as well as on their own. Heck, we even rode for a few miles with the local Sheriff's motorcycle deputies!
My biker virginity showed as I rode through the entrance of the starting point, the Pompano Harness Track when a seasoned biker directing traffic was yelling something at me as he hit his forearm. When I got close enough he shouted, "Don't you know what this means?"
I shook my head.
"It means move to the right!" he shouted as he rolled his eyes. Didn't even want to know what was going through his mind.
We paid, found our place, parked the bike and watched the huge parking lot fill with every kind of motorcycle you could imagine. A guy came through selling American and POW flags for donations only so I grabbed one of each and strapped them on, the whole time trying to look like I knew what I was doing.
While getting a coffee and egg sandwich we met some nice guys who rode all the way from Orlando, a 200 mile trip in itself just to ride in the Toy Run. One of them was amazed how big the event had become and talked about his first time some ten years ago with less than a thousand bikes.
Pure luck had me parked right behind the most amazing looking trike I'll probably ever see. Not for style or chrome, but for sheer humor. The owner had painted it in a southwestern style, reins hanging through the handlebars, a riding saddle for a seat, wooden crate marked 'explosives' mounted behind the seat for storage and even a real horses tail mounted on the back of the bike. He had a sound machine hooked into a speaker and could play a calvary charge, horse nieghing and a whole range of funny sounds.
Everyone was looking at it and between the crowd and the trike, no matter how many motorcycles filled the parking lot and as far away as I wandered, I could always find mine!
You can see by the last picture, the owner even dressed in the spirit of his bike.
As we walked around we saw the riders who like me, only paid $10 a person ride to one side of the racetrack while the other's who paid up to $300 rode into a parking lot that was closer to the front and allowed you into a 'special donor' area. Even though I did have the opportunity to buy those tickets, I was quite happy slumming it around the parking lot, checking out the bikes, meeting the riders and of course trying to explain the whole riding world (and why we do the things we do) to my girlfriend. She was sweet enough to pretend to understand the stranger stuff.
When I came back from standing in the long line at the portatoilets I found her sitting right next to a group of lesbian bikers, obviously doing the female thing and evesdropping on the conversation. As we walked away she explained the hiarchy of the group and what the others were doing to impress the 'main woman'.
There were of course the obligitory stuffed animals strapped on bikes.
And good looking bikes everywhere!
But I wanted to ask this guy how far he had come. Check out all the luggage and maps on the fuel tank.
At this point something had gotten on the camera lens, so what appears as artistic haze and flares is in fact most likely sunscreen!
A second and third parking lot filled up with motorcycles and it started to feel like the 30,000 riders they were expecting for the run itself. Even with that many people, the mood was bouyant, bikers making new friends, just going about business to waste away the long wait so we could all get on our bikes and do what we came to do. Ride!
The girlfriend patiently waiting.
I was greeted by an ugly sight when we got back to my bike. Somehow, someone had but a two inch scratch on my metallic paint gas tank. A quick feel told me it was deep seemingly going down to the primer. Since I appreciated my girlfriend coming along, I wanted to keep the event as fun as possible and tried not to get too upset, telling myself, it was done and there's nothing to do about it now.
A couple of false starts had everyone sitting on their motorcycle waiting as we could see the bikes pull out row by row. Somewhere in the front was Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, Dennis Rodman (insert your won joke here), Vanilla Ice (insert second joke) and Rich Supa. With the lines not being the most perfectly aligned there's ever been some last minute arranging between riders of who was going where and when was quickly settled as the marshalls approached. Something tells me this wasn't being done up front. With a wave of their red flag we found ourselves making our way out of the parking lot and onto the route.
As much as I tried to convince her that she wouldn't fall off at such slow speeds, my girlfriend wouldn't take any pictures and instead insisted on keeping her arms locked tightly around me the whole ride. It's a pity too because there where crowds everywhere who'd come out to see the convoy of motorcycles. From sitting in lawnchairs to having video cameras set up on tripods I was amazed by the numbers. They waved, some held high home made signs 'Santa rides a Harley', 'Santa loves bikers' and 'Bikers have big hearts' were just the ones I can remember. It was eiree to have the entire road to ourselves with the police every hundred yards in every form of transportation making sure no-one but our group was on what was for the moment, our road. And it belonged to all riders of all bikes. Ahead a few bikes, a goldwing with an older couple, directly in front a couple about my age on a Harley, Two latin couples on cruisers to my right and a black gentleman behind me on his Sportbike. Everyone was there.
A short trip east on Atlantic Blvd and we were heading south on I-95. Contrary to all the stories and warnings, we managed to get up to 45 mph, going fast enough to snap the thin wooden pole of the American flag I'd strapped to the bike. I gave it to the girlfriend to hold onto, but she was so intent on keeping her hands available for hanging on, she stuffed it in the pocket of my vest.
Not only was my bike looking good, but the lack of windshield allowed the now warmer and more refreshing air to hit my body giving that rush we all love about riding. The formation was two rows of riders, keeping to the most right hand lane. It was fairly consistent except for a few gaps of about a quarter of a mile that formed up ahead and as easy as it was to get annoyed with this, everyone was enjoying the ride and waving to the people who had come out to watch.
On every overpass there were about thirty or forty people, groups would spring up on the side of the highway who had obviously made a picnic of it. The couple to my right threw candy canes to the groups and watching the children scramble for them was the cutest sight. There were even bikers standing on the side of the road looking on, wishing they were with us but since they couldn't be seemed quite happy to give the rider wave of pointing to the ground.
We only slowed down to where I had to put my feet down about three times as the group made its way to I-595 where we headed west, staying at about 25mph but getting as high as 40. I was sure getting into the meeting place and all day event, Markham Park would take forever but it flowed better than I could've hoped, although my engine was starting to act up. It wasn't running as smoothly as it should and actually stalled twice. Other Harley riders have told me about this, they're real pigs when they start running hot. The downside to air-cooled I guess. I was really nursing it by the time I parked in the huge field filled with even more motorcycles that the Pompano Race course.
Even the girlfriend was impressed with the number of bikes that filled the expansive fields. I could've spent the rest of the day just walking around and taking pictures of the nice looking rides. For a second I wondered if I should leave the helmets on the bike, but figured if you couldn't leave them here among my biking brothers, where could I leave them?
The event at the end of the run billed itself with live music with headliner Blue Oyster Cult and local bands filling the stage for the rest of the day and early evening. Bike and car show, motorcycle dealers showing their latest models and various bike related venders.
Once inside the park we dropped off our gift with the volunteers holding the huge heavy duty plastic bags who couldn't keep up as they filled as soon as they were opened with present after present being brought in by the most hardened looking bikers.
The event was like any other fair and all the longer lines were for either food or the restrooms. By now it was around one the afternoon so once we bought our food and found a nice quiet piece of grass in the shade of a tree about a hundred yards behind the row of tents serving the food. It was naptime for the girlfriend so I was left to wander the show alone. Leathers, patches, skull caps and helmets, everything was for sale. Victory Motorcycle had their latest models on display. They looked nice with some beautiful curves but somehow the bikes just seemed bare. All the other major bike vendors were on show, with mostly touring and cruising models on display. There was even a luxury speedboat company showing off a few models I guess hoping to attract the affluent bikers that considered their motorcycle just a toy.
I bumped into a few friends, made some new ones and mostly window shopped. Even though I wanted to find some patches for my new leather vest nothing really caught my eye and ended up only buying a commerative 2005 Toy Run pin.
When I went back to see how my girlfriend was I found her asleep under the tree, only now she was surround by groups of riders who had the similar idea of finding a quiet spot to eat. I wish all those people who insist on stereotyping bikers as less than reputable could see this sight. A small defenseless female left undisturbed as she slept. She was out of it too!
We made our way back to the bike and on out of the park. Of course it was easier getting out than in but reality did slap the small group of riders I was with in the face as we rode out. We had to get back onto the highway without any police escort or help. Hello real world, I remember you!
As much as I enjoyed opening up my bike and taking it up to seventy miles an hour, my girlfriends tightening grip told me she wasn't as estatic about the speed. The wind was fierce at the speed and I realized how much the windshield really helped, that is when I had it on. All of a sudden I felt a big bug slam into my mouth and squeeze past my lips with only my teeth stopping it from going any further. Fortunately I'd worn my fingerless gloves was able to pick it out, but thats when I felt my lip begin to swell with something stuck in it. I just eaten a bee and he left his stinger behind!
Last time I was stung by a bee I swelled up in no time, so my doctor gave me some medication to take which was supposed to stop any severe effects. Unfortunately, that was in my car and I was on my bike. So now I'm balancing trying to not only ride safely but make it apparent to my girlfriend that we're as safe as we can be on two wheels on a Florida highway, but still get home as quickly as I can to take that medication. Fun.
Made it back okay with only slight swelling, although my girlfriend laughed as she thought it looked like I went for a collagen injection, but was so cheap I could only afford the bottom lip.
I took the bike back to my buddy's garage where my deuce normally lives and showed him the scratch on my gas tank. I was still ranting about it by the time he finished wiping it down with some Harley cleaning solution and the scratch was gone!
What a good ending to an awesome day.