While I'm struggling to get the posts more often than every seven days Gymi has had time to give his blog a whole new look! Why he's even asking for pictures of readers rides to feature every Wednesday.
If you've just dropped in or are new to Biker Diaries, it's day three of my recent trip to experience the flavor and excitement of what's billed as the largest bike rally in the country. While I'm sure Sturgis might have some questions about that claim, it's fair to say that Daytona can certainly be considered as the largest in the southern part of the USA.
Since it's never too much fun to jump into a story right at the middle, a quick read of Day One and Two might be a good idea.
Day Three Part One
Day two finished with a few hours in the middle of the biggest block party I've attended, Main Street after dark. That's not an official name or anything, but everyone and their brother wandered up and down the street, looking at the bikes, an occasional woman (rarer than the blue-speckled bellyhoo in these parts) and checking out the bands. It felt like the bars were even more crowded than the street that is if you made it through the incredibly strict security. Anything more than a t-shirt had to be lifted and waists patted down by bouncers before you could enter either a bar or the makeshift party pens set up in parking lots located between the shops.
Not sure whether it was the growing hunger, frustration from the crowds or just getting tired of hanging out with thousands of my closest friends (in quite close proximity for the most part), but finally I decided to head back to the hotel. Once parked outside my room, taking advantage of the managements understanding about putting the bike on the patio right outside my window, I headed over to Winghouse for some dinner.
I'm a red-blooded male. I like to look at pretty or even beautiful women (notice I said women, not girls. Important distinction as maturity and confidence are major brownie points). But for a combination of reasons I find going to a Hooters, or the clone Winghouse more frustrating than fun. Sure the food is great, and generally the bar is well stocked with alcohol and televisions, all key points to keep men happy. But the process of getting the food and watching some men drool over the staff can turn it into an ordeal.
The first night was just fun when I struck up a conversation with the rider from Colorado. Unfortunately, my luck didn't stay with me on the second night. Between the waitress/bartender with an attention suited to her blonde hair and the angry Canadian sitting next to me, this was a case of eat up, drink up and get out.
I lived with the order being wrong, although my tongue wasn't too happy about the hotter than requested wings and I managed to get by sipping on the remains of my drink. The angry Canadian with the big Stetson had me going from intrigued to rushing the food just to go back to the room. He didn't even ride a motorcycle, just wanted to come down here to see what all the fuss was about.
Canadian Cowboy did mention a great biker bar that I mentally made a note of considering for my last night in town. Called the Cabbage Patch, it carried a reputation with an edge of notoriety. But more about that later.
All of these circumstances had me in bed by 10.30 laying there feeling the day catching up with me as I nodded off.
The plan for my last full day in Daytona was to see hit the Speedway, visiting all the motorcycle manufacturers and then head over to a new addition to Bike Week, Bruce Rossmeyer's Destination Daytona.
Since this was the day to buy T-shirts and presents the saddlebags were a must, but because I was enjoying the 'naked' look of my Deuce too much, the windshield stayed off for another day. Even with the packing and assembling of the bike, I was backing it in a parking spot at the Speedway by 9.15am.
A lot of sights to see.
It's not clear whether or not my Harley attire kept the Sportbike Salesmen away as I wandered through the various displays. The darker side of my humor had most of them recovering from hangovers as they rested in the tall directors chairs.
It was a sedate morning with the sun filtering through the hazy skies making it not only hotter but incredibly humid, sounds of all makes of motorcycles rumbling up and down International Speedway as the PA Announcer kept the crowds both inside and outside of the stadium informed of the upcoming races.
From Big to Small, Daytona had them all!!!
Soon I tracked down my bike, which wasn't as easy as it sounds and headed over to Destination Daytona. Bruce Rossmeyer is a well known name in Southern Florida with riders either indifferent about him or downright hating the man. When someone found out I bought my bike from one of his dealerships they told me "Friends don't let friends buy from Bruce." Since the person saying this just happened to be best friends with the salesperson who sold me the motorcycle, I thought the whole thing odd.
Regardless of how you feel, he's obviously done well with numerous Harley Davidson Dealerships, the largest being north of Daytona near Ormond by the Sea. I decided to ride along I-95 with no real directions, relying solely on Mr. Rossmeyer's commercial savvy and healthy ego to have billboards along I-95 to find the way. The number of motorcycles multiplied around me and soon we outnumbered the cars on the highway. It was pretty much at this point that I knew to simply follow the motorcycles, especially since you could see the line to exit the highway before the billboard telling travelers to 'exit here' for the dealership. With the line starting before the off-ramp, curving around with road and onto the entrance to the dealership, there was nearly a mile of motorcycles, two or three motorcycles astride. Just as with the police managing the heavier traffic spots in downtown Daytona, the staff at Destination Daytona kept the flow moving at a steady stream eliminating any kind of wait time at all.
The entrance was actually a service road going past the dealership and fields of tents and booths leading to a large dirt lot. Staff members directed the long line of riders into the lot with other employees walking around handing out wooden boards to put under the kickstands for better stability when parked. Say what you like about the guy, he or whoever organized this event obviously thought way ahead. When I came to back my bike in the rear wheel hit a mound of dirt and as much as I threw my body wieght into pulling the Deuce backwards, couldn't get it to go over. Eventually the biker next to me came over and gave a friendly push. Once off and while packing away assorted gear I had the opportunity to pass along the favor to the rider trying to back in the other side of me.
The dealership itself was huge and a city of tents, trucks and trailers surrounded it spreading the whole event out to the size of a large traveling fair. Going back to the insane urge to own t-shirts from the different dealerships I visit on my travels, this was one of the places on my list to look for t-shirts. The fact that the humidity had kicked into high gear rushed me into the air-conditioned store even quicker, ending a conversation with my girlfriend just so I could cool down.
His two locations in and around Fort Lauderdale are relatively new and really nice with one having a second floor for both motorcycles and attire, but they paled in comparison to this one. More spacious and finished with luxurious touches, the dealership felt like it could have a Rodeo Drive address. As I walked in the mural painter was going break from his thirty foot wide creation tracking the history of Harley and Rossmeyer's rise. Even the marble floors were inlaid with Harley related designs.
To be fair, the stuff I buy from Bruce Rossmeyer's dealerships are always of the best quality and tend to last the rigors of wind and an occasional Florida shower, even if it follows the HD acronym of 'high-dollar'. I've bought some shirts from other Harley dealerships that not only didn't withstand the test of time, but had problems within two months!
As nice as the place was though, a personal touch was definitely lacking. Although I'm sure the checkout was efficient and certainly had no line, the shirts had the tags ripped off and folding by one person, who shouted out the total price. Without looking up the cashier tapped it in then held out her hand for payment.
You have a nice day too!
Next to the dealership was another building, same paint scheme and colors which seemed to have hotel rooms above some walk-up fast food restaurants
After all the fried food I'd eaten over the last few days, I felt it was time to get something in my system that wasn't prepared by boiling fat. The closest I could come was some chicken with fries and coleslaw, but the frustration was short-lived with the older lady taking my order acting so sweet and concerned about the lack of healthy stuff behind the counter. Or it could be that I'm so used to the terrible service we have in South Florida, anything remotely human showing something resembling an emotion immediately gets classified as great customer service.
The tables were large and round, seating at least twelve people. A family of five at my table were kind enough to share the days events, upcoming plans and the grandmother gave an excellent demonstration of chewing food with the mouth open (otherwise how else can you show how it should be done) while living in obvious dementia. It wasn't surprising then that I should notice a scantily dressed blonde behind a booth at the edge of the dining area, next to the stage. It was Desiree, real name I'm sure, who was the spokesmodel for the Support our Troops booth. According to the 2006 Bike Week Tour Guide paper given out at Destination Daytona, several members of her family have or are serving in the Armed Forces. Although the group writes that she'll be representing Support our Troops at events all over the country, there's nothing on the website about her. Strange.
Desiree - She's pursuing a degree in accounting and I'm sure wishes for world peace.
There was a little bit of everything for bikers at Destination Daytona, that is if they rode cruisers. From as basic as custom frames to chrome and special designs for practically every part of a motorcycle could be bought, modified and installed. A vendor had their display built around a mini-workshop to install custom fiber-optic lighting, while a chopper builder display consisted of the different stages of the creation process with each stage being for sale, naturally.
J & P Cycles, the catalog motorcycle parts distributor had a large booth at Destination Daytona, hedging their bets and guaranteeing if they didn't catch a biker's eye with the location on Main Street, Downtown Daytona then they'd try to get you here. I've always been impressed with the knowledge and patience of the J & P staff as they seemingly walk people through what they want to the right product. Never had the experience myself, but a lot can be gathered from a little observation and maybe just a touch of eavesdropping.
One of the more interesting products catching my attention were the Kevlar and Carbon Fiber reinforced composite helmets. They looked like skullcaps but had the Snell and DOT ratings and if I heard the salesman's pitch correctly, it's taken the manufacturer years just to get the different testing bodies to even consider the new technology. Not wanting to open the whole full-face, half helmet debate the only thing stopping me from buying one was the price tag. Just at a glance, it seemed to up near the $300+ range and a little too pricey for me. Its not that I put a budget on safety, after all I wear a DOT/Snell approved helmet now, but I do put a limit on what I'll spend for vanity. Being the owner of three perfectly good helmets, this purchase would be to reduce the size of my helmet and quite frankly, look that much better. Aside from the fact that right now I can quite contently leave my helmet on my motorcycle when parked and walk away worry-free, but I couldn't imagine any of the same comfort with something that expensive.
Between the stage for live music, variety of vendors and all the other entertainment Rossmeyer had an event that strongly rivaled the goings on in Downtown Daytona. One of the better differences was the thinner crowds, which I'm sure wasn't so much to do attendance but with more room for everyone to mill around. Just the walk from the first tent to the actual dealership itself was the same distance as the length of Main Street but with three or four times the additional width, then add the additional area for vendors and displays it was more comfortable to wander around.
Slowly making my way towards the exit took me through a custom bike exhibit.
A nice display recounting the history of Harley apparel, marketing and advertisements with new motorcycles strategically placed as you made your way through the years.
Since fashion is known to go in cycles (excuse the pun) I'm sure some of these looks will come back...excuse if I don't hold my breath waiting...
The racing side of Harley wasn't only the most impressively and professionally done but also the coolest. It was set up inside a truck trailer with air-conditioning set at around 68 degrees and where most people were complaining it was too cold (according the gentleman running the show) more of a display to keep me indoors longer would've been nice. The afternoon was getting incredibly humid.
A quick walk around the Genuine Harley Accessories tent and I made my way back to the Deuce. The detour that had been set up to help the traffic flow in and out of Destination Daytona took me into the beautiful countryside, which was much needed after a morning of milling around. An amusing sight of a church with a sign stuck by the side of the road offering free coke and hamburgers to bikers made me wonder if there was anymore reason to save a bikers soul over any other or if this was simply a case of taking advantage of the situation. My mind went back to the nicely painted Harley depicting various religious scenes which always seemed to be parked in the same place along Main Street offering free bibles to visiting bikers.
Speaking of Main Street, that was the next destination with the goal of buying t-shirts and some memorabilia.
Little did I know, the day was just getting interesting.