If you haven't done so already, I'd recommend reading day one before going any further. Why I've even had time to take out the typo's and mis-spellings since the original entry!
It was Friday and I had two fulls days both today and tomorrow to enjoy the long list of activities at Daytona Bike week 2006 before riding home Sunday morning. While having some wings and beer at Winghouse last night an interesting item in the 'Bike Week 2006 Pocket Guide' caught my attention:
Daytona 200 MC Mystery Ride - A 200 mile ride through Florida backroads and forests - Easy paced, plenty of stops, lunch somewhere - Registration 9:00 - 10:00AM. 3.5 miles west of I-95 on Interntaional Speedway Blvd.
The pocket book seemed to be a pretty thorough guide to the annual event and certainly was everywhere in Daytona. Anytime you bought anything, it was thrown in the bag with your purchase. If eating, piles of the pocket book were stacked throughout the restaurant. The mystery ride caught my eye over the bike shows and numerous bars listed with their live music or wet t-shirt contests because it was actually about riding! Even better, the event started less than 5 miles away from my hotel.
Even though the sounds of motorcycles roared into my room throughout the night, I woke up fairly early, refreshed and ready to ride. A quick continental breakfast in the hotel dining area, (which looked an awful lot like part of the lobby) but who cares when free Cheerios are involved. Heck, they even had free milk!
Interestingly enough, as friendly as bikers can be while riding out on the road, I'd noticed that they were a shy bunch in Daytona. I ended up chatting with the lady in charge of keeping the mini-cereal boxes stocked and coaching otherwise clever members of society through the intricacies of toasting a bagel. This casual conversation had absolutely nothing to do with taking a few pieces of fruit with me after finishing breakfast.
Back in my room and walking out onto my expansive patio, the parking lot was full of motorcycles with quite a few parked on the grass leading up to the rooms.
As you can see in the first two pictures, my immediate neighbors came well prepared with not only chairs and bike covers, but they'd also dutifully clean their bikes bright and early both mornings they were in town.
Made sure all the necessary items were packed and attached the saddlebags, but decided to leave the windshield off figuring that we wouldn't be spending much time over 60 miles per hour. This would come back to haunt me.
The hotel was perfectly located, with the Winghouse next door and a gas station right next to it. A quick fill up and four miles down the road found me at what had to be the starting point of the ride. As I rode in there were parked bikes and different size tents dotted around the fenced in area. It was only 9.15 in the morning and not wanting to wake every camper I killed the engine as soon as possible.
The motorcycle club hosting the ride (Daytona 200 MC) also owned the campground and I found out later that both provided income for the club. The ride was only $10 per rider and $5 for additional passengers, not bad for 200 miles worth of riding.
While wasting away the forty five minutes until the rides kick off, I had the chance to talk with the owner of a 1984 Moto Guzzi before he disappeared to test drive the newer models at the Speedway.
The owner of the Moto Guzzi and the Deuce
A few cups of coffee and hanging out with both other riders as well as the campers for forty five minutes and it was time to mount up and ride.
Our group was heading out to the central part of Florida. Several things struck me while riding:
Whether it was just because the locals were trying to be nice during Bike week (which is actually over two weeks, but thats another blog for another time) but they were the most courteous and understanding drivers.
What a difference a few hundred miles can make. There was no mistaking that the countryside was Florida, but with the cool weather, twisting roads and rural area's it was like being in another state.
A biker is a biker, whether they're from Pennsylvania, New York or Colorado. Super nice, smart and easy going people.
Spot the Deuce (third from the left in both pics)
First stop was a pee and gas break. Problem with having twenty odd riders everywhere you go, instant line for the bathroom!
We stopped at Gator Joes which sits on Lake Weir. Looking it up on a map now I see we'd travelled three quarters across the State. Admittedly, Florida isn't that wide but it re-enforces the impression that came during the ride. Daytona 200 MC really put some effort into this ride.
Our fearless leader for the ride on the left and a fellow rider from PA on the right.
An unexpected treat, flyby courtesy of a seaplane!
The parking lot...full of damn bikers!
Cactus Jacks....typical small town bar, no windows and easy to forget what time of day it is when you're inside.
View from the road.
Where do you park twenty-odd motorcycles?
Wherever you darn well please!
The celebrity of the stop was an elderly gentleman who owned a 1925 and 1927 Ford, as well as an old engine that did something??? He started them and had them running as we all stood there in awe!
We had one more stop at a gas station which was really too quick to take pictures at. The choice was given to go onto one more stop or head back. I asked if we'd be getting back before dark, explaining that I didn't put my windshield on and I didn't need to ride through the swarms of bugs guarantee'd to be out after sunset. No problem, they said! This would come back as an interesting retrospective. I decided to join the smaller group of ten riders going onto stop four.
With less people and sturdier riders, our leader Jon took us on a tighter route with sharper curves at a speedier pace. It was great! Well except for the corner where I decided to space out only realizing as I leaned into the curve that it was much sharper than I'd anticipated. Thankfully the guy behind was paying attention, fell back and gave me room to go wide.
It seemed pretty involved to get to the 3 Banana's and I joked with Jon that the ride was only $10 to come out but he'd charge $50 to take us back.
After a beer we hit the road for about thirty minutes before stopping to change into our jackets, it was getting dark fast. The local riders peeled off the group when it came time for them to go their own way and soon we were down to eight riders. By the time it was so dark you could barely make out who was on the motorcycle in front of you, the road captain, who was about three riders ahead of me turned left. For whatever reason the other riders drove straight on. I slowed and then stopped my bike only to have the rest of the group storm past. I tried to shout and give hand signals but no-one stopped.
There I was with a quandry. Do I try to find and catch up with the Road Captain or speed up to be with the rest of the lost pack? Since I had no idea where I was, it was dark and quite frankly I was a little tired the most obvious choice was to catch up with the group.
By the time I pulled up it was clear that not only had they realized the road captain was long gone, but no-one could agree on what chould happen next. As we discussed our options which seemed to be; waiting to see if he came this way (it was the only other route back evidently besides the road he was last seen riding away on) or going ahead and following another member of the motorcycle club who knew his way back to the clubhouse, cars patiently sat behind us not honking or giving any outward impression of any frustration. If this had been South Florida we as bikers would've just heard the car horns as they ran over us.
We decided to follow the club member. Even with the confidence of following a group of riders who knew where to go, riding at night in this part of the state was quite unnerving. I'm used to street lights on the most remote roads (expect for the ones cutting through the sugar cane fields) so riding on this dark night using only the bikes headlights in front of you to see the road took some getting used to.
When we made it back to the clubhouse, I dismounted my bike long enough to thank everyone involved, shake some hands and hop back on the bike to head to the hotel room for a much needed rest.
Although I did head downtown to Main Street to check out the Bike Week partying, nothing could've surpassed the ride which started at 10am and had a crazy nocturnal finish at 7.30pm, putting 260 miles on the odometer.
What a day!