Monday, March 13, 2006

Daytona Bike Week 2006!

Quick Note - This blog was actually started on Monday, but with real life getting in the way, it's already thursday and I'm finally getting to finish it off!

Back to the story!

It's sad to say that over twenty four hours after getting back, dismounting and throwing the cover over my faithful steed, life seems to be falling back into normal.

Was it only four days ago that I set out on my first real motorcycle adventure to visit the legendary Daytona Bike Week?

The Preparation
Wednesday night was full of expectation and uncertainty. This would be the first long ride taken since all the work was completed on the Deuce. If anything wasn't screwed tightly enough or completed right, I'd be finding out potentially a long way from home. Never really having the urge to try out the Harley Owners Group free roadside assistance program, there was nothing really appealing about this idea. The trip would also be a first for travelling away from home with a fully packed and loaded motorcycle. It was nearly a completely new ride with the pipes, saddlebags as well as an additional bag for that little bit of extra needed storage.

Can you ever have enough storage?

All the jeans and t-shirts needed were washed, toiletries packed, even remembered to throw in all the different chargers and an electronic toll pass. Now I just had to fall asleep so getting up wouldn't be so difficult and in a timely manner.

Thursday..time to hit the road!
Some friends had suggested getting on the road as early as 6.30am with the thought process that the most congested part of the trip would be behind me by the time rush hour started to kick in. This also fell in line with a suggestion by Benjamin for a particular bike show happening in Daytona early thursday afternoon. But as with all great laid plans, they were slightly changed when a sleepy headed banker couldn't get his lazy butt out of bed until after seven am! Oh well.

I attached the windshield, packed saddlebags and strapped on the dufflebag. Although still early in the day, with it being South Florida the first thought was I'd be warm enough wearing a t-shirt, denim shirt and leather vest. I had to ride down to the girlfriends house, but since this would mean starting the day riding along the beach, it wasn't much of a hardship. Conveniently, her house is located just off a major highway which links with the planned route to Daytona so everything seemed to falling into place, even if the morning was starting a little later than originally planned.

Before I left her house, it was the pre-trip picture time!

Everything looks nicely tightened and tied down, I'd soon find out this wasn't really the case.

A quick call to my boss before I hit the road to clear up some unfinished business (a lenders work is never done) then it was time to ride! Took I-595 west to the Florida Turnpike and then headed North. A look over my shoulder and I saw that the dufflebag had shifted backwards, resting on the paintwork of my rear wheel cover with the rear light pretty much holding it in place. Since there was no fear of the thing falling off I settled in for my two hundred odd mile trip. After riding for about forty five minutes, the chilly thursday morning air brought on the thought of throwing on the leather jacket. With what few other riders I saw wearing full leather gear there wasn't much need of further convincing to stop at the next rest stop to change out the leather vest for the jacket. In the back of my mind however I just knew that as soon as the leather jacket went on the sun would come out. Wanting to toy with Mother Natures warped sense of humor, I kept the fingerless gloves on, teasing her on which way to go with the weather.

Is it lunchtime yet?
The route was simple enough. Take the Florida Turnpike north until Fort Pierce where Hwy 70 linked it to I-95, then head north until Daytona Beach. This route is the most straighforward for a few reasons. Looking on a map, it's the straightest line along the eastern coastline of Florida to travel north . The turnpike hangs a left at around Fort Pierce heading severly inland and not only did the designers of I-95 take the road slightly inland for quite a few miles, it's also pretty unenjoyable from Fort Lauderdale right up until after Jupiter. That's nearly an hour and half ride of avoiding congested, irritable, oblivious drivers. Not exactly the way to start a short vacation.

Going through the tolls was an easy and quick maneuver, unzip the left pocket where the electronic tollpass was stored and hold it up with the clutch hand with the bike downshifted to second.

Once the change from the Turnpike to I-95 via Hwy 70 had been negotiated it was just past 11 am and I'd been riding for just over an hour since the last short stop for gas. A quick guest-a-mate of the mileage completed and what should've been left put this at a good time to have lunch. When I saw a BP with a Dairy Queen, the decision was made to stop for an early lunch. A little known fact is that the Texas DQ locations, after much legal wrangling, are allowed to have a slightly different menu from the rest of the country featuring their delicious 'beltbuster' line of burgers. Although they wouldn't have those in this Dairy Queen, it'd been years since eating at one and with very few locations in South Florida, this seemed like a perfect idea for lunch!

Between the last twenty minutes of riding and watching people pulling into the station who were obviously heading for the Bike Week, I was a little perplexed. There seemed to be an awful lot of people trailering their motorcycles! Sure, the people driving campers and the larger 'home-on-wheels' I can understand, but there were an awful lot of trucks and cars pulling trailered bikes. Fort Lauderdale certainly isn't that far and even by coming from Miami you'd only add another forty five minutes to an already short trip.

Even though the luggage which had only shifted slightly during the half of the trip had no chance of falling off, it was bothering me with how it rested on the the paintwork of my Deuce, so I realigned the luggage to where it laid longways across my seat, as you can sort of see by this picture.

At the time it seemed like this would keep the luggage off my paintwork and firmly behind me. A quick fill up of gas and ten minutes on the road would prove me wrong. Riding north on I-95, I quickly galnced over my shoulder to see the bag's broadside was catching the wind, blowing it back with the comically stretched the bungee cords struggling to keep it attached to the motocycle. All my electronic stuff and clothes were packed in this bag, not the things you'd want bouncing along a busy highway among the fairly busy traffic. There was no sign of an exit anywhere ahead and I was truly caught between a rock and hard place of risking the bag falling off or the obvious struggle to get back onto the road after re-affixing the luggage.

I decided to pull over to the hard shoulder. Maybe it was the embarrasement of having all the riders I'd just passed zipping past me, or just being pissed off from having to stop again, but the emotions helped me see the solution. By wrapping the front bungee cords around the saddle strap sown on the seat, the bag couldn't move any further back. A few shakes had the luggage feeling like it wouldn't slide from side to side either. Finally.

Let's get to the beach already.
I guess it's natural to worry when riding to a place you've never been before, having forgotten to print off the directions to the hotel, that when you see other riders exiting off the highway long before you think you're supposed too. I seemed to remember that the name of the street was International something or other, and this hadn't even appeared on a 'coming real soon' traffic sign when dozens of bikers turned off at the Smyrna Beach exit. Should I have gone down there too? Admittedly I had to wait until the next exit to turn around even if I wanted to follow them, but if I decide to press on, how much longer should I ride for?

A few more miles of staying the course had International Speedway Drive appear, and being the most likely road, I took it heading east. Pride was soon replaced with embarrassment when I realized somehow I managed to miss the huge sign of my hotel. This did give me a taste of Bike Week traffic as I rode past the speedway, but still wearing the many layers it wasn't long before I started to sweat. While waiting on hold for the hotel to come on with directions, I stripped down to less cooler layers in a Bank of America parking lot. Don't you love riding?

Once at the hotel and checked in, I had a ground floor room with the managements blessing to park my bike on the patio outside the room. Very nice. It seemed everyone staying there had a motorcycle, although trailers did litter the parking lot.

Home for the next few days and the Deuce just outside in the parking lot.

Other motorcycles and trailers at the hotel.

A strip down for me into somthing to feel cooler and a strip down of the windshield and bags to make the bike look cooler!

The ride to Main Street which is really the heart of Daytona Bike Week goes past the real reason for the ten days, Daytona Speedway where all the different classes of races are held. Tent cities surrounded the speedway housing the different dispalys of the variety of exhibitors. All the names could be seen from the road, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Honda, but no Harley. That was saved for it's own very special celebration.

International Speedway blvd rides though your everyday wide city road with shopping strips and restaurants either side. The moderate to heavy traffic gave plenty of time to check out most of the roadside retailers but I knew the waiting was over when sitting at a light not yards away from the base of a huge bridge. Sure enough once over and two more traffic lights later, it was time to head north along the strip towards Main Street. It was going up and down this twice looking for parking that had me next to a rider who came from New York City the day before, riding straight through. Wow. What was even more impressive is that he had no windshield making a long ride feel even longer. We both found the parking and headed into the 65th Daytona Bike Week!

Main Street was dominated by the smell, sound and sights of motorcycles. All makes, years and designs. Some riders cruised in the stop and go traffic running up and down Main Street while those lucky enough to find a piece of curb parked their bikes, sat back and watched the continous show.

The sidewalks were congested by pedestrians either checking out the motorcycles, or the stores which consisted of t-shirt and leather shops or bars. Sex sells and I guess some people think it sells real well to bikers. Every bartender and waitress was scantily dressed and had thier own little gimmick to catch the riding eye.

"Help a poor bartender - Donate to my boob-fund" was taped to a tip jar at the same bar that encouraged patrons to come up and be whipped with a rather thick looking leather belt. This was done by the cute waitress, who expected a nice tip of course. She had quite a few customers.
I never really knew that chaps were worn in South Florida, what with the hot weather and all. But it seems that one can avoid sweating in the hot leather by only wearing underwear (preferably thongs) under the chaps. Thankfully only the women tried this. Still some of the shouldn't have. Really I mean it.

This one bartender decided that flowers held on with pasties would attract attention and business. I can testify to the attention part.

Speaking of sex and selling, I was very pleasantly surprised to find one of the shows I love to watch on HBO decided to set up shop in Bike Week. Cathouse is a regular topic of conversation among the men at work during our more private coffee breaks and the owner of Bunny Ranch, Dennis was selling t-shirts (naturally) and promoting his women and the show, or is that the show and his women. Either way it was the pink chopper on show in front of the stand that caught my attention first. Seeing the pictures of the hot blond sort of makes me embarrass to write that.

The leading lady of the upcoming second series of Cathouse, as told to me by the owner (Dennis) on the right in our brief man-to-man conversation.

Harley haters should get eyes ready to roll and rotten fruit to throw at the computer screen. As lovely as these ladies were, I wanted to make sure I collected a H.O.G commerative pin and set out to find where the hospitality tent was set up. When I asked someone from the Daytona HOG Chapter (she was wearing a namebadge) she pointed me to the Convention Center. Downstairs Harley had a nice display of bikes and apparel with hopsitality services upstairs. It was a nice set up with tables, snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, membership services (giving out the pins) and of course selling T-shirts. On the way out of the building I bought a vest pin from the MDA which looked very cool, actually cooler than the official Harley pin. I'm sure being designed by Arlene Ness had nothing to do with it. Best part of paying for the pin was that all the money went to the MDA charity.

With the pin collected and having seen what would most likely be the hottest women on Main Street, it was time to kick back and enjoy the atmosphere. Boot Hill Saloon is world famous in Daytona Beach being the traditional "first stop" when you blow into town. It's a long standing tradition, almost a quest by many, to buy a Boot Hill T-shirt before leaving Daytona Beach. For the ladies who visit the famous Saloon it is a long standing tradition to leave their bra hanging from the ceiling. Evidently, the official deeds and abstracts go back to the 1800's when the building was built. It was three buildings in one, one side a church, the middle section a "watering hole" better known as a bar by many, and the third portion a barbershop.

After a beer there and a listen to the band (who said they play at Sturgis Bike Week too) I headed down to the full moon bar to listen to thier band. You could walk down the street and here band after band playing, some facing each other across the street! The bars took over parking lots, set up stages and the money making bars fencing it off to make sure you didn't leave the premises with any alcohol. Actually the bouncers checked for more on the way in than on the way out. During the day it wasn't too strict on the weapon searches, but they made sure no-one came in with any colors. As the numerous signs said, 'No Weapons, No Colors, No Attitudes'.

The day had started fairly early and the evening was starting to settle in. Since the saddlebags had been taken off, I only had the sleeveless T-shirt I was wearing for the ride home. This gave me the perfect excuse to buy some Bike Week long sleeve T's for the ride home! On the walk back and while I made my way through some clothing racks saw these interesting looking bikes.

And it seems, everything is all about the motorcycle in Daytona, even the EMT's.

Getting out of the beach area was certainly easier than getting in. Arriving back at the hotel, I parked the Deuce and walked over to the Winghouse restaurant for some beer and wings. The number of motorcycles parked around the restaurant would make any normal nike night proud, and there always seemed to be more arriving, looking for parking.

Just to show bikers are the nicest guys around, I started talking to the guy next to me at the bar who was from Colorado of all places. A recent accident kept him from riding his new Roadking to town or even renting a bike while he was here. I listened to Jack's stories from his many years of riding, we stalked politics, life and of course, women.

It was a really nice end to a really intersting day.

Tomorrow, as it would turn out, would be a completely different kind of day.


KT Did said...

Welcome back Laurence...thanks for taking me to Daytona. Its sounds like you had a great time and made someones future boob fund bigger & brighter--HA! Nice Pictures.

Benjamin said...

Welcome safely home. I have been logging on to your site anxiously every day to read your take on this annuall motorcycle pilgrimage to our insanity on the beach in the shadow of That Mouse. I can hardly wait for more stories.
Did you park on Main Street? Looks like you missed the "Old Skool Show" at Tropical Tattoo. Well that gives you something to look forward to next year, because it is a must.

Laurence said...

Thanks for the warm welcome back....this is only the first day, there are three more I need to blog about with the obligitory pics of course...

KT, I didn't donate to the fund, she looked like there were more than enough medically minded bikers on Main Street:):)

Benjamin, Nope, couldn't make it to the show:( this was both my first time to Daytona as well as Bike Week. It was easy to miss a lot of stuff, just from the volume of events! Next year should be even better and more organized (for me).

I'll get the second day up ASAP (which I can't think will be as long)

Christine said...

I have Bike Week Envy!! LOL!! I know you had enough fun for we folks that couldn't make we are living vicariously through your experience!!

Isn't it funny how you plan your trip and think how things should work (your luggage, for example) and find that reality is sooo very different from perception...

I'm glad you had fun...waiting for warmer weather so I can ride (with my friends who quickly learned that they shouldn't ride in the cold).


Christine said...

I have Bike Week Envy!! LOL!! I know you had enough fun for we folks that couldn't make we are living vicariously through your experience!!

Isn't it funny how you plan your trip and think how things should work (your luggage, for example) and find that reality is sooo very different from perception...

I'm glad you had fun...waiting for warmer weather so I can ride (with my friends who quickly learned that they shouldn't ride in the cold).


Gymi said...

Looks like you had a great time, Sun, bikes, women and beer what more can a man ask for.

It seems you can't stop the trailer queens no matter where you go. Even coming from south Florida, you would expect those guys' to ride their bikes.

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Christine said...

Where did you go?? Hmmmm....