Daytona Beach, March 2003

Photo and movie credits Jeff Timblin

Wednesday

This year we took the standard bike week route again. The plan was to get there quickly and check the bike vendors at the speedway for afternoon demo rides. This time we decided to get a head start and went halfway down on Wednesday night. We stopped for the night at a Days Inn in Manning SC. Although the room was adequate, and I did not lose the quarter toss for the roll-away bed (woohoo!) there was some delay at the gas station. The attendants were the laziest convenience store workers I have ever encountered, prompting one rider to buy a minimum amount of gas and wait for a station to open the next morning before filling up. Amazing they stay in business. If you stay in Manning SC stay away from the gas station just west of the Days Inn. Get gas in the morning at the station east of the hotel just beyond the I-95 overpass.

Thursday

Some scheduling confusion preventing meeting up with a fellow biker for breakfast, so we were off early flying down the interstate at 0700. The trip was mostly uneventful. There was half-hour backup on I-95 just south of the Georgia-Florida border -- a motorcyclist had wrecked and was being airlifted out by a helicopter. My KLR650 had a few hiccups as well -- the engine sputtered for about 150 miles jerking and cutting out but managing to maintain the 70-80mph. Finally it died altogether, fortunately while I was in the leftmost lane allowing me to pull off the road and coast to a stop. After sitting for a few minutes it started again and we were on our way. All was well after half a bottle of high quality gas treatment and a fresh tank of unleaded, so we theorized it must have been bad gas. The other bikes had used a different grade of gas and had no problems. As you can see (right) Bike Week was in full swing when we hit town.

Getting to the speedway early on Thursday was very fortunate. We managed to snag rides on Harleys, Suzuki Bergman scooters, and the mighty V-8 Boss Hoss (pictured left). The Hoss is an interesting ride. Just blipping the throttle spurs the Chevy V-8 into a rumbling growl and jerks the bike startlingly.

Once you're use to it it holds a certain goofy thrill. By the time we pulled away on the demo ride I half expected the giant V-8 to spin the rear tire and ceremoniously dump me like Pee Wee Herman outside the hangout of his Satan's Helpers, but the torque converter is remarkably lose, allowing you to rev' the engine up and down while providing fairly gentle and constant thrust to the huge rear tire. Oddly the 1100-pound beast is very easy to idle at walking speed, perhaps because of the nearly square, wide rear tire.

Friday

Unfortunately the rest of the weekend was spotty, many of the demo rides being cancelled due to rain. But all was not lost. We found some jovial accomplices to help us while away the hours in the hospitality of the Kawasaki courtesy tent (if you are not a member of the Kawasaki Good Times Owners Club you should be -- free food and drink all day at any event they attend and a dry relatively safe place to stow your gear under the tent).

This happy camper (right) dressed in orange Froggs Toggs was actually a rabid Ural fan in disguise. He entertained us with myriad reasons why Urals are great bikes, including having replaced the crank of his bike for less than $300. He had cracked the crank by riding the Ural at 70mph for an hour (it seems this is considered abuse on a Ural, go figure). It was a great afternoon of bs'ing and hoping the demo rides would be re-instated once the rain lifted. No such luck.

The rain didn't dampen spirits on Main Street for long. Between showers all manner of vehicles were to be seen parading up and down the strip. Along with the $100,000 plus choppers by big name iron boutiques such as West Coast Choppers and Orange County, homely examples of American ingenuity graced the street. All one has to do is stand behind the fence at the Boot Hill Saloon, drink the Corona and Jim Beam Hard Sodas and take advantage of the free peanuts. Watching the parade on the strip and the occasional mammalian display is thirsty work.

The exhibitions were not limited to two or even three wheeled vehicles. Some four wheelers were on hand to take advantage of the crowds and get a little concentrated advertising in.
I even found a friendly barber down the street on duty and ready to tame my shaggy mop. The haircut was complete with a back massage applied by a giant vibrating, uh, vibrator. We were also treated to a spiel by someone claiming to be the owner of the hottest new strip club in town, who only had enough money for a beard trim, no tip.
While waiting in line at the Boss Hoss demo tent we had heard that the No Name Saloon down in Edgewater had a $5.99 T-bone steak with all the trimmings, and prime rib for just a bit more. How can a guy refuse something like that? A quick blast down I-95 had us parking in the dirt across the street from the fenced in facility and checking the parking lot out front for the latest items up for sale.

Once inside we located a table and settled in. The wait for the steaks was rewarded by T-bones covered in onions and mushrooms served up on paper plates with baked potatoes and Texas toast, as they were out of prime rib. The disposable flatware and dishes is understandable given the volume of business they did that night in the tiny building. The food was good for the price although Ruth's Chris is in no danger.

The rear area outside the No Name Saloon is surrounded by a seven foot wooden double picket fence creating a nice festival type atmosphere that holds many times the number of people who could fit in the bar itself. Like many such venues in and around Daytona Beach vendors selling carnival type foods and souvenirs are staked out in trailers and under tents selling unique pieces of jewelry and riding gear. The rest of the evening was spent with live music, not so fine cigars and various, er, modeling contests.

Saturday

Saturday served up a few more demo rides, again marred by rain. Fortune (aided by good buddies) occasionally smiles on an idiot. I was roused from my air mattress (I had lost the coin toss for either of the good beds) by a phone call that went something like this ... "Hey man, you otta get down to the back side of the track. BMW's letting people ride R1150S's around the infield portion of the speedway. The line's not too long"

I hauled butt down to the speedway and hit the right gate on the second try. After some confusion about how to get signed up I was treated to six laps around the paved infield section of the raceway having been preceded by my roommates, now on their way to the Kawasaki tent for the rides we had arranged the previous day (another perk of the Kawasaki Good Times Owners Club). The ride on the track was most excellent! I was next to last in a group of about eight. They guy ahead of me had instructed me to pass him, claiming, "I'm slow". I thought I would be the slowest guy on the track; I was wrong. The big twin was very torquey and the compact riding position became comfortable after a lap or two. After six laps I took the opportunity to pass on a straightaway and worked the unfamiliar, new, expensive bike as hard as my meager skills allowed on a wet track to catch the rest of the group.

I was also lucky enough to make it back to the Kawasaki tent in time to ride the not yet released Z1000. What a hoot. A big honking engine in a tiny 600-size frame. I was surprised at how easy the bike was to handle. I'm not a sport bike rider by any means but had fun with the new bike while not feeling the least bit threatened by it. I was much more at ease on it than on the ZX9R with which it shares some engine lineage. Could be the more upright riding position. We took the opportunity to re-visit the large cycle gear vendor area where we had purchased our Froggs Toggs the previous day and to get information on the AMA Flat Track National race to be held at a nearby stadium that evening.

My least favorite stop of the trip was the Last Resort Bar just north of New Smyrna Beach. Upon arriving we parked the bikes as close as possible, a few hundred yards away, and hiked up to the bar. Hearing the blat of a small motor we assumed an ice carving, similar to what we had seen at Boot Hill the night before, must be going on in the fenced-in area behind the bar. After sitting for a spell and enjoying a cool beverage we wandered out back to check out the vendor area.

The motor running turn out to be a Honda twin being run full throttle with the oil drain plug out and the crankcase drained. The little bike was chained near a large tree draped with the carcasses of its dearly departed (all Japanese) brethren apparently sentenced to the same fate. The Honda had run and smoked for about a half hour. The guffaws and hooting had died down as the avid Harley fans watched the little Japanese Honda run on, and on, and on. Eventually someone was overheard to say, "Anyone want to buy my Harley, I'm getting me a Honda". The little Honda eventually died a chortling death without the drama of fire or any type of bang or screeching metal. yeehaw.

We made it back to the No Name Saloon for another sampling of the low priced beef, getting a better table this time. After a quick tour of the fenced lot we headed out for the flat track stadium on LPGA Blvd. The flat track racing was much more exciting than I had anticipated. Before a crowd of several thousand the nations top flat track racers battled it out literally bar to bar, with a few participants hitting the dirt, but no serious injuries. If you have a fast internet connection, click here to view the 3.5 Mb movie, then use the back button to get back here.

After the race, it was pandemonium with everyone trying to get out of the stadium parking lot at once. Those of use on two wheels had the upper hand weaving traffic and getting preferential treatment from the law enforcement officials keeping order. We were out and on the road in less than five minutes. Word to the wise, when watching live motorcycle racing, go "native".

Sunday

Sunday was to be a day of race spectating. As it turned out, Sunday set a new rainfall record for that day in the recorded history of Daytona Beach. Despite that, the BMW Boxer Cup final was run, having been rained out earlier in the week. It was a very exciting race, with the wide cylindered BMW's taking different lines and some bikes leaving the track unexpectedly. The racing was fierce and no one was seriously injured. We also watched the AMA Supersport (600) final, another excellent race. The Superbike final was rained out, however. A trip to the track is not complete without a burger or hot dog and we had our share. The vendors had a run of bad luck with all the rain, crowds leaving early rather than waiting around to buy the pricey eats and drinks. We waited around to see if the weather would clear up, but all the water on the track could not have been dried in time anyway. We did our best to stay warm, keeping fairly dry in our Froggs Toggs in the covered portion of the general admission section. The reserved seating, UNCOVERED, above us had cost twice as much. Glad we were in the cheaper covered section.

Having been rained out, and having paid $169 per night to stay at the Super 8 Motel, we decided to up the ante a surprisingly small amount and hit the Hilton for some relaxation before blasting back up I-95. Happy to get off the air mattress I had gambled against and lost at the Super 8, I lay in the lap of luxury that evening. A quick trip out to a local steak house filled my belly and helped me to an early turn-in in preparation for the 600-mile blast back to the Triangle on Monday.

Monday

Monday was a thankfully unremarkable trip up I-95. Traffic moved quickly and we were home just before dark. It was another fun trip, and I'm already looking for accommodations for Bike Week 2004, having already secured lodging for Biketoberfest 2003. A preliminary survey of hotels in Daytona Beach indicates the going rate is $250 per night with a minimum of five nights at most hotels next year. It may be time to consider renting a condo or house. We may need to recruit more hands for the next trip.