It pays to be paranoid. I called to confirm our reservation in Manning SC for Wed night and found that the number is out of service and the hotel is shut down. Now we will be staying 7 miles further south at exit 108 on I-95 in Summerton, SC.
I will be spending three days with clients in two states on the return trip so luggage is laden and mileage is billable! Side note: I used priceline.com to secure a room in the Daytona Beach area following Bike Week for $89 a night when Orbitz could find no rooms available. It's alittle weird committing payment before you can see which hotel you are reserving and I would probably not do so for vacation travel but it worked great for the business lodging.
The bikes stand ready just before we get underway at 6:00PM from the Burger King/Gas station near exit 312 off I-40. We had a pleasant trip down to SC with great weather. During our gas stop the guys pointed out that my KLR's tail light had burned out. Those singles just shake everything to death. We made the Days Inn just before nine. We had a quick fillup at an unattended (closed) gas station on the other side of I-95, before front desk got us checked in. We blasted down the road to a recommended diner that was about to close. The diner had, in fact, closed but Jeff and Russell sweet talked them into two servings of chicken fingers and fries to go, while I searched out some low-card goodies at a gas station next door. We chowed down in the hotel room and hit the hay to get an early start the next day.
We got the intended early start the next morning, at 7:00. Jeff had to brush off a fan in the parking lot who kept eyeballin' his StreetPilot III and asking repeatedly "Where you goin', how far to Ocala?" We burned rubber down to Daytona stopping twice for gas and making the speedway by noon. I had my usual "last leg to Daytona" engine suring and hesitation, setting up the mandatory visit to K-Mart for fuel injection cleaner and that errant tail light.
We beat feet directly to the Kawasaki tent to sign up for the good rides the next day before the hordes claimed all the cool bikes, but to no avail. The next day's docket was almost full, leaving only a few cruisers open. Friday was to be a short day for Kaw demo rides with no rides on Saturday (or Sunday), courtesy of moving the Daytona 200 to Saturday. We should have left a day earlier. We had expected rides to be offered on Sunday since they had been during the last Biketoberfest. Not so. After consuming a few Good Times Owners Club freebies we headed out to check out the rest of the show.
The next stop was the Triumph tent. They were showing off the new Rocket III, which sets a new standard for "mad bumble bee" stature. The engine/tank section of this bike is high and wide.
The next stop was the BMW tent, where Russell tried out the saddle of a bike he proclaimed to be in his future. It looks good on you, Russell. The new R1200GS was on hand to generate interest, it's an early model 2005 so I have no idea when it will be available. It certainly looked leaner -- it should at more than 60 pounds lighter than last year's model. You can thank KTM and Suzuki for providing the motivation.
There was a crowd gathered around one of the BMW's checking out the BMW version of the Garmin Street Pilot and we got an opportunity to talk to an unidentified knowlegable person regarding Garmin's line of GPS's. Those of us waiting patiently for a GPS V replacement will be pleasantly surprised soon, by a product named "Quest". Details were few, but when we complained about the small memory, seril connection and monochrome screen we were assured we would please by the soon to be released compact, autorouting unit.
We continued on to the Honda compound, that seemd to feature as many Honda and
Acura cars as bikes. Honda was sporting a few of their recent toys. Jeff had
a sit on the black framed Ruckus. The cool thing about the Ruckus is you can pick it up and
carry it should the need arise, as Jeff demonstrated immediately following the
picture. Russell was more taken with #17, the 50cc race bike. That thing is
really lean. I know that's a terrible picture, and I am appropriately ashamed.
Having exhausted the possiblity of riding a sport or standard motorcycle on Thursday we ambled over to the American bike section since their approach to demo rides is more friendly to latecomers. On the way over we checked out a few of the new products and some the bikes in the parking lot. Jeff was quick to sample the Big Chicken Barstools' latest offering. Unforturnately no demo rides were available, looks like a good way to get around the house. A real stool mated to a stout four-wheeled frame and motor!
We got rides on Harley's right away. I chose the first available bike, a Dyna
Wide glide with flames on the tank, while Russell rode the Dyna Sport. Before I
knew who it was, some guy on a big hawg raced me at the stop light at Embry
Riddle. It was several intersections later before I realized it was Jeff who had
chased us down on his demo ride! I like riding Harley bikes except for those
damned buckhorn handlebars. There is no accounting for taste, but even the test
ride worker showed disdain for them.
At some point in the day Russell and I rode Suzuki cruisers, I chose the chain driven Marauder 800, while Russell rode the shaft driven 800 Intruder Volusia. The Marauder 800 was OK, but Russell did not care for the Volusia. The hard seat was one issue, but he said the bike just basically did nothing for him. The Marauder had felt insubstantial after riding the Harley's, even compared to the 883, but the Marauder was a lot more comfortable than the pint sized (but battleship heavy) sportster.
After the Harley/Suzuki rides we walked back over to the bikes and saddled up for K-Mart. Jeff and I split a can of injector cleaner, and I got my tail light as well a quart of oil to replenish the pint or so the KLR had consumed since the last oil change. From K-Mart we made a bee-line to the Hilton to stow our gear before the flat track National to be held that evening. Time was running short for dinner so we settled for eating in the restaurant. Good choice -- we all enjoyed our food, the soothing atmosphere and convenient location.
If you have not seen a flat track race you should. This form of racing adheres most closely to the image of racing presented by the classic "On Any Sunday." The racers all seem affable (somewhat) young men having a great time and talking to the fans whenever possible. On the way in fortune and Harley Davison smiled on us. We were given free tickets by a group of midwest Harley employees who's friends had not made it to the race, saving us the sum of $60 for great seats. After the races more excitement ensued in the parking lot when everyone tried to leave at once. We had parked perpendicular to the road on the shoulder on a pretty good slope. Russell rocketed up the grassy knoll like a cross country pro and knifed fearlessly into heavy oncoming traffic on his way back to the hotel while Jeff and I headed out to the Cabbage patch in search of one of Bike Week's delicacies, chicken on a stick.
The Cabbage Patch was a good time. We arrived just in time to catch the end of a set by the Motley Jackson Band, and the start of a t-shirt contest. The contest was being presided over by a woman who refered to herself as 'Fat Patty'. F.P. was not on her best behavior as she groped the contestents and proclaimed her lesbian intents and proficiencies, the details of which I will gracefully omit, but her inspired rendition of "Little Red Riding Hood" was quite good. After her MC duties were complete Patty posed for pictures with admiring fans. Characters like Patty add a richness to the Bike Week experience that makes it all worthwhile. The chicken on a stick did not disappoint.
Friday morning was serious business. Each of us had an agenda and successful execution required an early start. By 6:45 we were out of the hotel and on our way to the speedway. Russell was in search a ride on a BMW R1150S around the infield portions of Daytona's track. Jeff and I arrived early at the Suzuki tent to sign up for rides on the new DL650 V-Strom.
We scored slots in the 9:00 demo ride. I was first out to the bikes after the briefing and hopped on the black unit pictured. Jeff spent some time chatting with the ride leader before they came out to the bikes to find all the DL650's occupied. We were one bike short. Fortunately during our morning tenure in the line I had walked through the demo bikes and remembered that one DL650 had been parked with another group of test bikes. Jeff was planted on the misplaced bike and the test ride was underway.
I really liked the smaller DL. That 650 V-twin really has a long powerband. The power was plenty for me, and the bike was light and neutral. The handling is a lot lighter than that of it's big brother, extra weight and the torque monster's larger flywheel the likely culprits. The seat of the 650 has an even deep bucket making it hard to find a spot that does not jerk the crotch of your pants up aggressively to the rear, or even worse, the front. Having found the sweet spot the seat was fairly comfortable but allowed no freedom of movement. An aftermarket seat will definitely be on the list when (not if) I get a 650 V-Strom.
The afternoon was a blur. Be warned that the sequence here is suspect. Russell and I had cruiser rides scheduled over at the Kawasaki tent. We made it over in time for me the ride the Vulcan 800 Classic and Russell the 1600. I liked the 800 a lot. Much better than the Suzuki 800 Marauder or the HD 883 I had ridden the day before. The Vulcan Classic has a meaty substantial feel and had no trouble scampering with the big dogs away from stoplights. Probably because it weighs a couple hundred pounds less. It handled well for a cruiser and was very comfortable. We jetted accross the street in hopes of late lunch, and ended up enthralled in the parking lot at an underadvertized supermoto course. KTM had a few of their new Supermotard 625's and was offering hotlaps on the chalk and rubber cone course to anyone who could show at motorcycle license. You had the option of riding your own bike on the course. After a 20-30 minute wait for someone to show up with additional copies of the all important waiver form we signed up and got in line. Suffice it so say I will not be joining the Red Bull season any time soon, but hot (or lukewarm with my abilities) laps on the new KTM supermotard were great! I took two runs dropping a couple seconds on the second lap, but still 8 seconds off the 35 second lap time set by a guy who had run the course 17 times. I needed more practice. Next time I will be checking out the KTM web site in hopes of getting on the course earlier in the day.
Lunch at Hopps (adjacent to the parking lot motard course) was a bust, hour and a half wait was not happening. We chowed down at the Bob Evans next door. An older fellow who had dedicated his time and resources to traveling the country to attend motorcycle rallies and races after the passing his wife last year had told us that Bob Evans would be a quick place to eat. He said only the old local folks ate there, no Bike Week young bucks. There was not much of a party atmosphere at old Bob's but I heartily recommend the Cobb salad. After a quick lunch we spied a Kawasaki 1000 turbo, reputedly a factory job, in the parking lot. The geezers on the old Kawies coaxed them out of the parking lot and we grabbed our bikes and headed back to the speedway to get Russell's bike. We took our time going through the vendor tents. There was no confrontation with the Givi personnel on this trip, but we got the ear of the director of marketing for Ducati North America and had our say over Terblanche's designs. The director sparred commendably but we left unconvinced. Every conceivable moto accessory was being touted by the vendors, and even Ural had eye catching display.
A lot of sun and some dehydration had conspired to sap our energies so we headed back to the loving arms of the Hilton to relax before charging down to the No Name Saloon in Edgewater to feast on the $5.99 T-bones. The steak was as good and the music as loud as you might expect in a $6 steak joint populated by bikers during Bike Week. Seriously, ear plugs were required for me to tolerate the joint but the steak was pretty good. Russell headed back to the hotel after dinner while Jeff and I hung around to soak up some of the Bike Week excitement on the rear fenced lot behind the No Name.
Part of the excitement involved me trying to hang on to the grip loop of the mechanical bull on hand. I did better than I had expected but paid with a serious bruise where I braced my thigh against my gripping hand. They don't talk about that on the Professional Bull Riding on TV. If you have a broadband connection check out my Bull Ride video (16 MB -- yikes!) . Add bull riding to supermotard racing on the list of second careers I will not be pursuing this year.
A slow start was in order for Saturday. No demo rides were offered and the first race of the day advertised was the BMW Boxer Cup at 11:50. We slept in and had a leisurely breakfast in the Hilton. The buffet provided great eggs, bacon and sausage, and an assortment of fresh fruit and fresh squeezed juices. Mmm Mmm good. We nabbed seats in the right center of the main grandstand, up in the shade. The shade was greatly appreciated as I had been sunburned the day before. Turns out you have to apply sunscreen BEFORE you go out in the sun. Who knew? We got a surprise bonus of supersport racing before the Boxer Cup began. It was hard to tell what the race was starting as the anouncer talked about everything except which unscheduled race was starting. The supersport restart had lots of lead changes and good action. The boxer cup was great to watch and great to listen to. The deep sound of the boxers was a nice change from the inline four howl of the supersport race. Our spot afforded us a view the infield portion of the track as well as the finish line and a great vantage point directly across from the pits and starting line.
We go to watch the Michelin Man cavort with the umbrella girls to get the superbike races started. Our proximity to the pits was great during the (Superbike) Daytona 200 when Mladin and E.Bostrom came in simultaneously during the hotly contested early section of the race. Mladin was out of the pits first to cheers from the crowd. The factory supported Suzuki and Honda pits crews were amazing. Two tires, a tank of gas and a rider beverage were delivered in 12-14 seconds. wow. The second and third places were so close we couldn't tell from the stands who won, Duhamel had placed third but made the pass just past the finish line and appeared to have taken second place.
We wandered down to Main street after another stop back at the hotel. Wandered isn't really the word. We sat on Atlantic Blvd in traffic until getting close enough to downtown to ditch down a few back streets to find parking at the church, a perenniel favorite for its low price and proxmity to Main ST. The giant turkey leg and a naked bratwurst provided ample dinner while I sat at a picnic table and caught a little of the Main Street parade. The Ice Cream Man from Hell had a tent with the most excellent ice cream truck on hand. I could not resist picking up a T-shirt. The sun and the bull riding had conspired to tire and stiffen me sufficiently to warrant a return and early bed time at the Hotel for me.
Sunday was travel day for Jeff and Russell. With demo rides having ended, and no action at the speedway they bid me goodbye and headed for home. I had business in town and time to kill. I checked out of the hotel at 11:00 and headed back down to main street in search of just the right gift. Rumor had it there would be rain and possibly snow on my way back to NC on Tue so I was regretting having failed to pack my jacket liner, so a cheap sweatshirt was on the shopping list as well.
I found no cheap sweatshirt by was on hand for the parade in support of topless women. This had been advertised in advance and enough hubbub had been drummed up that the Daytona Beach PD considered it a problem. The women were not allowed to march down the street, much less bare their chests as they had intended. The parade marched down the sidewalk behind the crowds who were being berated by the PD for walking out into the street to see what had become of the parade. It had the potential to get testy with the officers shouting at pedestrians and pedestrians shouting back, but an anticlimatic passing of the protest group on the sidewalk coupled with a short rain shower served to neutralize the situation.
I left the hustle and bustle of Main to ride up A1A for a walk down the beach and a few scallops up at Flagler beach. It was the highlight of day. After check-in at the hotel I was used during the business stay I was treated to singing college frat boys and two stroke mini racing the parking lot all evening. It's sad but true that those frat boys journeyed all the way to spring break at the beach to stand on the parking lot side of a hotel and sing rowdy drinking songs to each other. That's just wrong.
Work ended my holiday weekend with stints near Daytona Beach and Lumberton, NC. Bikes on business trips have their problems but getting paid mileage to ride your bike has a lot going for it.
Below is a small image gallery of some of the sights of Bike Week 2004.