This one’s long… really long. Like 4,700 words long since I decided to put it all in one blog entry.
As is normal for me before a trip, I had a restless night and was eager to get going. The temperature had continued to drop from the 40’s on Wednesday night to the low 30’s on Thursday morning as predicted and the thermometer was reading about 33°F when we suited-up and rolled-out of the driveway at 6:07am.
As expected, the heated gear was wonderful. Debbie reported she was very comfortable and I was also enjoying the warmth, completely oblivious to the now below freezing temps + relative wind chill you get on a motorcycle moving 80mph as we headed south on I-75 towards Atlanta.
I opted to take the 450-mile, road-less-travelled route to Daytona via I-20 east to US 23 over to US 1 on mostly rural two and our lanes vs. the possibly faster 475-mile I-75 to I-10 freeway route. We took the same back way when we travelled down to St. Augustine, Florida in the truck a couple years back. We simply find the scenic routes far more interesting and relaxing.
No major highlights or lowlights to report from the trip down:
- We stopped for gas in Cochran where I switched out our clear face shields for tinted ones.
- We made a second stop in Eastman about 45 minutes later after I felt it was warm enough to switch over to my Polo-style half-helmet. Debbie opted to keep her modular helmet on for the entire trip.
- It was still only 42°F when we stopped at Applebee’s for lunch in Waycross, Georgia at 11:00am. Debbie was warm enough to order a frozen Peña Colada to go with our chicken won-ton tacos.
- We made our 2nd gas stop just before jumping on I-295 in Florida where we were finally able to pull off the heated gear and made the final leg wearing just leathers as the temps finally began to hit the high 50’s and low 60’s.
I didn’t fully appreciate how spread out Daytona was until we hit Bruce Rossmeyers “Destination Daytona” and the first exits for Daytona some 17 miles before the exit that would take us to the Hampton Inn at Daytona Shores. The scale of the event was also quite evident by the thousands of motorcycles we saw parked around the H-D mega store: this was going to be interesting!
As we got off I-95 and headed east on Dunlawton Avenue towards South Atlantic Avenue I was also surprised that cars way outnumbered motorcycles by a wide margin: this was not going to be anything like Thunder Beach at Panama City Beach! In fact, between having to jump on highways or freeways, the number of bad motorists and the cooler temps I never once felt like I wanted or needed to ride without a helmet, especially once we started to encounter people on motorcycles who were just that: people who’d never ridden motorcycles enough to be considered motorcyclists… and it was obvious.
After getting checked-in to our room on the 8th / top floor of the Hampton Inn around 3:30pm I checked my phone and saw where some of our friends – Sharon & Julie — had driven-in from Orlando and were downtown on Main Street waiting for their husbands – Jeff & Chuck – to arrive via bikes. We got ourselves unpacked, reconfigured the bike for the rest of the weekend and headed north on S. Atlantic Ave. I was surprised at how little traffic we encountered, even as we turned west and rode up Main Street. On-coming traffic headed east to the beach… that was a different story: gridlock city!
We found Sharon & Julie at the Full Moon Saloon and spent the next couple of hours exploring Main Street and the various sights and sounds associated with Bike Week. Our little tour included a visit to the Main Street Pier, a stop at Dirty Harry’s and a couple of other shops and bars on Main Street.
Dirty Harry’s clearly had the more classic Bike Week entertainment on stage and elsewhere. Between that and looking at cars and bikes as they paraded up and down Main Street, the people-watching was about as good as it gets. Jeff rolled-in a little later and we were looking to him as our tour guide. He’d “been there and done that” at Daytona and, according to Sharon, had a “bucket list” in hand for the weekend.
We wandered over to the Oyster Bar just a few blocks away for dinner and were able to get seats without much of a wait. Shortly after we were seated Chuck rolled-in after blasting down from Atlanta in about 6.5 hours via the I75 / I10 freeway route.
As I was sitting there I saw our friend Jerry B. (who’s rather easy to find in a crowd) wander by and followed him back to his group to say hello. Talk about a small world! He and several friends had left a week earlier for an epic tour that took them down to Key West before heading back up to Daytona Beach for the last few days of Bike Week. I was able to keep up with their adventures via one of his friend’s frequent and entertaining updates to Facebook.
The food at the Oyster Bar was wonderful, especially the smoked oysters! While I developed a taste for mussels many years ago I’d never had any interest in giving oysters a try. I can’t remember if it was Julie or Sharon who’d ordered the smoked oysters, but they couldn’t finish them and offered them up for grabs. I figured what the heck and gave one a shot: what a pleasant surprise that was.
After dinner we wandered back to Main Street to see what else was happening. Again, lots of good bands and entertaining people-watching made all that much better by sharing the experience with friends.
I think it was around 11:00pm when Debbie and I finally decided to call it a night and made the 4-mile ride back to our hotel. It had been a long day after not a lot of sleep. I also needed to be up and over at the Speedway around 9:00am to get my shocks worked on by Howard Messner at Motorcycle Metal before the crowds descended on the venue. Now, I must say I was a little slow on the uptake before we left our friends: Sharon & Julie had volunteered to drive Debbie back to our hotel apparently so I could hang with Jeff & Chuck on Main Street. I completely missed the point of the invitation. So, my apologies to our friends; I didn’t mean to brush off the invite.
I was up early and tried not to wake Debbie as I did some work on the laptop. I think it was around 7:30am when she stirred and we were down in the lobby for breakfast by about 8:00am. After breakfast I saddled-up and headed off to the Speedway venue some 14 miles away while Debbie headed out to sit by the pool and get some sun. It wasn’t exactly warm at 9:00am on Friday, but the sun felt good and kept things confortable.
I spent about 2.5 hours with Howard after finding his vendor space just behind the Victory haulers and bike displays. During that time he and his partner pulled the springs and inspected the 2.5 year old shock with 7,000 miles of use on the Wide Glide and then took a shot at setting the pre-load at what was assumed to be about right for the Road King. It was a bit of a mystery only because I’d had the springs media-blasted and powder coated black, removing the all-important spring weight rating information in the process. After swapping out the Bitubo shocks for the Ohlins we began the dialing-in / test ride process whereby after making the initial set-up, I’d ride the bike on a 5-mile loop and provide feedback on how it felt. Howard would adjust the shock and then we’d repeat the process until it “felt about right”. Mind you, since it was just me on the bike I had to fudge a bit on my guestimation of the preload, compression and rebound settings to account for Debbie’s added weight, given that the default riding condition is with both of us.
As we got the bike squared away I received a text from Jeff with their early plan for the day. They’d be coming to the Speedway from their hotel at the airport, and then making their way over to the local Harley-Davidson dealership, Bruce Rossmeyer’s Destination Daytona. I let them know that we’d catch up after I went back and collected Debbie from the hotel.
Heading east out of the Speedway on International Blvd I ran into a massive traffic jam. Amazingly, just jumping a street over to the south put me on a nearly empty road and I made excellent time getting back to the hotel. With Debbie back on board, we had about a 25-mile / 35-minute trip to make out to Rossmeyer’s. Debbie could immediately tell the Ohlins shocks were a vast improvement over the Bitubos and was very happy, especially after bracing for a jolt over a set of railroad tracks that sent her into my back on the ride in the day before… a jolt that never came. At freeway speeds the bike felt like it had a little too much rebound or preload so we’d have to tweak it a bit on Saturday, but that was about it.
We arrived at Rossmeyer’s a few minutes after our friends did and made a quick run through the dealership before locating them out in the massive display area. We checked out some of the vendor booths, bikes and people and otherwise had a grand time just being together and sharing our observations and anecdotes as we wandered around and began to think about our plans for lunch.
After fueling up, we headed north on Route 1 to a biker bar called the White Eagle just a bit further down the road. It had a nice crowd but wasn’t slammed. We watched a couple bikes doing their version of a tractor pull as entertainment for the gathered masses and then found a picnic table to hang-out at while some of our friends perused the vendor wares looking for deals on T-shirts to take home to their kids. The skies were blue and the sun was warm, making for a great day to be outside in Florida during the last week of winter with good friends enjoying the day out on the bikes.
Our next stop would be Flagler Beach for lunch at Finn’s rooftop bar. We headed out from the White Eagle on Old Dixie Highway and made our way over to “The Loop”, a very scenic ride out on the peninsula that would take us back out to the coast road. I totally screwed up by not having the GoPro cameras attached to the bike for this ride, as it was absolutely the perfect ride to catch on video, especially the ride up the coast. Thankfully, Julie took a still photo that captured the essence of the ride.
The restaurants and bars at Flagler Beach were full, but not overly crowded. We were able to get some seats at the bar just a few moments after we arrived and a few minutes later we secured a table as some other guests departed just before our lunch arrived. Again, we were just having a grand time with our friends as we took in the sights, sounds and goings-on while soaking up the sun and staying hydrated.
We rolled south out of Flagler Beach and back to Main Street where we spent the better part of the evening doing what you do a lot of at Bike Week: socializing and taking in the sights. We found a pretty good vantage point in the upper deck of the Chrome Bar & Grill where someone had foolishly put the beer well and bartender up against the outside patio wall where at least six patrons could have been standing to watch the action on the street below: what were they thinking? There were plenty of other places away from the prime real estate that would have worked equally as well.
Chuck, Jeff and I were all OK with doing “street food” for dinner vs. heading to a restaurant or ordering bar food, whereas the girls all decided to give the bar food a try. I think we came out way ahead: Chuck and I had a couple of Gyro’s that were pretty darn good, whereas the girls ended up waiting about an hour for some tasty BBQ pork sandwiches, so-so wings and cold fries.
We wandered up and down Main Street a bit and found ourselves sitting alongside a nice fire pit at Boot Hill Saloon for a while. It was an interesting crowd, to be sure. After that we wandered down the street to Froggy’s. I’m still not quite sure if I figured out the main attraction at Froggy’s: I’m guessing it was the 12 gals tending the bars more so than the four gals who were dancing up on the platforms. But, interestingly enough, sitting down was apparently a no-no at several of these bars, as all of the seats had been pulled from every corner of the Full Moon Saloon, Dirty Harry’s and Froggy’s. Some of our friends sat on a large cooler at Froggy’s for a few moments and were eventually told “you gotta stand, no sitting” by the security guys. I think it was at that point that Debbie and I decided to call it a night. Yeah, I guess we’ve lost that party-till-you-drop thing we had going when we were hitting the night clubs a few years back. Then again, we were always able to dance and sit at tables when we were dancing, and those two things made a huge difference in keeping us going vs. wearing out from just standing for hours on end.
Saturday morning started a lot like Sunday, with me up early and trying to quietly type on my laptop without waking up Debbie. As we did on Friday after breakfast, I headed off to the Speedway and Debbie headed out to the pool to catch some more sun.
My visit at the speedway with Howard was a bit shorter than it had been on Friday. We made some minor adjustments, talked about how I should go about making future adjustments and I visited a few other vendors before receiving a text from Jeff with information on our first stop: we’d be having brunch at Racing’s Right Turn on the beach just a bit south of our hotel.
I high-tailed it back to our hotel where I found Debbie still sunning herself alongside the pool at 11:00am. We were supposed to meet “around 11:15am” and eventually arrived about 25 minutes late at 11:40am: no big deal. We were all on vacation! I would note that I’d put on a black, long-sleeve T-shirt based on the previous days’ weather. However, after about 5 minutes of sitting out on the patio in the sun I bought my one and only T-shirt at Daytona: a Racing’s North Turn shirt! It was just way too hot to be wearing black or long sleeves.
We spent about an hour or so at Racing’s enjoying the morning and what was essentially lunch: a very nice Caesar salad topped with blackened fish and some Ahi tuna strips. After taking some photos we headed out to the bikes and rode north and inland from Ormond Beach to the Iron Horse Saloon and its neighboring outposts. This time I had the GoPros mounted-up, but sadly the scenery just wasn’t anywhere near as lovely and picturesque as it had been on Friday’s ride through the Loop and along the coast.
The price of drinks out and away from Daytona was about ½ of what was being charged on Main Street, which may or may not be a good thing. Thankfully, my hydration habits are relatively inelastic and not subject to change based on economics. Speaking of economics, a couple of the vendors I asked “how they did” on sales at Bike Week this year reported barely breaking-even as of Saturday afternoon. A lot of their earning potential has been consumed by steeply-rising overhead costs: for example, a display space at one of the venues has gone from $600 a few years ago to $3000 for the same space in 2014. There were a few vendors selling higher-priced premium goods who said they did fine, including one vendor who we previously met at the North Atlanta Trade Center bike show back in February.
A couple of Panoramic shots from two different vantage points at the Iron Horse
Anyway, I found the “out in boonies” venues to be pretty darn comfortable and laid back, along the lines of the White Eagle or Biker’s Outpost near Panama City Beach, Florida. Perhaps it was just being out in the wide open spaces instead breathing all of the carbon monoxide coming forth from the hundreds of vehicles idling on Main Street that made the Iron Horse Saloon seem a bit homier.
Of course, what the Iron Horse and surrounding venues lacked in Carbon Monoxide they made up for in dust and, well, there were a few hundred cars and motorcycles all backed up on the road that leads to the Iron Horse so I guess I’m kidding myself. Regardless, it was just a lot easier to relax and take it all in at the Iron Horse than it was anywhere else I’d been that weekend. They had a couple of very good bands, including a Blues Brothers tribute band that really put on a great show with something other than the ubiquitous 80’s rock band music.
We probably spent the better part of a couple hours out there before finding our dust-covered bikes and making our way back toward Ormond Beach where we stopped-in to visit with some friends of Jeff and Sharon at their home just down the street from the coastline. Just a really nice couple who were more than hospitable and who joined us for dinner at Caribbean Jack’s: this was our final “official” stop for Bike Week.
After following Doug and his wife Terry in their car through some very nice residential areas we found ourselves at Caribbean Jack’s which sat right on the widest part of the Halifax River. I must confess that I was finally ‘bitten” by a bad habit I developed of backing-up our Road King with Debbie still aboard. Yup, I lost my footing and dropped both the bike and Debbie. On the bright side, Debbie was fine, the bike did not go over nearly as far as I thought it would and sustained just a couple of minor scuffs that are way down low and barely noticeable: one on the left front lower fairing and one on very back edge of the left saddle bag. I’ve got to think there are some other marks, but I probably won’t find those until I wash the bike later this week. Yeah, I’m probably not your typical CVO owner: I really don’t treat the Road King any different than any other bike I own. They get dirty and when I get time they get cleaned. If they get nicked, I may or may not touch it up right away. Scratches are a fact of life and I tend to let them collect for a while and then buff them out as a collection, so as not to incrementally remove all the clear around just a single blemish. And, no, my ego wasn’t bruised by dropping the bike either: pretty sure I’ve dropped every bike I’ve ever owned. It happens when you ride a lot and have a short inseam!
Dinner was a grand time. We had a great time chatting, the food was good, being on the water was wonderful and to top it off they had a live band at the other end of the patio come on just as we were finishing our dinner, so our evening entertainment was pretty well set: Debbie and I would be doing a little dancing! I may have been the odd-man-out on the dance floor among our friends, but that’s just the way I roll. I never pass up an opportunity to dance with my sweetie, so it was really nice to find a place that allowed us to do just that during Bike Week. I’m not even sure what time it was when we called it a night and parted company with our friends, but it had been another great day.
Sunday was all about getting our butts home and hopefully not getting soaked in the process. Sharon & Julie would be driving back to Atlanta and invited Debbie to join them. Debbie, being the trooper that she is, declined as she really wanted to ride home. She’s getting as bad as I am about being on the bike vs. being in the car: she’d just rather ride!
We made plans to rendezvous with Jeff & Chuck at 8:00am near the International Blvd / I-95 interchange and were a little ahead of schedule. We’d cleared out of the hotel and were on our way by 7:30am which had us at the gas station and filling up by 7:45am. Chuck & Jeff arrived shortly after us.
We did a quick check of the weather and it just looked ugly up towards Macon and the Atlanta area. Chuck was ever the optimist and convinced if we could make it home by 2:00pm we’d miss the rain. My sense was, we were going to start getting wet near Macon and could find ourselves in the rain all the way to Atlanta. Now, you couldn’t even begin to believe we’d be running into nasty weather based on the beautiful morning we were enjoying in Daytona Beach. But, the winds were definitely blowing hard out of the southeast and the humidity was up. Getting wet was just a matter of when, not if.
Aside from the stiff cross winds that buffeted us around crossing the St. Johns River on I-285, it was actually a beautiful ride all the way up to Tifton, Georgia. However, Jeff kept checking his weather map and signaled us off the highway into a truck stop for a final gas stop and a change into our rain gear: the rain was just a few miles down the road.
As mentioned in Part I of our Daytona Beach report, Debbie and I were pretty well prepared for bad weather. I put Debbie in boot covers, insulated pants under her rain pants, her heated jacket under the rain jacket but not initially plugged-in. Up on top we already had the Shoei Multitec modular helmet and she also had some winter weight waterproof gloves. I had pretty much the same thing on after switching my ½ helmet out for the Shoei. Our friends were wearing only ½ helmets, sunglasses and Frogg Toggs but had full batwing fairings vs. our small Road King windscreen. Yeah, I think I’ll take the gear over the batwing in a rain storm.
As we motored down the road the rain started as just a mist, but quickly grew into a heavy squall and it got colder, going from the low 60’s into the mid 50’s. Staying together as a group was a challenge as other motorcycles were slipping in between us and I could see Chuck was having issues seeing the road ahead: his speed had dropped off and he was hanging in the right hand lane. I dropping back to take his front wheel as I was pretty sure our tail lights would give him a good point of reference to focus on for lane position, speed and braking. However, in the process of dropping back for Chuck we lost Jeff off the front.
Keeping an eye on Chuck I expected at some point he’d want or need to get off the road if only to get a break from being in the rain. We’d also use the stop to plug in our heated gear, add another layer and change out wet gloves for ones that were dry and heated. It was really getting pretty darn cold and I have no idea how Chuck and Jeff were able to focus on riding; well, that’s not true. Been there, done that and swore I’d never get caught out again. To that point, when we pulled off for the expected stop with Chuck we’d learned that his Frogg Toggs pretty much failed to deliver and were of little use in keeping rain out or body heat in: he was soaked. Jeff later reported the same: Frogg Toggs don’t work! To make matters worse, Chuck’s glasses were fogging so we handed him a spare set of $10 specials from Panama City Beach that use at night as they seemed like they might be less prone to fogging-over. Beyond that, all we could do was agree on how fast Chuck wanted to go and then get back into it and hope the rain would clear well before Atlanta.
Thankfully, the rain began to let up just after we reached the I-475 bypass near Macon. Of course, as soon as we ratcheted-up our speed and transitioned onto I-75 we came to a dead halt in traffic. I think it was pretty much stop and go for the next hour / half way to Atlanta before traffic finally started moving. We had to make one stop on the shoulder of the road so Chuck could do a quick fix to a shifter issue and finally started to make good time as we reached Atlanta.
We parted ways as we reached Marietta so Debbie and I could stop off for an early dinner at Loco Willy’s, something of a tradition for us after weekend trips. I’m sure the guests on the patio had to be scratching their heads as they watched us strip off multiple layers of rain and cold weather gear, not realizing we’d just finished a 9 hour / 450-mile motorcycle trip through a monsoon. We split a burger and were both so ready to eat that we didn’t even bother to send it back to be cooked when it came out pretty much seared and raw! Hmmm, Willenburger Tartare? While sitting there I received text messages and feedback on Facebook that let us know both Jeff and Chuck had made it home safely, albeit soaked and a bit cold.
It was about 6:00pm when we finally rolled into our driveway. I sent Debbie in the house so she could get a head start on getting some post-ride rest while I hauled the wet gear upstairs to the exercise room to dry-out and unpacked and put up the motorcycle as-was: they’d have to wait to be cleaned when I found the motivation.
After that, it was a couple loads of laundry, some banking, logging receipts from the weekend into Quicken and downloading video from the GoPros before getting ready to return to work on Monday.
All and all, and setting aside not having David & Deb along, it was a pretty great trip made so by the people we shared it with: Jeff, Sharon, Chuck & Julie. No doubt, Debbie and I do a pretty good job of having a blast even when we’re alone with each other – we can always have fun – but when you’re blessed with good friends to share experiences with it’s all that much better.
The Road King performed well and rolled past 5,000 miles with the addition of some 1,200 miles between Thursday morning and Sunday afternoon. Doing the math, we put about 375 miles on while we were in Daytona Beach without really trying; it’s a beautiful thing!
Can’t wait for the next adventure!