Thursday, 12 March
We rolled out of the driveway promptly at 6:00am, which is important because if we waited until 6:15am traffic on I-75 would already be backing-up by the time we hit the on-ramp at 6:30am: it’s amazing how much of a difference those 15 minutes make.
Weather wise, the temps were in the upper 50’s with fairly dense fog so we started the 450-mile ride with heated jacket liners and gloves, leather jackets, over-pants/chaps and full-face helmets.
As we have on most of our previous trips to northeast Florida, we jumped-off the I-75/I-16 freeway system at Exit 6 / US route 23 just east of Macon, aka., The Golden Isles Parkway. Even though it adds about 35 minutes to the ride between Macon & Jacksonville, the lightly-travelled two and four lane roads make that 4.5 hours on the bike a lot more scenic and relaxing than the Interstate. Moreover, there’s an Applebee’s restaurant in Waycross, Georgia, that’s perfectly located to give us a lunch destination for both the trip down and the trip home. One other twist we put on the ride down is to take GA Route 40 East in Folkstown to US Route 17 South in Kingstown across Little Saint Mary’s River into Florida before jumping on I-95 South then I-295 East around Jacksonville. It adds about 7 miles to the journey vs. taking US Route 1 all the way to I-295 West, but eliminates all of the stop lights and cross traffic at the small towns you pass through on the 36 miles between Folkstown and I-295. At least to me, that all makes for what I think is a nicer ride – albeit with more interstate. For this trip, we stayed on I-95 until we hit route 206 which took us East to A1A and then headed South on A1A and arrived in Flagler Beach at 2:45pm. Included in our 8.75 hour journey from home to Flagler Beach were gas/bio breaks in Eastman and Kingston, Georgia, as well as an hour-long lunch stop in Waycross, noting that we rolled into Applebees at 10:30am, but they didn’t open until 11:00am.
Here’s a few still photo captures from the GoPros from our ride down:
For anyone who wants to make a virtual trip down the Golden Isle Parkway in about a minute, here’s a short video that takes you from Exit 6 on I-16 near Macon to the Florida / Georgia line at the Little Saint James River crossing at Route 17 near Kingston, Georgia.
The stop at Flagler Beach was technically our first official stop “at” Bike Week, as we rendezvoused on Finn’s upper deck for cocktails with about 10 other friends who had arrived in Daytona Beach on Wednesday. It was a great way to relax after a long ride and kick-off the long weekend; we have THE best friends!
After spending a good hour and a half at Finns we rode the final 22 miles / 40 minutes to The Shores in Daytona Beach Shores where we’d be staying for the next three nights; nice digs!
With the bike emptied, locked up in the hotel’s parking garage, Blue washed and ourselves unpacked and settled into our room, we headed over to the Oyster Pub where we met our friends David & Deb for dinner. The chargrilled oysters did not disappoint, and neither did the Ahi Tuna; it’s why we go there! However, I was somewhat surprised there wasn’t much of a crowd on hand, perhaps even fewer than we saw during last October’s Biketoberfest. This was a trend that would continue throughout the weekend: attendance was definitely way down based on observation and feedback from the folks working the bars and vendor booths who we’d talked with.
We finished-up the night on Main Street where we ran into our “gang” from Georgia at a local pub. We had a great time with them and stuck our collective noses into a couple of the other live music venues up and down Main Street, e.g., Dirty Harry’s, Boot Hill, The Chrome Bar, The Bank and Full Moon Saloon. We finally got to hear Jasmine Cain at Full Moon, noting we’d missed her performances on our last two visits to Daytona. As a three piece band they had a lot of energy, but they seemed to be performing more as individuals than in a collective effort which made for a lot of loud sound, but not a lot of great music. Now, I’ll offer two qualifiers: the first is, they had just opened their set when we arrived and may have been going for that big draw sound. The second is, we heard them again on Saturday at the Iron Horse and they sounded a lot better in that venue as they ended their set. Again, there’s a lot of talent there but it was hard to tell who the featured musician was at times.
It had been a long day in the saddle getting there and a good first afternoon / evening in Daytona so we decided to call it quits around 11:00pm and rode back to our comfy room at The Shores.
Friday, 13 March
One of the things we take for granted at the three-star hotels is the complimentary breakfast they offer to all of their guests. At the four-stars, this seems to be reserved for their “medallion” members or simply not offered. Now, it’s not that they don’t offer a wonderful breakfast menu, but holy-smokes: we rarely spend that much for dinner & drinks! Therefore, and with that in mind, we decided to substitute our normal 2-mile morning walk on the beach after breakfast with a mile-long walk to Mike’s Galley and back for breakfast. The walk along the sidewalk wasn’t quite as nice as the walk along the beach, but the menu at Mike’s was spectacular and a good value. Breakfast still ended up running more than most of our visits to Loco Willy’s, but was about ½ of what we would have paid for similar fare at the Azure Room in our hotel.
With breakfast under our belts, we headed off to visit a few places of interest before meeting up with friends later in the day and evening. First stop was the Indian Motorcycle’s version of Destination Daytona along Beach Street. As you’d expect, it was about 1/10th the size of the Bruce Rossmeyer Harley-Davidson / Destination Daytona venue with about 1/20th of the crowd. My main purpose for going there was to get a first-hand look at the new Indian motorcycles, as I wasn’t quite sure seeing them on the road or in magazine ads / reviews gave them a fair shake.
While I’m not ready to give up Blue for an Indian, I will say I was impressed by a few of the bikes. In fact, the Indian Chief Vintage – essentially Indian’s answer to a Road King Classic – in a throwback ‘Cream & Green’ paint scheme with tan leather saddle and saddle bags that really “looked-right”. The Scout also looked pretty good, but wasn’t something I really had an interest in, noting I don’t even ride my Wide Glide much anymore. The rest were really dependent on the paint, where some color schemes worked well and others looked about as forced as the skirted fenders and on certain bikes. Oh yeah, and there was this $139,000 custom cream w/brown flames bike on the floor was was pretty eye watering.
The outdoor vendor areas were, well, vendor areas. Frankly, I could do without them as there’s nothing I need that they have to sell and what we sometimes end up buying is truly “because it’s there stuff” we clearly didn’t need. Oh yeah, I guess that’s why they all stay in business… people buying stuff they don’t need on impulse, with a little help from Al Keyhawl. We didn’t buy anything along River Street, but did get sucked in elsewhere later in the day near the Iron Horse and then again on Saturday at the Cabbage Patch.
After our brief visit to Beach Street we headed west towards the Daytona Speedway on side streets that paralleled the gridlock on International Speedway Boulevard. Although we had planned to stop in at the Speedway venue, we ultimately decided there really wasn’t any point, ref. my previous comments on vendor wares. So, we pressed-on past the Speedway to Skip’s Boots, a western wear place where our friend and Debbie’s “personal fashion consultant” Misty was providing client support during bike week. Misty’s now a regional sales rep for several brands that cater to western wear retailers. At first we thought we’d missed her, as she was nowhere in sight. However, after spying some ultra-rare black Miss Me Jeans and sending Miss Debbie to the dressing room to try them on I heard the unmistakable sound of two friends having a surprised meeting; she’d just gotten back from lunch. We spent about 30 minutes visiting with Misty and made soft plans to meet later that night for dinner.
Our next stop was Bruce Rossmeyer Harley-Davidson / Destination Daytona, about 13 miles north from the speedway on I-95, but who wants to ride on I-95! No, we took the 40-mile / hour-long scenic route by first going to Ormond Beach at the Gerard St. Bridge so we could ride out on “the Loop” and come in to Rossmeyer’s from the North on US-1 and by-pass the gridlock that forms from the South. Imagine our surprise when we discovered they decided to block southbound traffic on US-1 from entering Rossmeyer’s; really? We quickly realized the only way to get turned back north was to turn into a gas station / hotel parking lot make a U-turn so we’d be queued at a light that allowed you to turn north or south on US-1 or head across US-1 to the I-95 South on-ramp. After that frustrating experience we found that parking lot control also left a lot to be desired. Despite all of the bikes that were leaving the closer-in lots leaving plenty of empty parking spots, the Sheriffs and parking lot jockeys were directing all of us to a parking area that was a good ½ mile from the venue, whether we needed to be or not. Needless to say, we did a U-turn in the distant lot and left Rossmeyer’s with no interest in ever returning; the juice just ain’t worth the squeeze. As expected, all traffic exiting was sent North and had to fend for itself in terms of getting turned around on US-1 or finding the way back to Ormond Beach via the Dixie Highway / Loop.
We flipped a U-Turn one crossover past where 50 bikes and several cars were all queued up to make their U-Turns and headed South on US-1 towards the Iron Horse Saloon and it’s partner bars like the Beaver Bar. We were the first of our group to arrive when we strolled in around 3:00pm; others would be arriving around 4:00pm. Our friends had decided to head North on AIA for ride stops in Flagler Beach and St. Augustine during the late morning / early afternoon, but also planned to stop by the Iron Horse for the afternoon entertainment. We were needing some food by this time and scored some sirloin steak tips with grilled peppers and onions at the Iron Horse; umm, umm good. As mentioned earlier, Jasmine Cain and her two partners were playing when we arrived so we were able to enjoy that from 3:00pm to about 3:45pm before they started to break down their gear to make room for David Allen Coe, a permanent fixture at southern bike weeks.
Our friends arrived at the Iron Horse as planned around 4:00pm and we spent the better part of an hour up on the platforms overlooking the band venue before heading off to the Beaver Bar. On the way to the Beaver Miss Debbie spotted some thigh-high fashion boots that caught her eye. After a pretty savvy sales pitch from Richard, she tried them on and I knew I was in trouble. Thankfully, they weren’t all that expensive and Richard said he’d ship them to us for no cost. So, with our fingers crossed, they’ll arrive in a day or so and be in good shape. Hey, if it makes my sweetie happy… what the heck. We finally made it to the Beaver where we re-joined our friends for about a 1/2 hour before we had to high-tail it back to the Oyster Pub for dinner with Misty at 6:30pm.
Misty had seen my post from the Oyster Pub on Thursday night and had asked if we minded making a return trip so she could have some of the chargrilled oysters I spoke so highly of. Hey, I could eat there every night! The three of us consumed two Ahi Tuna appetizers and three dozen oysters by the time was all said and done and had a really good time visiting in a far more relaxed setting than we ever had before. It was truly one of the highlights of our trip!
After dinner we headed over to Main Street where we found our friends David & Deb. After visiting a few of the Main Street venues we decided to head over to the Oceanside Deck down by the pier where we spent the better part of the evening. It’s probably one of the most enjoyable places to hang-out in Daytona that we’ve found: right on the ocean with a band inside, a DJ on the beach, great servers and according to Miss Debbie, really good mudslides.
I think it was about 12:30pm when we finally called it a night and headed back through Main Street to where we’d parked the bike up on Peninsula Street. We’d planned to ride back to the hotel and go straight to our room, but saw the fire pits going next to the ocean and couldn’t pass up sitting outside and enjoying the fire for a while. We found two other great couples from Atlanta relaxing by the fire and were out there with them until 2:00am. Just a grand ending to a great day in Daytona.
Saturday, 14 March
It should probably not have come as a surprise that we pretty much slept the morning away. I think it was about 10:00am when we finally were both up and moving around. Yeah, it’s fun to have a late night out but it takes a lot out of us.
We’d planned to meet our friends for a late breakfast / early lunch at Racing’s North Turn down near Ponce Inlet and firmed up 11:30am as our rendezvous time. We weren’t moving too fast, but fast enough to be the first ones to arrive with the entourage arriving right on our heels. I think we had a total of 12 in our party; at some point the group photos are bound to show-up and I’ll add them!
After a wonderful breakfast/lunch — I had the blackened Talapia melt, Debbie had the Mahi, Mahi tacos — we saddled up and rode over to Sopotnick’s Cabbage Patch in New Smyrna Beach to see what that was all about.
Yes,this is the place that has “cabbage wrestling” and it was, well… interesting. However, the best thing about the Cabbage Patch turned out to be the excellent band “City of Bridges” out of Samsula, Florida, playing in the tent next to the permanent bar. The lead singer was knocking it out of the park on the vocals and the whole band’s instrumentals were nice and tight; we had a great time under the tent! I say under the tent because we were once again blessed with sunny skies and warm temps, so much so that I had to get a hat to protect my now sun-baked head; my do-rag wasn’t hacking it by itself. Of course, when I say a hat what I mean is a one-size-fits-all straw cowboy hat. It’ll probably only see the light of day at motorcycle rallies and this may give Debbie the inspiration she needs to bring her hat along too! Dang, I think my countri-fication is terminal: I got me a country gal, a pick-up truck, long hair, Levi Strauss jeans, a few pair of western boots and love the Nashville honkey-tonk music. I guess all I need now is a hound dog and, well, that ain’t happening.
We also found a car that Debbie liked nearly as much, if not more than her little Honda S2000. I suspect this is the 1999 prerunner to the Z06 Corvette hard top coupe or perhaps even an early 2000-2002 Z06. Whatever year it was, and even with all of the dust, we were both liking the look a lot. Of course, as good-looking as it was I’m not sure Debbie would want to give up the reliability of her little S2000 for a 16-year old Chevrolet with 80,000 miles of what I suspect was a few sporty miles.
After spending the afternoon at the Cabbage Patch we went back to our hotel room to relax for a bit before getting ready to head over to dinner with the group + 2 more at Caribbean Jack’s. After spending that down time in our hotel we were both thinking about how nice it would have been to taken off Monday so we could have enjoyed an entire day at our hotel and on the beach. If anyone wants a really nice place to stay in Daytona Beach Shores, check out The Shores!
The down side of our down time was that I don’t think I ever fully recovered! My body must have assumed I was done for the day after chilling for a while, that or the long weekend of riding, spending time in the sun and more than my fair share of nightlife may have finally caught up. Whatever it was, my apologies to our friends at dinner: I was clearly checked-out most of the night. My meal — the blackened but raw Yellowfin Tuna steak — was excellent, but that still wasn’t enough to fire up my engine beyond idle. To make matters worse, the band playing out on their deck was really challenging to the senses. They were playing their hearts out and had a good play list, but… well, let’s just say they weren’t on par with the bands playing anywhere else in Daytona that weekend.
We decided to call it an early night since we’d be getting up around 7:00am on Sunday for the 450-mile ride home at 8:30am. We’d had a great weekend, to be sure, and will definitely be back to Daytona Beach in the fall. Not sure we’ll be heading back to Caribbean Jack’s though… Daytona has much better and we intend to find it with the helpful guidance of our friends and former Daytona residents, Tracey & Cathy T. from ‘Nooga!
Sunday, 15 March
We slept-in until about 7:30am and decided to skip breakfast. We’d be stopping at Applebee’s in Waycross, Georgia for lunch by 11:30am and we’d both had our fill at dinner on Saturday night. It didn’t take us too long to pack our suitcase, Debbie’s overnight bag and the computer bag which pretty much constituted our luggage for the trip.
We rolled-out of Daytona Beach on yet another beautiful morning with sunny skies and temps in the upper 60’s. However, given that we’d be riding along at 80 mph for hours at a time we still put on the leather jackets and gloves. However, the blast up I-95 had a more chilling effect than I expected and I switched over to my full-face helmet for the ride to Waycross at our first gas stop. By the time we got to Waycross, the inland temps had dropped a bit so we both ended up dressed in our leathers for the rest of the morning. As the day progressed and temps continued to rise we ended up being a bit on the warm side once we hit the ubiquitous Locust Grove/McDonough, Georgia traffic jam. However, once we were moving again all was right with the world.
As has become something of a tradition for our long motorcycle trips, we made one last “official vacation stop” at Loco Willy’s for some much needed nourishment. As is almost always the case, we found a few friends already sitting at the bar when we rolled in around 5:00pm; Kevin and ‘Gator’. We always enjoy spending time with our friends at Willy’s and Gator is an extra special friend, having been a co-worker for many years out at the big L. It was a wonderful way to end the road trip. Oh yeah, I had the Ahi Poke and Debbie topped off her iron levels with a Willenburger.
Back at home, as much as I wanted to simply park the bike but the bug collection we’d amassed demanded an immediate wash. So, instead of going in and crashing on the couch I put away all of our gear, street clothes and washed the BMW (it was carrying about 2 months of road grime) and Blue before finally sitting down to relax. I figured once I was down, I’d be staying down!
It was truly a great weekend; can’t wait for Thunder Beach at Panama City Beach, Florida, which is a mere 45 days away!