Thursday and the ride to Daytona
We made plans to meet our friends Ryan & Bobby at a local gas station near I-75 around 5:45am on Thursday morning for the ride down to Daytona Beach. 6:00am is not exactly vacation friendly, but I find if we don’t get on I-75 before 6:15am on a weekday traffic backs up, adding a good 10 minutes and a lot of frustration right on the front end of your ride.
Debbie and I were both up around 4:30am which gave us an hour to get dressed, eat a little something, finish packing the bike and gear-up for the 50°F temps we’d enjoy for the first few hours of the trip. We were out of the driveway promptly at 5:30am and arrived at the BP station 15 minutes later where we found Bobby and Ryan. After topping off the gas tanks and having a brief moment of excitement when Bobby’s motorcycle’s security system failed to detect his key fob and wouldn’t switch on, we fired up the bikes and headed south.
The ride through Atlanta was pretty easy despite the ubiquitous road warriors we always seem to encounter south of downtown who blast through 75 mph traffic going 95 mph with two or three other idiots usually in tow: monkey-see / monkey-do I guess. As far as comfort goes, we made the right call to wear leather from top to bottom along with our heated jackets, gloves and full-face helmets for the morning leg. It was in the mid-50’s when we left, but as often times happens, the temperature didn’t bottom out until 7:15 am before it began to head back up: we could definitely feel that change in temperature.
I usually don’t make our first gas stop until we hit Eastman, Georgia, 165 miles into the ride. However, the sun seemed to come up early so I signaled for a pull-off 100 miles into the ride at the Arkwright Road exit so Debbie and I could change out the clear face shields on our full-face helmets for tinted ones. We topped off the gas tanks as part of the stop and were on our way still enjoying relatively light traffic. Fifteen miles down the road we left the interstate system at Route 23 / the Golden Isle Highway where we’d enjoy very light traffic on two and four-lane scenic rural highways for the next 207 miles.
I went ahead made our usual gas station stop in Eastman just to kill time as we were well ahead of schedule and on track to arrive in Waycross about 20 minutes before Applebee’s opened for lunch at 11:00am. While we were stopped I decided to switch from my full-face to my half helmet and may have prematurely removed my heated jacket: it wasn’t cold but I wasn’t toasty warm for that next 100 miles either!
We pulled into Applebee’s around 10:45am and waited for them to open at 11:00am. We stop at Applebee’s because it has proven to be a good place to grab lunch and the first official cocktail of our trip: they have clean restrooms, friendly staff, a nice bar and some really nice all-day specials. However, I noticed the old BBQ place across the street from Applebee’s had moved into a new building and was now offering breakfast. This meant we might actually have a viable alternative to Applebee’s for future trips. When Applebee’s finally opened its doors at 11:00am imagine our disappointment when we were informed we couldn’t sit at the bar or get Debbie her piña colada due to some type of maintenance issues with the bar; really?! We found a warm booth instead and the food was still good, but that piña colada was an important part of our trip down. Now that the chain has been broken Hog’s BBQ & Breakfast may get a visit next time we pass through Waycross.
As we pulled out of Applebee’s just after noon Bobby mentioned he needed gas as he opted to skip the fill-up in Eastman. With his trip meter suggesting he had at least 35 miles to empty I targeted a gas station in Folkstown just before we turned east on Route 40 as a good place to stop. With our tanks topped-off in Folkstown we were good to go for the rest of the way to Daytona Beach.
As mentioned in previous Daytona trip reports, I trade-off the added mileage of taking Route 40 to US Route 17 to I-95 vs. dealing with all of the stop lights on Route 23 between Folkstown and Jacksonville. As an added bonus we get to cross into Florida across the little blue bridge at the St. Mary’s River before saying goodbye to our lovely back roads and hello to the Interstate system.
One other trade-off I make is taking the I-295 east bypass around downtown Jacksonville. Again, it’s a few extra miles vs. going straight through Jacksonville but it’s always a much easier and more visually interesting ride. Of course, to get to Daytona you must eventually get back on I-95 and for some reason I find it to be the least enjoyable stretch of Interstate I’ve ever traveled on, short of I-10 through west Texas.
We arrived at Finn’s Rooftop in Flagler Beach right around 2:30, per plan. I was surprised to find it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I’d expected. There was a good crowd, to be sure, and we had to wait about 30 minutes before a table finally opened up; but, it was the second indication that attendance at bike week wouldn’t be breaking any records, despite all of the predictions: the 1st indication was the lack of other bikes traveling south.
Ryan, Bobby, Debbie and I all celebrated our safe arrival at the first official stop of Bike Week. About 20 minutes later we were joined by our friends Julie & Chuck and Sharon & Jeff who had arrived in Daytona a little earlier in the day. We had a really nice time unwinding at Finns after the long ride down from Atlanta. Although a bit windy, the warm sun and temps felt wonderful!
Around 4:30pm we headed south on AIA into Daytona Beach and to our hotels down in Daytona Beach Shores. Once again, traffic was a lot lighter than I expected as we made our way through the Main Street area. After arriving at our hotel, unloading and getting moved into our room on the 4th floor with its lovely beach front view and balcony we cleaned up a bit and got ourselves changed into some fresh clothes for the cooler evening ahead. I will say that we had a really nice room, much nicer than the one we had in the fall at the Plaza Resort & Spa and perhaps even larger than the one we had at the Shores; thank you Hampton Inn!!
We met up with our friends for dinner at Boondocks along the Halifax River, the same place we went for dinner last fall. It’s become a fast-favorite with pretty good food at a reasonable price and very good staff.
After dinner we made a gas stop and then headed down to Main Street. If memory serves, we walked around a bit, visited Boot Hill and Dirty Harry’s and then called it a night relatively early, e.g., around 10:30pm. As noticed earlier in the day, Main Street just didn’t seem nearly as crowded as it had on past visits; the parking lots were not overly packed either.
Anyway, it was a good day! We’d had our first long ride since our 16 Oct collision during Biketoberfest and I believe we both felt right at home. Well, almost at home: Debbie was not able to get comfortable with the footboards I had installed on Blue II. While most gals enjoy having the full-foot platform, Miss Debbie just seemed to prefer having the foot pegs under her feet that she can push back against when we hit bumps or come to a stop. She found herself constantly sliding forward on the saddle during the ride down and clearly attributed that to the lack of the pegs. So, if anyone needs a set of really nice footboards for a Harley touring bike, I’ve got an extra set!
We were both up at 7:00am feeling pretty fresh and ready to go. After enjoying the sight of the sunrise and the sound of the ocean flowing into our room from the balcony for a while, we put on our bathing suits, some cover-ups and headed down to grab a little breakfast before making our way to the beach for a long morning walk. It was a beautiful, warm morning and the sun felt wonderful! We cover about a mile in 20 minutes so we walked north for 30 minutes to where our friends were staying at the Emerald Shores hotel and then back to the Hampton Inn which works out to about 3.2 miles. It was a great way to start our day and something we truly were looking forward to.
Ryan and Bobby had let us know they’d be heading to the local Harley dealer to see if Ryan could get the sound system on his bike fixed; it began to crap-out during Thursday’s ride from Finns to Daytona Beach. Jeff and Chuck also headed over to Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson while Sharon & Julie stayed back to enjoy some sun. Our friend Misty was back in Daytona doing her thing as the Durango boot rep supporting Skip’s Boots & Western Wear’s pre-grand opening at a new superstore across from the Speedway. Skip’s would be our first stop before heading over to Rossmeyer’s Destination Daytona to meet up with our other friends for lunch. In other words, everyone was scattered across Daytona and would eventually meet up later in the day.
It was an easy ride over to the Speedway where, once again, traffic was incredibly light. We found Skip’s without too much trouble and by golly it was huge! It didn’t take us too long to find Misty and it took Misty no time at all to find Debbie things to try-on. Oh yeah, it’s dress-up Barbie time when these two get together… and of course I enjoy it because I get a kick out of watching the entire process. As usual, Misty found quite a few things that (a) Debbie liked and (b) I liked seeing on Debbie and therein is the curse: Debbie looks great in the stuff that Misty finds! We probably spent about 2 hours with Misty before packing a saddlebag liner with her new acquisitions. Thankfully, I’m pretty sure they are all things she’ll wear more often than some of the early garments we bought for her at Horsetown… things that I probably liked on Debbie more than she did, e.g., button front shirts and a few dresses that are more suited for fancy affairs where I am remiss for not taking Miss Debbie so she can where those fancier dresses.
With our bags packed – it’s amazing how much you can pack into those saddlebags — we jumped on I-95 north for the 15 minute ride to Destination Daytona, thereby avoiding the traffic that backs up on Route 1 coming up from Daytona Beach. Unlike previous years where the guy working the parking lot at Houligan’s has always been really good about letting us park in their lot since we were actually patronizing the joint, the guy they had working the gate this year was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Somehow in his mind it made more sense to let 20 or so bikes in every 15 minutes – most of whom were being ridden by people who would never step foot inside the restaurant – than to let someone who was going TO the restaurant in to park in spaces that were clearly open. I ended up sending Debbie into the restaurant while I went and found a place to park in the $5 lot about 1/8 mile from the restaurant.
Once inside we quickly found our friends Bobby, Chuck, Jeff & Ryan enjoying some lunch and cocktails. It was refreshing to see the same friendly faces working behind the bar and to see the owner on site as we have on past visits; it makes a huge difference! Debbie and I split a Hawaiian chicken sandwich for lunch, finding it hard to go completely off the reservation with our eating habits even while we were on vacation. It’s funny how once you start to eat healthy food the less healthy stuff just no longer appeals or sits all that well. Now, if I could just kick my Diet Coke habit!!
Our next destination was the Indian motorcycle dealer and vendor area over on Beach Street. Ryan was going to go with us while Bobby, Jeff and Chuck headed back to their hotels to take a break and collect the girls. As we were trying to get out of the parking lot amidst the seat of motorcycles streaming into and out of the Destination Daytona main parking lot access road we began to encounter one of the biggest problems at Bike Week venues:motorists in cars. Once again, really? In many cases they appear to be people who have no interest in riding motorcycles, only an interest in being around the huge events that are created to cater to bikers. In my case, I get a Florida redneck in a blue Jeep who goes out of his way to prove he’s an idiot.
With that all behind us we found Ryan and headed north on Route 1 to the still closed and now abandoned White Eagle Lounge at the northern most end of “The Loop” ride. We took the loop all the way into Ormond Beach and once again we were surprised at how little traffic we encountered. We were also somewhat amazed at how many “Trump for President” signs we saw along the way. No kidding, there were over 100 Trump signs stuck in front of everything from run-down duplex homes to multi-million dollar mansions. We saw exactly one Ted Cruz sign along the same road. There were zero signs out for Rubio, Clinton or Sanders… Zero! It was bizarre.
We had no trouble finding great parking spaces on Beach Street right in front of the Indian dealer. After checking out the new Indian motorcycles in the showroom we went in search of the restrooms and then headed across the street to the vendor area to see if we could find Michelle Smith and her Jeweled G’s, as Debbie wanted to pick up another pair and she had friends who were also looking for some of the lovely little garments. After finishing up our business with Michelle we found a nice shady bar along the Halifax River with a band where we relaxed and enjoyed some people-watching. Once our other friends finally caught up we wandered along some of the vendor areas to check out custom bikes by Roland Sands at the GEICO booth as well as some even more amazing bikes from Misfit Industries.
It was about 5:00pm or so and our next destination was dinner at the Oyster Pub. It was a short ride over and once again, plenty of parking and no crowds to speak of. We had a big table for eight in the back of the restaurant and I must say, the oysters and ahi did not disappoint! After dinner our friends all headed to Main Street while we went back to our hotel so we could put away Debbie’s acquisitions from Skip’s earlier in the day and grab our jackets as it was going to get cool by the end of the evening. We had an easy ride to the hotel and I decided to go ahead and ride up Main Street on our way back just to say we did. It took us about 5 minutes of queue time at the stoplight where crossing guards attempt to get pedestrians to abide by the crossing lights. Once we were on Main Street we moved along fairly well and then pulled off into the parking lot right behind the Bad Boys Bar where our friends had found some primo seats above the crowd.
We spent about an hour on Bad Boy’s upper deck and Chuck did his best to get me out of the funk I found myself in, most likely hitting a low spot after another long day. On the opposite end of the spectrum was our friend Ryan; if we could have only met in the middle we both would have been fine. I was snapped out of my funk after Chuck introduced me to pretty cool guy from Ohio who he’d met at the bar and who for reasons unknown to me decided to buy us a couple of shots of tequila. I’m guessing he just didn’t want to do a shot alone and well, we were there for him!
After having more than our fill of Main Street we took off on foot for the ½ mile walk to the Ocean Deck Bar & Restaurant, aka, the Tiki Bar. We paid our $10/pp cover charge and found a table near the back of the indoor reggae bar and also borrowed a couple of seats from an adjacent table. Over the course of the evening we consumed a few more seats as our group grew from eight to ten when Misty and her friend Cindy joined us. I suspect it’s the $10 cover that helps to keep the Ocean Deck filled with patrons who don’t mind paying for a place that’s not on Main Street with attentive waiters/waitresses, a live band and a wood dance floor inside the reggae bar, as well as a DJ out back on the beach. In other words, the $10/pp cover acts like a filter that seems to make the place just a bit more relaxing and less of a biker joint in a town with more than enough biker joints during Bike Week. Some of the things that stand out from the evening in my mind were:
- Salty French fries to the rescue! Sometimes a friend just needs a little salt and starch to quell the storm that’s brewing inside when someone evil makes them drink Fireball!
- I love dancing and if there’s a dance floor and a band playing music that can be danced-to, you can bet you’ll find me on that dance floor with at least Miss Debbie… at least!
- Once again, the number of really intelligent and efficient folks who you find working at the same places each time you come back says a lot about the folks who run these places. Three years ago we ran into “Thor” during our first visit; he’s a handsome young man from Massachusetts that stands about 6’5” and could be passed off as one of the Gronkowski brothers. He took care of us last spring and son-of-a-gun if he wasn’t working the bar on the beach this year!
- As much fun and as rowdy as we can be with our usual group of friends, our dear friend Misty brings a whole different kind of “OMG” factor to the party. You really have no idea where the discussion will go once Miss-T arrives, but you can bet your boots it will be interesting.
- Without naming names, there’s a song by Katy Perry called I kissed a girl and I liked it. To quote Peyton Manning quoting Forrest Gump, “And that’s all I have to say about that.”
- Almost as interesting as the Katy Perry moment was the lovely Miss Debbie’s dance off with the extremely tall, lanky and pliable “Drunk 2” that pretty much had the full attention of the back half of the bar and adjacent porch. I’m thinking most of the folks who were watching were wondering where that all might go, i.e., see Katy Perry ref., above.
We finally called it night around 1:00am and with one or two exceptions I think everyone reported “safe at home” by around 1:30am. All were home and accounted for by 2:00am. Epic evening comes to mind.