Bike Week in Daytona, Part III of III: Saturday & Sunday

Saturday

20160313_074357Although I was up around 7:00am, Debbie was still sleeping soundly. So, after enjoying yet another beautiful sunrise I did my best not to disturb her. I believe it was around 9:00am when those beautiful blue-green eyes opened. Around 9:45am it dawned on me that the breakfast bar in the hotel would be closing at 10:00am so I made a quick trip down to the lobby and picked up a yogurt and some fruit for Debbie as well as a biscuit for me.

As we re-assessed our schedule at 10:15am we realized we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our walk on the beach. It was a huge disappointment but that’s what we get for staying out late! The forcing function for our schedule was making sure we were at the North Turn for brunch by 11:15am so the day would not get away from us. That gave us about 45 minutes to get ready as it was only a 10-minute ride from our hotel. On the bright side, we knew we’d be heading over to the Speedway and would probably get in plenty of walking there, albeit far less than the 3-miles we’d hoped to get on the beach.

20160312_113218When we arrived at the North Turn around 11:15am we found Ryan and Bobby were already seated at one of the large high-tops. Shortly after filling us in on what happened after we parted company earlier that morning Jeff & Sharon and Chuck & Julie arrived and shared their perspectives on the evening. I believe we were all in agreement that it was one heck of a night! Even though we’d had a little breakfast at the hotel just 90 minutes earlier, we went ahead and split a cheeseburger for lunch, as it would probably be late afternoon before we ate again. It was a slow and leisurely early lunch with lots of great dialog; a perfect way to start the day.

Our next stop was the main vendor area at the Daytona International Speedway which, for 2016, had moved out of the dirt and broken asphalt at the east end of the speedway to the freshly overhauled midway with it’s lovely walkways and parking lots at the main entry on the north side of the track; it was a HUGE improvement. During our ride over we felt certain we were going to get caught out in a rain squall but our luck held and all we saw were a few sprinkles. My objective at the Speedway was finding the Custom Dynamics booth so I could swap out another turn signal LED cluster.

BikeWeek2016-XO7Y9345The Custom Dynamics booth was at the furthermost, west end of the vendor area so we got in a very spirited walk that probably covered a good ½ mile or so, once all was said and done. The folks at Custom Dynamics were great about swapping out the LEDs so other than queue time waiting for the customer ahead of us, we were in and out in no time. There wasn’t much else at the Speedway vendor area that captured our attention beyond that errand. We wandered through the Harley main display area and the collection of bikes they had there didn’t do much for me. I think the bikes we rode in were about as good and interesting as anything in the 2016 line-up. It was about 2:30 when we all met back-up at the bikes and headed off for a ride north along the inter-coastal waterway towards Flagler Beach. Our ultimate destination was the entrance to The Loop so we could take the back way into the Iron Horse Saloon later in the afternoon.

riding_daytona

For those who were curious, yes… we always rode with helmets on. Debbie protested a bit, but accepted the fact it was no longer optional for us.

Interestingly enough, we saw the same disparity in political signs on the east side of the Halifax that we saw on the west side: lots of Trump signs and one house with three Sanders signs, but that was it. We stopped for a while at the Lagerhead Bar & Grill and sitting there on the coast I will say I definitely got a chill and so did Debbie.  We went ahead and put on our lightweight jackets; must be thin blooded as we seemed to be the only ones who were cold. We probably spent about an hour or so there munching on some overcooked calamari and enjoying cold beverages before saddling back up for the ride over to the Iron Horse.

Thankfully, The Loop provides you with a couple different ways to get to Route 1 that avoids the heaviest, north bound traffic coming to Ormond Beach from Daytona. It’s a lovely ride as well so in my mind any excuse to ride The Loop is a good excuse. After we hit Route 1 we could see there was some traffic backed up at the pedestrian crossing managed by the Sheriff’s Department, but nothing as bad as we’d experienced in previous visits. We were able to find parking for $5/bike right next to the Iron Horse which was perfect.

coeOnce we arrived at the Iron Horse we were amused to find that once again David Allan Coe was the artist on stage and about ½ way through his gig. It seems like no matter what time we go to the Iron Horse we end up with Coe; what’s the deal with that. Anyway, no worries… we enjoy his music when he actually gets around to signing and this year he had a gal who was doing a lot of duets and that was very nice. We made our way up to the overlook and camped out there for a couple hours; highlights included:

  • 10254990_10206947633466777_7227253913148242129_nGreat people watching and all kinds of interesting sights, including a guy who rode in with a Blue Macaw named “Spyke” on a Fat Bob painted to match the bird. Sadly, Spyke was stolen off of the bike on Saturday night down on Main Street and the owner is still trying to recover him.
  • The Johnny Cash tribute band “Cold Hard Cash” with Merle Travis Peterson came on a little before 6:00pm after Coe and he was amazing! Best gig I’ve heard at the Iron Horse or anywhere else in Daytona.
  • Beef Tips for dinner… it doesn’t get any better than the beef tips at the Iron Horse. Debbie and I split a large and it was the perfect dinner.
  • Iron Horse T-shirts: our first ever. Not sure if it was a “tribute” or a “lampoon” of Donald Trump, but it is a classic regardless of how this election turns out so that was a must have. I also picked up a nice 75th annual long sleeve that actually fits for myself and found a very cute tank and long sleeve shirt for Debbie. Hey, it’s the 75th… and the Iron Horse shirts are always more interesting than the more generic Daytona Beach Bike Week shirts.

ironhorse_1 cash_ironhorse20160312_182010 

We wandered across the street to the Beaver Bar around 8:00pm and while we continued to have a nice time just relaxing and shooting the breeze, we had a server who wasn’t all that sharp at her craft. It’s amazing how easy it is to take the good servers for granted when you run in to so many at an event like Bike Week. It’s only when you get one that’s average or below average that you’re reminded of just how good, good servers are and how they can influence the quality of your experience.  We joined once again by Misty and a couple of her friends and that definitely lifted the energy and entertainment level at the Beaver; she’s a hoot!  Again, a great time with great friends: it’s why we enjoy going to the bike rallies.

I think it was around 9:00pm when we headed back to our hotel, bearing in mind that we’d be moving the clocks ahead by an hour over night and needing to be up and out the door for the ride home by 8:30 in the morning.

Sunday

Having your last day at a bike rally falling on the start of Daylight Savings time is hardly ideal, as we quickly learned on Sunday morning. We woke up at 7:00am, but it was really only 6:00am and that just made it hard to get moving. However, we’d pegged the meet-up / departure time at 8:30am at Chuck & Julie’s hotel about 5 minutes from the Hampton Inn. It took a bit longer to get everything packed than I’d expected, but we finally pulled out of the parking lot at 8:30am and pulled into the Emerald Shores at 8:35am where we found everyone else out in the parking lot and ready to roll.

riding_homeIt was a fairly warm morning so we went with our lighter weight jackets and gloves for the ride home with full-face helmets. There were a few times when warmer clothes would have been nice as we crossed over the St. Johns River on I-295. Moreover, the further west we went away from the Atlantic the cooler it seemed to get. We stopped at a TA Truck Stop in Baldwin for a break and then moved next door to the Pilot / Subway for an early lunch. When we came out we saw a group of riders headed west to Alabama on I-10 who were suiting up in full rain gear as there were some very strong storms moving in around Tallahassee. Checking the radar it looked like there were a few smaller rain squalls near Lake City where we’d make the transition north on I-75 so we decided to roll the dice, hold-off on the rain gear and would call an audible if the weather conditions changed.

As anticipated, we started to encounter some light rain around Lake City and it stayed with us as we headed north on I-75. I toyed with the idea of just pressing along until I saw what looked like heavier rain on the horizon and decided it was time to pull off and gear-up: nothing worse than getting caught out in a downpour when you have rain gear in the bags. We pulled into the Loves truck stop near Jasper and found quite a few other bikes doing the same or at least taking a break as the weather moved through.

It took a little longer than expected to get geared-up and going again, but it felt good to have the rain gear and full-face helmets to shield us from the elements.  While we didn’t encounter any driving rain, we did end up riding in a light rain for another 30 minutes or so with light rain on and off after that. Once we were well past the rain we made one final gas stop south of Macon where we put away the rain gear.

The only real traffic we encountered on the trip home was near Tift College in Forsythe, Georgia. Traffic was nearly at a standstill for 4 miles and all my GPS system said was traffic is stopped. Thankfully, Ryan’s Google GPS application quickly offered up an alternative way around on Frontage Road that very few other folks were using. Not only did it save us at least 15-20 minutes, it was a very scenic route! However, I will confess that in my haste to exit I-75 I did a little lane splitting when a young man in a Buick was more interested in using his phone than driving his car. It was an easy fit for our Harley, but in hindsight I’d forgotten we had the accessory that shall remain nameless (ATSRM) when I made that maneuver. Thankfully, the ATSRM is not really much wider than the motorcycle and follows behind quite nicely so no harm done but a valuable lesson learned: be patient! (yeah, like that will work).

It was relatively smooth sailing after that up to Atlanta where I opted to take I-285 around downtown when the “jumbo-tron” traffic info board noted there was a tie-up near Georgia State University. I-285 west was also an easy ride for us all the way to I-75 and on to Marietta.

20160313_170622As has become tradition for us, we planned to stop at Loco Willy’s for a post ride meal on the way home. As we approached the North 120 Loop exit that would take us to Willy’s we bid a fond farewell to Chuck & Julie as they headed on home. Our friend Ryan came on along with us to Loco’s where upon our arrival we found our friends David & Deb.  David & Deb opted to skip Daytona and instead stayed home and bought a new-to-them Road Glide that they’d ridden over to Locos.  We had a nice time catching up with David & Deb, revisiting some of the moments from the weekend with Ryan and “fueling up” on Loco’s amazing Willenburger and some wings.  Judging by our appetite, our tanks were definitely low.

Speaking of low tanks, I decided to stop and fuel-up Blue on the way home as it dawned on me I hadn’t really figured out how much fuel it would have when the “miles to refuel” or “LoRange” warnings came on.  Turns out, LoRange means there’s about 1/2 a gallon of fuel in the tank, whereas “Miles to Refuel” is closer to a gallon: pretty much the same as Blue I.  Now, I just need to remember what kind of gas mileage I get in the various configurations: our touring configuration gets the worst mileage.  Ask me how I know!

Back at the house I had the bike unloaded, washed down to remove all of the salt residue and grime and of course the bugs… lots of bugs.  The rain had done a pretty good job of getting a lot of the grime off, but clearly not everything.  Back inside Debbie was doing the laundry and getting herself all beautiful just for me!  Yup, as I was finishing up the bike around the corner comes my beautiful wife to say thanks for the great weekend!

Life is good and we get to do this again in just six more weeks!  Panama City Beach, here we come….

Post Script

Sorry for the length of this three-part blog entry; I just seem to get a bit too far into the details: guess I’m doomed to be a Wall Street Journal kind of writer / reader. With that out-of-the-way, let me follow-up on the last paragraph from my summary and something I’ve hinted at all the way through this blog entry: Bike Week in Daytona has lost something.

This was our fifth visit to a “Bike Week” at Daytona Beach; we’ve now been to three Spring Bike Week’s and two Fall Biketoberfests. I could be wrong, but year-over-year we’ve seen attendance falling off at the Daytona Events, at least during the Thursday-Sunday visits we make. And, it would appear that it’s folks like us – 50-60 year old urban, recreational riders – who are fewer in number. The number of locals, both bikers and non-bikers who come in their cars, seems to have remained constant as have other bike-riding demographics.

This shift just gives Bike Week events a very different vibe. It’s not good or bad, it’s just different. Places that we like to frequent such as the Oyster Pub, Boondocks and even Finns out in Flagler Beach seem to have smaller crowds as well: getting a table for four at the Oyster Pub in 2014 was a downright challenge, whereas for the past three visits the place is filled with empty tables and idle staff. So, while I enjoy being able to get seat at a restaurant without a wait, I do miss the vibe that came with the packed house. The Iron Horse still seemed to have a good size crowd, but it’s definitely smaller than it was during past events. Of course, several other venues have opened up next to the Iron Horse that are siphoning off people and dollars so that may be a factor for Ormond Beach.

Anyway, having thought about it and even talked about it with our friends during this visit we’re pretty sure we’ll drop Daytona from our trip list for the fall and at least next spring. Instead, we’ll explore other rallies and events such as music festivals as possible alternatives to Daytona. Panama City Beach’s spring and fall rallies will likely stay on the schedule as that’s a very different type of trip for us with nice side trips out to Indian pass, The Outpost and points west. Well, that and we still need to visit the beach for our morning walks at least twice a year, so it’s a nice fit! It’s also less expensive in terms of the lodging and a much more enjoyable ride down.

In closing, I’ll reiterate what I wrote in my summary:  we can go anywhere with our closely knit collection of friends who share our passion for life and motorcycles and have a wonderful time, even if it’s just a few miles from the house. Good friends are priceless, as the moments we spend with them!

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About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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