Saturday, March 31, 2012

Daytona - Day 3 - Tragic Ending

Today was the big race, the Daytona 200 but I decided not to attend the race and use my little time in Florida to tour.  I see a lot of races on TV, Daytona track is so big that all you see are these little dots circling around.  It wasn't a priority for me and neither was it for my brother.  Wayne and his dad on the other hand decided to go to the track and would spend most of the day watching the races.
The previous night I had stopped and taken pictures in front of a cute little place right in front of the beach.   I invited my brother to follow me and have breakfast with me and then we would split up again and go our own ways.  I wanted to go north along the coast and he wanted to go test ride bikes at the vendors.  I can do that in New Jersey, I'm not going to waste my time in Florida standing in line and waiting for my turn to test ride a bike.
The Lagerheads Bar & Grill seemed like the perfect place for breakfast.  I had the usual, two eggs, ham, hash browns and toast downed with multiple cups of coffee.

Parked outside was this beauty

I'm about to leave when this guy goes by

I head north along the coast towards Matanzas State Forest and the Fort Matanzas National Monument.
This part of Florida is really nice, beautiful neighborhoods and wide roads lined with palm trees.   The beach has a reddish color to the sand and the water looked so appetizing, maybe next time.

I stop at Flagler Beach, just north of the High Tides restaurant I had stopped the night before, when I see a long pier jutting out into the ocean.  I walk along the beach enjoying the beautiful day and watching riders heading north along the coast.

My next stop is just outside the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience. "Site" The beach is wide and the sand is not as red.  This guy has the right idea to tour the country, a huge RV with a Range Rover G4 Edition on a trailer.  I think I would find a little spot on the trailer to put my Tenere.

I arrive at Fort Matanzas and the first thing I see is a group of people staring at the trees.  I park the bike and head their way to find out what all the attention is about.  Apparently the ranger tells me, two baby owls had lost their nest a few days earlier when it fell from the tree and the two babies had been perching since then with the father and mother hanging around close by.  The mom gets the food while the dad stays around watching the babies.

The dad keeping an eye on the babies

You can't walk to Fort Matanzas, you take a little boat run by the park rangers across the channel but first you have to get a ticket.  The next boat was already full so I had to wait 30 minutes for my turn.  The park has these amazingly contorted trees that I had never seen before.

My turn finally comes and I take the boat across the Matanzas Inlet.  The fort is not what I expected, a little smaller than I envisioned.  Read the story, it's pretty interesting.
Our Story...
Started long ago and may never end. The park is situated near the site of the killing of nearly 250 French Huguenots by the Spanish, an act that gave gave the river and inlet the name Matanzas, Spanish for "slaughters", as European nations fought for control of the New World. 
One hundred seventy-five years later, the small watchtower fort was constructed to help protect St. Augustine from a new threat - the British.
The fort is only 50 x 50 feet wide with a 30 foot watch tower and was built in 1740.

I'm laughing in this picture because I had just perched my Canon 7D on top of the rail and it didn't look too secure, people were afraid to get near and a few offered to take the picture.  The camera survived.

If I could afford I would have a nice boat like these guys and live on it.  Leave the bike stored nearby and ready to go.  They seemed to be enjoying the good weather.

After the Fort I start heading south towards Daytona, Fort Matanzas is about 40 miles north.  I make my way to I95 and a few miles down the road decide to stop at J&P Cycles, the "Worlds Largest Aftermarket Motorcycle Parts and Accessories Superstore".  I had seen the parking lot the previous day and today was the same, there were thousands of bikes parked outside.

There were lots of vendors on site peddling their wares, from very expensive wheels to seats, exhausts and choppers.  There were some beautiful choppers on display for sale.

Looks like gigantic wheels with low profile tires are the norm with the new designs but I still like a fat front tire on a standard size rim.  The other thing I find amazing is the amount of money spent on paint jobs, trully amazing paint jobs on display.

This guy did a nice job finishing up the tank and the carburetors, I'm just not to sure how good it will be when it rains heavily.  My guess is this is a trailer bike, only to be shown on sunny days.

After walking around through the showroom floor admiring all the Harley's for sale I decided I had enough.  On the way back to my bike I pass this young lady which at first I thought she was selling beer or soda but then realize she was only taking pictures for tips.  I left wondering just how much could she be making an hour with so many guys around.

I left J&P and headed to the vendor area by the Daytona track where I thought my brother would be.  I get there and after a phone call determine he is at the Ducati dealer downtown and was about to go for a test ride on the Diavel.  I head back to camp to meet up with Wayne after telling my brother to meet us on the road to the High Tides Restaurant, we would go there for dinner.  I stop by the campsite to pick Wayne and we head to the restaurant.  We were soon sitting and having a drink while my brother was still stuck in traffic downtown.

While waiting for my brother I walk down to the beach and take a few pictures with my cell phone using "Camera360" on Android.  These were taken with the HDR mode and vivid colors selected.  It's amazing what software on a cheap cell phone camera can do, they look almost professional work.

I walk outside to see all the bikes but this one was special.  It was made with hundreds of things, if you look at the tank you will see some forks in there, the seat was solid, no cushion and wasn't even smooth.  Must be a pain in the butt to ride.

We really enjoyed our dinner at the High Tides but it was getting late and my brother was already outside waiting for us.  We were about to leave when I see the TV by the bar showing supercross and mention it to Wayne, being a supercross fan he walks inside and we both sit down to watch a little supercross and have another beer.  I spot this sign in one of the windows, how true, we were having so much fun in Daytona.

The night ends badly:

After a while we walk out and leave High Tides with me leading the group.   We were about a mile south of the restaurant on a pitch black road, no street lights since this patch of road is through a park along the water, when my headlight illuminates a car with the hazard lights flashing off the road.   I briefly turn my head as I slowed down, the driver side front wheel was missing and the door was all smashed in, I look ahead again as I hit the brakes hard and what I saw next I hope to never see again in my life.
The road in front of me was littered with broken parts, pieces of plastic trim, a cylinder head from  a BMW bike and the wheel from the car I had just passed.  I ride over pieces of metal and plastic as I slow down, had to swerve to avoid the front wheel of the car and that's when I saw one rider laying on the side of the road and two in the bushes a few feet from the road.  I ride to the side of the road and park my bike followed by Wayne and my brother.  Wayne is a nurse and quickly rushes to help the guys while I pull my cell phone to call 911.  I then see a car parked further down the road and a guy already on the phone.  I walk over to him, he is a waiter at the restaurant we had just left and he was the first arriving at the scene,  I was the second. He is already on the phone with 911 and tells me medics are on the way.  I put the phone away and walk back to the accident area.  The first guy I get to, he's talking, seems to be hurt but tells me he will survive.   I walk over to the next guy and he has a badly broken leg with a pool of blood already forming around his leg, I don't know what to do, I look around trying to find Wayne in the darkness.
By now, another group of bikers arrive and one of the riders, a woman, tells me she's a doctor.  I tell her where the third guy was and she runs to where Wayne was trying to help the third guy.  I start heading towards them and that's when I see Wayne walking towards me and tells me the third guy is already gone.  I say, what you mean he's gone, he shouts back, dead, gone, let's go help the other guy.  There was a fourth guy walking around dazed and crying, "did you guys see what that car did to us?", he kept repeating it.
I look for my brother and we both walk to the car only to see a woman sitting at the wheel with her head in her hands.  We ask if she's okay but she doesn't reply, we realize she's on the phone talking to someone.  She doesn't seem to be hurt at all.  The cabin was intact but the front wheel, suspension and side panel had been ripped from her car and her door was smashed in.
We walk back passing the four motorcycles laying on the side of the road, one BMW had one of the cylinders ripped off the bike, part of the engine was on the road and the bike was off the road in really bad shape.
We get back to the fourth guy and finally get the story from the only rider to walk away from this accident unhurt even though he crashed his bike too.  They were riding when the car crossed the center line and took the leading rider.   The others swerved to avoid but one was struck by the flying bike from the leading rider and the other two crashed trying to avoid the car.  Wayne tells me when he got to the leading guy he was already dead, his leg was being held by skin only and his rib cage was all broken.
The ambulances arrive a few minutes later and start taking care of the two badly hurt riders.  The police seal the road and ask us to hang around since they want to get witness statements from us.  I call my wife and tell her about what we had just come upon, she's shocked.  We stay by our bikes, dazed and contemplating about how it could have been us if we hadn't sit down to watch a little more of the supercross races.  My brother tells me he saw the four riders ride past the restaurant while he was sitting on his bike waiting for us, he also saw the waiter leave the restaurant.   We left just a few minutes later.
We leave the accident zone and decide to head back to the campground, our night was done, we couldn't go ride anymore, we were all in shock and just wanted to put the day behind us.  I get in my sleeping bag and post on Facebook at 11:57pm about the accident.   I was very tired but couldn't fall asleep.  At 12:09am I receive the first reply from Brenda in New Jersey, then at 12:10 a reply from Roger in New Zealand, at 12:36 Roger from NJ replies, at 1:06am Eliane replies from NJ, at 1:39 Gary from the UK and finally my wife at 1:46am. All my friends we offering their support.   I must have fallen asleep soon after that.
By Sunday night my wife had already found the articles on the web.
The articles don't mention the fourth rider but the two hurt were 62 and 63, the deceased was 64 years old from North Carolina.
She is a 77 year old woman from Massachusetts vacationing in Florida and she was DRUNK.   She was arrested for drunk driving and manslaughter and is being held at the Volusia County Jail.
She took the life of an unlucky rider just enjoying his time in Daytona and sent two others to the hospital.
She destroyed and ended the vacation of four guys because she had alcohol and then got behind the wheel of a car.

Read the newspaper articles:
Daytona Beach News-Journal here
My Fox Boston here

The next day we packed our bikes and started the ride home.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Daytona - Day 2

For day two we planned a sightseeing ride through the Ocala National Forest followed by more racing in the evening and then return to downtown Daytona for the night scene.  It didn't turn out as planned.

We had breakfast at the campsite, I had eggs and Texas style toast with hot coffee, decent breakfast, it was cheap and fast, just what I needed before hitting the road.

Our campsite
Interactive Map, zoom in on the point closer to Flagler Beach and the starting point is where we camped, check out the satellite view.

View Ocala Forest in a larger map

We headed south from our campsite towards Daytona and then took route 92 west past De Land and making the first stop just outside West De Land by the river crossing at Tuttle's Shady Oak Restaurant.  It was still early for lunch, we took a break to sit by the river and looked for alligators, the owner told us one is usually lurking around in the morning but we never saw him.  We did see a few fish under the walkway.  We took a few pictures and then hit the road again.

We continue west until Altoona and then take route 19 north which cuts right through the Ocala National Forest. The Ocala NF is the second largest National Forest in the U.S. state of Florida and covers approximately 607 square miles.
The Ocala National Forest, established in 1908, is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi River and the southernmost national forest in the continental U.S.
The forest contains the largest concentration of sand pine in the world as well as some of the best remaining stands of Longleaf Pine in Central Florida. 
We make a stop in Salt Springs in one of the parks where I find an amazing lake with a fresh water spring that feeds Lake George. Lots of kids enjoying the warm water and sunshine.

These guys apparently were looking for a giant blue crab that lives deep in the hole, they told me his body is over a foot wide and they can see him walking around catching food that comes from deep underground.  This is the spot where the water is coming out from under the ground that feeds into Lake George.

The rest of the park and ride were uneventful.  We continue north until Palatka on mostly straight as an arrow roads and with little traffic then take route 100 south until Bunnell.

We stop in Bunnell for lunch when we see Choppers and Chaps Bar & Grill but to our disappointment the waitress tells us the cook didn't come in and there was no food.  We needed food, I was craving a succulent burger, we walk out and cross the street to a shack that passed as a restaurant.  I think the place was run by drug addicts, they looked like they had just been released from the local jail.  To my surprise the burger was really good. I didn't take any pictures and didn't hang around to chat with the locals.

We return back to the campsite to try and figure out what to do with the rest of the day.  We all decide to go in different directions.  Wayne and his dad went back to Daytona for the races, I decided to skip and go sightseeing, my brother went on his own way, not sure where he took off to.

I went looking for curvy roads and the beautiful Florida scenery.  Didn't have to go too far before I was all alone going through Bullow Creek State Park.  The moss covered trees lining up the road and offering a little cover from the sun.

The road winds along a canal, at times the water is just a few feet from the edge of the road, all I could think was a little sand around one of the turns and I could be friends with an alligator.

I make one stop for a picture and then continue east towards the Atlantic coast, I could already feel and smell the beach.

I reach the end of the road, it's a T and in front of me is the beautiful Florida coast, the Atlantic staring me in the face and throwing a cool breeze over the road.  I really love Florida and would move there tomorrow if I knew I had a nice job waiting for me.

It was late afternoon, the sun setting on the other side of Florida, Daytona was to the right, my sense of adventure said go left and so it was, I went looking for a place to stop and have a drink.  There's something to be said about riding alone, you make your own adventure.

I ride a few miles up the road and see the "High Tides at Snack Jack", surfside eats & drinks, lots of motorcycles parked outside, perfect place for a drink.  I pull in and park where the attendant tells me to park, smack in front of the joint, my bike is the one right in the center of the picture below.

I order a beer and hang outside enjoying the warm weather and admiring the beautiful bikes.  Some guys spend thousands of dollars accessorizing and chroming their rides.  I liked the two below in particular, one a beautiful chopper and the other a cruiser I would love to ride all over the US.

I hang around for a while but it was starting to get dark, I was about 50 minutes away from Daytona and knew the traffic was going to increase as the night approached.  I finish my drink, mount my bike and head south along the coast.  There are some really amazing homes along the coast, I pass lots of beautiful mansions as I make my way towards Daytona.

A few miles down the road I see another restaurant with motorcycles parked outside, I pull in to take a few pictures and to scout the place.  I will come back to this place again.

I decided to take a few artistic shot on the beach but I didn't have a tripod, had to use the rail on the stairs leading down to the beach.  These two pictures are long exposures, the first 6s at f20 and the second 15s at f22.  I was trying to get the ghost effect on the water and I think it worked pretty well.

I continue south making two more stops as the sun was quickly disappearing behind the horizon.  Saw more amazing homes with their private docks behind the house and their expensive cars parked in front of the houses.  This is a rich area of Florida, but of course, it's along the coast where only rich people can afford to buy a home.

I finally arrive in Daytona and go straight to the biker hangout, had to fight the traffic to get to the main strip, slow going with lots of loud pipes all around me, you could hardly hear my Tenere running, at one light I had to look down to make sure the engine was still running.

I park the bike, grab the camera and join the madness.

I find it amazing that bikers are proud of what they have regardless of the type or state of the motorcycle.  You see sport, touring, cruisers, choppers and the rare adventure bike.

You see motorcycle groups showing their colors, young riders with their swing-arm extensions, biker girls or should I say woman bikers.

By 10pm, with the crowd growing and the partying in full swing, the place was a madhouse.  Woman were dancing on top of the bar counters and the police were patrolling the streets in their Segway's.

The crazies were in full swing doing their little stunts, riding standing up and without helmets or shirts.  Coffins were coming out of the dark, I always wonder what makes one want to travel with a coffin behind.

Monstrosities were out in force, big V8 powered motorcycles, trikes and even a Quad Goldwing.

A Quad Goldwing
The crowd was growing by the minute, by midnight you could hardly walk on the sidewalks, there were thousands of bikers and other Florida vacationers strolling up and down.

This had to be the weirdest motorcycle going up and down the strip, I don't even know how this thing turns, does it even lean?  The wheels must have cost more than the bike.

I took a stroll to the beach, less than 100 yards away to take a few shots of the amusement park.  It's a small park but I could her the screams of the people being sling shot up into the sky, looked cool.

Woman were showing their tattoos and bodies all over the place.

You have to have a great body and confidence to walk around in a bikini at this time of the night.  Saw her as I was returning from the beach, she saw me taking the picture, I wasn't hiding it, she winked at me as she passed me, I'm sure she was happy I took her photo without hiding it.

Bikinis and thongs were in force, I particularly liked the thong this woman was wearing, she isn't a young woman but she had an air of confidence that comes from knowing you have a great body and look. I liked the little playboy stamp a few inches below her navel.

There was so much to see even the dog was wagging his tongue but it was getting late, very late, I still had 15 miles to get back to camp and I was alone.  My brother had gone his own way, Wayne and his dad had gone to the flat track races and I never saw them again.
I left Daytona around 2am, saw many deer on the side of the road, had to ride a bit more careful because of them but got back to the campsite without incident.  Everyone else was sleeping, I had to ride in very slowly not to wake anyone up, after all we were camping at the BMW campsite and we know they have to get to bed early.

More to come in the next installment of my saga.