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.


  1. OMG - that is so sad. It sickens me every time I hear of a crash, whether it is fatal or not, caused by an inattentive or drunk driver.

    I don't think those types of people realize how many people the hurt when they make those kinds of choices. How many days and lives are ruined. I think the penalties should be stronger when motorcyclists are involved. At least they held her in custody.

  2. I have enjoyed your write up about this trip George. The one you will do from Alaska will be so much different!

    Nothing I can say about the accident, tragic, and advoidable. Drunk drivers disgust me. I never like hearing of motorbiker deaths, and this was far to close to home for you. All the best, Roger

    1. Thanks Roger, I can't wait but as this accident shows everything can end in an instant, life can turn upside down from one day to the other.
      Just last week, a friend of mine was riding home from another state when the car in front of him rode over a tire thread on the road, my friend was right behind, didn't have time to avoid, ended up in ICU with a broken leg, broken elbow, broken ribs, broken nose and lost his front teeth. He now has 10 weeks ahead for recovery. The bike was totaled.

  3. I wanted to say something nice and witty about your wonderful write up of your trip, the bikes and beaches, but when I came across the accident, and what caused it the words got stuck. I am in shock and angry, and I don't know what to say. So sad, so avoidable.

    1. Thanks Sonja. Yes, no reason to drink and drive. She could have called a cab. She's 77 and might spend the rest of her life in prison.

  4. GeorgeF:

    I am sure this was very traumatic. I hope I am never in a position to witness anything like this. People who drink just don't get it. they are selfish and only think about themselves. this is the same for tailgaters, people who go through red lights, people who make right turns without stopping

    Riding the Wet Coast

  5. George,
    Like bob, I hope I never find myself in the position you and your brother were. I can only imagine your feeling of helplessness and your brother's feelings of frustration. It is all so sad and needless.
    Circle Blue

    1. Thanks Keith. It's very needless, why drink and then risk something like this? people don't think.

  6. Oh George. I am so sorry. Sorry for Dixler and his friends. Sorry for you to encounter. I'm very happy that your group stopped to watch a race... Time heals, but it will always be with you. I understand what you are feeling and going through. I was sitting and watching Oilburner be rear ended on his bike, shoved into the vehicle in front of us and hit again...all while sitting on my bike next to him. Be safe. Hug your loved ones. I'm sending hugs your way.


    1. Thanks Lori. It must have been horrible to see your husband in an accident and you are powerless to do anything about it. It felt good to be home with my daughter and wife.

  7. The accident is a low point in your trip, you, your brother and Wayne did everything you could to help and that is commendable. I know that the driver is going to go to jail is small consolation but focus on the highlights of your trip. How much you guys enjoyed your ride, the bikes, the races and your time with your brother. It looks like you had a lot of fun in the sun and I really enjoyed the photos, thank you for sharing, especially the hooters, ummmm I mean owls.

  8. Same here, I think about what it must be to all of a sudden see a car veering into me, how would I react? would I have time to do anything? In an instant it can be over.

  9. I have never been to Daytona, but have made myself a promise to go there during bike week, some year. It looks like a great place with bikes and beaches - a terrific combination. I like the look of some of the custom Baggers in your pictures, the owl pictures are a hoot, and the four pictures you took with HDR on your phone are excellent. It just goes to show how good camera phones have become.

    The picture of the woman posing made me smile and I thought you had mis-typed "for tips".

    Your telling of the story of the events at the end of the day make solemn reading. It is hard to know what to say about a person that drinks, drives and then ends or ruins the lives of people as a result. I feel anger towards the woman and sadness for those she kille dand injured. I am sorry that you and your group had to deal with the aftermath.

    I sincerely hope that you have been able to personally move on from what you saw that night. Riding a motorcycle is of course more risky than other methods of getting around, but we get so much pleasure from our bikes, that events like this must not deter us. A drunk person could just as easily kill pedestrians and I for one am not going to stop walking because of it.

    Your posts from your Daytona trip have been very enjoyable George. I can't wait to read about your next adventure. Don't forget to plan one future trip in Europe. I have a bike you can ride and will happily accompany you!

    1. Thanks Gary. Sometimes I do think about it at night while I'm trying to fall asleep but I'm okay, not going to give up motorcycling, that's for sure. Like you say, you can be walking across the street and be hit by a drunk person driving a car. Life is fragile, you can be gone in an instant.

  10. George, It's too bad you had to come across that crash. I know the helpless feeling that can come from that. In my 22+ years as a Deputy Sheriff, I've seen a lot of things I wish I could un-see. I've had people die on the floor in front of me as I performed CPR while their family was there for Christmas dinner. I've been to car crashes that were worse than any of the films in my high school drivers education classes. I've found "grampa" at home on the couch, in the heat, dead, after the family tried for a week to get him on the phone. It's no problem 99% of the time, but every once in a while a sight, sound, or even a smell will bring back memories I'd like to forget.

    Ride safe!!

    1. Wow, that's horrible. I know what you mean, the image comes in every now and then but you just have to move on. Things like this are happening all the time.

  11. This is terrible! I'm just speechless. Such a wonderful day up until then. Tragic! I'm glad there will be charges, though who knows what will come of that. At 77, I doubt this is her first time driving drunk. I'm glad you guys are safe and my thoughts go out to the families of the other riders.

    1. Thanks Kari. I did have a wonderful day, unfortunately it had a bad ending. She will probably walk away, she will get a good lawyer and will say medicine reacted with the liquor or something like that.

  12. Dear George:

    I was quite carried away by your pictures of this ride, and by your concise commentary, which is always engaging. However, the details of the crash left me stunned. I felt like I had been punched. My heart aches for the family of the deceased and I am seething over the cause of this terrible crime. And then again, I am reminded, "There for the grace of God go you and I..."

    Glad your home and safe.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

    1. Thanks Jack, yea we are all safe and back with loved ones and for that we thank God. I'm glad you guys enjoyed all the pictures, I will finish my trip on the next entry and then will post a link to more pictures.

  13. looks like a good time but the bad is bad. that stuff stays with you for a long time.

    1. Yea, I keep remembering the event at night when I'm about to sleep.
      Thanks for reading Jon.

  14. Between drunk driver and morons texting and driving, you really have to be super careful on a bike. Sorry you had to witness that scene. (HWM)

    1. Thanks Highwayman, it was horrible, I will never forget.
      I need to go back, next year I will be there again.