Sunday, March 25, 2012

Daytona - The Ride Down

Daytona, I had heard so many wild stories over the years, how crazy it is during bike week, the all day partying, the non-stop boozing, the loud bikes and the wild girls in skimpy clothes.  There are lots of stereotypes made about Daytona, I knew some had to be true but other's had to be tall tales by helplessly inebriated bikers.

My good friend Wayne had invited me to ride down with him and to share his dad's campsite.  Dad has a camper with a double bed and a single. I told him there's no way I'm sharing a bed with you and he was not sharing the bed with his dad, no problem, I would sleep in the back of his dad's SUV.  I would sleep standing if I had to, I was not going to miss Daytona one more time.  We would ride down in a day and a half, spend two full days there and then ride back in two days again. The ride would be a little over 1000 miles each way, no problem, 700 miles on the first day and 300 on the second. We would leave on Wednesday and be there Thursday afternoon for the first Flat Track race.

The highly anticipated departure day finally arrived.  I left my house at 5:30am, pitch black outside and met Wayne an hour later on the NJ Turnpike not too far from the Delaware Memorial Bridge. We make the first stop for coffee at a Bob Evans Restaurant in Delaware on route 301.

A stop for gas at "Mr. Fuel" of course.

We quickly dispatched Delaware and were soon in Maryland on route 301 riding it all the way south past the Washington DC area.  If you ever have to go that way make sure you avoid the Beltway around Washington DC.   Lunch was at a Dunkin Donuts and for a second I thought I was back in Africa.

My brother had already left earlier in the week to tour around Delaware and Maryland, we planned on meeting at the end of the day in Summerton, South Carolina, a 650 mile ride for me.  The ride down was pretty monotonous with stops for gas and leg stretching only.  The seat on my Tenere is not broken in yet, my "Derrière" needed a break around every 150 miles or so.

Once we passed the DC area, traffic was pretty light and the road pretty straight, we were able to maintain a decent speed, no police officers in sight.  The temperature was in the low 80's by the time we hit South Carolina. It was a beautiful day to ride and we quickly ate up miles of asphalt.

We arrive in Summerton and after a phone call were quickly joined by my brother.  We head to the Summerton Diner, the best "fried Chicken" place in South Carolina according to Wayne.  He was right.

The sun was still out, we look at each other and decide to continue for another stint of 150 miles.  We would stop again in Georgia just after Savannah.  By the time we found a motel I had ridden 795 miles, the sun was still out but we were exhausted.

The next morning, after a quick continental breakfast, we pack our bikes and continue south towards Daytona.  We had about 250 miles to go, piece of cake.

We make one more stop to stretch the legs along I95 and replenish with some peanuts, courtesy of my brother.

A little latter we come upon the first incident of our trip, the traffic all of a sudden comes to a stop and since it was just in front of us, we ride to the front of the line just in case someone needed help, Wayne is a nurse. He quickly dismounted and ran to help the poor guy that had crashed, he was still laying on the road.  He was okay, nothing broken, just his pride and his bike.  He admitted to us he got distracted with something on the bike and put a wheel off the road throwing him off balance and causing him to crash.  I took this picture as we were leaving, the paramedics had already arrived.

We continue and after a while enter Florida, beautiful weather, temperature close to 90.

We head straight to the camp site but for some reason Google maps had put us about a mile down the road and we couldn't find the camp site.  At one point we stopped in a convent's parking lot and for a moment I thought about asking the nuns for directions.

After finding the campsite, we drop some of our gear and head straight to the Daytona Flat Track which is located adjacent to the Daytona International Speedway.  We arrive just in time to see some action during the practice sessions for the races on Saturday.

The flat track main event was only starting at 7:30pm, the track was still being prepared for the night races.

We walk across the parking lot stopping only to admire some of the bikes and head to a Cracker Barrel restaurant, my stomach was already rumbling by the time we got there.

A beautiful Moto Guzzi Stelvio with panniers like mine except he probably paid twice the price of mine because of the little red Moto Guzzi emblem on the side.

A diesel bike with a turbocharger on the side, notice where the battery is and the three grenades for decoration.

An immaculate and well traveled BMW

A beautiful and heavily modified Harley Davidson Sporster.  We spoke with the owner, he told us he had invested a few thousand on the bike.

A very well packed and traveled Harley Davidson.  Love the brown leather bags.  Bungee cords were a great invention.  Apparently he even brought his own carpet.

It was almost 7:30 by the time we got back to the track, the parking lot was full and it was time for some flat track action.  This was only the second time I had ever attended a flat track race but Wayne and his dad are big fans and know all the racers.  His dad is 81 years old and still loves the sport and to attend the events.

I took lots of pictures but at night and with only the flood lights to illuminate it's pretty difficult to capture the fast action.  I think I got some good shots even though I was quite far, having to go to the top of the stands to avoid the fence.  These are some of the best.

After the races we headed downtown where the partying had already started.  The main strip was lined on both sides with bikes and the music was booming from all directions.  All kinds of vehicles were parading up and down the road, loud exhausts revving and making their presence felt.

I only had my cheap camera with me but it managed to do a decent job in the low light.

We were returning to our bikes when we saw these two, even the Daytona fire department has nice Harley Davidson's.

We left town at around 2am and headed back to the campground.  It had been a long day and I was exhausted.  The campground was about 15 miles north of Daytona.  I setup my sleeping bag and mattress in the back of the Ford Explorer and was soon fast asleep.

More to come in the next installment of my saga.

Stunning chopper


  1. Great pictures of the race. I have never attended any sort of motorcycle race before so appreciate the shots. 795 miles in one day! You should get to AK in no time at all.

    1. Thanks. I'm more into Formula 1 racing and endurance racing but love any kind of motorcycle racing, as long as there's noise and the smell of high octane fuel in the air, I'm there :-)

    2. By the way, even if I could maintain it, it would still take more than 6 straights days of 800 miles to get to Deadhorse. It's a little over 5000 miles.

  2. That is a fari hike george, I presume the roads are fairly streight? I would struggle to do those distances in a day over here. You have done incrediable well with the pics they look great, silly question but is it not complusory to wear a helmet in that state?

    1. Roger, I can leave my house, 20 minutes later jump on Interstate 95 and only get off in Daytona, Florida over 1000 miles later, pretty much one road :-) That's not what we did though, too much crazy traffic around the capital.
      No, you DON'T need a helmet in Florida and in a lot of other states.

  3. Looks like a good day out. Maybe those are real hand grenades for throwing at cars that pull out on you. That'll teach em.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Yea, some times I feel I need a few grenades to clear the traffic when it gets too close to my rear wheel ;-)

  4. I'm looking forward to finding out of the debauchery is what it's claimed to be.

    Richard's right. 800 miles in a day is a pretty good shot.

    Behind Bars

    1. You might be disappointed :-)
      I've done a few rides with 800 mile days, it's the next 200 to make it to a 1000 that are killers on the behind. I will try for the Iron Butt one of these days.

  5. Sounds like a good time, and some nice pics. 800 miles! That's a long hall even in a cage with driver swaps. Hats off to you.

    1. Thanks. It's really not that bad if you start early.

  6. 800 miles in one day. My butt hurts just thinking about it.

    That is a lot of bikes and people in town in the evening after the races. So far is it what you thought it would be? I think the crowds would drive me nuts.

    Nice race shots. I think you got great pictures considering the distance you were from the track and the lighting.

    1. Ha ha, you get used to it or it just goes numb and you don't feel it anymore :-)
      Lots of people but pretty much everyone behaved.
      All shots taken at 1600 ISO.

  7. Overload!! So much to see and do. Not winning the argument to convince me to go though, :). I'll show up a week early, park on a corner, watch everyone go by, and leave a couple days late. Hehe. Glad that you had a good time. I love the diesel!

    1. I would have loved to hear the diesel running but he was not around. You should go at least once, it's an experience :-)

  8. Great Shots - 800 +/- miles, that's a long haul. Listen to your butt, it's giving you great advice, take a regular break - avoid rider fatigue.
    Looking forward to the rest of your ride.

    1. Thanks, I usually stop every 100 or 150 miles to stretch the legs and take care of other business ;-)
      The longest I have done was about 250 miles non stop but that was on my Concours, it has a 7.5 gallon tank.
      On the Tenere, depending on how fast I go, 250 is really stretching it.
      Thanks for stopping by :-)

  9. Hey buddy, awesome pictures as usual!
    Wish I could have gone with you.