This year during our pilgrimage to Daytona’s 78th Annual Bike Week, my riding buddies Greg and Nate and I enjoyed our favorite rides, a few new routes, great food & music and larger than normal crowds. We also had the chance to introduce the event to an old friend and his son, so we packed as much as we could into the 4 days we were there. Nate and I hit Daytona last year for my inaugural trip but this was the first time the three of us experienced the event together. Greg, Nate and I have been friends for over 30 years and this was our first trio trip to Bike Week after riding touring bikes together for the last two years.
As unpopular as it is for some, the three of us are nearing six decades in age, so we opted to trailer the bikes down this year so we could arrive rested and ready for warm weather riding. Once we rolled into town it was apparent that many from the North and Midwest pummeled by the brutal winter had the same idea, as trailers and bikes were everywhere. We always stay on the beach, so check-in requires unloading our gear and bikes and then parking the trailer in an off site lot. Fortunately, we were organized and Nate’s new 16’ trailer was emptied and parked in minutes. Time for dinner with our old friend Joe and his son Beau. We rolled out to Stonewood Grill in Ormond Beach around 7PM. Our small group represented a diverse band of bikes including Harley Street Glides, a Victory Cross Country, and an Indian Chieftain.
Day one began with breakfast at the Cracked Egg Diner in Daytona Shores. Arriving early to miss the rush is suggested. This also gives you more time to enjoy the waitresses’ dry humor and attitude. “Bike Only” parking out front helps and also ensures you will meet fellow riders during your meal. We planned to roll south toward the Space Coast and Cocoa Beach this year and Daytona Shores is on the way. I should pause here to share that our group really enjoys riding in this area of the country so even though Bike Week has hundreds of events, concerts, vendors and several races, we spend much of our time in the saddle while in the area. This year we decided to check out New Smyrna Beach and rolled south on US1. Beach Road (S. Atlantic Ave) through New Smyrna basically ends before you make it to Titusville so be prepared for a mid road U-Turn. Just past Oak Hill we fork left on FL Hwy 3 (Kennedy Parkway). This is a beautiful ride through the Canaveral National Seashore, with plenty of long flat roads to really open up the throttle.
A quick left on FL 402 takes you toward the beach and several public boardwalk access areas – thirteen to be exact. As you roll east and look to the south you can see the storied Cape Canaveral. Note to the readers – the last beach access (Number 13) allows for bathing suit optional swimming.
Continuing on US 1 we rolled through Titusville, crossing the bridge through Merritt Island then on to Cocoa Beach to our destination. Timing of this ride puts us at Cocoa Beach Pier where, after finding some covered parking a block away behind a Gentlemen’s Club (no joke) we relax with a cold brew and enjoy a killer Grouper sandwich while watching the spring breakers, enjoying the warm weather. While dining we also observed a paddle boarder surfing among a few decent sized sharks. Cue the lifeguard whistles!
After a killer sandwich, a couple of cold beers and some sweet beach hospitality we saddled up and headed back to Daytona with our first stop being the Daytona Indian Dealership. As the largest volume Indian dealer in the US, this Bike Week venue always provides some surprises and this year was no different. Even though vendors that had occupied the Riverfront park across the street had been relocated to Boot Hill and the Speedway, the Indian dealer foot traffic was brisk, no doubt impacted by the Corporate Indian venue on Main Street’s halo effect. After checking out the Indian inventory, several Slingshots, and my buddy Greg scanning the used Victory offerings, we decided to check out the happenings on Main Street. As mentioned earlier, attendance this year seemed much greater during day one than last year’s crowds. We parked on the corner of Main and Peninsula at the converted filling station. This kept us out of the Main St. traffic and onto a cold brew and some live music pronto. For dinner we rolled just past the Indian dealer to Zappi’s Italian Garden and met up with Joe and Beau to recap our day’s adventures. We found Zappi’s last year and it became an instant favorite. The food, beverages and service are on point and the live music was enjoyable as we planned Day two.
Greg befriended one of the Indian Dealer sales guys the night before so Day Two’s ride included a new destination. Since we were heading north we grabbed a complimentary hotel breakfast, dried the the salt water dew off the bikes and took off for the Tomoka Loop. This route has become a standard for us- the natural Spanish moss canopy and ocean views are beautiful, the roads are in good shape and there are curves involved. Taking Hwy 40 out of Ormond we cross the Intercoastal and go right on N. Beach / Old Dixie Hwy. After passing through a fine residential area The park begins and takes you to Walter Boardman Rd. then Highbridge Rd. The beauty is unspeakable and we typically see a few gators sunning alongside the road. Be sure to wave or shoot two fingers at the photographers along the route. I’ve carried on long enough here – you can see the beauty of the ride below or in our YouTube Channel here.
Rolling up to Flagler was different this year as A1A is being repaired due to last years hurricane. Northbound is one lane and south bound detours through a residential area. We caught Hwy 100 in Flagler and headed west to San Mateo & East Palatka. We instantly noticed two things rolling west, fewer bikes and higher temperatures. Our destination was Federal Point, Tocoi and Picolata riding a twisty moss covered road along the St. Johns river. The ride was exceptional and the cool breezes along the river welcomed. After cruising farm and river country we ended up catching Hwy 16 and rolled east into St. Augustine for Lunch. Greg vacations nearby and had a killer spot where we lucked out founding a parking spot big enough for all three bikes out front. After enjoying killer marina views and some fat juicy burgers & beers at the A1A Ale Works & Taproom we crossed the Bridge of Lions and headed back south.
After a relaxed ride down A1A we headed back to the hotel to prep for attending the Monster Energy Supercross race. (I’ll cover the Supercross in a separate article.) We did have a crazy thing happen on the way to Supercross though. The three of us were behind two young guys on sportbikes at a light on International Drive. As the light turned green one of the young riders wallet flew out of his pocket and hit the street in front of us followed by a flurry of paper with pictures of “Dead Presidents” right in the middle of traffic! We all stopped at the next light and a driver told them what happened. They promptly turned around and headed back to find the wallet and cash, certainly thankful the wind wasn’t blowing too hard.
Our last full day started with a delightful bike wash by some lovely ladies working hard for the Bike Week crowd. We met some locals and a few folks from Ohio and Pennsylvania. One local had built a fine vintage looking Sportster (pictured). After the bikes were blown dry we decided to check out Destination Daytona over at Bruce Rossmeyer Harley Davidson and JP Cycles. The vendor tents at DD are the real deal with most offering sales and free installation of their products. Having borrowed some Cobra Slip-ons from Nate last year I had decided to raise the exhaust game on my ‘14 Street Glide Special and this was the year, so I slid over to the Rinehart Racing tent and chatted with their people. After a quick sales process I was navigating my bike through the crowds into the lineup at Rinehart for a new set of 4” slip-ons and aluminum tips. The experience was superb and as promised, within about an hour my phone buzzed with a text from Rinehart telling me the bike was ready. Greg was checking out JP Cycles so Nate and I finished our sandwiches and brews at the Sinners & Saints, connected with Greg and, after strapping the old boxed up Cobra’s to my bike we gassed up at Love’s and rolled. Traffic in that area is insane so we ended up hanging a right and looping back to Old Dixie and north.
As we hit Flagler two of us were ready to – ehem – download some beer so we pulled into one of the many double decker bars along A1A. We lucked out as Tortuga’s had plenty of bike parking and seating. Settling down in some umbrella covered wicker sofas we were well positioned right for bike and people watching. This gave us time to meet some fine folks and reflect on our two days. While we were sitting there a super clean modified Harley bagger pulled up right next to us and, as the owner lowered the air ride stand I noticed his rear tire looked pretty low. We mentioned that and he acknowledged and appreciated the observation. His fellow rider checked and confirmed so when they left he rolled next door to adjust tire pressure. There was also a dude on a sweet lowered cruiser that was having front turn signal issues. The left turn lens had popped out during his last ride. He and his buddies were trying to address it when Nate noticed their struggle and sprung into action. As a former mechanic and a lifelong biker (Street and Motocross) Nate showed them how to fix the lens and boom – fixed instantly. The rider was appreciative of Nate’s assistance and bought us a round of beers.
People in the biker and riding community never cease to amaze me. Here we all are from different corners of the country and yet we all share this common love for motorcycles and the freedom that riding allow us to enjoy – so we help and care for each other. Two simple acts of kindness made two fellow riders’ day a bit brighter and safer, and we all enjoyed that moment together. After a few rounds and an appetizer it was time to head back to the hotel to prep for attending the Monster Energy Supercross race. I’ll cover the Supercross in a separate article. Suffice it to say people go to the Speedway for the racing and not the food or beverages or service.
Monday morning arrived to fast. The bright sunny morning weather was yet again exceptional so we decided to take one last quick ride through the Tomoka Loop, returning past the massive estates and moss-covered residential area down John Anderson Dr., then back to the hotel to load up and head home. Joe and Beau decided to stay one extra day to cover more of the venues and vendor areas. Joe had found a nice new set of exhausts for his Indian Chieftain earlier in the week and was going by to pick up the original exhaust from the vendor.
The riding lifestyle provides camaraderie, freedom and enjoyment for those who participate, and Daytona Bike Week is a great example of these experiences and culture. Our small group had a great time catching up when hauling the toys down & back as well as riding the 600+ miles we covered in 3.5 days. The biker and riding culture can sometimes get a bad rap depending on various people,s perspectives and experiences, but for this small group of “Mild Hogs” we enjoyed seeing some amazing machines while speaking with wonderful people from all over the country. Our dinner Sunday night at a local fish house was a great example of how the locals also embrace Bike Week and the positive economic impact the event brings to the area.
We’ve already begun planning next year’s trip and hope to bring a larger group and stay longer to visit more venues and vendors as well. With any luck we may need a bigger trailer to haul a few new bikes back home.
Keep the Shiny Side Up!