My First Spring Rally In Daytona


I must confess upfront – in all my years of motorcycle riding, with all of the races, rides, regional rallies, etc., I have never personally attended Daytona Beach Bike Week. I’ve just never been a big fan of crowded rallies. The last large “bike week” I attended was in 1999, a rain-soaked Myrtle Beach Bike Week. Never really paid them much attention prior, and haven’t had the desire to return since.

Until this year gave me three good reasons.

First, my childhood friend and fellow rider Dave Lunsford contacted me asking “Hey man, are you planning to come down for Bike Week? If you do, why don’t you come stay with Deborah and me just north of town?” For the chance to visit and stay with my old friend and adolescent skateboarding bro and his beloved for several days got me seriously considering the pilgrimage.

Second, I’ve long been interested in the legendary Daytona 200 motorcycle endurance race, and with MotoAmerica now managing the event, I procured a pair of press passes to attend the races. I could not pass up that opportunity.

Third, Harley-Davidson offered a pair of brand new 2024 motorcycles to ride for our time in-town, so the third domino had toppeled- we were going to Daytona! Phil G would accompany me, being an old Bike Week veteran, so we cleared several days, packed the bikes and prepared to roll south to coastal central Florida.

Somewhere in south Georgia, Daytona bound.

I have still been in possession of the 2024 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT+ we’ve reviewed and used in numerous stories late last year, so however unlikely this sport tourer might appear as a Bike Week steed, it’s a great ride for eating long miles and hours in the saddle.

So off to Daytona we rode.

With pit stops for fuel, breaks, lunch and such, we made the trip through Georgia and north Florida in about 10 hours, avoiding interstates while meandering state roads. Down a quiet sandy drive outside the small town of Bunnell, we pulled in to Dave and Deb’s place in time for dinner and front porch relaxing. We were joined by another traveler named Becky down from North Carolina, a member of Broken Chains Motorcycle Ministry that Dave and Deb ride with.

Dave and I were “skater punks” as young teens (as was Phil, in fact), before we were old enough to drive. Dave was much more hard-core than I was, and would go on to compete regionally with some success in his late teens to early 20s. We lost contact for quite a number of years after high school, but found each other on Facebook back in 2010-11, and reconnected. His life had taken many twists and turns, highs and lows, but Dave had become a Christ follower and landed in coastal Florida after a career on the high seas in the merchant marine. We’ve visited together whenever possible in the years since, and every chance to spend some time with my old friend has always been cherished.

Childhood skater bros, with a few extra miles on the ODO.

The next morning we rolled out and headed south for the speedway, where Harley-Davidson had their vast fleet of demos available. We met Paul there who fixed us up with a pair of bikes for the next couple of days, a brand new Street Glide and Road Glide. We throttled through town, down the always crowded Main Street, then picked up A1A south, made famous by the late Jimmy Buffett, and rode the glorious coast to the historic Ponce Inlet lighthouse. I was on the Street which fit me perfectly, while Phil had the Road with its higher bars more to his lanky liking.

These bikes are perfect for coastal cruising.

We rolled back north for a late lunch at Tortugas in Flagler Beach, still on the beautiful A1A. Sea to our east, sand dunes and beach houses to our west, we rode a little further north to Washington Oaks Gardens State Park for some photos and footage among the giant, twisted, Spanish moss draped white oaks, hickory and magnolias. We swapped bikes for awhile, and I found the mini-apes of the Road Glide too tall for my comfort, while 6’2” Phil found the bars on the Street Glide too low for his liking. We swapped back within an hour or two, after wandering around the massive complex known as “Destination Daytona” hosted by Teddy Morse’s H-D.

2024 Street Glide and Road Glide, courtesy of Harley-Davidson.

Throttling west out into the Volusia farm and cattle country, the land is flat, the roads straight, and the cool of a north Florida evening was settling across the land as we rolled back to Dave & Deb’s place after a long day in the Harley saddles. I’m not really a cruiser/bagger guy anymore, but if I were to make the return to this genre, I would absolutely have to get on this Street Glide. It’s as if they built this model for my size, stage of life, and riding style. Super comfortable, great handling, and can easily go “hooligan” when you’re feeling froggy. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

We rode the Hawgs back to H-D central outside the speedway Saturday morning, reluctantly returning these outstanding new motorcycles (Phil’s full review forthcoming). Phil then rolled back to Destination Daytona for a new Klock Werks windshield on his 2017 Road Glide, while I pulled into the Yamaha demo center also at the track, to let their outstanding crew give the Tracer a 3000 mile go-over while I was there.

Next up: the Daytona 200!

I’ve been a fan of motorcycle road racing for many years, as evidenced within the pages of Road Dirt since our inception. Ranking right up there with the Isle of Man TT and the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, it’s long been a bucket list race I’ve wanted to attend. After checking in at the NASCAR press offices for our credentials, we made our way into the massive complex that is the Daytona International Speedway.

Track action during the Daytona 200 race. Photos by Tim Lester and Steve Groth.

The infield was packed with RVs, team trucks, trailers, row upon row of motorcycles, and fans making their way to the best spots around the twisty infield portion of the course. We met up with Road Dirt contributors Tim Lester and Steve Groth, who came in to shoot the races. We then made our way to where the 200 racers grid up, which is actually in the pit area. This year‘s race would see one of the most international grids in the history of the event, with racers from World SBK, British Superbikes, even MotoGP.

Standing at the starting line, the massive expanse of the Daytona Speedway grandstands beyond, was a truly thrilling moment as the racers revved their engines in preparation for launch. Once off, the course turns hard into the infield, out onto the high banks, back into the infield across the back of the track, then out onto the high banks again before the long front straight in the two-pit stop, 57 lap endurance race. Reaching speeds approaching 190 mph, the g-forces push the riders high on the 31 degree banks the faster they go. When standing at a corner, which I did at several points around the track, you’re looking up at the racers as they scream by almost horizontal on the banks. It’s an incredible sight and experience.

King of the Baggers race shots. Photos by Tim Lester and Phil Gauthier.

MotoAmerica racer Josh Herrin dominated from flag to flag, taking his third race win and Rolex, second year in a row. Tyler Scott and Hayden Gillim rounded out the podium, more than 45+ seconds behind the unstoppable Herrin. Mexico’s Richie Escalante, who had been contending strong with Herrin the entire race, barely crossed fifth as his team miscalculated fuel consumption, forcing Escalante to quite literally coast across the finish line behind Bobby Fong.

We stayed for the King of the Baggers race, a crowd favorite. Our friend Max Flinders lined up with his Mad Monkey/Thrashed Bike Racing Indian Challenger bike, and as the Harleys and Indians roared past on their 6-lap race, the growl of their high-performance v-twins was chest pounding. I’m endlessly amazed each year this class runs, as the speed, the lean angles, and the thrilling bar to bar battles just get better with each passing season. And to hear their roar reverberate around this massive track was pure excitement. Ears ringing, Phil and I rolled back to Dave’s place for a cookout they hosted for friends and church mates. Grilling out under the gnarly, moss draped cedars surrounding their home was the perfect ending to a memorable day.

Behind the bars: Tracer 9 GT+ in Merritt Island Natl. Wildlife Refuge, Road Glide in the Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, and 2 of the Street Glide on A1A north of Flagler Beach, and on the Tomoka Loop.

Sunday saw us all rest in for the morning, then Phil and I headed out for a day of just riding the coast south of Daytona. We made our way down to ride the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a serene route that winds through the coastal salt marshes. This preserve was originally part of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, but when left undeveloped, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established it as the 286th refuge of the National Wildlife Refuge System in 1963. There are many turnouts for parking and boardwalks, foot paths, or mowed grass trails to hike out across the marshes, making this is a fantastic destination to ride to when down for Bike Week.

Returning, we joined Dave, Deborah and Becky for a special event hosted at First Baptist Church of Palm Coast. Deb had been invited to share her story of redemption from a life of abuse and drug addiction before the local Celebrate Recovery group there, and her changed life in the Lord was inspiring. Soon it was back to the house, to pack for an early morning rollout back home. We all stayed up too late, talking and laughing together into the night, imbibing on Deb’s homemade cheesecake and caramel apple pie.

Pointing the bikes north toward home.

We were all up and ready to roll by 7:30am Monday morning, Becky toward NC, Phil and I for north Georgia. Last hugs, prayers of protection, invitations to “y’all come back again!”, and we were headed for home. I felt that familiar ache of saying goodbyes to a dear old friend, unsure when we’ll get to visit again, and thanking God for friendships that span distances and decades. Everything we experienced during our short stint at Daytona Beach Bike Week 2024 was well worth the trip down, but I was reminded again that relationships are everything. Whether strolling Main Street, wandering Destination Daytona, trackside at the 200, or riding coastal Florida, they’re all better enjoyed in the company of good friends. Time on the road with Phil, visiting Dave and his bride, seeing friends at Harley-Davidson and MotoAmerica, and all the new folks we met along the way, made this trip even more meaningful.

And now, the 2024 riding season.

See you out on the road somewhere. #RIDELIFE


*photos by Rob, Phil, Tim Lester and Steve Groth


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  1. Kilt

    Interesting read thanks for your point of view. Have a nice ride over there this year. I took my little CT 125.

    • Rob Brooks

      Thanks Kilt, it was a great time.
      Best to ya,


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