Weather dominated the first couple of days at Bike Week. Look what it did to the Supercross track Saturday night.
We swept into Daytona Beach under the cover at night. Rain still peppered the air Saturday night as we exited the freeway to a Daytona International Speedway lit up like a beacon in the night. Despite the deluge that turned the Supercross track into a mud bath, the Speedway was alive with the sound of spirited fans and 450 motocross bikes ringing it out on the soggy track. Inside James Stewart slogged through the slop on his way to his second victory of the season, but it was the weather that was the story of the first few days of Daytona Bike Week 2012. The next day, the rains subsided but the grey clouds hung over the area and the wind set in, snapping flags to full mast and bending boughs in palm trees.
The grey has been fitting. The first official fatality directly attributed to Bike Week happened Sunday afternoon when a 61-year-old North Carolina man said to be traveling at a high rate of speed failed to negotiate a turn and crashed into a fence. And even though it might not be counted in the tally, on Wednesday, March 7, the motorcycle industry suffered a big blow when Keith and Amber Brinton of Diamond Heads out of Las Vegas were struck by a Lincoln Navigator in Port Orange and Amber perished in the accident. Another incident indirectly attributed to the rally happened in nearby Orlando when a 54-year-old firefighter, who had been to the Cabbage Patch two days earlier, was killed when his motorcycle was struck by a 16-year-old driver who made an improper left turn into the motorcyclist’s path.
Just like everyone else, we are saddened by these tragedies and offer our condolences to all parties involved, but we must point out one constant among all three accidents. None of them wear wearing motorcycle helmets. Now, we’re not going to stand on a pulpit and attempt to proselytize the wearing of helmets. We’re adults after all and are aware of the potential repercussions of our actions. And I, personally, have indulged in the guilty pleasure of riding sans a helmet at the occasional
We kicked off Bike Week 2012 by picking up the 2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim and hitting the town.
rally. But we’re already at a disadvantage out there, and any measures we can take to tilt the odds in our favor, however slight they may be, is a smart decision. Be safe out there people. We want everybody to have a good time, but we also want everyone to make it back home after it’s all said and done.
Bike Week officially started for us with a trip to the Speedway Sunday afternoon to pick up the 2012 Harley-Davidson Slim. Catching up with our buddy Paul James, we talked about Eddie Krawiec’s record-breaking drag run the day before in Gainesville on the updated Harley-Davidson Destroyer. We agreed that Krawiec’s definitely got a 200 mph run in his sights, and James is equally excited about his own racing season with his James Gang Racing team that has also seen some revisions this off-season. Then, despite the wind that swirled in 20 mph gusts and the grey clouds that threatened to rain on our parade, they rolled out the Softail Slim and it was time to ride.
It doesn’t take much to hitch a leg over the Softail Slim because at 23.8 inches it ties for the lowest seat height of all Harleys. After a quick walk-around, we were digging the wide Hollywood bar, thick Dunlop 402 tires and Twin Cam 103B engine. Plopping into the saddle, the rider’s triangle is very compact. A sweet note drums from the over/under shotgun exhaust as we fired this bad boy up and blazed out of the Speedway.
We charted a course for Ormond Beach, turning off at John Anderson Drive and the beginning of the 22-mile stretch known as The Loop. The Softail Slim settles into a loping cadence as we cruise by ritzy homes along the banks of the Halifax River. Posted speeds vary between 25 to 35 mph, but we’re in no hurry, and there’s an interesting variety of architecture in the homes along the strip. Personal docks, party barges and yachts are de rigueur in this neighborhood. Soon the homes end and the habitat of the manatees takes over, white herons standing stoical on one leg in shallow palm-lined marshes. Moss-draped oaks and spruce canopy the roadway along one of our favorite stretches just past Highbridge Park. The Loop provides an opportunity to enjoy the natural splendor of Florida without venturing far from town. We utilize the beauty of the area as the backdrop for photos and video of the Softail Slim for our upcoming “First Ride” review. And though we’d like to stay and venture off on one of the numerous trails that crisscross the countryside, we’ve got miles to log and people to see.
Which led us to the Rat’s Hole Bar set up across from Destination Daytona for a visit with Ted Smith, head honcho of the oldest custom bike show in Daytona Beach, the highly revered Rat’s Hole. It’s a special year for the Rat’s Hole as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. Ted was
We had never seen pink sidewalls until we met Adrian.
Nothing like sitting on the patio of the Lighthouse Landing enjoying the ambience and some spicy crawfish.
ready for the rain to go away, the wind to subside, and the crowds to come. He also told us about some old 8mm footage of the very first Rat’s Hole show which he’s having converted. There’s some good things going on at the Rat’s Hole Bar. They’re serving up one of the best Bike Week beer specials around. It also offers a handful of free parking spaces within easy walking distance of Bruce Rossmeyer’s Destination Daytona, a little known fact. Considering the congestion that generally surrounds D-D, it’s a viable alternative to hassling with the overcrowded situation across the street.
We logged miles on Harley’s new Softail until the sun went down, then stopped in at Ker’s Wing House, a Daytona Beach staple. I’d be afraid if I was a chicken in this town because the Wing House, Buffalo Wild Wings and Hooters are all within a stone’s throw of one another. After a good day’s riding, a cold Stella and a plate of fiery wings were right on time. Sorry we missed you, Dave Shelleny and our buddies with the Victory Motorcycles crew. Maybe we’ll catch up with you for Victory Bike Night at Dirty Harry’s Tuesday.
The next morning broke with sun peeking through the window. The warmth was a welcome sight from the dreary weather of the day before. Not long after our eyes were open, we were already out the door and headed to the Speedway again.
Have you ever straddled a 400 cubic-inch small block V8 engine between your legs and gone for a ride? Neither had we, but Monday we had an appointment to ride a V8 Chopper. The small company out of Miami, Oklahoma, makes a variety of V8-powered motorcycles and trikes. And I must confess – the thought of riding one initially was a bit intimidating. I mean, I was about to mount a motorcycle with more horsepower than a lot of cars out there. When Hughes pointed out the red cord to the emergency kill switch he wanted me to attach to my belt loop “just in case” didn’t help. When the bike fired up with a roar you feel in your core, my heart raced like the eight pistons thumping below me.
But my fears were all for naught. The V8 Chopper I rode has a single speed transmission with both brakes mounted on the bars. Though I’m not generally a fan of automatic transmissions, this time I didn’t mind. It’s geared so the power is very manageable down low. That bike was like a magnet leaving the Speedway. People hear and feel you long before you arrive. It definitely is full of the “Wow” factor. I heard those exact words muttered or saw it mouthed numerous times during the course of our ride.
The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse serves as a great backdrop for the V8 Chopper, our ride for Day 2 of Bike Week.
The sun sets on the first nice day of Bike Week 2012.
It took me all of two minutes before my fears were replaced by excitement as we set about cruising around Daytona Beach. We started off with the obligatory run down Main Street. It was early in the day but revelers were already straggling out, vendors tending their wares, beer girls filling their tubs and grilled meats already infiltrating the air. With Go Pros running, we cruised this infamous stretch of asphalt, shooting pictures of passersby as many shot photos back.
We headed next toward the tall red sentinel south of town known as the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. With its signature red masonry, it is Florida’s tallest lighthouse at 175 feet and is one of the tallest masonry lighthouses in the country. We couldn’t think of a better backdrop for photos of the V8-powered hot rod chopper. And though we didn’t have the time to ascend the 203 steps to the top, numerous people circled the tower enjoying the unparalleled views of Ponce Inlet. Since we were there, we couldn’t resist stopping at the Lighthouse Landing Restaurant for lunch on their dockside patio. Between the pelicans sitting on the dock nearby to the dolphin we spotted breeching the water close to shore, the ambience couldn’t be beat.
After a few more photo stops, we finally got to crack the throttle on the V8 Chopper as we hit I-95 for the last run to the Speedway. All I can say is I hit 70 mph way too fast. I desperately wanted to uncork more of this beast’s prodigious power but can honestly say I barely scratched the potential of what the powerful engine had to offer. For our amusement, V8 Choppers’ electrician Jonathan, our riding partner for the day, demonstrated a bit of what it has to offer in a quick burst of power as he rumbled past us at mach speed. We’ll share more of our experience with you in another “First Ride” article once we get back.
The forecast for tomorrow calls for more sunshine, so stay tuned for our next update from the beach. Today’s sun already brought out more crowds, a trend we only see continuing. We’re swapping out the Softail Slim for the Harley Seventy-Two Sportster in the morning as our Daytona Bike Week 2012 exploits continue.