This last Thursday (October 18) I decided to ride my Harley from Huntsville Alabama, to Biketober fest (the annual fall motorcycle rally in Daytona Beach Florida). Going down to meet a good friend of mine, Doug, who makes this trip to Daytona twice a year, and has for the last 15 years or so. For those who don't know, Biketober fest is one of the big three motorcycle rallies, the other two being Sturgis and Bike Week.

A bit about Doug. Doug, better known as GuzziDoug, spends his days buying selling and repairing motorcycles. At any given time, he has 10 - 20 running bikes, plus 10 or so projects ongoing. Going to his house or shop is ALWAYS an education. Doug sometimes rides Moto guzzi bikes, hence the nick name. On this trip Doug drove his Dodge Ram pickup because he had to deliver and pickup a couple of bikes. What is Doug riding this trip? His 1928 Indian. This is the real macoy, not one of those modern indians, which are built from Harley clone parts, with a bit of custom sheet metal thrown in. And yes it runs. Doug recently converted it to a twelve volt electrical system and mounted an alternator from a Geo Metro. It fits behind the seat post, and in front of the rear fender, and is belt driven - works like a charm. Have I mentioned, that when it comes to bikes, I think Doug is genius?

Spent the better part of Thursday doing preparations - loading the bike, packing, double checking everything, loading tools, bike maintenance checks, etc. I am a bit anal when traveling by bike, I like to be prepared for everything. I carry enough tools that I can (almost) take the entire engine apart if need be. It is for this reason that some of my friends have nicknamed me "Tools". Figuring I have everything ready I attempt to get a good nights sleep before embarking on a ten to twelve hour motorcycle ride.

10/19 @ 7:40
Final Checks, check the rigging - everything seems strapped down tight.
Odometer reads 10500 miles exactly.
Feelings: Excitement, anticipation, sadness - My wife and I are not getting along... will likely file for divorce upon return. She doesn't understand why I am going, and keeps asking if I am going to be seeing another woman. I have tried to explain to her that I have enough trouble with the woman I have, why would I want another? She still doesn't believe me. She needs to find her own path, this small journey is part of mine. Outta here.

10/19 @ 10:23 OD:10649
A little north of Prattville, on I-565. Surprise, ran out of gas (and had to switch to reserve) at 141 miles!! Normally the bike gets about 180 miles to gallon, guess the carb re-jetting and other performance modifications made last week have had a significant impact on gas mileage. Ride from Huntsville to Birmingham was COLD!!!! Filled up with gas, then stopped at Hardees for a bite to eat ($4.50) Still shivering as I sit here in the sun, but slowly warming up a bit. Will sit here a while longer, letting the heat sink into my bones, then back on the road.

10/19 @ 12:59 OD: 10771
Outside Dothan, on 231 (picked up in Montgomery) Weather has warmed up, but getting cloudy. Long way to go yet.

10/19 @ 16:30 OD: 10897
Arrived in Tallahasee, Florida. Weather is warm, stopped 30 miles ago to strip off the leathers, still not seeing many bikes, but its damn good riding anyway. Waiting for Doug to return my call - he was at the iron horse, couldn't hear me.

10/20 @ 6:45
Ok lots to tell. The last 100 miles of the trip seemed to take forever, the sky grew ominously dark, rain threatened to make the last 60 miles very uncomfortable. Rains came, got wet, fine -you would think mother nature was through with me, but no, every time I was almost dry, the sky would start to cry again. At last, the journey is about over - I reach Daytona Beach @ about 20:30, which, with the time change, makes it a little more than 11 hours spent in the saddle - I'm stiff and sore - but not to bad - and though I'm wet, at least I'm not cold. after an hour or so of riding in the rain looking, without success, for a hotel room (the only room available was at the Ramada, $150.00/night - no way) I get in touch with Doug. Have I mentioned, that bikes are everywhere!! Following his directions I find Doug in Ormond Beach, at the "Broken Spoke" saloon. It's crowded, noisy, and after a long day in the saddle, though welcoming, it is all most too bright with laughter, lights, and the low rumbling thunder of hundreds, if not thousands, of bikes going up and down the street.

Doug and I sit and talk a moment, discussing the ride down, and my lack of luck finding suitable accommodations. Doug says "hold on a minute", pulls out his cell phone, and calls the guy he is staying with and soon has me set up with a place to sleep.

With that problem behind me my thoughts turn to sustenance - Doug recommends the food at "Smiley's Tap Room" right next door, and though the buffet is closed, I was able to get a BBQ pork sandwich, no tofu, veggie burgers, or sushi for this crowd. I'm soon wolfing down the sandwich, and washing it down with a Pepsi.

Time to explore, lots of booths set up in various compounds -we start browsing, and I immediately find a toolbag, to replace the worn out one on the bike - the vendor makes all his own goods and the bag is a good deal @ $25.00. That done, Doug suggests we head over to the "Iron Horse" saloon - we go, but can't get in seems the David Allen Coe concert is starting. Doug leads up the road, through a u-turn and into another group of vendor tents. After walking for a bit, we find a knife vendor - lots of stuff - I find a set of lock picks, and Doug buys a switchblade.

By this time, I'm beat, and Doug suggests we call it night - following him to our host's house, I unpack a change of clothing and go inside, our host(s) are already asleep, but their other guest is still up, introductions are made, and we sit for a minute and talk. A quick wash, a glass of water, and I hit the sack... Doug plans to get up early, but when the alarm rings this morning, I'm the one it wakes up, and Doug decides to sleep a bit longer. I myself get up and take a much needed shower. Ok, this is up to date now, time to get dressed and meet our hosts.

10/20 @ 14:00 Met Ben and his family - nice people. Ben's bike is broke - starter problem - Doug managed to remove the starter WITHOUT removing the radiator (Kawasaki Vulcan)-but it turns out the idler gear is trashed - major work to replace - engine case needs opening - Benny will take it to the shop on Monday.

Went with Doug this morning to drop off one bike and pick up another - went to the swap meet - didn't find anything all that interesting. Back at Benny's house - Doug is taking a shower - waiting for the rain to stop... so we can go into town to see and be seen.

Rain has stopped. Doug is ready to go. We head downtown into Daytona beach - thousands of bikes, everyone with a smile on his/her face. I'm ready for the noise and the crowds. Doug's bike draws lots of looks and comments. He eats it up - he loves the attention. We find a place to park and start to mix with the crowd, moving up and down the street, stopping now and again to look in some vendor's booth. Suddenly, I hear a sound, a deep, low VOOOOM sound. Something akin to a 500 horsepower vacuum cleaner.... and then it comes around a corner, it is a bike, but unlike anything I have ever seen. It has a large air intake mounted on the front, and a motor that I don't recognize... and then it is gone.

We wander a while, and eventually make our way to the Daytona Beach Harley Davidson shop, it's too crowded to get in, but parked out side, in a roped off area, is the bike I saw earlier, this time we get a good look at the motor - it's powered by a Rolls Royce gas turbine engine. I wonder how fast it will go - but that doesn't really matter, because it is just plain cool.

Riding around a bit, the bike starts running rough... plugs are fouled, the recently adjusted fuel air is probably the culprit, so I buy and install new plugs, and set the fuel mixture a bit leaner. Carburetor tuning is a black art and I am not yet even a competent novice.

Doug shows me all the well known spots - Boot Hill, the Camel Tent/Booth/Stage, the Broken Spoke, and the Iron Horse. Most billed as saloons, more like big tent cities, with bars, and stages for entertainment. And the people, in every style of dress you can imagine. Good looking women, in next to nothing... there just is something attractive about a woman in a halter top, chaps and a thong and nothing else.

It is hard to describe the ambiance of the crowd, the smell of exhaust, the music, the noise, the thunder of bikes, and the people. What kind of bikes? Predominantly Harley Davidson, but lots of other bikes as well, and a lot of custom, one off bikes as well. These are the coolest of all (in my opinion). I see sport bike riders doing tricks, cruisers cruising, burn outs and hole shots, and Dyno drags. What are Dyno drags? Two bikes, drag racing, but not on a track, on side by side Dynamometers - way cool.

T-Shirts have been developed into a fine art by these folks... this year many had an anti-terrorism theme. My favorite (and yes I bought one) was "I would rather be killing terrorists".

By the way, if your into Rap or HipHop then Biketoberfest is not for you. You will hear Rock, Classic Rock, Heavy Metal, and maybe some Country Western but you won't be hearing any Rap.

We spend the rest of the day exploring, shopping, and just taking it all in. By the time midnight rolls around were both exhausted and decide to call it a night. Doug knows some Huntsville folks who are leaving early the next morning, so plans are made to have me hook up with them for the ride home - riding in a group is usually more fun (and safer) than riding alone. Get back to the house, pack the bike, and spend some more time with Benny and his family - what good folks.

10/21 @ 05:30
Alarm rings, and I get up. I pack up the rest of my stuff, and do the final checks on the bike. Wake Doug up, and head out to meet the group for the ride home.

10/22 @ 06:30
Joined with the larger group. Had breakfast in a small restaurant and headed home.

The trip home, while long, was mostly uneventful. Weather was good, the people were cool, we missed any serious traffic snarls and no accidents. I arrive back in Huntsville at 6:15 PM, and I am tired, relaxed, a bit sore, and for a while, I am at peace with myself and the world around me.

Bike trips are often more about the journey than the destination and this trip, for me, was no exception. When riding a bike for any distance, you get a good opportunity to be alone. You can think, examine things from various angles and figure out what your all about. Maybe some people always know what they are all about, but I don't, every so often I need to think about it and figure it out.

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