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