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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Daytona - New Home Away From Home (subtitle - 2011 Bike Week Tips)

OK...I've started and stopped this post eleventy-six times, so I'm getting it over with. And in case you, like me, have forgotten, I was going to let folks know about my Daytona trip, trying to focus on something besides my filthy, dirty fucking motorcycle and trailer, two subjects which have been running rampant in my brain. 

And Hell, that's not to mention my search for a decent lift so I can get the crud off without breaking my back......

But there I go again. Focus, Cowboy, focus! Daytona, Dammit!

Daytona, Florida, is cool.....for a ton of reasons, none of which are probably appreciated by rank-and-file tourists, and maybe not even folks from other areas of Florida...


Sure there's the NASCAR track, and that's got a "coolness" factor all of it's own. Hell, NASCAR headquarters is located in Daytona, there's a Bill France Blvd, and Speedway Blvd is about as wide as I-405 in Los Angeles. And there's that H U G E fucking race track. Riding around it the damn thing, on the surface streets, is about 3 or 4 miles!

But that ain't the cool part of Daytona. Not for me, anyway. See, I decided to spend my entire 2010 Christmas week in Daytona, instead of the usual overnight stop on the way to/from someplace else.  I'd never really been there long enough to really get a feel for the place. I also wanted to do some scouting before Bike Week, since I'm finally going this year. I took my Harley with me, and headed out on Christmas morning, getting there the next day after an overnight stop in Savannah.

I was looking forward to riding up and down the coast, enjoying semi-warm breezes, and with no helmet law, enjoying the freedom of having the wind in my hair. The weatherman, however, saw fit to serve up a record-low temperature on my second night there, with lows about 26 degrees F, and Brother, that ain't riding weather. Hell!, it took days before it got up into the 60s, but whoa, I'm getting ahead of myself.

I stayed in a little 60s-era beach motel that was tolerant of me, the Hummer, the Harley, and the bike trailer. Well, actually they were OK with everything but me, but after I turned on the charm, I got a room key overlooking the beach. It was also the room that was as far away from the office as possible, but I tried not to take that as a personal slight. Must have been a coincidence.

After unpacking, I headed right to Main Street to "discover" Daytona Beach. By the way, Daytona and Daytona Beach aren't the same place. There's a bridge (several actually) and a big body of water separating the two, so be careful with that if you plan a visit. First stop was Boot Hill Saloon which looked like just the kind of place I like. Two bikes out front on the sidewalk, a couple pickup trucks in the lot, and practically impossible to see through the windows. Alexandria could use a couple "Boot Hills", just for balance.....Give people like me a place to go.

Inside, Boot Hill Saloon is dark, gritty, decorated with a huge collection of old license tags, bras, lights, dusty stuffed critters, and a collection of dusty customers to match. There's no pretense of sophistication, and Lynyrd Skynyrd was cranked up L O U D. And on the men's room walls, there was a terrific collection of airbrushed art, which really was good stuff...Well, you won't find it in the Smithsonian anytime soon, but I liked it.

And just minutes after I sat down at the bar, the barmaid and a big, big-titted blonde customer got into a shouting match, resulting in the blonde being thrown out! WTF! Everyone else just went on like nothing was happening, and Sweet Home Alabama almost drowned out the yelling.

Soon though, the blonde headed for the door, which almost prompted me to appeal for a new ruling. I mean really, isn't there something just wrong about throwing a blonde with big tits out of a bar? A BIKER bar? Against some kind of rule? Still, not knowing the crowd yet, I kept out of it, figuring I'd need a place to hang for a week.....Wise decision.....probably. LOL

And I'm happy to report that the Boot Hill Saloon, while it became my favorite haunt, was just one of several cool bars that cater to the biker crowd. There's also Froggy's just up the street, Main Street Station, and out on Rt 1, the Iron Horse Saloon, which was a very close runner-up for the favorite hangout award.

In fact, Daytona Beach, in general, caters to the biker crowd, with parking in some areas limited to bikes, and very few businesses DIDN'T have a bike or two parked outside. And while this kind of place might not be for everyone, I felt right at home. Everyplace I went, I met cool folks, and didn't run into any problems. Hotels even have special motorcycle parking areas, though I did learn that few allow trailers during events like Bike Week.

Speaking of which, I scouted the place to find the best spot to stay if you wanted to go to Bike Week and "do it all", while limiting the time having to ride in slow traffic. Guess what? There is no single place to stay that is centrally located to everything, but I did manage to narrow it down to two general locations, depending on what you want to see and do:

1) Most of the in-town stuff centers around Main Street in Daytona Beach. Stay within a few blocks of that and you'll be set for the parades, street stuff, smaller bars, etc. And if you stay outside of Daytona, with a plan of riding to Main Street for the fun, you'll have a long, slow, hot ride to get across the bridges into town. I hear that bikes COOK waiting to get back across from the Speedway Blvd venues.

2) The bigger venues, like Broken Spoke Saloon, Iron Horse Saloon, Hog Pen, and Boot Hill (north), just to name a few, are all on the mainland, up Rt 1 north from Daytona, about 7-8 miles in Ormond Beach. These are outdoor party spots with stages, vendors, bands, and CONTESTS! Almost all were closed while I was there, and I can only imagine how crazy these places get during Bike Week. If you stay in Daytona Beach, near Main St, riding to these larger venues is probably easy, but that putt back across the bridge won't be any fun at all.

So, if you want to focus on the Rt. 1 places, which damn sure isn't a bad idea, there are far more (and probably less expensive) lodging options. And I'll also bet you can park your bike trailer in some of them, unlike the beach hotels.

Me? I've decided to stay downtown for my first Bike Week, about 7 blocks up from Main Street. I'll give it hell there, take one trip up to the bigger venues, and call it an event. When I go again, I'll stay up near Ormond Beach.

I'm sure there's a million other places to stay and things to do...No way I could figure out everything, but that's my take on Daytona Beach, Bike Week stuff.

Oh yeah, for New Year's Eve, they block off Main Street and line it up with vendors, bands, and folks just wander here and there. No bars charge a cover, and drinking is allowed indoors or out. Lots of fun, though not a lot of....well.....not a lot of skin showing, to be blunt. I was heartbroken. There's a fair number of families with kids that do that event, so the crowd pretty much keeps things down to a dull roar. Still, it's worth doing if you happen to be down that way.

So that was it. I think Daytona is great, and I got a little riding in after it warmed up. Actually I rode, at least once, every day I was there, from December 26 to January 1, but I sure froze my ass off a couple times.

I'll be going back to Daytona Beach, and the Boot Hill Saloon, for sure, and maybe for a little longer next time. That tough-ass barmaid and I got to be friends (even though I still think she should let blondes with big tits drink in her place). I think I could easily spend a couple weeks there and never miss home....not even once. To tell you the truth, I can see myself retiring to that area....My kind of place. Lots of fun and it ain't the DC Rat Race by a long shot.

PS - The world's most humongous Harley-specific shopping center is in Ormond Beach. It's called Destination Harley Davidson. I think they have something like 1,500 bikes in inventory, plus you can eat, sleep, rent, shop, and even get a tattoo there. They even have condos, if you can imagine that. (I love my bike, and the life style, but I ain't sure I'd want to live at a Harley dealer.) It's amazing place to stop...Don't miss it. Route 1 and I95, just before Daytona if you're heading south, and just a mile or so north of the big party venues.

PPS - Eat at Hooters, across from the NASCAR track. Both have dangerous curves.

 Happy New Year, All

January 20th, 2011