I’m a little behind in sharing our adventures, but am catching up! Daytona’s annual Bike Week was a few weeks ago, beginning the first weekend in March. The 10 day event draws nearly half a million people to the area. That’s a lot of motorcycles!
Bike Week rose out of the Daytona 200 motorcycle race, back in 1937. The race took a hiatus during World War II, but an unofficial “bike week” continued. The official race resumed in 1947 and Bike Week has grown exponentially in popularity and offerings since. Bike Week activity venues are located in and around Daytona, not just in downtown Daytona. That’s a good thing, because you’d be hard pressed to fit all of those motorcycles and people into one place!
We were able to visit almost all of the major locations during this year’s event. Downtown Daytona was packed, as usual, with motorcycles crowded into every available space. Shops overflowed with T-shirts and biker paraphernalia. Rock music blared from temporary “beer gardens”, competing with the popping of motorcycle engines as an endless stream of bikes paraded down the main street. Standing in front of the downtown church, a preacher entreated passers-by to turn from the ways of sin while his helpers offered free “bikers Bibles”. I guess he considers his front street to present a fertile mission field!
Moving on to the Daytona Speedway, focus turned to bike equipment and new bike displays. Vendors of every ilk provided installation services and the ability to customize your bike in every conceivable way. Want new exhaust pipes, or fancy lights? Want pin striping or new chrome accessories? Look no further! You could also view (and test drive) the current motorcycle lineup from all of the major vendors: Harley-Davidson, Honda, Indian, Yamaha. And of course, there were vendor tents for any kind of biker clothing or accessory from T-shirts, to vests, full leathers, helmets and such. The Speedway also hosted a variety of motorcycle race events during Week, from motocross to flat track racing.
The famed “cabbage patch” venue is just an open field across from Cackleberry Campground, about 20 minutes from Daytona. The field and campground sprouts vendor’s tents and entertainment stages for Bike Week. This venue offers such edifying entertainment as bikini bull-riding, which we observed. The ladies were serious about their bull riding, but it HAD to really chafe! Another offering was cole-slaw (lady) wrestling, which we just missed. (I was not terribly disappointed.) The slightly sour fragrance of fermenting cabbage occasionally wafted through the venue as we sampled the brews and ambled through the never-ending display of biker gear.
One of the most interesting aspects of Bike Week is simply observing all of the varieties of motorcycles and motorcycle decoration. From choppers to show bikes to elaborate paint jobs – limited only by their owners’ imaginations and budget.
A stretch of US1 north of Ormond Beach becomes ground central for the Bike Week bar scene. Anchored by Boot Hill Saloon on one end and Broken Spoke Saloon on the other, the entire stretch becomes populated by vendor stands and temporary bars. Traffic along this road almost comes to a standstill during peak times. We caught the band “Absolute Queen” one evening at the Broken Spoke, which was billed as the ultimate Queen tribute band. The musicians were good but the lead singer …. let’s just say that he’s no Freddie Mercury. Up the road is a large Harley dealership – Bruce Rossmeyer’s — which is yet another large Bike Week venue with vendors, bands, and motorcycle equipment installers of every ilk.
After a couple of days seeing the Bike Week sights, we approached motorcycle overload. It always fun to see all of the new vendor offerings, drink a beer (or two), peruse show bikes, and catch a band or a race. But after a while, it also nice to move along …. until next year!