For the last 75 years, while most of the country transitions into Spring by swapping out the snow shovels for garden hoes, a bazillion bikers from all over the country migrate to Daytona Beach for Bike Week.
For some, it’s a ritual that starts by giving up shaving for a week or two, dusting off the leather patched vests and polishing up the bikes before loading them onto trailers for the pilgrimage; even if it’s just an hour away.
I understand not everyone rides their motorcycle like I do, I honestly do, but there was a time when out of state folks would at least pretend to ride to Daytona by parking their trailers in an empty lot a couple hundred miles north and try to hit every puddle on the ride into town to at least appear that they were riders. As I sit here in the hotel lobby typing this, I count forty trailers in the lot, twice the number of bikes! While wondering if the 18” of snow that fell at my house yesterday would be cleared by the time I rolled back into my driveway, I get to listen to three men discussing the tricks and techniques for backing up a trailer.
For the past 6 years, I have made the March trip from New Hampshire to Daytona oddly on two wheels, and planned to do so again this year, leaving directly following a patient speaker conference I was attending in Boston. Once again, I was invited by Yamaha to display my motorcycle and share my story under their tent.
My good friend Scott was driving down to Daytona Beach and had agreed to take some of my stuff down in his car. I now sell T-shirts to help with my travel expenses and I wanted a few dozen available in Daytona so I dropped them and some extra clothes off at his house a few days before I left.
The conference was put on by a pharmaceutical company and although it involved compliance and skills training, it was a opportunity for the company to acknowledge and celebrate the important part patient speakers play in helping others cope with their Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis and symptoms. For us peer speakers, it’s a chance to visit and hear each other’s story.
Between training and eating fabulous meals, I watched with increased intensity the snow and frigid temperatures that crept over New England. The conference ended Saturday afternoon, and as I was preparing my winter gear for the ride to Daytona, I realized my special and very favorite extreme cold weather long-johns were missing from my luggage. Clearly a brilliant move of mine to pack my thermal underwear in with the clothes I left at my friends house, now in the trunk of his car and 8 hours into his trip to Florida.
As I emerged from the $50 a night underground parking garage and crossed the iced cobblestone sidewalk onto the street, my bike’s thermometer read 11 degrees. I cranked up my heated jacket and gloves, pointed my head into the 40 mph wind and found my way to the highway. Despite wearing all three pairs of dress pants I had packed for the conference, my legs were still cold. The thought of trailering my bike certainly danced in my head.
I rode for eight toe numbing, nose dripping hours before reaching my brother’s house just outside Washington DC and calling it a day. It was 24 degrees when I left early the next day but I expected by mid-morning to catch up with Scott, and more importantly my long underwear. When I found my friend and his Toyota in the middle of North Carolina it was 32 degrees and snowing pretty hard. We had been communicating by phone and he took some photos of me as I passed him on the highway.
I took the next exit to get gas and somehow he didn’t. Getting gas was when I realized how cold and windy it really was, and I struggled to get my wet gloves back on my cold shaking hands. I returned to the highway and vowed I would catch up to him again and get my special thermals once and for all. After about an hour I called him again, wondering why I had not spotted him yet and was informed he had gotten sidetracked in search of a Starbucks. Unfortunately his app routed him to a coffee kiosk in a hospital. He wasn’t happy, but I had no sympathy, I was now almost 30 miles ahead of my underwear and was not about to stop or slow down for him to catch up. Besides, as I was almost into South Carolina and midday, I figured it would start to warm up soon.
I was wrong again! Passing through the famous South of the Border tourist trap, I could not help myself but to grab a couple of photos of the sign because it was plastered with snow!
I longed for my warm and cozy underwear for the next hundred miles, envying the growing number of bike hauling trailers I passed as the miles to my destination clicked away. It wasn’t until Georgia that the snow had stopped; transitioning into a beautiful freezing rain. My electric heated jacket was on high, and the slush that had built up on my windshield began to slide off and plop me square in the face shield. It was now 36 degrees, the wind had died down a bit and I was relieved. Half way through Georgia the sun came out and the temperature reached 50. I got gas, changed to my warm weather gloves and got myself a coffee, without using an app.
I wasted an hour before heading out once again, letting Scott get within a few miles of me.
For the first time since leaving Boston, I began to enjoy the trip. It didn’t last long. 30 miles from Daytona the sky turned gun metal grey and the loud ticks of rain drops began pelting my helmet shell. By the time I was corralled into the bike week traffic, I was riding in a full fledged typhoon.
Soaked to the bone, I dismounted the bike and tried to shake off the excess water before entering the lobby of my destination hotel. As I let out a long sigh of relief, a group of leathered bikers who were intensely watching the weather channel took notice. When the guy with snakeskin boots asked me where I had come from, I cracked a water wrinkled grin.
“No,” He added, “I mean where did you leave your trailer?”
I instantly became damn proud of my puddle and my 1300 mile adventure getting to Daytona Bike Week.
“Real bikers don’t trailer their motorcycles to bike week, we ride ‘em here, even from New Hampshire.”
My biker badge of badass was quickly revoked when my friend bursted through the front door loudly proclaiming, “Excuse me sir, are these your undies?”
Don’t forget the MS 5000 starts April 1st. Register or support a rider today!