Daytona Beach and Bike Week were a bucket list item for years. Now we can check it off. Or maybe we tweak it some so there is reason to do it again?
By JD & Jody Gore
As Jody was planning our vacation in Key West, we hadn’t set the date in stone. I looked at a few date ideas and it hit me. Early spring in Florida is Daytona Bike Week. I double-checked the dates and ran it by Jody; we had a solid date.
Key West was without a doubt going to be a blast, as would the rest of our itinerary while in Florida. At home in Oregon we’re still getting hit with rain and snow, so to get away to 80 degree weather and attend Bike Week, it’s head spinning.
Bike Week began on March 6th and ended on the 15th. We planned to be there on the 11th. Missed the opener but we’re hoping the crowds would be manageable. From Orlando we took Hwy 4 to 92, it took us to Daytona Speedway, our first stop.
As we drove east, the number of motorcycles increased, and so did our excitement to finally experience this much talked-about rally. No sooner did we glimpse the Speedway, we quickly dove off the road and behind a restaurant to park. If you’ve never been to a major NASCAR speedway, you can’t imagine the size. And vendor tents and trailers were lined up in front as far as you could see. It was only about 9:30 am and a few bikes were trickling in and vendors seemed to be moving slow, probably the calm before the storm.
We walked from one end to the other. All makes of bikes seem to be represented and anything you could want to customize your ride or outfit yourself could be found. There was a line of these cool 3-wheelers that sit two people side by side, called Vanderhalls, that had a crowd. People were lining up to test ride/drive everything on tires. The vibe from everyone at the Speedway was electric.
After a couple hours, we decided to go find the rest of the rally and grab a bite to eat. Staying on Speedway Blvd. East a short distance, you run right into the main strip of the rally. We skirted a couple blocks south and followed the road til it ended at the beach. Once we parked, right before us was the famous Joe’s Crab Shack at the end of a pier.
Leaving the Crab Shack, we walked straight down the road into the heart of the strip the rally is held on. Like most large rallies, you can find related activities everywhere, but this was the main event next to being at the Speedway.
Jody and I decided to walk down on one side and we’d return on the other. Like kids in the proverbial candy store, our plan quickly faded as we zig zagged wherever our squirreling minds took us. Ogling the bikes was such a kick. Bikes were pouring in and out. And the street edges were full. The atmosphere was contagious. The people were polite and all there having a great time.
We literally walked up and down the strip a few times, doing our best to not miss a thing. Not wanting to leave but wanting to get back to the vendors at the Speedway, we headed back to our cage.
All in all, Daytona Bike Week is a fantastic rally. I think what most out west riders (West of the Mississippi River) may want to know is, how it compares to Sturgis? We’re fine with going to Sturgis once every four or five years. Daytona? We’d go every year if we could. On a scale, it’s smaller, but then you cram a lot into a city. Out in SD there is plenty of space. SD has the ride factor that makes the comparison an apple to an orange, not really fair. Most who go to Daytona try to take in Key West, not to say that that is the only must see route in the area.
But in South Dakota, you have much more to take in. I mean much more, and that’s what makes many return every year. It is truly an adventure to see and ride to Sturgis, seems to be a challenge for the Daytona riders …city and interstate riding for the majority. But would I do it? Hell yes. It’s been altered, tweaked, and is still on our bucket list. We’re sure we missed parts of the rally and next time we have to ride in, no cages. We also know we want to go back to take in more of the beaches and bikes.