Poor planning can make for bad trips. Like everyone else I’ve experienced cold, wet, boredom, exhaustion, and a variety of other unpleasant conditions, which were all preventable with more forethought. I’ve looked back and said, “If I had just made that hotel reservation before I left I would not have been riding from hotel to hotel at night, in the rain, and I wouldn’t be broke right now.”
On the flip side, there are also a bunch of trips I don’t remember very well where things were smooth and uneventful. This isn’t a bad thing really. It’s better than riding through ten miles of gravel when you are winging the route planning.
The perfect trip has a small amount of magic in the mix that makes everything work. Even bad things turn out good. This year’s ride down to Daytona was just one of those rides.
Prince Najar, as he is known to some, showed up not quite as scheduled. We rode to my son’s soccer game, which ended in a win after two overtimes and penalty kicks. Exciting stuff but this had us in the garage with his bike on a lift at one in the morning. Jeff was testing a pair of heated grips for an article and installation was fairly smooth but we just had a late start on it.
The Prince was up for an hour before I stumbled out of my bedroom, blurry eyed. I always like to get some miles down before breakfast. We had packed the bikes the night before and fifteen minutes later we were saddled up and riding into a 55 degree, grey fog. We hit rain 10 minutes in. This isn’t ideal weather but I spent the winter with an Aerostitch waxed cotton jacket. I have to say this jacket looks dashing on me by-the-way, but the real beauty is the jacket shrugs off crappy weather.
I had a full-face helmet on and I pulled my zipper up as high as it would go, I kind of sighed. Sometimes being comfortable in crappy conditions is almost ultra relaxing, not quite like reading a good book in front of a fire on a snowy day, but something very similar. Even familiar scenery looks different in the rain and we were not in any hurry.
My mind wanders on days like this. I really didn’t really remember Prince Najar is a vegetarian until we were pulling out of the nice Steakhouse were we ate lunch and got back on the highway. We were in Daytona before I knew it.
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The first order of business was to hustle down to the Harley-Davidson Ride-In Show. The show started off with a Monsoon hitting the Harley pavilion in the morning.
Who didn’t care? The Canadians! I guess if you live in the Winter Vortex even gale force winds and rain feels like a relief. That being said, our brethren from the North took most of the top spots.
Bob Kay of Biker Pros was the event MC. Biker Pros also produced the trophies for the event; which were Harley-Davidson lids custom painted in the Lowbrow style. Each helmet was unique and were collectible awards prized by the winners.
Najar, a partner at Biker Pros, pulled in Atomic Bob of Atomic Dice Studio Arts to create the design. The Atomic one has a penchant for monsters, choppers and old-school Big Daddy Roth designs, so he was ideal for the project.
For more information on Atomic Bob and his artwork, please go to this article here on Bikernet.
Both Willie G and Bill Davidson were greeting fans and hosted the awards ceremony. Harley owners competed in eight classes, from Pre-1948 to Trike/Sidecar. They both provided a thrill for the competitors by greeting the winners and handing out the Atomic Bob designed custom lids.
Best of Show
Christian Rivard of Quebec, Canada took “Best of Show” honors for his stretched and slammed sled called Artisanal Chopper. The bike is built with everything in a little larger proportion. Big frame tubing, big primary and big sculpted tank frame the chromed engine.
1st Place - Tommy Savage - 1941 F Knucklehead
2nd Place - John Vodde - 1912 X8A
1ST Place - Gale McFarland - 1968 Sportster
2nd Place - Sheldon Corsi - 1963 Panhead
TRIKE / SIDECAR
1ST Place - Joe Osga - 2010 Trike
1ST Place - Arvid Hall - 2007 V-Rod
2nd Place - Edit Tasse - 2010 Night Rod
FREESTYLE / PRO-CUSTOM
1ST Place - Christian Rivard - 2010 Artisanal Chopper
2nd Place - Gus Petrakis - 1053 Sportster
1ST Place - Terry English - 2006 1200 XL
1ST Place - Ronald Carriere - 2006 Road Glide
2nd Place - Guy Savard - 2013 Road King
CUSTOM BIG TWIN
1st Place - Line Gilbert - 2011 Softail Deluxe
2nd Place - Ken Lipack - 2014 FID Dyna Switchback
Best of Show
Christian Rivard - 2010 Artisanal Chopper
Arvid Hall, the winner of the V-Rod class, and Tommy Savage, the winner of the Antique Pre-1948 class, donated their prize money to the Muscular Dystrophy Association
. This is a charity Harley-Davidson has actively supported for many years and with millions of dollars.
Willie’s Tropical Tattoo bike show is the highlight of things to do in Daytona. It was as big a show as they have ever had and there were some amaze-a-zing bikes. Overnight the weather cleared and the sun was perfect.
The only shadow in a bright world was that my TC-88B engine was making a sickening dragging sound at idle. I didn’t feel great about that since the plan was to ride back to Columbia, SC the next day. I had never heard anything like it and I grabbed Bill Dodge for a listen. Bill Dodge had an incredibly clean bike in the show but he broke away and came over. Bill listened for a second and said, “Let’s run it over to the bike shop after the show and get it up on a lift for a look.”
Bill Dodge. Photograph from Wicho Films
Bill Dodge and I are good friends, although we don’t see each other much, if Bill needs something I will be there for him. A World renowned, new generation builder, Bill Dodge of Bling's Cycles
opened his own shop in 2005, after eight years of working as a shop foreman in Long Beach, CA. He takes pride in building solid, clean motorcycles; never compromising the performance of the bike. The bike in the show is called Pan American and is a ‘53 Panhead, with a Baker 4 speed transmission, Sandy Kosman rear flattrack wheel, the gas tank, fender and tail are made from flat sheet aluminum, and every piece was modified and created by Bill in his Bling style. The bike has won the Darren’s Choice Award. Bling Cycles
Mr. David "Englishman" Gregory
With that settled I walked back over to the booth that The HORSE Backstreet Choppers Magazine always sets up at Willie’s. Our editor, Mr. David “Englishman” Gregory; who is now actually a US citizen and technically no longer an Englishman by the way asked me if I wanted to test ride the new Indian motorcycle. I planned on a fifteen-minute test ride but the weather and bike were so fine I ended up riding around for an hour and a half.
My first comment is that it does not feel anything like a Harley. The new Indian is as smooth as a pick up line from the most interesting man in the world. By the way, he doesn’t always ride an Indian but when he does, Justin Bieber rides bitch.
Anyway I, being slightly less interesting, rode one-up but it was a fun time. Every element on the Indian is so exaggerated that any one piece, a fender, a headlight, whatever would just look ridiculous; but as a whole I think Indian Motor Co pulled it off. The bike looks different but good. The exaggerated looks work for me. It is bigger than the bikes I prefer but it handles well and has great power. It will be interesting to watch how well this new bike sells.
Photo from the 'Road To Smoke Out' film
Shortly after returning Roadside Marty was announcing the bike show winners. I talked to Nicole Baker about Chopper Prom and then I was off to Bling’s Cycle where Bill Dodge has set up a fantastic shop. There isn't a sign outside because Bill doesn't need no stinking sign. The shop was easy to find from the bikes outside. You can always tell a true motor-head when you are in their shop. It is hard to fake.
I only had fifteen minutes before I had to be at a nearby theatre where they were showing the Road 2 Smoke Out documentary. Check out this movie. It truly captures our garage-builder subculture.
Anyway, I wasn’t out the door before Bill had the primary cover off and diagnosed the problem as a cracked stator. Before the movie was over Bill dropped off the bike and wouldn’t take any money from me. So, this sucky situation suddenly turns into the affirmation that the world is good. Friends that have your back are like shock absorbers for life’s potholes. It’s a great feeling.
The bike ran great as the Prince and I headed north the next afternoon. The barometer dipped again and the temps were in the high forties but we had on solid gear. I was testing a pair of Aerostich gloves and my digits were comfy. We made good time until we hit a major traffic jam. Everything was stopped on I-95. After sitting for about five minutes we decided to split lanes for two miles until we could detour to Savannah, GA. We had an incredible dinner on the Atlantic Ocean with a crazy crowd that had already started to celebrate St Patty’s day. Great time.
I have to admit it but I always have a secret desire to choke people that look at me and with a big smile suggest that I should, “turn that frown upside down.” It’s nothing personal. I just find them irritating and I imagine wrapping my hands around their throats, counting the milliseconds until they stop smiling. Still, that saying kind of came to mind as much as I hate to admit it. Daytona 2014 was a great ride.