GoogleCustom Search

Daytona Bike Trip

Daytona bike tripRoger Evans won a motorcycle holiday for two to Florida in March 2008. He and his companion, Diane Metters, kept a diary of their trip.

‘The rain finally eased off as I squelched around the annual show at Beaulieu Motorcycle World in June 2007. It was still a good event though, despite the downpour, and my perseverance was rewarded when I found out that I’d won the prize draw of a motorcycling holiday for two to Daytona Bike Week in March 2008.

Wednesday, 5 March, 2008

So, here I was getting up at sparrow fart (4.30 am) on a cold, dark winter morning and setting off by taxi to Gatwick. Driving past frost covered fields which appeared out of the dawn mist, it was hard to believe that within 10 hours, Diane and I would be landing in bright sunshine in Orlando, Florida. Dreams do come true sometimes!

After an ‘exciting’ flight due turbulence (tip: don’t eat bacon and eggs unless you’re a seasoned flyer) we were glad to finally get our feet back on the ground and go to our first night’s accommodation at The Lexington Hotel, or ‘the Big Pink Building’ as we nicknamed it - very fitting as we were in the heart of Disney territory. We were shattered that evening but it’s amazing what a good night’s sleep can do for you.

Thursday, 6 March, 2008 9:00am

Daytona Bike TripWe woke early, our bodies still adjusting to the time difference, and watched the sun rise through the window shutters. After a buffet breakfast, we were keen go and pick up the Harley-Davidson, as I’d never ridden one before. We chose a Heritage Softail, although we could have any number of different Harleys. We could even have had a Goldwing or BMW, but we wanted our first motorcycle trip here to be on one of the iconic American motorcycles.

The rental location was busy as it was the middle of ‘Bike Week’ at Daytona. In fact, this week has been manic for them and it doesn’t calm down for at least two weeks because they then have to get all the extra bikes that have been shipped into Orlando for this event back to their usual depots. It was interesting to find out that you can get a discounted one way rental to encourage people to ride the bikes back, many from California, but the fact is that this would be hard riding of between 10 to 12 hours per day, every day, and it certainly wouldn’t be a restful holiday.

Daytona BikesAfter completing the paperwork, sorting out the sat-nav and being given instructions on four ways of locking the bike up every time you park it to comply with insurance – ignition lock, steering lock, disc lock and heavy duty chain and lock – we were finally ready to go!

The sky above was a clear, cloudless blue and with the temperature up in the ‘90s, I felt every inch an overdressed Brit sweltering in helmet, gloves and jacket. Daytona Beach was only about 60 miles so I reckoned I could manage the heat, however, I was desperate for a drink after about 20 miles, so we pulled in for a ‘comfort stop’ (and they think English sayings are quaint) at a service station. Suddenly we felt that the holiday had really begun – we were surrounded by dozens of bikers all heading for Daytona. Riding in convoy can be interesting but you need your wits about you and as we approached Daytona, the traffic volume trebled and our speed dropped to a crawl, stop-start, stop-start.

My leg was millimetres from the exhaust system, the Softail may be a cruiser with a low seat but it is a wide bike and I have short legs. I can’t say I enjoyed the final half hour of getting into Daytona, as I was now boiling in my riding gear and from the extra heat generated from the bike engine and exhaust. Only the thought of a cold beer kept me going.

Baytona Beach Bike TripOur destination was the Oceanside Inn Beach Resort and the hotel itself is a great lump of a building with brown tinted glass curtain walling fixed to the concrete structure. It is pretty uninspiring during the day but looks far more impressive when lit up at night and our room was a standard twin with en-suite. The ‘wow’ factor, however, was the great ocean view!

After unpacking, we reckoned it was time to have a drink and then set off to explore the town and Main Street. We walked for a mile or so up Atlantic Avenue being buzzed by Harleys cruising up and down, and ‘these are not just Harley-Davidsons, but every imaginable version of Harley – there were probably even versions of custom-tweaked, kandy- kolored tangerine-flake streamline baby Harley-Davidsons!’ (I reckon even the writer Tom Wolfe would have been drooling). We finally headed down to the beach where the noise of the bikes was drowned out by the breakers, no mean feat.

Strolling along the pier was like being in an advert for Harley-Davidson, as it seemed that every type of bike was on show, bright sunshine giving them that extra sheen of glamour and with an incredible backdrop of beach and pounding surf behind us.

Daytona ChopperIt must have been the sea air but we were soon ravenous so checked out the great choice of bars and eateries and finally chose Gator’s Bar & Restaurant for our evening meal – good food, relaxed atmosphere, music and big screens – typical American eatery in the neighbourhood.

After a leisurely meal, it was time to finally see Main Street, so we set off down Atlantic Avenue and there it was – bikes galore parked along both sides of the street with dozens more cruising hap-hazardly past – a poser’s paradise! Similarly, the side-walk was heaving with bikers dressed in all manner of regalia, all vying for space with the stalls selling t-shirts, hats, chaps, gloves, leather-gear, boots, etc. Main Street never sleeps and if you do eventually tire of people and bike watching and browsing for bargains, you could try out one of the more risqué clubs with their ‘tits out for the boys’ mentality. We’d had enough excitement for the day, though, and hadn’t realised that we’d managed to walk over two miles from our hotel, so we were ‘cream-crackered’ by the time we got back.

Daytona Motorcycle TourBack in the hotel, there was a note waiting for us from Ian Kerr, who was representing Beaulieu Motorcycle World, the sponsor of the prize draw. Ian is an experienced motorcyclist and he was going to be our guide around Daytona for a couple of days.

Friday, 7 March, 2008 8:00am

At breakfast, we sat a table next to a fellow wearing a Harley t-shirt and who introduced himself as Ian Kerr, the motorcycle journalist working with Beaulieu Motorcycle World, co-sponsor with H-C Travel of our holiday. He chatted to us about Bike Week, having flown in a few days earlier, and we decided to take it easy for the day as we were both recovering from the flight, the time difference and not least the beers from the night before, so we arranged to meet Ian the following day.

This turned out to be a good idea as the sky was overcast and heavy rains were due, so we took a ride out and had a leisurely day’s sightseeing around St Augustine, one of the first places to be settled in Florida in the 1890s. The historic part of the city is well worth a visit to see the old Portuguese style buildings, as the original settlers were migrant plantation workers from Portugal. We spent a couple of hours browsing through the myriad quaint little curiosity shops and then stocked up on provisions for our next two evening meals, before heading back to Daytona. It had been a lazy, relaxing day.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Daytona Motorbike TripWe met up with Ian again and decided to check out Main Street by day. The weather had turned sour overnight, so although there were a few bikes on show, we reckoned many had put their bikes back in their trailers and were heading home as it was the last day of Bike Week. Although we had only been there for the tail end, we had certainly experienced the buzz and excitement of this fantastic event.

After lunch, we decided to attempt to circumnavigate ‘The Loop’, a 22 mile circuit recommended by bikers and we managed this with the occasional deviation, I’m not sure if this was due to dodgy instructions or our own navigational ‘abilities’.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Daytona Motorbike TourOn our last day at Daytona Beach, we’d arranged to have a photo shoot with Ian for the sponsors. Photographs taken and packing completed, we checked out and decided to ride down the coast to Jetty Park by Port Canaveral for a few hours on the beach before returning to Orlando in the evening. It was good to just relax and unwind after all the noise and bustle of Daytona - don’t get me wrong, it was a fantastic experience but there was so much to see that you can get a bit overwhelmed at times by the noise and numbers of bikers.

We stopped for fuel and lunch at Titusville. Although it was sunny, it was still very windy with quite a chill factor, so I was glad to have a break. Our next night was in the Peabody Hotel back in Orlando, and this was luxury with a capital ‘L’. Well worth the ride, whatever the weather.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Next morning, we set off for Naples down on the south west coast of Florida, travelling across country, through lots of orange groves, and a great way to enjoy riding a motorbike – sunshine, cloudless blue skies, the scent of warm oranges on the breeze – beats the M25 any day!

Daytona BeechAs this was going to be a long ride, some 220 miles, we stopped en route for a long brunch at ‘Arby’s’, formerly known as Fatty Arbuckles, in Sebring, home to the famous race of the same name. We were booked in to the Bellasarra Hotel in Naples, which was not like an hotel at all as it is made up of individual apartments each with its own sitting and dining room, kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms, plus a patio area – very pleasant. Naples is a smart, up-market little resort and great if you want a base to explore. There are lots of tree lined avenues and cafes and restaurants and a fantastic beach – the sand is like white sugar. We were only spending one night here as our next destination was Key Largo – made famous by the classic gangster movie with Humphrey Bogart back in the ‘forties.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

It was another hot day (shucks) as we rode through the Everglades, stopping off midway at the visitor centre where we could see the alligators. Funny how the sight of these remnants of the dinosaur era can make you quicken your pace, even when they are behind the wire fence running along the riverbank. They were impressive beasts which seem to have a permanent, sly grin, sunbathing like paunchy tourists or gliding silently along the river. We rode on through this amazing national park, stopping at a provisions store where every customer seemed to have an enormous Bowie knife hanging from his belt. Having now seen the alligators, this would seem to be a good precaution!

Our accommodation for the night was at the Ocean Point Suites, another good apartment complex and we even had an eagle’s nest outside our room. That evening, we walked down to the thin strip of beach and along the boardwalk, where pelicans were roosting on the channel markers. I really liked watching these fascinating, exotic looking birds, but how they fly with that strange body shape and elongated bill, is a mystery to me. It was Happy Hour in the club house bar, so we had a few beers and chatted to the locals, a friendly bunch.

On their recommendation, we ate at the Old Tavernier restaurant and took the advice of the waitress just to have a main course as these were as huge – and how right she was! I’d recommend this place as the food was really good and it overlooks a small inlet, making a very scenic spot to relax in.
We were beginning to get into this easy pace and as most of the hotels have swimming pools, we liked to get up early, have a swim and then a leisurely breakfast before heading off. Today we had about 75 miles ahead of us to Miami and it turned into a ‘slalom’ race with cars swapping lanes on all sides, so I needed all my wits about me. Diane could sit back and enjoy the views from the McArthur causeway (which links Miami with Miami Beach) out across Biscayne Bay with water on both sides of us. Our next hotel was very 1920’s Art Deco in style, the Beacon Hotel in the South Beach area. It was spring break for students and as it was too early to check in, we had lunch and watched the youngsters parading up down on the sidewalk and on the beach. This is quite gritty coral sand, as we found out, and you need to wear sandals. That evening we had dinner back at the hotel and listened to a saxophone player, very snazzy.

Thusday, 13 March 2008

Next morning we decided to take a rest from the bike and had a ‘duck tour’ of Miami. This is on a vehicle that can go on road and in water, not quite James Bond, but different. It takes about an hour and a half and shows you the So-Be art deco area, Star Island (no admittance to ordinary mortals) and the public park, which is an island with no public transport to it. If you have you own boat, however, you can have free anchorage!

As Miami has a high Hispanic population, we lunched in Espaniola St at one of the many bright cafes before heading north to Jensen Beach, about 120 miles further up the coast. Getting out of Miami was as irritating as getting in, very busy and traffic a nightmare.

However, the effort proved worth it. We were staying at the Vistana Beach Club apartments that evening and looked down from the 9th floor onto clean, white beach that is almost deserted, with an azure blue sea lapping into it. Like a couple of kids, we had to rush down and paddle in the surf, whilst a very obliging Pelican posed for photos.

Friday, 14 March 2008

We rose to watch the sun rise over the sea, listen to the sound of the surf and see the sunlight sparkling on blue water – every day should start like this!

It turns into another very hot day but at least there is a breeze as we set off back to Orlando. We headed north along the coast for about 20 miles and then got onto the Florida Turnpike. The Sat Nav told us to continue on this road for 102 miles, with almost no turn offs. There were rest areas thankfully and these are placed between the north and south carriageways. Good idea as both sides use the same services.
We finally arrived back at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando and are offered a free upgrade to a suite, which is amazing and has one of the only five balconies at the hotel. That evening we walked along International Drive, where all the fashion outlets can be found, dozens of them, and finally sat down for some food at a Pizza Hut. I only mention this as the pizzas were ‘ginormous’ but our appetites must have adjusted to American sizing, as we managed to eat the lot!

International Drive is one of the most congested roads in central Florida, so if you don’t want to get clogged up in traffic or want to have a few beers in between visiting all the outlet stores (which you will if you have a female with you!), you could take the I-Ride Trolley, a main line tram service which goes along nearly the entire length of International Drive.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Our last day and we had breakfast in the hotel’s 1950’s style diner – all juke boxes and retro feel, and as always, good food. We had plenty of time for a final swim in the Olympic size pool before packing and checking out. It was time to return our Heritage Softail. All went smoothly and we arrived at the airline check-in desk with time to spare, which was lucky as it took over an hour to check in.
As we sat back in our seats on the plane, Diane and I talked over the highlights of the holiday. There were so many – Daytona Bike Week itself, riding a Harley-Davidson, the glorious weather, friendly bikers and locals everywhere we stayed, and not least the smooth running and well-planned arrangements, which took all of the stress out of such an unusual trip. We loved riding the bike in the sun, it reminded us of what biking should be about. Our favourite hotel, because of the location and view, was the Vistana. Would we recommend it – definitely.

Many thanks to Beaulieu for the Prize Draw and especially to H-C Travel (, 01256 770775) who organised the whole trip and those smooth running arrangements. ‘It was the holiday of a Lifetime, guys!’