- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

This year's Daytona Bike Week was supposed to answer a number of pressing questions.
First, how would the hordes of biker lifestylers respond to a impending municipal crackdown on loud pipes?
Second, how would the same free spirits put up with some new curbs on Main Street drunkenness.
Finally, what effect would a marginally quieter and presumably soberer crowd have on fatalities during the week 13 riders had been killed last year.
What Daytona got instead was the answer to a question no one had ever needed to pose before: How would nearly half a million riders react to 6 inches of rain in 10 miserable days, a record 2 inches on the day of the Daytona 200 alone.
The answer was unambiguous; a lot of them went home, stretched out on I-95 in long, dreary caravans unwinding like a long, damp bolt of wet wool.
And on the racing end, who can blame them for leaving? One Ducati sportbike rider in soggy, ruined red racing leathers said it all when he dubbed it "Atlantis Bike Week."
The spectator bikes were sinking into the grass in the Speedway infield and the Boxer Cup racers were sliding off into the hay bales.
"We were all sinking and that was before Sunday's record monsoon," he moaned.
And as a racetrack Daytona itself is singularly unfriendly to wet treadless tires slicks, especially when two-wheelers are asked to ride sideways at 90 degrees on the high banks.
Races were postponed and then postponed again, well into Monday when the drama was played out before empty grandstands.
The motorcyclists race fans not to be confused with the tattooed bikers had called it a day and limped home.
Even back at the legendary Boothill Saloon, where the canceled races meant nothing to the ride & party biker multitudes, things had become a little desperate.
Traditional rides to places such as the Cabbage Patch to watch ladies' coleslaw wrestling had turned into a real ordeal, involving tedious mummification up in cheap yellow rains suits to ward off the wet atmosphere.
The wiser souls knew that trendy tasseled chaps and fishnet tanker tops posed a standing invitation to hypothermia, even in Florida.
When wind and wet will do that to the best GoreTex-attired Gold Wing or BMW touring veterans, the macho leather guys know they'll fare even worse.
Finally, at the bottom of the misery food chain, were the RUBS (rich urban bikers) who pretend on weekends (and during Bike Week) to be hard-core biker types.
These guys arrived at biker week 2003 unarmed, with neither Wall-Mart rain suit nor the savvy to get by.
The flooded streets were full of them, wearing makeshift dry cleaner sleeve wraps as best they could, and plastic bags on their bald heads.
It was a bad week for profilers almost as bad as it was for the merchants. An ill, wet wind had blown no good.
But someone always claims to have learned something, and here it was obvious.
You simply can't count on Florida weather in early March.
Sure the experts will say the noise laws worked (it was quieter), just as the public drunkenness laws worked (it seemed more under control), but one suspects it was really just rain putting a damper on everything and everyone.
Only two riders dead?
Hey, how much riding was being done and for how long?
The lone long-term trend we can claim to have observed was a discernible gourmet rider migration out of Daytona proper, to chic eateries in Ormond Beach, or even the Topaz Blue in Flagler Beach up north, but mundane-palated motorcyclists were migrating too, south and west of town as well.
High prices and punitive ordinances will do that to you.
Those things, and a desperate desire to escape Atlantis before it sinks altogether.

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