- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 17, 2004

They called it Atlantis Bike Week last year, after 10 cold days of solid rain, but there were no such complaints about Daytona’s weather this year.

Well over half a million vacationers took advantage of dry, balmy days to fill this beach town with every variety of motorcycle and rider, from the biker life-stylers on Main Street to racer-type sportbikers out at the Speedway along Volusia Boulevard. In neither case, it must be said, were mufflers much in evidence.

“Old home week in Sodom and Gomorrah,” grumbled an old couple from a porch along Sea Breeze, but there was much more sound than sin. The deafened townsfolk were heard wondering what happened to the much-touted “noise initiative” that had supposedly reduced the dim by half in 2003. “Aw, that was just the rain anyway,” said Ed Jorgensen of nearby Melbourne. Riders shivered in their rooms or stayed home altogether. This year the cops have found they can’t really run around like sheep dogs with decibel meters in all this rolling chaos.

And, looking at the jammed bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway to Main Street, even rolling was an optimistic word for what was going on. Riders were observed walking their roaring bikes to the fabled Boot Hill Saloon.

That is to say, with the sun shining, the crowd was back to normal for Bike Week. That meant the sound of loud pipes from the Harley-Davidson riders, a low lament from the retirees, and an unremitting “cha-ching” for the busy merchants.

Big numbers meant big confusion. In the Holly Hills area, a runaway custom V-8-powered bike ran four blocks riderless before it crashed into a couple on a new Harley V-Rod, seriously injuring the latter’s passenger.

A jammed throttle was blamed for the incident, but some saw the runaway bike as a symbol for a runaway event. You couldn’t get to the traditional ladies’ coleslaw wrestling at the Cabbage Patch (if you wanted to), and the stretch of U.S. 1 near the Jackson Hole biker rendezvous was impassable for long hours, even to the skinniest motorcycle.

Many of the police that might have helped out here or there were too busy keeping an eye on the “one-percenters,” biker gangs with vest colors such as the local brood of “Outlaws” down on Beach Street. In the latter case, a 24-hour stakeout was in progress, lest there be violence with rival tribes.

Meanwhile, out at the racetrack, thousands of mere motorcyclists (as opposed to bikers) were watching dirt bike motocross events, time trails for the Speedway, and finally the famed Daytona 200 itself. By midday the infield would fill with sport bikes, luxury tourers, and even the odd cruiser from Main Street, all engaged in the two-wheeled equivalent of tail-gating (luggage-racking?) as the race machines roared by nearly horizontal on the high banks. It was like one big picnic (though hardly so for anyone trying to get to the adjacent airport). Once you were in the vicinity of the track, you were there for the day.

Those who rode rather than trailered their bikes to Daytona could be spotted camped out in surrounding towns, with Honda Gold Wing riders to the south in New Smyrna, and BMW riders northward in Flagler Beach, all enjoying a secret, quiet vacation from their vacations. There is more than one way to do Daytona, when it gets to be much of a muchness.

The city fathers make periodic hints in the direction of (literally) curbing the enthusiasm at Bike Week, much as they have already done with Spring Break, but the Chamber of Commerce always beats back the measures.

The reason is simple: Bikers and motorcyclists spend much more money than students while doing far less damage. Case closed.

With the big race over and done with on Saturday this year, riders departed by a staggered, less congested schedule, and the revelers rode north and west into partial sun, making for a reasonably relaxed end to a wild week.

No one had “done Daytona” in those few days but most had done enough.

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