One of the nice things about Florida–in addition to the weather–is that friends and family come to visit. This week it was my Harley-riding brother and his wife from upstate New York who visited for a few days. They trailored a new trike down and plan to take various side trips with it and then trailor it back north, and hope the snow is gone by the time they get home. My brother had been to Bike Week before, but it was a first for me. Daytona Beach is only about 30 miles away, but we took the long way, stopped near Ormond Beach for lunch at one of the many “welcome bikers” establishments, and then took a scenic ride along the Old Dixie Highway. The original Dixie Highway was part of the National Auto Trail system, first planned in 1914 to connect the US Midwest with the Southern United States. In total, it is nearly 6,000 miles of segments. The stretch from Ormond Beach to Daytona Beach is quite scenic with a cathedral of overhanging moss and live oak trees.
Daytona Bike Week is an annual motorcycle event and rally that attracts approximately 500,000 people from all over the country. The 10-day event includes motorcycle racing, concerts, parties, street festivals, and of course a huge presence of vendors selling everything imaginable — and some things unimaginable. Biker Week is a model when it comes to diversity. You will see people old and young, tall and short, slim and obese, well-clothed and barely clothed, long hair, pony tails, short hair, flat tops, and no hair. There are many couples and this year boasted more than 100 weddings that took place on bikes during the event. Some bikes are painted with pagan and satanic images but among the vendor booths are some that pass out “biker Bibles” and others that offer Christian counseling. Speaking of counseling, the biker attornies have a strong presence for both plaintifs and defendants.
Harley-Davidson is to the Bike Week crowd as the iPad is to the tablet computer market — dominant. Every model and color the company makes were present, but of course the hallmark of a Harley is the customization performed by or for the owners. With my normal disclosure that I am a poor photographer, there are a few pictures from Daytona here on Facebook. What makes a person a biker? There are as many reasons as there are bikes. For me, it is an enjoyable hobby wherein you see places you don’t notice when driving a car and meet some very interesting people.
I always get the question from someone who learns I am a rider, “Do you wear a helmet?”. The answer is yes. The three states that I hang out in — Connecticut, Florida, and Pennsylvania — all have no helmet law. Pennsylvania had a helmet law and repealed it. The motorcycling lobby is a strong one. The argument is that helmets obstruct your vision and hearing. I think there is an element of truth to that but it is incontrovertible that falling off of a bike without a helmet is dangerous to your head. There have been a number of scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles that reflect considerable research on the subject. There is no doubt that lack of a helmet is tied to increased mortality. The keys from my perspective are to take it as a fact that motorcycling is dangerous and to ride defensively. Assume that a car at a cross intersection does not see you and will pull out in front of you. I believe in the slogan “Ride to live and live to ride”.