Spring has arrived here in East Central Florida. Gone are those bitter cold days when the temperature couldn’t quite make it to 60 and those bone-chilling nights with temperatures of 45 or lower. With spring come three major events. One is the NASCAR Daytona 500, completed for this year. Second is the beginning of the northern migration of our snowbirds. Arriving just before or after Christmas, they nest here until the chance of a major snowstorms up north is less than fifty-fifty or until Easter looms large.
Then there is the third one. Just as we have the migration north, so it is we also have a brief period when, like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the bikers return to Daytona Beach, the epicenter for Bike Week. And the epicenter of the epicenter is Main Street in Daytona Beach. Main Street is not a three-ring circus; it is a thousand-ring one. Sane, sober, upright citizens seem to lose all self-consciousness while visiting. Maybe it’s having endured the cold, sunless, below-freezing months where the only bright thing is the snow.
The promise of temperatures in the mid-70s to mid-80s can be quite a draw for the bikers. Of course Florida not having any helmet laws makes a visit all that much more enjoyable. Nothing like the chance of scrambling your brains in an accident to sharpen the senses.
The Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce (C of C) claims a draw at least at 100,000 bikes and 500,000 bikers. Never mind that means each bike has five riders; anything is possible during Bike Week. To residents, the bikers are like an unwanted uncle who lives with you, drives you crazy but pays the rent. If you live here during these nine days (many residents leave town to escape the bikers and the noise they generate), then you know the C of C woefully underestimates the numbers. It is impossible to take a five mile car trip in any direction and not encounter more than plus or minus 1000 bikers in groups of five to twenty-five. There is no place to hide from them except in your living room.
This spring biking event was dreamed up as a legal way to relieve the bikers of their money. Another one in the fall, Biketoberfest, is just a follow-up to make sure we get it all. Many businesses make more than 50% of their annual income during these two events. It is amazing how many storefronts that remain unused most of the year are always occupied and ready for some kind of business – beer, tattoos or otherwise. Not only are the store fronts filled, there are tent-filled streets selling something to relive those frozen bikers of their cold cash (pun intended).
Bikers buy enough beer to cause Anheuser-Busch to run double shifts. One can’t claim to be a biker and have attended Bike Week unless those brews are consumed at the Broken Spoke Saloon, Boot Hill Saloon, the Iron Horse Saloon or one of the many other biker bars. Saloon is just an image term used to further a Wild West idea of those gosh-darn, independent-thinking cowboys riding their horses out on the dusty, parched range, then stopping in for a few.
While here, proper dress is required. Leather clothing along with a skull cap/head wrap/do rag/bandana seems to be a prerequisite (see helmet law above) unless you are a female. In that case, clothing is almost optional. All our visitors have to do is pray their grandmothers never see pictures of them unless she has a bike of her own and is in attendance. Oh yes, I almost forgot. If you are going to bring the family dog along (very small dogs most easily fit on the bikes), it too must have its own helmet (go figure why), goggles and vest.
As for this resident, I try to grin and bear it. I do my grocery shopping in the early morning hours while the bikers are still sleeping it off. The 10 mile trip to the mall has been put on hold until the madness ends. Most of all, I never forget that those bikers’ wallets and checkbooks are the reasons our property taxes are a hell of a lot lower than most of theirs.