CLICK HERE for my version of the Ormond Loop map.
Every year, after I get back from Daytona, I've been known to whine about the traffic, the cost of beer, and the sheer numbers of male menopause victims in their shiny new leathers - swearing never to go back. A scary concentration of testosterone. Never again, I'd say!
So here it is the beginning of another riding season and I find myself sitting crosslegged in my tent behind the Fireside Bar on the edge of the craziness once more. Just shoot me! This year there'll be a slight change in my plans though. I hopped on I-95 up in North Carolina, pointed the front wheel south, cranked the throttle to 85 ... uhhh... I mean 55mph, and listened to the same four tapes on the stereo for the 9 hour drive to Daytona. That, in itself was a major change to my normal riding habits. I didn't pull over for any length of time until I hit the Fireside - a down-home little bar just south of the US1/I-95 split (exit 89) in Ormond Beach and right on the edge of the insanity to the south.
I'm committed to seeing the backside of Daytona this year, nice rides, small bars, old friends - while avoiding the usual nonsense that has grown to be known as Bike Week. Ya gotta admit, $4.00 beers, watching the stoplight cycle 6 times before you get through it and rarely getting out of third gear isn't a whole lot of fun. I'm gonna carve out my own little Bike Week from one spot this year. Main Street and the mega-bars could be on the far side of the planet as far as I'm concerned - this year the rally's gonna parade by me from my seat on an upturned log sitting by the firepit. Yup, that's ALL the entertainment I need this year.
Well, that and my annual pilgrimage on the Ormond Loop, which just happens to be right behind me, here at the Fireside, but thats about it. Hmmmm, OK - that, and also a couple more small bars, but thats it! Wait! That and a small party that Thunder Press Magazine is throwing for it's contributors Friday night....but that's IT!
At the risk of having too many people find out about this place and make it just another crowded obnoxious bar, The Fireside is just a little north of and on the same side of the road as The Iron Horse that everyone has to visit, if nothing other than to get a T-Shirt. Built in 1945 and the oldest bar in Volusia County (making it a religious shrine in the eyes of many), it has once been a gas station, convenience store and restaurant, but always a local hometown bar. Owned and run by Pete and DeeDee, whom I finally met after three years of drinking at The Fireside, this place is as close to a Cheers for bikers as I've found in Daytona. Just like Bullfeathers in Myrtle Beach, Fireside has become my favorite place to imbibe copious quantities of adult beverages in Daytona...AND - you don't have to drive into the mess of Daytona Beach! It's a small place with little in the way of crowds, but thats precisely why I keep coming back - ya actually have a chance to talk to the barmaids and the other belly-ups at the bar.
So, after riding through the night with several rest stops, in temperatures dipping into the mid thirties, I pull into the rear of The Fireside at 9:30am and find an old friend, Motorcycle Mike, scratching himself with one hand while reaching into the cooler for a can of breakfast with the other. He lets me know where to set up the tent. The small backyard behind this place holds only a few tents and all spots have been spoken for for years in advance. The rest of the guys I know wouldn't get in til Friday, so I had my choice of spots.
The famed firepit, still smouldering from last night, was only a few yards away and the backdoor to the bar was 5 yards further - this'll do nicely! This being my 13th Daytona, I was prepared to enjoy it from the comfort of this little corner of the rally. With the tent up, and a couple hour nap behind me, I was ready to get out and take full advantage of Daytona '02! .... well, actually, I strolled the 20 yards over to the bar, pulled up a stool, and introduced myself to the barmaid. Priorities, ya know.
Over the next two days I scoped out a route from the Fireside that took me through the best parts of the Ormond Loop Scenic ride, just happened to swing by a couple bars, and kept me clear from all the traffic and out of Daytona Beach itself. I put a graphic map up at the top of this journal if you're interested. I'm gonna do my best to stay north of the Iron Horse the entire trip. I've done Daytona over a dozen times and partook of all the craziness and revelry offered on Main and Beach Streets, out at the Patch and at Pub44, and more recently moving on up US1 in Ormond Beach. I've lost interest in hassling with the rookie cops and fresh leather newbies... just get me a good fire going, keep the beer cold and I'll have a blast.
Found two riders willing to join me, the next morning, on a little ride through the loop. Dan and Sally, who's picture was featured in my article in the March '02 Thunder Press came along for the ride. Pic 01 is looking out the back door of the Fireside at my tent - easily within crawling distance. Pics 02 - 07 are shots taken within the Tomoka State Park, which, if you can get a reservation early enough is a perfect place for camping during bike week. Pic 02 is some stone relief of chief Tomoka doing what looks an awful lot like some mating ritual thing, don't it?
Pic 08 is one of the many long stretches of road covered in Live Oaks draped with Spanish Moss. You have to ride this road at several different times of day to get the full appreciation of it.
On the beach side of the route you come out onto AIA...there's two choices to go for eats or drinks... to the south is Betty's AIA Cafe, which has the better food, or to the north is High Tides...both have cold drinks and a long menu.
Back on the loop for a return from the other direction, you see a whole different side of it. Sun at my back now, the trees take on a new look. This year there were what seemed like fewer riders on the loop, too - not altogether a bad thing. By now, though, I was feeling a concerning irritation in my throat - seemed I got too chilled on the ride down I suppose.
Back at the Fireside, I hook up again with DeDe and Kim, the Owner (I didn't get a shot of Pete) and the BarMaid in Pic 17. Unlike the mega-bars south of here - these folks'll stop and shoot the shit with ya between beers. I don't know what those guys in Pic 20 were smiling at - I asked them to get the hell out of this picture.
I took Pic 21 just before climbing in for a needed nap - the sore throat had flared into a full-fledged chest cold by now and I wasn't gonna aggravate it further. After about two hours, I rode off for a few more shots on the loop, including this stone foundation that was abandoned years ago deep within Tomoka State Park. When I got back, Hogie and Pothole and Alice and Bill, along with my brothuh Jerry showed up and took the remaining tent sites. From this point on - the beer and Tequila and smoke flowed too freely to remember much - but thats the purpose of Daytona, isn't it? We got the fire going...actually Motorcycle Mike tended the fire for us. Its always good to have someone who wants to stoke up the flames. The night passed between the firepit, the new evening Barmaid, Helen (Pic 24), and joking around the firepit.
From time to time people would come in and out of the firepit to drink their beer and watch, join in the conversation, or sneak off to the woods. Between the dark and the beer and my chest cold I took only a few pictures. We took off at one point to go to the White Eagle Bar, further up US1 from here. This is a much more crowded, popular place. But like I said - I prefer the down-home feeling of the Fireside - a slower pace with personality.
Morning came to find Hogie in his best biker jammies - at least he had more coffee to ease the pain. By now I was so hoarse I couldn't speak - the chest cold had taken hold and was winning. Everybody else loaded up for a day ride, while I packed up the tent and all my crap for the ride to Savannah. You'll notice no more pics, as I hadn't even made it to Jacksonville before I seriously doubted my ability to finish the ride. I hung on to Savannah, greeted my old friends, David and Lisa by nearly falling off the bike in the back yard, took a hot shower and fell asleep til 8am the next morning - boy I wasn't a whole lot of fun.
The 6 hour ride from there home was torture. The body aches, fever, chills, hacking and tremors were scary at 80mph, but they'd be equally as scary at 60 so I hunkered down and plowed on to NC. Easily the worst ride I'd ever taken. I got home Sunday at 4pm....here I am on Wednesday, out of bed for the first time since then except to go to the doctor's and get diagnosed with Acute Bronchitus. I don't care what ya call it, just give me the better medication for it.
Hey, everybody has off trips - this was one of them.... I'm looking forward to the next ride to get my mind off this one....and oh yeah! If I ever mention I am going to Daytona again - JUST SHOOT ME!
Till next time - I'm goin back to bed - Ride Free.