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Thursday, March 11, 2004 09:11 pm

Grace about town 3-11-04

Pseudo biker chick

I just got back from the 63rd Annual Daytona Beach Bike Week. It's the world's largest motorcycle event, ten days of bikes everywhere, plus everything bike-related for sale and more bikers in chaps than I've ever seen in one place.

And I missed the Coleslaw Wrestling.

I went to Daytona Beach for a few days for my mom's birthday. She hates cold weather as much as I do, and wanted to go someplace warm. So Daytona Beach it was.

Mom and I don't actually own motorcycles; we went to Daytona Beach because my friend Randy's mom and her boyfriend Jimmy live there. It would be a nice, visiting-as-well-as-looking-at-bikers-and-their-bikes kind of time. Mom used to talk about buying a motorcycle and driving it across the country, but she's decided that might be a little too much effort. Instead, we were able to savor the bike experience as interested observers.

The Daytona Beach News Journal reported that there were half a million bikers during the ten-day fest of all things motorcyclic. We didn't see every last bike, but sometimes it did sound like there were thousands roaring along. They closed off Main Street to all vehicles except for motorcycles, which were parked up and down the street as far as you could see. Hordes of people filed by, admiring the many shiny machines as bikers roared past.

It reminded me a little bit of the Illinois State Fair -- food, music, milling crowds -- except at the Bike Fest there were a lot more leather chaps and people from other countries. We followed three tall attractive men who spoke German, and another group from France. I saw a biker family: Dad Biker, in jeans and black leather chaps, Mom Biker, in a ponytail, vest, jeans, chaps, and two Biker Children. The boy was about 11, with a short ponytail and leather pants. His sister was probably 13, also in leather pants and big black shoes. I envied her 13-year-old coolness -- why didn't I ever think of bike attire when I was that age? I'm sure I'd have been picked on a lot less.

Randy's mom expressed concern that there was going to be pandemonium everywhere because of the throngs of bikers. We'd take our life in our hands at the Bike Week Festivities because bikers would be spinning out of control, causing destruction, driving on the sidewalks, pillaging and running amok.

To me, it looked like most of the bikers were 40-plus, and were much more interested in checking out each other's wheels and cruising down the street than creating bedlam on any kind of scale. But I can't say for sure; I pretty much missed the nightly parties, so I didn't get the whole story. I did see some bikers riding on the sidewalk, but that was in a place where they'd roped the sidewalk into two sections -- one side for pedestrians, and the other clearly marked as motorcycle-only.

I do know I missed a whole bunch of free Bike Week concerts. The talent included Rick Derringer ("Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo"), Foghat ("Slow Ride"), and Night Ranger ("Sister Christian"). I was back in Springfield by the time that Styx, Lynryd Skynrd, and George Thorogood performed. Too bad.

Besides checking out all the bikes, Bike Week was filled with many other activities. The aforementioned Coleslaw Wrestling, for one thing. This is the event I'm most sad to have missed, because when will I have the opportunity to witness such a rarefied competition again in my lifetime? I have serious doubts that it'll ever be an Olympic sport (but if it was, would it be summer or winter?), and I can't see anybody in Springfield having the vision to bring it here. It was held, by the way, in a place called the Cabbage Patch, where they actually grow cabbages. Naturally. More than 30,000 people were expected to turn out to watch the mayonnaise fly.

There were daily book-signings by the author of "Bikerlady," and swap meets, motorcycle races, a Harley-Davidson traveling museum, and a Miss Florida Biker Bikini contest. There was also the "Christian Riders Ministry," with ordained ministers to perform Christian marriages. I also saw a drive-in church, an interesting concept.

I might as well confess, I'm kind of terrified at the thought of riding on a motorcycle. I'm afraid of tipping over, or getting hit by an SUV. The whole idea of going really fast down the road on something without anything between me and the pavement is scary. And it seems like it'd be exhausting to ride any distance on the back of a motorcycle (I would never, ever dream of doing the driving). But after mingling with all those bikes and bikers, I'm intrigued. I can see the appeal in the freedom you'd have on a motorcycle. It'd be like a really fast bicycle with no pedaling.

So maybe I'll go back to Bike Week one day. It might be a whole lot of fun, seeing it all with a leather-chap-clad motorcycle man of my own.

To see the video clip about her Daytona visit click here.

Unable to view the video? Download Quicktime now!

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