Monday, March 13, 2006

Bike Week 2006

What is a Bike Week, you ask me? It's another manifestation of an American love affair with all things loud and gas-consuming. It's a city-wide celebration of the three Bs - bikes, boobs, and beer. It's a mostly red-neck festival of loud pipes, leather chaps worn over bikini bottoms, five-dollar cans of Bud (if you count a tip), live music performances, and politically incorrect T-shirts. It's a Spring Break for yer old, bald, fat and ugly. It's a party that goes on for 10 days, 24 hours a day and that brings close to 500,000 people into Daytona Beach and its environs.

Yes, it is true that every year the Bike Week grows more diverse. There are more young people attending, more women, more black folks, more Northerners, and more foreigners. But overwhelmingly it's a red-neck and Southern event through and through, at least for now.

Now, let's get something straight right away. First of all, what goes on at the International Speedway during these 10 days should not be referred to as Bike Week. It's a commercialized event heavy on big names in motorworld and stinking of corporate America. I'm not saying don't go. By all means do, if you want to see some pretty darn good bike racing or test-drive a nice new Buell, Harley, or BMW. Nor am I saying not to go to the Daytona Flea Market, just around the corner from the Speedway, a great place for fresh fruits and vegetables, kitchy souveniers, a daily motorcycle stunt show and a swap meet. Nor am I advising you against going to Ridgewood Ave, lined up with souvenier stalls, for some shopping, to Ormond Beach for some old-fashioned Harley experience, or to Samsula for a night of female cole-slaw restling. All I'm saying is if you want a real party, go to Main Street. And that's exactly what Chris and I did last Saturday.

First, we went to a free concert at the bandshell on the beach. It's really a very nice place with great ocean views. Plus there are several restaurants, a Marble Slab Creamery, a Starbucks, and a large movie theater. So first we watched the concert and then decided to get some coffee for Chris at the Starbucks (see picture).

Then we slowly made our way along the beach to Main Street for the big party. As usual, it was jam-packed with bikes and people. To get a temporary relief from streams of leather-clad human flesh we stopped by a couple of bars. Now, there are several that are a must-do during Bike Week. Dirty Harry's is famous for it's thrice-daily wet T-shirt contest. Any woman is welcome to give it a try. There are usually 5-6 contestants per show - 1-2 "heifers", 1-2 desperate housewives in their last attempt to get attention to their overly tanned, wrinkly and sagging body-parts, and a couple of wayward college chicks drunk off their behinds at 2PM on a hot Saturday afternoon. The boobs are all freshly enlarged, except on the "heifers", with the white stretchmarks and the bluish veins forming a "Stars and Stripes"-like patterns. It's all good to most of the spectators who haven't been sober since last Monday.

A good place for food and music is the Full Moon. They always have a huge stage set up outdoors with rock concerts going on pretty much non-stop. The food is fresh and abundant if not cheap. A plate of shredded beef with rice and veggies will set you back $15. Better go for a flavorfull turkey leg, as big as your head or a jumbo hotdog generously smothered in ketchup, mustard, and relish. You have two choices here. You can take your food inside a dark saloon, away from the blistering afternoon sun, with the floors a bit sticky from all the spilled beers (and hopefully not from something else). Or you can grab one of the bar tables outside, preferrably away from the stage and under an umbrella and watch other patrons getting their pictures with the smiling beer girls. They are believe it or not one of the best-looking ones that the Bike Week can offer.

Froggies is a fun place too. Right of the bat, you are offered a good spanking from a couple of scantly-clad chicks. They do it for tips, administering the "punishment" with a rather heavy hand, according to the suckers that pay to be belted in public. Once inside though there isn't much to do, but drink. I don't really know if they have any concerts there at all. But the music is loud and in the evenings there are dancing girls, the stripper-wanna-be ones, shacking their money-makers on little baby-blue platforms.

Finally, no trip to the Bike Week is complete without visiting the Boot Hill Saloon. It's right across the street from an old cemetery which explains their motto "Better Here Than Across the Street". And who can argue with that! It is indeed better at the Boot Hill than almost anywhere else on Main Street. First of, they have probably the best-designed T-shirts and ladies love wearing them too. Second, even though their beer girls are not the prietiest bunch, they sure dress the best or should I say, the least, always setting the fashion for Bike Weeks to come. They ditched T-shirt and bikini tops in favor of underware and pasties years ago. Since then, the pasties got progressively smaller while the body parts under them - progressively bigger (evidently, plastic surgeries are becoming more affordable; I think Wal-Mart should look into the opportunity). I bet $10 that next year it's all going to be nothing but some body-paint. But apart from girls, they do play some good-old country music and their performers are most engaging. Then again, how can one not want to join in signing the "Gang Bang" song?!

And what about the bikes, you ask? Well, what about them? With so much going on, bikes are constantly in the background. The stream of riders along Main Street never lets up. The lucky ones manage to find a free parking spot along the street. Others drive slowly through to A1A and funnel out, seeking $5 parking spaces around the neighborhood. If you enjoy Discovery and TLC channels' shows about custom-built bikes, you'll see a lot of that here as well. Lately trikes and bikes with side-cars are all the rage. But pretty much any bike with custom paint, outrageous accessories, or nice detailing (including girls in the back) draws attention and countless camera flashes. Many people come to the Bike Week every year. Many bring the same motorcycles so occassionally we get to see a familiar "face" (paint job). Many people bring their bikes here to sell and the price tags range from $4800 to $75000.

Now for the men that drive these bikes. They sport beer-bellies of various sizes, facial hair, wear black Bike Week-themed T-shirts or muscle shirts, have a beer in one hand and a digital camera in the other. They show various stages of farmer's tan, from lobster-red (most often) to leathery brown, and many - elaborate tatooes. Of course, this description applies to a lot of Bike Week women. So here's a tell-tale sign - no make-up and loose-fitting jeans mean it's a dude. There are some extreme cases, of course.

But overall, you gotta love the Bike Week. It's loud, obnoxious, in-your-face, and expensive to go to. But here in Daytona Beach, where the rest of the year we live on a set of the "Cocoon", it feels great!