George McConnel's Bike Week 2005 Ride

It all started with a call from Steve (Jake) Jacobs sometime in February, 2005. Jake was planning on going to the 2005 Bike Week in Daytona, Florida. Daytona Bike week is one of the biggest annual bike rallies, on a par with Sturgis and Americade. After some arm twisting he had me looking forward to riding down with him and maybe a few other friends.

By the time the day of the ride came along we were down to three riders: Jake, Glen Hawkins and me.

We started out meeting at a Waffle House just outside Murfreesboro in rather chilly (40 degree) weather on March 10, 2005. Bike week actually began on March 5, but we were going down for the last few days of it and had plans on watching the Daytona 200. After that the plan was to ride down to the Florida Keys and spend a few days basking in the warmer climes there.

I toyed with the idea of riding this trip on my Hayabusa, but after considerable deliberation I elected to ride the Gold Wing for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the day we were going to leave the weather was unseasonably cold. It also afforded me the ability to carry all the gear I would need for camping without having to rely on Jake or Glen to carry any of my stuff.

By the time we got to Atlanta, GA, things were warming some, but it was still a rather cold day's ride getting from Murfreesboro, Tennessee to Daytona Florida. When we got there of course it was dark. I struggled trying to erect my tent in the dark. I had not used that tent in over 2 years and there were some missing pieces. But with the help of some borrowed duct tape and a few miscellaneous sticks laying about I eventually got the tent up.

The three of us walked from the campsite to a nearby mexican restaraunt where we ordered food and libations. About 2:00 in the morning we found our way back to the campground. After a late night we retired to our tents.

The next morning the weather was wonderful. Temperatures were in the 70's with a briskness in the air. We saddled up and rode to the rally proper, checking out some of the exhibits in the tents near the raceway. We spent just about the whole day at the exhibits.

On Saturday the main event was the Daytona 200. We got our tickets and found some seats in the nosebleed section up high where we could view the entire track. I camcordered a lot of it. Miguel Duhamel made it look easy, winning the race by a margin of 54 seconds (I think). He was really on his game.

After the race we went across the bridge into the main drag. There we watched as the entire town became steeped in the kind of revelry you only see at major bike rallies. Women were prancing around in outfits that many of their mommas probably wouldn't have approved of, and of course there was plenty of "flashing" going on. We stayed until maybe 10 or 11 PM and finally made it back to the campground.

The next morning we grouped up for the ride from Daytona to Marathon, way down in the keys. On the ride there were five bikes in a group. We stopped somewhere about 100 miles from Miami to gas up and grab some food. It was one of those "Country Pride" buffets and an associated convenience store. I wasn't really planning on eating a full meal there, but everyone else was, so I went ahead and purchased a buffet myself. That may have been my biggest single mistake of the entire trip. Of course there's no way to be sure where I got it but somewhere along the line I ate something that gave me a horrible case of food poisoning. I think it may have been a seafood gumbo that was on the buffet. Regardless, at about 10:00 that evening things went downhill in a hurry for me. The entire night was spent in agony. I wondered if I would ever be well enough to ride back to Nashville.

Fortunately the next day I started feeling better and by Tuesday I was able to eat again. We rode on down to Key West, walked around the town and had our pictures made at the southernmost point marker. We also spent some time at the house of a guy who owns a summer home down in Key West. It was luxurious and opulent.

I decided to leave on Wednesday morning to head back even though Jake was planning on staying until Friday. Glen also wanted to leave early, so we rode together back to Miami before splitting up. I had decided to ride back through a path that would allow me to visit my old college buddy LaMon Brannon in Columbus Georgia. I stayed in a cheap hotel in Ocala, Florida on Wednesday night. On Thursday evening I pulled into LaMon's driveway. We visited that evening and I got some pictures on Friday morning. Friday evening I pulled back into Nashville, wore out and glad to be back home.

Total distance for this trip was just over 2200 miles.

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