George McConnel's Stuntfest Ride

For this adventure I joined two buddies for a road trip to Florida. One was Rich Simmons, who I've shared quite a few fun times with over the last several years. Although I'd ridden a few times with Mike Pruitt, this was the first time we'd really had a chance to get to know each other. The trip was highlighted by a ride to Lakeland, FL to watch the Sport Bike Stuntfest at the Lakeland Drag Strip on Sunday, Jan 19th.

Partly due to inclement weather and partly due to a mutual decision we (shudder) trailered our bikes instead of riding them. The fact that we pulled out of Nashville, Tennessee Friday morning hauling a trailer load of bikes with ice and snow covered roads and a temperature of 14 degrees farenheit lent a much deserved sense of dignity to our decision to trailer though.

Unfortunately, the cold weather that we were trying to leave behind in Nashville had encroached upon the sunny climes of Florida, and we had to deal with temperatures that remained uncharacteristally cold the whole time we were visiting. In fact it was not until Monday, as we were heading back home, that temperatures climbed back into the 70's.

We trailered my Hayabusa as well as my Rich's Blackbird (CBR1100xx) and Mike's Suzuki SV650. We did some riding while in Florida, eating at a place called the Desert Inn just off Hwy 411 (where I tried a 'gator burger) and ended up riding out to Vera Beach on Saturday. On Sunday we went to the Stuntfest.

The stuntfest included a breathtaking array of stunts performed by professional as well as amateur stunt bike riders. One thrilling trick was performed by Laura and Erica (can't remember their last names just now -- I believe Laura is aka Laura C. Gandy) where Erica lay backwards over the handlebars, her helmet dangling just over the front wheel and her arms stretched forwards and down as far as she could reach. Laura executed an "endo" at which point Erica managed to touch the pavement with her fingers. It took them several tries before they accomplished this, which of course added to the element of suspense.

Several of the guys doing stunts did "spinderellas" where they sat on the gas tank and spun around 360 degrees, as well as headstands, crucifixes, flamingos, really sick wheelies, endos, burnouts, etc.

Much of the show was exciting, but there were several unnecessarily long periods where little or nothing was going on. With all the folks out there just itching and burning to show off their stuff there was never any reason for them not to just let someone get out and show off for awhile as they were getting ready for the next contest or whatever they had planned.

The lack of preparation for medical emergencies appalled me. There was no ambulance on site, just a paramedic driving a "pressure washer" utility bed pickup truck. That seemed awfully negligent considering the size of the event. On one occasion one of the M/C's of the event decided to get on a bike and show off a bit. He did not put on a helmet first. He started the bike and red-lined it, then popped the clutch. I guess he was wanting to do a burnout or something but the rear tire grabbed and launched the bike. He was thrown backwards and hit his head, which bounced and hit again. The bike then fell on top of him and he curled up and remained motionless. A crowd instantly converged on him and it was several minutes later before he came to. He stood up and held his hands up for the crowd and was applauded, but fortunately they were smart enough to take him to the hospital anyway.

There were a couple of other crashes, but nobody else was injured and everyone else was pretty much wearing appropriate gear for the kind of stunts they were trying to do. All in all it was an enjoyable show.

With old man winter blasting in on us during the darkest part of the cold season I was glad to be able to have this opportunity to get out and enjoy the sport I love so much in a slightly different environment than usual.

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