My 2010 Daytona Beach Bike Week trip was the only long trip I took after the 2009 Las Vegas trip when I had so much trouble with pain. I was 84 at the time. When I left home many of the roads and highways were still a mess. It had snowed all week and it was still snowing on Saturday when I had originally planned to leave. Places near my home got as much as 30 inches of snow in five days. I probably could have gotten out on Saturday, lingering snow showers and all, but I wanted to spare the chain and engine cases from a major dose of salt brine – so I delayed it for a day and left on Sunday. My sons did a great job shoveling and sanding the driveway to give me a safe and easy exit to the street, and the village did a nice job on the local streets.
I made a last minute decision to replace the rear tire with a used one that I found in the garage that had a few thousand more miles left on it than the one on the bike. It might have gone the distance, but it would have restricted me from taking side trips. The tire I found and mounted looked to have at least 6,000 miles left on it, so I took a few hours to change the tire.
I left a little before 8 AM in a snow shower with the temperature at 30°. I was soon on interstate highways that I rode for most of the 518 miles to an Econolodge along I-81 in Salem, VA. I got in around 4:20, which was too late to take my diuretic, an important part of my heart meds. It was windy all day and the temperature was still in the low 30s by the time I checked in. I rode mostly around 70-75 mph, but later in the day the traffic was running at an indicated 80. The only stop I made was north of Harrisburg where I stopped in the middle of a rain shower for lunch at the same McDonald’s that I once swore I’d never use again because of an intestinal bug I got from a double cheeseburger there a few years back. But I had an empty stomach, an empty tank, and a full bladder; and it was raining. I ordered the chicken sandwich with a salad.
I was tempted to go all the way to Bunnell, FL the next day, which would get me there a full day early, but I would have had to skip the diuretic again. I decided instead to kill time by turning onto US 301 in Orangeburg, SC and use some back roads with an overnight stop in Jesup, GA. When I got about a half-hour from Jesup, I took the diuretic, even though I had been depriving myself of fluids all day, but I figured I’d be in the motel with plenty of time for the fluids to avoid dehydrating too much.
Unfortunately, when I got to Jesup, I didn’t recognize the small town, and I accidentally got onto US 84 heading west, which wouldn’t have been a problem, except for having taken the diuretic, and my bladder was already filling. I spotted US 341, which I remembered crosses I-95 in Brunswick; so I headed for the highway to get a motel near the intersection as quickly as possible. I was already dehydrating big-time and it would be almost an hour before I could check in.
When I finally got to the motel, I went directly for the sink, turned on the water, and I started to take the thin plastic covering off the drinking glass. Before I could drink any water, my legs buckled and I went all the way to the floor, out like a light! I didn’t know where I was when I woke up from my nap, but I saw the glass halfway across the room and crawled over to it, and then to the sink for three glasses of water in quick succession. I crawled to a chair and sat quietly for at least a half hour before attempting to unload the bike. My legs were still like jelly and I could barely stand. I made a cup of tea and rested before unloading the bike. After re-hydrating a little more, I walked next door to a KFC for barbecue chicken and carried it to the room. I figure I traveled 560 miles in 9½ hours that day. It certainly wasn't one of my better days.
It was raining heavily when I woke up. I checked the TV for weather, which said the rain would taper off by ten – so I took some extra time to rest up and have a few cups of tea. I ate tropical trail mix and smoked salmon from my bag, along with a small donut and coffee from the lobby. I loaded the bike just before ten. The rain had stopped by the time I got on the highway. After getting up to 80 mph with the rest of the traffic, I realized I was still a little light-headed, so I stopped for a more substantial breakfast. The rest of the way into Florida I stayed in the right-hand lane so if I began to feel another bad spell coming on, I could pull over and stop quickly enough. I got to Bunnell shortly after lunch.
My gracious hosts went to work the next day so I left soon afterward for a ride in the countryside, and I attended to a few chores. I stopped for a visit at the RV Park near the Destination Daytona complex where some of the RAMS stay in the wintertime. I arrived just in time to go for coffee in Ormond Beach with a group of four.
On Friday, I walked into the fund-raising breakfast 20 minutes late, looking like a tired old cowpuncher coming in off of a tough cattle drive. I was wearing my tattered riding clothes and carrying my helmet. The program had already begun and AMA Chairman of the Board Stan Simpson was interviewing random attendees with a roving microphone. He might have seen me walk in because he soon came over with the microphone and asked several questions, starting with how many miles have I ridden in my lifetime, to which I answered, “About 1¼ million.” There was a big round of applause, followed by more questions and more applause after each answer.
When the interview was over, Tom White, the MC on the stage, added that I recently rode across the country and back for the Las Vegas event, which brought more applause. I had breakfast with Tom White and others during my Las Vegas trip. Later, Rob Dingman, President and CEO of the AMA, came by to shake hands and say a few words, as did Chairman of the AMHF Jack Penton and a few others. I was asked to stay for autographs with the Hall of Fame people but I declined because I had a lunch date with five of my female cousins at a condo in New Smyrna Beach. I ate breakfast quickly and left so I wouldn’t be late for lunch. It took almost a half-hour to break away because I kept running into friends and well-wishers on my way out. I had no problem finding the address because my cousin Margo and one of her daughters were waiting outside for me on a park bench. Another daughter arrived soon afterward with her fiancé riding two big Harleys. A total of ten people were invited but two were stuck in traffic coming across Florida. They arrived around 3:30, as I was leaving for dinner at the Outback with my nephew and his wife. I had a fabulous time at lunch, eating and telling stories most of the time.
From the time I got up on Friday morning until I got to bed that night, the day was one of the nicest I had spent in years. How would I know that the following day would be a disaster? I left Bunnell at 8:30 AM for an easy 3½-hour ride across Florida to Sarasota to visit with my niece Susan, who had recently moved from Gulfport. I had her new address on a piece of paper, but an hour after leaving, when I stopped for a second breakfast, I looked for the paper and couldn’t find it. I figured it was no problem because I remember the name of the road she lives on and the general vicinity from having looked it up on the Internet before I left home. If I had trouble finding it, I’d simply call her mother for the address. I got to Sarasota around the time I promised, but the gated-community’s gate was locked. A few people came in and out, operating the gate with a portable device like a garage door opener, but I didn’t want to tailgate in if I could help it. No telling who might be watching and what they might do – not to exclude a possible call to the police, Without the exact address, I would have to look for her car.
I found a small directory box near the gate and looked for her name, but it was a faded LED that I couldn’t read. I stopped a car going in and asked the guy to read it for me, but her name wasn’t listed. After waiting around for 10 or 15 minutes, hoping that she would come out to look for me, I went to a nearby shopping center to find a pay phone, only to learn that pay phones no longer exist, or at least I couldn’t find one.
I went back and tailgated a car through the gate and looked around for quite a while for her car but couldn’t find it. I rode around hoping she would see me, but after at least three complete circuits and asking about an office in the community and finding that it was closed on Saturday, I went outside to wait, hoping she would come out to look for me. I waited for almost two hours altogether, and finally gave up and headed for home. I had a date with Bev in Hudson for Sunday, but when I saw her the previous day and she wasn’t sure she’d be back in time, I skipped that too, and I was out of there.
I called home from a motel about 175 miles up the road and learned that everyone was in a panic because I failed to show at Susan’s, and they had no way of contacting me. I had been reported missing! The highway patrol had an APB out, and they were checking every county between Bunnell and Sarasota for accident reports, hospital entries, etc. I was also on what they call a Senior Alert, which is something like an Amber Alert, but used in Florida when an elderly person goes missing. A highway patrol detective was questioning Bob in Bunnell at 8:30 PM when a message came over the police radio that I had been located at a motel in McIntosh.
There was also an alert sent out on three different motorcycle forums on the Internet that many of my friends monitor. I couldn’t believe how many people had gotten involved and how many cared, which humbled and embarrassed me. I had never owned a cell phone, but seeing how much it means to my friends and family, I bought one but I haven’t used it yet.
I made a few errors in judgment during the trip, as well as experiencing an inordinate amount of pain from my lower spine, legs and feet. I even attempted another Daytona trip in March 2011, but I decided after the first day to abort, mainly because of the increasing difficulty getting on and off of the bike. I was no longer experiencing pleasure in the ride down and back using the interstate highways. I went on to ride locally for another two years with several 250-mile daytrips, and I managed to maintain an average of 30,000 miles per year from when I switched my primary focus from enduro riding to adventure touring at age 52 in 1977.
Two weeks before my 88th birthday I took the brunt of a road rage incident at a 3-way stop in the back roads only about 10 miles from my home. After the car driver passed me, he swerved close in front of me and suddenly slammed on his brakes. The last thing I remember clearly was being passed, and his car cutting close in front of me. I woke up several hours later in the intensive care unit of the local trauma center with eight broken bones and no memory of exactly what happened after being cut off. My son learned from the skid marks and other clues at the scene that the bike left the straight section of road, went through a ditch, glanced off a stone wall, and ended up against a fire hydrant. I spent a week in intensive care after emerging from the coma, followed by 3 months in two nursing care facilities. I fully recovered from the crash, but the injuries accelerated my aging process. Needless to say, the bike was "totaled" after having served me well for 118,000 miles, in spite of its mediocre handling and poor unification. I gave what was left to one of my grandsons who has already replaced the engine and several broken parts, and has ridden it. Meanwhile, I retired from motorcycle riding.
During my 67 years and 1¼ million miles of riding, my records show that I owned and rode 33 different motorcycles:
2 1947 Harley Davidsons 74 cu. in. OHV
1 1949 Harley Davidson 74 cu. in. "Hydra-Glide"
1 1986 Harley Davidson 80 cu. in. FLHT
1 1955 Harley Davidson 125cc Hummer
1 Used 1957 165cc Harley Davidson/Puckett
1 Used 1929 Harley 74JD
4 Triumph 500cc T100C ('62, '64, '66 and '68)
1 Triumph 250cc Single
2 Triumph 500cc TR5T Trophy Trail
1 Triumph 750cc 3-cyl Trident
1 1977 Suzuki GS750
1 2003 Suzuki VStrom 1000
1 2007 Suzuki VStrom 650
1 1971 Suzuki TS250
1 1976 Suzuki PE250
1 1982 Honda 1100cc Gold Wing
2 1986 1200cc Gold Wings
1 1987 1200cc Gold Wing
1 1979 Honda XR500R
1 1982 Honda FT500 Ascot single
1 1984 BMW R80ST
1 2001 BMW R1150GS Boxer Twin
1 2003 BMW F650GS Dakar Single
1 1997 Yamaha 750cc Virago
1 1992 Yamaha 225cc Serow
1 Used 1956 250cc Maico
1 1957 250cc Villiers-DMW