“I’ve got pit passes.” The Hess filling-station clerk doesn’t seem to care. “This purple one gets me into everything.” The clerk gives me that minimum-wage, I-hate-customers stare. “Cash or credit?” I wave the yellow one over the counter. “This one’s for free breakfast with Erik Buell.” Now he’s looking past me, to the next customer in line. “At the 500 Club.” I hand over my credit card. “This green one is for parking, I think.”
Erik Buell was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002. Other notable attend
I flash the purple pass; the old guard waves me and my Kawasaki KLR250 through. I’ve received much better treatment from the Daytona International Speedway staff since Motorcyclist scored me credentials. It’s the currency of privilege. The 500 Club simmers in a pool of asphalt between Daytona’s front straight and the wet parking lot. I’m a little late. There are mostly cars here. Maybe I’ve got the wrong Erik Buell?
Nobody checks me at the door. I’ll have to work on that. Inside, nearly everyone is already eating. Up on the stage, a guy is talking about the AmErikan Motorcycle Heritage Foundation’s Hall of Fame (www.motorcyclemuseum.org). Job One is food. Go man, before they run out! “What’ll ya’ have?” Nice guy, clean-cut, must be a Republican. “Can I get an omelet with green peppers and onions?” “Sure. Coffee?” Editor Catterson told me to say please more: “Yes, please, with cream.”
This event is a fundraiser for the Pickerington, Ohio-based (read: AMA) Hall of Fame Museum. Obviously, I wouldn’t be here if the AMHF knew of my threadbare budget. Moto knick-knacks are arranged on long folding tables. There’s a cool, unsigned, jet-style metalflake helmet, a poster with Malcom Smith flat-out on a Husky 400: gold. The idea is to buy this stuff, the proceeds supporting the HoF.
The clean-cut guy lights a burner, puts a skillet on top of the flame and busts two eggs into it. The bacon is already cooked, stacked in a bowl. “Can I get some of that bacon?”
I find a table with only a few people, outcasts like me who came in late. It’s the right Erik Buell. I’ve never spoken with him, but I recognize him from photos in the magazine. Erik Buell Racing’s new bike is on stage next to him. The AMA’s Laurel Allen, who has straight raven hair and a racing pedigree, is interviewing him. They make a good-looking couple.
The room is full of famous motorcyclists. I don’t know a single person. Buell seems like a cool guy. He’s over the Harley thing. It’d be neat to interview him, except I only care about what I think. If Erik showed more interest in my life, I’d try to take more of an interest in his. Maybe he could loan me an EBR 1190RS to start our relationship on a firm foundation?
The guy seated to my left hands me an AmErikan flag and a Sharpie. The attendees are supposed to sign the flag. It’s for some kind of keepsake. Man, I can’t write on that; people have died for the flag! I pass it to the group on my right.
Erik has been going on about the front wheel on his new bike for like 20 minutes. This guy is worse than me about motorcycles! I’m out of food and we haven’t gotten past the steering stem. They have some nice fruit back at the breakfast bar. Toph Bocchiaro, an editor from Motorcyclist’s sister magazine Hot Bike Baggers, introduces himself. We slag on Catterson’s crazy hair, like balding moto-journalists everywhere do whenever conversation lapses.
Near the end, the emcee gets all the Hall of Famers on stage for a photo-op. Buell’s the youngest by about 375 years. Apparently, you don’t just waltz into the HoF. It takes time: a lifetime of motorcycling. The long tables fill up with moto-celebrities; folks are standing in line to get stuff autographed and make a contribution. I’m shooting photos of a really clean ’70s Kawasaki Z1 parked nearby.
Each of us is given an envelope to send our donation to the Hall of Fame. I’ll send something. You should, too. It’s for a good cause. Looks like the breakfast bar has been cleaned up. Damn, I knew I should have gotten some pineapple…