Scout’s Honor Cross-Country Motorcycle Ride, Part 6: Florida and Daytona Bike Week

Floridita - Endless Days, Indulging on Oysters and The Land of Neon Lights

Scouts Honor Ride, Florida
Considered the Oyster Capital of Florida, Apalachicola offered exceptional eats and interesting sights to see – like this massive pile of Oyster shells on the outskirts of town.©Motorcyclist
Scouts Honor Ride, Gulf Coast
Oceanfront dining at small establishments was available all along the Gulf Coast.©Motorcyclist

We'd been on the road toward Florida for quite a while. I swerved a little. What I could only assume was a giant insect obliterated when it made direct contact with my right, very open, eye. For nearly 30 miles, I struggled to pull my lids apart as they were coated with a mixture of salt, tears and goo. By then, we had already been riding for ten hours, winding our way down the Gulf Coast as we reluctantly entered a thick blanket of night. I had to trust an unseen guide that came from my gut telling me, every few miles, Apalachicola was not too far now so I wouldn't lose hope and wear out. The decision to affix tinted visors to our helmets was both genius and idiotic. It both saved us from the glaring southern sun during the day and blinded us at nightfall, struggling to capture any fleeting light that dared ventured to our retinas. As soon as that big ball of fire hit the cool rippling liquid of the Atlantic, it extinguished and the world around us went noir. Any images I could make out were distorted by the darkness into mysterious creatures reaching for my wheels or looming over my path with devious intentions. I scanned the trees for the two shiny beads staring back at me that could spell disaster if startled into the wrong direction. We were near a national forest after all, and the wildlife chose the night to play their worst tricks on weary travelers.

Scouts Honor Ride, eating oysters
Start with a dozen, then double it, then double that again? Oyster eating is dangerous game.©Motorcyclist

"Kyra, no!" I heard Justin, panicked, over my Sena headset just before my ears made out the shriek escaping the horn of an oncoming car, which had noticed my mistake before I did. So, that wasn't a turning lane. Beaten from days of long rides, I brushed my near fatal error with the indifference of a complacent fool. Rest was the only need I cared to acknowledge. Lord knows, I wasn't ready to be scolded for my sloppy riding and was grateful Justin took pity on me. The woman who ran the joint greeted us as we pulled into what appeared to be a glorified trailer park. Our lodging was around back. She insisted we leave our bikes in front of the office while we journeyed out for food. Hell, we could "leave them there all night" she assured us! We took her up on it as we dined on fried alligator, shrimp and frog legs at a watering hole walking distance away, washing it all down with Yeungling, trying to give ourselves an "authentic" East Coast, Gulf Coast, Floridian experience.

Scouts Honor Ride, Scouts at 80 mph
The view from our office: hundreds of miles, thousands of insects and an Indian Scout moving 80mph.©Motorcyclist

With zero intention of waking up before 11 am, we plotted and dreamed late into the evening. An incredibly rude awakening by one half of the duo that ran this “sporting” establishment roused us from bed at the ungodly hour of 7:45 am. He barked loudly and unapologetically in his cartoonish accent claiming that his wife had never invited us to park our motorbikes out front. I paid them as much courtesy as I could muster handing my credit card over for their undeserving fee, then never looked back. To hell with the lodging beyond the bridge. We’ve had “authentic” and now we want clean towels, a big bed, manners and a room that didn’t smell like sewage. To our relief, our new digs – an old Roman Revival mansion turned B&B – allowed us to sleep in. With a half-day and half-night to tour a little port town known for its oysters and cotton, we sought to fulfill our limited schedule. The Oyster Bay Brewing Company appeared on the street like a mirage in the desert. Seating on the sidewalks, friendly locals and snowbirds, award-winning brews... We had struck it rich! I was one strong beer deep before following my grumbling belly to the closest eatery that boasted a cheap half-shell, leaving Justin alone with his second beer.

Scouts Honor Ride, New Orleans
Somewhere east of New Orleans - When you take the low and slow way across the states, highways can be empty for hours on end.©Motorcyclist
Scouts Honor Ride, Daytona Bike Week
Daytona Bike Week; a sea of motorcycles stretched as far as our eyes could adjust. This was the 75th anniversary, and everyone had shown up to celebrate.©Motorcyclist

We didn’t mean to eat a collective two dozen aphrodisiacs, fresh or baked with parmesan and always delicious, but touring a town by foot to admire it’s early- to late-1800s architecture and reading the plaques describing their historic relevance, well, it builds an appetite. Cocktails can be the same everywhere, but a beer, a local beer to be specific, is affected by its environment, the craftsman and the trends. Not just every flavor but every batch of every flavor, if done right, is a little different; reborn like a phoenix from the hypothetical ashes of its predecessor. The Green Room in Jacksonville gave me ‘Fruit at The Bottom’ and the next day we were lucky again in Fort Pierce when Sailfish Brewery poured me their Caribbean Caramel Porter, a solid barley based beverage that fills me up and soothes my pain in a single pint. With a short, albeit excruciatingly boring day ahead of us, I tried to picture Miami; skin, extravagance and lowered inhibitions. South Beach floated through my daydreams the only way I’ve ever seen it; luxurious, deco, an escape for New York socialites to shed a little prudence without consequence. I was excited. But Daytona Beach would be first.

Scouts Honor Ride, Daytona International Speedway
The Indian Motorcycle display at Daytona International Speedway was pretty impressive!©Motorcyclist
Scouts Honor Ride, Scouts at Daytona
A couple of classic Indian Scouts were on display, offering us a glimpse into the past while we crossed the country aboard the future.©Motorcyclist

A little begrudgingly, we decided to dive head first into the shenanigans that is Daytona Beach Bike Week. It was the last Saturday. We rolled into a literal sea of steel, leather and rubber; the lines that ran across varied sizes and mostly unvaried styles of motorbikes created the illusion of waves. Everywhere, bodies of darkened skin tattered by excessiveness melted into the heavily treated cow carcasses that adorned them attempting to send the message...bad to the bone? For some it works. For others, it’s just a topic for onlookers to judge shamelessly. The rest of the crowd, however, ranged in age, race, size and sex. Though the bikes might not have varied rapidly, the colorful mix of people sure did add their own flavors to the stew cooked by the Florida heat. As with any brand holding onto its heritage, Bike Week is a Bohemian struggling to not lose its true nature as commercialism, capitalism and accessibility fight to exploit its allure. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for those essential aspects of business. But it’s hard to contain a good idea from growing up and even harder to prevent corruption when you introduce it to money. I left Daytona not any smarter, but certainly more knowledgeable about a part of the industry to which I am no short of naive.

Scouts Honor Ride, Daytona Beach
One of the more interesting motorcycles we saw in Daytona Beach – clearly a bike that has been ridden hard and far for many years.©Motorcyclist

Excited, but a little apprehensive of the last leg of our journey, neither of us were ready to slow the wheels and pack up the leftovers from a long dreamt aspiration to cross between the coasts. A few miles within the cities limits, Justin eyed a mural beckoning us with provocation, waiting patiently, mostly naked, and on her stomach to welcome us, poignantly, to Miami. We’ve made it. Unofficially, we had become the first to ride Indian Motorcycle’s new Scout and Scout Sixty the long way across the U.S. I replayed the phrase in my thoughts, I’ll admit, a little proud. Appropriately, I thought, I had booked us a stay at the New Yorker Boutique Hotel in Little Haiti. An art deco motel once in disrepair, revitalized by its newest owners and fresh-faced in front with a young hip staff to greet eager expats expecting of their own version of a Miami daydream, without the racket.

Scouts Honor Ride, Cuban food
Cubano sandwiches were the first order of business as soon as we made our way into Miami.©Motorcyclist

To start the experience, no-nonsense sandwiches served Cuban style and a “little” cup of sugar-powered rocket fuel made our bellies delightfully uncomfortable. A good excuse to walk around. Then what Justin and I found after our bona fide Cubano Uber driver dropped us just short of Ocean Drive was absolutely surreal. And I’d thought Daytona was a shit show. In its defense, our arrival unfortunately aligned with the infamous College Spring Break. Initially, South Beach seemed proof of the demise deteriorating human kind. Maybe it’s still that, but to see such raw unadulterated humanity from rich to poor, young to old, classic to tacky, dressed and well underdressed, was mesmerizing. Mating habits, displays of prosperity or testosterone or both. To see so many different people in one place literally living within the bubble and consciousness of the few feet surrounding them can make you feel small. With so many leading ladies and gents starring in their very own show, is it possible to expect that yours is the most important? Easy. Be oblivious.

Scouts Honor Ride, nude lady mural
Miami is a city of sunshine and tan skin – this mural on the outskirts of town was a friendly reminder of what lay ahead of us.©Motorcyclist

Day became dusk quickly. Overwhelmed, we hid in the only local bar within walking distance offering empty seats and strong drinks. By the time we re-emerged, the famed glowing lights lining nearly hundred-year-old establishments, ignored and under appreciated, but leading us to their radiance like an entranced moth. South Beach is just that, a “must-see” sort of place. So whether you go head first or feet first, it’s worth getting in the water. The next morning was bittersweet. A Monday. The day. We said goodbye, cafecito in hand, to our last stop before leaving the continental U.S. for something a little different. We’d been waiting for this day to arrive for months; with last night’s meal still swirling in our bellies – a reminder of our midnight mistakes – Justin and I boarded our Indians and headed south for the last time. Whatever Key West would be to us, Hemingway’s home will always be one small part of a big dream we’d conceived two years ago in a coin-op laundry room in Los Angeles. What happens after that, well, we have some ideas.

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water." –Ernest Hemingway

Scouts Honor Ride, South Beach donks
South Beach on the first Sunday of Spring Break – Early 70’s Impalas and wheels that stood nearly three feet tall lined the streets in front of classic Art Deco architecture.©Motorcyclist
Scouts Honor Ride, donks, custom cars
In front of the infamous Colony Hotel, a police officer stopped one of the many wild rides (donks!), removing firearms and other paraphernalia. What else did we expect to see on South Beach?!©Motorcyclist