“I beat him once in Kansas City… I’ve got a BSA stroker crank, just need some cases… The center-port is illegal in this class, but there’s no rule says you can’t relocate a side-port… Man, that’s a lot of filler… See that little hole… No, keep going… That’s where the old manifold bolted to the head. As long as that shows, I’m legal…”
It was mid-March. I was sitting in the warm sunshine at Volusia County Speedway in Barberville, Florida, watching AMA vintage dirt-track racing and eating a $3 hot dog doused in onions, mustard, and flies. Surrounding me was the best kind of motorcycle chatter. These guys talk sweet trash—maybe not all true but all remembered as true.
Unlike other years when I rode straight up the coast from my old home in the Florida Keys, this year’s journey to Daytona Bike Week was something more adventurous. I requested a new Scout from Indian Motorcycles when the company’s PR guy, Robert Pandya, suggested that instead of just grabbing a bike off the demo truck in Daytona like every other mooching motojournalist, I pick one up in Austin, Texas, and ride the 1,100-plus miles back to the beach like a real motorcyclist. Hmm, I’ll have to be more careful in the future about how I abuse this power…
I wanted to ride the Scout because, to me, it’s the most exciting motorcycle to come out of the Polaris Industrial Complex yet. It’s unabashedly modern but styled with the tiniest nod to Indian’s flat-tank, board-track past. The engine is a powerful, liquid-cooled, eight-valver devoid of useless chrome escutcheons. It looks like what it is: a clean bike refreshingly free of anti-lock, remote-start, plastic-wrapped, traction-controlled gimcrackery.
I met my Scout, painted in a matte silver-gray that nearly matched the cast-aluminum frame, in Austin. A genuine Indian windshield and brown leather saddlebags were installed for touring. Before I even started the bike I popped the seat and rigged a pigtail to power my Tourmaster electric vest. I needed that vest because Austin in early March was very cold and very wet. After an excellent burger from Hills Café, the Scout and I chugged through drizzling skies in light-to-middling late afternoon traffic first south then east toward Daytona Beach. This would be the best weather until we reached Florida’s panhandle.
Hugging the coast to avoid Interstate 10 we climbed the steep bridge at Sabine Pass, dropped down into Louisiana and rolled shivering into a gas station/pizza parlor in Grand Chenier. Wave after wave of cold weather swept down from the north. Daytime highs around 34 degrees were not enough to turn snotty rain into snow but sufficient to limit my manual dexterity to claw-like motions. The first 20 minutes of most fuel stops were spent just attempting to insert my credit card into the little slot. No, I do not want a car wash.
Conditions aside, this ride to Daytona was a brilliant idea. The rotten weather showcased the Scout’s strengths: stability, smoothness, a comfortable seat, and unflappable high-speed mile eating that left me free to concentrate all my attention on not freezing to death. And the Scout creates happiness. Even non-riders stopped to say how glad they were to see an Indian on the road again then tell me about their Grandpappy’s antique Scout.
I used to feel cheated by the ebbing fortunes of the once magnificent Daytona 200 roadrace. For a long time I was angry. Someone had fouled my tradition, taken away The Big Race. This year, a laid-back cruiser cog I never knew I had slipped into place. Simple joys that were lost had been recovered. After being so cold for so long, my Scout and I were happy just to bask in the warm Florida sun and listen to machines—and people—make wonderful motorcycle sounds. Even if it was only vintage dirt track at a dusty local speedway.