Article By: Darren McKeag
Originally Published In The April 2013 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
October means many things to many people. For those of us in the two-wheeled world, especially in the Midwest, it typically means one last month of riding. For me personally, it means another chance to head south to Florida, hangout with my second in command, brother Roadside, and ride motorbikes across Florida, specifically Daytona for another great week at Willie’s Tropical Tattoo. Now don’t get me wrong, I really don’t need a reason to hangout with Roadside. Hell, I’ve flown down there just because I missed him and wanted to snoop around in his stash of rarely seen, rarely touched, and rarely talked about, Holy Grail of rare motorbike parts. Let’s keep the snooping around part a secret. I don’t want him to know that’s what I do while I’m there. He thinks that I go to the beach, drink beer and watch girls. Well okay, I do that too.
With the Green Dragon loaded up, I rolled south to see one of my closest best brothers, Paul from Bare Knuckle Choppers. Paul, being the wonderful, loving person that he is, tries to get me knee deep in about 5 beers, knowing that I have about 14 more hours on the road. He kindly invites me over to the shop to check things out and take a look at the progress on my super-duper, hot rod Buell he’s building. After a few hours at BKC, I sadly give brotherly hugs and head on down the highway. It’s a long road ahead with many hours of music, gas stops and wonderful thoughts about the great days ahead. Early Sunday morning arrived and I found myself in Roadside’s driveway, exhausted from the trip. As he greeted me on his way out the door to catch some overtime at work, I caught up on some much needed rest. The next few days were heaven for me, for more than one reason. I was in beautiful Pensacola on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I had my motorbike, and I was about to spend the next 8 days riding across, through and around Florida with Roadside Marty. The weather was warm, even into the late evening, the air was fresh, and the warm breeze off the ocean was absolutely hypnotic. Sunday night we made our way out to the famous Florabama, had a few beers and zigzagged our way through the white sand coated streets and palm trees, headed for one of our favorite eating spots: Vallarta’s.
Monday was spent running around making last minute preparations for our trip. We made the evening stop at the motorbike shop to say hello to one of the greatest, most knowledgeable men on earth, Roadside’s father, Pops. Simply being in the same room as this man is a pure blessing, talking to him is a treat, having him teach you things and show you some of his most treasured parts is not only priceless, but something few men will ever experience. Making sure that Pops was good for the night, we made our way home and settled in as 5 a.m. Tuesday morning would come very soon. Tuesday morning was upon us and we had our bikes packed and we were ready to roll. Roadside’s brother-in-law, Jeremy, had showed up about midnight, so he managed to get a few hours sleep. But honestly, can any of us really get any sleep the night before a week’s worth of riding? Hell, I know I can’t; I’m too damn excited! We headed out and found our way to I-10 East. Once again I found myself side-by-side with Roadside, an arm’s length apart, doing 90 M.P.H. across another state, as our engines hummed in unison. You know that noise when you just turn your head a bit and catch the sound of both engines in sync: rum-rumrum- rum.
Early afternoon came and we stopped in to see our good brother Jason at Liverwire Tattoo in Jacksonville. Another great brother and lover of the twowheeled world, Jason made us welcome as we caught up on tattoos and talked about the upcoming week at Willie’s. With the sun starting to fade over the trees on the west side of I-95, we decided we’d better get busy and bust out the 87 mile ride to Daytona. Blasting down I-95, we made damn quick work of those 87 miles. Merging off at Ormond Beach onto Hwy 1, I couldn’t get to Willie’s fast enough. I was so damn excited to see everyone that every stop light looked green to me. Arriving at Willie’s was like a family reunion. The front of the shop was lined with bikes and people that were waiting for our arrival. The welcome of open arms after a long day of riding, hugging your brothers and sisters that you haven’t seen for a few months, is truly a great thing. Willie and Miss Jean were there with the entire Tropical crew: Jaymo, Little Frank and so many others. We were finally there and now the great week of Daytona Biketoberfest and Willie’s Tropical Tattoo bike show could begin.
On Wednesday, the day was filled with more riding, hanging out and preparing for Thursday’s big event: Willie’s Chopper Show. Things typically get pretty crazy around there as Wednesday evening approaches, and by Thursday morning it’s pure chaos and all hell breaks loose. As the sun got higher and the Florida air became hotter and hotter, bikes, people, bikes and more people kept flowing into Willie’s for the big event. As usual, Willie and Miss Jean were busy being excellent hosts of the greatest show Daytona has to offer during any bike event. Roadside was running around with the microphone, telling everyone what he thought of them, and I was drinking. Oh, and taking pictures, and socializing, and drinking, and talking to girls, and drinking. Chris and Rob rolled in to share the day and week with us and get some great video for Rally TV and photos as well. The parking lot was full of custom choppers of all shapes and sizes. The back lot was full of bikes, people, bands, and food and beverage booths. Roadside and I managed to make our way to the rooftop to get a bird’s eye view of just how great this event is. Once on the roof, it was clear to me why I make this trip.
As early afternoon came and Roadside managed to lose his voice over-announcing the winners of the chopper show, the parking lot started to empty. As the sun was setting on yet another great Florida day, an amazing Willie’s Tropical Tattoo Chopper Show was in the books. We all made our way up the street to enjoy an Italian dinner hosted by Willie and Miss Jean. It’s truly a blessing to be a part of this and to wrap up a wonderful day with family and friends. It was safe to say that yet another chopper show had come to a successful end. We could now take some time to relax, enjoy food, spirits and family, while reflecting on the day’s events.
Knowing that Sunday would be here sooner than we wanted, it was time to spend the next few days riding, hanging out, watching people get tattooed, enjoying some drinks and listening to great music while looking at motorbikes. Willie was gracious enough to show us some of his personal favorite hangouts, and also introduced us to some great riding on Daytona’s back roads. Thursday, Friday and Saturday were all killer days, but I have to be honest and tell you that I don’t really remember Friday. There are several rumors and pictures floating around, but they haven’t jogged my memory; I’m still trying to piece it all together. For some of us, Saturday was a struggle as we were paying for Friday night’s festivities. Around midnight on Saturday, the Rally TV crew made their way to Main Street for some filming; it looked like a three ring circus that had collided with a zoo. If you can imagine any gimmick on two or four wheels, it was there. As we quickly found a place to tuck the bikes, my buddy Will was snatched up by Five-O’s finest for no eye protection. These fellows had no sense of humor and were quick to hand Will a $116 bill for visiting Main Street. Needles to say, we filmed and got out of that disaster quickly.
With Sunday coming way too quickly, it was time to say our goodbyes and blast back across Florida. Now if you’re anything like me, saying goodbye to brothers and sisters you have just spent a week riding with is very difficult. We managed to fall behind schedule by about 5 hours, but we finally got our goodbyes in, held back the tears and headed out. Blasting down the highway, the thoughts of an amazing week raced through my head. Daytona was behind us and great riding was ahead of us. I revved my throttle so Roadside would look over at me; I tapped my heart with my fist and pointed right at him. My “good life” was right there, right then. For those of you that were there, see you again in March. For those of you that weren’t, I encourage you to make the trip and we’ll see you in Daytona!