Daytona Beach's Parallel Universes: Spring Break Meets Bike Week
This week AOL Travel contributor Terry Ward will be road tripping across Florida to check out how spring break is unfolding across the state. Bookmark our Florida spring break 2013 home page to follow along. Today, she checks in from Daytona's spring break – and Bike Week– scene.
It was overcast and drizzly yesterday, and as I walked from my hotel, The Oceanside Inn, toward the Daytona Beach Pier, seagulls outnumbered beach goers. It's Bike Week here, and a few Harleys rumbled past on the sand (you can drive on the beach in Daytona). One rider lowered his sunglasses to admire a lone group of bikini-clad women lounging on towels. Amelia, Callie and Liana were dressed like the day was tropical, and I soon learned why. "We drove 26 hours through a snowstorm from Minnesota," said Callie, "I've never seen the ocean, I was surprised how big it is – we have lakes up where we are."
The girls, all freshmen at the University of North Dakota and The College of St. Scholastica, were on their first spring break. "The bikers might honk, but we try not to talk to them," said Callie. "We had someone throw a shirt at us, that was interesting," said Liana. Overall, said the friends, they were having an awesome time and felt safe in Daytona. "The police have done a good job separating the bikers and spring breakers," said Callie, "So we have our places and they have theirs." The girls had spent most of their nights partying at Razzles Nightclub, a mainstay on Daytona's spring break scene, but said that they were surprised by the relatively mellow vibe. "It's not as crazy as you'd think it would be here," said Amelia, "I saw on Facebook there's a booty contest somewhere, but I don't know where."
I strolled along and heard a different story from a group of five girls from a "predominantly women's Christian college in Cleveland" they preferred not to name (class ratio: 15 girls to one boy, one of them told me). Fully in "Girls Gone Wild" mode, they were hooting and hollering their way down Atlantic Avenue on their way to restock liquor rations (Smirnoff, Bud Light and Mad Dog 20/20). Heather was wearing a midriff-baring neon yellow top emblazoned with the word "Party" that showed off her bellybutton ring. "I made thirty dollars the other night dancing on a pole at Aqua Lounge," she told me, "Someone stuffed a twenty in my bra and a ten in my skirt. I think people thought I worked there." The girls were busy getting one member of their entourage drunk for her first time. "She thinks she's not drunk but she is," they said, pointing to their clearly buzzing friend, who smiled back and giggled. "She bonged a beer faster than I could even take a picture," said a blonde named Alex, who was wearing a t-shirt she'd had made that was emblazoned with an image of a nun bonging something else.
A rumble of Harleys approached and the girls erupted into woo-hoos. "Bike Week we loooooooove you!!" they shrieked, as men in leather and spiked boots made their bikes' engines thrum and their mutual admiration known. "My dad rides a bike so I'm not afraid of them," one of the girls told me. "They're just like us, here to party and get drunk."
But at the lobby bar of the Ocean Walk Resort, I was hearing a different story from bikers, including a group of guys who'd trailered their Harleys down from Johnston, Pennsylvania for the week.
The men hit me with one of the funniest pickup lines I've heard in a while -- "How do you like
"We're not on a woman hunt, a dirt bag hunt, a beer drinking hunt, we're just looking for a way to get away, spend some time together, talk a little business," said PJ, looking rather clean cut in his Harley t-shirt. His friend Dan, however, loaded on Crown Royal, was more blunt as he unzipped my jacket and told me to loosen up and get down to drinking with them. "Froggy's and Full Moon Saloon and Dirty Harry's, that's where you want to go," he said, "If you don't get your story there then you shouldn't be writing."
But I was already getting my story, so I decided to pad my stomach for the night with some gulf oysters (plump, tasty ones from Texas that weren't too briny and were just $9.99 a dozen) at the Oyster Pub before heading over to Main Street to check out the scene.
My sidekick was a woman named Anne Sampson who I'd met back at the hotel bar. She was from Boston but had recently moved to Fort Lauderdale, and she was wearing black leather pants, studded boots and a red shirt that said "Support your local angel." I asked her how she got into biking. "I met this woman in prison and she said you've got to ride a Harley," Anne said, divulging that she'd done six years for prostitution-related charges back in Massachusetts. ("I got more time than people who committed murder," she lamented).
When Anne got out, the Harley life (and a loving husband) saved her. "When you drive past a farm you can smell every animal, every blade of grass, every wildflower in the field, you can smell it and breathe it and experience it," she said, "It's really about being in touch with things. And that's how I find the people. Very down to earth and in touch with themselves." After disconnecting for so long as a prostitute, she said, suddenly she was able to engage again.
Main Street, the heart of Bike Week, was the scene of all scenes and Anne flashed her pretty eyes at every admirer. Loud revving and rumbling from the bikes beat through my chest, lights flashed and chrome shone. Bikini-clad women gyrated behind tubs filled with Pabst Blue Ribbon and heavily bearded men affected bored looks while sitting on their saddles and watching the scene. Anne and I danced to rockabilly by a band called the Razorbacks at The Bank & Blues Club before heading to Froggy's, where a scantily clad woman in a mini boxing ring of sorts was using her breast implants to pluck dollar bills from the mouths of men.
Spring break was in full swing just a few blocks away at the Ocean Deck, where the Ohio girls said they were headed. A parallel universe if ever there was one, I was sure. I couldn't tear myself from the biker scene to join them, but I kind of wished I'd see them barreling down Main Street shrieking, "Bike week we love you!" again.
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