I slept like the living dead. By the time I woke, some 10 hours later, everyone had gone off to work and the house appeared empty. The coffee was gone and I really, really needed some caffeine. Fortunately experience has taught me that one should take care of one's needs and to not necessarily depend on others to fulfill them...I had packed a small bottle of instant in my suitcase. The taste sucks but hey, it works. I showered, caught up on my journal, checked email on Chris's computer and simply relaxed reading the miscellaneous motorcycle material lying about.

I had seen no sign of Daniel about but he's generally an early riser and I figured he'd probably headed out earlier for a walk or something and that he'd show up eventually. I decided to check out his room on a whim (I don't believe that I've ever gotten up before Daniel on our previous trips) and lo and behold there he was just waking up! Ho-Ho! He quickly showered and dressed and we headed off for the day's adventures.

The AHRMA racing at Daytona Speedway didn't begin until mid-day so we decided to head over to Blue Springs State Park. Back when I was in the planning stages of my trip Becky had strongly suggested to me that this would be a great chance to see some manatees. I explained that this trip was about motorcycle racing not wildlife but she persisted and insisted on printing off maps and fact sheets from the web. As it turns out there's only a few thousand of these delightful creatures left in the world and a person just doesn't get an opportunity to see them very often (especially if you're from California). It turns out Blue Springs S.P. was only 5 miles from Chris's home...how could we resist?

But first, "must have food." Driving through Orange City we stumbled across this likely looking place...Gram's Kitchen. It's a personal credo of mine, never pass up a restaurant called "Grandma's" or any derivation there of. It turned out to be a good choice.

Gram's is situated in an old 1876 inn and is just full of character. From the battling religious coffee mugs (mine was Church of God vs. Daniel's United Methodist), to an "official" U.S. Postal Service museum (never seen one of those before), to some rather interesting "southern" food.

I braved the "chipped beef and toast with gravy," Daniel went for the more traditional waffle.

Fully rested and with good food in our bellies we moseyed on over to Blue Springs.

This was my first one-on-one experience with the Florida countryside, up until now it's all been cars, highways and residential areas. Suddenly everything is so very "southern." From the antebellum mansion...

...to the turtles and spanish moss...

...the the river full of some sort of crazy southern "gar" fish (3 foot?).

But where are those pesky manatee's? For something that's 6 to 7 foot and 1000 pounds you'd think they would be a bit easier to spot.

Ah-ha, there one is!

So after traipsing up and down the river bank for an hour of two it was time to get back to the business at hand...

...motorcycle racing.

First off we headed back to the pits. Daniel and I love the pits. Of course this meant finding the "unmarked official" in an "undisclosed location" again but we were so much slicker about it this time being the old pros we were. The price had risen from the $20 for qualifications to $25 for today's races but hey, it's still an incredible deal :-)

There was certainly lots of action going on what with the groups of bikes moving onto and off the track. Here's our Raceco Guzzi. Much to our dismay (and certainly even more so to their's) they never could get it running quite right. We saw the bike take one practice lap around the track and then that was it. Disappointing, it looked (and sounded like) it really had some legs!

To see and hear this bad boy growl click the icon to the right.

We found the Moto Guzzi contingent out in force (forza!) to support our favorite marque. Everyone was hanging out at the far eastern end of the bleachers. I was impressed by what a good looking group we were.

I was flying my "Guzzista" colors (or colours for my European friends over at Squadra Guzzista).

There was lots of almost continuous action. The people at the speedway did a great job keeping the events coming.

Ok, here's where we start to chant! "Moto guzzi, Moto Guzzi, MOTO GUZZI!"

This spliced image is our Japanese bike (#235) on its way to a 3rd place, podium finish! I'd never seen Moto Guzzi's race before and I can't begin to describe how exciting it was seeing them compete. Really, really compete. I stood up, I sat down, I stood up, I sat down, I shouted, I spun around. By the end of the meet #235 had taken two 3rd place finishes and a 4th. FORZA GUZZI!

The day's meet was over at around 4:30. On our way out the gate Daniel spotted this couple on the bike just ahead of us. Check out the cords poking out of the tire on that rear wheel...sigh, and wearing NO (none at all) gear.

Our plan at this juncture was to head the 30 miles or so over to Barberville and watch some racing on the 1/2 mile flat track at Volusia Speedway. Being a westcoast guy I'd never been exposed to any dirt track racing other than on the television but Daniel is a huge fan and promised to show me the ropes.

My first impression of dirt track racing was that if the road racing over at Daytona Speedway could be compared to Disney World then the Volusia Speedway and the 1/2 mile flat track racing there would be like the local county fair. It's in no way less exciting but is an amazing contrast in styles.

First off, it's supper time here in the south and lookie, lookie, it's Luke's BBQ. We both ordered up the barbecued meatloaf sandwich stuffed with melted cheese and an iced tea. Oh my...I've plumb gone to heaven.

(I have no idea why this picture is black and white...it just is.)

Our plan had us watching a few hours of racing and then going back over to Daytona to meet up with the huge Guzzi crowd (including Chris, Ace and Rob) getting together at a place called Pantheon Pizza. We'd been looking forward to it very much...but the racing proves to be just too exciting and we ended up staying all the way through the qualifications, the eliminations and the main event. We totally missed the guys and the pizza.

To catch a little of the track action from that afternoon click the icon to the right.

At about mid-way through the evening's events the announcer "Donnie" (he always referred to himself in the first person as in, "Donnie would just like to say...") tells the crowd that last year's flat track champion Kenny Coolbeth will sign his #1 plate and present it to the person who has traveled furthest to attend the night's races. Daniel and I are excited, who can beat me? I've come clear across the fricken' continent to see this stuff! But it turns out Donnie's geography isn't too hot (or as he put it, "Donnie must of slept through history class") and awarded the plate to two guys from Denmark who told Donnie they had traveled 23,900 miles to come here. Daniel and I laughed and laughed beings as the earth's circumference is only about 24,900 miles.

But Donnie's not done with us. He amused us all night saying things like that. Things like when one rider kept moving up in position after people in front of him crashed out (the race restarts with riders staying in the position they were in at the time of the crash) Donnie announces to the crowd, "I'll bet that rider hopes more people in front of him crash" and then after thinking about it for a second or two continues, "not actually 'hurt' crash but maybe just get some flat tires."

Or his continuously hitting on 16 year old Shayna Texter who ended up winning the AMA Pro-Sport class. "Boy I can't wait for two more years till I can take you out!" (Donnie must be close to 60 years old). "I suppose I'm going to have to watch out for your brother though, huh?" Really, it was kind of creepy.

Henry Wiles from Daniel's Aprilia team was there racing their new Aprilia twin (650c.c.) bike up against the big, bad Harley Davidson XR750's (750 c.c.). Henry seemed a little disappointed in their finish but actually he and the bike had been solid. It was bike's first time out on the dirt track. Henry is just a riding fool. "I love my job! he had proclaimed to us back at the speedway. He's here in Florida road racing, dirt track racing AND he's just returning from a win in the Open Pro AMA Kold Kutter Ice Race held in Wisconsin. The guy and the bike are amazing! (Aprilia and Moto Guzzi are both owned by the parent group Piaggio...the motor scooter people).

Kenny Coolbeth ended up winning the 750/1000 Expert Hot Shoe and that 16 year old hottie (just ask Donnie), Shayna Texter (she's been riding since she was 3) won the 450 Pro Sport Hot Shoe race.

Now it's grown quite late and we're tired and bone-weary but we've had a grand old time. Watching flat track racing with Daniel on a warm Florida night, eating barbecue and listening to Donnie yammer on is simply perfect.

I'm glad Daniel is doing the driving and not me on the 25 miles return trip though the night back to Chris's house (I just knew we were going to end up hitting an alligator or some such crazy southern thing).

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