Daytona Beach, FL — Sometimes, just chatting with the person next to you can lead to an interesting story. I met Tony Wheeler during Bike Week on Beach Street, when I pulled my Road King into an open spot next to his Softail Deluxe.  Thousands of bikes lined both sides of the street; throngs of bikers strolled the sidewalks. Tony was putting a bag from Daytona H-D into his saddlebag, getting ready to ride to another location.  His orange license plate caught my eye.

“You ride here all the way here from Oregon?” I asked.

“Yes I did,” he replied. ”It’s been my lifetime dream to come to Bike Week. I’ve always wanted to come, but I didn’t want to fly or drive — I wanted to ride my bike.”

So the 53-year old retired electrical lineman from McMinville, Oregon packed up his 2007 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe and rode 3,360 miles over 8 days to come to Daytona, braving loneliness and severe weather.  ”At the Oregon/California border, there was 3 inches of snow and ice on the mountain passes. I had to wait till traffic melted the snow off the road enough to ride.”

He’ll spend all week in Daytona, with a side trip to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, another location on his “bucket list.”

What does he think of Bike Week so far? “It’s incredible. It’s worth all the loneliness, all the long hours on the road.  The memories of Bike Week will keep me going on the way home!”

Tony Wheeler is just one of the estimated half a million people attending the big rally. It’s a good bet that every one of them has a story — some interesting, some perhaps not so much. But you’ll never know if you don’t start a conversation.

As the tagline of a classic movie said: “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.”

About Glen Abbott
Glen Abbott is a New Orleans-based travel writer & photographer. He specializes in writing about motorcycle touring and travel, and his work appears regularly in Harley-Davidson's HOG magazine, American Iron, and other publications.

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9 Comments
  1. cookie

    March 28, 2011

    I met a man at daytona beach bikeweek march 5, 2011, I’m trying to reach him, no name, nothing I met him at a bar called Baritz on Pearl St introduced this man as my husband someone please help.

  2. Scotty Wheeler

    March 10, 2011

    Oh look, tis be my father tony! Love ya dad!

  3. Joyce

    March 9, 2011

    This is my little brother and I am really proud of him for fallowing his dream, even tho I worried about him and he isn’t home yet so am still worrying until he get’s back safe and sound. Good Job Bro!!!!!

    • Travelin' Gringo

      March 9, 2011

      Joyce, it’s so cool what he is doing — I’d be really proud too!

  4. Jeremy B

    March 8, 2011

    I am with Inka – I like the way you write Glen. You tell stories and that’s always interesting to readers. For me, I am not a big fan of bikes or the Daytona 500 but your stories are always interesting to read. I think it is because the bike allows your more personal contact with people that result in stories and not all of those who travel get access to people like you do.
    Jeremy B recently posted..Finding cheap flights to Vancouver- BC

    • Travelin' Gringo

      March 8, 2011

      Thanks Jeremy; I think you’re right — being on a bike does allow for more personal contact, it gives me an excuse to talk to people. I’m glad you like what I write!!

  5. inka

    March 8, 2011

    I see a new post from you, I rush in. I’m addicted to your stories because you are one of the few who really know what ‘travel writing’ means. It may also have a lot to do with biker chick nostalgia.
    inka recently posted..The flight of the angel- a Venice carnival highlight

    • Travelin' Gringo

      March 8, 2011

      Thanks so much, Inka. I’d love to hear about your “biker chick” days!

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