Each year, I produce the Daytona edition of the Flying Piston Benefit Builder Breakfast and online silent auction with industry maven, Marilyn Stemp. Listed below is the recap of our 3rd annual 2023 Daytona Flying Piston Benefit.
This year it as a tale of two rides, the hot one and cold one. I was riding in the 30’s going to and from Daytona and in the 80’s in Florida and Georgia. Even so, the trip was memorable, the gang was cool, and bike damage was held to a minimum.
2023 Daytona Flying Piston Benefit Recap
It was a Cold and Rainy Night – I’m starting the 2023 Daytona Flying Piston Benefit Recap with the departure for Daytona beginning early Thursday afternoon with icy rain dogging me. I got as far as Richmond, KY, before the rain seeped through the layers and I couldn’t stop shaking more than the Harley. To increase my comfort during the ride, I dressed in layers so I could modulate my comfort riding from one weather cell to another. Cold weather riding gear includes:
- Smartwool – Merino wool t-shirt
- Smartwool – Merino wool medium weight shirt
- Insulated wool shirt
- Ballistic nylon winter snowmobile jacket
- Insulated jeans
- Silk long johns
- TCX Street Ace Shoes
- Smartwool Sox
- Rain suite
- Aerostitch insulated deerskin gloves / Hotwire electric gloves
On Friday I put 12 hours in the saddle and was up early Saturday heading to New Smyrna Speedway for Billy Lane’s Sons of Speed race. I met up with Edge and Bear and we were heading South on I95.
Down and Out on I95 – We hit the Georgia/Florida line during a morning rain shower. I’m running in the middle lane and packed in like sardines in a can when my clutch cable snapped. My first thought is to get over to the side safely without becoming a moving bumper car. My second thought is my driveline is binding up and I will be spit off the bike in the rain, with little visibility.
I quickly coast to the shoulder of the road and dismount. I grab up my phone and dial my go-to-AAA service for a tow.
Yikes, what a disappointment.
The first lady wouldn’t speak up after many requests and directs me to get into my car where its quiet. Trucks and cars are screaming by and she has an attitude like I’m an imposition. Ha. She gets frustrated and hangs up.
The second lady heard my tale of woe and got me a flat bed 3 hours later. I sent the tow truck to the Jacksonville Adamec Harley-Davidson dealership. This is Bike Week and you can imagine they are busy. The good news is, it is warm. The bad news, they tell me my ape hangers are not stock and don’t have a cable to fit my bike. Ouch!
Love for the Ape – I think, of course, my ape hangers aren’t stock. It took Hank Thibodeau of Widowmaker Custom Design & Repair weeks to talk me into these things. He measured it and made them for a custom fit. And I am glad he did, as it has doubled my riding experience.
While we are waiting around, we all do my second favorite activity of the trip. And that is looking at all the Harleys in the dealership. This dealership had a lot of custom stuff too. I built two bikes in my head waiting for the service writer to get back with me.
After deliberations with a mechanic, they used a longer clutch cable and make do. Great, and I am back on the road by 6PM. I have to say these guys really came through in the clutch and I’m exceedingly grateful!
I throw a leg over the Nightster and head to the Days Inn in Palm Coast because racing is a bust and has been done for hours. Once at the motel, we’ve added Ralph Bellini, and Bruce Seigal to the Daytona squad. Bear and Edge are ex-Green Beret and Ralph is an ex-Maintenance Warrant officer. These guys are smart, focused, capable, and jokesters.
Spitting Ice Cream – After dinner, we are walking back to the Days Inn and stop in front of Bruster’s Real Ice Cream parlor. Ralph is undecided about which ice cream to buy, so the Florida beauty with eyes of porcelain and blue standing behind the counter offers him a taste. He tries Black Raspberry Sherbet, Blueberry Cheesecake, Blueberry Cobbler, and Almond Divinity. These flavors weren’t exactly what he wanted, so he tries Banana Chocolate Chip, Banana Cream Pie, and Black Cherry. The girl’s freckles are becoming more pronounced and her face is turning a light shade of red and is showing her impatience when she asks Ralph to make call. “Well, I’m full now. I think I’ll pass.”
After watching this, I almost spit out my ice cream. As we turn to leave, Edge slips up to the counter and slides the honey a 20 spot and sez keep the change.
On Sunday, Marilyn Stemp and I set up banners, secure the tables, and set up the art in the green room at Teddy Morse’s Harley-Davidson. We staged the event the night before.
The Flying Piston Benefit has three featured art categories. They include:
- Custom electric bikes sponsored by Stacyc
- Art On Deck presented by Gnarly Magazine (painted skate decks)
- Drink the Art presented by BIG FRIG (painted growlers/tumblers)
These Stacyc electrics are tiny bikes that were sent to and customized by Cory Ness, Bill Dodge, Jordan Lessig, and Jim Lynch/Gina Woods.
The second and third categories are custom-painted skate decks and tumblers/growlers from artists with motorcycle, Hot Rod, surfing, pinstriping, and tattoo disciplines.
Show Time – On a bright and sunny Daytona Beach Monday, the event kicks off. I arrive at 6:20 AM to see Marilyn and Woody of the Buffalo Chip moving tables. Edge, Bear, Ralph and others jump in to get the show ready to go. The coffee shows up and then 13 dozen Donnie’s Donuts. Ron Harris of Chop Docs rolls in with breakfast sandwiches from Giuseppe’s NY Pizza Pasta Express.
It takes a village of bikers to make the Flying Piston run.
Headlining the event includes custom builder Bill Dodge of Blings Cycles and artist Curt Green of Bare Bones Leather. In addition, we had one of the originals daredevils, Doug Danger. He hangs out and signed books.
I love these events as you never know who will show up. Rusty Wallace and his son Steve came in on their outrageous baggers built from their shop, Southern Country Customs. Athena “Chickie” Ransom a.k.a. “The Vagabond Chickie” came through. She has the Rock and Roller cross with the ex-MMA actress Gina Carano vibe going for her. She’ll also be our headline builder in Sturgis later this year.
Masha, a Ukrainian artist, won the online Gnarly Magazine competition, for her 1964 slammed Buick Riviera. She won $200.
The Peoples Choice award went to Curt Green of Bare Bones Leather for his leather wrapped skate deck and Mike Richardson of Rebel Soul Studio for his BIG FRIG Growler nicknamed Zombie Juice. They both won a case of stainless steel tumblers from BIG FRIG.
The most fun I had at the auction was poking the Bear. I’m still not sure if he is entirely happy with me.
The last couple of years he lost out on the silent auction, so he is in hyper-vigilant mode to make sure he gets what he wants. He’s eyeing these pieces of art from artists from Ukraine, England, Hawaii, and the continental US. And these artists are talented.
I’m eavesdropping on Bear to hear what he is bidding on. I’m also working with Jason Hallman, the EMCEE, to promote the items to the crowd. I think you know where this is going. Bear is bidding on a skate deck is designed by Colorado native Mari Geolfos of @aireffexcustompaint.
It is five minutes before the bidding closes and Bear has the winning bid. He isn’t in a bidding war with anyone. It looks like the closing minutes will tick away and Bear will get his skate deck. That is until the EMCEE picks up the skate deck, at my prompting, and ask the crowd for bids on this particular item. Bear lost the item in the last seconds. He’s spitting mad and stops talking when I come around.
Bear is good natured about the loss with everyone but me and he is joking with the guy who did win the deck when he comes to pick it up. None of us recognize the guy who won the deck at this point. Bear tells the new guy, whose name is Teddy, that he stole the deck from him on the closing bell.
They both have a laugh but Teddy tells Bear to take the skate deck. “It’s yours man, I want you to have it. I am just here trying to support this charity.”
Needless to say, Bear is a little less cranky after this turn of events.
A selection of skate decks from the Daytona event:
A selection of BIG FRIG custom growlers/tumblers from the Daytona event:
The charity breakfast and silent auction are the centerpiece of the Flying Piston Benefit. The breakfast is an opportunity for attendees to network with industry leaders and custom motorcycle builders, while the silent auction features a range of custom motorcycle parts, accessories, and memorabilia.
The auction is done and it’s time on Tuesday morning to get moving. I head to CVS down from the Daytona Speedway for bandages. For the event, I bought some Converse Chucks 70 because they have a lot of cushion, I can’t walk on regular Chucks because they are so hard. After a half day on the Chucks 70 I can’t walk at all. The balls of my feet are volcano sore. I’ve got blisters on my heel and a cut on the ankle.
Ahhh, these CVS bandages are good.
Heading to the Swamp – After lunch, Bruce heads South, and Ralph, Edge, Bear and I head North to the Okefenokee Swamp. We arrive at sunset and are greeted by two very cool structures for our sleeping accommodations. One is a caboose and the other one is a train engineer shack and both came with Airbnb status.
What we didn’t know but what we soon found out is that this town of Folkston, GA is known for trains. And as soon as we went to bed, the big trains start up.
Since we were 50 yards from the tracks and sleeping in a caboose with springs, the whole caboose would move as the trains went by. I’m not talking about small trains. These suckers are miles long. It’s a national train watching spot and as many as 60 trains pass every day or up to 3 an hour.
The first night was fitful. I awoke a half dozen times with the bed rumbling and hearing the train whistle. The second night, I slept the night through and dreamt of trains.
On Wednesday the gang headed into Okefenokee Swamp and took a boat ride to hear swamp stories. Okefenokee in Native American is “land of trembling earth”. It refers to the swamp’s unstable ground, which can shake or tremble underfoot.
Alligators – The swamp is about the size of Delaware and the water is black and so pure you can drink from it. On our boat tour, we saw 18 alligators of some 15,000 alligators that call the swamp home. We also saw a few turtles and a couple of raptors. I found the scenery to be quite stunning with the tall cypress trees draped in Spanish moss, creating an eerie and enchanting atmosphere.
Around the Campfire – In the evening, we sat around the campfire telling stories. There are a lot of things you learn on the road.
Since alligators were on our mind, I heard a story about a guy rescuing a baby alligator. He kept it in his basement. It turns out it grew up with a terrible disposition. It was so bad that it took over the entire basement and he had to feed it from the top of the stairs. He would open the basement door and shuck a chicken. And what made him despondent was the alligator had no appreciation for his good work. He knew he had a gator problem when it charged up the stairs during feeding time. To make a long story short, the alligator got an Ambien chicken and slept his gator sleep until the guy’s van stopped in South Carolina and then was released.
Honestly, I’m not sure I believe this one. But if you live in South Carolina and you are missing any chickens, I may have an answer for you. And if it is true, and I do believe this, the basement took almost a year to get the gator stink out.
Bear mentioned how he conducted a popular and highly secret scientific study called The Nipple Matrix.
It turns out the researchers were vitally interested (him) in the correlation between eyebrow color and nipple color. They would engage the female subject to guess their nipple color. The study covered months of research in multiple countries. Their results were over 99% correct even though nipple color is determined by several factors, including genetics, skin tone, and hormonal changes. I don’t have the time here to go through the entire study and the intricacies of the research, but I will leave you with one universal result. Redheads have the lightest nipple color and are always a light pink.
I will say after hearing about the research, I can’t help but look at females a little differently. It also occurs to me some guys have that Huck Finn knack for getting woman to undress.
Friday morning I was up early and raring to go. I’d planned on staying with Edge Friday night but I determined if I kept riding, I could keep the 35 degree riding at a minimum.
Pain and Suffering – During the ride, I had developed a significant amount of pain in my back and right forearm. I used CBD from HOKO Holistics and it worked like a champ reducing the sharp points.
Edge and Bear peel off in Columbia, SC. I motored on to Knoxville, TN and shut it down for the night when the rain hits and the wind started blowing. I was up at 10AM the next morning to get as much warmth as possible.
My heart skipped a beat when the engine stumbled and didn’t start. I really didn’t want another AAA adventure. Then I remembered that I’m running a lithium battery and you need to charge it first by bumping the starter to wake it up.
The last three hours were in 37 degree weather during a cold slate rain. By staying in the saddle, I’d missed even colder weather, more rain, and probably an extra day on two wheels. I finally roll into my driveway and shut the bike off. I grab my gear with claw-like hands and stiff leg it into the house with a feeling of relief and satisfaction.
I reflected that no matter what you do; it takes a lot of people to do it. You can’t have an event without volunteers. Mandy and Sandy Rossmeyer, Edge, Bear, Ralph Bellini, Joan Catalino, Woody Woodruff, Steve Piehl, Ron Harris, Jessica Shine, and many more helped and made it run smooth.
None of this could have happened without presenting sponsors: Stacyc, Sturgis Buffalo Chip, Baker Drivetrain, Motorcycle Safety Lawyers, Strider Bikes, and host Teddy Morse’s Daytona H-D. Their contributions made the event possible, allowing proceeds of over $10,000 to fund All Kids Bike programs at local elementary schools. This program of the Strider Education Foundation puts bike-riding instruction in kindergarten PE classes nationwide.
Pictures from the event
So there you have it, the 2023 Daytona Flying Piston Benefit Recap. Another one is in the books. Whether you are into charities or not, plan on attending if you are in the Daytona or Sturgis neighborhood.
P.S. I was asked what I learned from the trip to Daytona Beach. It gave me pause. The thing that came to mind is that rain suits from Walmart should be considered disposable.
But wait, there’s more:
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The 2023 Sturgis edition of the Flying Piston Benefit Builders Breakfast is produced by Marilyn Stemp of Iron Trader News and Jeff Najar of Horsepower Marketing. Our work raises awareness and funds for non-profits and individuals in the motorcycle community, vets, and kindergarteners. Our funds are directed to All Kids Bike and Motorcycle Missions.
By Jeff Najar and Edge