DAYTONA BEACH — Leather vests and leather-bound Bibles. Brazilian bikinis and devotional sarees.
The opposing scenes in Daytona Beach for Bike Week’s biggest day — and last hurrah before rumbling out of town today — were a feast for the senses.
Ronald Nichols was sucking on a cigar along Main Street on Saturday. He, his friend, and his daughter Chelsea were just three of the thousands of people watching the weird and wonderful stroll by.
“Pickachu just walked by,” the 32-year-old daughter said, chuckling and pointing west. But by that time, the iconic video game animal had already been replaced in the space by a woman wearing a rubber-hand bikini top.
Nichols’ friend Charlie Sanders, 63, came down from Dearborne Heights, just outside of Detroit, for his first Daytona Beach Bike Week.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it an 11,” said Sanders, clearly having fun people watching.
Area organizers estimate about 500,000 bikers will have rolled through the two-county area for Bike Week’s 75th rally year. And it seemed like every inch of visiting chrome was choking Main Street.
But across the Halifax River along Beach Street, bikes lined the avenue like wallpaper. A bit farther west, heavy traffic along Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard didn’t stop a convoy of 41 motorcycle club members from riding steadily through the scene and taking in the sights.
Nine days into the 10-day event, Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood said the rally has brought big crowds, but no big issues.
Janet Kersey, the executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Daytona Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said she’s gotten some good vibes from area businesses on the foot traffic.
Humphreys & Son jeweler is one of those busy sites and has been on Main Street since 1954. Co-owner Helen Humphreys has a treasure trove of past Bike Week stories, from making a motorcycle necklace for Evel Knievel to creating the North American Endurance Cup trophy.
Humphreys, whose shop was packed with customers Saturday afternoon, said the event has been extremely good for business this year.
“I don’t think you can even name every place the people have come from,” she said, adding that she gets return customers from countries as far away as Scotland, Germany and France for the rally.
She tries to learn phrases in their languages.
“A funny thing happens when you try to speak to people in their language,” Humphreys said, “They turn around and buy things.”
The store is selling a 75th Bike Week coins gold coins and Humphrey said, “Without a doubt we will sell out — maybe even today.”
Down the street, Russell Collins was another fence-clinger, watching the crowds inch past.
Collins is 85, and said he’s been coming to Bike Week for upwards of 40 years. He said he still gets fired up every time he comes to Bike Week.
Asked what he looks forward to the most, the octogenarian’s eyes wandered across the chrome, into the colorful crowds where followers of Krishna were dancing and passed a woman in a red string bikini, sunning her rose tattoos on a black motorcycle.
“More good-looking women.”