The Daytona 200 is the most important roadracing event in North America. Months of work, countless laps of tire testing, years of accumulated knowledge, they are all brought to bear on one piece of asphalt for one race event. If you win at Daytona, the ads will run on Monday, and your stock will have gone up considerably. If you are a motorcyclist it is the place to be in late February or early March.
The facility itself is magnificent, though some don’t like it. Carl Fogarty reportedly hated the walls and said so to the British press, but later, while wearing Ducati leathers and surveying the scene one afternoon during the preparation week he denied this. Undeniable, though, is Daytona’s status as the American citadel of speed. It is beautiful in the evening as the sun sets and all is quiet except for the activity in the pits. Daytona’s mornings are quietly magic, before everything explodes. The tension is palpable … FAST is about to happen.
But there’s much more to it than that. Main Street, the biker scene, the Supercross, the flat track, the Hess station, the Cabbage Patch, illegal mega-bucks backroad drag racing, manufacturers’ demo rides, bike shows, you name it – every genus species of motorcyclist is represented at Daytona. Many never go to the track at all, just enjoying the scene. It’s Florida, it’s warm, and everybody who is anybody is there.
Except for us.
I had a friend, he was a graphic artist, his name was Gil Myers, and he worked at the AMA. As luck would have it, so did I. But we weren’t at Daytona, we were located somewhere approximately 25 miles North of Westerville, Ohio – in February – passing the time as best we could one Saturday. Passing the time that day consisted of me trying to drive my testicles through my forehead on Gil’s ’84 Husqvarna WR250 while roosting off his half-subterranean pump house in the morning. We had retreated to the house to thaw and make a lunch of beanie weenies while my wedding tackle returned from my upper-abdomen.
We’re creative guys, we can come up with something. He says meatloaf, I say road kill. He says we can’t serve road kill, that’s nuts …
Gil’s kitchen utensils consisted of a set of Vice Grips and a manual can opener. He stuffed the weenies into the open can of Van Camps beanies and stuck the can on the stove.
And then we had an idea.
I’m sure most of you have a notion at least of what Speed Week is like at Daytona, but I bet very few of you have any insight into just what occurs at the AMA headquarters during that week. Let me summarize it for you: it involves one thing and one thing only – eating.
That’s right, everybody who is anybody is in Daytona doing Daytona stuff, and the rest of us, the ones that didn’t make the dance? We do what they do in Ohio when they celebrate anything, they eat, a lot. All week long. Traditionally it’s mostly support staff assembled in the company break room, most of which are very nice ladies from Ohio, they make all this food. It’s gastronomic insanity. I don’t recall any guys ever getting in on the action. Oh, sure, they eat, but they never cook, and Gil and I were going to change that.
Gil was prodding at his weenies and joking about this impending gluttonous display of excess. I popped a beer and muttered something about getting in on this action and how we could smoke the whole grid. We’re creative guys, we can come up with something. He says meatloaf, I say road kill. He says we can’t serve road kill, that’s nuts, but, hey, hold on here a second. What if? Ah ha! Oh yes, oh yes. Want to leave us behind in Ice Station Zebra? Fine, but we’re going to win this pot luck trans-fat orgy, thus the infamous roadkill meatloaf was born.
We went to Food Lion and purchased 14 pounds of good old ground beef. We needed spaghetti for the guts, of course, and tomato sauce to pack in the cavity, red jelly beans for the eyeballs and the proper satanic look we aspired to, and black ones for the droppings, large curd cottage cheese for brains, and the pièce de résistance, walnuts which we shaved for teeth and claws. It would be scary and nutritious. When you cut into this thing it would be like field dressing a wombat.
We took the weekend and assembled this glom with care, and Gil, who actually had a clue about these matters, stuffed it in the oven in a baking pan. It looked to all the world like a recently deceased ground hog, which is to say perfect. And somehow the son of a bitch came out in one piece and perfect. It was game on! We got together early on Monday morning, I threw it on a large platter and garnished it with spent .308 and 10mm shells, it was a work of art. Off to the office we went.
We placed it on one of the designated buffet tables and waited for the inevitable throng to descend, and they didn’t disappoint. It was like lunchtime on the Serengeti. They move in herds. Don’t get the wrong idea, every one of these people are important, they are what keeps the AMA running every day. All the shakers and movers may be down soaking up the sun in Daytona, but it’s these folks that keep the bilge pumps running and the ship afloat day-in and day-out, and this week of eating, of celebration, is as much about boosting morale as anything else. And morale? Gil and I could do morale.
Edna, the grande dame of AMA accounting, pulled the foil off our masterpiece, then took a step back and gasped.
“No, no,” I reassured her, “It’s meatloaf. Really. It’s good, it won’t hurt you.” And then of course she had to cut into the brains.
“Ewwwwwww,” she gasped stepping back again. And the nervous laughter started in the room. The looks of horror passed in time. People couldn’t take their eyes off the thing, and eventually some of them even ate some of it. And it was good. We had fun, and shared it with these folks we worked with on a cold late February day in central Ohio … and that?
That in a nutshell is what Gil Myers taught me about motorcycling and life – that’s who he was. Gil ran hard. It’s about fun, nobody in this country needs a motorcycle, and nobody needs a road kill meatloaf either. But at the very core of it, it’s about fun and community, and for him in particular, it was also about creativity, not taking yourself too seriously, and being sincere, all of which he was.
Gil created a lineage with the same passion. His son, Shane, who went on to hold an A Class enduro license with the AMA and build top-shelf pro-caliber engines for Michael Jordan Motorsports, and his grandson, Ian, who also races, can zero a check, and is working on vintage bikes. He taught thousands, maybe tens of thousands through his enthusiasm at the AMA with his artistic efforts. He conveyed the passion and the love that is motorcycling, and he was a living example of it. And, man, Gil sure could ride. He’s gone now, he passed away unexpectedly last week, but that’s who we are, and that is what we will do. I hope I always live up to that example. Ride hard, ride safe, look where you want to go.
About the Author: Chris Kallfelz is an orphaned Irish Catholic German Jew from a broken home with distinctly Buddhist tendencies. He hasn’t got the sense God gave seafood. Nice women seem to like him on occasion, for which he is eternally thankful, and he wrecks cars, badly, which is why bikes make sense. He doesn’t wreck bikes, unless they are on a track in closed course competition, and then all bets are off. He can hold a reasonable dinner conversation, eats with his mouth closed, and quotes Blaise Pascal when he’s not trying to high-side something for a five-dollar trophy. He’s been educated everywhere, and can ride bikes, commercial airliners and main battle tanks.