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Cruising on two wheels, not twin screws

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Regal Marine's Duffy Stenger organizes an industry motorcycle road trip to the Florida Keys


When Regal Marine executive Duffy Stenger gets a hankering for a break from busman's holidays, he and his wife, Karen, don helmets, jump on their motorcycle and go riding.

"When you own a candy store you can only enjoy eating so much [candy]," says Stenger, 59. "We enjoy our boating immensely." But they also like motorcycling. "I've been in this business for about 40 years. There are a number of people that own boats that also have an interest in riding."

Like skydiving and hang gliding or backpacking and cross-country skiing, motorcycling and boating seem to complement each other. They press the same button that lifts the weight of stress and aggravation and lets the spirit roam free.

Stenger, who keeps a 52-foot Regal Sport Coupe as a demo model and owned a 35-foot Carolina Classic sportfisherman until two years ago, says it takes time and preparation to get on the water and use the boat. What he likes about riding is that he can come home from work, hop on the bike and take a spin around his Orlando, Fla., neighborhood. No muss. No fuss. He can decompress in a half-hour.

He and Karen are not "go-fasts" in their boating or their riding, Stenger says. They are cruisers. Ramblers. Gunkholers. They like the byways more than the highways. And they like to get away with friends. So Stenger's idea of organizing a Boaters & Bikers Road Trip to the Florida Keys seemed a natural.

Stenger scheduled it for Nov. 19-21, right after the Nov. 14-17 Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in Orlando. He is vice president of sales and marketing at Regal Marine Industries, and he invited colleagues there and anyone else in the industry, along with friends and family. Most of the frenetically paced fall boat show and dealer meeting season will be over. "It will be a well-deserved rest and time to recoup for those who go along," Stenger says. "Anybody is welcome."

Among those who signed on was Wanda Kenton Smith, president of Marine Marketers of America and owner of a marketing agency that has done work for Regal. Kenton Smith, who hadn't been on a motorcycle since she was a teenager, bought one three years ago after riding on the back of a friend's bike to Daytona Beach for Bike Week.

Now she owns a bike, her husband owns a bike, and Kenton Smith - an avid boater - has become just as passionate about riding as she is about boating. "Top on my bucket list is to bike across the country," she says. That could happen as soon as next summer.

"When you get on a bike, you kiss all the stress goodbye," says Kenton Smith, of Gotha, Fla. "It's an escape. You go to a different place."

On her motorcycle she sees out-of-the-way places she never would see in a car. "I've lived in Florida since 1979 and I've seen places in the last three-and-a-half years that I never knew existed," she says. "You get on the back roads and see all these cool little towns, neat little places. ... You smell things, you see things, you experience things you never would experience in a car. It's the same with a boat."

Stenger arranged for motorcycle rentals for the Key West ride, but people who aren't bikers were also welcome. One couple planned to come along by car. Most of the 10 or so people who had registered by late October were riding with their significant other, Stenger says.

He is already planning to host a ride next year, but probably will schedule it differently so dealers can feel more comfortable about taking the time off. "The dealer conference begins the Sunday before this ride," he says. "A lot of dealers can't be gone two full weekends from their dealership." He hopes to schedule the ride during the week before the dealer conference next year.

Because most of the boater/bikers are from the industry, they can network along the way, Stenger says, but that's not what the trip is about. "I think it's more just for the enjoyment," he says. "People in the marine industry are a lot of fun to be around."

Many who come to the dealer conference are from out of state. Stenger wanted to show them what Florida is like off the beaten path. He says they planned to leave Regal headquarters in Orlando Friday morning and take back roads to Lake Okeechobee. They were to ride down one side of the lake and put in the first night at Miccosukee Resort and Gaming, west of Miami at the edge of the Everglades. They were set to leave Saturday morning for Key West and either head back to Orlando Sunday or extend their stay and keep touring.

Stenger says he took up motorcycle riding for a few years as a young man living in Ohio but gave it up after marrying and starting a family. "I always enjoyed biking, but as the kids were growing up I didn't think it was the prudent thing to do," he says.

With their children grown and out of the house, he and Karen "have thrown caution to the wind," he jokes. They bought a bike four years ago and now own two Harley Davidsons - a Softail Deluxe that Stenger rides around town and an Ultra Classic that he and Karen tour on. Two weeks from taking to the road, the anticipation in Stenger's voice was palpable.

"It's going to be a good time," he says.

This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue.



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