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Riding 'Excalibur' Quest for Camelot pauses in Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH - March 09, 2005 - Daniel Echeverria is on his way to Camelot.

Don't bother telling him it doesn't exist.

The knight errant from Argentina, who speaks very little English, is pretty sure King Arthur's fabled court is somewhere in England. And that's where he and his fire-breathing iron horse, dubbed Excalibur, are headed.

As soon as Bike Week is over.

But first, like any leather-clad Lancelot who happens to be inordinately proud of his mount, Echeverria must see and be seen at the epicenter of motorcycledom.

In a place where just about everyone looks at least a little out of the ordinary, he stands out. One can only imagine what they'll say when they see him in Camelot.

Call it a quest. Call it an impossible dream. Call it medieval-style showmanship with a Spanish accent and a biker attitude.

But whatever it is, Echeverria, a 44-year-old chemical products salesman, evidently felt compelled to keep the Arthurian legend alive by using scrap metal to transform a 1979 Kawasaki into a bronze and chain-mail festooned gas-powered steed, complete with a front-mounted dragon head that spews real fire. It took three years to create -- 2,500 hours. But who's counting?

"By the muses I'm inspired," he says, between posing for pictures and signing the post cards and other souvenirs of himself and Excalibur that he sells from a wooden cart attached to the bike's rear fender.

Leaving his wife and two teenage daughters back in Rosario, Argentina, Echeverria and a crated Excalibur boarded a plane for Miami, and then hit the highway for Daytona Beach, drawing lots of stares along the way.

"This impresses me," says Shirley Rubio, a Canadian biker. "It's like something from 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail,' " she quips.

"I see a thousand bikes, but this is unique," agrees Isaac Benzaken, who has become something of a Sancho Panza to Echeverria's Don Quixote while he's in Daytona Beach.

A Bike Week clothing vendor who moved to the area 10 years ago via Spain and Israel, Benzaken bonded with the Argentinian knight when he rolled into town on Excalibur.

"The police were moving him," he explains, "and I speak Spanish."

Benzaken began translating for him and got permission for him to park Excalibur in front of the Biker Design building on Main Street, which is owned by a friend.

Of course, Echeverria's stop here is just a detour on his way to -- well, you know where.

King Arthur, he says, "is one of the most serious and everlasting and eternal personalities." And if he thought his sword Excalibur was something, he'd surely be moved by "my great battle horse," as Echeverria calls the iron horse that bears its name.

By Donna Callea - Staff Writer


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