This will be the twelfth straight year my dad, now 81, and I will be taking a weeklong motorcycle trip together.
During these trips, we have ridden roughly 15,000 miles, traveled through 30 states, and been chased by The Wolfman of New Hampshire.
Here’s a recap.
2005: Sturgis, S.D.
Memorable moment: During a short hike in South Dakota, I save my father’s life when he tries following me down a steep walking trail, loses his balance, and begins involuntarily sprinting out of control toward a rocky stream. I save his life by checking him into a tree to stop his momentum.
The lowlight: That was eleven years ago, and he has yet to thank me.
2006: Tennessee/North Carolina
Memorable moment: During our first stop on Day One, my dad asks the Taco Bell cashier if their tacos use “iceberg lettuce” and explains to the incredibly disinterested young woman how much he dislikes romaine, which “tastes like wet leaves.”
The lowlight: On Day Six, my dad tries to rally the incredibly disinterested Denny’s waiter to “spruce up his side salad” by substituting iceberg lettuce and “throwing whatever extra fruit you have lying around” on it. They bring him a normal salad with wet leaves.
2007: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Memorable moment: We are talking with a few other motorcyclists in a motel parking lot when a black bear starts walking toward us. Then the motel owner runs out and starts HITTING THE BEAR ON THE BUTT WITH A LONG STICK until it turns around and heads back toward the woods.The lowlight: I can’t hear the bear’s majestic grunting, mostly because I am screaming the following at the other guys, two of whom are complete strangers: “If you somehow survive and I don’t, please don’t tell my wife and kids how I tried to hold you between myself and the bear as a protective shield!”
Memorable moment: This was the year the P-B men’s softball team won the coveted D-League Playoff Championship. I was their player/manager, and they finally brought home the hardware. I say “they” not out of modesty, but because I missed the championship game since I was on this trip. Before that championship, I would have said that the family moments are what’s truly important. But after hearing those guys call me, whooping it up from McQuillan Field, I realized those are the moments you’ll never get back. My dad and I have taken seven motorcycle trips since. But I never got another chance to win the softball championship.
The lowlight: See above.
2009: Vermont/New Hampshire
Memorable moment: On Thursday, we watched a mother humpback and her calf swim within 50 feet of our whale watching tour boat for 45 minutes. On Friday, we saw a bear ride a Segway. An actual bear. Riding a Segway. “Less than one percent of all humans,” according to the whale tours website, “have ever seen a whale in its natural habitat.”
The lowlight: We still can’t find any statistics about the number of humans who have seen a bear ride a Segway.
2010: West Virginia
Memorable moment: My dad and sister and I sleep three-to-a-room in a sketchy hostel in West Virginia called the Purple Fiddle.
The lowlight: My dad and sister and I sleep three-to-a-room in a sketchy hostel in West Virginia called the Purple Fiddle.
Memorable moment: In Branson, Missouri, we see The Platters in concert.
The lowlight: If I know my music history and did the math right, it is humanly impossible that any of the original Platters are still able to create sounds with their vocal chords. I’m pretty sure the guys billed as “two of the original Platters” are animatronic.
2012: Niagara Falls/New York
Memorable moment: My little sister Lori rides with us on the back of my dad’s bike. On Day One, my dad, who recently had eye surgery, informs us that someone will need to give him twice-daily eye drops during the trip. I tell my dad that eye drops seem like a one-person operation.
The lowlight: Lori agreed to do the eye drops so quickly that I spend the entire trip worrying my dad will say something like: “Since Lori accepted the eye drop assignment, that leaves you, Steve, with the task of rubbing the medicated lotion on my feet every two hours.”
2013: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Memorable moment: Sure we see Monticello, and take a tour to view the Wild Horses of Corolla and the Wright Brothers National Memorial and the Lost Colony. but then we visit a museum in Virginia that holds The World’s Oldest Peanut!
The lowlight: The peanut looks very much like a regular peanut, except it has “1890” written on it.
Memorable moment: The Key Underwood Coon Dog Cemetery sits at the end of a gravel road in northwestern Alabama. My father hates riding on gravel. But I’m a grown adult, so you will follow me, old man! Half-way down the road, I see, or mostly don’t see, a giant pothole. I manage to drop the motorcycle, and myself, on the gravel road. My dad gets off his motorcycle and I hold up my forearm, which is scraped and bloody. My dad takes a picture, then puts his camera down slowly. “Um, I can see your arm bone,” he says.
The lowlight: My dad could see my arm bone.
2015: Sturgis II, Return To Sturgis
Memorable moment: We are pulling our motorcycles in my dad’s large enclosed trailer at 80 mph on I-90 in South Dakota. I look in my rearview mirror and immediately say something like: “Father, it is time for us to safely pull over onto the highway’s shoulder. I say that because I do believe our trailer, filled with our two precious Harley Davidsons, is on fire.”
The lowlight: That’s what I am saying in my head. In my mouth I’m saying “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” [Note: Everything turned out OK.]
2016: The Adirondacks
We are, maybe as you read this, riding our motorcycles through upper New York, possibly walking above the forest treetops at Tupper Lake’s Wild Walk or riding a bobsled simulator at Lake Placid or, heaven willing, revisiting that place where the bear rides a Segway.
The lowlight: Prediction: It will center on iceberg lettuce, or lack therof.