This article ran in the Ride West BMW customer e-zine last month, and I thought it was pretty powerful and should be repeated here.
The Motorcycle Chats with GM Dave Swezey. This month – father and son motorcycle trips.
DP: Dave, I’ve enjoyed a few two and three day rides with my son Will, but I know you have taken several long trips with your son – most recently a 5100 mile dual sport ride – which is almost beyond my comprehension. How did it go?
DS: We honestly had a fantastic time…OK there were a few moments of “Hey dad, we really need to talk about our communication and decisions”
When our two sons were young, I would take each of them on a separate backpacking trip every summer and it was amazing father-son bonding experience. Sometime around 5th or 6th grade, I told each son that after they graduated from high school and before graduating from college, I would take them anywhere in the world they choose to visit. My older son Trevor and I went to New Zealand for three weeks. Brent chose a motorcycle trip for us together on our own bikes. I’ve ridden a lot of miles in the last 10 years but to plan, travel, explore, and share this experience with my son was very special.
DP: What were you riding?
DS: This year we both rode BMW F800GS’s. We rode somewhere around 1750 miles of gravel on this trip, including the Magruder Corridor in Idaho, southern Montana to southern Colorado on the Continental Divide Ride where we bailed off to tackle 13,000 ft Engineers Pass from Lake City to near Ouray south on the Million Dollar Highway. Then we explored several cliff dwellings like Mesa Verde. The following day we took in Hovenweep, the “4 Corners”, Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods, Moki Dugway, Muley Point, and finally rode down into Halls Crossing on Lake Powell at 9pm. After an early morning ferry ride across to Bullfrog Landing we took the Burr Trail into Boulder, the ridge road to Escalante where we met the “Desert Doctor.” Honestly this is a guy you want to meet if you have any bike problems. He will fix any bike and is a very colorful character. Somewhere in Colorado Brent comes on my intercom and says “Dad, I want to ride the dunes in Oregon.” So from Escalante we took “Hells Backbone” north and into Moab for a couple of days at the 2011 RawHyde GS Challenge, and then 1300 miles in two days to the Reedsport on the Oregon coast where we rented a couple of quads and tore it up for a few hours.
I used to ride three-wheelers in the dunes every year but hadn’t been back for 25 years. It brought back a lot of great memories and it was a great way to end our trip. We super-slabbed it in the rain all the way back to Seattle and other than a brief thunderstorm in Montana and a bit of rain heading to Denver it was the only wet weather we had the entire 5100 miles.
DP: For our trips, which are on pavement and involve merely staying at motels, we used a BMW K 1300S with sport bags, and a Venture rack system for the Triumph. What did you do to the two BMWs you used, and what was added for this trip?
DS: My F800GS is usually parked here at the shop and as many will attest to, it has pretty well been “farkled” to the max but with a very specific list of dualsport related components. My son and I reviewed many of the components on our bikes and came up with this list of the most important items: A stout skid plate and engine guards (we bashed a lot of rocks going over Engineers Pass!), good hand guards, a Mud Sling (which kept all the Wyoming red clay from packing into the rear shocks during our 3 hour, 3 mile mud fest), spare fuel (RotoPax’s) which we needed, a GPS and maps, Rigid auxiliary lights (these LED wonder lights saved our butts during a nighttime, wet, slick, ride over a “closed” logging road into Steamboat Springs!), and good dualsport tires like the TKC80’s or Heidenau K60’s.
DP: How much planning was involved by each of you?
DS: Hmm…This is one area in which I struggled. I enjoy the planning and packing part of the trip almost as much as the actual trip but Brent is less structured. I did provide him with a couple of different packing lists to use and we agreed on a general direction but I finally decided that the best plan was for me to be prepared for both of us and then let the trip just happen.
I must admit that at the end of the trip when we each inspected what we brought, Brent definitely packed less but used everything he packed.
DP: My favorite memory of a trip with my son was sitting around a camp fire outside a small motel one evening and sharing a pizza and chatting about nothing of much importance. What is yours?
DS: We were on the road for 15 days and we only spent 5 or 6 nights in motels so the evenings that we camped and sat around the fire, checked out the Milky Way, counted the satellites, watched the shooting stars, and just talked about each others dreams was definitely one of my favorite times. The other was watching how comfortable and wonderful Brent was about engaging other travelers and asking questions about their travels and leaning about their life stories.
DP: The only concern I have had in riding with my son was a two day trip last year where we headed off over Highway 2 in a pouring rain. Will had not ridden any motorcycle in a year, and had never ridden my Speed Triple before, which is a rather unforgiving machine. He had no problems, but I was worried for quite some time. What concerns have you had on trips with your son?
DS: My biggest concern is always for our mutual safety. It really became quite a joke when I kept saying “Be Careful.” I’m sure he was keeping track so I made sure to add “I love you” so that he wouldn’t complain too much about me being over protective! Eventually, I started to relax. One item that really helped was that we were using bike to bike intercoms and on many, many occasions (especially in very rough terrain) we were able to give each other a timely “heads-up” regarding the trail, or cows in the road, or rocks, or decreasing radius corners.
DP: I have been surprised at how carefully my son rides, and how he has no problem riding at a pace he finds comfortable while I may be creating a gap ahead by choosing a higher speed. He shows self-discipline I did not have at his age, and I am not sure I have now. Has your son surprised you with his riding?
DS: Absolutely! Brent has always been my “two-up” riding buddy until last year when he got his first street bike, a 1999 BMW F650 Funduro, which he quickly outgrew during last fall’s mostly street tour of Eastern Oregon. During last year’s ride, which was really his first long ride, he learned a lot on his Funduro. He rode his F800GS a lot this spring and summer and I was amazed at how comfortable he was in almost all conditions. As I mentioned in last months newsletter, I believe in and am very serious about getting as much training as possible. Brent has taken several street and dualsport courses and I am a fortunate dad, because Brent actually asked me on multiple occasions to help him with anything I saw about his riding that he could improve.
DP: Some folks insist on GPS systems and other mod cons for trips like this, whereas I am a troglodyte and rely only on paper maps and the fun of occasionally getting lost. You, however, were often on dirt roads far from pretty much anywhere. What systems did you use for knowing where you were?
DS: I am still pretty slow to embrace only using a GPS so I also rely on good maps. The combination seems to work well for me but while on the Continental Divide Ride, you definitely need the GPS tracks to stay on course.
DP: How do you suppose trips like this would be different if you were riding with a daughter?
DS: I really don’t imagine that they would be a lot different. I would still worry, would still over-plan, would still over-pack, and still have a fabulous time.
DP: How would such a trip be different if both of your sons went along?
DS: My older son Trevor is an avid rock climber and this morning we were talking about him getting a bike, but we agreed that there is only so much time for hobbies and sometimes you have to choose and dedicate your time to your passions. Both Brent and I said on several occasions that it would have been really great to have Trev along. Now if I can talk my wife into joining us it will be perfect!
DP: Any advice you can share with other Dads (and Moms) who might be contemplating such a trip?
DS: Don’t put it off. Put it on the calendar and plan your life around it. The experience of sharing this type of riding adventure with your son or daughter, whether it is for the weekend or riding for several weeks, will mean more to each of you than a lifetime of “I wish I had done that.” And finally, I learned a lot about just relaxing and enjoying the experience and the journey with my son. It is not always about how much you plan, or the direction you go, but the moments you share and who you meet along the way.