Road Trippin' with Pops

Getting my dad on his first cruiser and preparing for a road trip north!

roger gales
Roger Gales and the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom that he's been learning cruiser-style riding onMorgan Gales

Starting on this story a month before we even leave for our trip doesn’t feel strange to me at all; I feel like I started working on it 11 years ago when my dad sold me his old 1985 Honda Elite as my first vehicle. My dad and I had never had very much in common, outwardly anyway. It was pretty much just a love for motorcycles and people that we shared. He has worked as a missionary or pastor my whole life, choosing to work helping people, and well… I’ve always been a heathen, so naturally I ended up in motorcycling.

On the outside, we couldn’t be more different. He likes to ride bicycles, swim, wake up early, and take long contemplative walks on the beach having deep and meaningful conversations and prayers. I like to spend my time at bike shows and events or out on the road, drinking and partying, working on my little knickknacks and hobbies, and generally throwing caution to the wind in pursuit of a good time right now. He writes sermons, I write bike reviews. I always saw a larger gap between the two of us than there really is, and a lot of that had to do with my teenage angst and rebellion, I know that now. We both live our lives with a lot of passion and love people we’ve never met. The fact is, we’re a lot more similar than I liked to acknowledge back in the day, and now I see that as a good thing.

I want to spend some time shoulder to shoulder with the man who did so much to make me who I am, now, while we can. It’s an opportunity that I saw a tiny window for, and I ran at it—taking some time off to make sure we could both make it happen.

When I first brought it up to him, he was so stoked and seemed surprised that I even wanted to do a trip like this. He hears all my stories and knows that inviting him along would change my traveling/riding style as he doesn’t have as much experience, but gearing him up for the ride was a big part of what I was so excited for. He had only even ridden dual-sport or enduro bikes in the past, so I knew getting him on a cruiser or a bagger might prove to be a bit of a challenge at first. He had nothing against the style, just something that he wasn’t used to riding. Luckily for us, I had a Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom here at the office—a bike I would deem one of the best beginner cruiser bikes a guy can get. So I hit up Kawi to ask if it was cool if Pops got a little seat time.

He loved it. Obviously having your seat lower and your feet out in front of you was a totally new sensation for him, but getting out on two wheels for the first time since he was forced to sell his BMW F650GS five years ago—you could see the excitement all over his face. I loaned him a helmet that was set up with Sena comms, so we were able to talk as we rode around town together on his maiden cruiser voyage.

“Dad, I don’t see ya, you all good?”

“Yeah, Morg! Just a few cars back, I can catch up!”

It was starting! We were on the way. We got the bike for him for three weeks, giving him free reign to run around wherever, taking my mom out on little rides up the coast and just getting used to the new, unfamiliar riding position. Next week, we are stepping him up to the Indian Scout that he will be taking out on our road trip, and loading it up with a handful of accessories to make the trip a little more comfortable. I’m looking forward to the time installing those pieces in the garage almost as much as I am looking forward to the miles we’ll be putting on those bikes after, but with a little nervous apprehension.

I have this vision of an awesome father-and-son trip, and I see it coming together and hope that it’s all I’m imagining it will be. But I also have to acknowledge, if only to myself, the reasons why I moved out of the house as soon as I possibly could. We’ve come a long way since then and gotten a lot better at understanding each other, but this is going to be some close contact for an extended period of time. I’m nervous—hell, I bet he’s nervous too. I can be a s—thead. He knows that better than most. He doesn’t like when I drink or smoke, and I’m not going cold turkey while camping and living on the road for a week, even if it is with my dad. I’m probably getting ahead of myself and too deep into my own head. It’s going to be fine, right? Maybe he won’t say anything about me needing to get my sh-t together? God, I hope he doesn’t talk too much about God.

Check out Part Two: Parts Installation and Gearing Up