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Oddchester: Annual rides build lasting memories

This will mark the 12th 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, hopped a dozen ferries.

More importantly, though, we have stood inside the world's largest bucket, been chased by The Wolfman of New Hampshire, driven the highest paved road in North America, watched a bear ride a Segway, slept three-to-a-room in a hostel in West Virginia called the Purple Fiddle, and gazed upon The World's Oldest Peanut.

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 11 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, he says, "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. And the guy keeps and — I can't stress this enough — HITTING THE BEAR IN THE BUTT WITH A LONG STICK.

The lowlight: The bear was roughly 60 feet away and walking, I guess, at five miles per hour. Which means he would have been within eating-me distance in just over eight seconds. I did all this math much later, because, at the time, I was 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!"


2008: Colorado

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 swear I could hear champagne corks popping in the background — 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.

OK. I'm out of space, and I haven't even gotten to The World's Oldest Peanut. Next week, I'll wrap up with the final six years of trips (2011-2016), which include a motorcycle trailer fire, the rubbing of medicated lotion on my dad's feet, and an exposed arm bone (mine). And those are the highlights.

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