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TonyBKK 09-02-2012 06:26 AM

Father and Son Road Trip- 9 States, 2 Months, 6500 Miles!
Father and Son Epic Summer Road Trip- 9 States, 12 National Parks, 2 Months, 6500 Miles!

My head is still spinning a bit from the fantastic summer I just spent with my beloved son. He's only 5 and I wasn't sure we could pull it off, but it went better than I could have imagined. :clap

I'd sought advice on this forum ( and others about how best to accomplish this trip and while I received a lot of good advice and constructive criticism, there were also a few folks who told me I was nuts to even consider such a journey with a five year old. So it was a big relief, but also a few tears when I dropped him off at his mom's house near Seattle undamaged and with enough stories to talk his mom's ears off.

I flew from Bangkok to Seattle at the end of June to pick up my son. On approach to SEATAC-

A happy reunion!

Here we're waiting for Grandma Kitty to pick us up at the Minneapolis airport- I hadn't seen my son since I had him over the Christmas/New Year Holidays- my how he has grown! He's pretty tall for his age; most people think he's 6 or 7.

From Seattle we flew to Minneapolis, MN to celebrate the 4th of July with his Grandma (my mom) and friends-

My son was very excited about the trip and is at the age where he's starting to be able to figure out maps and remember where the states are-

A little back story- I live in Thailand and my son was born here, but the marriage didn't work out and my Thai ex quickly found a new husband and meal ticket to the US. Breaks my heart to have my son so far away, but in my gut I have to admit that the US is probably a better place for him to grow up and receive an education. Don't get me wrong, Thailand is a fantastic place and I love it here, but it's a strange place to raise kids imo.

My son has been riding with me in Thailand since he was quite small and we've had some great adventures, and while we've ridden some considerable distances together, it's never been for more than a long weekend, so this would be our first BIG trip together.

For a trip of this distance and duration and for my son's safety and comfort I decided we'd need a big touring bike for this ride.

At the age of 5 my son has a tendency to nod off and so I needed to choose a bike that had passenger amenities that would preclude the possibility of my boy falling off!

While I've never owned and know very little about the big touring bikes I quickly zeroed in on the Goldwing GL1500 and found lots on Craigslist and Cycletrader that seemed like they'd fit the bill. I'd made arrangements to see a bunch in and around the Twin Cities, yet after days of wasting my time looking at bike after bike with issue after issue I widened my search parameters and wound up with this beauty-
2005 BMW K1200LT :D

First thing I needed to do was add some footpeg risers since pretty much every state on our itinerary had a statute requiring a pillion's feet to be on the pegs-
Some PVC plumbing pipe and caps from the hardware store, some hardware, silicone sealant and a rattle can of paint that was a pretty close match to the bike and she's sorted. A good fit for the little guy and gives us a bit more storage space too!

Next I added a seatbelt and shoulder harness as my son has always had a habit of falling asleep on or in any moving vehicle-
Kind of hard to see in the pic above, but I picked up 2" webbing for the seatbelt and 1" webbing for the shoulder harness along with buckles and all the other parts at Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis- man I LOVE that store!!

We delayed our departure by a few days on account of the heat wave that brought triple digit temperatures to much of the US over the 4th of July, but by the 6th a cold front had moved in and we were ready to hit the road!

Huge thanks to my friends Jeremy and Stephanie for letting us use their home and garage as a staging area. Steph got some nice pics of us on our morning of departure-

Ready to roll!

Bye bye Minneapolis!!

To be continued!!!

TonyBKK 09-02-2012 03:57 PM

My plan for this trip was pretty flexible - I wanted to keep our days short, never more than 300 miles or 5 hours in the saddle. Goal for day one was to reach the Lake Vermillion Recreation Area that is just past Sioux Falls, SD-
Trying to avoid interstate as much as possible on this ride, but to get across South Dakota we'll have to hit the I-90 at least until we reach the Badlands.

What a beautiful day!! After so many months of planning it's feels so good to finally be on our way. I forgot how beautiful the midwest is in the summer.

Feeling Minnesota :evil

Breakfast stop at McD's in Jordan, MN

Yeah, I know it's not a terribly healthy choice, but my kid just loves the play areas and while he's off in the hamster cage (see above) I have a bit of time to check emails and play with Google Maps and upload some pictures.

We've not the only bike on the road, but we're carrying the most luggage! :wink:

Self portrait :lol3

Random views from the road-

I'm diggin the proliferation of wind farms-

I90 West

Lots of other bikes on the road. I'd guesstimate 90% Harleys, 9% Goldwings, 1% "other"

On some of the forums I joined to plan for this ride people recommended I pull a trailer. I am SOOOO happy that I did not listen to that advice :lol3

A little spot of rain. Certainly not enough to dampen our spirits!

My co-pilot was all smiles :D

Welcome to South Dakota!

Thought about stopping at the Mitchell Corn Palace but decided to press on-

Approaching Sioux Falls

We made excellent time to Sioux Falls and found a nice camp site at Lake Vermillion Recreation Area in the early afternoon. Nice spot with a big lake, hot showers, a huge playground, and not very crowded- perfect!

Let's go swimming!!

Really nice playground at the Lake Vermillion site-

Welcome to our home for the next ~7 weeks :rofl

Day 1 complete! So far so good!

TonyBKK 09-02-2012 04:05 PM

Doh... seems I'll need to re-size some of the pics... :eek1 Does advrider have an auto-resize function?? :deal

Seems not... And it's not possible to go in and edit the code to resize either... Hmmm... this is a bit of a drag...

rockinrog 09-02-2012 04:07 PM

Looks like a great ride. Im in:lurk

rockinrog 09-02-2012 04:09 PM


Originally Posted by TonyBKK (Post 19504428)
Doh... seems I'll need to re-size some of the pics... :eek1 Does advrider have an auto-resize function?? :deal

Not that I know of. I have always used photobucket and just copy the IMG link and pasted it in.

TonyBKK 09-02-2012 06:58 PM

Back in the day I used to be a hiking and camping fiend, but I must confess that it's been years since I've cooked on a camp stove. My organizational skills obviously need work, but hey, we've got the whole summer for me to get my act together ;)

One of the things that is so much fun about a 5 year old is that almost everything is new, and you get to re-experience the joy and wonder of discovery through their eyes. Take Spaghettios for example- my son's new favorite food :rofl
They didn't have Alphabet Spagettios when I was a kid! I was (am) a bit shocked at how poor my son's reading and writing has become since he moved to the US. In Thailand I sent him to a good bilingual pre-school and he had his roman alphabet and Thai characters down pat and could write his name quite legibly. Since moving to the US he's just languished in day care, where they do arts and crafts but no reading and writing and for some reason his mom has stopped speaking to him in Thai... What a waste. Growing up bilingual would be such a plus! OK, rant over :wink:

I hope you will note that I do do my best to try and provide the little guy with a fairly healthy diet despite the occasional McD or can of Spagettios. That said, when you're traveling on the road the temptation to hit a fast food joint if often hard to resist.

Of course we must celebrate our first night under the stars with a proper desert- S'Mores baby! :clap

Watch out little guy- that's a hot fire!

It's a trip how late it stays light in the midwest in July. I think we were cooking smores over the fire around 8pm and the sun doesn't set until after 9!

Yeah baby!

I told Kristhawee that this was his opportunity to practice clean eating before we get into bear country...

Well, it's a work in progress ;)

This kid sure can eat! He had a big dinner yet still managed to put away 4 smores without even getting sick :puke1

I must confess that I matched him smore for smore (I'm not sure I could even find marshmallows and graham crackers here in Thailand...) :evil

Is this smore #4?!

Dang, posting these pics is making me hungry!! :wink:

Our leftovers are safely guarded ;)

Good night my prince. Sweet dreams!

TonyBKK 09-03-2012 12:02 AM

Good morning! Day 2 of our father and son epic ride begins!

Get your pants on quick- I'm dangerous with a camera and this could come back to haunt you when you're a teenager ;)

Breakfast is served :evil
Cheddar scrambled eggs, baby carrots and Kristhawee snuck a marshmallow too >.<

Today's destination: Badlands National Park!

The theme of today's ride is "ROAD SIGNS"! (Because if you've ever traveled through Eastern South Dakota on the I-90 you know that there is pretty much NOTHING else to see...) :lol3

Wall Drug is an institution! For someone who's never been there it's quite difficult to explain just what the heck all the fuss is about, but since it's beginning as a small drugstore in the tiny town of Wall in 1931 it's grown into what the New York Times describes as, "a sprawling tourist attraction of international renown [that] takes in more than $10 million a year and draws some two million annual visitors to a remote town".<sup id="cite_ref-Hustead_obit_0-0" class="reference"></sup>"

I later read that Wall Drug spends close to to half a million dollars a year on their infamous billboards which are located around the world but become more and more common the closer you get to the town of Wall.

Badlands National Park only has one campground, and it's a bit miserable, no trees, no shade, close to the road and very exposed. I was told that the nearby KOA in White River is just 4 miles from the park, infinitely more pleasant and sports trees, grass, WiFi, a playground and even a pool. Yeah, that's the ticket!

Wall Drug!
What 5 year old boy isn't in to dinosaurs? This billboard certainly piqued my son's interest.

Harvey Dunn? Had to look that one up- a famous painter from South Dakota apparently...

Well, I don't know if I'd go so far as to call a visit to Wall Drug "Priceless", but it did sum up quite well my feelings about spending the entire summer with my son. I feel so very fortunate that I could take the time off from work and take him on this adventure. The memories and the experience are absolutely priceless!

Kristhawee kept asking when would we see a real cowboy. I promised him it wouldn't be long.

The exciting view as you head west on the I-90. Zzzzzz... Have never ridden a bike with cruise control before. Have to say, that for stretches like this, it does come in handy.


Other businesses have tried to imitate Wall Drug's advertising style too-

I guess imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery?

Oh, I should mention, I've got a strange fascination for old derelict buildings, especially barns, so you'll be seeing quite a few in this report... :wink:

This smelled like a bit of a tourist trap, and anyway we're on a bike so it's out of the question, but my son was excited to see his first "bear"... :lol3

My son and I had intercoms in our helmets so we could chat and listen to music and we quickly started a game where whoever would see something "different" would shout it out. So it would be something like "BARN!" or "COW!" or in this case---

A silly funny game that we played all summer long :lol3

Nightstrom 09-03-2012 10:03 AM

I may be a little nervous with my son when he was younger, but I would have been tempted to take him as well. My wife doesnt care for motorcycling, so thats where the brakes come on:D. No matter what, you are creating an experience with his father that he will remember for the rest of his life! When he is an old man, and your long gone, he will think about this trip and how much he misses you. I hope you have a ton of fun!:thumb

Kingsqueak 09-03-2012 10:08 AM

Great story, keep it going. Thanks for sharing.

TonyBKK 09-03-2012 05:29 PM

Woohoo! We're getting closer! Only 126 more miles to the Badlands!

Crossing the Missouri River- a welcome change of scenery!

My son is doing great!

Am I going overboard with the Wall Drug signs? :huh

The Wall Drug billboards just keep coming

Quite beautiful these big open spaces- especially since it was a wet spring so everything is still green-

Not too far past the Misouri River we stopped at the 1880 Town for lunch in their 50's Train Diner-

A bit windy-

My son is way into trains so he was all over this place! This 1950's Santa Fe Train originally ran from Chicago to California before coming to rest at the 1880 Town. They had pretty decent grub and the train cars were full of old train memorabilia.

Chili Dog for dad

Grilled Cheese for my little guy-

His first taste of Mellow Yellow, you might not guess it from the pic, but he loves this stuff :1drink

Father and son-

Exploring the train-

Ready to roll!

"Wallways in Season"?! Too much! :puke1

Wall Drug's 5 cent coffee is no joke- it really exists, and when your camping and surviving on instant coffee it's really not all that bad! :D

Wall Drug- Since 1931!

Lots of other bikes out on the interstate- mostly Harleys

Got a chuckle out of this one: "Help manage your wildlife, WEAR FUR" :rofl

Getting closer!

Buffalo Gap National Grassland

Here's our exit!

Badlands, then Wall Drug. Sounds good to me :D

Woohoo! We made it! Welcome to the Badlands National Park!

My little guy has certainly never seen anything like this before!


TonyBKK 09-03-2012 09:22 PM

We made good time and it's still early afternoon and I'm keen to get to the campground and unload our stuff and then return to the park in the evening when the colors really pop, so we just snap a few more pics, drink some water, then jump back on the bike-
We were pretty lucky to hit the Badlands between heat waves. It can be crazy-hot there during the summer months.

Random pics taken as we ride the "short way" through the Badlands on our way to the White River KOA via the tiny little town of Interior-

Middle of the day the colors tend to be a bit washed out which is why I was keen to set up camp and return in the late afternoon.

Sometimes my Canon Powershot D10 surprises me though and does get the colors- I just set it on auto and let her rip-

I learned on this trip that KOA's come in many different flavors and it pays to do a bit of research. Some cater almost exclusively to the RV crowd and are quite dreadful, others are much more tent friendly. The White River KOA falls in the later category :D

As advertised- lots of trees, green grass, a nice cold pool, playground, slow as molasses WiFi (common to all KOA's I've learned), etc.

Ok, another quick rant- why can't my kid swim anymore?! He was a water baby from the age of 2 months and was swimming and surfing back in Thailand. WTF happened?!

From catching waves in Thailand at age 4-

To floundering in the deep end at age 5-

So I quiz the little guy about why he can't swim anymore and he tells me that, "There are no swimming pools in New York". :eek1

Who told you that nonsense??

"Mom" :huh

Grrrr, ok, rant over. Our goal this summer is to get you swimming again!! :evil

I thought swimming was like riding a bicycle... Apparently not... C'mon Kristhawee- you can do it!

Cdc28p 09-03-2012 10:38 PM

What a trip!
Thank you for sharing with us. What a lucky boy to have a father like you! You've inspired me to do something similar when my kids are a bit older--they are still much younger than yours.

W4lnutz 09-03-2012 11:12 PM

hey man sorry to hear about the lady problems and I hope you can make up for the lost time with your boy.

I know you both need it!

great write up thanks for sharing

TonyBKK 09-04-2012 04:07 AM

Some pictures of the White Horse KOA's old skool playground-

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My boy LOVES to swing :clap

Our menu for this evening- not exactly haute cuisine, but then I can't cook worth a damn and what kid doesn't love hot dogs? And he has no idea what a Jiffy Pop is- this should be fun! :evil

A couple more pics of our camp site- not too shabby for a KOA :evil

The sun still doesn't set until around 9pm so after dinner we jump on the bike and head back to the Badlands to check out the evening colors-

Beware Rattlesnakes! :eek1 (So of course, my son decides he REALLY wants to see one...)

Sunrise and sunset seem to be the best time to admire the badlands-

I took Kristhawee to the Fossil Loop Trail- it's short and easy and the ride there is spectacular.

Seems he's more the off-road type ;)

Did my best to scout around and make sure there were no snakes!

Easy to forget you're on planet earth here

King of the World! :clap

Forced him to sit still for a couple father-son pics

What a great kid!

Getting grubby like only a 5 year old can :wink:

After walking the Fossil Trail my son had it in his head that he would go find some fossils. I told him it's not really that easy, but he wanted to try all the same. Go for it!

Still King of the World!

Sun is sinking lower. Can you spot my kid?

Sun has set behind these hills-

Still looking for fossils :evil

Found any yet??

Points for effort!!

Sun still shining on some hills to the south of us-

Amazing views and hardly anyone around-

Our mighty steed looks pretty good in this light-

Time to head back to our campground and call it a night. Tomorrow we ride to the Black Hills! :clap

Klaharn 09-04-2012 05:25 AM

Hi Tony,

like much of your and son trip.

I live in Sattahip, Chonburi, Thailand. hope to see you here.:rofl

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