Photo provided by Dustin Butler

By Dustin Butler

Last year my dad asked me to ride to Sturgis with him. He was diagnosed with a rare incurable cancer in June of 2012. With aggressive chemo, he’s now in remission and created a bucket list. Riding to the rally with his son was one of those buckets.

I had only ridden about a dozen times in the past. Typically, I would get my permit knowing that I’d only ride a few times a year and the distance wasn’t far.

On the flip side, my dad has two bikes, and offered me his 2003 100th Anniversary Heritage Softail while he’d jockey his 2004 Ultra Classic. Obviously we thought it would be a good idea that I get my license for the trip.

I sought my training at Rider Academy. The school was great – classrooms, riding course and bikes. Signing up was easy, the instructor was awesome and very knowledgeable, and taking part was fun.

Still, to be honest, I had some initial trepidation. Would I not remember the information? Would I be able to ride? Would I fail? It all worked out. License in hand, I was ready to experience Sturgis just a week after completing the course.

I know – leaving for what some riders consider to be the Mecca of motorcycling, on a big Harley, as a virtual novice …

Luckily, my dad is a great confidence builder. So, despite the fact that I was riding a much larger bike than I ever had, and the trip was much further than I had ever traveled on two wheels, I felt my personal confidence growing as we rumbled westward across the back roads of South Dakota.

And that’s when I felt “it.” Being in the open with a 180-degree view, road flying by below my feet, the wind pounding my body and the roar of the bike. I had never been in that place before, and not to sound cliché, but that’s when I felt the freedom of the open road.

The next five days and 1,650 miles made for a great adventure.

When we got home, my dad told me that he hoped it wasn’t a once in a lifetime trip. He also told me he figured I would have dropped the bike at least once.  Funny guy.

Now, as I write this and reflect back, I can’t help but think that it truly was a once in a lifetime trip. But it won’t be the last. I can’t wait for the snow to melt. I look forward to putting on a few more miles wheel-to-wheel with dad.



  1. What a great experience. I lost my dad to leukemia 2 months ago. I always planned to, but never got a chance to do something like this with him. One of my biggest regrets in life was waiting until things weren’t so hectic, or I had a little more money, or [insert other excuse here]. Enjoy your time with him. Losing my father has been devastating and, with the exception of my wife and kids, I would give up everything I have to be able to have done something like this with him.

  2. Thanks for the note Jason. Dustin says he and his dad are planning another venture this summer. Hang in there … maybe, one day, you can make a poignant journey for him rather than with him. All the best.

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