Going East: A Father, Son, and Some Well-Earned Silence

May 20, 2018 View Comments by

Father and Son Ride on Indian Motorcycles

It was a rough ride down Interstate 78. Old ladies slowly drifting too far beyond the road surface markings. Big, V8-powered trucks switching lanes to lodge their tailgates a breath from Justin’s handlebars. His father, “The Captain,” would growl into his Sena headset, forgetting he had an audience on the other end of his microphone, threatening to pummel the next ballsy jerk who dared cut off his son. Coupe after sedan after coupe of millennials texting and lip-synching and vaping with no concern for their fellow man, let alone his well-being. The roads felt unusually dangerous. Yes, there are inconsiderate motorists in every region, but these travelers appeared a bit more detached—as if every vehicle was a vessel plying open ocean, and anyone else who came into sight was a pirate invading their private sea lanes. This made The Captain all the more uneasy, if not furious. Over 1,800 miles were behind them, and he wouldn’t tolerate an accident when they were so near the finish …

Planning the trip had gone almost as “smoothly” as taking it. Getting the Old Man to firm up a date was like pulling teeth, according to Justin, who thought a buddy trip up the East Coast to visit monuments, music scenes, and historical sites aboard Indian motorcycles would spark his father’s interest. And it seemed that it had. David Coffey, The Captain, is a history buff, but all the same, a certified procrastinator. He’d agreed to the plan for several weeks, months even, and yet only a week out, he still hadn’t booked his flight to Daytona Beach, their launching point. Stress and a ticking clock aren’t unfamiliar elements on trips that Justin and The Captain have shared. But every experience to date, despite the spats and the moaning and delays, has been memorable. Even spectacular. And it takes equal parts father and son to make these adventures stories worth telling friends back home.

They were dropped off at the Daytona Beach Indian Motorcycle dealership to pick up a 2017 Springfield and Chieftain. With bad music at full blast, the Coffeys then headed due north. The Springfield was, to date, the biggest, bulkiest bike The Captain had ever ridden. And his first ride was an ambitious six-hour, 256-mile cruise from Daytona Beach to Savannah, GA. No time to prep, really. Now was the time to journey, and it was best for them to stick to the side roads and become properly acquainted with their new machines. The first leg was slow, and they liked it that way, cruising up Highway 1 from Daytona Beach into St. Augustine for some incredible gringo fish tacos and an equally valued chicken burrito at Mojo’s Tacos.


The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, Leeds, Alabama


Atlanta was their next destination by way of Savannah. Their friend, a metalsmith and jeweler, waited for them in his workshop – a tiny room tucked near the rafters of a large garage. Steve West, creator of Silver Piston, greeted them with warm, southern hospitality, gave a tour, then took them up the steps to his workspace filled with orders from customers clamoring to possess his custom Americana-themed accessories. The Coffeys weren’t there by chance. The Captain was about to receive a finely crafted Hobo Nickel cigar ring Justin had commissioned as a gift. This encounter led to long conversations about old bikes, future endeavors, and the journey that lay ahead: Where to next? The Barber Motorsports Museum. That place is fantastic! Where do you end the trip? New Jersey. What else do you plan to see along the way? Whatever there’s time for—Nashville, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Monticello, D.C., and Gettysburg if there’s time.

Parting ways with Steve and Atlanta after breakfast, the Coffeys rolled on to Birmingham, where The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum was everything they hoped to find—a richly diverse collection of engine-powered sport spanning history and continents, arrayed artistically for just $15 per visitor. David and Justin paid particular attention to the exhibits featuring Indian motorcycles, comparing the old to the new—a recurring theme they often pondered those few weeks. How the heritage of the Indian brand has persisted over a century and created innumerable opportunities for so many others to forge enduring father-son experiences like theirs. The Springfield and Chieftain capably carried them to notable landmarks of America’s past: Dr. Martin Luther King’s grave in Atlanta, the Smoky Mountains, Monticello, the heart of D.C., and finally to Gettysburg.


Father and Son Ride on Indian Motorcycles


Their Indians rode smoothly, performed reliably, induced great pleasure, and drew gawkers with their mod, Art Deco looks throughout the trip. But that’s not what matters in this story about bonding and travel. Tire tracks were lain across 2,000 miles of the East Coast and far-reaching memories were mapped. A father at 64, inspired by his son’s ambitions and curiosities, had only recently begun to ride motorcycles again, on-road and off, after 40-plus years away from them. And his son, seizing an opportunity that could be lost at any time, ventured forth side-by-side with his lifelong mentor. They could’ve just watched a hockey game, driven to the coast, or gone hunting. Instead, they chose to test their limits, learn something new, eat something odd, and strike up conversations with strangers.

… Their big trip was almost at its end, but first they had to make it down I-78 to drop off the motorcycles at a dealer in Lebanon, NJ. If only they could get there. The Captain’s blood was boiling by now, and they only had a few miles to go before the exit. He cursed the East Coast freeways one last time before Justin reminded him that he could always be safe, comfortable, bored even, in his ergonomic office chair avoiding work for an afternoon, and cruising the information superhighway with a click of a mouse instead of a paved highway with the roar of an engine. Silence over the headset spoke loudly to Justin. He grinned, satisfied.

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