Bad dad: A short chronicle of a boy and his idiot motorcycle-riding father

Jun 16, 2017

Father’s Day celebrates the life and times of the man who taught you how to overcook a burger on a grill and check the oil in the car.

It’s a day to honor the figure in your life who showed you how to properly string together swear words. Father’s Day is dedicated to drinking beer with the parent who gave firsthand instruction on how to drink beer. For many, Dad explained how to shine shoes, and occasionally, he probably inspired some fear with a belt. As the sole Common Tread staffer with progeny, the Father's Day 2017 article assignment fell to me, causing me to think about my role as a (disappointment of a) father.

Stinky is the heir apparent to my rusty empire in its totality, which I think he dimly interprets as “Dad’s Realm of Bullshit.” I can often lure the boy into motorcycle-related hijinks with ice cream. When that fails, I resort to grounding. Motorcycling has brought us together in some of the awkward, meaningless ways that Hallmark simply chooses to ignore. The love between a father and child is as powerful as it is uncomfortable and inelegant. This Father's Day, I choose to embrace that love by telling some of the tales of idiocy my very own son has had to endure that involve two wheels.

2008

I authored the rules to The Motorcycle Game. Participation was mandatory. We have to shout “Motorcycle!” for each individual motorcycle we saw to obtain credit. Each bike carries a value of one point. Parked bikes do count. Wrongly calling out a scooter or trike as a motorcycle, however, results in a reduction of one point. All ties go to Stinky.

Ten years later, he’s still playing. Begrudgingly. He won when we were coming home from church last Sunday. It’s not so much the joy of winning that keeps him playing so much as the potential to enjoy witnessing my tantrums and crushed spirit that accompany my occasional defeat. 

Stinky and a six
Stinky has fine taste, just like his old man. Photo by Lemmy.

2013

My buddy Pete called me up and wanted to know if I wanted to ride to get lunch. I love lunch! (It’s in a three-way tie for first place as my favorite meal.) Mrs. Lemmy was off gettin’ her hair did.

“Stinky! Helmet! Let's go!”

Stinky climbed on the back of one of my old wrecks, and we hit the road. We rolled to a little divey place that makes a pretty mean grilled cheese. The place was a ghost town. We all ordered. Stinky selected a cheeseburger and the bartender didn’t want to give him one on the grounds that it was too big for him to eat. Stinky insisted he wanted one, and the bartender said no again and looked at me. (He had a point; Stinky wasn’t very big and had the same build as a broomstick.) I asked Stinky if he had The Hunger down inside him, and he gave me the nod. Ever since he was small, the rule has been “Take all you can eat, but eat all you take,” and he has abided by it unfailingly. I told the bartender it was OK, and Stink ordered his burger mid-rare, as is his custom. The bartender balked again. Even I was starting to get bothered now, so I waved him off. Fifteen minutes later, he returned with two burgers the size of my head and about fifteen potatoes’ worth of French fries.

Stinky housed it. I mean he straight-up annihilated this burger. (It was majestic. Pete still talks about it every now and then.) He belched. The bartender pretended not to notice. Stink farted on the saddle the whole way home about a million times, but I was still pretty proud of him. Holding your ground at age 11 ain’t easy. 

Polisher
Most people have an electric polisher. Pete says mine runs on Kraft Easy Mac and soda. Photo by Lemmy.

2014

I got the bright idea to put Stinky, a consummate klutz, on yet another motorcycle that I expected him to operate. Stinky had a minibike for a little bit, but the brakes were shaky at best. So far he’d crashed up the Doodlebug and a Suzuki ALT50. I thought a Yamaha PW80 would be just the ticket. After eight seconds, Stinky ran it right into the brush on the edge of the property and promptly refused to get back on. 

I stopped bugging him about riding a motorcycle. I still hope he changes his mind soon. It would be a shame to go to prom in a car if a bike was available. 

2015

“Kid, do you have any idea what I do for a living? At work?” 

“Uh, yeah. You fix motorcycles.” 

Whatever. Close enough. I build choppers, I race motorcycles, and I can still party. I am the "dirty guy" from RevZilla, but I am still Stinky's dad, and as such, I am decidedly lame. I'm pretty sure the only time I even nudge the "cool needle" is when I am willing to do doughnuts in the truck when he's with me and it's snowing. It's a small window each year.

2016

Stinky and I elected to take a ride on an old survivor chopper I got rolling. I kicked it to life, and told Stinkle to work the throttle if it started dying. I waltzed into the garage to get a screwdriver to turn up the idle. I heard the bike die and shook my head. When I turned around, what I saw caused me to break into a dead sprint: the bike was falling over on my son. It hadn't overpowered him just yet, but anyone with two eyes in their head could see he was real close to his physical limit of strength and endurance. I have no idea how he kept that bike upright, but little man got the job done. I pulled the bike up and he shimmied out. I apologized profusely, making sure he was OK. I thought it was stable when I turned away. 

“It wasn’t your fault. I tried to kick it, Dad. I let it die and I tried to get it running again, but it started to roll away. I caught it, but it was too heavy.”  

I’ve told him a million times: Do something. Anything. Don’t just stand there. I’ll take a wrong decision over indecision any day of the week. With its last gulp of fuel, a very old Harley presented my son with a dilemma, and he did something, just like his dad told him. Good work, kid. You're becoming a fine man.

Stinky
It feels like it was only a few weeks ago that I sat him on the tank for his first ride. He was too small to wrap his arms around fat Dad if he sat on the fender. Photo by Lemmy.

2017

Stinky has wanted a smartphone for quite while. I finally caved, even though his grades weren’t exactly where I wanted them to be. I told him he had to sweeten the pot for me, though. He countered by offering to spend some time with me to do some motorcycle stuff this summer. The kid’s gonna be on his own in two years. Yeah, I’ll take that offer. On Father’s Day, we’re going to pack up the cooler and Stink is coming to watch fat old Dad on the flat track. (Double points race!) He’ll probably eat about forty bucks worth of greasy cheeseburgers, complain the whole time, fart around with his phone, get bored, and roll his eyes when I ask him to help me with anything. 

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

Happy Father’s Day from a dad to the dads. Close the door on your way out, please. Were you raised in a barn? I’m not paying to heat and cool the Great Outdoors, thank you. Does it look like I’m made of money? Get your feet off that couch and mow the lawn like I told you.