Spin cycle: Father and son travel America's back roads

By Brian Cox

Legal News

Attorney Eric Lundquist was 30 miles from anywhere. He sat under a tree alongside the Alaska Highway smoking a cigar in the middle of the Yukon wilderness. He was not much worried about bears. But he was a little.

His BMW motorcycle was parked on the two-lane highway's shoulder, useless. The master link on the bike's chain had broken when Lundquist hit a frost bump. It was a turn of bad fortune, for sure, but Lundquist had two things in his favor. One, he was traveling with his father, Eric Lundquist Sr., so he was not alone, and two, his father had put himself through college as a motorcycle mechanic, experience that was going to come in handy.

His father made a roughly 140-mile round trip to the nearest BMW dealership to get the repair part, replaced the master link roadside, and the pair was back on their bikes to finish their trek into Alaska.

It was the second cross-country trip Lundquist and his father had made on motorcycle. The first adventure came after Lundquist's father had a quadruple bypass and mentioned that when he recovered he would like to ride his motorcycle from Key West to Alaska.

"I gave up my plans of sailing around the world in a sailboat," Lundquist Sr. says wryly.

Lundquist took his father up on the idea and in 2001 they hauled their bikes -- a 1973 BMW and a 1995 BMW -- to Key West and then rode back north to Detroit, taking back roads and staying in mom-and-pop motels. They recall one day riding 560 miles in chilling rain and fog through the Blue Ridge Mountains. And while that may have been a miserable experience, father and son agree that from the saddle of a motorcycle is a wonderful way to see the country.

"In a car, you never get the same experience as on a bike," says Lundquist's father. "You smell it, you feel it, you hear it."

After that initial trip, the Lundquist men over the next decade made rides from Detroit to Alaska and from California to Detroit, south to Mississippi and east to Washington, D.C., stopping at any Frank Lloyd Wright building they came across or any other point of interest that caught their fancy.

In 2005, their 12-day jaunt to Alaska, took them west across the northern states, tracing in part the path of Lewis and Clark's 1804 expedition, before they reached Seattle and turned north to ride up through British Columbia and then cut across the Yukon.

In South Dakota and Montana, Lundquist was struck by the expanse of sky.

"It's really stupefying to see how big the sky is," he says. "It's kind of the reverse of a mountain. You can only experience it by being there. There's no substitute."

At the end of that trip, the bikes were stored in Seattle for service and then shipped to Lake Elsinor, Calif., where a friend agreed to keep them for a year.

In 2007, Lundquist and his father hooked up with their bikes in San Ysidro, Calif., and headed east, following the historic Route 66, crossing desert and mountains, stopping to take in the Grand Canyon.

"It was so amazing it looked fake," recalls Lundquist, a 1999 graduate of Michigan State University College of Law who primarily practices bankruptcy law with his wife Michelle in Macomb County.

The following year, father and son headed south for a bite to eat. They rode to Lorman, Miss., to sample Old Country Store's signature deep-fried chicken, which garnered praise and gained renown on the Food Channel.

"My family is a connoisseur of fried chicken," says Lundquist. "We decided the Old Country Store's was the second greatest in the world. Mom's is the best."

This summer the Lundquists went east, visiting Washington, D.C. and Civil War sites such as Gettysburg and taking a wrong turn in Wilmington, Del., that took them to the bad-side of town.

The two men have story after story of their trips. Lundquist was almost killed by a falling boulder in Alaska. They saw wind farms stretching from horizon to horizon in Palm Springs. The carburetor needle on Lundquist's bike broke in Wyoming and they had to ride two days to find a BMW dealership in Montana. In Holly Pond, Ala., in the heart of Dixie, they overheard two men in a coffee shop discussing how they were going to vote for Barack Obama and marveled at how times have changed. They were stricken by food poisoning in Alaska. They saw herds of wild buffalo and American bald eagles in Yellowstone National Park.

For his father's latest birthday, Lundquist gave him a photo album chronicling their travels together across America. He titled it "The Motorcycle Trips 2001-2011: A Decade of Touring the United States and Canada on Two Wheels."

Their next trip will complete their mission of hitting the four corners of the country when they travel to Maine, but it won't be their last trip. That is reserved for Hawaii, where the whole family will join them to celebrate the conclusion of riding in all 50 states.

"These trips really give a perspective on life and our country," says Lundquist. "There is no substitute for the genuine experience of seeing it with your own eyes."

Published: Wed, May 30, 2012