“Let’s ride to Alaska!”
It was Father’s Day 2018 when Troon’s Vice President of Science & Agronomy Brian Hampson and his then 15 year-old son, Jonathan, were swimming in their backyard pool and the wild idea was first discussed. As months passed, their plan began to materialize – motorcycles were purchased, maps were charted, time off accrued.
A summer 2019 road trip through 12 states was the father-son duos first test of a long ride. After that 4,800-mile jaunt, they made a few tweaks to their Kawasaki KLR 650 motorcycles and gear list in preparation for a summer 2020 ride to Alaska.
As spring 2020 approached, with nearly two years of planning, saving, test runs and purchases behind them, the world turned upside down and COVID-19 derailed their Alaska-bound plans. With the U.S. Canada border closing to nonessential travel in March, Brian and Jonathan were forced to make other plans. Concurrently, as stay at home restrictions were put in place and many companies, including Troon, put a halt on employee travel, Hampson was also faced with a professional dilemma – how would he manage the agronomics at the 40-plus golf courses he oversees across the country without being there in-person?
“Nothing replaces being on the golf course, looking at and touching the grass, and meeting face-to-face with superintendents,” explained Brian. “Working from home for nearly three months was a problem because I was unable to do my job function effectively. Video calls can only do so much.”
In early May, as stay at home restrictions were being lifted, Brian began making plans that would solve two issues – take that promised father-son trip with Jonathan, and make in-person site visits to Troon-managed properties around the U.S.
“When we were planning the Alaska ride, my original intention was to combine work with personal time and visit our Troon-managed properties in California on the way up, then our courses in Wyoming, Colorado and Northern Arizona on the way home,” added Brian. “With Alaska no longer an option, Jonathan and I decided to travel across the United States, seeing and experiencing as much as we could, while visiting as many Troon properties as possible.”
Early on the morning of Sunday, May 31st, Brian and Jonathan (now 17) set out from their home in Cave Creek, Arizona on their 29-day ride across America with their bikes modified for touring and their bags lightly packed. As luck would have it, California golf courses were just reopening after being closed for two months due to the pandemic. On the first day they would cover 295 miles, stopping at The Classic Club in Palm Desert to meet with the superintendent, tour the course and discuss agronomic matters. Similar stops at Indian Wells Golf Resort and Shadow Hills would follow the next day, before the two headed up the California Coast. It was on day three that Brian began chronicling their father-son journey on Instagram (@bphampson) posting photos and videos of stops and landmarks.
Mixing in work each day, Brian would spend four to five hours at a course in the morning, before heading back to the hotel to get Jonathan and then ride about 300 miles each afternoon. In the evenings, Hampson would spend two to three hours preparing his site notes and agronomic report from that day’s course visit, while Jonathan chatted with his girlfriend on the phone.
While finding a balance between work and play, the Hampsons enjoyed their father-son time together.
“My favorite moments were seeing some of the more recognizable landmarks and the general nature of sharing an adventure with my son,” said Brian. “It was also cool having him see some of my work.”
The elder Hampson admits travelling the country during a pandemic had its challenges.
“The most significant impact to our trip was getting food,” recalls Brian. “Nearly all of the restaurants were closed for dine-in eating. This made eating on the road difficult since we often did so in a parking lot with no shade. It’s also tough to ride a motorcycle through a drive-thru but we managed to do our best.
“The most interesting aspect of the trip related to COVID was how differently cities, counties and states were reacting at the time. We were changing our location constantly so it was always a guessing game as to what regulations or restrictions might be in place. We defaulted to wearing masks in all businesses and assumed that we would have to be creative with getting food on the go.”
In total, the Hampsons covered 9,962 miles, visiting 26 states and 13 Troon-managed clubs. They crossed hundreds of bridges, including The Bay Bridge and The Golden Gate Bridge in California, the Astoria-Megler Bridge in Oregon, the Mackinac Bridge that connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, and the 24-mile long Lake Ponchetrain Causeway in Louisiana. Together they saw snow in Montana, Old Faithful at Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. While in North Carolina, they rode the Tail of the Dragon, an 11 mile stretch of road with 318 curves that is considered America’s number one motorcycle and sports car road. Riding across the South, they saw alligator roadkill, which Brian described “as a little cringe worthy and bizarre for sure.” And, while traversing Texas, Jonathan rescued a turtle.
“My favorite parts of the trip were riding the Tail of the Dragon, taking the ferry across Lake Michigan from Muskegon to Milwaukee, Yellowstone National Park and riding across the Mackinac Bridge,” explains Jonathan, now a high school senior who’s enrolled in a dual curriculum program in which he studies automotive technologies at the East Valley Institute of Technology in addition to his regular classes.
“The coolest part to me was just the fact that every day was a new adventure. This was a great experience and I’m very glad I got to do this with none other than my Dad,” added Jonathan.
As for that planned Alaska trip, Brian confirms it’s on the board for 2021.
“Our tentative plan right now is to go up to Alaska in 2021 as part of another long work/play combined trip. Beyond that, we will most likely try to tour the remaining 13 states we haven’t seen yet. Even further beyond that, is potentially Central and South America.”