By Nava Gray
Sometimes in life it is not where we are going, but how we get there that matters the most. I remember when I was little and my Dad, Digger Dave and I would pack up the saddlebags with a few essential supplies and head off to unknown destinations. My Dad, who called me Navigator, would allow me to choose the direction we went. Left or right, he would follow my instructions as we rode through valleys and climbed over mountains. We would travel into deserts and forests, and camp wherever we put our kickstand down. Then he would have me find our way back home again. Left or right again, he would follow my instructions. If I couldn’t find our way home before dark, we would camp again.
My Dad taught me how to live minimally and only pack essentials; after all, there is only so much space in those saddlebags! Dad also taught me how to be observant and pay attention to where we were going, and watch out for those who are not looking out for us. He taught me to relax and enjoy the ride. We would see awe inspiring places that simply cannot be appreciated while travelling in a caged vehicle. We would meet interesting, colorful creatures and people along our travels, and create everlasting bonds with strangers. The destination was usually not our goal, the ride and the experiences along the way were.
We often photographed our journey so that we could look back and remember our times together, and the faces and places that helped make every trip unique. My Dad took his passion for motorcycles and photography, merged them into one and became a moto-journalist with Quick Throttle Magazine. Digger loved to capture life’s most precious moments. He had a great sense of humor and had a knack for bringing everyone closer together. He had a smile that could light up a room and his laugh brought happiness to many people. He always said he wanted “camera eyes” because he found beauty and joy in so many things – So much so that he created Double Shot Imaging and would carry two different cameras around to be sure that he never missed a moment, and always had the right equipment – and backups if necessary. He was industrious and wise.
His full name is David Edgar Hightower. He never really cared for his middle name, but that is true for a lot of people!
As for the name, “Digger,” my Dad had told me that people started calling him that because he could always dig up the best deals on items that people needed, and the best places to ride to. I believe he also had a way of digging up the most fun to be had! Everywhere we went together he was always having a great time, and would find ways to make sure everyone was safe and having fun.
I had always wanted to attend a large motorcycle gathering in our home state of Arizona with my Dad, but life never had it in store for us. He passed away before we could make that trip together. One of the last lessons my Dad unknowingly taught me was that time waits for no one, and I decided if I was going to be serious about making it to Arizona that there was no better time than the present. So now it was time for me to navigate on my own.
Before I left on my adventure, my husband and I filled memorial urn necklaces with my Dad’s ashes so that we could all be together during our travels. I drove over 1,000 miles in one direction and met some of my Dad’s awesome, inspiring friends we call “chosen family.” I got to see a lot of my Dad’s old stomping grounds all while riding on the back of a friend’s gorgeous Harley Road King from the Road King Kove in Avondale.
On April 4th, 2019 we rode to the beautiful Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale where an intimate group gathered in remembrance of my Dad, Digger Dave. I met most of the people in attendance for the first time that day, but because of the connections we have, I felt an instant bond and lots of love. We then rode to The Hideaway in Cave Creek where the cars seemingly disappeared and the streets were lined with motorcycles, activities and laughter.
After Cave Creek we made our way to The Dirty Dogg Saloon in Scottsdale where we listened to live music, and well-known biker & comedian Jack Shit made a toast in honor of Digger Dave. The activity and excitement at the Dirty Dogg Saloon is boundless! We ended the evening at a concert by George Thorogood and the Destroyers at Westworld.
During my week in Arizona I also visited some other incredible places, like Goldfield Ghost Town with a great view of the Superstition Mountains, Roman’s County Line, The Roadrunner in New Hope, and Lucie’s Sage and Sand in Glendale. Visiting all of these establishments I can definitely see why they were on the list of my Dad’s go-to places to get refreshments and have a fun time!
Throughout my time in Arizona I had some great conversations with people from all over the country, all coming together for the same reason – Our love of motorcycles and the people who ride them. I could feel the comradery every place we rode. I miss my Dad, and I have cried every day since he left his physical body and joined his family and fellow riders in the sky.
Somehow though, feeling the wind on my face and listening to the rumble of bikes made me feel a little better; it made me feel a little closer to my Dad. I want to thank the beautiful people who brought me into their home and their lives, and let me feel the freedom of being on a motorcycle again– something I haven’t had the chance to do since my Dad passed away.
I have plans set in motion to get my motorcycle license soon so that we can continue to ride together. After over 28 years on the back of my Dad’s bike, now it is time for me to take the handlebars. On our beloved Harley-Davidson Road King that we affectionately call Belle, his granddaughters, son-in-law Ian and I are going to continue our endless adventures together.
There was a song my Dad used to sing to me while I was navigating us into the unknown: “Where are we going? I don’t know. When will we get there? I’m not certain. All that I know is we are on our way.” – Digger Dave
The destination doesn’t usually matter –
the journey does.
In Loving Memory of Digger Dave
Turning strangers into friends, one photo at a time.
–Editor’s note: Digger Dave was a talented moto-journalist and photographer whose stories and images graced our pages for many years at Quick Throttle. He is missed.