Years ago, if someone would have told me a story like this, I would have scoffed. I was younger then and knew most everything there was to know.
I turned 60 in June of 2005. My wife said my birthday present should be worth remembering. Something important. What did I want?
Excerpts from the log I kept on the 2005 trip follows.
Not a physical gift for my 60th birthday nor something purchased nor even made by hand. What I really wanted was an adventure, something different, a challenge, a trip and something that I could also share with my wife. Something I could look back on someday and say “I did that.” So to my wife I said that I wanted to ride our Harley Davidson across the United States and then bring her back during her 2 weeks of vacation. All in all about 5 weeks gone from home. The routine and all the responsibilities would be left behind for her to detail and worry about. I would pack up on the morning of July 10th, 2005 and leave, heading to the West Coast. She would be happy for me, wave good bye and with a smile and in the same spirit of happiness as myself. This was the present I asked for.
She smiled at me and told me I could do anything I was big enough to do.
And I did. I left early in the morning, wound my way down the driveway after goodbyes, kisses and a few dog head pats. A lump was in my throat and a tear in my eye. Moments like this weigh heavy in my life.
It was a trip of a life time. All that a trip like this could be and so many memories and views of America and American people that time and words will never well represent. To ride a Harley Davidson across the United States twice, coast to coast to coast is an adventure for everyone. Do these adventures while you are young!
I was to spend time with my mother living on coastal Washington State. I would also meet up with all of my high school class members at a camp site on the west coast. A weekend class reunion.
I did not tell this following part of the trip story to my wife over the phone. I wanted/needed her in person as I would try to describe the event. Even now (a few days afterwards) having told the story several times, I feel very inadequate and am not sure I do the moment justice.
I must also clarify here too this was a spiritual event, the first (and only one) in my whole life. It was as real as any thing, person or moment of grandeur I saw, met or experienced on the trip
I am not nor ever have been a church-going person. But, I have prayed for help, said thank you on many occasions for blessed occasions and moments in my life. I have always been satisfied that my relationship with God was personal and enough for just me to work and understand. Other people always muddied the waters of my understanding, thoughts of religion and God.
I am and have always felt that there are powers greater than I can ever understand and that have an effect on my life. Beyond that, things get fuzzy. I always felt/understood that God was inside of me and with me as I was trying to be with him. I always admitted that I can not understand much of all of this. But I believed.
On Friday, July 22nd, I left Anacortes, Washington very early in the morning. I had packed my bags on the bike the night before and left a friend's boat in Anacortes Harbor while they were still asleep. We had said our good-byes the evening before.
It was important to me, on this day, that I make the 07:30 Kingston to Port Angeles ferry. Extreme minus tides prevented the 08:45 and 09:30 ferry runs that morning. The next ferry I would have been able to catch would have been the noon ferry to Port Angeles.
I made the 07:30 ferry with time to spare and always enjoy being able to be the first on the ferry as the motorcycles are always loaded first. The short 30 minute ride was enjoyable and I spent the whole trip on the bow of the ferry looking over the inlets and bays of the early morning waters. A little channel fever mixed with the sights and sounds of protected waters.
As we docked and I prepared to ride off the ferry, a thin man with pure white hair and riding an old time 1950's pedal bike approached me. He told me of the very best place in Port Angeles to have breakfast. “Turn right at the light and go straight to the water front. The restaurant is located right there and they make pancakes like your grandmother made.” I said thank you and found it so curious that anyone would approach just me and offer this kind of friendly advice. The man was slight of build, dressed in all light weight white clothes. I also noticed that no one else seemed to look at him or notice how out of place he was or that he was even there.
As I approached the restaurant, that same older gentlemen was standing by his pedal bike, pointing to the restaurant. I nodded my head and parked behind the octagonal building. How did he ride here faster than me on the Harley? It puzzled me that morning.
Small, warm and homey, the restaurant bustled with morning locals. Their conversation hummed in the back ground as I told the waitress that I had heard they make pancakes like my grandmother use to make. “You bet your boots” she replied with confidence.
The full breakfast and pancakes arrived in record time and was enough food for any seagoing voyager leaving on the morning tide out of Port Angeles and into the Straits of Juan de Fuca. The pancakes were thin and had flavor beyond any morning pancake I can remember eating. It was a permanent memory to add to this trip's log.
I tried to wait out a local rain shower, drank more coffee and read the morning paper. The rest of the day lay ahead of me, the destination day. I knew this part of the country very well and was looking forward to some familiar scenery that I had not seen in many years. I put on my rain gear and left knowing that I would out ride the shower and end up under party cloudy skies and cool, coastal breezes.
Several miles out of Port Angeles, on 101 West, I became enveloped by a feeling of something soft and protective. It was physical, spiritual and mental. It told me “.... you are ok here.” slowly and deliberately and words so clear. “Not only are you ok here, but you are ok when you leave.” came next. And finally, “But more important .... is that everyone is ok here and everyone is ok when they leave.” The words were real and I remember them clear as day.
A few moments passed and there came a most noticeable relief off my shoulders. A relief we have all felt when we finish an important task that has been hanging our our heads for awhile. A relief when a prayer for someone else is answered. A noticeable, sighing relief and a noticeable weight lifted off of me.
But I had not been carrying anything on my shoulders. Nothing was troubling me nor was I worried about anything. I was on this day more relaxed and enjoying every mile of the trip around the northern loop. But I could still feel that I was enveloped by a softness and a calm. A protective barrier.
Around the next long sweeping right hand curve, the bike felt airborne, but was not. It was smoother than anything I have ridden or ridden in. The engine noise was much quieter. While going around this corner, I became the passenger. My hands were not turning the bike nor was I leaning. Someone else was turning the bike and my hands and body followed. Not for a long time, but fully through the sweeping and long enough for me to notice this was something I had never experienced before. Then I felt the bike again, the road, heard the louder engine noise and all the normal life noises around me returning. The feeling of being enveloped continued for a few more miles, but fading.
I pulled the bike over in a turn out next to Crescent Lake and turned off the engine. I needed to digest what had just happened and try to understand the last few miles behind me.
I think this was the most wonderful and personal message ever given to me and one I will forever cherish and share. "I am ok here and when I leave. We are all ok here and all ok when we leave."
And maybe guardian angels also wanted to try riding a motorcycle. Maybe dad snuck away from the angel pack or got permission and tried the motorcycle because dad always wanted to ride a Harley Davidson, but never did. I just do not know.
September 2016: Some thoughts on all of this after all these years. A little more background as it has come to mind.
Mom and dad so loved weekend trips around Washington State and coastal Washington and Oregon. They always over loaded me with all the great places they had breakfast or lunch. They loved their trips to Port Angeles.
My father had a wild streak before he met mom and started a family. He once rode a motorcycle through a tavern in Raymond, Washington. And he had talked with me a few times on much much fun owning and riding a Harley Davidson would be. A wish and dream for him and his son got to live it.
The man that talked to me when I got off the ferry was slight of build, had snow white thin hair and a small trimmed white beard. He was dressed in all white, light weight pants and long white shirt. Very light weight clothes for early morning weather in Port Angeles on the water front. Out of place.
He approached me to get my attention. He told me of a great place in Anacortes to have breakfast and related the quality of the food as being as good as home cooking.
The trip on the main roads to the restaurant that morning, riding the Harley took me 5 minutes at least. That the man was already there at the restaurant waiting for me, again standing next to his bike did not fully register, yet seemed out of place and odd at the time and more so today.
And the experience and message that morning was as I have written.
I must admit that I have no fear of leaving this earth nor the after in that sense. Death and dying was always something that happened to someone else as I have gained my years.
The message that I shared with you in this story happened. It was as real as the day is long.
Yes I believe in God and still do not understand. I say prayers now much more often and ask mostly for God to watch over me, my wife, my family and to teach me/us lessons on being ready for tomorrow. I also ask him to show me ways to help him. I do not think God intends or is able to meet all of our needs and prayers and that he too can use some help. More so now than ever before. It is a believing thing and I am personally comfortable with all of this.
I believe the man and the story was my father visiting me and putting his son's heart and mind at ease. He was that kind of man.
The “voice” that talked to me was like nothing I can explain. It was not audible, but a linked internal/external communication. If we really only use 5% of our total abilities here on earth, then this conversation surely existed in the other 95%. I like this. We are linked to this after while we are here. The link is opened at will from the other side.
When I hear stories like this, I believe.
I believe that I am ok here and ok when I leave.
I believe you are ok here and ok when you leave.