I completed the Bureau Indian Affairs application for a teacher’s position, mailed it off to their headquarters in New Mexico and got my 250 cc motorcycle ready for the trip.
It was 6 am on a fine July morning in 1968 when I finished putting the last items in my kit and opened the door to put it on my motorcycle. I was amazed to see a crowd gathered outside.
“What’s all this?” I asked.
Carl, a high school friend, replied, “Your mother invited us all to send you off!”
I smiled, pleased at this thoughtful act and the willingness of all the friends and relatives to come out this early.
I shook hands with each one and chatted a bit, but I was anxious to be off. I closed the neon orange box bolted to the back of my BSA 250, pulled on my helmet and climbed aboard.
As I dropped it into gear and began to pull away, my friends all shouted goodbye and Carl fired off a few rounds from his rifle to send me on my way.
The miles passed quickly on that first sunny day. My initial stop was Gettysburg where I visited with friends. Then I moved on to Maryland to stay with a classmate. From there I went north, through Williamsport over the steel grid bridge that made the motorcycle sway alarmingly.
I arrived that evening in Cherry Creek, NY to stay with my sister Andrea and her husband, Jerry. “Where do you go from here?” asked Andrea at breakfast the next day.
“First to visit our Grandma Haslip in East St. Louis, then up to Minneapolis to see my old college roommate. From there I’ll work my way west to Alaska.”
“Where will you stay?” Andrea asked.
“Beyond Minneapolis, I don’t know. I’ve got my sleeping bag, so could stay most anywhere.”
“Doesn’t the uncertainty bother you?” she asked.
“No, it’s an adventure,” I replied.
Several days later I arrived in Minneapolis. I’d been somewhat concerned about a whine that developed in the engine during my ride across Indiana. It had been a hot day, very hot, so I thought the whine might go away when things cooled off, but it seemed to be with me for good. It made me insecure, but I decided to ignore it, a technique I’d found effective before.
However,this did not work well with the “whine” in my soul that surfaced periodically. It was to come up more often than I wanted in the near future.
I checked my map, reviewed the directions to Ed’s home and drove into the city. I came to a large intersection where 5 roads came together.
I was first in line at the light and when it turned green, I zoomed out to cross the intersection, but was shocked to see cars coming from not one but two of the roads facing me. I had to swerve left and then right, barely missing the oncoming vehicles.
It happened so fast that I could only react instinctively—and fortunately by this time the motorcycle had become an extension of my body and I could almost move it with thought alone. But this close call really shook me.
Until this happened, I had been feeling really good about myself and my ability to deal with all that would come at me in life. And even though I had instinctively handled the near collisions well, it reminded me that there was a lot in life that was out of my control. It made me feel small and vulnerable. There was again a small whine in my soul.
I did not use my motorcycle at all during the days I spent at Ed’s. I felt the need to withdraw a bit from traffic and recover from the scare of my near accident.
The visit over, I loaded my box back on the motorcycle and headed out for Wisconsin to visit another friend from college. On the way I camped out in a field and awoke to a dew-soaked dawn with a million diamond drops sparkling in the sunrise. Even though life was uncertain, it certainly had a lot of beauty in it!
The next day I arrived at my friend’s house, and spent a couple of days boating, bicycle riding and visiting some local sights. Then it was time to move on.