The next morning when I woke, the rain had stopped and the pine grove was white with mist. As I sat up, I saw a car parked at the entrance to the picnic place. “Ah,” I thought, “someone else on the way to Prince Rupert didn’t make it last night.”
After I had packed my gear on the bike and was wheeling it out to the road, I noticed that the car had a Connecticut license plate! What a coincidence: two Connecticut people spending the night in a remote park in the far North of British Columbia! But the driver was still asleep, so I didn’t bother her.
I rode on and reached Prince Rupert about 10am and found my way to the ferry terminal to buy a ticket. The ticket seller told me that the ferry would be delayed by several hours as it had missed the tide when leaving an earlier port. I stuffed my ticket in my pocket and went to wheel my bike into the line of vehicles waiting for the ferry.
I sat there for a while and then it began to rain, not just a drizzle, but a steady, soaking rain. Soon a man in a car near me stuck his head out of the driver’s window and called to me. I went over.
“Sitting in that rain isn’t going to make you any healthier! Come on in here where you can wait in more comfort,” He motioned me to the back door. I got in, thankful to be in a reasonably dry environment.
A couple of hours later the ferry arrived and everyone eased on board, glad to get moving. I parked my motorcycle up in the front of the boat and went to the cabin area, looking for a good place to spend the night.
Being used to sleeping on picnic tables, I was not at all intimidated with the idea of sleeping on the steel deck. I found a place behind some chairs and spread out my sleeping bag.
Then I got out my peanut butter, jelly and bread to make myself a late lunch. Two couples sat down nearby and got out their own sandwiches.
The older couple chatted with me a bit, telling how they were on their way back from Seattle where their son had just graduated from seminary. I watched the son and his wife as we talked.
“He sure must see something in her that I don’t,” I thought, “she is certainly one unattractive girl from a physical standpoint!” As I said that, it struck me how shallowly I judged people, almost entirely on their looks. This young fellow seemed to be a deeper judge of character.
The father was an old-timer who had come to Alaska around the turn of the century. He’d made a fortune in logging, although you’d never know from his demeanor that he was a millionaire. He told me some stories of the early days.
He also talked of his faith. He was a Seventh Day Adventist, he said, but also seemed to be a genuine Christian and told about how he’d been born again, seeing God transform his life.
I tucked that away in my mind with the other recent impressions: a tough old logger who had seen God change his life. Impressive. And, although I didn’t know it, the Lord had more for this man to do in my life.
After my late lunch I explored the ferryboat. Now that it had stopped raining, I spent some time on the deck, admiring the wild scenery. Looking off across the water towards the mountains I saw some sparrows flying in the distance.
Taking a closer look, I was amazed at how long their necks were; then with a start, I realized they were Canadian Geese, so dwarfed by the expanse of the sea and the height of the mountains that they looked as small as sparrows. This was my introduction to the vastness of the Alaskan wilderness. I spent the afternoon watching the exotic landscape go by.
In the evening, looking in my motorcycle’s handbook, I saw that there was a BSA motorcycle dealer in Ketchikan, a fishing village where the ferry would stop. I decided to get off there and see if I could get my headlight fixed.
Having made that decision, I went to the spot I’d found to roll out my sleeping bag and was soon asleep, enjoying the steel floor bed.
A blast of the ferry’s horn woke me. I looked at my watch: 5:30 am. We must be coming into Ketchikan. I quickly rolled up my sleeping bag and made my way outside to see what was happening.
The steward confirmed that this was Ketchikan, so I went down to where the vehicles were parked and strapped my sleeping bag onto the back of the bike.
Ketchikan proved to be an interesting place. A narrow town built on a thin strip of land between a steep mountainside and the sea, it had room for only one street. However, the ingenious residents had built wooden side streets running up over the houses, giving access to the mountainside, where more houses had been built.
I found a grocery store and bought a dozen eggs, a pound of bacon and some bread. Then I went to a camping area outside of town and cooked myself some nice breakfast over a fire.
I had a bit of trouble getting the fire going because it was still drizzling, something it seemed to do a lot in Southeast Alaska. I found myself a picnic table where I could sleep that night, then went back into town to find the BSA dealer.
It was a pretty small dealership, so I wasn’t sure they’d have what I needed. The parts man came to look at the bike and had me to turn on the light—and surprise, it worked again! I was happy that I didn’t have to buy a new light, but at the same time was unsettled, not knowing if the light would stop functioning again on some dark night.
I’d noticed a sign in town for a sauna, so decided to go there and get a much needed cleaning. It was good to sweat out all the grime of the last few days of riding.
The next morning I woke up early, somewhat damp under my sheet of plastic. Again I had difficulty getting the fire going, but with a farmer’s persistence, succeeded in the end. I had a good breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and bread.
As I was cleaning up, a car drove into the campground, and out stepped the old logger!
“Well, hi Steve!” he called. “I’ve been looking for you in several camping sites. I thought you might like to come to church with us this morning!”
I must have looked surprised, since it was Saturday. The logger, seeing my confusion laughed. “Don’t forget that we are Seventh Day Adventists, and today is the seventh day! Would you like to come?”
The warmth of the man and his sincere invitation won me over, so off we went. At the church service the son of the logger, the new seminary graduate, spoke.
His topic was a book called The Taste of New Wine. The title stuck in my head, and this proved to be very important later in what God intended to do in my life. Looking back, this happening was definitely a Jesus sighting, a three star one.
Picture: my motorcycle on the way to Prince Rupert