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Monday, January 28, 2013

Final-Year University: Honda Happiness, Scene 2

At last, the wonderfully warm days of summer had come. Graduation behind me, I accepted the kind invitation of one of the families at church and moved to their home for the summer. I worked weekdays with social science researchers, and unless we were near some deadline, had weekends off.

One Saturday, the itch to ride out of town for the day grabbed me mightily. Spreading out an area map, I calculated the distance I could go on one tank of gasoline and still return home. My motorcycle got 119 miles to the gallon and my tank was a bit bigger than that. Thus, I chose a spot on the map roughly fifty miles away, fixed myself a lunch to add to the contents of my daypack, and out the door I went. No, in fact, it had not occurred to me to tell anyone in the family where I was going. I’d be back before the Mom and Dad returned from their jobs and I didn’t figure the kids would care.

The sun was delightfully warm; the distance to the park-like area reached without incident. I pulled out my book and began to read. Somewhere around noon, I enjoyed my little picnic lunch before taking a hike. It was so peaceful, only the sounds of nature surrounded me.

All too soon, the afternoon showed signs of moving into evening, so I collected my things and jumped back on the motorcycle. The traffic on the highway was minimal, making the return an enjoyable, stress-free ride.

About ten miles from town, my bike began to “act funny.” I had no idea what the problem could be. I prayed that God would keep me safe and the little engine working, until I could get home. The sense of unease lingered, therefore I decided that I would fill up my tank as soon as I reached the city limits…just in case I might not make it all the way across town, plus a couple of miles to our neighborhood.

Then, a sound I recognized…coughing and sputtering. But, how could that be? I’d calculated the distance and filled up before I left; how could I be running out of gas? When the beloved red treasure’s engine lost its purr and rolled to a stop on the side of the road, I knew I’d miscalculated somewhere. I was, indeed, out of gas. Cell phone communication was nowhere on the horizon at this period of time; our homes still had rotary dials on the land lines. Nothing to do but wait to see if someone driving by might go get me some fuel. Like I said, there was not much traffic on the road that Saturday. After about half an hour, seeing not a single vehicle, I decided I would just walk back to town myself, but what to do with the bike. It weighed 300 pounds so I couldn’t push it alongside as I walked. A steep slope led from the asphalt to a property fence, and while I could probably manage to get the bike down to the fence, getting it back up the steep incline would be problematic. Suddenly, fatigue hit me and I just longed to lie down for a nap. So, leaving the motorcycle on the shoulder of the road, I walked down to the fence and stretched out on the long grass for a little shut-eye.

The longer I lay there, though, the more anxious I got. I couldn’t sleep out here; I needed to stay with the bike, in case a car came by. Back up the incline to flag down a passing vehicle.

My father had said not to take help from just any car that stopped; be discerning, because not everyone is a good guy. Dad had said that truckers were usually safe and they knew a lot about car trouble so, if I could flag down a trucker, I’d be okay. One car stopped, but the guys inside gave me the willies, so I waved them on before they came over to see about the problem. Fortunately, they resumed their travel, without incident.

Finally, I saw a semi heading in my direction. I held up my hand, prayed for God to protect me, and signaled the trucker to stop. I ran to the passenger door as his rig came to a stop just ahead of my motorcycle. He opened the door as I approached. “Well, howdy, little lady. Gotcha some trouble there with that bike?”

“Hey, thanks for stopping. Yeah, I ran outta gas. I had calculated how much I needed but missed it somewhere. Can you help me get some?”

“Climb on up here, dearie, I can take you into town. My outfit here uses diesel, or I’d give you some of my fuel. You need gasoline, though, so the best I could do is give you a ride into town.”

“I guess you couldn’t bring me back, huh?” We both laughed.

“Sorry, darlin’ but I got a schedule and a loop like that isn’t on it. C’mon; get up here now and let’s git into town. The garage might have a way to get you back. Just cross that bridge when you come to it.”

Glancing back at my motorcycle sitting there so forlorn on the shoulder of the road, I prayed for God to protect it, too. Someone could steal it, especially if they figured out it only needed gas. Someone could hit it if they weren’t staying on their side of the line. I just hated to leave my precious bike out there all alone. But, what could I do? I stretched my five-foot, four-inch body’s extremities to the max, finding footholds and rings to grab as I climbed into that cab. At last, I was sitting high atop the road in the huge bucket seat.

It was a quick trip to the service station just inside the city limits, but while we rode together, the trucker told me how to calculate fuel usage. Yup, I’d missed some important points there.

I found it was more difficult to climb down from the cab than up, but I managed it without falling on my rear. Giving the kind man a final wave of thanks, I headed into the station.

Now late enough that the parents in the family had returned home from work, I accepted the station attendant's kind offer and phoned them. The lady of the family came right out, with a gas can. I purchased a gallon of gasoline, which in those days was a whoppin’ twenty-five cents due to gas wars.

Back on the road again, she asked me for details. Embarrassed to death, I told her of my error that had caused me to run out of gas. She laughed and joked with me about my college book-learning, and before long, I was laughing right along with her.

As we approached the area where I had left the motorcycle, my nerves began to tighten. Would it still be there? Would it be lying on the ground in a heap? “Oh, please, God…” Since we had to take the eastbound lanes and the bike sat off the westbound shoulder, we needed to pass by the bike and look for a crossover point or off- and on-ramps to loop back. 

At last, approaching the mile marker where I had left the motorcycle, I held my breath. Where was it? Catching sight of a flash of red, I began to breathe again. Yes! There it was, standing right where I had left it. Talk about your happy camper! I was ecstatic; my hands even shook a bit when I filled the tank.

The relief I experienced during the ride home eclipsed the real issue; I had put myself in a very dangerous situation. Though it is much worse today, back then LSD and other drugs were a real problem. Hitchhiking was strictly advised against by authorities. Later, the practice was made illegal on the interstate highways, due to the inherent dangers for the hitchhiker.

How carefully God kept His eye upon me. In Psalm 139, The Bible says that God is aware of my going out and of my coming in; that God knows when I rise and when I lie down. How amazing and comforting to carry this knowledge deep in my soul. There is absolutely nothing I do that is a surprise to God; He’s watching all the time!

When I look back at these early Honda days, I can almost see God smile in His ever-so gentle way. I’d say, “Why’d you let me do such a dumb thing like taking that bike out in the snow or let me head out, knowing that I was about to run into big trouble with an empty gas tank?”

I’m pretty sure He’d say something as simple as this: “Because, you wanted to do it. You felt you needed to do it, so I just stood by and let you. I had my eye upon you. You were never alone. Did you learn anything?”

And, of course, that was the point, wasn’t it? I never, ever forgot the lessons learned; none were ever repeated!

Related Post:
Does God Really Care?

****Final-Year University: Reverse Discrimination…Next Post

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