If you were to drive through the booming metropolis of Bliss, Idaho in the summer of 1973 you would have found two gas stations among the businesses plying for your patronage. I zipped through on my semi-chopped wannabe 750 Honda in about five minutes. Didn’t even stop for gas on this leg of my six state solo road trip.
My itinerary was abruptly amended about five miles out of town. I was southbound on a traffic-less two lane highway and the sun was dropping toward the horizon to my right. I was dressed in my standard travel garb: cut offs, “wife -beater” tee shirt (sorry for the ugly language, but that’s what those sleeveless white tees were called), Adidas and a helmet that I only wore over my flowing locks because it was legally mandated. As you can tell I was very safety conscious. I was flying down the road at my standard 80-90 mph when suddenly my back tire went flat and I only knew that because the bike began to swerve violently. As I fish-tailed down the highway all I could think of was how much skin I was going to lose! Remarkably, somehow I managed to stay up and nursed the bike to a stop without dropping it. My chest was pounding as I dragged the bike to the side of the road. There was nothing. No houses. No buildings. No traffic. There weren’t even any cows. Not many alternatives.
The sun was going down. So I took off the back tire and wheel, hid my bag and gear in some bushes and walked across the road hoping to hitchhike my way back to Bliss, even though there had been no traffic since I left the tiny burg. Before I crossed the road I did something I hadn’t done for a very long time. I called out to God. It was a long time coming and there is a backstory that would take too long to tell. Suffice it to say I was in a fix, needed help and it seemed like a good time to test the theory, “God if you are there I need your help.”
So I crossed the road with wheel and tire in hand. There I stood in my cut offs, my wife-beater tee shirt and my Adidas sans my helmet. At least the helmet had prevented my long hair from being wind blown into a nasty bird’s nest like it would have been in California which still had no helmet law. Nevertheless, I was not presenting a pretty picture to prospective rides. It wasn’t long before a white Mercedes came bearing down on me, so I stuck out my greasy thumb. This is the honest to God’s truth… the driver got out, he was wearing a white leisure suit, with a white shirt, white belt, white socks and white patent leather shoes. I told him my tale of woe and he told me to throw the tire in the back and hop in. I did as I was told and got into the white Mercedes, with white leather seats and white carpeting. I was very conscious of my greasy hands and what must have been a not so pleasant body scent as I had been on the road for a few days. But, my rescuer appeared unfazed and we chatted amiably over the few miles back to Bliss. We pulled into one of the two gas stations in Bliss and I retrieved the tire and wheel from the trunk of the Mercedes. The driver insisted on staying until he knew I was taken care of. I walked into the service bay and was greeted by an old guy wearing full length greasy overalls. I showed him the “5.00 x 16” wheel and explained that the tube blew out. He looked at the tire and wheel and said, “I think we might have one of those.” I had worked in a gas station and had been a bike owner for years so I knew that gas stations did not stock motorcycle tubes and tires so I’m like, “yeah, right”. The owner of the station came out and confirmed my skepticism, but kindly offered to put me up for the night and take me into Twin Falls in the morning. We no sooner finished our conversation than to my shock and surprise the old guy in the greasy overalls walks over holding in his hand none other than a “5.00 x 16” tube. I grabbed it and checked it to be sure of the dimensions. Sure enough. Unbelievable! No way!
So they replaced the tube while I advised my Mercedes friend that he could go on his way. They charged me $4 or $5 and gave me a ride back out to my bike. I slapped the wheel back on my bike and was back on the road. It wasn’t even dark, yet. I was beyond happy, I was experiencing a shock and awe of mine own. As I hit the road I sent up another prayer… “If this is what it’s like following you I don’t care if I get a flat every day!” He took me up on that prayer, too. The classic “be careful what you ask for” was about to befall me.
The next day I was driving on the main highway in Provo, Utah. It’s the afternoon. There are multiple lanes and lots of traffic. Boom! There it goes again!! This time while I am struggling to keep the bike up I am also dodging cars and trucks. Once again, somehow I managed to stay up and get the bike to the roadside. I got off the bike. I was a little excited. Not in a good way. Seems I had forgotten all about my last prayer. I slammed my helmet off the pavement and it bounced high into the air. (I had a good arm!) While cussing like a sailor I dragged the bike off the road way. I wrestled the rear wheel off for the second time in 24 hours. (I had this bike for two and a half years and never had so much as a flat tire, yet here I was two days in a row.) This time a state truck came by, division of highways or some such department, and gave me a ride to a nearby Harley shop. Inasmuch as the rear wheel, tire and tube were Harley products I felt confident they could help me. Nope, no deal. Not only did they not have this tube in stock, they called every bike shop in town and nobody had a “5.00 x16” tube. Provo was a good size city, second largest in Utah, seriously?
It gets better… in contrast to the day before, the guy at the counter asked if I was “LDS”. I had no idea what he was talking about, given my background I probably thought he was dyslexic and was referring to a psychedelic. He rephrased, “Mormon”. Ah, yes. Uh, no, not Mormon. He replied, “Too bad because if you were I would put you up for the night.” (I apologize to my LDS friends out there as I know very well that this guy did not adequately represent you all.) That hit me as a strange way to attract new adherents to the faith. In any event, they hot-patched the tube and I prayed all the way back to California, especially wending my way over the Sierra, that the patch would hold. It did.
A couple of thoughts. What are the chances of a 21 year old stoner, biker wannabe meeting God in the desert outside Bliss, Idaho? What are the chances of a “5.00 x 16” Harley tube being stocked by a gas station in Bliss, Idaho? Who was that man in the white Mercedes? Do you know what Bliss means? The joy of salvation or the joy of heaven.
God shows up in the most unlikely places. Where did Jesus do most of His miracles? Here’s a hint, not in the synagogues or the Temple. Before Christ how many of God’s supernatural works were accomplished in the Temple? Some things never change… He stills leaves the 99 to chase down the one who is lost… I know, I was one.