Snick. With the push of a button, the garage door descended. Snick. With another button, my new acquisition, a 2005 Honda ST1300, purred into life. This was my first long, break-in ride before I rode it to Glacier National Park. By day’s end, we rode 340 miles through the mountains and valleys and beaches, the ranches and farms and cities of Ventura and Kern Counties. I renewed a friendship from decades earlier, met a new riding partner, and reconnected with one from our summer touring group. But now all of us lay face down, kissing concrete, with multiple pistols pointed at our heads, with tense faces behind them. The pic above was not us, but imagine three bikers and over a dozen cops—all with guns drawn. And if you’re one of the cars back in 2013 that took a pic, I’d love a copy!
We may have been speeding (focus on that word “may,” OK?), but not enough to justify 6 police cars and what seemed like 250 officers on the scene (at least 10, OK?). Honestly, I felt no guilt, but a lot of fear. I remembered Rodney King, along with Malcolm Gladwell’s recounting of Amadou Diallo, an innocent local resident of the Bronx shot 41 times. He reached for his wallet and the bullets erupted from gun barrels. One mistake, one unintentional move, and we could have died.
What caused it? Some guy in a pickup with road rage issues filed a false report that one of our guys flashed a gun at him. Sean, a law enforcement officer, was packing, but never showed it. The wind at 65 lifted his T shirt a bit. As we exited for an In and Out lunch, half a dozen cop cars herded us to a Shell gas station and with guns drawn told us to lay flat. Yes, the situation worked out OK. We all got cleared, and I had an opportunity to talk to “my” cop, a good guy who seemed to want more from his faith. Get this, I’m handcuffed, sitting sideways in the back seat of his cruiser, talking about God and healthy churches!
So, what’s the point of telling this story? I’m still a bit unclear. I talked to someone about Jesus, that was good. We lost 3 hours of our lives, not so good. It reinforced honesty-a false claim put us at risk and could have gotten us dead. An easy lesson would be to avoid confrontation, but we didn’t even have one.
Maybe the key, for me, was the reminder that life can change on a dime. Some say we never know how we’ll react in any situation until it arrives. I’m not so sure. I’ve had a number of close calls over the years which have forced me to think about death. I’m 71 now, much closer to my end than my beginning. I had no desire to die, but all those thoughts helped me not freak out when this happened. The cops had a report of 4 bikers flashing a gun on the freeway. A felony. Their lives were at risk, and I understood why they would be tense.
So, I had some peace. In part, I knew where I’d be seconds after the first shot. More so, I deeply felt the presence of God.
Kick Starting the Discussion
This question has to be obvious—have you thought about how quickly life can change? Are you in the right spot with God if that happens? Have you pondered how you might react if a similar situation arose? I encourage you to think about how you would like to respond. I suspect that increases the odds of getting that response.
NOTE: an expanded version of this is found in God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road as Chapter 36.