I love to make plans. Several times in the spring of 2001 when my wife, Helen, and I were executing our well planned cross-country bicycle ride from San Diego to our home in Melbourne Beach on the east coast of Florida, I learned that my plans don’t always work out as I think they will.
In James 4:15, the Lord tells us that our plans will only succeed if they are congruent with His will. This passage in James doesn’t say we shouldn’t plan, but that our plans will only be successful if they are in the Lord’s will.
To ready ourselves for this 3000 mile bike ride, I read a lot of articles and books on how to prepare for a cross-country bicycle ride. Writing in “Adventure Cyclist” magazine regarding planning, Willie Weir described adventures as never being planned. Trips, he wrote, are planned. Adventure is what happens when the plan takes a detour. I liked the idea of an adventure.
On our long adventure, the Lord used “detours” of various kinds to get us out of our comfort zone. He put us in situations where we had to depend on Him because we didn’t have the ability to overcome the “detour” on our own. What happened on Interstate Highway 12 in Louisiana is a good example.
We had left our planned route through the southern tier of states in St. Francisville, Louisiana. After using our camping gear only three times in the West, we decided we wouldn’t need to continue lugging it the rest of the way to Florida. Friends in Texas, Herm and Suzi Sieck, shipped the tent and sleeping bags home for us when we left them at their home at Lake Livingston. Now in St. Francisville, where we had crossed the Mississippi River, we had a problem. The planned route east into the state of Mississippi looked like we would need to camp. I guess you could say I’d made a miscalculation. The solution was to find a route where we knew we would find motels and this required us to make a detour and head south rather than east from St. Francisville. Going south would take us to Baton Rouge and from there we would turn east and south to the Gulf Coast and plenty of motels.
This “detour” seemed to be working until we were leaving Baton Rouge and took the road going east. This road was definitely not biker friendly. There was no shoulder. The traffic was very heavy and the drivers seemed to be very annoyed that two people on bicycles were trying to share their space. In desperation, we found a side road that took us to an interchange with Interstate 12 where we could find a motel and figure out where we were going next. In riding past the ramp leading up to the interstate highway, I noticed there was no sign prohibiting bicycles on the road. Most interstate highways have these signs. We had found in the West, however, that many times bikes were permitted to use the interstate if it was the only route between two points. We decided Louisiana was like Arizona and would not mind us using I-12.
Before dawn the next day we were on the interstate and making good progress when I noticed flashing lights behind us. The Louisiana State trooper who pulled us over explained that we were not allowed on the interstate highway. He actually told us that the state is poor and can’t afford to put up the signs. He did offer to give us a lift to the next exit. After we explained our problems the day before he agreed with us that the broad shoulders of I-12 were a safer place for us than with the traffic on the road a couple of miles to our north. With his blessing we continued on our way and had a great ride until we ran into a big, disastrous “detour.”
We had ridden at a good rate all morning. After about 50 miles, with Helen following close behind me, I swerved to the left to avoid a piece of glass. I didn’t know that at that instant Helen’s front wheel had overlapped my rear wheel and my swerve made our wheels touch. I didn’t feel a thing, but heard a noise behind me and when I looked back, Helen was lying on the ground by her bike. I dropped my bike and ran back to her. She wasn’t moving and when I knelt down by her I realized she was unconscious.
I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t get any response from Helen. I’ve seen people pass out, but never stay out for so long. Here we were next to an interstate highway with only our bikes for transportation. I tried to think of a way I could get her on my bike and take her to a hospital. Obviously I wasn’t thinking very clearly.
After what seemed like hours, but was probably only a couple of minutes, a car and then a pick-up stopped and several people ran over to lend a hand. A few minutes later an ambulance pulled up. About this time Helen started to regain consciousness. The ambulance crew bandaged Helen’s scraped leg and arm and checked out her head. The medics wanted to take Helen to a hospital in their ambulance, but since she seemed to be acting normally we talked them out of it. They gave me instructions as to what symptoms I should be looking for in case Helen had concussion problems during the rest of the day and night. Danny and his son in the pick-up offered to give us a ride to the next town, Covington.
I put our bikes and all our gear in Danny’s pick-up. Before we got in with Danny for the ride to Covington, I thanked everyone for their help. I was curious who had called the ambulance and how they had gotten to us so fast. They said there had not been a call for us. They had received a call for an accident that was supposedly a couple of miles past us. The strange thing, they said, was that just before they saw us they were notified that there wasn’t an accident and they should come back to their station. They saw us right after they were called off the original call and decided to stop to see if we needed any help. The impression we got was that it was very unusual for an ambulance to be called off an accident call. We thanked the Lord for that call.
Danny and his son dropped us off at a Best Western Motel in Covington and as we checked-in we noticed that a church was having a service in the meeting room in about an hour. We cleaned up as much as we could and headed for the church service.
We were greeted by the pastor, Bill Lee. We enjoyed talking with him and telling about our experiences and how we happened to be in Covington. After a while, we noticed that no one else was there for the service. It was only Helen, Bill and I. He explained that since this was Memorial Day weekend he knew that all of the regular attendees would be out of town. He felt he should come anyway and had prepared a lesson even though he hadn’t expected anyone to be there. The lesson he gave us was from the Gospel of John. It was obvious that his message was meant just for us.
That Day the Lord had not only put us in a position where there was no way we could solve our problem ourselves, but He had sent people all day to look out for us. The “detour” that seemed like a disaster, was the Lord teaching us to depend on Him. As He said in Joshua 1:9 “He is with us always.” By making our trip an adventure, God was using it to put us in His will.
Helen did not suffer any ill-effects from her fall and the next morning, before sunrise, we were back on I-12 riding east to Slidell and what we called our escape from Louisiana. Two days later we found a bike shop in Biloxi, Mississippi, and replaced the badly cracked helmet that had saved Helen’s life. We last saw the old, battered helmet as it fell into a trash receptacle along the Gulf beach. That was the last of our interstate highway travel on bicycles, but not the end of our adventure.