RUMBLE IN THE WIND | Texas to Alaska

For the past several years 8Ball and I have turned what would be an annual summer vacation into a 72month quest for a “home” missions experience. I had an aunt that was a “home” missionary, and I never thought much about that until, God called me to become a Motorcycle Minister and Chaplain twelve years ago. Based out of Addison, Texas, 8Ball and I have now finished riding our Harleys across the continent, crisscrossing North, South East and West of the United States, as we have followed Christ’s leading in our mission experience.

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Mission Alaska was the best documented of our many journeys. The experience as was indicative of our six summers on the road riding across America. The following is a recap of our daily blog, which was posted on our website in its entirety: www.BikerChplain.com.

A Journey in Faith

Day One started at 5am, as most days One do. Cloudy and drizzling in Dallas, but it cleared up in Oklahoma.

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What should have been a 105 degree day turned into a comfortable 78 degree riding day. We rode through, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa to arrive to beautiful Nebraska for dinner.

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We had the opportunity to testify to a couple of bikers at different gas stops and passed out several tracts and Road-Hawg Music, Songs from the seat, CD’s. For the first Gas stop on day Two, we found the only gravel road exit to a gas station in South Dakota. Yes that was my idea! After all we may have needed the practice in the gravel for what “might be” later in the trip. A close friend of mine shared a phrase, which I have adopted: “socialist roads”. Well the pot holed “socialist roads” began 30 miles this side of the Canadian border.

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Day Three took us west from Winnipeg through bright yellow fields of Canola through Manitoba and Saskatchewan. We spent the morning leaning left into very strong gusty wind blowing across the highway. Clearly a divine appointment, God laid a burden on us for a particular biker we shared with that day.

The last hour of day Four was clearly the best hour of the past few days. Around 6:30pm local time, we left Grand Prairie, Alberta and were in route to Dawson Creek and entered the rolling hills of western BC. The evening sky was clear the sun was warm and the 78-degree temperature was very comfortable. Across the valleys we could see multiple canola fields yellow from their harvest and in the distance the snow capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies. The road surface was perfect, the best yet, as we made our way from one tree covered hill to the next.

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I felt no wind at all as the trees muffled the rumble of the old 103 motor. We almost whispered across the terrain. It was the end to a 14-hour day and now, at this point in the trip, Tim (8Ball) and I both agreed that we felt one with our machines. At this moment I thought, life is so good and yet eternity with Christ will defy human comprehension. A parking lot sermon delivered today is what we live for and ride for. This experience is indeed the cornerstone of personal ministry for a Biker Chaplain.

The Fifth day began as the fourth day left off with great roads and conditions. Our gas worries were proved that day to be unsupported. There was a gas station every 100-200 Km. The key to gas management is a lesson given me by Hawg-Daddy; work of the top half of the tank. We saw lots of wild life and we sometimes had to stop and wait for the buffalo in the road. The deer, moose, elk, and coyotes were spectacular.

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On day Six, we left Watson Lake early and 70 km west we met a really nice lady at Ranchos….”something”? We got gas and a super breakfast with several other bikers we met along the way. It was on this day we saw the beginning remnants of the old lower glaciers, and terrific vistas of mountains and lakes.

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Day Seven, was the final day of the journey that took 8 Ball and me to all the readable 49 United States and most of Canada. I came to realize that the old Alaskan highway was not completely tame. Though not the pioneer trek it was 30 years ago, but the old girl still has some kicks left in her. Every so often, some sections more than others, there is a bump. A bump that is so much the same you would think someone was planting these strategically to get your attention. This non-sequential repeating bump causes you to be thrown off your seat 10” in the air, unexpectedly. With this comes with a huge Gasp, a mighty HURRUMPH, coming from the inner most parts of your being. It’s a “growl” and an expression all in one. It is the sound of pain, and of surprise, a sigh of relief that you’re still alive…all wrapped into one HURRUMPH. Our familiar ritual for day Seven, was to be again 100 km down the road from Haines Junction. The day’s journey was like a trek was a window into the hall of the mountain kings. We traversed the 20-mile wide glacier valley with the 2000ft. cliffs on either side that stood at attention to our roaring Harley-Davidsons. This stretch struck me like a ride to a Nordic Jurassic park as we began the dissent to Anchorage.

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Mission Alaska was organized different from any motorcycle mission trip we have been on so far. Once we arrived in Anchorage we immediately put our bikes in for the 5,000 miles service at House of Harley. Our wives (who don’t ride) flew up and joined us for some quality time. We rented a Jeep and headed to Denali. Denali National park is wonderful evidence of God’s creative hand.

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Nature tours in the Denali wilderness and river rafting are once in a lifetime experiences. Much of the park has been designated as wilderness so no roads, no motorized vehicles or other vehicles (including bicycles) are allowed. Human impact is kept to a minimum, and there are some spots that are off limits to hikers. It is so remote and virtually impossible for a mere mortal to get there by foot.

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“Time off” is a needed part of life, work, ministry and physical challenges. But, in matters of faith, with our relationship with Christ, He promises to always be with us, to never leave or forsake us. There is great comfort in this thought. As we endeavor to serve Him, we do not take, nor require, days off. Serving Christ our Lord is an everyday joyous experience. We pick up the cross for the cause of Christ everyday. Because it is in Him and through Him, we have peace, joy, love…. well you get the idea.

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Back on the road, we planned an easy day Twelve and later understood that was just what God had directed our minds to plan. As we got one hour out of Anchorage, the road was closed. There are limited roads in Alaska, generally one route to your destination. Most of these roads are only two lanes and well maintained. So, one hour out of Anchorage we came upon a poor fellow who had flipped a gravel truck (praise God-he was ok). The site was a mess. Completely blocking the highway in both directions causing traffic to back up for miles. We had a nice four-hour break in the mountain meadows. I said: “God had directed our thinking when planning the day” because we had the opportunity to visit and testify with as many as 50 people who were milling around out of their cars at the traffic stoppage.

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Once the road was clear it was off to Tok and the wilderness ride provided encounters with red foxes at the edge of the woods and deer at dusk. It is light until midnight, and it is easy for us lowlanders to attempt longer days than we would ordinarily. However, in the North, many things close down by 8pm. One must be aware of the fact that availability of services (gas, food and lodging) when on the road past 6pm can quickly become an issue.

The last three hours of day Thirteen to Haines provided plentiful photo opportunities. The 200km of spectacular mountains, glaciers and rivers was like a scene from a Disney movie. Riding down from the high places to the coast we saw the beginning and the end of a great river.

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A two-mile stretch of gravel on the way to the ferry made the first 15 minutes of day Fourteen to be the most difficult stretch of road during our journey. After a short ½ day boat-ride, we arrived in Juneau and disembarked for the night. We had enough time to hit two major points of interest: the Mendenhall Glacier, and the Harley shop (of course).

Visiting the Glacier is a unique experience; the road comes within yards of the spectacle. The park ranger told us that it was millions of years old, and that it is 13.5 miles long. I think the ranger found it interesting that the bikers cared about the details of the Glacier. When leaving the park, we had an unscheduled stop for a black bear crossing the road just in front of us. We kindly gave him/her plenty of room.

Days fifteen & sixteen were spent on the ferry ride from Juneau AK, to Prince Rupert BC, Canada. On the ferry, we met a number of bikers and fellow passengers; all were friendly and had numerous opportunities to discuss tracts and Road-Hawg music. When it came time to disembark, we rode to Terrace, BC one of the top 10 rides in Canada. We traveled along a river for 90 miles, nested up to sheer rock cliffs and show caped peaks.

Day Seventeen was a good 600-mile day from Terrace to Jasper. I must say at this point in the trip, I was most probably taking this beautiful scenery for granted.

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The landscape transition experienced in day Eighteen was rare and spectacular. Starting on the Glacier highway, we motored through Banff Park with its spectacular vistas of the lumbering snow capped giants. As we approached and transitioned through Calgary, the terrain became gentile rolling hills of the high country. Crossing the border-back into the USA there were several hours of flat high arid plains. South of Great Falls, Montana the hills returned and quickly developed into the little belt mountains (a must see). The last hour and a half of the day was spent in darkness. We had a few wake up reminders on the road when realized how quickly deer (and elk) can pop up from the dark.

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On day Nineteen, it was KSU at about 12:00 noon, and a parting prayer with our evening host Bro Mark. It seemed so appropriate that two blocks from Mark’s house we stopped for gas and ran into five Canadian riders headed home for Sturgis. A good visit resulted in cards, CD’s and tracts for all. Mark mentored us in our tract ministry. The Lord kept us dry as we watched a wicked thunderstorm about 20 miles south of us, riding parallel to it for a couple hundred miles on the way to Sturgis. Sturgis has always seemed like the “mother ship” to me. We unite with many Christ followers and provide ministry to the tens of thousands year after year. In many ways my experience there is like church camp for adults.

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We broke camp on day Twenty-One and after having had one of the Wyatt’s “special breakfasts” we headed for home. Light rain continued through the morning as we went to the Rapid City convention center for our Harley pin. Holding the event outside in the parking lot was something that sounded real good in the boardroom, but few of the chrome faithful stood in the rain to look at new wet bikes and part displays. We got our pin and headed out to Grand Island, Nebraska.

On day Twenty-Two, I just couldn’t believe it was over! The three weeks just flew by. We mounted up after coffee and 8-ball discussed his early exit once in Kansas for some family time. We rode the first 300 miles together as I would do the last leg was solo.

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Ministry is a 24/7 activity, and yet we agreed that we both felt the primary goals and purposes had been achieved and completed. Sadness came over me as I crossed Nebraska knowing the end of the road was in sight. I focused on reflecting past the Harley pipes to the sights and sounds of the north.

When we reached Kansas I was looking for ways to extend the trip. My mind wondered in no particular direction, or perhaps California, or even the upper Great Lakes would have been a good detour. However, once I hit the Oklahoma border, I felt I was almost home. I spent so much time in Oklahoma, as it really does feel like home in a way. The sounds of the “Second chance Band” on my COM system brought my mind back into focus and to reality.

Thankfully we had 9000 miles of issue free highway. God divinely protected us the entire way. The principal understanding I derived from the experience was the power of prayer. We had two-three times the number of people praying for us this trip, and our ministry production was at least double than past missions. However you look at it, something was different about us, and the mission field in which we were working, and the only identifiable difference was “more prayer”.

We serve an awesome God whose love for us is beyond our human ability to understand. He has a wonderful plan for us; we need only to invite Him to live in our hearts and choose His way, desire His plan, and His peace of Spirit will follow: Peace that surpasses our understanding. Church is and can be a good thing, but it is a personal relationship with Christ (Jesus in our hearts) that brings this result. Read His word to grow in your understanding of Him and what He would have you do. All glory and praise be to God who loved us when we were and still are at times unlovable.

Jeff Claes
Addison, TX