Learning Trust and the Parable of Dude

I met Dude at a construction site in Alaska. He and I were stopped for 20 minutes waiting for a pilot car to lead us through the road work. It was summer, and I was on a late model BMW adventure motorcycle, fully loaded for my trip from Seattle to Prudhoe Bay Alaska. Wearing an armored, waterproof riding suit, long distance riding boots and a full faced helmet, I was the poster child for “prepared”. My route planned months in advance, reservations made, all contingencies considered and packed for.

And here’s Dude. At first glance I was sure he was a local, although we weren’t anywhere near a community. Riding a low slung Harley-style cruiser, half helmet, sunglasses, jeans, sneakers, t-shirt, a wind breaker and gardening gloves. I glanced over and said with disdain “Hey, how are you?” He replied, “Hey, Dude!” At that moment he noticed a mosquito that was meandering by. An Alaska-sized mosquito, slow, and as big as a hummingbird. He said “Wow, man, we don’t have mosquitoes this big in LA.”

I look at him incredulously. He had no luggage, no rain or warm gear, no map and an incredibly limited fuel range on a bike ill-suited (at best!) for non-pavement riding. He just got on his bike one day, I learned, and decided he wanted to see Alaska.

Before I could get into too much more of his story, the pilot car came by and lead us off through several miles of soft, deep gravel that doubled as the road during construction. I quickly left Dude behind on this difficult surface, sure I wouldn’t see him again. I even wondered if he’d get through this construction site without crashing his bike.

But Dude persisted. Every stop I made, he’d appear like a premonition. He’d wave and honk as he went by. The weather held, the road went from good to bad and back to good again. I started to count on the Dudes’s arrival and would shout “DUUUUUUDE!” as he rode by, hand raised like a spiritual leader acknowledging his faithful. But deep down I was angry. Angry because HE SHOULDN’T BE HERE. No one should just be able to hop on their bike and ride from LA to the heart of Alaska without doing “the work” that I had done. I had planned, routed, packed, upgraded. I “deserved” this trip because of all the work I did. I was waiting, in fact, for his imminent failure.

And then one day I got my chance. There was a particularly long stretch of road that was preceded by a HUGE sign as you left the last small town saying “No fuel for 150 miles, FILL UP NOW.” This was a huge sign, you could not miss it. I dutifully turned around, topped off my tank (which had plenty of range for that distance) and off I rode.

After riding about 100 miles, I stopped for a break to stretch my legs. As I was getting ready to leave, The Dude pulled in and rode right up to me. He said, “Hey, Dude! Do you know if there’s gas here? I’m super low on gas.” I stared at him. “Did you see the sign? The HUGE sign 100 miles back that said ‘no gas for 150 miles?’” He said he hadn’t. This was my moment. My moment to watch his “I just jumped in the bike for a 3,000 mile trip without planning a darn thing” scheme fall down around him.

And then I realized, what if Dude had it right? I spent all my time working HARD and planning and figuring. And Dude just trusted that it would all work out. And, more importantly, what if part of his path was to be part of mine? What could I learn from the Dude about how I operated in my life? It was a jaw-dropper. Trust, and it will be provided. Fall down, ask for help, and it will be provided.

I wasn’t there to help Dude, he was there to help me. And of course, I had an extra gallon of gas tied to the back of my bike. For longer stretches when I’d need the fuel. But I didn’t need it right now. I smiled, and said “Dude, I have gas for you, let me unstrap my tank and get you some gas.” We laughed as we filled his tank and then rode on our separate journeys.

I never learned Dude’s real name and shortly thereafter our paths did not cross again. I’ll also never forget Dude or the gift of Trust he gave me on a sunny summer day in Alaska.

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