My husband Floyd and I, on short notice, planned a trip to the Thumb area in Michigan with good friends Diana and Stuart. They were cyclists and Floyd and I had new bikes; that was about all we had in common on the bicycle thing. Anyway, I had a work trip to Washington, D.C. that preceded the biking trip.
My mom begged us not to go to the Thumb. It was well known to be “militant territory” in Michigan. We assured her we would be fine. Everyone we had met on several trips there were kind.
On one trip, I explained, we went to visit the Frank Murphy Museum in Harbor Beach, Michigan. Most folks in Detroit were familiar with the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice near downtown Detroit. The Museum was closed and a passerby told us to go next door and knock on the door. So we did and Judge Frank Murphy’s daughter answered the door. She invited us into her home. She was in her nineties.
We talked that day, went to visit again some months later and even corresponded for a while. The most memorable story was of her dad when he worked for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Her grandfather refused to have a telephone installed in their home, so when Judge Murphy came home to visit, the President had to call the gas station and wait for someone to “go and fetch” Judge Murphy.
However, this heart-warming story did not change my mother’s opinion. She promptly responded, “Y’all go on up there in them back woods if you want to and let somebody drag y’all off and kill ya. Stuart is Jewish, Diana is a Catholic, and the two of you are Black. Y’all just the folks they’re looking to wipe out!! You’ll never get me up there!
Only the last sentence of her tirade came true.
Anyway, the four travelers decided we would have a great time getting away from the city, staying in country cottages and bicycling. We drove two vehicles. The ladies led out with the guys following.
Now, Diana and I began to talk and laugh about some of our escapades. (Click here to read, “When I Left The Stage, They Were Still Yelling For More!”) I was driving and forgot all about the guys were following us. Good thing they had a map!
Whoa! Whoa!! I slammed down on the brakes. There were police and FBI cars all over the place.
The Oklahoma bombing, April 19, 1995, took place while I was in D.C. Now how was I to know that McVeigh and Nichols (convicted bomber and conspirator) would have their hideout on the same road we were traveling?
We had just drove to within spitting distance of Nichol’s former house. The local police and Feds were swarming the place. Diana and I were amazed to have popped up in the middle of a real live newsreel. I beckoned to one of the officers at the roadblock. When he approached the car, I asked for alternate directions to get to the cottages. He sent us down some real back roads. We stopped at a country grocery store and hoped that Floyd and Stuart would take the same detour and find us.
Sure enough 10 minutes later, they pulled into the store. The first thing Floyd said was,
“You left us 50 miles back when you were driving like a bat out of hell! When I saw the road block half a mile up the road, I just knew you had an accident and tore up the car!!”
Floyd calmed down when he saw the ladies and the car were unharmed. We then drove to the side by side tourist cottages. The evening was uneventful. We made dinner on the outdoor grill, drank wine and had pleasant conversation.
The next morning was when the reality of “not having much in common with bikers” started to creep in. Floyd and I were sleeping when Stuart and Diana knocked on the door. (This was before cell phones were popular in the circles we travelled. And, if anybody had one, it was giganic compared to today’s slim phones.) We got up and promised we’d be ready in 30 minutes.
After breakfast, the four of us decided we’d bike to town. I think it was 2 miles. When we arrived, Floyd and I were “winded” and very, very glad to stop and browse through some of the shops.
The Antique shop was a gold mine of quaint interesting items. They even had an elderly dachshund whose hind legs were elevated on a wooden cart with wheels. He was rolling around the store like he owned the place.
After 20-30 minutes of window shopping in town, Diana said, “Hey, everybody let’s get to the bikes and continue on!” My legs were tired. My bottom was sore. The portion of my mind that urges me to perservere had completely shut-down. I could go no further. I couldn’t even ride a bike back to the cottage, much less to go further. My mind was trying to think how to get me out of this situation! What I really wished for was a padded magic carpet to fly me back to the cottage.
Now this is where the term “good friends” kicks in.
Diana and Stuart would have been justified saying any of the following:
“Why did y’all come on a biking trip and you can’t bike?”
“Why didn’t you say you could only bike for 10 minutes?”
“Why didn’t y’all just drive beside us in your car?”
“Y’all just messed up the whole week-end!”
But they didn’t.
Do you know what our dear friends did?
Stuart volunteered to bike back to the cottages and get his truck so we could load up the bikes and drive back. I was so thankful and relieved. I’ll always remember Stuart’s heroic deed.
Now, the truck was only a two door small pick-up. How was four adults and three bikes going to fit? I was determined to make it fit. Floyd was talking about two trips with the truck. Diana and I were sure we could push and squeeze the four of us in the cab and arrange the three bikes in the truck bed.
Well, Stuart soon returned and we got the three bikes in the truck bed in such a way that no bike would become mangled in the trip back to the cottages.
Now to the people packing. Stuart quickly sized up the situation and volunteered to drive. The driver would have the most room because no one could slide under the steering wheel with you. So the passenger seat was left for Diana, Floyd and me.
Floyd was fussing the whole time. He was worried we’d get stopped and not have seat belts on. I was trying to calm him down and still be a respectful wife in front of friends, but in my mind I was saying,
“WE’RE ALL GOING TO FIT IN THIS TRUCK! I’M TIRED AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO FIT!”
So the line-up was this. Stuart driving. Diana next to him; really next to him; under his arm next to him. I’m next, jammed up between Diana and the door. Then Floyd on my lap.
Well, we get moving down the road. We are just roaring laughing at our predicament when we saw a police car approaching us in the oncoming lane.
He passed us and turned around to pull us over.
Floyd was quietly hysterical now. (You sense these things about someone you love and know well. And he was in the midst of a prophecy come true and we are in militant territory in Michigan, one of the last places you want to be picked up by the police, and everybody is on HIGH ALERT. Remember the road block and the FBI YESTERDAY!)
Before he could say something like,
“What did I tell you! What did I tell YOU!!”
I quickly said, “Everybody be quiet. I’ll do the talking.”
I got no rebuttal in that truck.
I peeked out the window behind Floyd’s back, with a smile on my face, “Hello, Officer. How are you?”
He looked through the window and the expression on his face said, “I know there’s a story in here!”, but he just smiled and said, “I’m fine.” (Pause…) “Do you all have seat belts on?”
We all laughed. I explained the incredible situation to him and that we were only going a short piece up the road to the tourist cottages.
He nodded his head, “OK. Just don’t do this again.”
“You won’t have to worry about that! Thank you, Officer!”
Some weeks later, Diana and Stuart went on a 35 mile cycling trip. Guess who they didn’t invite? Guess who wouldn’t have gone if they had been invited?
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. Ralph Waldo Emerson
A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you. Elbert Hubbard