A post commemorating the life of my Dad, Randel Anderson.
Though my journey began in 2017, I think I can trace its origin all the way back to the summer of 1968. Let me see if I can explain….
Look closely at my Dad’s expression in the above image.
That’s the face a parent makes when they realized that they have aided and abetted their 17 year-old son in becoming a motorcyclist. It’s an expression containing equal parts excitement, remorse, surprise and bewilderment.
The look on my face is an expression more like an evil genius whose plan has worked out perfectly. Even in hindsight, I must say it was a dastardly good plan:
My Dad’s experience in inter-state motorcycle adventure was confined to one trip in 1968. He rode a 1967 Honda CB160 from Nebraska to Washington State. There, he worked for a ministry that focused on helping the families of migrant workers.
Dad with my Uncle Arden:
His ride west was full of adventures and misadventures. He left home without enough money to complete the journey, as he was planning to work along the way. Like in my story, he had lots of people show him compassion and assist him along his way. The prospect of riding all the way home was less enticing than spending more time with my Mom (can you blame him?), so he sold the bike and flew home at the end of the summer.
Though this trip represented a very brief portion of Dad’s life, I was always fascinated by his stories. From my youth, the idea of two-wheeled adventure was planted within me.
When I turned the legal age to ride a motorcycle in Nebraska (17), I didn’t have the money to purchase one myself. What to do…..? I figured the best way to have access to one would be to rekindle the rebel spirit still lying dormant in the depths of my Dad’s soul. I was able to find a 1966 CB160, in semi-running condition, for sale just a couple of hours away. When I showed him pictures of it, I knew he was sold. For just $335, can you blame him?
My first ride:
In some ways, this was where the “Everywhere Man” story began. With a Father who could not only tolerate his son’s level of excitement, but who could match it. Without that aspect of his personality, I doubt this journey would even exist.
On January 22nd, my Dad passed away.
This post is for him.
I started writing this tribute over two months ago, but have been utterly stumped. Even though I’ve cranked out over 300,000 words describing my journey, no words have seemed appropriate to sum up what has happened. How can I even begin to describe what he meant to me? Could any multitude of words be sufficient for this task?
On October 17th, I rolled back into my home garage, officially completing the Latin America portion of my trip. Initially I thought that I would just stop at home for a couple of weeks before heading west for the final chapter of my journey. However, I really couldn’t get going. For some reason everything just felt more difficult for me.
I’d known that Dad’s health hadn’t been great, but I didn’t think too much of it initially. He had lived with cancer for the previous 16 years, so his health was in a constant state of flux.
Dad, with his old liver, post-transplant in 2003:
He was in and out of the hospital through the months of October and November. Throughout this time, I was still trying to decide whether I was going to get back on the road, or whether I would stay home until spring.
His condition deteriorated and eventually the doctors said that there was nothing more to be done but to make him comfortable. On November 30th we brought him home for hospice care. More than anything, he seemed to want to be in a familiar place with people he loved.
At this point I decided to delay my journey until spring and move back in with my parents. I felt very fortunate that I had the freedom to do this. My trip had effectively cleared my schedule for the foreseeable future.
Though the doctors had said that he might not make it until the end of the week, Dad ended up living for almost two more months. They were months full of countless precious and emotional moments.
With Grandson, Oliver:
With my Sister and Grandson to be:
With Son, Jerardo, showing his two year sobriety chip:
On the evening of January 22nd, Dad passed peacefully from this life to the next with Mom by his side.
The title of this post is taken from a line in the song I sang at his funeral, Hymn of Promise. “In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be. Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”
This song was an accurate way to sum up my feelings at the time and is still relevant to how I am feeling at the moment. There are still lingering questions about the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of what happened. Many things remain “unrevealed until its season.”
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it, but perceptive readers of this quality publication may have noticed that I have a custom license plate for Annie:
This stands for “Be Joyful” which is the opening directive of my Dad’s favorite verse: “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” These elements were the foundation upon which my Dad built his life. My siblings and I split this verse into four parts for our tributes at his funeral.
Before my trip even began, I anticipated that “Be Joyful” would be an imperative moniker to keep at the forefront of my mind. I knew unpredictable obstacles would be part of my path and wanted to approach them with the same mindset as my Dad. I would try to emulate his attitude, whether I was dazed and bleeding in a Mexican ditch, frightened and alone with a bear in Idaho, or even frustrated and impatient at a Central American border line. How would Dad handle this?
“Be Joyful” means that while we cannot control what happens to us, we are the masters of our attitudes towards our hardships. Time and again I would see him rise above trials that would have crumbled a lesser person.
In the midst of chaos, his faith would be stirred, not shaken.
So who was he?
For those of you who new my Dad, I shouldn’t need to say too much. Maybe I’ll just confirm that he was the same person in private that you saw in public. There was no duplicity to him. We thank you for your inundation of support and as we’ve gone through this difficult time. The response from all of you has demonstrated that we weren’t the only ones who thought he was so special.
Around 360 sympathy cards:
For those of you who never had a chance to meet him, you truly missed out. Even his obituary (LINK HERE) is a real page turner. In it, my Mom saw fit to include a subtle nod to my adventure:
But he was so much more than this collection of facts about his life and I know that there is no way I will be able to portray who he was with mere words. I’ll just try to highlight some of the things that meant the most to me.
Some guys believe that being sensitive and being strong are opposing ideals; that you can’t have one without sacrificing the other. Dad, however, manifested both of these traits in abundance. He had the most caring, loving heart but also a gritty determination to persevere through any obstacle.
Running at the Transplant Games in Sweden:
Dad’s perspective was a topic I covered in my funeral talk, especially as it related to other people. With every person he met, he seemed to have an idealized version of them in his head. He could always see the best in everyone. He would believe things about you that you wished you could believe about yourself. There was no hint of false flattery, he truly saw you differently.
His creativity was another aspect I really admired about him. He did artwork for a living at two different points in his life.
His Jesus portrait:
Additionally, he was very skilled in converting his thoughts into words. He used this extensively during his time as a pastor, but it was ever present in the way he communicated on a daily basis. He was an intent listener, never interrupting or trying to assert himself in a conversation. When he did speak, you could be certain that there would be weight to his words.
As generic as it sounds, Dad’s most prominent trait was love. Whether towards family, friends or complete strangers; his devotion to serving others was perpetual. His final words to me, “Love you, Son,” were the most fitting punctuation for our time together on Earth.
How am I doing?
Given the long delay since my last post, I feel like I should give a little update about my own well being. Since Dad went on hospice I haven’t been on Facebook, ADV Rider or even checked my international phone. I feel bad about disconnecting for so long, especially given how many people have cared for me and about me during my trip.
From an outside perspective it may appear that I am wracked with grief, unable to face the outside world. I don’t think this is necessarily the case. Rather, the last few months have felt like a season to focus inwards, on myself and my family, as I try to make sense of what has happened. Through this process, I think I’ve come to a fairly healthy place.
It’s been helpful for me to “step-back,” so to speak, and look at the full duration of my relationship with my Dad. When focusing on the recent happenings, it is easy to let feelings of despair or anger creep in. Conversely, focusing on the entirety of our time together has helped me realize just how fortunate I am. Though I would have loved to have more years with him, there’s nothing tragic about our story.
Some have a strained or distant relationship with their father. Mine was fully invested in me throughout every chapter of my life.
Some have to beg and plead for quality time with their father. Mine would come to me, asking if I wanted to play catch and plan excursions for us to be together.
Some have to wait years for words of respect and approval from their father. Mine could scarcely shut up about it.
So if you’re looking for a sad story, this is not it. Though I miss him dearly, the grief cannot obscure the joy of having him in my life. I am truly blessed.
So what comes next?
Everywhere still calls my name. This monumental, unnecessary, task, which once seemed impossible to complete, is now within my reach. Soon, Annie, Sonic and I will be rolling on to complete the final 28 places remaining in our song. Even from the outset, Dad was confident in my ability to complete it.
In my mind’s eye, I’ve seen myself at the finish line of this race. Dad was always there, taking the honor of striking “Nebraska” off of my sign. I’m saddened to know that will not happen, but I know he will be with me in spirit over each mile that remains.
Many of you have encouraged me in the telling of this story. Lots of people seem to be enjoying this account which makes me feel very honored. That said, I am thoroughly convinced that nobody enjoys my story as much as Dad did.
There were a few times that I was present for his reading of one of my posts. Each picture would elicit a “Would you look at that…” The video clips of me riding would make him say “wowza.” Any of my feeble attempts at puns or humorous quips would make him laugh deeply, as if it were coming straight out of the bottom of his soul. At the end of the post he would let out a long exhale, as if he’d just eaten the tastiest dessert of his life.
So why am I saying this? As I’ve written this account, my rule for whether or not to include a joke has been: Will Dad find it funny? Granted, this is a pretty low standard to clear. Going forward, I want you all to know that I will continue to write like Dad is still one of my readers. So don’t expect the jokes to improve.
Furthermore, my commitment to “Be Joyful” through the rest of my journey is even more resolute than when I began. I will continue to travel with the childlike sense of wonder which my Dad always maintained. His camera was perpetually at the ready, since he always believed that there would be something wonderful just around the corner.
One of Dad’s favorite songs was “For the Beauty of the Earth.” This video features his artwork and is a good representation of how he saw the world. That there is beauty everywhere.
At some points during this winter, it seemed like it would never end. Now I can say with confidence that there is a spring that waits to be. I will roll on, with Dad in my heart, and complete this final chapter in the best way that I can. Who knows, fifty years from now this story might inspire someone else’s crazy trip.
Keep trying to be like Randel, everybody.
If you missed Dad’s funeral, HERE IS THE LINK to the service.
Realtime update: Phew. I don’t even know where to begin. So much has happened since my last update. I’m an uncle for the fifth time, I now make my living working on overhead doors, Annie has visited the gymnasium of my elementary school and Mom is thinking about joining me for part of my final chapter. Suffice to say, there are a lot more stories to tell. I left off the narrative of my journey while I was still in Colombia, so I will be trying to finish that up too.
Also, I have lots of messages to respond to and people with whom to reconnect. Meeting so many wonderful people has been a highlight of my trip and I’m eager to hear about what everyone has been up to.
As always, thanks for reading. This was the toughest post I will ever have to write, so I’m glad it is finally completed. More to come!