Have you ever seen something that you weren’t sure if it was real or not–something that made you wonder if you were seeing things? I experienced such an occurrence recently and would like to know the truth of the matter. Perhaps you could help solve the mystery for me. Here’s what happened…
A dark overcast sky hung low over town before I left for a week of vacation. I felt as if the dark cloud enveloped me too and found it difficult to look forward to the trip. The thought of traveling the same road that Earl rode on his last motorcycle trip left me with an eerie feeling. Yet I felt compelled to travel that road and face whatever the trip had to offer.
Thankfully, as I left town, I could see where the dark sky ended and blue sky began. I felt as if I were coming out of a pervasive darkness and into the light. My mood lifted immediately.
When I hit the 127 down ramp onto Interstate 24E I decided to document the drive because it was Earl’s last trip. I wondered what he saw and how he might have felt. Somehow, I thought it might help me understand what happened between the time he left that morning until he rode into heaven an hour later.
Traveling east toward Chattanooga, Earl’s path took him over Mt. Eagle, home of Sewanee and the University of the South, and down across the Sequatchie River before heading into the valley. Once past the huge Tennessee-Alabama Fireworks located in the median between the east and westbound lanes, he started a long downhill stretch before heading back up again to the lengthy bridge crossing the Tennessee River and ending at the 161 mile marker. It was the last river Earl saw on this earth, but in four more miles–or minutes–he would meet his Maker and enjoy his first view of the beautiful river that flows from the throne of God.
At the 162 mile marker, the Interstate began a winding, rustic drive typical of the terrain in middle Tennessee—a good motorcycle ride even for the Interstate. I wondered if he enjoyed leaning into the curve and seeing the train trestle high above.
Traffic picked up as I got closer to Chattanooga. At the 164 mile marker there was another overpass, and in one more mile…
I wondered if he felt okay, if he experienced chest pains, or if he just wanted to get where he was going and rest. I wondered if he had any inkling of the massive heart attack that would be his ride home.
Evidence of construction that had slowed traffic that day lined the shoulder of the Interstate. Still thirteen miles from Chattanooga, I saw the 165 mile marker where Earl went down.
Oh my goodness! There’s his name. It’s painted on the shoulder of the road! EARL WINN. Capital letters. White paint. First name stacked on top of the last.
I can’t believe it! I drove by it so fast, I don’t know if it was real or if I just imagined it. Or maybe…was his name there just for me to see? I don’t know.
When I returned home, I called Timer and his wife, Doris, to see if they’d been to Chattanooga since the accident. I wanted to know if they’d seen Earl’s name in the vicinity of the 165 mile marker.
Doris said she’d seen something but wasn’t sure what it was because traffic goes too fast to see it clearly. So it’s still a mystery to me.
Perhaps you can help solve the mystery. The next time you drive I-24 E toward Chattanooga, would you keep an eye out for Earl’s name written in big white block letters on the right shoulder of the Interstate anywhere close to the 165 mile marker?
Even though knowing one way or the other will generate another whole slew of questions, I’m ready to know the truth of the matter. For now I’m just pondering the fact that God works in mysterious ways.