Yesterday we encountered several angels on our trip south from Tok towards Valdez.

The rest of our group left on Friday, but I had been extremely sick with a stomach bug Thursday.  Apparently, I gave whatever I had to Sandy, because she was even more sick late Thursday night and all-day Friday then I ever was. So, we stayed back an extra day to recover.

Alex was scheduled to do a glacier hike and a copper mine tour with the group on Saturday, so Cooper also stayed back with us so we could watch him while Alex did his adventures.

We stopped at a rest area about two hours into our drive.

I got out to let Cooper go potty, I noticed that our outside passenger side tire was extremely low on air. We were at least 30 miles from the next services and there was no way that we should drive any further with the tire being as low as it was.

There were several other vehicles in the rest area, a few RV’s and some camper vans. Sandy walked over and asked a couple of people if anyone happened to have an air compressor.

Luckily, an older gentleman and a younger gentleman in a van did, but they didn’t have a source for electricity. I told them that wouldn’t be an issue, we’d just fire up the generator on the rig.

The younger guy jumped right in and started getting things setup and the older man started chatting with me.

Our license plate frame.

He asked me what our license plate frame, which reads, “God Grant Us Peace and Serenity,” meant to me.

Well, anyone who knows me, knows that the Serenity Prayer was my mother’s favorite prayer, as well as the mantra of her life as she navigated her second career as a drug and alcohol addictions counselor.

So, with that question, I told him my mom’s story, and that I was now on my own journey, which was, the journey of my mother’s son.

As it turns out, he is a recovering addict and is involved with AA and the Serenity Prayer has become his life’s mantra, too.  He too, has lost many people close to him to addiction.

By the time he and I were done exchanging stories, the younger man had our tire filled back up with air and ready to go.

I offered to pay them for their time, and the older man said, “No way, brother, you know the drill, just pay it forward down the road.”

My mother’s mantra.

At no point in our conversation did I mention that term to him, or what it means to me, or what it meant to my mom. When he said it, I immediately started to choke up with emotion.

At that point, I felt the need to give him a copy of “The Journey of My Mother’s Son.”  I quickly got a copy out of my book bins and took it over to him. As I approached him, he looked over at me and said, “I was serious, man, don’t try to give us any money.”

I chuckled, and said, “I know, but at least let me give you a copy of one of my books. I think some of the stories will resonate with you.”

He accepted it. I signed it for him. We shook hands again, and parted ways. His name was Don. I never got the younger man’s name; all I know is that they were angels #1 and #2 for the day.

We had a temporary fix, our tire had air in it, but for how long, we didn’t know. I wasn’t sure how fast it was leaking.

We needed to try to find a service center, but as we were approaching almost 4 PM on the Saturday of a holiday weekend, what were the chances of that, not to mention which arm and which leg would it end up costing me?

I drove even slower than I normally do on an Alaskan road to the visitors center in Glenallen, about 30 miles down the road.

Sandy went into the visitors center first because I wanted to check to see if we had lost any additional air on the short drive.

The tire seemed to have held most of the air that we had put in at the rest area, but we still had to get the leak addressed.

The lady at the visitors center (Angel #3 for the day), told us what we had already known, in the fact that most of the service centers nearby, if not all, wouldn’t be open until Monday morning.

Well, we were supposed to be getting on a boat in Valdez on Monday morning and I didn’t feel comfortable driving over 100 more miles on a tire that was leaking air.

Then she also said, “…but I do know a guy who might be able to help you. Let me call him.”

She explained our situation to “her guy,” whose name was Matt and then handed me the phone.

Matt, who turned out to be Angel #4 for the day, asked me a few questions about our rig, tire size, and if we had a spare. Then he said, “Sure come over and I’ll get you fixed up. If nothing else, I’ll get the spare on for you.”

After we hung up, the lady at the visitor’s center explained the directions to me, drew out a very rough map, and gave me Matt’s phone number for when and if we got lost on the gravel roads.

We made our way down the road with our sketched-out map in hand.

After a few turns down some gravel roads, we arrived at what I had hoped was Matt’s house.

I called him and said, “Hey Matt, it’s Dan again, I think I might be at your place.”

“Well, tell me what you see.” He replied.

“A house, a big garage, a couple ATV’s…”

He interrupted me, “What color are the ATV’s?”

“Red and yellow, and there’s also a red pickup truck and an old Trans Am.” I answered.

“Yeah, you’re at the right place.” He said. “Back it up to the garage, I’ll be out in a second.”

I started to maneuver our rig back to the garage. The garage door opened and Matt, a tall, skinny guy, with red hair, a beard, and a pipe in his mouth walked out and started guiding me back.

Once we got the rig parked, I got out and immediately thanked him for his willingness to help us out, while I was swatting mosquitoes.

“No problem, I’m happy to help. Let’s get moving before the mosquitoes get us.”

I thought, “Too late for that,” as I saw them covering my legs.

However, Matt did get right to work.

He put his pipe down, took a quick swig of his Heineken, and grabbed his jack.

I asked him if Sandy and Cooper needed to get out of the RV.

“Nope, they’re fine in there.” He said.

We chatted as he worked. Talked about the music he was listening to, which was some of my favorite old Country and Southern Rock.

He found three small screws as the culprit of our leak, and he told me that was a new record for him.

He was a nice guy, funny, too.  He told me about his divorce, his two sons, how he built his own wood furnace, and his years working as an ice road trucker and how much he hates the show because it’s fake.

The map that got us to Matt’s place.

I showed him the map that lady at the visitor center gave drew for us to get to his place.  When he looked at it, he laughed, and said, “Well, hell, I don’t know how ya got here either, but-cha did!”

After he got the tire back on the rig, he invited me into his house to see his furnace. It was quite a sight to see.  You could tell that he was proud of it, and rightly so.  It was about as big as the bedroom in our rig.

“Keeps me warm when it’s minus-40 outside!” He proclaimed.

He told me that it would be $20 for the repair, I gave him $30 instead. We shook hands, I thanked him for the good music, great conversation, and for getting us back on the road again.

“No problem at all.” He said. “You have my number now if you need anything else.”

As Sandy and I drove down the road, we talked about how badly things could have turned out if God hadn’t been watching over us and how everything always happens for a reason.

You may not understand the reason why when it’s happening, but when you take the time to connect the dots going backwards, you can see why.

It was no fun being sick, but us being sick and having to leave Tok a day after the rest of the group actually triggered a chain of events that kept this situation from being drastically worse.

How? Let me explain.

Us leaving a day late and Alex having his hike and adventure scheduled, meant Cooper had to travel with us so we could watch him while Alex was gone all day.

Had Cooper not been with us, I would have never used our living space door on the RV at the rest area. As a matter of fact, there’s a really good chance that neither Sandy nor I would have even gotten out at the rest area. We would have probably just stopped, used the bathroom in the rig, and continued down the road.

Even had we been traveling with the group and did get out of the rig, we would have just gotten out of the cab and more than likely would not have walked around the rear of the rig.

A blowout and being stranded on the side of the road with no cell phone service in Alaska would have been a much worse scenario, with or without the group.

So, as much as I didn’t enjoy leaving my breakfast on the side of the Tok Fourth of July Parade route, it was all part of the process.

I’m sure Sandy feels the same, as her Friday was much worse than my Thursday.

This was a reminder that there really are some good people in the world, and whenever we have a chance, we need to take advantage of the opportunities where we can pay it forward because someday, we’re going to end up on the receiving end of those good deeds.

Pay it forward.