How One Motorcycle Brought Two Coast Guard Legacies Together
This incredible true story proves that we’re all related or are connected in one way or another without even knowing it. Our particular experience involves our RV lifestyle, my Harley Davidson motorcycle, and our affiliation and serving in the Coast Guard.
I ask my Coast Guard Shipmates to please take a knee. Once you read this blog, you’ll realize why. This is an incredible story or as we Coasties refer to it as a No $hitter. But it’s also a story that shows really how small our Coast Guard really is.
This blog is dedicated to EN2 Jerry Phillips
Becoming RVing motorcyclists…
Since late 2014, we have been full-time RV travelers. We pulled our 2014 Heartland Cyclone 4100 fifth wheel toy hauler hauling our two Harley Davidson motorcycles in its’ aft garage. Our first year, we would seek destinations to park our RV to use as our base of operations. We’d pull our Harley’s out of the garage and ride through all of the Mid Atlantic states down into Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and over into Texas. In our second year, we rode up into the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.
However, while we loved our toy hauler, and our motorcycles, we found that hauling, maintaining, repairing, and being able to find safe roads to ride became a logistical issue that left us with frustrations and empty wallets.
Time for a change…
Reluctantly moving forward, we decided to change up our RV travel plans. We agreed to sell both of our Harley Davidson motorcycles and trade our toy hauler in for a fifth wheel more suited for full-time RV living. We knew this was going to be a painful move however, it’s the best we could hope for to continue on our journey.
In the Spring of 2015, while visiting our friends in Kentucky, we left Dan’s Fatboy at our friend’s motorcycle repair and consignment shop in Louisville. We kept my Heritage Classic to see if we could at least two-up for awhile before selling it.
By this time, we were still hauling our toy hauler but with only my Heritage in the garage. We meandered our way down to spend the winter in Texas. OH, we tried to two-up but let’s just say, once both of us have been riding separate motorcycles, it ended up to be a disaster. We argued and ended up playing Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who was going to ride bitch (on the back seat). Ironically, I was never good at that game; hence, I lost every time. I mean, what guy wants to ride bitch on his wife’s bike? My last straw was when we two-upped from Galveston Island to Matagorda to ride to their seafood festival.
After about a month of my whining and complaining (and slapping him on his helmet for short-shifting or grinding the gears) about not being able to ride my motorcycle, Dan decided to call Gordon to tell him that he was flying up to retrieve his Fatboy. Coincidentally, he just told Dan that he just sold it that morning. Dan was devastated. I was devastated. But I guess God had other plans for us.
So, we then traded our Cyclone in for a Heartland Landmark luxury fifth wheel while we were parked at Alsation RV Resort in Castroville, Texas. Our plans were to ride out for the winter with my Heritage and sell before leaving San Antonio area. This gave me a little more time to get in some solo rides because, after all, the Heritage was my bike. But, it was only a matter of time that we’d have to unload it before leaving Texas because we had no way of transporting my bike unless Dan pulled the RV while I would get the better end of the deal riding my motorcycle.
I had been delaying selling my bike; thinking it would sell within a week of me listing it. Dan was on my back, ‘when are you going to list it’? I was hammering back and forth when to sell my bike. I drug my feet selling it; making every excuse ‘not this week’. I LOVED my Harley.
Let’s go back to how I acquired my Heritage Classic ‘Silver’.
My ‘Silver’ badge of courage…
Long story short, Dan gifted me that 2001 Harley Davidson Heritage Classic for my 25th wedding anniversary gift. So, I named my ride Silver; because 25th wedding anniversary gifts are supposed to be silver.
I’ve put over 60,000 miles on that Heritage Classic. He (because girls ride boy bikes) never left me stranded. Silver took me places that even the hardiest of male riders envied. I took him on round-trip solo rides from Louisville, Kentucky to Key West and Louisville to Richmond, Virginia and through the Appalachian Mountains.
Together, Dan and rode each of our motorcycles to Rolling Thunder in Washington D.C. for Memorial Day three different years. We took several cross country trips from Louisville, through the Sand Hills of Nebraska to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. And, we took some twisties through the Spanish Peaks of New Mexico and through the hot furnaces of the Great Plains of Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle, etc.
But, together, Silver and I had a different kind of mission when we weren’t riding for fun. My steed of white and chrome proudly carried our Nation’s colors on his back fender. As Patriot Guard Riders, we escorted many Fallen Heroes from airports to their awaiting families and then their final resting places. And, we rode in many darkened late nights and early mornings to welcome thousands of Soldiers back to the United States. Silver safely took me to ride in many charity events for Firefighters, Police officers, Wounded Warriors, Homeless and Abused Children. My steel horse and I rode many miles just to meet friends for lunch and reunite with old shipmates.
Springtime in Texas…
Well, I knew this time would come. After a few attempts of listing my Harley on Craigslist, Cycle Trader and local sources, it seemed like forever to get even one interested phone call. Anything that came from Craigslist seemed to be nothing but stupid scams and anything from Cycle Trader was just a bunch of dealers trying to insult me with lowball offers. We became discouraged and anxious. What few valid calls we did get, potential buyers were scared off by the mileage; despite me paying to have the 50,000 engine requirements completed and the showroom condition we kept Silver in. His maintenance records were meticulous and together in a folder waiting for a new owner.
I was extremely hesitant about dropping the price again but we really needed to unload it…and soon! So, a few weeks later, we gritted our teeth and lowered the price. I cried because I knew what he was worth. But of course, like selling a house, I needed to remove the personification. To the outsider, it was just a 15 year old motorcycle with older technology.
The call that would change our lives…
Finally about two weeks before our scheduled departure of Texas, we received a rather interesting phone call that showed up as an international number. It was from Mexico. Dan answered. It was some guy who lived in Mexico but was visiting his family in Corpus Christi, Texas. However, the man who was inquiring about my motorcycle asked all the right questions. But still skeptical, Dan thought it was a scam and didn’t take the call seriously (the whole Mexico visiting the U.S. thing).
But then, a couple days later, the same guy from Mexico with the international number called again. He wanted to arrange a meetup to take a look at it. We told him we were in San Antonio which was too far from Corpus Christi to meet up. But he emphatically said, ‘no, I’ll come to you in San Antonio’. So, we agreed to meet at the McDonald’s outside the Fort Sam Houston Army Post gate at the McDonalds at 1000 hours on Monday.
Unfortunately timing couldn’t have been worse for me to meet with this potential buyer. I had previously scheduled a doctor’s appointment the same precise time. So, all morning, I stewed about it because Dan was going to meet some guy with an international number from Mexico to possibly buy MY Harley. And in the unicorn mermaid’s chance that the guy was going to buy it, Dan stood to receive a fair amount of cold cash, sign the title, write a bill of sale, shake hands and then worry about how he was going to get back on post safely in a Taxi in a seedy part of town.
This didn’t sit particularly well with me. I pulled a Marsha Brady ‘something suddenly came up’ and called the doctor’s office to reschedule because I felt I really needed to go with Dan. Strangely though, it wasn’t really not the big roll of cash he would be carrying home but something else pressed me to go. Just ‘something’ was telling me I absolutely NEEDED to do this.
The clock is ticking…
Our appointment time arrived. I asked Dan if he’d like to ride Silver while I followed in our truck to the McDonalds as I was still recovering from a serious back injury. Unfortunately, something held us on post gate traffic forcing us to run a few minutes late; twenty minutes, as a matter of fact. I sat talking to Dan next to the motorcycle wondering if the guy from Mexico gave up on us. But we decided to wait.
Another 20 minutes went by and a red car finally pulled in next to the motorcycle. A clean cut, tall gentleman about our age stepped out. His shirt tucked in clean jeans with ostrich hide looking cowboy boots walked up to meet Dan while I stayed in the truck. He was very cordial and well versed. In fact, he reminded me of Sam Elliot.
Anyway, he and Dan exchanged typical conversation and questions about my motorcycle. They recounted their previous phone calls about the mileage, maintenance and chrome upgrades. He reiterated the price to Dan that they discussed prior, walked around it twice and sternly said, ‘I’ll take it’.
I quietly sighed. A big huge cloud of heartache and grief came over me. It felt like I was losing a best friend. While I knew it was just an object or thing, to me it had personality and craft. As I stepped out of the truck, I politely told him the only thing I needed to take off was the Coast Guard magnet I forgot on one of the chrome covers. He quickly chuckled and said, ‘no, leave it on. My dad was in the Coast Guard’. I thought to myself, ‘well isn’t THIS ironic?’
Then he also noticed Dan’s tattoo on his arm which led us into a short conversation about our tenures in the Coast Guard. About this time, I’m handwriting the bill of sale out asking for his full name.
He replied, ‘Gary Phillips’.
Instantaneously, Dan and I shot one of those inquisitive looks to each other as if we were reading each other’s minds. Already knowing, we asked him who his father was.
Gary said, ‘Oh, my dad was Jerry Phillips who was killed in action in Vietnam’.
Dan and I again quickly glanced at each other with the most bizarre look on our faces. Dan uttered the words in the form of a question, “the Point Welcome?”
Gary quickly said ‘yea, my dad was the engineer killed on board”.
Right then, both my hair literally stood straight up on the back of my neck. The man about to buy my motorcycle is the son of one of the two Coast Guardsmen killed in action in the Point Welcome friendly fire incident. What are such chances for something of this coincidental magnitude to happen?
Dark cloud lifted…
As I finished handwriting the bill of sale, I was experiencing one of those AH-HA moments. All of my apprehensions of selling Silver were lifted. I felt indescribably AWESOME about who I just sold my motorcycle.
To make the story even sweeter, I shared with him that I lost my father, who was also in the Coast Guard, at such a young age too. Telling him who my father was, where he was stationed, and how he died (ironically killed while riding a motorcycle). Coincidentally, my father, also an Engineman in the early 1960’s; precisely the same time as Gary’s Dad. Though, I lost my Dad two years prior to Gary losing his, we were thinking we perhaps they even knew each other because the Coast Guard is so small.
So, there we stood together, shaking hands and hugging because we felt an incredible connection in such indescribable way. THIS is why I was compelled to go and be there for the sale. But, it wasn’t about the sale at all. Spiritually speaking, perhaps it was our two father’s who congregated ‘up there’ pushing us to meet? Either way, I will carry this amazing connection with me forever.
Riding off in the sunset
As Gary rode off on Silver, I got one last sparkle of chrome with sun shining on his back in the distance. Dan and I drove back to our RV in the truck to our campsite on post. No more motorcycles but elevation filled my heart and tears filled my eyes. I was extremely satisfied with how the transaction transpired.
The irony continues…
When we got back to our RV, I Googled EN2 Jerry Phillips’ hometown. Just as Gary mentioned in his first phone call, it was Corpus Christi, Texas where Gary’s mother and brother currently reside. Gary returned to Mexico and occasionally texts us. He still owns Silver and rides him whenever he returns to visit his family.
And one more slice of irony, Dan picked up a penny right outside our RV before we left to take the bike to McDonald’s. We call pennies we find on the ground, Pennies from Heaven. Was that penny from his dad, Jerry Phillips Coincidence?
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