This is a fairly short tale...but one that still makes me shiver to this day. It reminds me of how close we all come to chaos every day and in everything we do...whether it is driving a car or riding a bike.
One day in mid-April 2012 I was pedaling up Winery road at "exit 27" when i noticed a person pushing a bike up ahead of me. In the “old days”, I always thought I knew everybody that rode up there and thought maybe I could tease someone about pushing their bike so i was eager to see who this person may be. From a distance however I noticed this person was wearing boots, long pants, a heavy jacket and was also pushing an older looking commuter bike. Clearly not a “local”.
As I got closer I noticed the backpack on his back was fully loaded and the 'hiker biker' was leaning into their load. I felt totally intrigued and my brain was kicking into overdrive wondering “where they might be going? why they were dressed and loaded as they were? and what they intended to ride"?
Given the backpack and gear...it appeared this person was going for a long trip. Perhaps he was heading to Rattlesnake lake and further on the John Wayne trail….but then it made no sense that he would attempt Rattlesnake Ridge and ledge on this bike?
Numerous thoughts were going through my head as I pulled level and eager to strike up a conversation and answer some of my questions i gave a cheerful "Howzit" and friendly smile. Now I know my accent and use of words causes confusion and amusement at times... but the object of my curiosity barely looked up from the road and perhaps grunted something in reply. I remember keeping looking at him hoping to make eye contact and strike up a conversation but there was none of that and then I was ahead of him and I got the sense he was not open to conversation so I didn’t slow down anymore.
As I kept riding...it was one of those situations where you want to look back and confirm everything you saw...but I also felt awkward about the interaction and so kept pedaling with that feeling of someone watching my back. It was such a weird encounter that I kept thinking about all the likely routes and scenarios that this person might have been taking but none of my ideas seemed to fit into place.
It may have been a day or two later that I got out for a final ride with a friend before I was heading to Germany for a week of work. We hopped onto Winery road and I quickly started recanting my weird and slightly disturbing story when “lo and behold” I noticed the exact same dude in the exact same place pushing the same bike up the road. We passed in a similar manner but this time I really turned on my charm... using my best American accent but did not even get so much as a glance. The conversation that never happened was clearly not going to happen. It was so strange. My riding buddy and I discussed possible scenarios for the rest of the ride but were stumped as to where this hiker biker dude was heading and why he would be geared up as he was.
I was in Germany about a week later...it was maybe a Monday / Tuesday and I was heading home on Thursday. At breakfast I was reading messages from my wife, one of which was a news article with a bizarre and disturbing story about a manhunt that was underway in our small town of North Bend. It appeared that some crazy person had murdered his wife and daughter, set fire to his home and was now holed up in a bunker somewhere. Investigators believed it was somewhere nearby based on photographic evidence on his PC hard drive that had escaped damage in the fire. The house where the family had lived was barely a mile from where we lived at the time.
I knew instantly where that bunker was and opened my laptop at my breakfast table and used my international Skype account to call the police hotline and after being on hold for a long time I told my story and was thanked by the person on the other end.
I kept abreast of the news and the search until I departed on Thursday evening to fly back to Seattle and my next memory of the event is driving past exit 27 on Friday afternoon on my way home and seeing the exit blocked off with every flavor of law enforcement car packed in our usual parking spots. The stand off ended that evening I believe.
I like to think my call contributed in some way...but i believe investigators were able to triangulate the position of the bunker based on the photos on his computer that showed the power lines somewhere in the Fall City / Tokul area.
The rest is history and you can you can read about it here. The picture is from the living Snoqualmie website.