It took a 6,200-km bicycle ride to do it, but Klaus Lüttgen finally made peace with his estranged dad.
The cyclist passed through the North Island a couple of weeks back, near the end of a trek the 52-year-old German began about four months ago in Vancouver.
It was a trip that took Lüttgen as far north as Alaska and all through British Columbia.
“I brought my father with me,” he said.
Night after night around various camp fires — or any piece of dry ground Lüttgen could find — the cyclist would talk late into the nights with his father, a man who died a few years ago without making amends with a son who loved him.
“I heard too late he was dying,” Lüttgen said, recalling a time three years ago when his dad, Charles, passed away.
Lüttgen said he was eaten by guilt because he never tried to settle the differences that separated father and son for too many years.
“I wanted for him to make the first move, but I waited too long.”
Lüttgen lost his job as a mechanic about a year ago and decided to combine his search for inner peace with his long-held desire to see the wilds of B.C. and that of the northernmost American state.
He brought with him hundreds of vintage, elaborately decorated medals from the historical Cologne Carnival, a celebration that formally began in 1823.
The medals — shipped in advance in smaller packages to various places Lüttgen planned to visit — were part of a vast collection amassed by his father during his lifetime.
Lüttgen began his ride early June in Vancouver with a 30-year-old, lady’s-style steel bike and a small trailer pulled behind.
He just pointed north and began to pedal.
And pedal and pedal and pedal.
The German visitor depended largely on the kindness of others, many of whom would offer food, a warm dry place to sleep or simple words of encouragement.
“People were awesome,” he said.
“They were very friendly and helpful.”
In return, Lüttgen would give away his dad’s medals as a way of sharing the trip with the man with whom he had unfinished business.
So began the late night talks with his dead father.
“I would have the conversations in my head,” said Lüttgen.
“I’m not crazy — he never talked back — but I would talk with him, I would argue with him,” he said.
Night after night, Lüttgen would try to hash out all that was wrong in the relationship and, hopefully, some that was right.
Then, one night near the end of his trip while Lüttgen was deep in conversation with his father, he heard a sound, a sound as clear and clean as a baby’s cry.
But it was no child, what Lüttgen heard was his father’s laughter.
“I heard him like he was sitting across from me.”
Guilt and shame lifted from Lüttgen as he realized he finally found the peace he sought.
“I knew everything was alright and I will be leaving all my troubles behind,” he said.
“I can go home and start anew with a fresh outlook.”
For details of his trip, visit Lüttgen’s site at www.rocktheroads.de.