Road trips. Some people like them. Others hate them. I don’t really feel one way or the other about them. They are a necessary evil. Some are good and some are bad. I’ve had some fairly good road trips and others that were just disasters.
There is one road trip that stands out amongst the crowd, however. One of the thousands of road trips I’ve made that is just so horribly epic that its story must be shared.
It was 1995. My (then) step dad was a truck driver. He was a cross country truck driver. He was in Bentonville, Arkansas when he decided he didn’t want to work for whatever company he was employed by at the time. So he quit. Right then. He didn’t own his own truck so he was stuck there. He called my mother and enlisted us to come and pick him up.
I was 18 and still living at home. My mother worked third shift so we left when she got off work in the morning. I drove first, because she was obviously tired. We lived in Louisville at the time so our trip required us to head towards St. Louis first before our journey began heading south.
So I was driving across the great state of Indiana, and by great I mean “is there anything other than farmland here?”. I can’t recall why, but I was extremely tired. Staring at nothing but cornfields did nothing to perk me up. I was falling asleep at the wheel, but I had to persevere. I kept pinching myself. I kept violently shaking my head. I was doing whatever I could think of to keep myself awake. My mother was passed out in the passenger seat and was in no better condition to drive.
We were almost completely across the state, only miles from the Illinois border, when I was shocked into cognizance. Two black Cameros crossed the median.
I looked down at the speedometer, which only went as high as 80mph. The gauge was well past the 80mph mark.
I slowed the car down to 65mph hoping that they were turning around for some other reason, but knowing deep down that I was screwed. Both Cameros switched on their flashing lights and got behind me. They must have assumed I was going to run for it. I had never before, and have not since, been pulled over by two officers.
I pulled over on the side of the highway. The sudden deceleration woke my mother up. “What’s going on?” she asked.
“I’m getting pulled over,” I shamefully replied.
Once the car came to a stop I put the transmission in park and rolled down my window. An extremely surly state trooper walked up to the car, a little 1993 Ford Escort, and very angrily said, “You ever been to jail before?”
Shit. “Um, no”
“Well today’s a good day to start going 97 miles an hour!”
Holy shit! “97 miles an hour?” I exclaimed in disbelief. I had no idea how fast I was going since the speedometer only went to 80mph, but I certainly didn’t think this little car was capable of going quite that fast.
“Oh, let me guess,” he rebutted sarcastically, “you weren’t going that fast?”
“Um, I have no idea how fast I was going, honestly,” I sheepishly admitted.
I honestly don’t remember much of what happened after that. I know I explained to him that I was extremely tired and not paying as much attention as I should have been to my speed. I also pointed out that there were no other cars on the interstate otherwise I might have noticed how fast I was going when I had flown by one.
I, admittedly, was scared shitless. I thought this guy was going to arrest me for driving almost 100mph down the interstate. He took my license and insurance papers and disappeared into his unmarked Camero for what felt like eternity. If I bit my fingernails they would have been completely gone in a matter of minutes.
He eventually came back with only a ticket and a warning. Because I was driving more the 25mph over the limit I could not prepay my fine and had to come back a month later to appear before a judge. Awesome.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. At least, compared to that. We made it to Bentonville without further incident, stayed in a hotel for the night, and came back the next day. I was not invited to share any of the driving responsibilities, obviously.
I had to go to the county court in Evansville a month later where I received a fine and a tongue-lashing from the judge.
I always learn things the hard way.
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