10 December 2006

How fast do you wanna go???

You've seen the car (my dream - I WILL own a 69 Chevelle someday) and the need for speed. Haley's Sweet Sixteen special day reminds me of where I learned to be fearless. Watching my daughter this weekend was bittersweet as I remembered being her age, my Sweet 16th, and where I was back then.

At that time, I was dating the person who would become her father. It was reminiscent of Fast Times at Ridgemont High with a little Footloose thrown in. How I graduated with the grades I had was beyond me... I don't remember studying much the last 3 years of school! There was a "pack" of us (I say that fondly) who it seemed were always together. The outcasts, not the social kings and queens, who moved to our own beat, fought the unjust and grew up way too fast for our own good. Her father and myself were pretty inseperable at that time, and his friends and their girls of the moment. We were always cruising, listening to music, a little drinking (girls, cover your eyes through this part) and not really getting into a LOT of trouble, but aggravating the hell out of the local police (of which my mother was a dispatcher so I knew all of them).

I learned to drive (and ride quietly) with her dad. He was truly fearless when it came to driving through anything and had a natural ability for controlling a vehicle in split seconds. Two moments remain fixed firmly in my memory.

One of them had us coming onto I-75 at 309 during sleet rain and trying to merge into traffic. He was driving, I was in the middle and one of his closest friends was shotgun. Traffic wouldn't (or couldn't) let us in so he decided to take the berm, pass the traffic on the right and move in that way. Which would have been perfectly acceptable, had it not been for the concrete bridge coming up at 81. I remember looking at him, seeing that mischievous grin that told me "hang on" and hearing the 4 barrel kick in as we were thrown back in our seat. It was a badass car at one time - there weren't too many people who could outrun us or outdrive him. Eyes to the front, I'm watching this bridge come closer, looking at the truck on our left and thinking "we're gonna die". Next thing I know, we're whipping left, fishtailing a bit then catching ourselves to slow down. How we missed it I will never know; I only know it took us the next 20 miles home to stop our hearts racing, talking a mile a minute about how cool that was and only years later realizing how stupid we had been. But damn it was fun!!! I still think of that moment every time I drive past.

The second moment was coming across new 30 (as it was called back then) out of Beaverdam headed to Lima to catch a movie. He, I, my brother and his girlfriend were gabbing and cruising when we came to the second overpass (the one that crosses I-75). It was again snowing and just at that point where the roads get greasy. We start up the hill with a Werner big truck behind us. Suddenly, we're into it (gotta love that rear-wheel drive) and sliding back and forth so fast the ass end was coming up around on both sides. There were several cars already spun out sitting against the wall and the guard rail on both sides. To this day, I know we could not get through that again. He never broke a sweat, just one-handed the steering wheel back and forth and somehow got us through to the other side without losing control or hitting anyone. We got out to walk up and see if anyone in the other cars needed help. He was about 50 yards ahead of me. Next thing I see is the Werner start drifting, fishtailing, finally jackknifing and laying over on the driver side in the median, right where I remember seeing her dad last. He had managed to dive out of the way, but was struck by a piece of guard rail that was thrown when the truck took out the posts. We got the driver out of the truck then went to get help from the local pd. (No cell phones for us back then.) I look back and again wonder, how?

Maybe not the best example or teacher. Or maybe so. I learned by watching to not lose it in the middle of chaos. Don't jerk the wheel, breathe, and for God's sake don't close your eyes. It has served me well.

And the speed! What a rush!!! In the car, on the bike, didn't matter... the faster the better! I never felt unsafe, even through all that. I knew we would make it through. (At this point, please let me take a moment to look up to Heaven and say Thank You. You really DO watch out for the stupid.)

The speed stuck with me, even after we parted. I remember driving across the 401 in Canada in my little Sentra at 85 (about 136 kmh) which is about 25 mph more than was allowed. I remember running up to my family's in northeastern Oh doing no less on 71, 271 and 90. No birddog. No kidding. My tickets came later (in the big truck).

As I got a little older, I slowed down a bit. My optimum cruising speed is 75. Same in a big truck. It's comfortable. 55 puts me to sleep. I learned to speed safely in a big truck with one of my buddies, one of few with whom I am comfortable letting drive anywhere, and also someone whom I never see anymore. The fun we had! Making it from the southwest side of Indianapolis back to the yard in VanWert OH (158 mi) in 2 hrs 9 minutes with 44,490 worth of engine blocks in the box. It was always a race to see who could make the exit at the 86 first to get the pleasure of running the front door through the woods. I was a dispatcher and a driver, he was a driver who knew the right people. Our trucks were always top-ended, flat out, and evenly matched. It usually came down to who was the better driver (him) and who caught the lucky breaks (me). He hated to lose and I loved to win! ;) He had years of out West hauling at speeds of 120 or better. He KNEW the trucks instinctively. I picked up what I could, and learned the rest with God's Grace in some pretty hairy situations. After he parted ways with the company, there was no one else who was able to keep up, most not even willing.

Which brings me to my title... and the reason it stays with me. This past summer my youngest daughter and I were hanging out at a friend's house with him and his son. He also drives a truck and I've had the pleasure of running up the road with him. He's not as adept as my previous buddy, but not afraid to scoot. We were on our way home across 33 in the Jeep, they were behind us (naturally!) and I saw him moving up on us in my mirrors. I eased the speed up, she looked at me, I grinned and stepped her up! (She has acquired my grace in staying calm and just watching.) They stepped out to our left and started coming up to pass. I look over, they're both looking over at me and grinning. I have pedal left; I look at the speedometer, it's past 90. I laugh, look straight at the guy driving and start saying to him (to which he understands immediately and says right back) "How Fast Do You Wanna Go?"

He tried, he really did! I had the lighter vehicle, the experience of running this road every day back and forth to work and *Da Da DAAAA* the Valentine Radar Detector. I was up, tapped on the brakes while still pressing the gas, and he (not having a dog and just CAN'T be sure) backed it down and moved right. I kept up for awhile then backed her down myself. He was not amused. :) Hey, sometimes it's dumb luck, sometimes it's use what you have and know to your advantage. All's fair in interstate drag racing!

So if you're out in the Buckeye, see a blonde in a blue Jeep who's moving slightly faster than the posted limit and feel up to it, give 'er a go... just remember, you'll have to answer the question....

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