This Thursday night in July, the air felt cool, moist with a green feeling. The stars twinkled under a clear night sky. I breathed the clean, fresh after-park air and a little exhaustion left my body. I now had enough energy to make the half-hour drive home. I lived only thirteen miles away but it is a full thirty-minute drive through Lebanon, Ohio.
I elected the most direct route taking I-71 to State Route 48 to avoid that section of town with drunk bar closing patrons. I left the parking lot and entered the entrance ramp for I-71 at Exit 25. At the bottom of the ramp, I came to a complete stop.
In front of my tiny, minuscule, red car were two rows of 18 wheel trucks. Like a line of massive elephants with the tail to trunk, the lines of semis cruised at 80 mph. No gap. No break. No slowing. And the line didn’t stop. I couldn't see the beginning or the end.
1:18 am. 1:21 am. 1:26 am. I sat and watched the line flash by. The push and pull of air from the fast-moving line set my car rocking like a boat on a choppy sea. I was spellbound. I sat for a full ten minutes. My brain just could not process the sheer number.
I finally shook myself out of my stupor and moved to shift my car into reverse. No one was behind me on the ramp or moving on the street beyond. I figured I would reverse back up the ramp and take the long, winding country roads home. My shoulders slump in fatigue and resignation yet my eyes and brains could not stop watching the rare sighting of a convoy.
As I slipped the car into reverse, the semis began to honk. One after another honked as they passed by and I paused in my gear change.
Was that an opening? A mile back a truck slowed and a gap formed in the chain. I had one shot and it was going to be tough. I would have to time my acceleration to match the trucks and quickly change gears to match their pace. I only hoped my little beater would be fast enough. My heart raced and my shoulders tensed.
I moved the gear back into first and prepped my feet for what I knew would be an Irish quick step of clutch and accelerator. I rolled my shoulders and took a deep breath as I watched the gap move steadily closer. Breathe my mind whispered to my frantic pulse.
I slowly rolled the car into first gear forward to time my entry with the end of the last semi before the gap. As soon as the trailer passed my front end, I pressed the accelerator down with my left foot and my right hand smoothly shifted gears. The car shot forward as quickly as the hamsters in my little can could run.
The inside lane of trucks whized by ignoring the tiny fly buzzing between behemoths. No one honked. No one looked. They just flew by me on the inside as the semi behind me roared to catch up; it's grill in my rearview.
And off we went. I was tucked up between these two massive semi-tractor trailers. I prayed no deer would suddenly dart across the highway. Or brakes would give out. Or my engine would suddenly say “Yeah, we never planned to go 80 mph, you dummy.”
But I did. For three whole miles. Yes, it's not a great distance or time. But those three miles felt like days or years passing. I hunched over that steering wheel conscious of every adjustment or tension in my accelerator foot. Any fatigue vanished as I focused on every inch of those three miles.
My windows rolled down and the night air I previously cherished filled with choking exhaust. No time to crank them up. The car rattled and vibrated from the speed and whipping motion of the inner line of semi's. My foot and rear end tingled from the vibration.
Minutes, days, weeks, or years later, I quickly turned off the highway to merge on State Route 48. I made that quick jerking turn as soon as the lane appeared and once again did the Irish two-step familiar to all stick-shift drivers. As I drove that long, exiting curve, I slowed to watch the semis close in the gap and honk their goodbye.
Convoy. Just like the 1975 song by C.W. McCall and the movie with Kris Kristofferson.
Later, I recounted my experience to my family and my brother rolled his eyes while muttering “[email protected]$.” I think he was jealous.
Ah, if only I had today’s cell phone camera.
About the author
Author, mother, grandmother, and former teacher - Annie Taylor has three decades of writing in a variety of forms. She has written manuals, speeches, books, and sales brochures. Annie travels the US in her RV obsessively writing.