A couple of weeks ago, I drove over to Tallahassee to interview a musician I am writing about for a regional magazine. Since my focus was on spending time with my subject, I wasn’t able to explore Tallahassee the way I might have otherwise. I’m not even sure Tallahassee is in Florida; other than hearing the occasional grunt from the Governor I just don’t pay much attention to the goings-on in the Panhandle.
This situation must be corrected. There’s a vintage auto museum I want to visit, not to mention the period-piece park at Wakulla Springs. In addition, the woman I went to interview took me on a short hike to Lake Lafayette that has me scrambling to find the time to go back.
When I return, I am going to take the back roads.
I’d never driven that stretch of I-10 that runs from Lake City to Tallahassee and I was surprised to find that it is a much easier piece of blacktop than the I-75. No truckers blew their horns at me or challenged me in the center lane the way that often happens as I make the run from Alachua to Gainesville. I made it all the way to the Jackson County rest area at mile marker 233 before a trucker gave me a “Whoo hoo!” This time, I wasn’t driving but was out of my car and headed to the bathroom. The whoo-hoo was probably my fault because I was wearing a leopard-print shirt. The trucker waited patiently outside the ladies’ room until I came out, and then he gave me the “Whoo hoo!” again, along with a mumbled utterance that was vaguely pornographic in nature.
I have learned the hard way never to wear shorts while driving on the interstate, and now I am going to have to add anything with an animal print to the forbidden-fashion list.
I managed to drive across the USA wearing a pair of brown shorts that made me look like a Boy Explorer, but this attracted no attention until the I-75. The situation has become so dire that I now wear baggy cargo pants and a USMC cap (worn backwards) when driving alone. The final straw was a challenge match I had with a J. B. Hunt big rig over a nine-mile course between highway exits 399 and 390. Again, I was completely to blame for this high-speed chase. I had just left Mr. B.’s place and was wearing a pair of beige shorts. Runny mascara and unbrushed hair should have dictated that men give me wide berth, but apparently I am misapprehending my allure. Or maybe I am misapprehending the allure of being a woman in general. Unthinkingly, I bent my right leg and put my foot on the seat while using my left foot on the gas pedal. It was too much for the trucker. He blew his horn as a bull paws the dirt. The truck snorted and surged forward and the chase was on. I remember thinking, This is one hell of a way to hunt game, by running it off the road. He pressed his pursuit across lanes until I was going 85 MPH, and then I darted over to the right lane and tried to hide between a Publix truck and a Dollar General truck. The pursuer immediately moved over to the center lane and boxed me in. He leaned over and madly signaled for me to take the very next exit, where there just happened to be a cheap motel.
I can only guess that a combination of factors leads to this ungentlemanly behavior. Let’s put ourselves in the trucker’s shoes. He has started his trip in Vancouver, where he has picked up a really boring load of cheap DVD players that he must deliver to Miami. He doesn’t make any money unless he keeps rolling, and if he must stop, he can’t abandon his truck. He spends his nights with a crappy truckstop pizza and a collection of DVDs he knows by heart; depending on his sexual persuasion these can range from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Hoes in the Hood.” He also cannot take his truck on many local roadways, so he can’t take a tour of downtown Gainesville or seek out fried gator in backroads Beetree Ford. Instead, he fuels himself with caffeine and Tums and a quick shower at a truck stop and then he’s on his way again, reminding himself that when he arrives in Miami he has to unload his rig in 100-degree heat.
Here he is, having driven around the clock, when he suddenly spies a blonde driving an SUV. Wowee! Half-crazed with a lack of sleep, his primitive mind kicks in: WOMAN! In this state he is like the caveman or the first European explorers of the Americas or like prison inmates who do not have the rights of conjugal visits. At this point he is not in control and can do no more than to follow the atavistic hunting instinct to what he thinks is the logical conclusion. The situation is made more exciting when the blonde driving the SUV ignores him and attempts to get away. This kicks him into overdrive. Pedal to the metal!
He is also ignored by the Highway Patrol, who mysteriously choose to flag down an old lady who is driving six miles over the speed limit.
The hunt ends when the blonde driving the SUV veers off the next exit without signaling, causing the big rig to zoom by at 100 MPH with a final and frustrated blast of his horn. He’s still got a long, long way to go.
Here, some pictures from both the roadside and the road itself:
The famous “Johnny Donutseed” at the BP truck stop at exit 217 on the I-10 does not appear to have mad dishwashing skillz.
An example of a gentlemanly trucker. I was able to pass this truck several times without so much as a snort from the engine. Thank you, Golden Flake.