Friday, July 13, 2012

Thelma and Louise

They’re calling us Thelma and Louise.
Two thousand, one hundred and eighty-eight miles.  Two and a half days.  Two women.  One Chevy Tahoe. 

The world may never be the same.
My husband, Rob, and I decided it was time to go back to Florida to seize some fleeting moments with his dad.  I dropped him at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport, went home to load up our truck, and—in true anti-TSA fashion—drove to Tucson to pick up Thelma.  Road trip, baby!
No.  I’ve never done this before. 

Okay, once I did all the driving from St. Louis, Missouri, to our home in Arizona because Rob had leg pain that turned out to be a blood clot the size of New Jersey.  He rode gunshot behind me and navigated my every move—literally a backseat driver.  But this time my friend and I took on I-10 alone, armed with only an obsolete Garmin and my smart phone. 

Who needs men.
We covered 900 miles the first day and set our sights on Marianna, Florida, for the second—about 800 miles more. On day two we learned that if you’re traveling I-10 east towards Florida, you gotta go through Katy, Texas. 

Make a note of that.  The Harris County Toll Road Authority did.
It was nine-thirty in the morning, and every motorist in Texas was on the highway I was driving. Suddenly, a magical toll road appeared out of nowhere, complete with pink hearts, orange stars and green clovers.  What’s a girl to do? Next time she’ll avoid it like the plague.  It turns out the word “toll” means different things in different states.  In Texas, it means they don’t want your lousy cash—they want your license plate number.  We learned that important piece of information a few miles down the expressway when the magic wore off and a glaring sign screamed, “EZ TAG permits ONLY—violators will be prosecuted.” 
“What’s an EZ tag?” I asked Thelma. 
“Probably just another TSA scheme,” she answered.  She knows me so well.
Texas and I are still negotiating that one.  My next blog may be coming to you straight from the Alamo.  I heard they lock up toll offenders there.
Our third day was the final push.  I-10 became yesterday’s news as we set the cruise control to smokin’ and turned right, merging into the frenetic mob driving I-75 south to Sarasota.
It should have been smooth sailing.  Thelma was driving and, yesterday’s mishap behind us, we were closing in on our target. Soon I’d hug my darlin’, kiss my father-in-law’s forehead, and park our weary truck.
I-75 is a three lane highway.  Thelma was doing the speed limit in the middle lane with no neighbors on either side of us.  Suddenly the distinctive voice of a bully interrupted our conversation.  Hastily glancing behind us, all we saw was metal grillwork—its mouth open, bellowing airbrake threats—ready to swallow us for lunch.
Nuh huh-uh. 

I don’t know if this guy hated Arizona license plates or just redheads and blondes. Or maybe his shorts were just . . . too short.  But he seemed convinced that a little cat and mouse at 70 mph would be more fun than a bowl of grits.  Which, actually, makes sense.  He just didn’t expect the Thelma and Louise version of “not on my watch, you moron.”
See, we’re from Arizona—home of rattlesnakes and road rage.  We’ve seen it all. And lived to tell about it.
“I’m not intimidated by him,” Thelma said, “he can go around me.” And she stayed put.
The mighty midget behind us eased off and roared up again, airbrakes louder than before.  I began to cave a little.
“There are lanes open on both sides of us,” I said, rubbing my hands nervously.  The trucker slowed briefly, and came in a third time, airbrakes rumbling more rudely this time.
“Maybe you should move over and let him go by,” I said, crossing myself religiously, having converted to Catholicism thirty seconds prior.
“He doesn’t scare me,” Thelma said.  “I’m doing the speed limit.”
“What if he’s some kind of highway pirate?” I worried.  “I think I saw a show on TLC like that. They run cars off the road just because they’re in a big hurry to get their lettuce to the grocery.”
“That’s Ice Road Truckers,” Thelma said, “and it’s on the History Channel.  But it’s not about pirates.  I think it’s about Eskimos.”
We moved over anyway, speed limit and all, and Captain Jack Sparrow slowed back two car lengths, like a gator eyeing his prey.  Thelma reclaimed her position in the middle lane. I resumed my prayer life.  And the pirate roared up again, passing us on the right this time.  That’s when he was done with Thelma and took on Louise, eyeball to eyeball.
Hell hath no fury.
It wouldn’t be appropriate as a newly converted Catholic for me to repeat in print everything that came out of my mouth that morning. But let me confess that I did speak in tongues. Sort of. And sign language.
Cigarette hanging out of his mouth, no hands on his steering wheel (at least that’s how I remember it), the trucker made it clear with body language that he wrote the rules of this road and was surprised that we missed the memo.  I, in turn, made it clear that I didn’t think much of his mother.
Still, it didn’t seem like a good day to die—we had a schedule, you know—so instantly I began to fast and pray.  But Thelma is a Lutheran, so she just got her back up.  I think God likes Lutherans, but He pities ex-Baptists, ‘cuz suddenly a weigh station appeared like a mirage in the desert, and the pirate trucker was forced into submission by the State of Florida.
“Take that!” Thelma yelled as we drove past, still doing the speed limit.
“Yeah!” I echoed, and then asked her to find a bathroom ‘cuz I was about to . . . need one.  
We’re already talking about our next road trip.  Maybe we’ll go terrorize her home state of Iowa.  I’m in - as long as they don’t have toll roads there.  Or ice road truckers.


  1. LOL I have a friend in Katy, TX. And her husband is in law enforcement. Let me know if you need bail money!

    1. Awesome! Friends in high places! Have I told you lately that you rock, Liz? :)