I'll never forget the rush, the excitement, and the terror of that Saturday night, many years ago. I was very young, just out of College, and for the first time in my life I had a real job. Did what most young men do when they finally find themselves with a little cash, some credit, and a need to make their mark upon the world-I bought a fast car, a Porsche 911 Turbo. I would spend the next five years of my life paying for this, but at that age one can hardly conceive of five years.
On this particular Saturday night, I had offered a lady a drive home, as I often did. Unfortunately, she lived across town on the other side of the city, which meant an hour drive back home on the freeway. I looked down at my watch, it was 2: 00 a. m. I figured I could easily make the drive in 45 minutes. Settling into the driver's seat I started the engine and turned up the radio.
A drive like this would definitely need driving music. I knew the roads well, I'd driven it numerous times before. The freeway was wide and mostly straight, and there was little in the way off traffic to worry about. I felt very comfortable and safe driving my usual speed for 2: 00 a. m. of just under 140 mph.
Safe for this stretch of road-but I was fast approaching the Hump. The "Hump," as it was commonly called, was a well known bump in the road that had formed though some error or perhaps from the effects of weather, no one was really sure. The freeway was about to become an elevated expressway that went through the city. Where there should have been a slow gradual rise to the elevated expressway, there was instead a rather steep ramp. And instead of a gradual rise from the ramp to the expressway, there was in fact a bump at the top of the ramp-that was the Hump. The posted speed limit for the freeway was 70 mph, but dropped off to 40 mph for the raised expressway.
The speed limit for the ramp itself was posted on a pair of large orange warning signs as 40 mph. It wa very safe to take this ramp at speeds of up to 60 mph, I knew this from experience. Anything over 60 mph and your car would leave the road. One of my favorite things to do was to speed up whenever I would approach the Hump to see if I could get some air.
I knew there was danger in this sport. Not long ago I read in the newspaper about a Chevy Corvette that hit the Hump so fast that it actually jumped the median and landed on the opposite side of the expressway-directly in the path of oncoming traffic. It hit another car head-on and everyone in both cars was killed instantly. But like many young people the fear of death was not strong in my mind. As well, I had a potentially lethal mixture of adrenaline and a little alcohol coursing through my veins. Seeing the Hump ahead I positioned myself in the center lane so I was able to give myself a safety lane on each side.
I ensured there were no cars to my left or right. Placing both hands on the wheel I tightened my grip. I hit the Hump... Airborne. Thrilling sensation of speed and freedom. The steering wheel became loose in my hands as the tires lost traction.
A natural occurrence resulting from the lack of contact between the rubber of the tires and the asphalt of the expressway. I remained calm, I had experienced this sensation many times before, nothing to worry about. I was not in control of the vehicle, but the loss of control was temporary, I would regain control the moment the tires hit with the road. But I was heading directly towards the divider. Panic welled up inside me. The calm of only a second before was gone.
Fingers tightened. My hands became a vice. Every ounce of strength was devoted to keeping the steering wheel still. Every once of self-control was devoted to fighting my natural instinct to turn the wheel in the direction I wanted to go-away from the divider. It would take only the slightest effort to spin the wheel like in my hands, but no I had to keep the wheels straight. I hit the ground.
Tires screeched. Sparks flew. My head hit the roof of the car as I flew out of my seat. I was holding on so tight, nothing could have broken my I was only a few feet from the divider, and heading directly towards it! Trying to regain control, I turned the wheel sharply to the right. Again the tires screeched, the car swerved, missing the divider by a few inches.
Unfortunately I had swerved too much and now was headed directly towards the divider on the opposite side of the road! I swerved again... and again. The car fishtailed back and fourth a couple of times. Slowly I regained control of the car, and soon after I loosened my grip on the wheel and noticed my hands tremblingly.
My confidence slowly returning I began to accelerate again. I'd lost a lot of speed, but in a few moments I would be back up to my cruising speed of just under 140 mph. Out of nowhere, a red Ferrari Test arosa pulled up alongside me. The driver, a young man in his late twenties, smiled, saluted, and pulled away. He had obviously witnessed what happened, and his smile and salute was one of respect. I could tell at once that he too, was a Road Warrior.
For those who don't drive fast, you will not appreciate the bond that exists amongst fast drivers. There is a kind of unspoken respect for other drivers who travel at excess speeds. But being a Road Warrior is about more than just fast driving. It's about being in one with the road. It's about feeling the location of every other driver around you, sensing the flow of traffic and knowing how to react to the changing conditions. A Road Warrior slips through traffic as easily as a bird in flight.
You will never see a Road Warrior waiting behind a car turning. He would have anticipated the delay in advance and slipped into the other lane, the shoulder if necessary, to avoid the slowdown. A Road Warrior will take side streets and alternate routes to avoid traffic jams, even if this adds time to the journey. For the Road Warrior it's not getting there that counts, but the journey. It's all about flow and keeping the speed. Better to drive the detour fast, than inch along the direct route.
I've often driven long stretches of roads at high speeds you will find others just like you. That one other car who is weaving a pattern in and out of the other traffic-the obstacles. I don't know who they are, and they don't know me, but there is some friendship that forms, a kind of "speeders bond." When one of us leaves the highway, there is the salute, a sign of respect. This Road Warrior, my friend in the Ferrari, was not saluting because he was leaving the highway, he was just leaving me in his dust! No doubt he had been trailing me for a while, giving me plenty of space to "clear the hump" before finally overtaking me.
Normally, I would not have thought any more about it, but on this night I was feeling daring, full of confidence from my conquest of the Hump. Besides, I had only had the car a few months and had not yet experienced her top speed." Let's see what she can do," I said aloud as I punched the accelerator and reached for the volume control. Fast driving required loud music. The engine raced and the car responded quickly.
Directly ahead I saw my target-the red Ferrari. The speedometer needle rose, 150 mph... 160 mph... 170 mph. I was now traveling the fastest I had ever driven this car, approaching the red Ferrari to utter my unspoken challenge pass him as if in slow motion, despite the fact that we were both traveling close to 180 mph.
I looked to my left and smiled dryly. Filled with thrill, I slowly pulled ahead. Challenge offered. But my thrill was short lived. The driver of the Ferrari punched his accelerator and raced ahead of me. He smiled as he passed, no salute this time.
Challenge accepted. My engine was purring a steady hum. I had slightly eased off the accelerator as I passed him, so I punched the accelerator again, all the way to the floor this time. The engine raced again, but I could feel it was nearing its limit. Valiantly the car responded and struggled forward, ever faster. I could feel the acceleration, but it was not enough.
With dismay I realized I could not catch the Ferrari. Then I remembered the "turbo" button. I pushed the button and once again felt the car's engine jerking me back into my seat. The car surged ahead. I would catch him yet.
The speedometer needle strained. I watched in amazement as it slowly passed the 200 mph mark. Then, gradually continuing in its graceful circle... 210 mph...
220 mph. I could no longer feel the forces holding me back, there was no "oomph" left in the engine, but I keep the pedal to the floor, and slowly but surely the car continued to accelerate. I could see the Ferrari ahead, and I was gaining. The speedometer read...
230 mph. At this speed it took only the slightest touch of the wheel to glide from one lane to the next. Occasionally I lost a little speed as I wove in and out of the cars doing the speed limit in the middle of the expressway. The speedometer continued... 240 mph. The speedometer did not read speeds in excess of 240 mph, but the needle continued to strain, soon it was pointing nearly straight down.
I pulled up alongside the Ferrari once again, and smiled. He smiled back, as he once again, ever so slowly, pulled ahead. There was nothing I could do, I had asked my car to give me all she could, and she had responded valiantly, I could ask no more from my little girl. For a few moments longer we continued our speed, weaving a pattern around the thought parked cars. Avoiding the obstacles with the greatest of ease while maintaining our breakneck speed. Finally I eased off the accelerator, ever so slightly.
The Ferrari accelerated." What's he doing" I wondered aloud when suddenly I'm blinded by flashing blue and red lights. My heart dropped into my stomach. "Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!" I repeated over and over while hammering the steering wheel with my fist. I had just passed a radar trap. I had no idea how fast I was traveling, the needle was off the scale. The posted limit was 70 mph.
I couldn't imagine what the ticket would be. Would there even be a ticket Probably not. I was going straight to jail! I had to think fast. The lights had disappeared behind me, no longer visible in my rear view mirror. But it wouldn't take long for them to catch up. Or would they The Ferrari didn't seem to think so, he was pulling steadily away from me.
He was going for it! Think! Think! Think! I said repeatedly. Somehow I had to get out of this and I had only seconds to figure out a way. If I tried to outrun the cop, like the Ferrari, he wouldn't be able to stop both of us. So what would he doHe'd stop me of course, the slower car. He probably wouldn't even be able to catch the Ferrari, and something inside me told me that the driver of the Ferrari knew it. Suddenly I saw an exit.
It was coming.