OK, it happened again. I am beginning to worry.
About a year ago, I wrote about an incident driving down to Florida on my way to the beach with my son Carl when we encountered a white truck driving the wrong way down the highway. It ended up flipping five times right in front of us. I have avoided Ga. 300 since. These days, I drive past the Ga. 300 exit on I-75 and get off at Tifton and take U.S. 319 south instead on my way to the beach in an old area of the Florida Panhandle. But this week, we had a problem on 319.
Carl and I had just passed through Thomasville, Ga. and were on what I call “plantation alley.” It’s a very straight stretch of U.S. 319 that passes through a series of plantations - vestiges of old northern aristocracy – including the Greenwood Plantation (John Hay Whitney family), the Horseshoe Plantation (George F. Baker family), Pebble Hill Plantation (Melville Hanna family) and outside Tallahassee, the Ayavalla Plantation (John Phipps family…Phipps Plaza). Most of the estates consist of thousands and thousands of virgin acres of Slash Pine, Live Oak and Palmetto Palms used primarily for quail hunting. As one drives by, the only sign of “plantation” typically will be the stately brick or stone gated entrances garnished with cast iron archways covered with layers upon layers of paint. The old money remains in the area, and when you get closer to Tallahassee, a few of the estates actually are still in the possession of the families who acquired them as land grants from the Spanish hundreds of years ago. The plantations, in their stoic silence endure and are still run by the heirs and still attended to by multi-generations of “help.” Parts of South Georgia and North Florida remain to this day as forgotten relics - largely unchanged by time and largely forgotten by most of us.
Anyway as I drove I was enjoying, as I always do, the old oaks covered with Spanish moss that line the highway for miles and the wildflowers growing in the medians. I never saw the older red pickup that pulled up behind me. When I glanced up at my mirror, I was startled to see only a face - and actually only eyes - he was so close to me on my bumper. I still can’t believe that he was able to get that close without hitting me. The eyes I saw were dangerous eyes – “get out of my way Charles Manson high on crack or meth eyes” that clearly communicated to me that it would be in my best interest to get out of the way, which I did immediately. He floored it, pulled past me and was out of sight within several minutes on that straight road, weaving from one side of the two lanes to the other - accelerating all the while.
The guy really scared me because, honestly, his eyes were literally crazy eyes and it was very obvious that he was dangerous to anyone around him and to himself. I started to call 911, but then remembered that there was probably a way to just contact the Highway Patrol instead. I wasn’t sure, but the more I thought about it, the more certain I was that he could easy kill someone driving his truck like a maniac and high on meth. It would be irresponsible if I didn’t at least try to contact someone. It was at that point that I saw the blue lights up ahead. As I got closer, a State Trooper with one hand on the handle of his sidearm as they sometimes do, was edging up along the side of a stopped red pickup, the back of his shirt and pants pressed hard against the side of the truck as he moved cautiously forward. His gaze focused intently on the open window of the passenger’s side in front of him, his senses on high alert and his heart probably racing. I drove past them - I wanted to stop, but didn’t. I sensed that the trooper already knew that he was in harm’s way. As I passed, I wondered if the guy in the red truck even had a clue that within the hour he would be sitting in a jail cell where he would probably stay for the next day, week, month or more. I doubted that he did know, but I watched anyway for the next half-hour for his red truck to appear again in my rearview mirror. It never did. Then I chuckled with the thought that we have all had about where the law was when you really needed them. For me, the law was, in this instance, just a few miles ahead and on the side of the road and yes, paying attention.
So I guess I am rather rapidly running out of “safe” routes to the beach, but I do still have a couple more that I rarely use. We’ll try the I-85 way through Columbus next time and just hope there are no more incidents of a serious nature.