So we were driving home from Jasper, AL, last Thursday afternoon. We timed our departure so as not to hit Atlanta rush hour traffic, congratulated ourselves for planning ahead and put a John Hiatt cd in. We were tooling across I-20, passing an 18-wheeler, when an old beat up pickup truck (complete with all the accessories--gun rack, fresh coat of mud, et cetera--came hurtling up behind us. As soon as we cleared the 18-wheeler, the pickup darted at a dangerous angle in front of the tuck, passed us on the right, and swerved in front of us.
Jim had not finished spitting expletives and muttering something about suicidal morons--this particular one turned out to be a female in a tank top with a ponytail and a cell phone--when a guy that looked like he just stepped out of the board room driving a souped-up hot rod of undetermined lineage passed Miss Armed and Dangerous. Then two more cars and an SUV pulled up even with Hot Rod and Dirty Truck.
Jim scooted back into the right lane and backed off from these maniacs--or tried--but we were on the Interstate, and being passed doing 80 miles an hour. Before we knew it, we were in the middle of about twenty cars that were changing lanes back and forth, passing each other and jockeying for position with maybe 6 inches clearance between them. Something bright yellow that I couldn't identify--but Jim said was a Chevrolet Nomad--was riding our bumper. As best I could tell, Minnie Pearl was at the wheel. There was nothing we could do but hang out and try not to get run over.
"What are they doing?" It was me that hollered that out...Jim was busy yelling out stuff I can't post on the Internet--my mamma sometimes reads this blog. "Bunch of morons," he yelled. Moron is Jim's pet name for other drivers. He's kinda stuck on it.
Anyway, cars were zooming by, weaving in and out, and back and forth. Expeditions, Cadillacs, Pickups, an El Camino...cars that looked like they'd been built from parts of 5 or 6 different makes. Toyotas, Volkswagens--every kind of car you can think of. And a camper! Minnie Pearl passed us and waved--not her parade wave, either, but the kind that doesn't require the use of all your fingers.
Then, I saw the sign.
As in, Talladega Superspeedway, the "biggest, fastest the biggest, fastest, most competitive motorsports facility in the world." According to their website--which I have no reason to doubt--"Records for both speed and competition have been established at Talladega."
Suddenly, everything was clear. Everyone in the county was training for a NASCAR tryout. Sure enough, before long we passed the shrine of speed, oddly painted cars and spectacular crashes. The further we got away from it, the more normal people started driving. After a while, traffic thinned out, and slowed back down to 75.
I guess it's a kind of salute the locals give the race track when they drive by after work. They get within a couple miles of the place, they all start driving like Richard Petty--or whoever. I don't speak NASCAR.
But I still get it. Next time though, I think we'll take rush hour in Atlanta over rush hour in Talladega County.