We’re working close to Tifton Georgia, which is right on I-75, and at five in the morning I head South, towards Adel, where I’ll pick SR76 to Quitman, where my personal truck is parked. I get onto Exit 62, and promptly my truck begins to lose power. It’s dead, Jim! Well, not dead, but dying. Fifty-five is all I can get out of it no matter how high the revs go. At five in the morning there is no one up, and there will not be anyone up for a couple of hours. Also at five, the traffic isn’t very heavy yet. I can count on some of the interstate people coming in at seven so I’m only hanging out on the side of the road for a couple of hours, but damn. I’ve been at work for twelve hours now. I want to go home.
It’s twenty-three miles between exit 62 and exit 39. At fifty five miles an hour I’ll be there in about… Let’s see, sixty miles an hour is a mile a minute, divide sixty by fifty-five, and I realize I cannot do math in my head this late in the day. I’m guessing twenty-five minutes or so. Trucks pass me like I’m sitting still but this is the faster way between point a and point b. The truck’s engine revs up but doesn’t speed up. I lose miles per hour on hills. I’m not going to make it to Quitman.
Incredibly, the speed limit on the interstate is fifty these days because of the road work. They aren’t working nights, and I wish they were. Maybe someone will come in early, and I can find a way home by seven or eight. The truck revs up but doesn’t gain anything. Suddenly, it does kick in and I find myself able to do sixty. The irony here is I might get a ticket for speeding. I settle down at sixty and watch for Mile Markers. I’m heading South so they are decreasing in number. 55,54,53,52,51,50, and at forty-nine I’ve only got ten miles to go. The engine revs up again and I lose power. Back to fifty-five, and back to worry. Exit 39 has a lot of billboards and weirdness and a strip mall so I can see the lights like a false sun, like a false promise, and like a false prophet, Now comes the interesting part.
It’s twenty-seven miles to Quitman. I can wait here, it’s a little after five, and in a couple of hours or so I can get one of the Interstate guys to give me a ride. If I head down SR76, it will take me further and further away from where someone can get to me easy. At fifty-five it will take me about thirty minutes, screw the math. SR76 goes from the middle of nowhere to closer to nowhere before it hits Quitman. I’m tired. I want to go home. I turn off onto 76 and head South.
I reset the odometer to zero and drive. Worse case is I wind up sitting it out on the side of the road. It’s ten miles or so, with the engine reving and me sweating blood, but I finally hit the big city of Barney. Yes, Barney, where State route 122 crosses over 76, is a real town, of sorts. I have to stop at the stop sign, with its red flashing lights, and when I do I roll down the widow and sniff the air. Nothing. The engine doesn’t smell funny or anything like that. Onward! It’s now just seventeen miles to go, and realistically speaking, I could walk that in just over four hours.
I can hold a four mile an hour pace walking forever. So with each mile that passes I’m knocking fifteen minutes off my trip home, if I had to walk. That’s ninety seconds knocked off the walk for every tenth of a mile. On cue, patches of fog begin to appear. I’m waiting for zombies to wander out into the road, or maybe a deer. A deer would be more likely, I do realize that, but I’m a writer, so zombies come first. Deer can be worse than zombie, because zombies are less likely to go crashing through the windshield, and…
Okay, seriously, if you’re out at five in the morning, you’re in the middle of nowhere, your truck is dying, and all you can do is weigh the risk of ramming deer versus zombies might I suggest a little sleep?
In Morven, where 76 crosses 133, I have twelve miles to go. I did walk twelve miles one time, just to see how fast I could do it, and I came in about three hours. Now every tenth of a miles knocks ninety seconds off three hours. Every mile is fifteen minutes less than three hours. No deer. No zombies. Just open road and patchy fog. One mile down and I can walk back to Quitman in two hours, forty-five minutes. Hell, this close, I might be able to call someone from Quitman to come get me. Really, in all good seriousness, I think I could call the Sheriff’s department and get them to come get me. Wait. That’s not very interesting reading, Back to the zombie deer, please. Two miles then three miles, and then four, and I realize I’ve cut deep into the trip. Six is halfway, and I can already see the false dawn of the lights of Quitman. Six I could walk in an hour and a half, but that turns into five, then four, then three, and suddenly I’m back at my truck.
I leave a note for someone to take the truck to the shop, but it’s fine. It doesn’t act up again with two different drivers. I drove it last night and it was fine. Not a sign of losing power or anything like that. Really, it’s just fine. Zombie truck? Go figure!