130 Kilometers an Hour in the Wrong Lane


[Photo] Traveler Taj Terpening

After a brief chat with their superior over the radio, the cops finally accepted that they couldn't arrest us for simply climbing at night. Resigned to another night with no action, they asked us for our passports to record our info. Alas, they had us on something! We didn't have our passports with us. I tried to explain that we did have passports, but had left them back at the flat because we were climbing, but the fuzz wasn't buying it. Another few minutes of arguing and I suddenly remembered I had cleverly made a color copy of my passport and stashed it under the insole of my shoe. Gleeful, I jumped around on one foot, trying to pull off my shoe. The cops and the Brits looked on curiously. The shoe popped off my foot, and I proudly extracted the soggy, stinky, limp piece of paper. Glowing with pride at my resourcefulness, I held the document out for the cops. They looked at it, at me and back and forth at one another, seeming to dare each other to take it. After a long and awkward moment, the older cop shook his head and said, "No es normal." They silently turned and left.

The next morning Cass and I found ourselves on the Road to Nowhere, Cass trying to photograph the speedometer. We had devised the game when we realized that the cheap cars we were driving didn't have enough horsepower to get more than two passengers up a hill, which in mountainous La Costa Blanca would have relegated us to the airport tarmac and little more. Thus, we had two cars for four people; so much for European fuel economy. At the end of each day the person with photographic proof of the top speed won. They received a shot of Schnapps, an extra piece of white bread and a pat on the back.

The Road to Nowhere climbed ahead of us at an alarming rate with a menacing cliff straight into the sea on the left and a sheer wall of white limestone rising on the right. Just as I was going to suggest another adventure might be more suitable for ending our trip—not because I was scared, but for the sake of the rental car—Cass pounced on the accelerator, and we were off. Rounding a corner on two wheels and in the wrong lane we saw a series of car-eating craters that marked the road's transition from cement to gravel.


"Hey!" Cass shouted over the sound of the car falling apart. "In the UK, we've got this show, like James Bond, you know?" He paused to contemplate the speed, no doubt not questioning its safety but wondering if it was worth taking a photo. "Anyway, in this one episode he's rippin' down this road in an Aston Martin or whatever and he comes to a bit like this." He gestured toward the holes ahead. "He came to a bit like this and instead of slowing, he sped up!"

His tone suggested an epiphany, as in: All this time I've been slowing down for these things when I should have been speeding up! He sped up, taking up both lanes with the tiny car, racing toward yet another certain doom. With the engine reaching a crescendo doing 130 km/h in third gear, Cass took a picture of the speedometer and continued. "He just glided over the holes and was on his way!"

In the ensuing moment when I thought death imminent, my life did not pass before my eyes; God did not speak soothing words. Instead, a bird casually flying to his nest splattered across the windshield, and we sailed headlong into the first of the craters.

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