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The Herald Friday, August 2, 1991
On the morning of my second day
homeward from the North Carolina coast, I rolled out of Dunn, N.C., and
immediately entered a 5-mile construction project.
I hate traffic and I especially hate big dump trucks. I'm convinced they are all driven by convicted serial killers, somehow out on work release.
The traffic got worse for the next 16 miles. As I sipped on a milkshake outside Lillington, N.C., I studied the map trying to figure why I was now hung out on a freeway. Aaah. This one-mile stretch was shared by two U.S. and two state highways. The object of everyone's attention was the bridge across the Cape Fear River.
This is my worst-case scenario, a bridge packed with traffic. A bridge removes a cyclist's avenue of escape--the road's shoulder.
I battled traffic toward the bridge and called on all the powers that be. On the final approach I looked in the mirror and was astonished to see only asphalt and stripes. This was a weird break, but I made it across seconds before the next storming herd of vehicles came by.
I turned onto N.C. 27 in Lillington and cruised into some long-awaited countryside. This road was a narrow two-lane, but traffic was sparse. After several miles I met a dump truck head-on. He was running empty, his bucket rattling and clanging as he roared past. Uh-oh. That means he or his buddies will be coming from behind with a load on. My rear view mirror went back on red alert.
Ten minutes later it happened. I was climbing a short, steep hill in a sharp curve--a blind spot for traffic. That's when I heard that dump truck coming from behind. It was still a ways back, but its engine was moaning under the load at high speed. If I could only finish this hill, the dumper would see me in time to move over for the pass. I stood up and hustled to the top.
I crested the hill to see an ominous sight. A truck was chugging toward me pulling a huge mobile home. The thing covered the road, all but maybe five feet of my lane. The dump truck was roaring down in the valley, its throttle wide open to jump the hill. It would arrive on the scene in about five seconds, and its driver couldn't yet see me or the house trailer.
I instantly calculated a number of things. First the dump truck can't stop at the speed he's gong. Second, if I pull off right now, the dump truck will have to miss me, hitting the house trailer head-on. If I keep riding, we will all three arrive at the same spot at the same time.
From deep down inside I got a shock that I have never before felt: DEATH IMMINENT.
I looked to my left and there was a driveway culvert. A miracle, since there was not a house or a building; just an old culvert with a little gravel and some weeds. It was probably the only one for miles around. I swerved in front of the house trailer and dived into it. Now I had a great seat for a wreck Peter Jennings might mention at 7 o'clock.
Sure enough, the dump truck driver started to react when he passed by me at 60 mph. He had to put his entire rig off into the grass to miss the house trailer. He went through the spot where I would have been, had I stayed out there.
The dump truck recovered and thundered on. The man pulling the mobile home gave me a nod and a big thumbs-up as he chugged past.
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