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Road Humor: Clint Behind the Wheel

Taking Driving Advice from Clint Eastwood

by Andrea Vojtko

Outlaws by the hundreds are roaming up and down the interstates that I must travel to get from Arlington, Virginia, where I live, to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where my sisters live. Cars careen past me at what seems to be 200 miles per hour and the ratio of cars-to-trucks is about one-to-one on these highways that are no safer than old pony express routes, where classified ads for riders specified "willing to risk death daily" and "orphans preferred." Since people in my family were born with a defective anxiety gene nurtured by a mother who turned worrying into a family responsibility, my sisters and I see each other only when I visit them. How do I manage to get to these destinations on interstates that rank in the top ten most dangerous highways in the country? The answer is I simply assume the persona of Clint Eastwood, my mythic hero.

Note the important point is to act emotionless but determined, like Clint, while driving among the outlaws of the interstates.

Under the guise of Clint, I can drive fearlessly between two heavy rigs on either side of my dwarfed Subaru, ramming the accelerator to the floor to speed right by them. It is important to set my jaw firmly, clench my teeth and be stone faced during such a maneuver. As Clint says, "When things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean . . . That's just the way it is."

Don't worry, I don't play games with the truckers; I just look straight ahead. But if they come back to challenge me, I step on the accelerator with a vengeance scowling under my breath, "Go ahead. Make my day." An alternative approach is to release the accelerator and let the trucker's galloping horsepower ride off into the horizon. Either way will get them out of the picture.

Note the important point is to act emotionless but determined, like Clint, while driving among the outlaws of the interstates. Remember they are in the wrong and, as Clint, I am the enforcer of the natural law. I say natural law because Clint realizes in his movies that man-made laws are arbitrary and deficient. For example, you can't really obey the posted speed limits on I-95. Such actions would be imprudent and only single you out for road rage by one of the marauding highwaymen. I like to tack an extra nine miles-per-hour to any posted speed limit. This allows me to keep up with the other cars but not stand out for a reprimand by one of the Ford Crown Victorias. How did this model become the choice of cops throughout the country?

I have told my sisters about my method of interstate travel but they seem unable to comprehend or reluctant to assume a tough guy persona. Yet I have substantial proof of this technique. For example, I have driven by myself throughout the western United States in rugged territory I never encountered before, simply by becoming Clint.

On my western trips, I added a few more of Clint's mannerisms such as a black Stetson hat worn perfectly straight, just above my eyebrows and leather cowboy boots. With these modest apparel modifications, I have driven the 900 mile round trip between Albuquerque, New Mexico to the Grand Canyon in Arizona crossing through hostile Indian country or, so I imagined, since I heard Indian War cries on the radio alternating with country and western music. I have stopped at gas stations in the middle of the Painted Desert with only one grim hombre in attendance. As Clint says, "When my nose tells me something stinks, I gotta have faith in it." Here I recommend an expressionless face like Clint's as the best tactic to keep them guessing. There's no need to spit chewing tobacco at the feet of the outlaw like Clint would. "A [girl's] got to know her limitations."

To fit into the rough western surroundings and cope with the dangerous heat of the desert, I wear T-shirts and denim jeans but never pink or violet even though they are my favorite colors. Clint likes black so I pick up black T-shirts along the way stenciled with place names like Tombstone, Deadwood, the Badlands or Death Valley. A pink T-shirt that says Santa Fe can get you killed. If you're traveling through an Indian reservation, some turquoise and silver jewelry will show your appreciation for Indian crafts and Western ways.

I offer these driving techniques and costume suggestions as a service to lone women riding the country's interstates. Watching a few of Clint's movies before a trip is a must. I recommend "Pale Rider" or "High Plains Drifter" if going west and one of the Dirty Harry movies if driving up and down I-95. Get in that car, turn on the ignition, rev up the engine, visualize the trucker you are about to encounter and say between clenched teeth, "Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?"