I'm no Thelma and Louise. I'm not even Thelma. Or Louise. I've never picked Brad Pitt up from the side of the road either, and trust me I've kept my eyes peeled! I am a woman who takes road trips by herself-- I've done the Montana road trip a bunch of times since my daughter moved to Montana. I'm a professor and if I have wifi, I can hit the road and still do my job. My husband is in construction. Construction dudes do not get paid on road trips. So I go by myself. I'm an adult. I'm 58 years old, for Goddess Sake. I can go places ALL BY MYSELF.
I still think that, but I had a bad experience coming home from Montana a couple of weeks ago (no one touched me so don't worry too much.... just ride out the story). I haven't talked about it much and today I figured out why. I'm ashamed. Dammit.
Here's what happened. I drove to Montana and Idaho in October of 2020. To get to Montana you have to spend a good part of the day driving through Utah. So I did. No problem. Way too many Trump signs with the Jesus behind him (seriously dudes?) and the black bulletin boards that claimed riots happen only in blue states (instigated by guys wearing dark blue, no one said). But fine. In a democracy I can live with the fact that people don't agree with me. BUT, then I drove home to CA on a Saturday and a LOT of the freeway over passes in Utah had these Trump/Gun demonstrations. OK. I'm a woman alone on the road. I just drive. No middle finger to assure these lunatics they're Number One. I'm a nice middle class lady driving alone.... I'm not totally stupid.
After 11 hours on the road I pass Beaver Utah. There's a particularly vigorous freeway overpass protest/celebration. I drive past. I'm going like 85 (the speed limit in Utah is 80 and everyone's driving like a bat out of hell), when I run into a convoy of trucks driving 40 MPH. Their flashers are on. THey've got the two flags all these people have, the Trump flag and the Blue Lives Matter flag. Some have Confederate flags. There's one swastika flag. They have signs that say, "Rifles for Trump." They box me in. A truck comes along side me and a guy hangs out the open truck window. He's waving a gun and yelling at me. I grip the wheel and stare straight ahead. More screaming. The truck in front of me gets a little ahead of things and I see an opening. I stomp on the gas and squirt through the space between trucks and I'm off down the road, 60, 70, 80, 90, 95, 100 mph (Mini Coopers are FAST!). As I put distance between me and the 40 mph convoy I see another convoy on the North bound side of the 15. They're circling between Beaver and Cedar City.
As I drive away I think, "Where are all the highway patrol? I saw them all day and now there's none." I suspect that wasn't an accident. Hey Utah law enforcement, do ONLY blue lives matter?
I have a hotel reservation in Cedar City. Should I stop? But the town after that is no better and the town after that is the one famous for being a polygamous town that gave birth to the Vegas mass shooter. And I'm tired. And feel sick.
So I stop in Cedar City. There's two of those trucks with the flags in the hotel parking lot. "Just get in your room and stay there," I say to myself. I do. Problem solved. I don't go out to eat. I've got trail mix and grapes in my cooler.
I get up really early the next morning and take my stuff to the car, then swing by the lobby for a cup of coffee. It's dark. I've got my dog, Dolley. On my way back to my room a man wearing a "Kill all the Democrats" t-shirt complements me on my dog and watches me go into my room. I close the door and worry. Then I tell myself to get a grip. I peer out into the hall way. He's gone. I grab my last bag and head for the side door that will take me to my car and back to blessed California. I step outside, Dolley just behind me. After about 10 steps a man's voice says, "Hello Friend." I turn. It's the guy in the "Kill All the Democrats" t-shirt. He grabs Dolley's collar. "I meant the dog, not you," he says to me in a low, deep voice. I freeze. What do I do? We look at each other. He grins. Then an older woman comes through the door. She sees us and makes this little yelp sound. The man lets go of Dolley and says, "You have a nice day." I say, "You too." I go to my car and drive away. I might have cried a little.
I was scared. Really scared. I didn't say anything when my parents asked me how the drive was. I know people think a single woman shouldn't be driving around alone. I know people will think I had it coming. I know people will think, what was a lady driving an economy car with CA plates doing driving through Utah in October, 2020 alone? Bitch, you had it coming.
Here's what else I know. That's BULL SHIT. I have a right to visit my daughter and parents without male supervision. In a democracy, I have the right to drive down the FEDERAL INTERSTATE without being menaced by gun nuts who want Trump to be president for life.
Here's what else I know. If Trump's your guy, WTF? Is this the American Democracy we want? Or is it the Brown Shirts, 1936 Nazi Germany? This is not how America is supposed to work. Not at all. Shame on you. Shame on all of you Trump supporters. And don't tell me these people were a lunatic fringe and you don't support them. You do. They're on your team. They're batting clean up.
Here's what else I know. These people wanted to scare me. They LIKED it. And I let them. I helped them by feeling ashamed of the fear they inspired in me. Me. So I'm writing this to say, "I am not ashamed of being a woman on the road alone, coming home from visiting her daughter and mother (who had her 80th birthday)." I am ashamed FOR the anti-American, anti-Democracy, fascists so weak they take pleasure in menacing women.. I am an American. I take democracy seriously. I take diversity and the First Amendment seriously. So.... I won't be afraid. I'll be proud of myself for not succumbing to fear anymore. Because fear's what got us here.
But also, these people aren't real Americans, but they think they are. They don't respect Democracy. And they're not going to start respecting democracy on November 4th after their guy gets his electoral ass handed to him. So be careful out there. There be monsters....and we have to live with them.