185 feet per second
At 126 miles per hour, I develop a whole new appreciation for Kraftwerk. I’m traversing 11,088 feet every minute, or just shy of 185 feet per second. Even so, I’m still being passed.
At this exceptional velocity, headlights do as much good as happy thoughts and a teddy bear. If something were to appear from the darkness, not unheard of in the German countryside, the most you’d have time for is maybe a “Crap!” or “Oooo, a bunny!” An exceptional car will stop from 80 miles per hour in 185 feet. I’m not driving an exceptional car, nor am I going 80 miles per hour. For that matter, I’m sure my reflexes would have to equate in there somewhere. See bunny, lift off gas, stand on break… yeah, goodbye bunny.
I rapidly pass a car, which is probably still doing 90+. My mind drifts to Einstein. They look so slow to me, but to them I look so fast. I am amused. Then my mind drifts to Newton, and I am not.
At this speed, there is no such thing as a good landing.
I move to the right to allow a car, a station wagon of all things, to pass. Its shockwave makes a “woomf” sound as it blows past me.
I bleed off speed and come to a crawl as a knot in traffic struggles to get by some plodding trucks. Then I laugh as I realize this “crawl” is still 20% faster than any legal rate in the entire United States of America.
I’m sure you’ve all gone 100 miles per hour. Most of you have probably done a lot more. That’s not the odd part here. There is a point, below which you’re driving fast, above which, you’re driving. The radio gets turned down, or perhaps drowned out. Both hands clench the wheel. Your eyes drift farther and farther down the road, yet dart to any cars around you. Your palms sweat. Suddenly, the car is too warm. Then too cold. Then too warm, but you don’t want to take your hands off the wheel. Your elbows start to get sore from being stuck in the same position. Hundreds of tiny corrections happen nonstop, tiring you. For me, in this car, this happened at around 115.
But again, the speed is not the thing here. Not in and of itself. It’s the overriding, penetrating feeling that what you’re doing is wrong. Very wrong. And someone is going to pop out of the bushes and tell you to get off their lawn. Or come in for dinner. Or to go to your room. It’s a good thing they don’t, because you’d probably swerve, and then it’d be over anyway. But yet you continue. And so does everyone else. And then it starts to sink in that what you’re doing isn’t wrong. In fact, it’s the way it should be. A natural way. You could get used to making up your own mind for your own personal speed limit.
Then you pass a green and white Polizei, and you have an impromptu test as to whether all that Lipitor is really worth the money. But despite going more than double his speed, he does nothing.
The adrenalin has done a surprising job of clarifying your mind. You remember that if all roads were like this, in our beloved land, idiots in their SUVs would be trying to defy physics, and it would all go back to ol’double nickel faster than you can say “Well, it’s for your own good.”
Sure, there are many speed limits throughout Germany’s Autobahn system. Sure there is enough congestion to make 55 seem like speeding, but as you edge out into the countryside, there’s this moment. This moment where the traffic opens up, the beautiful diagonal lined sign appears, and you can push your favorite foot down. Down so the engine growls. Down so the air screams. And the needle drifts up and around to that forbidden side of the dial, where the dreams of every teenage boy inside of every man still lie. Dormant, waiting for this moment to burst free. And in that instant, you know what it is to be alive.