18 Wheels and a Hyundai

by Elizabeth Dover
California, USA

18 Wheels and a Hundai

At age 21 I decided to move to California to pursue an acting career. In April 1988, I sold everything I couldn’t take and packed the rest into my little white Hyundai. There was just enough room left for me to drive — from Florida. It was scary driving alone across the country, but I was determined.

Every time I stopped for gas or to use the bathroom, I called my mom to check in with her. After talking with her at a rest stop in Dallas, Texas, a large, gruff man in a stained blue shirt, holding a metal clipboard, asked me where I was headed. I told him and he replied, “That’s where we’re going, come on.” I just looked at him. He said, “Come on. You can follow us and if you get tired, my ol’ lady will drive your car for you.”

Maybe it was because I was exhausted, or maybe I thought it would be safe because he had a woman along with him, but I said OK. Jimmy introduced me to Juanita and I followed their 18-wheeler truck out of the parking lot and onto the freeway. I wrote every number on the back of that truck on a piece of paper and hid it under my car seat, just in case.

Shortly after getting back on the freeway, my fatigue betrayed me and my car started weaving a bit. The huge truck pulled over to the side of the road and Juanita got into my car. I got into the bed of the truck and fell asleep.

And so it went over the next three days from Texas to California. Juanita would drive my car and I would sleep in the back of the truck with Jimmy driving. Or Jimmy would sleep in the truck while Juanita drove and I drove my car. Or Jimmy would drive the truck and I would drive the car while Juanita slept. We ate our meals together.

At one truck rest stop, they gave me one of their tokens so I could shower in a private room. I had two guardian angels who delivered me safely to California, saving me time and money and giving me the gift of faith in other people.

Once we got to California, Jimmy and Juanita told me at breakfast that it was time for us to part, and gave me a basket in the shape of a bunny as a going away present. They pointed me in the direction of Los Angeles and we went our separate ways.

Juanita and I exchanged Christmas cards for a few years before losing touch. I will forever remember the kindness I was shown by these two strangers and the way they watched over me. I think of them every time I have the opportunity to make a difference for someone else.

Originally published as HeroicStories #568 on Nov 23, 2004

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