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My Turn: Putting the brakes on my need for speed

Moving from Arizona to Long Island has slowed

Moving from Arizona to Long Island has slowed the driving speed of Bridget King. Credit: iStock

Once, I drove fast. A few years ago, I lived in Arizona; the weather suited my lifestyle. The people were friendly, and I could indulge in my favorite pastime.

I loved to drive. Although my Chevy Impala was a 2000 model, it had front-wheel drive and a 348 engine. We could move! The state speed limit was 75 mph on the open road, but everyone drove at least 95; not too good in an accident. We were lucky, my car and I.

There is a long stretch of highway going west to California and Mexico where the horizon is blue and the temperature can feel like 180 degrees. The desert spreads out flat before you, just right for an all-out run.

The engine starts to hum and purr as I give it gas. I feel my heart beating in sync with it. We are flying free, going 100 mph, 110. Do we dare 120? Sure why not, this is living, my heart tells me.

There is no patrol car in sight. We only slow down as we approach the border check point. They have dogs sniffing for drugs and mirrors to check under the cars. The patrolmen salute, smile and say, “Have a great day, Ma’am, and drive safely!”

They wave you on once it becomes clear that no contraband is found.

For that reason, the spell is broken. We continue on at a staid 95 mph, anticipating the same thrill on the way home but maybe not going quite as fast. After all, an 80-year-old lady should have some respect for the road.

Having moved back to Long Island, I now live in Avery Village, a community of more than 300 seniors; their favorite pastime is talking about their illnesses, each other and the past.

I brought my beloved car with me and eventually had to trade her for a 2000 Ford Taurus. These days I drive more carefully. Only Sunrise Highway and the Expressway see me going 65, sometimes 70 mph, after having checked the rearview mirror for signs of the sheriff’s car. Can’t afford a speeding ticket, might lose my license.

It took a while to adjust to the new lifestyle and the slower pace. I am content and happy with my life, a pretty apartment and old, as well as, new friends.

My family thinks that I am a terrible driver, too slow for New York’s angry drivers. Going the speed limit in town allows me to watch the traffic, make the other drivers crazy, letting me know that they are not happy, but I smile a little wicked smile, thinking: “ Little do you know, this old lady can go faster than you can imagine!”

At age 82, I’m learning to be a more cautious driver.

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