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  • The second time I dodged a nasty accident, there were the same elements as before: travel in a strange land, me driving, a dodgy rental. And Queenie. This time, our friends Rodney and Susie had joined us, so there was more to lose.

    We were in Inner Mongolia, and the car rental office didn’t want to rent us the good cars because, although we had Chinese driving licences, none of us were Inner Mongolian residents. We ended up hiring a shitty jeep from a friend of the guy in the rental office.

    It gave us trouble from the first day. The tyres kept getting flat, there was no jack and the spare was bald, so every time we came to a town we had to patch up one or more tyres.

    But it got us around for a couple of weeks. We were heading back to Huhehot on the highway when the back tyre blew out. I’d never had that happen before and at 70mph, I lost all control. I had both hands on the wheel, and was trying to keep a line on the road, but it was shuddering beneath me and veering towards the central reservation. Next to me Rodney was shouting, “Don’t use the brakes, don’t use the brakes.”

    Unlike before, this seemed to go on for ages. I had enough time to watch the central reservation come towards us, feel grateful that when we hit it, we returned to the middle of the road, tell myself that this time I should be able to get things under control, watch us hurtle across the road towards the opposite barrier, wonder if it was going to hurt, marvel at the lack of control I still had, think about telling Rodney that I wasn’t near the fucking brakes, realize we were going to hit the barrier, be disappointed in my lack of emergency driving skills, hope no-one was too close behind us.

    We hit the barrier front on, the back wheels skidded round, and for a second two of the wheels left the road. And then we were thumped down and it was silent. We looked at each other. Smiled, got out the car, inspected the damage, felt blessed, and then started about the business of flagging down a car with a jack.

    Obviously I don’t want to have more near misses, but I’m not sure what to take from these events. That I shouldn’t hire shitty cars, perhaps, or maybe I just shouldn’t drive them? That Queenie and I are a hazardous combination? That she’s a curse on our road trips? Our maybe the angel who saved us?

    Both times, what I remember is Queenie being completely calm, like nothing had happened, like there was never any danger, like this was just part of driving in strange places. Whereas I was quaking inside, trying not to show it of course, but thinking how close I’d come to killing someone I loved.

    Death Proof I is here.
    Death Proof III is here.

    Photo - Rodney Evans.
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