Other countries seem to do speed better than the United States. The Japanese have their bullet trains; the French have their TGV. The Chinese have their Maglev. Here in the States, we haven’t really jumped on the high-speed train bandwagon yet. We’re more of an automobile kind of country, and there’s only so fast you can drive on the highway, right? No so in Germany, where the speed “limit” for the Autobahn is 80 mph (compared to 70mph in the US). But that’s only the “recommended” maximum speed, as prescribed by the German government. In reality, drivers in Deutschland are free to go as fast as they want in de-restricted sections of the autobahn. In other words, there’s no speed limit at all.

It’s not that I planned to take a drive on the autobahn; it just kind of happened. My friends Cinny, Denisha and I are standing at the side of the ride in Baden Baden, Germany, waiting for a bus that just won’t arrive, when these two guys drive up in their very-fly sports car.
“Can we give you a ride?”
“Uh, well, we’re trying to get to this castle” (pointing at our map).
“No problem. We take you there on the autobahn. Maybe someday you give us a ride in your country.”

After sizing them up, we deem the guys harmless enough and decide to take them up on their offer. Within minutes, the five of us are accelerating onto the autobahn – whoosh! 60-70-80-90-100 mph! Woohoo! As we fly through the densely-forested woods, I feel like we’re playing Pole Position, my favorite video game back in college. It’s quite the exhilarating experience – at least at first – although like many things, we soon adapted to the situation. 100 miles an hour – pshaw – that’s not so fast. Can we do 120 please? An hour later, we arrive at the castle and nothing at all weird happens. The dudes let us out of car, wish us happy travels, and speed along their way. We’ve survived the autobahn and lived to tell the tale.

(Would I do the same thing now – climb into a car with fast-driving strangers, trusting them with my life, both during and after the ride? I’m not sure. There are a lot of weird hitchhiking stories out there—ax murderers, etc. etc. But on the other hand, aren’t you putting your life into someone else’s hands anytime you climb on a bus? Or a plane? Who’s to say whether or not the driver might have a little flask in their uniform pocket? My point is, we make judgment calls all the time, both at home and on the road. If you play it safe, great – that might be the absolutely right decision. OR, by declining, you could be missing out on an incredible experience — like driving on the world’s fastest highway. About all you can do is weigh all the data, check in with your gut, make the call and live (or die) with it. We’re all going to die someday anyway. I can think of worse ways to meet my maker than going down in a blaze of glory at 120 miles on the autobahn!)