I’ve spent the last two days driving in Hillary Clinton’s motorcade during her visit to Washington State.
I received an instant message out of the blue from a friend of mine asking if I’d had any accidents or traffic tickets in the last 3 years. I said no, the last driving issue I had was about 6 years ago back in Boston. Then he asked if I’d want to drive in the Clinton motorcade. I couldn’t turn down an opportunity like that, so after a background check by the Secret Service, the next day I met up with the other drivers, and we brought the vehicles to Boeing Field, a small airfield near Seattle.
We were briefed by the Secret Service, Seattle Police, and the Washington State Police. We given guidelines for driving in a motorcade, and instructions regarding how various incidents would be handled. They used phrases like “In the event of an incident, do not approach the protectee’s vehicle. You will be engaged.” Instead of “If there’s a fire-fight, don’t approach us or we’ll shoot you.” After the vehicles were fully inspected by the Secret Service and dogs, we pulled them out on to the landing strip to await the plane.
Once the plane unloaded into the motorcade vehicles and the press bus, Hillary was the last off the plane. As soon as she entered her vehicle, the motorcade rolled immediately. We had nine vehicles, plus the bus, not counting the 50+ State Police motorcycles who rode escort. The motorcycles working with the police blocked off all the intersections so the motorcade could drive straight on through. It’s an amazing experience to be driving only a few feet away from the car in front of you, blowing through every red light and stop sign, while having motorcycles with flashing lights roaring past you all the time.
I was driving the first non-Secret Service vehicle, transporting VIP guests, including a Senator and a Congressman. Once the motorcade reached Hillary’s speaking venue, we waited in the vehicles, both for security reasons and so that if they needed to move Hillary without notice the whole motorcade would be able to roll out quickly. After the event was done, we transported everyone back to the hotel, and broke for the night.
I made it home a little after midnight, and after a bit of food, slept for 5 hours, before heading back down to the hotel for another briefing, another vehicle inspection, and then we headed out.
This time we took the interstate, I-5, South. The State Police blocked off every entrance ramp for a few minutes ahead of us, creating a few mile long bubble of empty interstate we drove along. Having an entire interstate to yourself for over 30 miles is a surreal thing. We drove at highway speeds, again keeping the gaps between vehicles as small as possible, eight to ten feet usually. That, plus the constant presence of State and local police motorcycles shooting by, keeps you very alert and focused on your driving.
After this event we were able to come inside while the Secret Service watched the vehicles, and got individual pictures with Hillary before we got underway again, and headed to the airport.
Once we reached the airport we drove out onto the tarmac, right up by the plane, and everyone was quickly loaded up into the plane. Once the plane was in the air, we left, returned the vehicles, and were able to head home.
It was exhausting, and lots of time was spent waiting the vehicles, but it was a great experience. The highlights for me were being briefed by the Secret Service, driving on an empty interstate at 65 MPH mere feet away from the vehicle to the front, and meeting the Senator, Congressman, and other VIPs.