Denise Medlock's first glimpse of her future husband Bill came nine years ago as she passed him on the freeway in her 18-wheeler.
Denise, hauling a load of Peterbilt parts from Canada to Tennessee, noticed a green Freightliner "moving kind of slow." She got in the passing lane and glanced at the mustachioed driver.
"He was kind of cute," she said.
Bill's deep voice rumbled from her CB radio speaker, advising her she was clear. Denise thanked him, switched to the right lane and the two started chatting. Soon, Denise issued the Hermiston trucker a flirtatious challenge.
"I told him, 'Catch me if you can,'" she said. "He started chasing me all across Washington."
Bill said he was mesmerized by Denise's voice.
"I knew I wasn't going to let her get away," Bill said.
Finally, Bill had to turn off at Hermiston, but first asked for Denise's phone number. She declined.
"I said, 'No I don't give it out to people I don't know," she said, "but give me yours and I'll call you sometime.'"
On a tight schedule, she roared off. She kept thinking about him, though, and when she stopped that night in Wyoming, she called him from a pay phone.
"We began talking almost every day," she said.
Though Denise had grown fond of Bill, she had no interest in marriage. Her first trip down the aisle had left a bitter taste in her mouth. Divorced three years, she'd finally managed to pay off debt incurred during her traumatic marriage.
"I was footloose and fancy free," she said.
Living in her champagne-rose Peterbilt truck, she cruised the highways and planned a future as a single woman. She pondered the idea of buying a home in Missouri near company headquarters.
Bill, on the other hand, was totally smitten. A month-and-a-half after she blurred by him in Washington, Bill asked Denise to marry him by phone as she drove her big rig near Los Angeles.
"I almost wrecked the truck," she said.
You haven't even met me, she said, incredulous.
"I don't care," he told her. "I'm in love with you."
Though she figured he must be somewhat crazy, they made plans to finally meet in person for a first date that almost didn't happen.
As Denise waited in Biggs Junction for him to arrive, Bill drove his car from Hermiston on Interstate 84.
About 10 miles from Biggs, he lost his transmission. The car clunked to a noisy stop.
"I had no way of letting her know what was going on," he said.
Bill stewed for about 30 minutes in his Plymouth, about ready to hitchhike to Biggs, when a state trooper stopped to check on him. Hearing Bill's story, he offered to drive him.
In Biggs, Denise paced. A hundred miles off route, she'd gotten permission from her dispatcher to make a personal stop, but only for a limited time.
"I thought he was a no-show - I was fixing to leave," Denise said, "then Bill shows up in a police car, jumps out of the back and gives me a hug."
The first date cemented their bond, though Denise wasn't ready to get married by any stretch of the imagination. Bill got a job with Denise's company and they began driving together. She continued to quash his marriage proposals.
"I kept asking her to marry me and she kept saying, no, no, no," Bill said.
Finally, she agreed.
"In Grand Island, Neb., we dropped the trailer and went and found a courthouse," Denise said.
Soon the couple was standing before a judge with two witnesses they found in the lobby - two people at the courthouse to pay speeding tickets.
"I was shaking like a leaf," Denise said.
When the judge prompted her to say her vows, she froze.
"She had the hardest time saying, 'I do,'" Bill said. "The judge and I stood waiting."
Finally, she forced out the words and the couple began their married life.
Bill and Denise now have a 5-year-old daughter, Faith, who joined Bill's three sons. They've weathered a miscarriage, the death of a son at birth and Denise's struggle with uterine cancer, which continues.
"We're strong," Bill said. "When times get hard, we're still hanging in there."
"We have been married almost nine years, but I love him more than ever," Denise said. "Who knew, when I said, 'Catch me if you can,' that he actually would?"