OKLAHOMA CITY -- An almost 80-year-old Norman dental assistant marked driving an 18-wheeler off her bucket list Monday morning.
The opportunity, made possible by fellow Clifford Family Dentistry employees and CDL University, was one that Doris Randolph, who will turn 80 on Dec. 2, has dreamed about for decades.
"I was excited. I didn't expect it. I didn't dream that I'd ever be able to do it," Randolph said about driving a semi-truck.
Dr. Nick Clifford, owner of the dental office at 808 24th Ave., Suite 101 in Norman, said Randolph will will celebrate 61 years at the office Jan. 1-- starting at age 19 -- and has worked with three dentists, including Drs. John Miles and Robert Wells.
"Doris is the sweetest, most patient person. She's willing to go above and beyond what's required. She's one of a kind," said dental hygenist Amy Chaney, who has worked with Randolph for 13 years. "She puts herself last, so we want to put her first."
Clifford said the idea for the surprise came following a conversation Randolph had with a patient about bucket list items. Randolph, who was born and raised in Norman, shared that she always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon and drive an 18-wheeler.
The dental employees reached out to Mindi Johnson with New Element Marketing LLC, who connected them with CDL University.
The event was a surprise to Randolph, who wasn't informed about where they were going prior to arrival at CDL University, 2120 S. Prospect Ave. in Oklahoma City.
"I had no idea. I kept asking where we were going, and they told me to wear something comfy. They keep secrets good," she said.
Clifford drove Randolph up to Oklahoma City and reminded her on the way about her bucket list items, adding that today might be her day to drive an 18-wheeler. When she arrived, her jaw dropped and her eyes were wide open.
The dental employees then traveled to the former Crossroads Mall parking lot, 7000 Crossroads Blvd., where CDL instructor Cindy Beeler taught Randolph before turning over the wheel to the dental assistant.
She drove several laps around the parking lot in third gear with some co-workers and learned how to brake, shift gears, operate the vehicle and honk the horn, of course.
"It was easier than I thought," Randolph said, adding that the brakes were sensitive.
Darin Miller, CDL University owner, said 18-wheelers weigh at least 30,000 pounds, and much more if the trucks are fully loaded.
At the end of the drive, Miller presented Randolph with a hat, certificate and letter from the university commending her nerves of steel and A-plus driving skills.
Randolph said she doesn't know where she wants to place her certificate yet but is considering displaying it at the dental office.
When asked about her performance, she smiled and said, "It was fun. I don't think anybody is going to be hiring me any time soon."
As for Randolph's dream of riding in a hot air balloon, she said she has changed her mind. Too many crashes, she told her co-workers.
Jamie BerryFollow me @JamieStitches13jberry@normantranscript.com