In May 1969, Lou Jean Poplin visits her husband, Clovis Michael Poplin, to tell him that their son will soon be placed in the care of foster parents. Even though he is four months away from release from prison in Texas, she convinces him to escape to assist her in retrieving their child. They hitch a ride from the prison with a couple, but when Texas Department of Public Safety Patrolman Maxwell Slide stops the car, they take the car and run.
When the car crashes, the two felons overpower and kidnap Slide, holding him hostage at the head of a slow-moving and growing caravan, initially of police cars but eventually including news vans, private citizens’ vehicles, and helicopters. The Poplins and Slide travel through Beaumont, Dayton, Houston, Cleveland, Conroe and finally Wheelock, Texas. By holding Slide hostage, the pair are able to continually gas up their car, as well as get food via the drive-through. During the lengthy pursuit, Slide and the pair bond and develop mutual respect for one another.
The Poplins bring Slide to the home of the foster parents, where they encounter numerous officers, including the DPS Captain who has been pursuing them, Captain Harlin Tanner. A pair of Texas Rangers shoot and fatally wound Clovis, and the Texas Department of Public Safety arrests Lou Jean. Patrolman Slide is found unharmed.
An epilogue preceding the closing credits explains that Lou Jean subsequently spent fifteen months of a five-year prison term in a women’s correctional facility. Upon getting out, she obtained the right to live with her son, convincing authorities that she was able to do so.