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Running on Fumes

In the Badlands, Mind the Stop Signs

Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Driving from Medford, Oregon to Salt Lake City, Utah there’s a lot of empty real estate. Those long stretches of barren desert are good for contemplation and eating up the miles fast, as the MPH gets fudged when you don’t see any cars on the road for stretches of 30 minutes at a time. The most barren backroad on my route is Highway 140, which skirts Southern Oregon before dipping into Nevada where it hooks up with US-95.
Middle of nowhere
Middle of nowhere: AKA Nevada and Oregon's Highway 140.

For those who haven’t been there, these are the kind of empty roads so straight and so long you can’t see the end of them. You’re more likely to see a jackrabbit or wild horse than another person. After 180 miles of motoring through these badlands, I approached the 95 junction. Rolling up to the stop sign I could see for miles, literally, in each direction. I looked left and then turned right on US-95, noticing without concern the Nevada Highway Patrolman staked out at the intersection.

He immediately lit me up.

The officer came up and asked me the requisite “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Such a loaded question. Particularly when you don’t know what you did, which had me flustered. Did I say something clever off the cuff? Did I get on with the unpleasantness with an icy cool demeanor? No, I stammered like a slack-jawed 16-year-old on their virgin traffic stop. “Uh, uh, uh, uhm, no, not really,” was all that came out of my mouth.

Then I proceeded to fumble through handing over my registration info. Fumble through finding my insurance card. Fumble through explaining why I was traveling through the “great” state of Nevada (to visit family).

I thought about earlier that year, when our Memorable Motorcycles and Single Track Mind correspondent, Frank Melling, had taken that very road, at my suggestion. Being an Englishman, Frank had requested barren wasteland route on his American vacation itinerary (Britain being quite bereft of deserts and all). On that very stretch Frank had managed to get pulled over by the only cop in the desert too. He reacted to the traffic stop the way they do back in the UK, by getting out of the car and approaching the officer. Not a good idea here in the States. Yet even after getting shouted back into his seat by an officer reaching for his firearm, Frank had managed to talk his way out of a speeding ticket with his silver tongue.

Don't roll through the above stop sign, even if the view to your left looks like the one below.

It was clear from the cop’s demeanor that I wasn’t talking my way out of this one. Plus I was failing miserably in every exchange. And why was it taking so long for my registration to run through? And why did he pull me over anyway? As the officer approached a second time, I mustered up enough sense to ask.

“You rolled through that stop sign, sir,” was his reply. 

“There was a stop sign?” Luckily I only thought that statement, instead of say it. But what I did say wasn't much better. “For reals?”

I thought I did stop, but was told I did not. Then I was treated to an informative lecture about the nature of full stops at stop signs. They are zero-forward-inertia full stops. Doesn’t matter if there are no cars approaching, for miles, in either direction. Full stop only. Not a yield, not a rolling stop. Full stop.

After the lecture and ticket, Mr. Trooper went back to his position, waiting for the next fly with out-of-state plates to wander into his Highway 140-95 web.

I considered fighting it and showing up to the middle-of-nowheresville court. But I would have been left with the “Come on, man, it's a stop sign in the middle of nowhere…” defense, which I’m betting wouldn’t fly too well.

Lucky for me my better half has already paid the ticket upon discovering it in a haphazard stack of papers at home, not particularly happy about the warrant about to be issued if bail wasn’t paid by a rapidly approaching date. She’s a great woman, keeping me out of jail and all.

Anyhow, 102 bucks to the “great” state of Nevada. Learn from my cautionary tale, dear readers. In the badlands, mind the stop signs.

And I used to roll my eyes when people bitched about getting tickets…
Post Tags: stop signs tickets, traffic stops
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