Trooper Johnson

 

Trooper Johnson

Dr Dookey Meets the Law in Colorado

This afternoon I headed out for Stone City on the Norton. My preferred route from Pueblo follows the Arkansas River, which meanders through a deep canyon from Canon City west to Salida. The road parallels the river through a tight ravine.
 
Traffic was relatively light, the road was dry and I had a belly full of espresso. The Norton was running like a champ, and was made for rides like this one. Fast sweepers and tightening twisties mixed it up with enough variety to support a fast but amusing pace. I used the bike and the road as the cosmos intended, and all was right with the world.
 
After slicing and dicing from Parkdale to Cotopaxi, the road and river straightened out where the valley broadens passing through Coaldale and Howard, two hamlets of little consequence. 
 
As I reached Coaldale, I found myself behind two semis moving at a brisk pace. Cruising at their speed in this straight stretch did not concern me, but following a truck parade through the roller coaster curves ahead would be excruciating. In order to avoid that fate, I took the opportunity to pass the first truck as soon as I had a dotted line and a clear opportunity.
 
I was closing on the second rig at a spirited rate when a state patrol car suddenly appeared from the other direction. As soon as the patrol car passed, I saw red and blue lights flashing in my mirror.
 
Out of nowhere, an unpaved side road appeared to my right, dipping down, around and below the grade of the highway above. Almost reflexively, I decided that now would be a good time to explore this mystery road. A quick slalom put me and the Norton around the bend, behind a high berm and out of view from the highway above. I stopped the bike and shut off the engine, judging that it was time for a break. Peering around the berm, I could see that the state patrolman had reversed direction and was moving west at high velocity, lights and siren announcing his business. I was content to observe from behind the berm, feeling very clever indeed.
 
A quarter mile down the highway, the patrol car abruptly braked hard, did a quick U-turn and headed east again. It appeared that the peace officer had sensed his quarry had eluded him.
 
I decided that break time was over and it was time to find out where Vallie Bridge Road led. I fired up the Norton and, once I was certain that the Man was back on the blind side of the berm, started down the road at a vigorous pace. Spewing gravel and drifting through unfamiliar turns, I searched earnestly for a turnoff or side road, preferably with a thick stand of trees, a building or some other feature behind which I could park the bike if I chose to take another break undisturbed.
 
Alas, the road crossed endless grassland, and visibility was excellent in all directions. Over my shoulder I saw distant headlights bouncing through the dust cloud, and realized that the dust cloud was leading right to the Norton. I chose to pick up the pace in order to avoid holding up traffic.
 
Soon I arrived at a section of road that had been graded recently, probably earlier that day. The top two inches of roadway were soft gravel, and numerous puddles attested to a recent shower. This added interest to the ride, and some of the attention I’d been allocating to my search for a private rest area was redirected toward this new twist.

The bike was quite stable, even heaped with camping gear, and the big twin was happy to drone along, running in the sweet spot between four and five thousand rpm. Once or twice I downshifted to third in order to set up for a tightening curve, but for the most part I was riding in fourth gear, fully in control. I traveled at a velocity considerably greater than that suggested on the signs I passed, but there was no traffic. Well, almost no traffic; I sensed rather than saw that there was a vehicle behind me, also traveling at an inspired rate of speed.
 
For some five miles I kept up the pace, all the time searching in vain for a secluded glade in which to rest and enjoy my privacy. At a crossroads, with visibility as good as it was and no cross traffic, I chose to decline the directive of a stop sign. Finally the road surface improved, and I selected an even more enthusiastic pace. I kept up my vigil, ever seeking shelter, and speculated about the state trooper’s location relative to my own.
 
Suddenly I spotted a railroad bridge ahead, where a side road turned and ducked under the tracks. I felt that at last I might find respite, and downshifting twice, banked around the turn and under the tracks. Almost immediately, a driveway off the right side of the road led into a farmyard, and seemed to beckon.
 
Alas. Apparently the return to hard-packed road surface had availed the state trooper more than it had me, as no sooner had I pulled into the driveway than the sound of a siren and the flash of colored lights disrupted the bucolic scene.
 
At this point I got to meet the state trooper who had passed me on the highway some miles back. I had the impression that he was more gratified than I to finally meet face to face. From our initial conversation it seemed clear that he felt I had been striving to avoid our meeting. I suggested that to the contrary, I was simply looking for a quiet place to spend the night, and gestured to the bungeed heap of camping gear for validation.
 
My explanation was not well taken. The trooper seemed a bit agitated, and embarked on a rambling monologue punctuated with wild accusations, speculating that among other alleged transgressions, I had maintained a velocity well over twice the posted suggestion. Apparently eager to impress me with his knowledge of traffic laws, and perhaps to emphasize the gravity of our interaction, he informed me that “eluding a state trooper” is an indiscretion rewarded with a twelve-point penalty and automatic loss of driving privileges.

I didn’t like where this conversation was going, and decided that silence and humility would serve me as well as any tactic. The trooper itemized his rationale – my sudden disappearance from the highway, the many miles he’d traveled at 75 mph on the dirt road in order to intercept me, etc., etc. – for inferring that my intention had been to elude him.
 
He fixed me with that piercing gaze I’ve seen in the eyes of peace officers since this particular trooper was in diapers. I considered offering this perspective, but kept my silence and returned his stare. I sensed that he was intent on offering his own insights into our fortuitous meeting, and was not soliciting my views on the matter.
 
To add insult to injury, he explained how he had been made aware of my detour. Turns out I would have been home free once I ducked behind that berm if not for the trucker I’d passed, who evidently radioed the trooper to let him know I’d zipped down the dirt road. Hence the trooper’s sudden about-face on the highway.
 
I continued to endure my dressing down in silence. I wore my most somber expression, meant to convey the message that I understood the gravity of my situation and rued my unhappy lot, wished to die right there on the spot and threw myself on the Christian Mercy of this noble peace officer whose charge in life was to serve and protect the good citizens of Colorado from miscreants such as the sad case standing mutely before him.
 
In the end, Trooper Johnson (for that was his name) declared that even though everything in his instincts and experience assured him that I had been trying to “elude” him, he was only going to issue me a citation for speeding on the highway – specifically, 75 in a 55 mph zone. I subtly edited my facial expression to add gratitude and relief to the aforementioned aspects. In truth, these emotions were genuine.
 
After calling in my license for wants and warrants, or whatever the hell they do, Trooper Johnson returned with my ticket. One hundred twenty-six dollars and sixty cents! Jeez, that’s a bit higher than I’d expected. Still, a lot cheaper than it might have been, I suppose.
 
Once I’d signed the ticket, acknowledging my agreement to either mail in the fine or appear in court to discuss the day’s events, the trooper handed me my copy and admonished me: “Please drive safely.” It occurred to me that I might reciprocate the sentiment, in that he had admitted to driving 75 mph in an unpaved 30 zone in order to expedite our rendezvous. I held my tongue…

 

Dr Dookey

Motorcycle Therapist
Redbush, CO June 2008