How many times, in a life of riding, have you seen the red or blue or purple lights pop up in the rear view mirror, punctuated by a little “Beooooooh” from the siren, and felt your heart sink right down to the soles of your riding boots?
Hopefully, not so many times that I just triggered some sort of bike-pilots-post-traumatic-stress-response.
Tonight, though, I gave a one of my local county sheriffs a ticket.
That’s right. I gave a cop a ticket.
In the interest of Biker karma (and bikema) everywhere, I let him off with a warning.
Let me back up a bit, and help you catch up with the story.
My ride home from work is a 40 mile survey of the evils of unplanned development.
I start off in Deepest, Most Light Polluted Northern Virginia — land of multilane highways, 100s of thousands of automobiles driven by mutitasking yuppies, and where a single mistimed traffic light can create 11 miles of hopeless gridlock. If there was ever a place where lane splitting ought to be legal, this is it.
At the other end, my end of the trip, there are twisty gravel roads that run through farmland, past pastures filled with dairy cows, that cross shallow streams in places where it just wasn’t worth the trouble to build one of our many iron bridges.
This story is about the best bit in the middle, though, where Fry Road winds a very technical way up from the Potomac River and over the ridge into my town of Jefferson. Fry Road in one of my roads — a road I’ve been running through 5 different jobs, and 4 different bikes made in 3 different decades. A road where I’ve dodged loose dairy cows and whole herds of deer. A road where I know every hilltop apex, every G-out at the hill bottoms, and probably every single grain of pavement.
Coming home last night, at about 7 o clock, a full two hours past sundown, I exited one of my favorite corners which feeds into a long straight running through open pasture, and immediately picked up the sight of a car at the other end. A car with no lights.
Through the next several corners, I gently closed the gap, trying to see who the idiot was who was out in this dark open country with no lights. As we got close to town, I could see that the headlights on the car were working, and then noticed the low profile light bar, and the black and white paint job. This was a Frederick County Sheriffs Deputy.
As we both stopped at Jefferson’s only traffic light, a strange sense of righteous and probably incorrect calm surety came over me.
“As somebody whose job it is to ensure public safety, I’m sure my man here would want to know his equipment is malfunctioning.”
So, without overthinking it, I flashed my high beam rather deliberately, and waved one of my light colored elkskin gloves to make it clear I was hailing him.
We both made a left when the light changed, and I did it again. I could see the perplexed expression looking right at me in the rearview mirror.
Nothing was happening though, so I did it a third time. The Deputy’s hand came out the driver’s side window, indicating a turn into the parking lot of Jefferson Archery, which is housed in the building of an old High’s convenience store that went bust because there wasn’t enough business in Jefferson to keep them afloat.
The cruiser turned into the lot and pulled to a stop in the first spot at the rightmost end of the parking lot. I gently and slowly rolled my KLT up beside him at a respectful distance and flipped up my visor and looked in the open window.
The Deputy’s face that was looking back at me was more than a little concerned, clearly had a few fairly pressing questions, and was signaling high anxiety and high alert in every way. It was only then that it occurred to me that this little conversation had the potential to quickly turn horribly wrong with just one millisecond of bad luck.
“Excuse me, sir, I didn’t mean to alarm you, but I thought you would want to know that all of your cruiser’s rear lighting is out.”
The alarm in the Deputy’s expression disappeared immediately.
“Oh, Thank you! I just got this thing out of the shop, and I guess they didn’t get it fixed.”
He killed the motor, jumped out and walked to the rear to look for himself. I kill switched the bike and dismounted. The Deputy leaned back into the car and cycled several switches. After a few moments, the tail lights flickered, went out, then came on and stayed on.
“Thanks very much. I appreciate you letting me know about this.”
A wry smile played across the Deputy’s face.
“So… you gonna write me up?”
“Nope, I’m cool about it. I’m gonna let you go with a warning this time.”
Smiles all round. So, no harm, no cuts, no foul.
At this point, two fairly huge dudes blasted out the front door of the Archery store — all muddy workboots, mossy oak break up camo, and John Deere Tractor Ballcaps. Larry the Cable Guy is parody. These guys weren’t that.
“Maaan, did you see that stuff? That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. That biker just give that Sheriff a ticket.”
“Gave the Sheriff a ticket?!? Hot damm, that IS funny…”
Much knee slapping and guffawing then ensued.
I could feel the previous good humor evaporating like water on a hot headpipe. I checked my new friend the Deputy and he looked decided unamused. It was about one minute later than the right time to leave.
I saddled up, fired up, and turned out of the lot and back up the road towards home. I short shifted into second and drove verrrrrry slowly home.
As always, the bike went back on the stand in the garage, and I pulled my laptop bag and lunch box out of the cases and went in through the front door.
“Hey, Hon, I’m home!”
“Hi, Honey! How was your ride?”
Where to begin?