Saturday, September 02, 2017

A Road Trip and a Speeding Ticket

Our approximate route

We are just back from our longest trip yet, and our first true road trip. Driving through eleven states, we visited four national parks and camped in three of them. We saw a full moon night on the prairie, a meteor shower over a coniferous forest and a total solar eclipse. We also saw a variety of wildlife ranging from bison to hummingbirds. In all, I drove nearly 5000 miles (8000 km) in 17 days.

My trip meter resets to 0 after crossing 999. So that's 4908.4 miles
When did we plan this trip? It is actually hard to point to one particular date, but bits and pieces of this trip were planned over many months. For instance, I had wanted to see the total solar eclipse on August 21 from St. Louis when I first heard about it about a year ago. The meteor shower always peaks on August 11 or August 12 and I try to be at a national park when that happens. The fact that it was just ten days before the solar eclipse was a happy coincidence. Everything of course boiled down to the availability of lodging in Yellowstone National Park. Once we got that, five months before our trip, the rest fell into place neatly.

But more on that later. Now I'll narrate the story of my first speeding ticket.

We were driving from Grand Teton National Park to Salt Lake City on the ninth day of our trip. We were passing through the town of La Barge, Wyoming when we felt the need to fill up the gas tank and have some coffee. So we entered a gas station on the right side of the highway. After buying the gas and the coffee, we came out of the gas station, took a right turn on to the highway and was promptly aware of flashing red and blue lights behind me. I hadn't yet crossed the next block after entering the road, and I had no idea what my speed was, but I don't have one of those cars that can break the speed limit within two blocks of starting. I pulled over and rolled down my window.

An officer approached me. "Do you speak English?" he asked. On hearing I did, he informed me I was speeding. "Do you know what the speed limit is? Look out the window and see that sign there," he said.

I looked at that sign. It said 35. The officer informed me I was going at 45. I had no idea what my speed was, because I had barely started and hadn't really looked at the speedometer, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't 45 mph.

"It's 35 mph throughout the town. Where are you from?" the officer asked me.

"Illinois," I said.

"Which part of Illinois?"

"Lake Forest."

"Oh, I was in Springfield myself. Is this your car or rental car?"

"My car."

"OK. You sound like a nice guy. Here's what I'll do: normally this would be a $180 ticket, and it would go on your license, and your insurance premium would increase. But I'll write down you were doing 40 mph in a 35 mph zone, and then it will be only $70, and it won't affect your license and insurance premium. Does that sound good?"

I had to admit that it was sounding the best that anything could sound under the circumstances.

He took my license and wrote out a ticket. "Any questions?"

"Do I pay online?"

"No, you see that red building there? Just go there and pay right now, and you'll be good to go."

He told me to follow his car and I did. We parked in front of the little red building which was the courthouse. Two people were coming out who looked like outsiders. I wondered if they had received speeding tickets also. On our way in, he asked us again, where we were really from.

"India," I replied.

"Ah yes, India! I was just watching all those kids dying in the hospital on the news. How do you say 'thank you' in your language?"

I was seized by a desire to teach him a well-chosen expletive, but refrained and taught him the actual word. He cheerfully repeated it. He called out to the lady inside.

"Madam Clerk, here's another gentleman who would like to pay up front. Can you take care of him?"

The officer left. Madam Clerk, in the meantime, informed me I would have to pay 4% extra if I paid by credit card. I agreed and we completed the transaction. As we were leaving, we saw the officer had caught another speeder. The speed limit on the highway was 70, but it dropped to 45 for a block, then to 35 for 2-3 blocks, before rising to 45 for a block again and then going back to 70. Wikipedia tells me the town of La Barge has an area of 1.00 square mile and a population of 551. They must appreciate the extra business.

So now I have a speeding ticket in my portfolio, a ticket that says I was driving five miles above the posted speed limit. But more importantly, I have an experience that will definitely help me avoid such situations in future trips.

And now that's out of the way, I can talk about better memories from the trip in my next post.


  1. Hi Sugata,

    I have never commented on your blog before, but I always enjoy reading it and oh yes, the pictures! I remember the pictures of Milkyway ( was it last year, must be?)

    While reading your account today, I thought this must be going to be a scam, just couldn;t believe it! How artfully the courthouse, the gas station and the highway entrance have been placed together in conjunction, huh!

    I had never paid attention to the fact that the meteor showers reaches their peak in August, Leonid shower happens in Aug, isn't it?

    Look forward to the pictures and stories from the trip!


    1. Thanks a lot for visiting and encouraging me. I take photos of the Milky Way whenever I can. I took them this year as well, and I'll share them at some point.
      The incident is definitely like a scam, but an officially approved one.
      This was the Perseid meteor shower. The Leonids happen in November.