Turkey Run 1: So Cal to Durango to Seattle
Exploring the open road, stops and all
Apparently Idaho State Troopers weren't concerned that I was too busy for a ticket. "Yeah, baby, I'm running a little behind. Well, getting out of Durango took some time. Ralph was feeling sociable and I wanted to see Judy before I left. Yeah, oh, uh, hmmm, let me call you back—I'm being pulled over."
We were essentially in the middle of nowhere when the gumballs lit me up, east of Boise, and you'd think the officer would be in as big a hurry to be elsewhere as I, but instead he wanted to stop and chat me up.
"What seems to be the problem, officer—"
"The speed limit is 75 miles per hour in this region on I-84."
Mighty generous of the region.
Ever heard the story about a driver who was pulled over in Montana, in the good old days of no speed limits, before the U.S. government threatened to pull Montana's federal highway funds if they didn't apply the Lord's decree of 55 mph?
It seems that some time ago, another nice fellow in a fast car had just been pulled over by a Montana trooper, having filled too many digits on the officer's radar gun. We're pretty sure he was talking his way out of a citation, but the Johnny wouldn't budge, writing a speeding ticket—for five dollars.
It so goes that Montana began issuing five-dollar speeding tickets because, in Montana, the police are still permitted to serve and protect and are not forced to act as glorified meter maids with a revenue stream to maintain. Logic goes that the police shouldn't have to pull a motorist over who isn't a hazard, and so lawmakers mooted the monetary justification.
So that nice fellow found himself sitting there with a speeding ticket for five dollars. As the trooper rotated to return to his cruiser, the accused speeder hopped out of his car, skipped up to the trooper and handed him a wad of bills. "Here's twenty bucks, officer. I'm going to speed across your whole damn state!"
But I'm in Idaho, where the sense of humor hibernates for seven months a year. "Seems to me I was keeping things right about there, officer." Barefaced lie.
Sensible trooper this was; he knew I'd fibbed a little. But then he made his mistake, and got greedy. "My radar registered you going 90 mph in a 75 mph zone."
This was impossible. Physically impossible. I was driving with the cruise control set, and on a 2002 Subaru WRX the computer won't let you activate cruise over 82 or 83 mph (having not yet discovered I could creep the miles per hour upwards once the cruise control was engaged). Enough already, the trooper was caught in a bigger lie than I. Whee!
I'm a respectable sort, raised old-fashioned and sensible, law-abiding and, well, I don't abide by every law, especially stupid ones thought up by people who couldn't create their way out of a wet paper bag, but you've got to respect representatives of law-enforcement. It's a tough job, and 95 percent of policemen and troopers are fine folk just doing their thing. This trooper was probably a good guy, too, but he'd made a mistake. I asked to see his radar gun. I wanted to see the 9-0, because—if nothing else—that would mean my speedometer was waaaaaay off.
"Trooper Good Guy" wouldn't take the bait. I couldn't see the radar, which probably had me for 80 or 81 mph (my BFG KDWSs were a hair's breadth smaller than the OEM Potenzas). I was within the margin of error, and I couldn't do anything about it. Even if this trooper wasn't six-foot something and armed to the teeth, respectable sorts don't push the issue. I'm also the sensible sort, though, and I know that sometimes I'm just without luck.
As I pulled away from the shoulder, "Trooper Good Guy" still in his patrol unit counting blessings, I took solace in knowing that, had the trooper been working the freeway 20 or 30 miles east, I'd have been lucky to bargain my ticket down to 90 mph. Don't ask—I'm not telling.
Super Turkey Stage 1
Departing San Diego in the super-AM, I'd slated myself for the 12-hour blast to southwestern Colorado and dinner with Ralph in Durango. If you hadn't gathered from previous adventures, Colorado is an addictive state. My personal problem has been aided by an assortment of friends, direct family, distant relatives, and sundry associates all over the state with whom I stay. Snowboarding, climbing, rock-crawling, canyon-blasting, hiking, whatever, I've got folks who will join me, and take me in for the off-hours.
This isn't freeloading: In turn I handle minor home remodeling, automotive repair, babysitting, log splitting—my time in trade. It's an ideal swap, as an hour or two spent rewiring someone's doorbell or swapping summer tires for snow lugs reduces the costs of vacationing to the price of gas and beer.
Wielding my own modded Subaru WRX on this trip, I'd planned on two things: mileage and bad weather. The car is imminently capable in anything short of two feet of snow, surefooted in every manner and blindingly fast, straight or turning. My WRX has been road raced, drag raced, crawled, canyon bashed, shown, taken apart and put back together a hundred times, and it's even more fun now that I've got it how I like it.
I'd junked the factory Bridgestone Potenzas (horrible in the dry, respectable in the wet and competent in the snow) for a set of BFGoodrich G-Force KDWSs. One step short of a Blizzak in the snow and almost as good in the dry as the G-Force KD, the KDWS is one of the most underrated tires on the market. Though I usually use a set of KD tires in the summer (exceptionally sticky, but a little talkative), they're as good as four frying pans in any sort of weather, so I'd mounted the KDWSs on my stock wheels.
You typically won't catch much traffic eastbound from San Diego on the 8 and, outside of farmers and tumbleweed, you won't see much of anything but sand dunes and motorhomes past the desert oases until you hit Phoenix. Little desert city of Phoenix, all grown up, trafficy and commuteristic. Oh well, you muddle through—it's only 15 miles before you're out of the thick stuff and rolling north on the 17. From Phoenix, my Durango Special empties into truly lovely country, across the high-plateau in middle Arizona, to Flagstaff and beyond. The sun came up before Flagstaff.
Fastest route to Durango is to roll east on the 40 out of Flagstaff, then north from Gallup on the 666. There are four merits to this route: there's the truly shocking meteor crater near Winslow, all of the geological formations flanking the 666, pretty Indian land, and the fact that you get to drive on a road called State 666. If you find time, please stop for the meteor crater. Incredible hole. Can you imagine anything short of subatomic particles moving at 33,000 mph? From the observatory, you can see the impact's affect on the land surrounding the crater—it's wrinkled and distorted, as a pond would be after someone heaved a rock into it. At 33,000 mph. There's a piece of that rock, mined from the base of the crater, 99.something-percent iron, in the observatory. No one pulls you over at 33,000 mph.
The drive consumes a little more of your time if you take the road less traveled past Flagstaff, but as all seem to point to Four Corners and Durango, you can't lose. The natural landmasses and eroded mountain terrain are striking, though some of the roads themselves are sketchy and haven't been paved since the Nixon administration. Who cares—if you want to see America, there's so much to find via the two-laners plying the deep west.
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