By on March 24, 2011

Today, the automotive world rocked to the news that ethical hero journalist Scott Burgess had finally deigned to return to his old job, telling his colleagues “the reason for me to come back has everything to do with all of you. The Detroit News is filled with world caliber reporters in every department. And the strength of your character and commitment to journalism has shined—” Oh, who gives a shit. Click the jump and we’ll talk about a time I successfully evaded the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The year was 1993. There I was, rolling my little Fox avec bike rack down Route 71 at an indicated 102, heading for a NBL race in Louisville, KY. Optimistic, for sure. I doubt I was doing any better than ninety, maybe ninety-five. Anyway. Came over a low rise about three miles north of the Wilmington exit and there was a state Caprice sitting there. Not like I’m gonna hit the brakes, right? He was already out of park and rolling before I passed his turnout.

This was a bad situation. The Fox was already maxed out. I knew the bacon unit would match my speed in about thirty seconds, during which he would travel about half a mile and I could travel a maximum of one and a half miles. One mile is often line-of-sight on Ohio freeways. And then he’d start making it back. My girlfriend, who would end up surviving many such incidents to become my long-suffering wife, started asking why we weren’t pulling over. I suggested she hold onto the lap belt with both hands, as the Fox had those crummy door-mounted shoulder belts.

Although I was in the early years of escaping police pursuit, I already knew that creating a tree of possibilities was the way to go. Every intersection where the cop can’t see your choice massively reduces your chances of getting caught, particularly if you choose the left-side one. Police training reiterates that fleeing criminals usually turn right when they have a choice, the same way people will run upstairs away from perceived danger. There’s an almost physical pressure in your mind to turn right when there are flashing lights behind you. I wonder if Japanese people turn left in those circumstances. Doesn’t matter. According to a documentary I saw, if you are doing more than 110mph the Japanese cops don’t even bother to pursue. Make sure your RX-7 has an awesome bodykit on it. But I digress.

Naturally, remaining on the freeway creates a decision tree which does not branch, and the cops will eventually get you. When I saw the 68 exit, the Caprice was still not in view… but as I turned left at the top of the hill and re-crossed the freeway, the trooper appeared in the distance and saw the obvious silhouette of a silver VW with a bike rack on it. This was starting to feel like inevitable prosecution. I was terrified. I wasn’t worried about the cops, but I knew I’d have to explain it to my father. I didn’t like that idea. Even today, when I see Dad’s number on my phone, my first thought is “What have I done wrong?” I usually answer with a sustained, high-volume whimper detailing my retirement strategy in words too closely spaced for him to interrupt. And then he tells me his computer is broken, and inquires as to the precise location of his “Start bar”. I got him a Macintosh a while ago to forestall these questions. Now he asks me why his iTunes wants him to “Ping”. Damn you, Steve Jobs.

Once the cop was up the ramp, we’d be on flat ground, I’d be heading down a very long, straight road, he’d have perfect visibility, and he would have a 350 V-8. Time for desperation. I watched driveways on my left until I saw gravel. Can’t use a dirt road. The first gravel driveway I saw, I hung a left. Full-throttle down the driveway. It was empty. Thank God. I swung around the house and parked snuggled up to the back. Jumped out. Ran around to the back. Popped the trunk. Pulled off the rack. Removed the toolkit. Disassembled the bike down to component parts, folded the rack, jammed it back in. No dice. Doesn’t fit. Opened passenger door. Presented girlfriend with folded-up Rhode Gear rack, made in the era before they had yellow adjustment ears. Fired up Fox. Pulled back out onto the road. Did not see police. Everything went better than expected.

And did it ever! When I arrived for the Pro-Am race, I was greeted by my usual foil, Big Nick Pearson. This guy was a 6’4″ monster from what he called “The Greater Cincinnati Area”, aka northern Kentucky, and he had talent I couldn’t touch, as well as the literal ability to bend Cr-Mo metal tubes with his bare hands. As fate would have it, however, I did sneak ahead of him down the front straight in one of the motos, and a local newspaperman snagged the shot. Here it is! It’s a tiny photo, and my name is redacted, because I scanned it a long time ago for my Bicycles Today magazine column, which I wrote under a pseudonym. Those were the days! Newsprint and halftone.

When Nick got his copy of the paper a week later, he was outraged. He’d ended up beating me all three races that day. Why didn’t the paper print the truth? I was just twenty-one years old at the time, but I was pretty sure I knew the deal. “Nick,” I sagely intoned, “the power to print the news is the power to make it. And that’s why we have to print our own magazines, called ‘zines’, to get that truth out.” My ‘zine was called Some Prefer Nettles. Once I distributed 200 copies. That was pretty good, to have a chance to tell the truth to two hundred people. Some days I open up the WordPress editor for this site and I feel overwhelmed by the chance, the duty, the responsibility to tell the truth to all of you. I’m grateful for you. Yes, you. Keep reading, and I’ll try to be worth reading.

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47 Comments on “Scott Burgess Returns To The Detroit News...”


  • avatar
    V572625694

    Is this the same blog that makes fun of Jalopnik for reporting on non-automotive topics?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      If you can keep quiet about any potential contradiction there, I’ll tell the secret of DRIVING AWAY FROM A TSUNAMI!

    • 0 avatar
      vbofw

      Outstanding read. Just as I thought this was an article that nobody could possibly criticize — V57 finds a way.  Quite creative, sir.
       
      —” Oh, who gives a shit. Click the jump and we’ll talk about a time I successfully evaded the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

    • 0 avatar

      Is this the same blog that makes fun of Jalopnik for reporting on non-automotive topics?
       
      I think Jack already made the point, but if driving away from a tsunami is a topic for a car publication (and I think it is), then running away from a cop is certainly an “automotive topic”.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      I believe evading the police while driving is an automotive topic.  Fleeing on foot would be off-topic.

    • 0 avatar
      MenacingLlama

      I think Jack already made the point, but if driving away from a tsunami is a topic for a car publication (and I think it is), then running away from a cop is certainly an “automotive topic”.
       
      However, running from the police is, you know, against the law.  Running from a tsunami is generally considered an acceptable practice.

    • 0 avatar

      fleeing on foot from a car is still an automotive topic, if you ask me – cars and culture, even if it’s the cultural fringe

  • avatar

    You obviously don’t know Jack about leading, kerning, and tracking.

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    I tried this once.  And I turned right – twice – and still evaded a NH statie.  I was in my ’99 9-3 turbo at a cruising altitude of 110, late as hell for my buddy’s wedding in northern NH.  I crested a hill, saw the lovely green CV on the median, and he was pulling out as I zipped by.  I am not one prone to such things, but I actually sped up.  Hey, I didn’t want to miss the wedding.  My biggest fear was the prospect of facing one of NH’s not-very-customer-service-oriented state troopers.  Luckily, 93 North turned a little twisty and I managed to exit out of his line of sight.  Took two rights, got thoroughly lost, and was late for the wedding anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      You sound like a guy I want to have a beer with.

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      Dan – any time my friend.  Next time you’re in Boston.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      Last time I did this I took two rights also.  I was in my little turbo hatchback racing a V6 Pontiac with a reputatin of ridicule across a bridge over the Mississippi.  I didn’t spot the officer until I was a couple hundred yards away, but as I was ahead of the other guy and I knew the area very well I never bothered to lift.  Those two right turns led me to left onto a very hilly, winding road with connections to other hilly winding roads.  It took me several miles (and another state) out of my way but I wasn’t in a hurry to get home anyway. I was a little nervous for a few days wondering if he had time to get much of my plate and if the best freind that I blew past later in my excursion would inadvertantly blurt somthing he shouldn’t have.  Turns out he still is a good friend 20 years later.

  • avatar
    ChesterChi

    I was going to say “Nice Kerning !” but Bertel beat me to it.  Damn you, Bertel !
     

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    Jack, I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t already know but you’re good. Another masterfully crafted story. The segue at the end of the opening paragraph was epic. Also, thanks for the tsunami of integrity right there at the end. Rationally, I know I have no reason to trust you or your account of events but I do. Do you have any mortgage backed securities I could buy?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Man, I wish I was back in graphic arts again, back when we did all this stuff by hand! Now I design empty boxes (tomorrow’s trash) on a computer. Crowding, Kerning, Zip-A-Tone, Paste-up – well, all obsolete terms and products now. Back to topic now…er…what is the topic?

    • 0 avatar
      friedclams

      I got into the design biz just after Rubylith and stat cameras had died out (the kids in my studio consider me to be a dinosaur). My world is a Mac using Aldus PageMaker, then Quark, and now, InDesign. I have very little nostalgia about any of the old tools… but I do miss Zip-a-tone (and zines).
       

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      I loved Zip-A-Tone and Rubylith. Speedball pens – not so much, but I still have a set of them. Actually, I do like designing on the computer as it’s a lot easier. I guess other than nostalgia, I’m glad those old days are gone, just like I really don’t miss adjusting points and using dwell meters and trying not to notice that the needle wouldn’t hold still; somewhere between 27-33°!

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Zackman: Well that’s weird, many days I wish I was out of the graphic arts. I started as paste up, then typesetter, then proofreader, layout artist, the eventually art director. I went from using hot type to worrying about web fonts. In the 27 or so years of doing this for a living, the technology has changed around us and changed us so much, I wouldn’t believe it’s the same line of work… In the last twenty years, I went from ad agencies to the production side, and work as an in-house designer and prepress team leader. So, yeah hit me with kerning, tracking, zipatone, letraset, spoon tip burnishers, didots, QR codes, CSS, sticks (for hot type), rubber cement, HTML, Bychrome tint screens, PMTs, Photoshop, rapidographs, circle templates, flexographic distortions, dingbats, rubylith (orange or red?), carriage returns, Powerviews, waxers, true type fonts, etc., etc…
      Don’t even start me on breaker point ignitions. I still own the complete set of wrenches. Got them for my 19th birthday…

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      Letraset!

      Compugraphic Editwriter 7500!

      Bluelines!

      I don’t miss the “good old days” at all.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Monty & Zackman: We are far better, faster, cheaper & cleaner than we ever have been. There’s really very little I miss about the old days…
       
      One more: American Merganthaler.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Hey, Geo! I got out of graphics 31 years ago and somehow got sentenced to designing boxes! I don’t know how old you are, but you have to be around my age (60). I couldn’t tell you how many times I fell asleep at the “wheel” of a Varityper Headliner, clicking out endless streams of text (yes, text) for viewgraph (overhead projector) slides, then using an AM Pos-One stat camera to shoot the art! The more I think about it, I really don’t miss it, only when I did side jobs on my own and at my own pace. I still have my reduction gauge in my desk, for some reason!

      Monty: I once used a Compugraphic, but not a 7500 – a much lower one, with just an LED strip screen that displayed so many letters at a time, just before I left graphic arts forever!

      I still have an old-school torque wrench, but got rid of my timing light a few years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      @Geozinger and Zackman – I just missed hot type; I learned on a Compugraphic Editwriter 7200 (which is the typesetter you’re recalling). I found a great link:

      http://commfaculty.fullerton.edu/woverbeck/dtr5.htm

      Amberlith is what the orange film was called.

      One of my first ever jobs (full time starting at noon in Grade 12!) was doing galley paste-up corrections at a book publisher – OMG it was one of the worst jobs ever. It also involved using a Speedball pen – arghhh…one little slip and an entire page could be ruined.

      I also shot PMT’s on a Robertson 480 horizontal camera, and was a feeder boy on a 38″ Miller 4-colour for a while. Here’s how things have changed - the un-official title for my job was “the press-n****r” (a very perjorative word that I’m not going to actually type out, even if I was allowed to).

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Zackman & Monty: Well, I’m 48. I worked for some extremely cheap people at one time, which is where I got the hot type experience. And oddly, screen printing experience at the same place too. But, that was almost 30 years ago. When I was typesetting, I was using all kinds of machines, my first was an Itek phototypesetter, then I moved to an old American Merganthaler, a couple versions of Compugraphics, and some weird little box called a Mac.
       
      Oh, in my neck of the woods, a feeder handler is a press b*tch.  ;) I didn’t list it before, but I have run AB Dicks, Ryobi 2800s, Comco and Mark Andy central impression flexo presses. But those were mostly training exercises, from back in the day. Woo hoo!

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Well, I know all this is ‘way off-topic, but one more comment about the “old days”: When in the service, we used to hand-letter “flip charts”, large sheets of paper, with felt-tip markers! Then we used to take a single-edge razor blade and scrape a piece of colored chalk and rub it in the paper for some highlights and background color! We used to drop-shadow our lettering with a color other than the colors we used for the letters, then spray the whole thing with fixatif! Old, old days so long ago! I guess you could parallel this to cars and how we used to work on them either just to keep them running, or to find something to fix “just because”. I wasted tons of money doing just that back then, but it sure was fun!

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      Quark!  I hated working with Quark.  I worked with several over the years and none disagreed with me quite like that one.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Just think how much time you would have saved by staying closer to the speed limit.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      In this case, I was still ahead. It’s a 350-mile trip. :)

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      and you gained material for a good story!

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      With speeding (and evading), you have to play the long game.  Even if he HAD lost some time, he only lost that battle.  How many other times had he won??  I dont speed much anymore, but I have evaded a few times, hiding while attempting not LOOK like you are hiding is the key, in case they still catch you.

      GREAT story as usual Jack.  Reminded me of the time when I was 15 and my favorite uncle took me for a ride is his new Porsche 944.  Got clipped by a RI trooper doing a buck twenty on the interstate.  Next exit we got off, made a lot of turns and ended up finding an open empty garage, which he pulled into.  The cop didnt even drive down the same street, but we did have an irate homeowner to deal with.  Luckily my uncle was a smooth operator.  Good times!

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Maybe Mr. Burgess can explain in a future column why he liked the ’08 Sebring so much, only to poo-poo the much-improved ’11 200 and call it a “dog.” Or what the term “agreenable” means.

    Chances are, he’ll continue to write mediocre automotive reviews. I wish I had his job…but not his hair.

  • avatar

    I wondered how TTAC would address Burgess’s return when I saw the news last evening. I’d say Jack’s handling of the topic is quite appropriate…

    (I’m also rather proud to say I actually have a similar story to Jack’s! It involves a Texas State Trooper, a brilliant blue Pontiac Grand Am, and two well-spaced exits on Highway 287 somewhere near Alvord. I also turned left.)

  • avatar

    *clap clap clap*

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Well, this is sad news.  Just when I thought the DN was actually worth reading again…they hire him back.
     
    The guy is a hack…as pointed out by his hypocritical reviews of the Sebring and 200.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    If you had a sports bike or a very powerful car on an open freeway would you pull over for the popo if you passed a speed trap at over 100 MPH?  Let’s assume that the speed trap was on the other side of the freeway and their was no way he could have gotten a snap shot of your license.

  • avatar
    Ex Radio Operator

    My 1961 MGA had a switch on the dash that turned off the brake lights. Used that then when ready to take evasive action turn off the rest of them. You sort of disappear. Worked twice. Of course that only works at night.

  • avatar
    MBella

    I think you get bonus points for being in a VW Fox Jack. My first car was a Fox, and slow was an understatement for that vehicle, although you could have fun at close to legal speeds.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I lost a couple cops in my College years. I went to school in waaay Down East Maine, about 90 twisty miles of back road from civilization. Not ideal for the lonely State Cops in thier porky Chevys, but ideal for my ’84 Jetta GLI. A car that was not a ton faster than Jack’s Fox in a straight line, but it sure went around corners a lot better. A Caprice did not have a snowball’s chance in Hell of catching me on those roads, and any backup was a couple days away…

    Maine’s highways are not so bad for losing cops either. My Mom had a Porsche 944T when I was in High School, and tended to drive a BIT rapidly. She passed a cop doing about 90mph on I-95 (this was in the 55mph days too), he pulled out, she stepped on it. Next exit was a few miles away, we turned off and rocketed into the twisty backwoods roads. Gone. She was SUCH a bad example to me. :-) And now she drives a bloody MINIVAN. <sob> And I rarely go more than 15 over.

    Of course now Maine has a bunch of Mustangs – those would be a lot harder to lose than a wheezy mid-80s Caprice…

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    I just recently read Some Prefer Nettles, by that I mean the Tanizaki book. So I take it you’re into Japanese literature?
     
    Nice story too. Have you ever considered putting some of these stories into a book?

  • avatar
    pgcooldad

    In a battle of wallet versus ethics, I guess Scott Burgess’es wallet told him not to be THAT ETHICAL.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    Great Read Jack as usual…. funny story too…and love the punchline…

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    I’ve always wanted to make a run for it, but I’ve never had the balls to actually try.  Being black and Canadian (I can get deported or not have my work visa renewed if I get in trouble here) makes the risk/reward calculation a little different for me.  I also wonder if driving a C6 will be a positive or negative when trying to avoid the cops, since the 400hp would have to be balanced by the fact that it’s probably a little harder to hide out unnoticed in an orange Corvette

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      The trick is to make it not LOOK like your running.  “Gee officer, I didnt even see you, I just got lost looking for my buddies house, and decided to park behind this fence while I made a phone call…”

  • avatar

    glad to see him back.


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