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.