The test of an adventure is that when you are in the middle of it, you say to yourself, "Oh, now I've got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home." And the sign that something is wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure. -Thornton Wilder

The nice thing about being confused is you get a chance to notice things a lot better than if you knew where you were going.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Chieftan Speedtrap

Chieftan, Florida

I guess it is safe to tell this story now.

We had left behind us the bad weather at Gulf Island National Seashore and were finally enjoying the famous sunny skies of Florida.  It was mile upon mile scenery like this and I was getting somewhat bored not being able to see anything.  People say driving across Texas is boring.  Give me Texas or any vast desert expanse of the southwest any day over this.

Finally things opened up as we approached the town of Chieftan.  From what was to soon transpire, I've downloaded these images from Google Earth so as to be able to tell the story.  Notice the 35 mph sign of which I noticed at the time.  Now look far in the distance to the sign hanging above the car in the middle of the road.  Remember it.  So, whenever I enter a town I am driving slow so as to not miss seeing anything worth seeing, maybe a photo opportunity might appear, plus I am watching for signs like the green one to the right so I can make the turn I need and stay on track.  I saw that 35 mph sign and was going about between 25 and 30 mph here.

Now you can see the hanging sign.  School Zone 15 MPH when flashing.  Well I never saw it.  I was looking about from side to side and the overhang of the front of the Little House on the Highway would block my view as I passed beneath it.

At this point the road curves to the right and I was concerned about a junction of highways coming up and wanted to be sure to stay on Hwy 19 & 98. You can see the green highway signs overhead around the bend and I am watching for them still going around 25 mph.

Right now several things happened all at once: 1. I need to keep going straight, 2. I see a bunch of kids on the sidewalk and instinctively ease up on the gas, 3. All of a sudden I see that 15 mph sign on the grass in the middle of the photo, 4. I check my speed (23 mph) and move my foot over and gently brake when, 5. this young man in uniform (think: rent-a-cop) leaps from his white plastic chair where the white X is on the grass and aims a radar gun at me.  I look at him, he checks his gun and points his finger at me with a big grin on his face - "Gotcha!"

I brake harder down to 15 mph but now it is too late.  I am shocked.  Adrenaline courses through my body.  I can't believe this.  Damn!  This thoroughly ruined my day and as I drive on I think about what this will cost. Two hundred dollars at least?  Florida!  Out of state driver.  From California?  Double that!!  Did he get a good picture with the license plate?  He acted like he did.  Sick at my stomach I spent the next several hours driving, making notes of the letter that would accompany my traffic fine check to the Chieftan Police Department.  I haven't had a ticket since I was 20 years old and got a speeding ticket at 11 at night as I was driving around town trying to find a drug store that was open so I could get some formula for my baby daughter.  I agonized over this for days which planted the seed for my ultimate dislike for the state of Florida.  I tried to get it out of my mind for the remainder of the trip.

Days before I was to arrive back home the incident began to fester in my mind once again.  Would there be a legal-size envelope from the Chieftan Police Department in the mail waiting for me?  I pulled up at home, got Sinbad out and greeted my wife.  Casually I walked over to my stack of mail waiting for me.  Nothing.  A month had passed since the awful day in Florida.  Well I'm not out of the woods yet.  It could still arrive...any day now.

It has now been six months and still nothing.  I think I can relax.
I'd like to think that his radar gun camera didn't get a good enough image of the front license plate.  Better still, I'd like to think that the police department realized "This is just an old man from California who was going 23 in a 15.  We'll never see him again, let it slide."
Yeah right, what a dreamer I am.


  1. Yeah those envelopes. Always containing something nasty. Especially when they are blue or have a window with your name behind it printed with a computer.

  2. What a story, but there are a lot of signs to notice along this road. I can imagine you don't see them all at the appropriate time.

  3. I can feel the fear and frustration in your writing!

  4. i can feel the cloud still hanging over you... :)

  5. 15 mph? How do you ever get anywhere? I go faster than that on my bicycle!

  6. 15 mph? How do you ever get anywhere? I go faster than that on my bicycle!

  7. If you sat in that 15 MPH zone for a half hour, you'd see school busses and police cars blasting through at double the limit. Guaranteed.

  8. I'm sorry, what a bummer you still worry about this. I know how you feel. I would surely think if they were going to fine you though you would have gotten it already.

  9. Sounded like a frustrating time for you there in your story.

  10. A bad moment that has really stuck with you.

  11. I have seen a Hardee's in years!

  12. What a story!
    Hope it all shakes out okay.

    Peace :)

  13. This kind of thing happens to me alot, like you I'm too busy looking at "things" and not paying attention to the speed limit signs. I see the cop, I let off the gas and check my speed, and usually I'm within 5mph anyway. And mostly I sweat it out for a few minutes as he recedes in my rearview mirror.

  14. Guess you better slow down, yet I always thought you drove slow, and held up traffic from your past posts.

  15. I've only had two tickets in my life, but the sick feeling sticks in my mind from those incidents. Somehow, even though I wasn't going all that fast in either case, getting a ticket makes me feel like a criminal.
    Sounds like you may have escaped the ticket after all, after so much time has passed. Hope so.

  16. I know how you feel. Got a ticket on my bicycle last month, but the citation number never appeared on the web site where you're supposed to pay online. I thought, "Maybe the cop realized how stupid these ambushes of bicycle riders are and didn't submit the ticket." By the last day payment was due, the citation number still wasn't on the web site. I couldn't take the chance, though, and went to pay it in person, having to take time off work to do so. They had no record of the citation, so they entered it manually, to the tune of $197! And I'm a local! :)


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