Yes sir, officer

I was peacefully eating my meal, seated in the dirt drinking water from an underground spring that gurgled ice melt. It had been in the 90s and I’d taken off my shirt, soaked it in the spring, and put it back on. It worked like a perfect ice jacket.

My site was a bivouac off a dirt trail past the end of a forest service campground. A chickadee had kept me company for the last couple of hours, checking in on me or scolding me, likely both.

The day had ended early for me. I’d left Bend after two nights of luxury lawn camping courtesy of Adam, Christy, and their daughter Penny. On the banks of the Deschutes River I’d gotten to watch muskrats, deer, an abandoned beaver dam, and the beauty of the late summer river, topped off each night with wondrous food and conversation.

Bend was also where I’d gotten my front brake fixed by the wizards at Sunnyside Sports. So euphoric was I at the fix that I dashed downtown and got a tiny haircut, just enough to show I had $25 but not so much that I might look respectable.

The exit from Bend was a rude awakening, a 20-mile climb up Mt. Bachelor. I was passed, then re-passed by a runner as I grunted along. Over the top it was a long and lovely descent, first a freefall and then pedaling along gentle rollers that went ever downward.

I initially broke out in hives when I realized this was the course I’d raced several years ago in the national old farts road race. My ptsd subsided as I pedaled on, but not before stopping at a creek, snacking on a bagel, and refilling my bottle with more toxic river water. It was killing me softly with its song.

At the fifty-something mile mark I’d been riding for five hours, so instead of squeezing two more hours out of the towel I pulled into a campsite, kept going, and bivouacked. Since it was forest service land I wasn’t worried about getting evicted, that is until a state trooper came stomping through the brush with his hand on the holstered handle of his pistol.

“Why, hello there!” I said, about to put the first piece of meat into my drooling mouth.

“Hello.”

“What brings you to this neck of the woods?”

Before answering he cop-looked me. This is the cop’s all-encompassing analysis of a situation. Any weapons? Anyone hiding? Ambush potential? Is the perp high? Can the perp flee? Is my exit covered?

Obviously it was no no no no no yes, so he relaxed a tiny bit. “Just out camping?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where are you coming from?”

“LA.”

“Where are you headed?”

“Mexico.”

“Some campers saw you come in and never come out. There is a gang hitting these campsites during the day and burgling the RVs.”

Sure, I thought. The S’Mores Gang strikes again. “You’re free to look around. What has the gang been stealing?”

“Ah, uh, the usual stuff.”

I could see it already: Bike Bandit Steals Generator, Case of Pop-Tarts, and RV Awning, Eludes Police in Low Speed Chase.

“I thought I was hidden pretty good back here.”

“Couple of the RV folks saw you ride in and not ride back out.”

Of course … I’d stolen their self-satisfaction by pedaling off into the woods to camp while they marinated in the alcohols and watched the teevee. “Glad those folks are holed up in their RVs keeping watch. If they’d been out hiking or fishing, coulda been bad.”

He smirked in sympathy. “Call 911 if you see anyone suspicious.”

“That will be every time I look in the mirror, then.”

He finally laughed. “You don’t look so rough.”

I peeled back my t-shirt and flexed my arm. “This change your mind?”

He really laughed. “Nope. Have a good evening.”

“Thanks for checking in, officer. I appreciate it.”

And I did.

And he knew I did.

END


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7 thoughts on “Yes sir, officer”

  1. I hope you aren’t tired of triggering my memories.

    For us, it was Kansas. By that time we were getting low on money, and had to make it to Des Moines where we had some cash awaiting us, and for some unknown reason we reasoned that if we rode at night, it wouldn’t be so damn hot, and we wouldn’t need to stop as much. Maybe we had drunk from the stream too many times. We didn’t have any lights, so as long as there wasn’t any traffic coming along, we could see reasonably well. If we heard someone coming from behind us, we just pulled off, and we tolerated the oncoming headlights until they passed. Eventually as the hours ticked by, the cars became fewer and fewer. We rode until day break and reached Bird City right around Sun Rise, but not without some drama. Just before first light we found ourselves descending a long downward grade when suddenly the roadway was filled with four legged amphibians. Thousands of frogs or toads or something. Squish, squish, squish.

    Anyway, we stopped for about ten minutes at the crossroads, took some water, saw that nothing was open, and decided to ride onto Atwood where we would look for a park and a tree to get some rest.

    We were resting, in a park, which at that time allowed camping, when a police officer, actually 3 came up to us and started quizzing us. “Where you from?” “What are you doing?” “Where you going?” “Did you ride through Bird City?” “See anything suspicious?” “Did you go into town?” At some point I think they all knew they were simply dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, but apparently a shop had been broken into in Bird city, the night before, and one of the few leads they had was someone spotted a couple of cyclists loaded down with shit riding East on 36 in the early pearly am hours. We were those cyclists, but we were not their robbers.

    The next day we decided to move further North and into Nebraska. We didn’t like Kansas. We only rode one more night, and accepted the folly of that idea, and moved back to daytime riding, and made our money stretch.

  2. Beats my encounter with the Brewster County deputy sheriff in Terlingua, TX. It really sucks to be almost 60 and have to say yes sir to a fat guy who won’t get out of his truck, as he threatens to fine you $500 and put you in a cell full of deportees for the night……..for getting off the shoulder and onto the highway.

  3. Deschutes River- last time I was along there was on a heritage railroad car being pulled by a 4-8-4 Steam Locomotive out of Portland. Tickets for my son’s 6th birthday.
    Saw a Cessna 195 with balloon tires land in a gravel stretch along the river below.
    Now there’s a bandit getaway vehicle.

  4. Seth, remember LASD?
    You remember LASD
    Few days ago they pulled a cyclist over for an unspecified CVC infraction.
    Yadda, yadda, ………………………….they shot and killed him.

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