Monday, August 15, 2005

"Scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition..."

Heavily laden with camping equipment, we continued east on Route 66, using a map acquired from the impish old lady at the Route 66 memorabilia shop in Oklahoma City. Unlike other states in which the endless grey ribbon runs, the Mother Road is perhaps easiest to travel in Oklahoma because it is signposted with historical markers.

We rescued an upturned turtle from the roadway around Edmond, and saw the famous Round Barn at Arcadia. Spying a small general store with two old pumps outside, we decided to fuel up, lest we run out of gas before Tulsa. Brad filled the tank while I sat in the car reading the map and plotting our journey.

Back on the road, Brad asked what towns and historic sights lay ahead. The next town listed on the map was Luther, but there was not a single sentence about the town in the handy Route 66 book we had been talked into buying from the tiny whirlwind at the memorabilia shop. On a whim, we detoured into the small hamlet of Luther and made a circle through the deserted, dusty downtown. I wondered aloud as to why Luther was so dismal, when most of the other Oklahoma towns we’d visited along Route 66 had been vibrant and cheerful. More homes in Luther were abandoned than occupied, which I thought was a shame because we saw gorgeous old gingerbread-trimmed Victorian homes that sat rotting by the roadside, waiting for owners who were never going to return. Since I love photographing abandoned buildings, I asked Brad to pull over so I could grab the camera from behind my seat.

“There’s a cop following us,” Brad said slowly, and eyed the rearview again. “He’s been following us since we left that general store. I’m not pulling over until he tells us to pull over.”

I laughed and rolled my eyes at him. “Why would he pull us over? We haven’t done anything wrong.”

Brad gave a derisive snort and shot an “I-told-you-so” look my way. I could see flashing lights reflecting in the wing mirror as Brad pulled the car onto the side of the road. The cop walked up to the window and asked to see Brad’s license and insurance.

“Is there a problem, officer?” Brad asked as he pulled the required documents out of his wallet and handed to the officer. “I’ll ask the questions,” the Luther cop snipped tartly, and walked back to his car with Brad’s license and insurance card. We sat there trying to figure out why we had been pulled over when the cop came back to the car and stated that we were driving a stolen vehicle and told Brad to get out of the car. Brad protested that the car was definitely NOT stolen, and I leaned across Brad and told the cop that the car was mine and I had the registration to prove it. The cop drew his pistol, tapped the barrel against the door and repeated his request. Brad scrambled from the car and was marched AT GUNPOINT to the squad car, where he was put into the back seat.

Needless to say, we were both freaking out. I knew the car wasn’t stolen—it was MY CAR! I’d just finished paying the damned thing off four months prior. Ten minutes turned into twenty, then thirty. I rummaged through the console, hunting for the little black leather wallet that held my registration and insurance to prove my case. I glanced up to see a second cop, with lights flashing, pull in front of my car.

“Looks like the entire Luther police force is making an appearance,” I muttered darkly as the second cop walked up to the driver side window and looked in.

It was the stereotypical good cop/bad cop scenario. The second cop was friendly to me, and asked what brought us so far from Ohio. I told him we were following Route 66, and pointed at the maps and book lying on my lap. I also told him that there was no way my car was stolen, and I that I could prove it, waving the black registration wallet his way. He fired off a few questions at me, asking our route thus far and how long we’d been away etc. I answered each question, and reiterated that I could prove my car was not stolen. He carried my answers back to the bad cop, who still had Brad locked away in the back seat of his squad car.

Another thirty minutes passed as the cops took turns grilling us individually. The bad cop radioed the license plate number to the Luther dispatcher. The good cop ran a check on the VIN. They referred to me as “hon,” “darlin’” and “little missy,” and ignored my offers of license, registration and proof of insurance. It was really starting to piss me off, and I struggled to hold my smartass tongue.

They both seemed very interested, however, in the fact that the car was loaded down with camping supplies. Several times it was brought up that they could get a search warrant if we didn’t give our consent to a search. I finally blew up. “I don’t give a damn if you tear the entire car apart! But by God you will REPACK the entire contents when you find nothing illegal! It took us two hours to get the gear packed up in Utah, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to repack it all again!”

In the end, I guess the thought of repacking enough camping gear to outfit an army of Boy Scouts wasn’t their idea of a fun way to spend the evening, because the two bumpkin cops let us go. No ticket; no written warning; nothing.

They’d gotten their kicks.

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