The night was dark, but not stormy. In fact, it was an excellent night for driving from San Diego to Los Banos, and I was feeling good.
I had made it through San Diego and Los Angeles without a hitch, unusual for anyone navigating the freeways in southern California. By the time I got to the Grapevine, around 9 p.m., the traffic had thinned, the weather was clear, and I was enjoying an entertaining program on the radio.
Seldom had I felt more alert and awake. I was sitting straight and tall and had both hands on the steering wheel. I was complimenting myself on being such a careful driver.
I had made it to the top of Tejon Pass, and now it was all downhill. Such a good evening and good feeling. What could spoil it?
Flashing red lights, that's what.
"Huh?" I said to myself. "Who is he after?"
"Oh, it's me!" I realized, after the California Highway Patrol car was suddenly a few feet from my rear bumper and not going anywhere. How could that be?
In that split second I also realized I hadn't been watching my speedometer as closely as I usually do. Yes, I had the cruise control on a safe speed. But on this night for the last few minutes, I was looking at the road and moonlit sky, not the speedometer. And since there were no other cars around, I couldn't judge whether I was going relatively fast or slow.
I pulled over, rolled my windows down, and waited. It had been about a dozen years since I was last pulled over -- then, as now, on an open, clear road.
The patrolman walked to my passenger-side window and asked for my license and registration. Then he said, "I pulled you over for excessive speed."
"Officer," I said after a few seconds of silence, "I'm surprised. I had my cruise control on at the speed limit."
"Cruise controls don't work when you're going down a steep grade. That's where my radar clocked you going 85 miles an hour in a 65-mile zone."
I thought of responding like this, "Excuse me, officer, but I travel Interstate 5 frequently. I'm a safe driver. I was not a danger to anyone tonight. Why don't you spend your time more effectively by going after all those maniacs that speed by me, often weaving through traffic, passing on the right, going 95 to 110 miles an hour? Why not get them rather than picking on a nice, safe guy like me? Huh? Huh?"
And then I thought of adding, "A 65-mile zone on a rural interstate? You've got to be kidding. Everywhere else it's 70. Did you pick this one small downhill spot where the signs say 65 just to nab unsuspecting, law-abiding citizens like me? Huh? Did you?"
But I thought again and didn't say what I was thinking. After 51 years of driving, I've learned it doesn't do any good to debate a police officer who is determined to give a ticket. This guy looked determined.
He did try to cheer me up. "The speed on this ticket will allow you to take a traffic school course, so it won't go against your insurance. You can even take the class online at home."
That information did not cheer me up, and I was tempted to say, "Have a nice day, sir, now that you've ruined mine," but I didn't. I said, "Good night, officer." Then, after watching cars zoom past me going what seemed like a hundred miles an hour, I pulled out when there was a long break in traffic.
(To be continued in subsequent columns, including contacting the Kern County Superior Court, paying the fine, and taking an online traffic school course.)
A reminder: Tomorrow, during the Downtown Spring Faire, the Los Banos Rotary Club will again be serving its renowned $6 pancake breakfast -- this time at the Westside Union Elementary School gym/cafeteria, from 7 to 11 a.m. All proceeds will support this year's Sober Graduation in Los Banos.
Have a tasty breakfast, then stroll the fair. Be sure to stop at the Friends of the Los Banos Library booth for some exceptional book bargains.
Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to email@example.com.