We had a run from El Paso up to Columbia, Missouri.
This is almost the only run that we do that requires us to spend a couple of hours on a US highway instead of an interstate. In a car, I would always choose smaller lines on the map over the big ugly interstates. Not so with a truck. Interstates are our friend! Really. As lovely as they are, US highways and state highways are full of twists and turns and ups and downs. They are also rarely divided and usually have tiny little shoulders.
After much counting of miles and looking for other routes, we decided early on that US 54 running the length of New Mexico would occasionally have to be part of our lives.
The first time I ran it, I ended up in Trucker Time Out.
The second time for me to run it was Tuesday.
I got stopped for speeding.
I don't speed - EVER.
Tony and I had noticed that since the states have run into budget troubles, we are seeing lots more vehicles pulled over with flashing red and blue lights involved.
Makes sense, those patrol units need to generate income now, more than ever.
We tell each other all the time to watch our speed - typically we are not in a hurry any more. We are often the ONLY vehicle on a stretch of road driving the speed limit. Autos and trucks flow around us like we are tugboats in a yacht race. Never a problem for us to accept.
If we get tickets, it could cost us our wonderful jobs.
We love our jobs.
We don't speed.
So, imagine my horror when I took over after lunch in Tularosa, New Mexico on lovely US 54 and was flagged over by a flashing patrol unit. I was absolutely dumbfounded. I have wondered how I would react the first time I was pulled over in the truck.
Now I know.
I tried really hard not to, because after all, "There isn't room in trucking for tears!"
I just bawled like a baby.
The trooper stood on the ground and looked at me. Finally, he said, "Take a big deep breath and then hand me your license, med card, truck papers, log book and load papers."
I explained that I had never been pulled over before and he smiled patiently and asked if I knew why I was being pulled over now.
"Not a clue" I said between hiccups and tears.
"I clocked you doing 64 in a 55 mph zone."
A look of complete horror must have crossed my face, because he added, "There are signs posted blah blah feet behind you and every blah blah miles on this highway."
The piece of highway we are on is the only double lane wide open piece for many many miles.
I had assumed that since the town was behind me and open road was in front of me that the speed limit had gone up from 55 to 65.
We all know what assuming makes us . . .
Nope, the speed limit is really 55 here. "In fact," he explained, " it is 55 all the way to Vaughn." I burst into tears again and explained that I really didn't know it was 55.
He told me to try and breathe deep and compose myself and he would be back in a moment.
So, there I sat - my wonderful trucking career crumbling before my eyes.
I read yesterday that there are 120 new Con-Way Truckload drivers waiting for trucks.
Now is not the time to screw around and lose a good job like this one.
Hungry sharks are just schooling, waiting for a chance to drive my truck.
More tears and sobbing.
I know my face must have been a lovely shade of red with delicate (NOT) blotches and messy tear tracks.
After 4 or 5 hours (well, it seemed that long . . .), the patrolman came back to the truck. This time, he climbed up on the running board. I guess he wanted to see those tears up close. Good thing I burst into them again. As he started handing back all the papers and notebooks, I managed to joke, "at least I keep a neat logbook." "Why yes, you do" he replied. "Take another deep breath, I have 3 options to discuss with you. I want you to think carefully about which one you choose."
"Are you ready?"
"Option 1 is that you acknowledge the offense and send in a check for $70 and be done with it."
"Option 2 is if you wish to go before the judge - in this case, we will make a court date."
"And finally, Option 3. I want you to listen carefully to this option before you decide. In this option, you read this line carefully and then sign here."
With a final sniff and deep breath, I carefully signed the "Warning Notice" line and smiled at the officer. "I won't speed on this piece of highway ever again."
You can bet on that.