• Justin Kelly

Not Your Typical Traffic Stop

I grew up riding dirtbikes. My parents had an acre of land in the front yard that I had basically turned into my obstacle course. I always loved the thrill of cranking down the throttle, shifting through the gears, and hearing the engine hit those high RPM’s. Some days, I would even time my laps so I’d be going over big jumps just as the school bus was passing by, in hopes of showing off for the girls (classic, lol). I enjoyed riding for years until I outgrew the 2 dirtbikes my family had. One day, I went to my mom and told her that I was ready to step it up. I wanted to get a streetbike. Obviously, my mom’s first concern was my safety. She couldn’t stand the idea of agreeing to it, and then something catastrophic happening to me. “Not under this roof,” she told me. Well... I took that literally. Within a week I found a house to rent with some friends, moved out, went to a dealership, and brought home a brand new Suzuki GSX-R.

Fast forward three months, and my friends had all followed suit. We now had a house with 4 young guys, 4 motorcycles, and a whole lot of stupidity. You can only imagine what this house looked like. If your feet didn’t stick to the floor while walking next to the “Jenga style” pile of trash on Sunday, it clearly hadn’t been a good Saturday night. We would all go out and cruise around the streets at night on our motorcycles. Normally we would just hit fun food spots around town or go to different hangout spots. Then on a random Sunday, we decided to do something a little different. All of us rode our sportbikes up into the twisty, windy hills to push ourselves, and our bikes, to the limit. Thus, the craziness began…

There we were, hitting these corners as hard as our bikes would lean. Each turn more and more treacherous than the last. If your buddy was too close behind you, it meant you weren’t going fast enough, so it was time to speed up. This went on for about an hour throughout the hills of Auburn, California. I was leading the pack until I noticed my friend (let’s call him Link), was no longer behind me. I pulled over, waited for a few seconds, but nobody came. I turned around and headed back up the hill to investigate. It didn’t take long to find Link, and his motorcycle, wedged partially under a guard rail on the side of the road.

Now, you have to understand something about Link. This guy is a TANK. He is a big boy and pretty much nothing slows him down. He was even riding in shorts (FYI - not wise on a motorcycle). Link immediately gets up, dusts himself off like nothing happened, and inspects his bike. In addition to the left side of his brand new bike being really scuffed up, his side mirror and shifter peg had broken off. Without batting an eye, he gets back on, starts his motorcycle, and says “I need gas.” We drive a few miles back to the gas station at the freeway entrance and are ready to head home. Right as we’re about to leave Link says, “Anyone want to go Reno and play Poker?”. Everyone looked at him like he was crazy (which he was), so while they all headed home, I hit the “F*ck it button” and proceeded down the freeway with Link.

Still riding high on adrenaline from our fun in the hills we were, *ahem* not exactly obeying the speed limit laws. We basically treated the highway like it was the Laguna Seca race track. Weaving in and out of cars was the standard. He would go faster, so I would go faster. This continued for awhile and then right as things started to slow down, someone else joined the fun. A Mazda RX-7 flew past us like we were stopped. This car was straight out of a Fast & the Furious movie complete with body kit and turbos so loud they were almost deafening. There was only one thing we could do: catch up to the car and have some fun.

For legal reasons I will omit the actual speeds we achieved, but let’s just say if this was a “Back to the Future” movie, we would have gone back in time twice. We caught up, had our fun, & eventually lost sight of the other car. We began to come back down to semi-normal speeds when I looked over and saw a CHP (California Highway Patrol) car getting on the freeway. He proceeded to get behind us, but he was still a lane over and wasn’t very close. I remember thinking to myself “Wow, that was a close call, plus Link only has his motorcycle permit and isn’t even allowed on the freeway!” He followed us for a good minute while Link and I played it cool. Then, it happened. He changed lanes directly behind us, turned on his lights, and activated his siren. As I went to pull over on the left shoulder he came on the loudspeaker and said “You and your friend get off at the next exit”. What?! Why?! The next exit wasn’t for a mile?! I shortly found out the answer to my question…

Within a few seconds I heard a second siren and looked up. There was a helicopter out in front of us with its lights and sirens flashing. As it turned sideways I saw CHP in huge letters down the side of it. I could now see the exit in front of us but there was something in the distance I couldn’t make out. As we got closer, my heart sank. There they were. 4 Sheriff cars lined up sideways in true roadblock fashion complete with officers standing in front of them with their hands hovering over their weapons. Oh, and guess who was already there waiting to party with us? That white car we were playing around with earlier (insert eye roll here). We parked our bikes and turned off the engines. Within a few seconds I heard one of the officers say “You boys are lucky you stopped, if you know what’s good for you, you won’t say a word…” This was my make it or break it chance to make friends with these cops so I did the first thing I could think of. I blurted out, “Lucky we stopped?! Does anyone ever look up at the helicopter and really think, I CAN BEAT IT?!” There was a split second of stern silence (which felt like an eternity), until the officers all started laughing and I could finally breathe again.

We chatted briefly with the officers who were actually pretty cool. I think they realized we were just dumb kids, who did a really stupid thing. One of the officers was actually into sportbikes himself and came over to chat with us about our bikes since they were the brand new model. He looks at the side of Link’s bike and sees all the scratches and scuff marks. He proceeds to ask, “When did this happen?” Of course, without thinking, Link says “About an hour ago” (Facepalm). The officer immediately fires back, “And you’re still riding like a Jackass?!?!” The officers lecture us for awhile and then start to reason with us. They asked where we were headed and we told them Reno. They immediately responded with, “No you’re not, you’re turning around and going straight home.” As one of the officers was writing us a ticket he said, “I’m going to do you guys a favor and ONLY write the ticket for 101mph+”. He continued to elaborate that because we were going so fast, the radar guns were not able to clock us accurately. The helicopter following us could only guesstimate our speed using mile markers and a stopwatch.

I couldn’t believe they let us keep our bikes. I thought for sure they were going to get impounded and I was going to draw the Community Chest card, “Go Directly to Jail, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200”. I vowed right then to never do something that stupid again. It wasn’t worth risking my life and endangering others for another adrenaline hit. To this day, it is a life lesson that has still stuck with me. Obviously Link and I would get on our bikes and head home right? Nope. We waited a few minutes, got back on our bikes, and headed to Reno. We played poker deep into the night. We met a mysterious lady named Madam Suzette who comp’d us a suite on the top floor of the Peppermill…. But that’s another story altogether...

My 2004 Suzuki GSX-R

© 2019 by the Thirst Lounge.

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