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ARRESTED FOR HAVING TOO MUCH FUN!


Coast to Coast America 2010 227“When something becomes too much fun, the government will move swiftly to tax it.” -Disgruntled Taxpayer

Outside Vicksburg, Mississippi, on Route 80, my brother Howard and I cranked east through the afternoon heat. Sweat dripped from our noses and splashed onto the top tubes. It ran down our spines like tiny rivulets. It burned our eyes from beads running down our foreheads. Salt stained our black riding tights like the colors of a Zebra.

Howard and I were on the last month of a coast-to-coast touring adventure. Our legs glistened with sweat as our muscles labored under the constant down-stroke on the pedals. Up ahead, heat waves rippled off the summer pavement, while a blazing sun baked the weeds along the two-lane highway.

Trees lined the road, and crows and sparrows scattered in all directions as we passed. One crow struggled to escape from three sparrows darting in on him. They pecked at his feathers—attempting to drive him away. After each attack, he spun wildly in mid air to avoid them.

“Those guys are giving that big fella’ a hard time,” Howard said, pointing. “I never have figured out why they attack a crow like that.”
“Sparrows drive away crows because crows will eat the young of smaller birds,” I said, remembering a natural science class from school. “They’re protecting their nests.”
Howard, dripping in a sweat-soaked T-shirt, cranked ahead of me, pulling his water bottle and spitting as he took the lead. “We should make Vicksburg pretty soon. You want to stop at a salad bar and clean ‘em out?”
“Good idea.”

Riding in the South during the heat of the summer months could be compared to pedaling in a steam sauna.

Heat and sweat were our constant companions. Howard and I left a trail of droplets from our perspiration-soaked bodies. No matter. We looked forward to seeing the Civil War monuments in Vicksburg. We waved at passing cars. The Deep South was laid back and moved at a snail’s pace. People seemed to get a kick out of our riding cross-country through their towns. They took pictures of us–sometimes having family members gather around our bikes.

We pedaled fully loaded mountain expedition bicycles. Condor, my bike, was named for an experience I had while touring in South America where two curious condors swooped down upon me while I crossed a 15,500-foot pass in the Andes. With 12-foot wingspans, they soared 20 feet off my handlebars, while they eyed me as either a piece of meat or as someone who was invading their airspace. Howard’s bike, Bilbo, was his pride and joy. As always, our orange flags flapped in the breeze. Those flags had saved our lives numerous times.

With so much attention, we had a lot to talk about after leaving a photo session. People said the darnedest things about long distance touring riders. They kept us laughing because they thought we were either courageous or crazy. We were talking about the comments from a family that had stopped their car to take our pictures when a black-and-white police cruiser passed us traveling west. We waved at him. He waved back, but did not smile.

I routinely wave to police officers out of respect or fear—I’m not sure which. I know they can give me a ticket for speeding. But, on a bicycle, they can’t, so I never give them much thought. I watched him go by in my rearview mirror.

A few seconds later, he flipped his car around and turned on his flashing red lights.

“That cop turned around,” Howard said, sucking on his water bottle.
“ Maybe he got a call for an emergency back down the road,” I said, glancing back. I expected the cruiser to fly past us. But it didn’t. The police officer pulled in behind us. I looked in my rear mirror to see him pointing his finger for us to pull to the side.
“That cop is pulling us over,” I said.
“Probably for speeding,” Howard joked. “Maybe he’s going to give us a ticket for going too slow. Now wouldn’t that be a good one? No! I’ve got it. He’s going to give us tickets for not having licenses to drive bicycles.”
We pulled our bikes to a stop. A rotund, middle-aged officer in a blue uniform got out of his cruiser. He sported a chin like a bullfrog’s during mating season. We stood astride our bikes, looking back, not sure why he had stopped us.
“Afternoon boys,” he said, walking up to us.
“How are you, sir?” I asked.
“I’m fine,” he spoke in a raspy voice. “When I passed you boys, I noticed you were smiling and laughing.”
“Yes, sir,” Howard said. “We’re having a great day. We love it here in Louisiana. In fact, we’re hoping to meet Huckleberry Finn when we cross the Mississippi.”
“How far you goin’?” the officer asked, brusquely.
“We’re on our way from coast-to-coast,” I said. “Pacific to the Atlantic.”
“You boys ever had your heads examined for mental righteousness?”
“Beg your pardon?” Howard said.
“You know,” he said, “Common sense. Anyone in their right mind wouldn’t ride a bicycle across the country.”
“Our Mom told us we were crazy to ride our bikes across America,” Howard said. “But, so far, the craziness hasn’t killed us.”

The officer looked over our packs as if he might be looking for drugs. Right then, I didn’t like this guy’s demeanor. My Dad always told us to be polite and keep smiling at a police officer. We should always say “Yes, sir” or “No, sir,” to a man with a badge.

This was one of those times to be extra polite.

“Have you had a good time in Louisiana?” he asked in a stern voice.
“Yes, sir,” I said. “We’ve had a real fine time, and we’re looking forward to Mississippi.”
“Right now, you’re in my jurisdiction,” he said. “When I drove by you, it looked like you were having a lot of fun.”
“Yes, sir, you could say that,” Howard said, with a puzzled look sweeping across his eyes.
“Would you say you’re having TOO much fun?” the trooper asked, straight faced.
“TOO much fun?” I said. “Well, er, yes sir, we’re probably having too much fun, right, Howard?”
“YES, SIR, that’s right, we’re having too much fun.”

The officer stepped closer. He looked serious. Maybe I had seen too many movies depicting stereotypical redneck cops hassling people. Nonetheless, I was concerned. He looked the part—thick neck, crew cut, short fat fingers, belly hanging over his belt, and boots that hadn’t been polished in a coon’s age.

“I hate to say this boys, but there’s an ordinance in this county for having too much fun. Because I’m an officer of the law, I’m sworn to uphold that ordinance. I’m gonna’ have to write ya’ll a citation. May I see some form of identification?”
“Sure, officer,” we replied, giving him our driver’s licenses.
“A law against having too much fun?” Howard said, with a hint of indignation.
“That’s right, boys,” he said. “I see you’re brothers. You wait here while I write you up.”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
“I’ll be right back in a few minutes,” he said, walking away.
“This is crazy,” Howard said. “This guy is out to lunch. He’s only got one oar in the water. He’s 51 cards short of a full deck. This guy’s a lighthouse with no light on!”
“Don’t say that too loud,” I muttered. “He’s got a badge and a gun.”
“He can’t give us a ticket for having too much fun,” Howard complained. “That does it! I’m going right into the county courthouse and demand a jury trial on this one. I mean, this is nuts! We can’t take this lying down. I’ll get the ACLU if I have to. Too much fun, right!”
“I thought he was kidding,” I said. “But, he’s not kidding.”

While we waited, I drank a quart of water and switched my bottles on the down tube to have a full one ready.

It was warm water, but quenched my thirst. Darned if I could figure out what we had done to get this cop upset. But I had learned never to argue with a police officer. They commanded absolute authority. Minutes later, he walked up to us with two tickets in hand.

“I know ya’ll think this is out of line,” he said. “But I don’t make the laws…I just enforce them. By the way, I like riding bicycles, too. How come you boys are riding mountain bikes with drop bars?”
“They’re more durable, and we don’t get many flat tires,” I said. “They give a smoother ride. Plus, we have three positions for our hands with drop bars. Straight bars fatigue our hands by keeping them in one position.”
“I’ll have to remember that,” he said. “By the way, I live in Vicksburg. Are you boys hungry?”
“Yes, sir,” we replied, not understanding why he was so friendly when he had just given us tickets.
“There’s a nice restaurant called ‘Aunt Dorothy’s’ with an all-you-can-eat salad right after you cross the Mississippi River. You can’t miss it,” he said, walking back to his car.
He drove toward Vicksburg. I stood there looking at Howard who was just as incredulous as I was.
“What in the hell just happened to us?” I asked.
Howard looked down at his ticket and started laughing.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“Read it,” Howard said, chuckling and slapping his thigh.

On the ticket in long hand, it read, “This is a citation to the Wooldridge brothers for having too much fun on their bicycle trip across America. You can either pay a large fine down at the county courthouse, or you can come over to my house (directions below) and take showers plus eat my wife’s great cooking. You’re welcome to stay overnight. My kids would love to hear about some of your experiences. It would be an honor and a pleasure to have you visit us.” “I’ll be damned,” I muttered.

After riding into town that evening, we followed Officer Buford Jackson’s directions to his house. We leaned our touring bikes against the white railing on the front porch of a traditional Southern home where a couple of rockers awaited the evening sunset and friendly conversation.
I knocked.

When the door opened, I had never seen a wider smile, a bigger grin, a larger heart, nor a face so full of mirth and mischief as I saw on Buford Jackson at that moment. Behind him, two girls and a boy must have been told that Ricky Martin and Tom Cruise were coming to dinner, because their faces displayed a youthful expectation that something special was about to happen in their lives.

Buford showed us the guest bedroom and hot showers.

“Give me all your dirty clothes,” he said. “Adeline will have them washed and dried by morning.”
“Ask the boys if they like summer squash, green beans and garden tomatoes?” Adeline called from the kitchen.
“We like everything,” Howard said.
Buford smiled, “These boys can eat a whole hog and a bucket of mashed potatoes with coleslaw.”
“Don’t forget the pumpkin pie,” Howard said, laughing.
“She just made fresh blueberry pie for tonight,” Buford said.
“Break my heart,” I said, my mouth already watering at the thought of my favorite pie.

Before we could protest about his washing our clothes, Buford gathered our sweaty shorts, shirts and other dirty clothes and walked off to the laundry room.
That evening, we ate a dinner fit for kings. Adeline Jackson, in a long cotton dress and just a touch of make-up, couldn’t have been kinder.
At the table, she sat Howard between the two girls and Zac next to me. I hate to admit this but my brother is good looking which left the two girls giddy with excitement.

Buford grasped his son’s and daughter’s hands. Howard and I completed the circle when Buford spoke, “Dear Lord, bless this food….”
After grace, we plowed into the food dishes being passed around the table. Howard struck up the conversation with our starting and finishing point of the ride.
Shirley, nearly 14 with a blond ponytail, asked the first question, “What does San Francisco look like?” Later, Paula, 12 with pigtails, asked, “How many miles do you ride in one day?” Zac, all of 8 years old with a crewcut, asked, “Where do you go number 2 if you live in a tent?”

Once they heard about the basics of bicycle adventure, they asked about our favorite moments on the tour.

Howard described crossing the Golden Gate Bridge with the sparkling blue waters below and watching the two-masted sailboats plying the waters of the bay. He spoke about our ride into Yosemite where we watched a ‘moonbow’ (rainbow caused by moonlight) at the base of Bridal Veil Falls. I talked about our ride through Death Valley with 116 degrees heat that felt like riding inside an oven. Later, we pedaled our way to the rim of the Grand Canyon and looked down a mile below to the Colorado River. Zac’s eyes grew wide with wonder as Howard described the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. Paula and Shirley could hardly contain themselves before asking the next question.

“You know,” Howard said, after answering the last question. “It’s not the adventures that count as much as it is the friends we’ve made along the way. Your daddy and mama are the best story of this trip and you kids are the best, ever! My brother and I are so thankful we ran into your dad.”
Howard glanced with a sly smile over at Buford. I added my own ‘look’. We weren’t THAT amused when he had given us the tickets for having ‘too much fun’.
Buford shrugged innocently. Then he asked with a grin, “What’d you fellers think after I handed you those tickets?”
“Would ‘bewildered’ seem to fit?” Howard said. “At first, you were so serious, we didn’t know what to think. After you walked back to your cruiser, I was ready to….”
“You don’t want to hear Howard’s words,” I said. “Needless to say, we thought we might be in a Hitchcock movie.”
“Just thought I’d put a little humor into your day,” Buford said.
“He’s a good cop,” Adeline said, “but he’s a practical joker, too, and he has a heart of gold. We’re real glad you boys came over for dinner. Aren’t we children?”
At that moment, Shirley, Paula and Zac’s faces lit up. They nodded.
“What made you think up giving us tickets?” I asked.
“You know,” he said, “it came out of the blue. I guess I wanted my kids to see a bit of the world through some strangers’ eyes.”
“We have more stories,” Howard said.
They’ve heard enough. It’s time for bed.
“No, daddy, please…” they pleaded.
“You heard me,” Buford said.
“This dinner conversation has been great for our kids,” Adeline said. You boys have given them an appreciation for geography, highways, mountains, camping, and most of all, a sense of what’s out there.”
“Have any of you read ‘THE HOBBIT’?” Howard asked Shirley.
She nodded and said her teacher had read it to the class.
“Well,” Howard spoke. “Bilbo Baggins said, ‘There’s a whole lot of adventure outside your door. That’s why I named my bike after him.’”
“That’s right,” I said. “It’s out there waiting for you when you choose to travel.”

Shirley gleamed and followed her siblings to the bathroom to brush her teeth. Who knows what kind of adventure path her life would take? It might be on a bicycle. The next morning, as we pedaled onto the highway, I was reminded again, as I had been hundreds of times in the past, that people are full of surprises.

In the case of Buford and Adeline, my world became richer thanks to their unexpected hospitality. Shirley, Paula and Zac bring a smile to my heart and mind whenever I think back on the magic of that evening.

Bless the Jackson’s for their love, generosity, sense of humor, and their children with big, bright eyes filled with expectation. I am thankful that most of the world is filled with Buford’s and Adeline’s, and because it is, we are all blessed with joy at surprising moments in our lives.
In my lifetime, I hope to get arrested many more times for having too much fun.

 

Read more posts by Frosty Wooldridge here. Frosty is a blogger for JenningsWire Online Magazine.

JenningsWire.com is created by National Publicity Firm, Annie Jennings PR that specializes in providing book marketing strategies to self-published and traditionally published authors. Annie Jennings PR books authors, speakers and experts on major top city radio talk shows that broadcast to the heart of the market, on local, regionally syndicated and national TV shows and on influential online media and in prestigious print magazines and newspapers.


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