January 28th…...”WERE YOU EVER PULLED OVER BY POLICE TO RECEIVE A TRAFFIC TICKET FOR SPEEDING IN A CAR?”
“DON’T MOVE YOUR HEAD!!!” came the terse command from my Uncle Barney Hollembaek as he sat in the passenger seat next to me. As we screamed down that gravel road, I had twisted my head to the right to inform my uncle that a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman (with a very fast horse…..said tongue-in-cheek…hehehe) had just come off of a side road as we made our way towards the Alaska/Canadian Highway and had flipped on his dashboard lights as he was now in pursuit of us. “If you keep your head still, maybe he’ll think you didn’t notice him and will just drive by!!” But, alas, that bit of advice didn’t work in my case.
I’ll leave you in suspense, for a moment, as I backtrack to fill you in on what transpired up to this point. It was March of 1972. I was an 18 year old Senior at Battle Ground High School in Battle Ground, Washington. Our school was about to be let out for the annual Spring Break Vacation. Our fun-loving Uncle Barney was passing through our town and had invited me to keep him company as he drove my Cousin Scott Hollembaek’s handsome Ford Mustang back up to Alaska. Our mountain man of a cousin had left the “Stang” in our keeping about 6 months earlier when he took a flight out of Portland, Oregon bound for Hawaii and a construction job. Scott had done some amazing tweaking of that 302 power-plant that made this “Grabber Blue” Mustang the hottest set of wheels I had ever ridden in!!! When Scott “punched it”, that car literally threw me back into my seat as we’d rocket off down the road. I remember cautioning Scott one afternoon about our local cops pulling him over for a speeding ticket. His response? “Ahhh, they gotta CATCH me first!!!!” 😉
Our bigger than life Uncle Barney was a Leatherneck Marine, during World War II, and had served in the South Pacific. He was a risk taker, a business man, an innovator and he employed all those qualities that worked towards success for him over his years there in Alaska. Having received permission from my folks, I was more than thrilled to be his driving buddy on the way back up to the wild north country, riding shotgun, so to speak, inside this amazing Ford Mustang. I’m not sure just who (Scott or Barney) or why, but someone had disconnected the odometer on the “Stang” before we pointed the car northwards towards Seattle, the Canadian border, British Columbia and eventually up the Alaska/Canadian Highway to Palmer, Alaska. Since the speedometer (as well as the odometer) were now dead, the only way to mark our speed, as we rolled along, was to watch the tachometer needle moving through its spectrum and kinda gauge the general flow of traffic around us on the freeway.
On the second morning, after we cruised across the Canadian border and into British Columbia, Barney was ready to take a breather from driving. The 290 “horses” under that blue hood were now all mine to command and, ohhh, it was a treat!!! With “four on the floor” and “pedal to the metal”, we saw mile after mile of stunning, rugged scenery pass by us as we talked up a storm and enjoyed each other’s company on this long journey. On our way towards the actual Al/Can Highway at Dawson Creek, the wild country, and the road itself, took on a more rugged atmosphere.
In 1972, the majority of the Al/Can Highway was still graveled. The only paved highway sections were a few miles before and after major cities. It was on one of those stretches of graveled roads, one day, that I met a challenger. A car had passed me. I thought to myself, “O.K., no biggie! Hope ya have a great day.” Then, that same car in front of me started slowing down. So, I shifted down and punched that 302 powerhouse and passed the guy. It was quickly becoming a cat n mouse game. He passes me, I pass him; and each time we’re both going faster and faster. Remember, I only have a tachometer to gauge my speed. I’m really starting to cook up some “rpms” to catch this “mouse” again, when, all of a sudden, out from a side road comes an RCMP patrol car and flips his dashboard lights on. As you recall my uncle’s directives earlier, well, my steady head did nothing to cure what happened next. That Canadian “copper” came zooming up alongside us and, in sign language, swung his arm over and over, telling us to pull over. We did. He now “punches it” and literally FLIES up ahead of us and catches my intended “mouse”, too.
Barney and myself sat in the car, alongside that gravel road, patiently waiting while the trooper wrote a speeding ticket for my “mouse” up ahead and then lets him drive off. With a swing of his authoritative arm, “Mr. Mountie” summons us to drive slowly up to where he stands. That handsome officer was resplendent in his Canadian policeman’s uniform that day. Our Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman was also in command of a great personality as we chatted while he wrote me a speeding ticket for doing 85 miles per hour in a 60 mph zone. The price of my fine was to be $45.00 and we were to be honest men and stop up ahead in the town of Quesnel, British Columbia and pay my fine at the courthouse there. By today’s standards (as of July of 2020), $45 is a little drop in the bucket, but back in 1972, that amount of money was a pretty impressive chunka change that was gonna be sucked outta my pockets!!!
I could tell that Barney was about to “milk the moment”, seeing that our law officer was so laid back and amiable with us. “Just curious, Constable, what if we bypass Quesnel and just keep on driving?” To which, in a very relaxed tone of voice, our Constable replied, “Oh, no problem, gentlemen, we’ll just radio ahead, if you don’t arrive within the hour, and have you both arrested.” You can bet yer sweet bippy that we DID stop in Quesnel and I DID fork over a precious $45.00 of my vacation spending money that was supposed to buy some fun in Alaska for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.