by Andy McNeil
Statements like “there’s one” are common, but those words came to us as a stern warning during the early morning hours on the Kansas Interstate Highway system as we returned from a Colorado ski trip. The calm, authoritative words resonated from the speakers of our Citizens Band radios and issued a warning that caused us to give full faith and credit to the Kansas motor vehicle speed laws.
Fred and I were avid snow skiers although neither of us developed the skills witnessed on the television sports channels. We were known for our “wipe outs” and spent more time recovering from falls than we did “hot dogging” down the slopes. Our friends considered us accidents just looking for a time and place to happen.
We made a couple of trips to Banff and Lake Louise in Canada but more often would load our vehicles with family and friends and head west to Snowmass, Buttermilk or Taos. On each trip we towed U-Haul trailers filled with skis and luggage to leave the interior of the vehicles free for the comfort of the passengers.
Fred had a four-wheel drive Suburban customized to his unique specifications and I drove a large Quadra Track Jeep Cherokee. The interiors of the vehicles were plush, making them comfortable for long trips, and both vehicles were equipped with powerful engines and off-road tires.Although we could not boast of our gas mileage, the weight of the vehicles, the passenger load and the added weight of the trailers gave the vehicles stability and made them drive and ride like luxury passenger cars. The powerful engines made travel on super highways a breeze.
This was a period before cell phones and the over-the-road communications were the popular Citizens Band radios. They were extensively used by cross-country truck drivers, and we found them to be useful tools to keep in touch when ordinary eyesight could not do the job. The radios were used to inquire about road conditions, advise the other of unscheduled pit stops, to remain alert on the long trips and were very helpful in receiving warnings of “local” speed traps that often separated travelers from their funds and filled the coffers of speed traps along the route.
Many state police patrol units were equipped with the radios to allow them to respond to emergency situations before they could receive notice through regular police radio channels. Fred and I had concealed our CB radios from the outside world by using adaptors that permitted the radios to function on the same antenna used by the standard AM/FM receiver.
Had Fred not chosen the professional field of Optometry, he would have made a successful con man. He quickly adopted the truck driver jargon and told wild stories as we traveled. The absence of an identifiable antenna on his vehicle caused the responders to assume that his radio signal was coming from another cross-country truck driver.
When asked by a trucker what vehicle he was driving, Fred would describe something completely outlandish and had the truckers looking for everything from UFOs to submarines. His reputed cargos consisted of everything from turkey feathers to buffalo chips. He made up, and told, stories about a female Oklahoma State Trooper that patrolled topless, about how he used a piece of scrap found in a truckstop garage to reduce the fuel consumption of his Peterbilt and about the low fuel prices at non-existent truck stops along the way. Name a subject, and Fred would tell a story. Tell a story and Fred would top it. His outlandish stories were usually more entertaining than commercial radio broadcasts.
After getting the wrinkles out of our stomachs and paying the tabs, we ventured into the nearby shops where we were quickly separated from some of our cash reserves. The sun had set and, after a few minutes of shopping, we gathered our passengers and were on the road again.
This was the era of “mooning” and “streaking” among college students, and a few minutes after leaving Vail one of the male passengers in the Jeep announced that he wanted to “moon” the passengers in the Suburban. The idea was considered, but darkness, falling snow and speeds of seventy miles per hour left many obstacles to overcome. After some thought, a game plan was devised and there was a consensus that it should be done.
The radio in the Jeep was used to signal the passengers in the Suburban to be alert for something flapping on the right side of the Jeep to draw their attention and to advise the Suburban passengers that we intended to pull alongside for their visual inspection. Everyone in the Suburban had their eyes firmly glued to the windows, and as the vehicles slowly moved into position the bright interior lights of the Jeep were turned on.
We knew the “mooning” was a success when we heard the screams and loud laughter from the Suburban radio as the passengers realized they had become the victims in our two-vehicle game of “one-up-man-ship.”
On arrival at the slopes, we found the lift lines long but the accommodations, food, weather and snow conditions perfect giving us an enjoyable vacation experience that would be long remembered. The drive home was another story.
A few miles east of Snowmass we ran into a snowstorm and experienced a “white out.” The Colorado State Police had blocked all roads and were limiting travel to properly equipped vehicles. Both of our vehicles were in the permitted class and after being interrogated about our driving ability we were allowed to pass through the checkpoint.
Fred exited the Suburban to lock in the front wheel hubs, and as I attempted to dismount to assist him I found the entire left side of the Jeep covered with a thick layer of ice freezing the driver’s door shut. Fred completed the task quickly and hastily got back into the warmth of his vehicle. The falling snow and road conditions caused us to lose precious travel time, and we were now regretting the folly of waiting until the last hour to start our trip home.
The passengers drifted into a comfortable sleep while Fred and I drove and used the radios to keep each other awake and alert. We told jokes, discussed politics, talked about the lost time, the good road conditions, and commented on the fact that we had seen no other traveling vehicles for some time.
We were apparently thinking the same thing and after a few minutes Fred said, “Andy, I think I’m going to let the hammer down and make up some of the lost time. There’s not a trooper on the road this time of morning.”
Before I could respond, the radio silence was broken and we both heard the clear authoritative voice of a Kansas State Trooper saying,
Andy McNeil served as Chancery Judge for the Twentieth Arkansas Judicial District and now acts as a Retired Judge on Assignment. He is a Life Member of the Arkansas Judicial Council.
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