Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Monday, March 5, 2012

You Can't Tell the Players Without a Program, nor the Speed Without a Speed-Limit Sign

Often I write here about experiences that are new to me. More often than not, they aren't anything extraordinary for lots of people; they are simply uncharted waters for me: things like frying chicken or seeing a 3-D movie.

This week I did something that isn't entirely new: I was pulled over for exceeding the speed limit. By how much, you might ask. I have no clue.

I didn't feel like I was going all that fast. Of course, it was the day after returning from the Virginia International Raceway and driving the Camaro ZL1 at 110 miles per hour.

I was on Augusta Road -- a main-drag surface street to downtown Greenville, roughly 10 miles or so from my front door.

The bulk of that 10 miles is through dense residential areas. The four lanes are narrow and traffic heavy. The speed limits vary from 30 mph to 35 mph. I don't have an issue with that and typically behave myself through that area that also includes a couple of schools.

About a mile from my house -- or more accurately a mile from where my street branches off from Augusta -- the residences disappear, the lanes grow wide, separate left-turn lanes appear and traffic thins out. Within that stretch is an entrance and exit for I-85. It is clearly a commercial area with businesses sparsely scattered about.

I am thoroughly embarrassed about being pulled over. The state trooper was sitting in the area between the north and southbound lanes in a marked car. Stevie Wonder couldn't have missed him. But I had my mind elsewhere. I didn't even notice him until I was within 10 car lengths. I'm not even sure how fast I was going. I suspect it was 45 or 50.

I stopped at the red light to make the right turn onto my street and Trooper Smiley eased behind me. Once I made the turn, he snapped on his lights. I was not shocked.

I pulled into the lot of the Pandora's Box on the corner and powered down my window. I already had my license and proof of insurance in my hand. The registration was in an envelope in the glovebox, but I didn't want to be rifling through it when the trooper approached. They tend to get nervous about such things.

I was in a car from the press fleet, which caused the usual discussion about who the vehicle belonged to and what I was doing with it. The last time this happened to me about two years ago, it was on I-26 south of Columbia as I was driving back from Florida. The trooper who stopped me then wound up asking advice regarding what car he should buy for his recently graduated daughter. This is the land of good old boys after all.

This trooper asked if I knew why he pulled me over. I replied that I was probably stretching the speed limit. He then asked me what was my hurry. I responded that I wished I could concoct a believable and entertaining tale, but couldn't. I did manage to coax a small smile out of him.

He took my license, proof of insurance and registration, when I finally dug it out, and walked back to his car. He was back there all of 30 seconds before returning to my window and handing me all of my documents. He also had a blue warning that he handed me along with some advice about minding the speed limit.

I have no idea how fast he clocked me or even what the speed limit is for that stretch of Augusta Road. He never brought it up, nor did I. None of that info was on the written warning he gave me. The closest speed limit sign in the direction I was traveling is nearly a mile north of where this happened. It's for 35 mph, but that's the edge of the residential area.

Speed limits in and around Greenville are ludicrously low, but I can't believe that even in Greenville the speed limit for this piece of Augusta Road is only 35 mph.

I suspect if the county bothered to erect a speed limit sign somewhere in that intervening mile, it would be for 40 or 45mph. The next speed limit sign on Augusta is the equivalent of about three city blocks farther south and it is for 45 mph.

No fine, no foul. I may never know exactly the gravity of my crime. And I am perfectly happy with that.

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