The perpetual cat and mouse game. Usually the cat wins; but not always. But managing to get away from the cat after he’s pulled up behind you with his lights flashing, slipping out of his clutches? Only once, and I doubt it will ever happen again.
It was 1978, and we were returning to LA from a short trip to The Bay Area in my Peugeot 404. Although the 76 hp 404 was hardly fast by today’s standards, it cruised quite comfortably between 70 and 80mph– plenty fast enough to attract the California Highway Patrol, zealous guardians of America’s reviled double-nickel national speed limit.
It was late at night, somewhere in the middle of nowhere on I5 between SF and LA, and there was almost no traffic (unlike today). I was bopping along, overly relaxed, at maybe about 70 or 75. A cop snuck up on us, and he lit up his flashing red light. Before I even had time to collect my thoughts and pull over, he pulled up along side of us in the left lane, and using his bullhorn, ordered me to follow him. What the? Then he gunned the 440 and roared off to nab the only other car nearby, maybe an eighth or quarter mile ahead. Aha! He wants to pull over both of us; a greedy cat!
Just as I saw him going off in the distance to grab number two, an unlit local farm-road exit appeared (there are several of them in this undeveloped part of the valley). Suddenly, a devious plan popped in my head, and I acted on it instantly. I killed the Peugeot’s headlights, exited, drove over the bridge and headed back the other way. I could see the cop from the bridge, about a quarter of a mile ahead, ticketing his other victim, waiting for me to show up. Stephanie was wee bit surprised, but she’s always been a good sport about my risk-taking.
I got back on the freeway heading north, vibrating from a serious adrenalin rush. Now what? Is he going to cross the median and come barreling up in his Coronet? Or will he just wait for me to eventually show up? Did he get my license number? Or?
I backtracked about twenty miles before I finally screwed up enough courage to turn around. And until I was about fifty miles past the place of our first encounter, I did not relax. But thankfully, California’s finest had called it a night, and the mouse was still running free.