A few years ago we were doing a project in Brownsville, Texas, a seven hour trip to the south. Being a nice Sunday I decided to ride my Goldwing down. Madeline was coming down later so she was pulling the trailer so I could haul it back home later that week.
Ron Jr. was working on that job so he was already down there. He had a motorcycle so I suggested he ride up to Corpus so we could meet for lunch then ride back together. After having lunch we headed out for the 3 hour trip to the valley. We took some backroads getting out of town.
Out on a little stretch of country road I passed a slow moving tractor. Ron was close behind me. We were meeting a Nueces County Deputy but I had plenty of distance, but perhaps Ron didn’t.
I got a couple miles down the road and noticed that Ron wasn’t behind me. I pulled off and waited, but when he didn’t come I looped back to see what had happened. There he was on the side of the road with the deputy setting behind him. I passed by a sad looking Ron. His leisurely afternoon ride had just turned into his worst nightmare. He was riding on a suspended license.
I traveled down a ways and turned back. I came back by him and continued a good distance up in front of him, maybe fifty yards or so, just wanting to wait on him without being actually involved. I felt like I had nothing to offer the situation.
The next thing I knew the officer, a stoutly built woman was coming my way. As she reached me she ask what I was doing. I told her I was waiting on my son. She then told me to turned around and she cuffed me. She said I was being detained because I was riding a stolen bike. I explained that I had bought the motorcycle new and had been the only owner. She took me back to her squad car and put me in the back, where I set for more than thirty minutes.
The problem was I was suffering with a ruptured disk in my neck and had already had two prior surgeries. The pain of having my arms behind my back was excruciating. But there was no getting her attention.
Once I was finally turned loose, I called Madeline and she was within a few miles of our location. While I understood them not letting Ron ride away without a license there was no pleading a case for allowing Madeline to come and haul his bike away. They impounded it instead, causing him additional costs and inconvenience, but that was the risk he took.
As for me, she offered no explanation for my detention and certainly no apology. All she said was there was some confusion when she had called my plate number in. It’s my belief that she never called it in. There was no way she could have read the plate number from the distance that I had parked and she was busy with him when I first pulled by her.
That is my story of police abuse of power. I understand that an officer needs to provide a safe environment for themselves. But it wasn’t like I had ridden up into the middle of them or that I looked the part of a Hell’s Angel. I was an almost 60 year old grandfather riding a Honda Goldwing. Not your typical motorcycle gangsta.
I think back to this incident, as minor as it really was, it was a harrowing hour or so. The fact that I had done nothing wrong yet I was handcuffed and sitting in the back of a patrol car, with my hands behind my back. I really felt like crying, whether from the pain or the humiliation. I’m sure both emotions were weighing on me.
I went on to have surgery a few weeks after that. Now it’s been 10 years since that time and I am mostly pain free and can devote myself to the many other ailments I have, many from the misuse of my body in my younger years.
I still think about that afternoon of injustice, knowing there are instances so much worse happening to people somewhere every minute of every day.
As I read the following story of a man of color that was detained, because he was in the wrong place and the wrong time and he was the wrong color. My few minutes of inconvenience seems so trivial, as I don’t expect it to ever happen to me again. Everyone can’t say that.
One thought on “A Nice Sunday Afternoon Motorcycle Ride”
That is a powerful story. I don’t know what your son did to draw the officer’s attention, but getting nabbed for driving on the suspended license is certainly “on him”. I just can’t imagine how the officer knew to stop him and check. But the way you were treated seems to have just been “throwing power around.”
I wonder whether the harassment of people for things like driving while black, drinking water while black, jogging while black, and other such things might be part of the same dynamic. You and your son were hassled for “being on the road on motorcycles.”
My father had that kind of anti-motorcycle bias. Anyone on a motorbike, including a California Highway Patrol officer, was hateful to him.
Thanks for resolving the neck issue in the story. That was an important thing to hear.
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