Land of the free.

Yellowstone National Park.

Raw America.

Untouched land, sitting just four miles over a volcanic hot spot. Geysers spew. The bigs roam freely – elk, bison, moose, wolves and the great grizzly bear. The only shots fired are the a click of a shutter speed. Winters are brutal. Summers don’t exist.

The family decided we would take a break from our family vacation in the Florida Keys. We would head north to a place we have never been. The land of the free. America. Old Faithful. Red, white and blue.

Red, white and blue flashing in my rearview mirror somewhere near hour 8 on our road trip to Yellowstone.

South Dakota Highway Patrol Officer: Ma’am, the reason I stopped you today is did you know you drove past me on the highway and didn’t move over? Did you even see me?

I glared at our friends’ car driving by, honking, with a camera phone out the window.

Me: Uhhhh…Yes. I saw you. I guess I wasn’t paying attention?

Officer: You do know if you see flashing lights on the side of the highway, you need to move over.

Me: Yeah, yeah I knew that. My mother-in-law got a ticket for that once.

I dug through my wallet for my driver’s license.

Officer: Do you have registration and insurance papers?

Me: Um, this is a rental. I don’t really know…

Scott handed me our rental paperwork.

Officer: That will do. Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to step out of your vehicle.

Me: Wait, what?

Officer: Can you follow me to my car? I want to explain the law in detail with you. It’s loud on this highway and I want to talk to you.

Me: Huh? You want me to get out of my car. Walk along the side of the highway. And then sit in your car?

Officer: Yes, ma’am.

I glanced at Scott. He looked confused.

Me: Uh, ok.

I walked in front of the officer.

Officer: Just sit in the front seat there. That will be fine.

I looked over his car to make sure it was a highway patrol car. I looked back at Scott. I opened the passenger door and sat. The driver’s door slammed shut.

Officer: So where are you headed?

Me: Yellowstone.

baldeagle

Officer: You have quite a drive from Kansas.

Me: It’s taking longer now.

roadtrip

Officer: Let’s see Julie. Burton. Are you related to the Burton Snowboards?

Me: Nope.

kate

Officer: And who is that man up there? Your husband, I assume?

Me: Yeah, his name is Scott.

scottme

Officer: And those are your kids?

Me: Yes, two little girls.

emma

kate1

Officer: I see. And what does your husband do?

Me: He’s Vice President at a medical software company.

Officer: And what do you do, Julie?

Me: I’m a writer.

The officer stopped punching numbers in his computer.

Officer: Oh. Uh, so does this mean I’m going to end up in the papers or something?

Me: Yep.

Officer: So back to the law you broke. I want to explain to you that whenever you see flashing lights on the side of the road, you need to move over a lane. Especially on a highway. This is a four lane highway. You need to move to the next lane. If this was a two lane highway, you would slow down to twenty miles under the speed limit. The goal is not to injure anyone along the side of the road here.

Me: Kinda like when I walked along side the highway?

Officer: I pulled you over for breaking the law, ma’am. You need to move over a lane and make way for others when you see a car pulled over to the side.

bighorn

Me: I believe I was more concerned about my speed at the time.

Officer: I clocked you at 81 in an 80. Do you understand the law you broke, Julie?

Me: Yep. I understood it when you were at my window too.

Officer: So where are you staying at in Yellowstone?

Me: Montana. My in-laws rented a house.

Officer: Oh, no camping then?

Me: Not this time.

Officer: I took my wife and kids out there to camp. Watch out for the bison. They’re everywhere. And they’re dangerous too.

bison

Me: That’s what I heard.

Officer: It’s crazy how many animals you will see.

elk

Officer: And the bears. Oh man. I won’t camp there again. They get a little too close. You have to keep your food far from your tent. It’s not my thing.

bear3

bear1

bear2

Officer: So what are you guys going to do if you’re not camping?

Me: Oh, I don’t know. I definitely want to white water raft. I love the thrill of danger and going really fassst uhhhhm… I’ve never done it before.

whitewater

Officer: Yeah, that’s pretty fun.

Me: Oh! And I really want to try fly fishing.

Officer: Really? Fly fish? Not many women do that. Man, I could never get my wife to fish.

Me: Yeah, fishing is our husband/wife thing, I guess. We just got back from the Bahamas last week. And we got an invite to fish in Costa Rica with some friends. We went to Dominican Republic last year. I caught my first white marlin. So this fly fishing will be interesting.

Officer: REALLY?! A marlin? Yeah, I want to fly fish. But I decided that will take up too much of my time. I’ll just wait for retirement.

flyfishing

Me: Well, at least you have some pretty views here in South Dakota. Is that where I am at?

Officer: Yes. Ok, world traveler. I printed out your citation here.

Me: Damnit.

Officer: You can mail the fine to this address in South Dakota. It’s not due until mid-August. That should give you enough time to enjoy your vacation and get back to Kansas. If you would like to plead not-guilty, you must appear at this courthouse at this time.

Me: I’m not coming back to South Dakota.

mtrush

Officer: If you would sign here for me, saying you understand you broke the law.

I signed.

Officer: Here is your driver’s license back. And you’re free to go.

baldeagle2

I opened the door and slid a foot out.

Officer: Have fun in Yellowstone!

Me: Thank you.

I slammed the door. I opened my driver’s car door. Then slammed the door again.

Scott: What the hell took so long?

Me: I said thank you, Scott.

Scott: What?

Me: He gave me a ticket and I said thank you.

Scott: You got a ticket? How much? You were in there for 20 minutes! Did he do anything to you? I was about to get out and see what was going on!

Me: I don’t want to talk about it. No, he didn’t do anything. He just talked my ear off. Thank you. Jesus. Thank you, officer. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you, Yellowstone.

Thank you, Yellowstone.

zipline

Thank you.

Have you ever been to Yellowstone? Is it on the bucket list? And more importantly – have you ever been asked to sit in a cop car and not be arrested? Has a cop ever asked you to walk along the side of a highway, explain to you how dangerous this is, then give you a ticket for not moving over a lane? I can’t make these stories up.

Or these pictures. 

19 thoughts on “Land of the free.

  1. Got pulled over this spring, ran a red light….got a warning, but didn’t have one sit in the cop car. the photos are amazing, probably have to be amazing to match the time you had there.

    Have great day, and don’t forget to mail the check and pull over a lane when you see flashing lights on the side of the road.

    Like

  2. Wonderful pictures! Looks like a great trip – I haven’t been to Yellowstone since I was a child, but want to get back there soon.

    I probably would have called to complain to the Police Chief about that officer asking you to sit in his car. I worked with officers for years, and ours wouldn’t have done something like that. Seems like a bizarre power trip to me.

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    • Thank you! I think Scott is going to notify the Police Chief. Very strange. I didn’t know whether I could tell the cop I wasn’t comfortable with that? But knowing Scott was right there, watching, was comforting.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yellowstone is definitely on our bucket list!!! Sitting with a total creeper police officer in his car, however, is not! I think it’s a good think Scott is reporting him. A cop should never make someone feel uncomfortable. That was the craziest story!

    Like

  4. There is so much awesomeness in this post!!! What a fantastic trip you had, minus the chatty ticket-hungry cop! The pictures are phenomenal, Julie! I love how badass you are, trying everything with no fear. Your girls have a great role model. 🙂

    Like

  5. Oh that lead foot of yours. State troopers put people in their cars for some reason when they write tickets and I think it’s ridiculous. Completely unsafe and asking for trouble. You must have been more of a bitch than you let on though, because I heard that pretty women never get tickets. ;-0 lol.

    Like

  6. Katie Porter says:

    So much better than the back of the cop cars….those are gross and filthy! Bucket list for sure for me, Yellowstone, not a cop car. I live with one. Yep, pretty fancy!

    Like

    • That’s true, the back would have been worse. I’m still dumbstruck how he asked me to walk along the highway and get into his car???
      Yes, go to Yellowstone!! It’s a nice change of scenery. And it’s not super hot in the summer.

      Like

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