I interviewed Trooper Ben.

We all have those friends with certain careers that can hook us up.

Maybe you have a friend that works at Chick-Fil-A and you score free chocolate shakes when you walk in.

Or it’s possible you started choking on a fish bone at dinner and your doctor friend jumped up and performed the Heimlich Maneuver on you.

Photographer friend? Maybe she gives you a family photoshoot for your birthday.

Or maybe, just maybe, you know a highway patrol trooper. You can throw questions at him without feeling like you did something wrong.

Meet Trooper Ben on Twitter.

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Trooper Ben works for the Kansas Highway Patrol. The man has 28,000 followers on Twitter – although, I would call them more his friends. He’ll answer your questions with humor but he also keeps in mind he doesn’t want you to die either. If he has time, he’ll tweet Q&As from his followers.

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I found Trooper Ben’s twitter handle from Eric Stonestreet.

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Yes, this Eric Stonestreet. The K-State family is a close one.

It doesn’t really matter how I met Trooper Ben. We’re friends now even though I’ve never met him in real life. And hopefully, I never meet him because I’m a safe driver.

Mostly.

Ok, like one speeding ticket.

I’ve gotten out of two speeding tickets with warnings.

Oh, and then there was that one time I got a ticket for not moving over a lane while a South Dakota trooper pulled over another car on the highway. Yes, I broke the law and I wasn’t safe. My ticket was fair. I should have moved over a lane. But that wasn’t my question for Trooper Ben.

My question for Trooper Ben:

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If you want the long version of this story, click here.

In short – I was pulled over for not moving over a lane. The South Dakota trooper asked me to leave my car, walk along the side of the highway, and sit in his car while he chatted and wrote me a ticket. This happened in the middle of the afternoon. My husband and two daughters were in the car. It was clear we were on a family road trip.

Trooper Ben was kind enough to give me a call today and explain the trooper’s possible reasonings.

I did not record our conversation for direct quotes but I did take notes.

Trooper Ben asks drivers to sit in his car for various reasons, although it is rare.

If he smells alcohol, he has been known to ask the driver to sit in his car. Using his car as a “neutral scent” zone, he can smell possible alcohol on the driver’s breath. My breath smelled like coffee, cream, sugar, and nachos cheese Doritos.

Another reason – smuggling drugs. By questioning a person away from the “comfort zone” of their own car, he can gather more information from the driver to make sure stories add up – Who is in the car with you? What are the kids’ names? Where are you going? Believe it or not, people have been known to smuggle drugs with kids in the car. The particular car I was driving at the time was a rental and it had Florida plates. I gave the South Dakota trooper my Kansas driver’s license.

I asked Trooper Ben the number one answer I’ve heard when I tell this story – was it possible the trooper just wanted to hit on me away from my husband? Trooper Ben said he hopes that’s not the case. Looking back, I don’t feel like this particular trooper was hitting on me but I do remember being scared that he might. I felt vulnerable away from my husband.

My biggest question for Trooper Ben – did I have the right to refuse to get into the trooper’s vehicle if I wasn’t under arrest? Trooper Ben said it wouldn’t be an unreasonable request if I feared for my safety. Another option Trooper Ben suggested is to ask if I could record the conversation via video or voice.

In the end, everyone was safe. I still got a ticket. It was possible the South Dakota trooper thought I was smuggling drugs. But I can’t interview that trooper to ask him why.

I can only interview Trooper Ben.

Don’t forget to move over a lane when you see another car pulled over.

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Wait, don’t go! Find me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

And don’t forget to buy my book, “But Did You Die?”

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.

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Officer: You have quite a drive from Kansas.

Me: It’s taking longer now.

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

Me: Nope.

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

Me: Yeah, his name is Scott.

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Officer: And those are your kids?

Me: Yes, two little girls.

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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.

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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.

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Me: That’s what I heard.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.