This guest post was written by long time Canadian road racer Colin King when Gary Magwood`s story about his Sebring road trip stirred the memory banks. A great tale of road tripping and what can happen when running afoul of The Man.
In the late fall of 1980, November to be exact, we set off on our annual pilgrimage to Road Atlanta for the SCCA Run-offs. Me in my 78 Z28 Camaro with friend Bart and my brother-in-law in his little yellow Escort with his friend Dean.
As were most of these trips, it was a weekend jaunt and we left Thursday night after work and drove straight through. By Friday morning we were heading east on I85, about 20 miles outside of Atlanta when the ever present threat of “Smokey” appeared travelling in the opposite direction. Although we were somewhere in the neighbourhood of 15mph over the limit, I didn’t worry too much as there was a fairly wide grass median separating us. Wrong….through my rear view mirror I saw the big ole Ford Galaxie leaping through the median, grass and mud flying in all directions. Surely enough, the roof lights came on and we were caught.
We pulled over. Bart, being a Metro Toronto police officer, said “Don’t worry, I’ll look after this”, and proceeded to get out of the car. Through the mirror I saw this Georgia Smokey, standing behind his open door, extract this rather large cannon from his right hip. There was an indiscernible exchange of words and the next thing, Bart is sitting next to me saying “You go talk to him”. I got out, my brother-in-law got out and we both nervously strolled back to be confronted by Trooper Wiley of the Georgia State Police. Now Trooper Wiley was the epitamy of your State Trooper. About 6′-6″ tall, no more that 150lbs with his Smokey Bear hat and mirror sunglasses.
He asked for our licenses, told us we were doing 72mph in a 55mph zone, and asked us where we were going. We explained our hurried trip to Road Atlanta for the Run-Offs. My brother-in-law was keeping silent and letting me handle Trooper Wiley. Which was probably a good thing as Don has been known to irritate the long arm of the law from time to time. Trooper Wiley went on to explain that the local J.P was away fishing for the weekend, and there was every possibility that we would end up being the guests of the state until Monday morning. He said a number of times during his interrogation “I don’t know what I am going to do with you boys”.
Back in good old Ontario, there was a fellow by the name of Doug MacArthur that raced an overly large yellow Lotus 7 looking beast called a KiKi. Doug had three small letters on the back of the right rear fender “AMF”. Doug was very secretive about their meaning, but one day revealed to me it meant “Adios Mother F……r” (we all know mother is only half a word). Thinking this to be more than a little humorous, I had those three little letters on my rear spoiler.
Back to Trooper Wiley. With my license in his hand, he looked at the back of my car, then my license and then to the back of my car. He said “Boy, are those your initials on the back of your car”? “No Sir”, I responded. “Well what does it mean”. Well, I thought it was about time to break the ice with this good old Georgia Boy, so rather than say “Adios My Friend” I revealed the true meaning. Not a smile, no chink in the armour…..now we were in deep dodo. Once again he said, “I don’t know what I am going to do with you boys”. My brother -in – law, who up until this point had the sense to keep quiet said, ” You could forgive us”. Trooper Wiley slowly reached up and removed his mirror sunglasses, revealing cold grey eyes. He slowly turned to my brother-in-law, and with that great Georgia accent said, “Boy, in this state we only forgive murderers, everybody else pays cash”. Our lives flashed before our eyes. Trooper Wiley returned to his cruiser and left us standing there. He returned about 10 minutes later with our licenses and other accompanying paperwork in his hand. “This here is a complimentary warning….stay out of trouble, and y’all have a great weekend.
Now you might think the story ends here….not quite. On Saturday, who should be on traffic duty outside the track. You betcha, Trooper Wiley. I took a moment to thank him for his kindness and for not throwing us in jail for the weekend. I told him where we were camped and invited him back for a good Canadian beer after he was off duty. Surprisingly he took me up on my offer. Trooper Wiley turned out to be a real great guy and we sat and drank beer and swapped police tales well into the night. T.W acquired a taste for Canadian beer and for years after, on our way to Road Atlanta, we would drop off a case of Canadian, in a plain brown wrapper, at the Gwinnet County State Trooper detachment. We ran into him on and off over the next 10 years at the track, always had a good time, and he was always most appreciative of our small token of thanks.