“Do you know why I stopped you, sir?” says the police officer.
“No, ma’am,”say I.”I don’t.” In a nutshell (better than a jail cell), the flashing blue and red lights consume my rear view mirror a quarter mile after I leave Schoonmaker, heading for home.
That’s not quite right. I do have a suspicion why she pulled me over. After exiting Schoonmaker onto the main road, Bridgeway, I must’ve pushed too hard on the gas pedal, the speedometer showing 50 when I looked up at the gauge. Aware of the 35 mph speed limit, I let up on the pedal.
“Well, sir,” says she, “I pulled you over because you were driving too slow.” Saying that, she subtly leans in closer through my open side window, no doubt trying to get a whiff of my breath, my mouth wide open, agape in surprise. Fortunately, all she gets is a whiff of wood smoke wafting off me and my kayaking clothes.
“Too slow?” say I, bewildered. I explain how I inadvertently sped up to 50, then corrected my speed by letting off the gas.
“I clocked you at 30 mph immediately after you turned onto Bridegway. You were doing 25 when I turned on my flashers.”
I contain my surprise, bring my lower jaw closer to my upper, say, “My speedometer said 42 when you turned on your flashers. I looked.”
She stares at me, pauses, says, “What’s your birthdate?” as if my age explains the discrepancy in how fast I say I was going.
“September 1946,” I say. Her young eyes open wide, an ‘Aha!’ look if I ever saw one, smiles knowingly, asks for my driver’s license and insurance card, goes to her vehicle to verify my creds.
“Drive carefully,”says she on her return, handing back my license and insurance card. She walks back to her police cruiser, drives off. I think I hear her chuckling on the short walk to her vehicle, but I don’t care.
On the drive home, I solve the mystery of the differing speeds. On the dash of my car a small, inconspicuous button’s buried. I must’ve brushed against the button leaving Schoonmaker’s parking lot.
That hard-to-spot button toggles the speedometer readout between miles-per-hour and kilometers-per-hour. I was seeing kilometers-per-hour, not miles-per-hour. When I read 50 on the speedometer, I was going 31 mph, not 50 mph.
I suppose age might’ve had something to do with it.
Age also may have had something to do with an unexpected stop on the evening’s paddle.
Outta Schoonmaker, four of us head south, our destination Potsticker Cove, the Cove a quarter mile west of the Golden Gate Bridge. A nice day, warm and windless till we pass Hurricane Gulch on the south end of Sausalito. The wind’s manageable, not treacherous, from there to the Bridge.
When we reach the Bridge, there are no red and blue flashers to stop us.
No flashing lights, but the gale blowing past the north tower and Lime Point gives us pause. Age-related hesitation may have something to do with three of us stopping, only Don’t Follow Don “young” enough to round Lime Point, head for the tower.
Richard, Gandalf, and I do feel our age watching the wind and waves batter Don’t Follow Don, his boat tossed hither and yon, his hat ripped off his head, his hair doing a breakdance.
Doesn’t take long for Don’t Follow Don to feel his true age, reverse course, rejoin us in the lee of Lime Point. “We coulda made it,” says he. We ignore him, paddle back to Pontificis Beach, the beach half a mile south of Hurricane Gulch.
We share the smooth gravely and mostly windless beach with two fishermen. Richard strikes up a conversation with the men, has hopes of liberating one of their fresh catch, but they’ve had no luck with rod and reel.
We don’t have fresh fish, but we do have fresh salad, corn-on-the-cob, chopped veggies, pork chops, battered—not abused—tiger shrimp, and almond croissants.
While we eat, a subdued wind twirls smoke from the cookfire, a round robin coating each of us in a protective layer, good for unexpected stops.
Date: Thurseve, 8 July 2021.
Distance: Five point nine nautical miles.
Speed: One point three knots.
Time: Four point six hours.
Spray factor: Yes.
Dessert: Almond croissants.