In this motorcycle Christmas tale, originally published in the December 2021 issue of Rider, contributor Scott A. Williams relates the story of being cut off my a Massachusetts State Trooper and getting a surprising gift in return.
It was one of those Christmases where family was in far-flung locations. With just my wife, daughter, and me at home, important holiday obligations were addressed by early afternoon. The sun burned in an azure sky as the temperature rose into the 50s – rare for late December in Massachusetts – and your humble scribe was getting antsy.
“Go take a ride,” my wife insisted. “We’re going to bake cookies and you’ll be in the way. Get out of here.”
Making a plan as I rode along, I headed west over the Connecticut River toward the hill towns for fun roads, blissfully free of traffic. I calculated that I’d have time to reach Huntington before turning north for a ways, and then back east to make it home before dark.
Riding on U.S. Route 20 through the outskirts of Westfield, I spied a statie stopped at an intersection on the left, just ahead. (“Statie” is what Massachusetts natives call our state troopers.) Ideally, he’d be turning right, back toward the city, but without warning the cruiser cut in front of me. I hit the brakes – hard – and delivered a bwaaaa! from my bike’s air horn. Hey, hey, hey, I’m riding here! Inside my helmet I uttered words I do not recommend saying to a police officer in person.
If I had cut off an officer in such a manner, I’d be producing my license and registration. It was clear to me that the officer didn’t look before abruptly pulling out. Had he looked, he’d have seen me approaching, wearing high-viz gear and a white helmet, burning four accessory light arrays in addition to the OEM headlight, and riding the speed limit on an empty road with no obstructions on a clear day. I was there. If a careless civilian had cut me off, I may have dropped a gear and zipped by, but it was a statie.
Now, though, he was pulling away at a good clip. No lights or siren, just noticeably above the limit. I decided to keep up. Perhaps this wasn’t the wisest decision, but I stayed back at what I concluded was a respectful distance – and I started to make really good time. This section of U.S. 20 is the Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway, and from here out to Becket it’s my favorite stretch of 20 in the state. The road parallels the Westfield River to Huntington, then gains elevation in Chester up to Becket through a succession of S-curves. I know this road well, but I had never ridden it quite so briskly.
There’s a state police barracks in Russell, and I started thinking that this cruiser with the distinctive blue and gray paint scheme would turn in, but it did not. Approaching the village of Huntington, the statie slowed the pace. I followed suit. Was he preparing to turn north onto State Route 112? That’s another great winding road in western Mass that earned a state-issued scenic byway designation. It’s where I was planning to go, but given these unusual circumstances I felt I should be open to alternatives. One was presented when the statie continued west on 20.
The rapid rate resumed through Blandford State Forest to the town of Chester, where again the statie eased off a bit going through the village. But when those S-curves came into view, the Ford Police Interceptor sped up for that familiar, winding, uphill run.
By now this unexpected and exhilarating ride was taking me a good 40 miles out of my way, and I knew I had to start heading back east at some point. The day’s unusual warmth was melting snow, and with clear skies, the temperature would plummet once the sun went down, so black ice would be a threat. But with little traffic other than a lead-footed statie, I wanted this ride to last.
In Becket, the cruiser turned right onto Route 8 north. Recalculating … I could head north through Becket and Washington up to Hinsdale, then start a return trip east on Route 143 through Peru, Chesterfield, and Williamsburg. From the standpoint of entertainment on a motorcycle, this was all good. When I reached Northampton, I could hop on Interstate 91 and then the Mass Pike to straighten out the last leg home.
I stuck with the statie and turned north on Route 8. The snaking tar hugged the landscape past forests and farms, but I realized it couldn’t last much longer. As the center of Hinsdale approached, I made my move, signaling my intent to turn right on 143. The statie flashed his light bar twice and continued straight.
I interpreted those flashes to mean, “Sorry I cut you off back there, hope you enjoyed the ride.” Yes, officer, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Forty extra miles flew by in not as many minutes, leaving me with a wide grin and a great Christmas memory. No hard feelings, sir, but please watch for motorcycles.