Day 149 – August 27, 2003 – Wednesday
The trip Round America ended on August 26, 2003 at 7 pm. But we couldn’t “close the book” on the trip quite yet. We had to write the book, and we had to travel to Kingsland, Georgia to fight injustice….
Boz and I will be hard at work for months as we update the website. We have to write information for the days when we only posted brief reports. We still have thousands of photos to review and add…if we feel they are worthy. We have to transcribe our audio tapes, supplement the web site with that information, and organize the material into a first draft / outline for our book. We have awards to announce, news releases to issue, and much more.
We are already planning additional trips. In mid-September, we will be going to Kingsland, Georgia to fight our traffic ticket, and we will include a visit to see my Dad in Orlando for his 85th birthday. We will be attending the wedding of the son of a close friend in San Antonio in October, so we plan to see some sights we missed in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas as we drive to and from the wedding. We will also go from the wedding down to one of my favorite spots from the trip, Big Bend, so Bozzie Jane can see what I enjoyed so much. And, we will be going over to Savannah and up the coast to Washington, DC and back so Boz and I can spend more time seeing those sights.
We’ll take the camera, recorder, and other essentials on each of these trips…and on the next Round America trip (when we go around backwards). The plan is to update the web site from now on as we make additional trips and see more sights. We’ll just add the information for the states we visit, so the Round America site will continue to have more and more information about the places to go, the sights to see, the people to meet, and the pie to eat.
And yes, I will remove the cap and beads from the trophy case as they will now be an integral part of every trip we take.
We finally closed the book on the trip Round America on May 17, 2006!
The Kingsland, Georgia Convention & Visitors Bureau advertising says: “Kingsland Georgia is located on I-95 at the Georgia / Florida state line. The Kingsland area is a community of pristine coastal beauty where the meandering rivers wind through dense marshlands… where challenging golf quietly exists among tidal creeks and marsh grass… where river shores and lakes are brimming with wildlife.” What they didn’t say is that the Kingsland police love to write traffic tickets, and in our experience, the courts love to side with the police seemingly with little regard to the facts.
Round America “visited” Kingsland on April 3, 2003, Day 3 of the First Trip Round America. According to Mr. Rand and Mr. McNally, the distance from Savannah to Saint Augustine is only 180 miles. It took us 12 hours to get there, so we averaged just 15 miles an hour (though we ended up driving over 350 miles, so we actually averaged about 30 mph). I recalled passing just one vehicle all day. I hadn’t had a ticket in 9 years, and I had decided to drive at or under the speed limit throughout this trip. After all, we were driving on two-lane roads to see the sights — not racing to get somewhere. So it was the lowlight of the day when Officer Vincent Passarelli of Kingsland, Georgia claimed I was driving 55 in a 35…in a construction zone. I was just driving along at the same speed as a bunch of other folks. Officer Passarelli admitted he was coming from the opposite direction, so he decided to stop the white convertible instead of any of a variety of pickup trucks and SUV’s. I joked with him that we had driven only 500 miles of 25,000, and at this rate, I would lose my license before we hit Alabama. He didn’t laugh. I tried to get him to let me take his picture, but he refused. We did manage to get a shot of a sign nearby that said “Speed Checked by Radar.” On our Trip Scorecard, I budgeted 0 (zero) traffic tickets, so we were way over budget, and it was only day 3.
Officer Vincent Passarelli claimed on the ticket that he timed me on radar. I felt that was impossible, since it was rush hour on a weekday on a multi-lane road, and he was traveling in the opposite direction, flipped on his flashing lights, and then hooked a U-turn to pull up behind me in the curbside lane. His radar would have covered many vehicles, especially those passing us in the lane to our left. The ticket also indicated that we were stopped in a location where we were not stopped! I decided to fight the ticket.
I notified the court, and the hearing was set for September 23, 2003. I purchased an online book about fighting traffic tickets, and I became well-versed in radar. Barbara and I drove to Kingsland on the 22nd so we would have time to photograph the area and draw a map. I was well-prepared.
We went to the court (behind the police station) early. We sat through many “trials” where it sounded to us like everyone was being sentenced to jail time. Barbara got very sick at the thought that I was going to be sentenced to jail because I fought the traffic ticket.
My case was finally called, and my evidence was overwhelming. My case was even better because Officer Vincent Passarelli gave testimony that was in absolute conflict with what was on the ticket. I believe I proved that he could not have had my car on radar; that my car was nowhere near a construction zone; and that Officer Vincent Passarelli entered erroneous information on the ticket and could not explain why. I rested my case, and I anxiously awaited word that I had won.
Much to my horror, I was found guilty and sentenced to 7 days in jail. I have never been arrested, accused of a crime, or been in jail as an inmate. A deputy then took me by the arm to a room where I was allowed to pay $350 in lieu of serving the jail time. I pulled $350 cash out of my pocket really fast!
This was a scary experience. In my opinion, Kingsland has what we have heard referred to as a “kangaroo court.” The police are always right, and the accused is always wrong, and it doesn’t matter what evidence you have. I was very, very unhappy with what took place.
There was no doubt in my mind that I would appeal the case to the next higher court, and I did. I filed my appeal on a timely basis, and I waited and waited. I never received anything — no written communication, no calls, nothing. I called repeatedly trying to find out who I could call to get things moving along. No one ever responded.
I finally emailed the mayor and every member of the Kingsland city council. The Chief of Police called, and he promised to resolve things. Nothing happened. I emailed the Kingsland mayor and city council again. I finally received a call from someone at the police department, and he promised a refund of my $350. I received a check for $350 from the City of Kingsland on May 17, 2006 — over three years after I was stopped and 31 months after I filed my appeal.
Something that was very upsetting to us and a real negative during the first part of our trip ended positively. As with so many other things on the trip, we have laughed again and again about the experience. We’d like to think that perhaps the City of Kingsland decided that life should be kinder and gentler in their small town, too.