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Traffic School Graduate

Traffic School
I survived and graduated.

Not long ago, I received a ticket taken by photo radar for allegedly running a red light in Scottsdale.

I have nothing more to say on the matter.

In order to make any impact from the ticket (other than financial) a moot point, I signed up for Traffic School, which costs $210. It’s even more expensive online, but still less than the cost for the ticket and it removes the possibility of points getting assigned to my license.

Bad Attitude in Traffic School

Rather than lose an entire spring afternoon to traffic school, I reserved a seat in a Saturday morning class that began at the ungodly (at least to me for a weekend) hour of 7 a.m. Luckily, the class was held at a La Quinta not far from where I live and even better, a buffet breakfast was available in the lobby when I arrived. I helped myself to coffee and a chocolate chip Otis Spunkmeyer muffin, ignoring the glare from the front desk clerk. Hey, I’m a traffic criminal, don’t mess with me this early in the morning!

Nico had told me not to be late, as he had been for his Traffic School class which locked him out along with the other latecomers. I arrived a full six minutes early only to learn that the instructor wasn’t going to actually start until 7:30, after he’d signed everyone in. I wasn’t pleased with this.


Strike 1, of course, is the fact that I was actually there.

While the instructor was checking people in waaay past the 7:00 start time listed on the school’s website, I overheard him place a call on his cell to inquire about a student whose attendance was ordered by the court. It was impressive enough for me to send out another tweet:


One of the other “students” here @#trafficschool was ordered to attend by the court for doing 90

— The AZYankee (@AZYankee) April 27, 2013

I have to admit, the instructor seemed like a pretty good guy. He said he was a former state trooper, and had investigated about 800 accidents, some fatal, in addition to doing the usual traffic cop duty. Then he let someone in at 7:32! WTF, I thought to myself. As he’d clearly stated his thoughts on cell phone use during the class, I had to refrain from tweeting this one.

Fun Facts From Traffic School!

I did learn some things about traffic violations in Arizona, in particularly, the one to which I plead no contest.

  • Insurance rates in Arizona are among the highest in the nation (#5, in fact) due to the high incidence of red-light running that result in accidents.
  • Peoria’s red light fines are the highest in the state.
  • Phoenix leads the state in issuing citations for red light violations. Mesa is third, and Tucson is fourth.

The reason that so many drivers are tempted to run lights is that the grid system in many towns encourage it. You see green light after green light, and increase your speed to ensure that you aren’t stopped at a red light. In fact, by going over the speed limit, you make it extremely difficult to actually stop at an amber light and the amber lights are pretty brief here.

Also, the photo radar cameras snap the instant your car enters the area beyond the crosswalk. The instructor suggested that at the very least, we should slow down to the speed limit as we approach a green intersection so that braking is at least a possibility.

I also learned a few things about seatbelts that I’d like to pass along to libertarians who feel seat belt laws are an example of the  “nanny state” at its worst.

  • You won’t be pulled over if you aren’t wearing a belt. There has to be another reason to be stopped but cops are pretty good at finding one.
  • The instructor had been at rollover scenes where  drivers and passengers were standing about because they had worn their seatbelts.
  • He’d also been to several rollover scenes where people who were unbuckled had been thrown from the vehicle and killed. Unbuckled persons are most likely to be killed in an ejection from the car.
  • Except for two suicides, he never unbuckled a dead person from a seatbelt. Why someone intent on killing himself would buckle up is an interesting point I decided not to inquire about.

Did you know that when you drive past a school that’s in session, you only have to maintain that very low speed until you pass the crosswalk? Many of us, myself included, thought it was a sign-to-sign rule. You can go back to your normal speed after the crosswalk although I’ve noticed police cruisers near many schools.

By the way, looking for speeding near a school is the assignment most despised by police officers.

I learned that there is such a thing as criminal speeding.

  • Criminal speeding is when you’ve gone 21 mph over the posted speed limit on surface roads
  • On highways, criminal speeding is when you go over 85 mph
  •  The criminal speed designation is 86 mph when the speed limit is 75 mph

A few miscellaneous facts that might be handy if you get on Let’s Ask America:

  • Failing to come to a full stop at a stop sign is called a “California Roll”
  • The triangular area near freeway entrances and exits is called the Gore Area
  • I’ve never seen anyone get stopped for it but the fine for violating HOV laws is a cool $200

Because the state requires traffic school to last between four to four and a half hours, we took just one 10-minute break. Most of us went to the Circle K next door, where I couldn’t help noticing the Manager’s Special:

Breathalyze This!

I took another muffin from the La Quinta lobby to give to the lady sitting next to me, who had been complaining about how hungry she was when she saw me eating my Otis Spunkmeyer muffin.

The last part of the class centered on drunk driving, a very serious offense in Arizona. We probably have the toughest drunk driving laws in the nation. Suffice it to say that if you are arrested for a DUI, expect about eight hours in lockup. And that’s if it’s your first DUI.

I was interested to hear that the law used to require a minimum of 24 hours in lockup but the legislature changed the definition of  “a day” from 24 hours to eight. I can’t imagine why, can you?

The Breathalyzer administered roadside for DUI pullovers is not the determining factor on your state of drunkeness. The official drunk score comes from a bloodtest given at the police station. Breathalyzers indicate if there is impairment to the slightest degree, and that is something that a driver can be charged with, even if his or her blood alcohol level is below the state standard for legally drunk.

My advice is, just keep it to one drink or none if you’re going to drive. It’s just not worth it.

And slow down at those amber lights.

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Prescott, A Little Bit of New England in AZ

I sometimes (ok, often) wish I lived in Prescott. The first time I visited, I kept thinking it looked like someone had dropped a New England village in Yavapai County. I’m sure it’s the Court House that makes me think about running muskets and bayonets to Lexington and Bunker Hill.

Not that Scottsdale isn’t a “most livable city,” but let’s face it, living in a sauna for half the year can be a challenge. Even if it’s a dry sauna, which it isn’t during the summer monsoon season. It’s a fair trade for a short winter.

My BF Nico and I spent last weekend up at Prescott, just to get away for a short time. We’ve been there before, together and alone, but it was the first time we did an overnight there. I think I can say that we enjoyed every moment.

I’m pleased to report that almost all the businesses damaged by last May’s fire are up and running. The Bird Cage Saloon is getting ready to reopen in a new location, still on Whiskey Row. The old sign is back up.

Prescott’s Whiskey Row, Twinkie Dolls, and Fried Olives

I promised myself that on this visit, I’d try more whiskey on Whiskey Row. Our first stop was The Palace, where I asked the bartender for a smooth whiskey good for a lightweight. She suggested Maker’s Mark. Nice recommendation, in fact very nice. Incredibly, it soothed the high-altitude headache I usually get at over 5,000 feet. Then I split a beer on tap with Nico–a local brew and I wish I could remember the name. I like trying local brews.

We didn’t eat there, as everyone knows The Palace is kind of overpriced and the food is ok; not bad, but nothing to get excited over. Instead, we stopped in at Devil’s Pantry, where the menu includes stuff you find at the State Fair that would send Dr. Oz into a convulsion: fried twinkies and Oreos, caramel apple fries, deep fried turkey legs, and chocolate bacon.

Devil’s Pantry Twinkie Doll

They even had fried olives, which I hoped Nico would try since he’s Greek, but no luck there. I was tempted to try Lord of the Fries but went for steak and tater fries. No disappointment. Devil’s Pantry also features local brews on tap and yes, we imbibed. We also met their  Twinkie Doll, for which the owner says someone offered 50 bucks.

Outside, there was an antique car show to check out. It turns out that there was a rally that started earlier that day from Phoenix to Flagstaff. Prescott was the lunch stopover. Quite a number of cars were from England, including the car I would have had when I lived there in the 90s, had I been born Lady Yankee.

Next, we visited the Jersey Lilly Saloon, which I immediately realized could be the title of my next blog. Jersey Lilly is a second-floor saloon, the type where someone could figuratively be thrown down its very long flight of stairs but the place is pretty mellow. It was there that I did a real sampling of whiskey, and sipped some Glenfiddich, Macallen 12, and another Maker’s Mark, just to be sure. Maker’s Mark won again, although that 12-year Macallen was pretty nice, too.

Sampling whiskey at the Jersey Lilly Saloon

I should mention that I wasn’t doing shots of each of these—I would have no doubt passed out—but was given a small sample of each.

I was in the mood for steak, so we had dinner at the Firehouse Kitchen in the Old Firehouse Plaza and ate on the deck off the upstairs dining room. We shared a New York Roulade, which was very tasty although not really cooked medium as Nico requested. For some reason, Nico can’t get steak cooked to his request. It was, to be honest, pretty rare on the inside. We also shared a terrific dish of calamari tacos.

We both liked the solo guitarist who I’m guessing is a regular performer there. He took requests, so I asked for “anything Bruce” and got a sweet acoustic of Fire.

Prescott’s New England Connection

We were both a bit surprised to run into more New Englanders than you’d expect in Prescott. Maybe it’s the New England look and feel. Anyway, given that this was the weekend following the Boston Marathon bombing, it seems significant to mention. All of them told us that they had friends and family who’d been in Boston—the marathon is held on Patriots’ Day, an official holiday in the New England states—and one had a relative who crossed the finish about two minutes before the explosions.

One of these New Englandahs owns Van Gogh’s Ear, a large, fun gallery on Whiskey Row we visited on our second morning. (Only a New Englander would have the guts to keep fine art near a bunch of saloons.) It sells everything from traditional fine arts—paintings, sculpture, mixed-media—to jewelry, including several pieces made from recycled items, to elaborately painted handmade shoes.

We headed for a quick brunch at Prescott Lobster & Seafood Company, a very new and small cafe, also in the Old Firehouse Plaza. We learned about this place from a guy who was walking around the car show in a lobster suit the day before. Turns out he was from New Jersey and yes, a Yankees fan. He swore on Derek Jeter’s ankle that Prescott Lobster has the best lobster rolls around. Well, probably the only ones to be fair. According to the Van Gogh gallery owners, the cafe had only opened a couple of months ago and quickly became quite a hit. I’ve never had a lobster roll before so I can’t judge but the one Nico and I shared was beyond delicious.

It’s Elementary: Watson Lake’s Volcanic History

We then headed out for Watson Lake, part of Prescott’s park system. Watson Lake is about five miles north of Whiskey Row, recommended to Nico by the owner of Van Gogh’s Ear. What a gorgeous lake, er, reservoir! One side is dotted with volcanic rock and features granite cliffs popular with rock climbers. You can fish there, rent kayaks, and launch your own non-motorized boat. They charge $2 to park there, and campsites are available for $15 per night.

People sometimes complain that there isn’t a lot to do in Prescott. With the bars and bands at night, weekend festivals at the Court House, reasonably priced restaurants, and gorgeous parks, I need more time to get enough of it.

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