Day 34: Probable cause

Winnemucca, NV to Truckee, CA

Lovely day. For breakfast went to The Griddle, a place near the motel that has a super-cool neon sign.

Sign, The Griddle, Winnemucca, NV

Back on the road again.

I wanted to visit Humboldt Sink, where the Humboldt River empties. But the access is by dirt road and I was concerned about safety. Got close to it. Total solitude, total quiet but for wind.

Salt on the soil, near Humboldt Sink
Humboldt River, near Humboldt Sink
Humboldt River, near Humboldt Sink
Cattle, Lovelock, NV

I have now driven 6,000 miles since leaving NYC.

Suddenly endless sagebrush gave way to cities – Sparks and Reno.

Silver Legacy Resort Casino Hotel, Reno, NV

In my short visit to Reno, a barista told me that it’s a big drinking and gambling town, but there’s also a big underground arts scene, and “punk” music including basement shows in people’s houses.

So about 4:15 PM I was back on I-80 driving and thinking about geography and the Donner Party when I saw an SUV behind me with colored flashing lights, so I figured I might be getting pulled over by the cops. So I went into a nearby truck parking area. I was being pulled over by a Washoe County sheriff’s deputy. He said he was giving me a warning for following too closely. I wasn’t following anybody that closely.

He asked for my license and the rental car agreement which he examined and said I was three days overdue returning the car. I told him that was National‘s mistake. He patted me down for weapons. He checked the vehicle identification number to see if the car was stolen and spelled my name and driver’s license number into the radio to see if I was wanted for anything.

Also he asked me many questions. I told him about the trip. He asked if I just up and left one day. I told him I hadn’t. He said a couple of times that I was “fidgety”. He asked what I did for a living, where I worked. He even asked if I owned the business I work for. I told him I wasn’t comfortable answering that one and what does that have to do with what he was stopping me for? He said he just asked the questions to pass the time while they’re looking me up. I told him no, I didn’t own it.

He said your wife let you take this trip? I said yes, I have a great wife.
He asked where I was staying tonight. I told him I wasn’t comfortable answering that one either. He let it go. A few times he asked a question I had already answered.

Then he said he was looking for things like drugs, guns, large amounts of money, did I have anything like that? I said no. He listed several drugs like meth, heroin, cocaine, marijuana. I said no to all of them. He asked would it be OK if he searches the car. I said no it would not be OK. He said if the dog he had in his car ‘alerts’ then that’s probable cause to search the car.

In order for the dog to check the car, Deputy #1 (Officer Nemeth, but I will call him #1) had to wait for another deputy, so the other guy can watch me to make sure I don’t escape while deputy #1 takes care of the dog. In a few minutes deputy #2 showed up. He was a nice older guy with a ‘SWAT’ pin on. I asked him if he was on a SWAT team and he said yes. I said that must be exciting sometimes and he said “it’s difficult work.”

So deputy #1 let the dog (I later found out his name was Titus) go around the car. The dog made a noise when he passed the gas tank door. So deputy #1 said the dog ‘alerted’ and that is probable cause to search the car.

Then deputies #3 and #4 showed up in a third car, because evidently I was the crime of the century in Washoe County.

Deputy #3 asked me aside from getting stopped by the cops how’s your day going? I appreciated that humor.

So deputies #1 and #2 searched the car and all my many pieces of luggage and random plastic bags in it, which took quite a while. I had to look away from the car while they were searching it. So I chatted with deputies #3 and #4 about my trip. #3 said I was doing what Steinbeck did in Travels with Charley. #3 said that #4 has been to lots of countries. #4 rattled off a long list of countries he’s been to. He has taken cruises to them. He described how he had enjoyed St Petersburg, Russia and how they have a big gate to close off the harbor.

So I was there for about an hour and they found nothing. Deputy #1 asked me if there were drugs in the car before. I said “It’s a rental car.”

So they said OK, you can go. As a parting shot deputy #1 said “your story was weird.” They put stuff back a little haphazardly but it looked like everything was still there and OK. Also the engine had been on and idling for the entire time.

Travel story!

6,000 miles and the first time I was stopped by the cops. And after those nice things I said about Nevada.

So on Yelp I would give the Washoe County Sheriff two stars. They get the second star because they didn’t tear up the entire car.

Back on the road, saw a sign for Peet’s coffee and decided to go there. Peet’s turned out to be inside a place called Boomtown. Outside Boomtown, they have a western movie set / Potemkin village. I found out Boomtown is actually a huge Best Western hotel / casino. I love the way slot machine rooms look with all the bright neon colors. But I think casinos are sensitive about photography so I didn’t shoot any.

I went to Peet’s and ordered a “Havana” coffee (which meant with cinnamon). On my way out I got lost and passed by the table games – blackjack, craps, and roulette. Of all of them, just one blackjack table was operating.

After the last Nevada exit, 80 follows the Truckee River valley south and it’s beautiful. Crossed into California. State #25, the last state on my trip, the Promised Land.

Had to stop for a state agricultural inspection. They asked me to open the trunk and I did, then they sent me on my way.

Got to Donner Lake Village and boy is it beautiful, right on the lakefront.

Donner Lake, CA
Nightfall, Donner Lake
Nightfall, Donner Lake

UPDATE 6/25/19:

My friend (and relative) Jack tells me you’re not legally required to consent to the dog sniff. In 2015 the Supreme Court ruled on the issue in Rodriguez v. United States.

4 thoughts on “Day 34: Probable cause”

  1. Welcome to CA! I’m sorry about the incident with the Nevada cops. They must have been bored and had nothing better to do.

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