Apparently, in Oklahoma it isn't required by state law to have rear license plates.
After I completed my final and
toughest upper division class at San Francisco State University, I flew
out to New Mexico to help my friend Jeff make the move back home to the
Bay Area from Albuquerque. It
was the summer of 1996 and he was returning home after breaking up with
the girlfriend he moved to New Mexico to be with.
A moving truck was rented for the journey back throughout the
Southwest with a few scheduled stops along the way including The Grand
Canyon and naturally a night’s sleep in Las Vegas.
Try to visualize us driving into the Grand Canyon in a moving
truck. People were looking
at us with a puzzled face as if to ask, “What are you doing?
Moving into the canyon?” In
essence, it was a road trip throughout the Southwest.
As with any decent road trips, it would not be without incidents
or interesting moments. There
were many stops along the way, as with the before mentioned Grand Canyon
since neither of us had seen it before at the time.
We screamed out looking for the little Indian boy from The Brady
Bunch who wanted to be an astronaut.
We also got sucked into the little tourist trap along the road to
the Grand Canyon. Anyone
who has ever driven to the Grand Canyon will know what I mean by YABBA DABBA
DOO. We also took small
amusement at the security practice of an Arizona Hotel we stopped at
because Jeff had some other friends staying there and wanted to say hi.
When we asked for the room at the front desk, the college kid
working the desk said, “I’m sorry, for security reasons it is against hotel
policy for me to give you their room number, but you can pick up the
phone and dial #112.” Okay,
room 112 it was. Probably
standing out, as a more memorable moment was the evening we approached
the Nevada border on our way to Las Vegas.
Another stop along the way was
to take in the view of the Hoover Dam at the Arizona/Nevada border. We had just met a trio of women representing three
generations. We had Grandma, daughter, and granddaughter.
No one really looking over 40 in the group, so do the math. We
were all headed to the same destination, LAS
VEGAS. After waving good-bye in their Grand Jeep
Cherokee and passing us up the highway on the Nevada side, we heard the
sound of sirens and saw the flashing red lights. Surely we weren't
being pulled over for speeding in a moving truck as our new friends just
drove past us in their 8-cylinder Cherokee. There was an empty
dirt area along the side of the highway so Jeff pulled over and we
awaited instructions. Over
the loudspeaker we heard a voice telling us to step out of the vehicle
with our hands up. It felt
as if we were in a bad episode of cops, only we weren’t “bad boys
As I opened the passenger side
door and stepped down from the truck, I knocked my bottle of Evian water
onto the ground. I
started to reach back and pick up the bottle as I realized, from the
officer’s point of view with his gun drawn on me, it would look as if
I was reaching for a weapon. I quickly stopped and returned to my original position
standing with my hands up. I
heard a voice say “that’s right, you can get the water later.”
Don’t need to tell me I don’t want to get shot by anyone with
an itchy trigger finger. The
entire procedure was more of a comical event.
Clearly, we were not professional criminals.
When asked to turn around, I wasn’t actually accustomed to the
assumed position. What I
ended up doing was a complete 360-degree turn and found myself spinning
around to face the officer again. “Was
this where you wanted me facing officer?”
Little did I realize, on the other side of the truck Jeff was
doing the exact same thing. We
could have looked like a choreographed ballet act spinning around the
truck. We looked so silly;
I believe I even caught a glimpse of a grin from the officer holding
back his laughter. We
must have proven ourselves to be no threat as the guns were put back in
After we were deemed harmless, the officers
explained to us the reason why they pulled us over. Apparently, it was common for vehicles disguised as
U-Haul trucks without license plates to transport illegal aliens from
Mexico through Arizona into other states.
As it would be, there were no plates in the back of our truck. I did mention to one of the officers that we had an
Oklahoma plate in the front of the truck as I remembered seeing it
during one of our stops for gasoline.
It wasn’t until that moment I realized we only had a plate in
front of the vehicle and not the rear.
We later found out from the rental agency it was not required by
law to have a plate in the back of a truck for Oklahoma.
That must make it difficult for law enforcement.
After one of the officers checked the registration information,
all was good. Of course
Jeff did volunteer to open the back door to the truck so they could see
for themselves there were no illegal aliens on board.
However, my thought at the time was in Hollywood movies that
would be the ill-timed moment for dead bodies unknown to us to be
didn’t actually happen but I did have a slight concern for a second.
All was good and we were free to continue on our journey.
One of the officers said to us we should call the rental agency
and tell them they rented us a vehicle without plates in the back of the
truck. Jeff and I gave a simultaneous response, “Oh, we’ll be
calling them.” It was
much more pleasant to see the officers smiling as opposed to the guns
drawn on us in the beginning.
It was just one more little note to add to the road trip.
As I picked up my water bottle and got back in the truck, I
knocked behind me and screamed out, “Okay Manuel, Jose, you can get up
from under the carpet now.”
Other friends probably would not have had the same sense of humor
under those circumstances.