Eventually we left the beautiful state of Washington, heading south. Our plan was to steer back to the Pacific coastline but first we wanted to stop through Portland, Oregon, where Bob had the address and phone number of a long-time friend.
We didn’t realize it, but somewhere in our Washington travels we crossed a toll bridge and missed the toll booth.
How that can happen in a one-ton, long-bed, crew-cab dually pickup truck towing a 38′ fifth wheel with two bikes strapped to the back is a mystery. Everyone who knows us can tell you that we pay every toll (even the enormous ones for driving the NY Thruway, despite the fact that the state never prints those rates and slams you with them when you arrive at the booth).
We wouldn’t learn of our transgression in Washington until much further down the road when we got our mail, which included a traffic violation citation. Included with the ticket was a photo of our front license plate, taken from who knows where.
Bob called the number provided (“If you have questions, please call….”) for more information — mostly to find out which bridge (there are a lot of them in Washington), but he got a recording that said that due to cutbacks no one was there to answer the phone.
He tried the toll collection agency, and they said we’d missed a sign that said we needed to exit so we could pay the toll.
We needed to leave the road to pay for the toll for a bridge that was on the road?
We follow our GPS and don’t remember seeing any such sign.
By the time we received the ticket, we were too far away to return in person, so we wrote to explain our situation to them. We offered to pay the regular toll ($4) but protested the ticket.
To make a very long story short, the judge ruled that we had to pay the fine, which we did.
Let’s be clear: we didn’t intend to avoid paying something that we lawfully should have paid.
Bob sent letters to the Attorney General and others, and we actually received a call from someone in the Tacoma mayor’s office. He was very nice, but said there’s nothing they can do.
He did tell us that the bridge in question exists. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge is one of those tricky toll bridges where you are charged heading in one direction, but not the other. We’d crossed it coming in on the non-toll end, which helps explain our confusion.
What bothers us this:
— The Washington folks never took a look at Bob’s driving record, or they would have seen that this is his first ticket in probably 40 years.
— So a good driving record apparently doesn’t count for much in this state.
We know how hard up the states are for revenue — we started out from Michigan, remember.
But to squeeze every retiree driving an RV for an extra $48 just seems cold.
Our image of what a great state Washington is was certainly marred by this incident. If the mayor’s office hadn’t called, we still wouldn’t know which bridge it was. And their insistence that we pay the fine instead of the original toll left us feeling like we’d just been had for an extra $48.