By JOEL CONNELLY
During talks with three Washington State University parents one recent weekend, I realized that Cougar Nation is defined not by boundaries but by shared pride and pain.
The pain, with all three, was getting caught in the infamous Colfax speed trap, where WSU-bound motorists accelerate as they leave the Whitman County seat unaware that a 25 mph speed limit is still da law.
It's tough to tell your collegian to behave when you were just zapped!
Colfax isn't the only town to exact tribute from college-bound students and their elders.
A Bellingham-bound friend, with a kid at Western Washington University, was nailed by the Washington State Patrol at another renowned trap, heading off the Samish Summit just short of the first Bellingham turnoff.
Investigative reporters can turn speed trap stories into snoozers. They pour over computer records of where arrests are made, producing dot-covered maps, but manage to ignore the thrill of the hunt and games of wits pitting predator against prey.
With that in mind, here is a thoroughly UNscientific rundown of renowned speed traps, based on testimonies from friends:
# Interstate 5 (King County): Early on Saturday mornings, the State Patrol conceals itself skillfully beneath the concrete pillars of the 145th Street overpass. Patrol officers sometimes zap you just south of the junction of I-5 and I-405. Goin' South: Watch Federal Way.
# Interstate 5 (Snohomish County to Bellingham): A renowned Northwest photographer, with a fiancee in Whatcom County, warns as follows: "Oh yeah, there are three on I-5 between Bellingham and Mt. Vernon, that I've become 'acquainted' with. "From the north, the first is near Lake Padden, the second is on an overpass near the Bow Hill casino. The third, near Mt. Vernon, is the last overpass before you drop down into the valley as you go north."
# S.R. 525 (Whidbey Island): As you head south down Whidbey, just before Freeland, the speed limit goes down to 45 mph. S.R. 525 is still brushy forest on both sides, and there's a long down grade as you approach Honeymoon Bay Rd. U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., called yours truly on the cell phone just after the House of Representatives approved health care reform, causing me to pull over to take down notes. The trap might have nailed me had McD phoned ten seconds later.
# U.S. 2 (Snohomish County to Spokane): Speed limits as you pass through and leave Gold Bar MUST be obeyed. Don't display a lead foot once highway speeds are again legal: I've watched WSP pursuit from the picnic benches outside Zeke's Drive-In. Once you've pierced the "Cascade Curtain," remember to take foot off pedal around Cashmere. Lots of traffic leaves and enters U.S. 2: The State Patrol reasonably wants you to slow down so as not to hit it. If you get over to the Spokane area, slow down west of Davenport, and heed this warning from the vice chair of the state Democratic Party: "There is a speed trap that everyone should be aware of going south on U.S. 2 just around the Deer Park area, where the speed limit drops slightly." She's been caught, and has "regularly seen others fall prey."
# Interstate 5 (south to Olympia and beyond): A stretch of I-5 just north of the Nisqually River bridge, with a turn and concealed pulloffs, is one of Washington's most renowned and enduring speed traps. The State Patrol can conceal itself, like a lion in the African savannah, in the median between lanes of I-5 just north of Olympia. Coming back from Oregon? Show care north of where I-205 merges into I-5.
# Interstate 90 (Issaquah to Spokane): A Spokane businessman, who doesn't like air travel, knows the road and offers the following counsel: "The two places I consistently slow down because of the bands of roving WSP 'mobile enforcement teams' (often with an aerial component) are as one approaches Moses Lake headed west, and as one comes down off the Rye Grass divide and drops down toward Ellensburg." I would add westbound lanes, just east of Issaquah, where the speed limit lowers and I-90 twists through the Issaquah Alps.
# S.R. 26-U.S. 195 (Vantage to Pullman and WSU): Colfax is not the only place where speed kills insurance rates. Spare the lead foot around Othello, and keep an eagle eye out for the WSP and Adams County law on both sides of the S.R. 26-U.S. 395 junction.
A friend who's a senior at WSU adds this warning: "The biggest issue for students/everyone coming in and out of Pullman is that there is a poorly marked area where the speed limit changes from 60 down to 55: A lot of people get nailed because they think it's legal to drive 60 when the limit has been lowered."
The list here is partial.
As you head off to watch the offspring graduate, or enjoy sunshine after the season we call "NovApril," just remember one of the great refrains in pop music: "I fought the law and the law won."