INTERSTATE 5 - My wife is taking that most obscure of outdoor sports - back-seat driving - to a new, world-class level.
Sarah already whips me on the bicycle, on skis and while running.
She graciously allows me to dominate some outdoor activities, such as rowing the drift boat, launching the drift boat, loading the drift boat and cooking meals and pitching the tent while camping out of the drift boat.
We've been married 11 years, so we've taken countless fun road trips to rivers, bicycle rides, ski trips and other outdoor adventures.
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Sarah likes to take the most direct route, while I'm fond of seeing new neighborhoods and beautiful countryside.
Sarah also worries about:
n The driver tailgating other vehicles.
n The driver watching the river for rising trout instead of watching the road.
n The driver failing to signal.
The driver in all these cases, is, of course, me.
We were driving home from the ski hill two weeks ago when Sarah startled me out of the trance you get into 50 miles into a 175-mile drive. That trance allows me to stay alert to the road while thinking about the important things in life, such as rising trout, powder snow and watching our daughter Courtney go off a jump on her snowboard.
"You didn't signal," Sarah said.
"You just didn't notice me signal," I said automatically.
I suddenly noticed a Jack-in-the-Box a mile or so ahead, so that meant the valuable trance was gone - but a ravenous hunger for monster tacos took its place.
"No, you didn't signal," Sarah said. "Remember last week?"
I got a ticket the week before from a courteous Washington State Patrol officer for - you guessed it - not signaling.
We were on Interstate 5 - and nowhere near a Jack-in-the-Box - when we got pulled over.
The trooper gazed at my license and looked at me.
"Sir, you didn't signal when you passed that truck," he said. "And you didn't signal when you went back into the right lane."
I knew that it was my turn to say something, and in a split second, these possible replies rattled around my brain:
n "Well, at least I didn't camp out in the left lane!"
n "Crack cocaine and methamphetamine labs are spreading like mildew, but you're worried about a law-abiding citizen forgetting to signal on an all-but-deserted highway?"
n "Why aren't you officers ever around when those low-slung, 90-mph Honda Civics with the huge mufflers use my car as a slalom pylon?"
But did I say any of those things? I did not.
"I'm sorry officer," I said.
Sarah will write a $101 check for my failure to signal, but she gained something priceless: ammo for back-seat driving.
I forgot about monster tacos and valuable driving trances as Sarah savored her victory last weekend.
I started to think that I was no longer a challenge for Sarah in the high-stakes sport of back-seat driving.
Then I switched on my turn signal - and didn't turn.
"Why are you signaling?" Sarah asked two minutes later.
"I don't want to get another ticket, so I'll just signal all the time," I said.
Sarah sighed - and smiled.
Game on, baby!
Outdoors columnist Chester Allen can be reached at email@example.com Mountaineers
Interested in camping, backpacking, hiking, kayaking, climbing or other outdoor sports? The Olympia Branch of The Mountaineers is hosting an orientation night on Jan. 15. Course leaders - such as those for the Wilderness Skills course - will answer questions. There also will be displays of activities. The Olympia Mountaineers have more than 600 members.
Orientation starts at 7 p.m. at the Columbian Hall, 6794 Martin Way. For more information, call 360-754-1530 or go to www.OlympiaMountaineers.org