15 MPH

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  • Location: Near Los Banos, California

The closest I’ve ever come to being shot came while I was taking this picture. I was shot at by several teenagers with pistols, but fortunately, none of their bullets ever connected with me.

Let me back up for a minute. I was driving from LA to San Francisco on I-5 to do some editorial work for a film magazine. The 5 goes right up the middle of the state and, in case you’re not familiar with the geography of the middle of California, there is almost nothing there. Once you leave the LA/Bakersfield area, you’re looking at nothing but desert and meth country for a solid 175 miles. The town that finally breaks up the monotony is called, no kidding, Los Banos. Translation: The Bathroom.

Somewhere in that 175 miles, I pulled off the freeway to fill up on gas and explore a little. I began driving down a dirt road that didn’t seem to go anywhere. I mean, it went on for miles, but it didn’t seem to actually go to anything. Naturally, following this road sounded fantastic to me. So I headed down. When I spotted the 15 MPH sign, I pulled my car to the side of the dirt road and got out to take some images of it. It was at that moment that I heard several pops. Then a loud scream from a female.

The pops were, as you probably guessed, gun fire. Several teenagers were atop a ridge by me and were firing their weapons at the 15 MPH sign (the results of which you can see in the photo). They hadn’t seen me walking up the road between the two dirt hills and fired right over my head to get at the sign. Fortunately for all involved, they weren’t bad shots. When one of the girls present saw that another person was walking between the guys and their target, she screamed. The teens were, naturally, profusely apologetic and even offered me beer as a token of their regret. Now, it seems comical that someone has actually told me, “We’re sorry man, We weren’t trying to kill you.”

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