Mich. trooper slips driver of banana car $20 bill

The story of Trooper Bill Strouse's generosity went viral on Facebook

Micah Walker
Detroit Free Press

ADRIAN, Mich. — Last month, Steve Braithwaite was traveling down the highway near Adrian when a Michigan State Police trooper pulled him over. 

The 59-year-old thought he may get a ticket, but the trooper just wanted to admire his car. 

A Michigan State Trooper pulled Steve Braithwaite and his banana car over. The trooper has received viral acclaim for giving Braithwaite a $20 bill. (Photo/MSP)
A Michigan State Trooper pulled Steve Braithwaite and his banana car over. The trooper has received viral acclaim for giving Braithwaite a $20 bill. (Photo/MSP)

His large, bright yellow, banana-shaped car. 

Braithwaite said the incident happened on the morning of Oct. 27 while he driving on U.S.-223. Without a roof covering him, the first thought that came to Braithwaite was how the delay was going to make him colder. 

"It was a really cold morning," he said. "I had seven layers of clothes on and my main thought was, 'How much colder was this going to make me? '"

But then he and Trooper Bill Strouse had a conversation. 

"I told him some Big Banana stories, and he was a really nice guy." 

According to MSP's Facebook page, Strouse checked the vehicle's headlights, brake lights, and taillights. When he gave back Braithwaite's driver's license, a $20 bill was wrapped around it. 

"Trooper Strouse is an awesome and humble person. I have no doubt he has done things like this his whole career," said Lt. Gregory Morenko, the commander of the MSP Monroe Post in the post. 

For almost two years, Braithwaite has been traveling across the country in his contraption that he calls the Big Banana Car. The former Kalamazoo resident designed it in 2011 out of a 1993 Ford F-150. 

"I love American hot rods and I've built hot rods over the years, and I just wanted to do something completely different and ridiculous, and that's why I built the Big Banana Car," he said. "I thought I might drive it two to three times a week, but then I thought, 'One day, Steve, you're going to drive it around world,' and it's just taken off." 

Braithwaite started The World Needs More Whimsy Tour Grand Tour last April, where he has traveled to Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Orlando, Chicago and, of course, Kalamazoo. He is currently in Texas, and will travel west toward California throughout the winter months.

Braithwaite makes money by taking people on rides in his fruit-shaped car. Since there is no set fee, passengers can pay whatever they wish, from pennies to $20, said Braithwaite. At night, he "couch surfs," at friend's houses, or even with people he met earlier that day. 

"They realize, 'This guy's safe,'" said Braithwaite. "We can invite him to our house because he's driving a banana. How dangerous can he be? If I was to do anything untoward, all they have to do is call the police and say, 'It's the guy driving the banana,' and police would know exactly where I am." 

Braithwaite plans to come back to Michigan next year and hopes he will be able to give Strouse a ride in the banana car. 

"When they (MSP) have a State Trooper picnic, I should come by and give rides to everyone."

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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