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A local policeman, Calvin Bridges, thought it was odd that I was going about ten miles an hour and had two wheels on the shoulder. When I failed the straight-line walk, he took me off to the station. I was guilty and told the authorities so.

— George W. Bush. “Decision Points.” Crown Publishers, 2010.

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closed as off-topic by MετάEd, James McLeod, Kristina Lopez, tchrist, medica Jan 25 at 0:40

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"Wheels on the shoulder" is not an idiom or set phrase. It's literally having one's wheels on the shoulder (" 3a paved strip alongside a road for stopping on in an emergency." oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/shoulder) NARQ. –  Kris May 26 '13 at 7:17
    
"Shoulder (road)" at Wikipedia –  MετάEd May 26 '13 at 18:30

1 Answer 1

In the context of the excerpt where he was going 10 miles per hour, George W. Bush was almost certainly driving on a road where the shoulder would be the outside skirt next to the road that could be paved but also could be gravel or dirt and is intended to be used for emergency stops. (Expressways which are multi-lane divided highways typically have a minimum speed of 45 miles per hour and usually have inside shoulders between the left-side fast lane and the dividing barrier.)

If he was driving 10 miles per hour and had two tires on the shoulder, (driving out of his lane), it was probably assumed by the police officer that he was impaired in some way...either by fatigue but more likely from alcohol.

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I think eitherbut is an odd structure in contemporary English. (Considering we are on ELU.) –  Kris May 26 '13 at 7:14
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@Kris: Rare perhaps, but not unheard of. "There are quite a few places that are forgotten in various ways, either by locals but more likely by tourists." Or, if you don't like that one: "The governor was impelled, either by a compassionate regard for the feelings of the people, but more likely through fear of a general uprising..." (T.R. Bayles) –  J.R. May 26 '13 at 10:16

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