By compiling all the breakdowns in this finite space, it may seem that DAVE broke down all the time. His lift in his van crapped out way more than any of his wheelchairs. He drove around a few different chairs over the close to four decades that he needed one, and really only had a handful of break downs so mathematically it was about every six years or so that he broke down.
This particular breakdown was on his way home from Cal State San Bernardino. As a reminder, as described in a previous chapter, he drove himself to school and back again, which was almost 12 miles roundtrip. We all like a change of pace, and Dave was no different. He took a different route on this occasion, and as luck would have it, he blew a fuse. The street, Edgerton Drive, was quite off the beaten path with only a few houses. The road is narrow, the yards large and fenced in and a bit wild back then. When I searched online, the area still isn’t well documented on Google street view. Dave sat for some time before anyone came along.
Finally, an older gentleman drove by. You can imagine it would be an odd sight finding a man in a wheelchair in the middle of the road in an out of the way neighborhood. He stopped and asked if Dave needed help. Dave hadn’t been tipped over or anything this time, so that was good. In a time before cellphones, Dave gave the man our home phone, and he went home to call my parents.
My Dad answered the phone to a stranger explaining that Dave had broken down in his wheelchair on Edgerton. My Dad thought the man said Edgemont and asked for clarification, “You mean, Edgemont?” The man said, “No, Edgerton, near Mountain View.”
My Dad knew Dave’s typical route and headed north on Arrowhead Avenue, to Edgemont; as the name suggests, there is a literal little mountain at this crossroad; it is the last road that existed to get to or from Cal State in a wheelchair, whereas Arrowhead curves to the left and comes to an end shortly after that.
My Dad truly believed the older gentleman had been mistaken in his recollection of the name of the street. Yet, where Edgemont and Mountain View intersected, there was no sign of Dave broken down on the street. I am pretty sure we didn’t have a map of San Bernardino in the house and definitely not in Dave’s van as there was no glove box for such silly things. I am also pretty sure my Dad would not have been one to use one or stop and ask for directions from anyone anyway. Instead, he circled around every street in the vicinity repeating the question in his head as he looked at each street sign; Where in THE HELL is Edgerton?
Here is the tricky thing about where Edgerton Drive is located; Mountain View has a very wide grassy median at Edgemont and Mountain View. One cannot easily see across the median to read the street signs on the other side. At the point where Edgerton technically meets Mountain View, Mountain View actually splits into two northbound streets. If you veer right, you remain on Mountain View; if you veer left, it becomes Electric Avenue. You have to be heading southbound on Electric to really see or easily access the small unmarked side street. Edgerton is really at the crossroad of both Mountain View AND Electric Avenue. I remember looking for this street after this event occurred. The street may have had one of those crappy old square wood posts, painted white with the name of the street painted vertically down the side in black letters at some point in the past. I guessed that it was run over by a wayward car at some point and not replaced. There weren’t any houses; there were just overgrown fields on both sides of the road, and you couldn’t really see that an entire neighborhood was beyond that.
My Dad continued up Mountain View veering right, looking for this cross street of Edgerton because the gentleman said Edgerton and Mountain View but found no such street. At Fortieth Street, he knew he had gone too far and made a U-turn and headed back down Mountain View. At the confluence of Electric Avenue into Mountain View, he saw this narrow unmarked derelict looking driveway more than a legitimate street and decided to check it out. After traveling a hundred feet if that, he crossed a small intersection with a street sign for Pershing Avenue and Edgerton Drive! FINALLY! My Dad thought, Well, I’ll be damned! There is an Edgerton! And there it was, unmarked, right there off Mountain View…and Electric. And sure as hell, not too far down the small windy road, was Dave in his crapped-out wheelchair in the middle of the street having what appeared to be a great old time chatting it up with this older gentleman like nothing at all was wrong with his wheelchair.
My Dad pulled up, thanked the gentleman for calling, and apologized for keeping both him and Dave waiting. He explained how he REALLY thought he was looking for Edgemont, then drove around and drove around, looking for Edgerton! My Dad was so relieved to find Dave. They all laughed. The man kindly helped my Dad get Dave in his van. Both my Dad and Dave thanked him again for stopping, helping out, and the nice chat.
Later at dinner, my Dad was recounting as he always did the story of the day; obviously, this day was a bit more of a big deal than some stories. He described getting the call from the older gentleman. He was funny in the manner he told stories because he would give each person a voice of their own to differentiate who was speaking as he acted out stories for us. He physically held his hand with thumb and pinky outstretched, the universally known hand sign for a telephone, and put his hand to his ear indicating a conversation was about to take place, and in the voice of an older gentleman said, “Hello, your son Dave asked me to call to let you know he is broken down at Edgerton off Mountain View.” My Dad, of course, used his voice to recite his part of the conversation, ‘You mean Edgemont?’ Then continued to tell us, ‘I had to ask the guy three times where Dave was. He correctly said, ‘no Edgerton’ every time. I repeatedly tried to hear Edgemont, simply because I thought I knew the names of all the streets that crossed Mountain View and thought the gentleman was mistaken. But sure as hell, there IS an Edgerton Drive, technically off Mountain View. I drove around forever, looking for that damn street. I was so relieved to find you.” Dave was cracking up with his barking seal of a laugh, sitting there, new fuse in his wheelchair, in the kitchen with us. We all laughed in relief at another safe return home and the antics of my Dad and his mad search and rescue skills.
And sometimes there were diversions. My mom was the worrier in my opinion between our two parents, but the more we talked about many of these adventures of Dave’s, the more she revealed how much my Dad worried unbeknownst to me when Dave wasn’t home at the expected hour. My Dad was the one who I thought kept her from leaping off the ledge into the morass of eternal worry, yet here she was describing HIM as a worrier. He kept that shit buttoned up from the rest of us like a real professional adult. I suppose a big part of that is taking the role of the man of the house seriously in every aspect, both the real and the façade.
Dave had been due home from wherever, probably from uni, one afternoon, and he was late. There was a three-hour window that he could return home from right after school to dinner time. But he was a social creature by nature and liked to visit people or cruise around exploring things like I wonder where this Edgerton Drive goes?
My mom described my Dad watching the clock on this particular afternoon. My parents ran their house like a military base; things happened on time, like dinner, at 5:30. The only thing they didn’t do was operate on Zulu time. But their operation was impressively on time. Dave, too was a pretty punctual guy.
My Dad never went out looking for Dave; Dave didn’t like the idea of him doing that. So they always waited for a call with instructions as to where he might be stuck. On this occasion, no call came. Finally, Dave came rolling up to the kitchen window; his chair made some subtle noises that announced his arrival to the trained ear before he spoke up about being home and needing to be let in the back gate. My Dad quickly went out to open the gate for him. When Dave rolled in the back door, it was obvious that he had been drinking. I know I have mentioned a few times he had been drinking throughout this book, but these were the exceptions, not the rule of his time out in the world. Again, that phrase comes to mind, Alcohol: because no great story starts with a salad.
My parents were surprised, but Dave, as per usual, was in his pleasant mood and explained why he was so late getting home. He was ON his way home, cruising down D Street when he passed a couple of guys sitting on their porch, work trucks with gardening tools in the driveway; Dave noticed them looking at him cruising down the road; he nodded to them as he went along, they waved and gave him a shout from their porch “You wanna beer?” And Dave decided why not, yes, he wanted a beer. So he stopped to join these two complete strangers for a beer.
I never heard this story from Dave, but I can imagine enough of it. Dave would have introduced himself, then as far as the beer goes, he would have had to explain to these guys that in order for him to actually join them for a beer, one of them was going to have to hold a beer for him to get a swig. According to my mom, one of them obviously did because he was definitely a bit tipsy, and he sat there with them shooting the shit, getting to know each other over a beer or two or three on D Street in San Bernardino, California.
My parents NEVER got mad at Dave, even for worrying them in the days before cellphones. They loved for him to be as independent as possible, and this sort of escapade, talking to total strangers and making a friend, was pretty typical for a day-in-the-life in Dave Linane Land.
My mom talks about the first time Dave left their house in his first electric wheelchair to head to Brian’s house roughly 3000 feet west of us on 25th Street. She was full of dread and panic, and whatever else you can think of to describe uber-high anxiety, she had all of that. She followed Dave out of the house, to the back gate, opened it, and Dave exited to the street headed in the direction of Brian’s. Before he started off, He knew she was worried, he said, “I’ll be fine.” He headed off, then stopped about ten feet away, turned around, and said to my mom, still standing in the sidewalk where he left her, “You don’t need to watch me.” And he turned around and headed off again. Our street is straight for two blocks, then jogs south one house, then jogs south one house again before reaching Brian’s house in the middle of that block. Even though Brian lived on 25th Street, we could not see Brian’s house from ours. If there were no big trees between our two houses, we might have been able to see his house from one of our upstairs windows…maybe.
My mom did not go back in the house; she stood there watching him. She had to step out into the street to see him as he headed down the middle of the road. He had to have felt her eyes on him because when he reached the end of the second block of 25th Street at E Street, he had to stop to wait for traffic on the busy four-lane road; he turned around to look at my mom and give her the thousand-yard stare. She jumped out of the street and hid behind his van. When she peered around to look again, he had crossed and was out of sight.
I cannot imagine all the fear, worry, dread, and more fear my parents had to have harbored in their time together, for the rest of my Dad’s life and Dave’s. As for my mom, I am working hard to decommission her worrisome state of being. She was forced into worry with his accident and lived on constant high worry alert for decades. That shit takes a very long time to unravel. But she is working on it.
Dave actually wrote a draft of this, my favorite, most spectacular Super Dave break down story.
Even on occasions that Dave could have taken his van with the help of a driver, he LOVED to cruise around in the open air in his wheelchair with a friend, a dog; you name it, he just loved to GO. He loved the character Super Dave Osborne, played by Bob Einstein on a show called Bizarre hosted by John Byner on Showtime. Super Dave is described as a hapless, naive but optimistic daredevil stuntman who is consistently gravely injured following each ridiculous stunt, many of us called our Dave, Super Dave for all the obvious by now reasons. I loved it when a new reader found Dave’s story, a friend of his, and referred to him as Super Dave as if it were his private inside joke with him. He WAS the real Super Dave and also did all his own stunts.
Imagine, if you will, a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in the fall in Southern California. Dave and his friend Debbie (on her bike) decided to venture to a lookout point on California Highway 18. Yes, a highway, a four-lane highway that traverses actual mountains, ultimately leading to Lake Arrowhead for those who want to check it out. They were not planning on going to Lake Arrowhead, located at roughly the 7000 foot level of elevation, but for reference, San Bernardino has an elevation of roughly 1000 feet and is mostly flat. The San Bernardino mountain range is huge, with entire communities, school districts, snow and snow days, ski resorts, tourists, and an Alpine level biome. These are not hills but legit mountains. There are a few lookout points along the highway that have incredible views of the San Bernardino Valley. This was one of those uniquely clear days that would have been a great view, and that was what Dave, with his new, improved, and much faster wheelchair with a top speed of 16 miles per hour, wanted to do, look at the view.
To begin with, the entrance to the highway is about 5 miles north of our house in the foothills and requires travel on mostly very busy four-lane streets to reach. So there is that. Busy streets were not a deterrent to Dave; they headed up.
The speed limit of the FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY is 55 mph. The initial approach is due north, about a quarter-mile stretch with maybe a 2% grade. I need to clarify, there is no parking lane on this highway, so Dave had to ride in the number two lane of traffic. The first curve of the highway is a 90-degree right-hand curve and takes no time to face that steep climb with a bit more than a 4% grade (if you are not familiar with steep roads, or grades described by percentage, let me just assure you, this is pretty steep.) The next curve was about another quarter mile ahead, but they barely made the first thousand feet of that second straight away when Dave’s new wheelchair blew a fuse, and he lost all control, including brakes if losing all control wasn’t explicit enough.
He began rolling, nope, flying backward, and picking up speed fast. Comparatively, cars can easily reach speeds more than 80 mph coasting down this section of the highway if you don’t ride your brakes, so he was probably easily approaching 40 mph in the outside lane of uphill traffic, against said traffic, and again, for emphasis BACKWARD. Cars were slamming on their brakes as he flew between and past them. When he hit the apex of that only big curve he had just climbed a few moments prior, he continued straight across the double yellow dividing lines, crossing into the downhill lanes; cars were slamming on their brakes all around him both directions at that point to avoid hitting him.
As he was flying backward with absolutely no control, he was just riding it out, trying to see what was happening out of the corner of his eyes, scanning left and right over his shoulders the best he could within the limits of his fused spine.
He finally came to a very abrupt stop when he ran out of road on the other side of the downhill lanes of the highway by hitting the curb. By that point, his chair had started to arc slightly downhill, so his chair hit the curb with his back left wheel first, then whiplashed the front left wheel into the curb and broke it off, dumping him out of the chair into the gravel on the shoulder of the highway.
The guardrail kept him from otherwise completely flying off the highway and down the however far down the embankment goes, maybe 40 or 50 feet almost straight down. I am so grateful for that guardrail that saved his life and that he didn’t have a dog with him! However, knowing him, he would have secretly loved to have had such a spectacular Super Dave blaze-of-glory death!
With so many cars screeching to a halt to avoid him, and the busy nature of this highway in general, it wasn’t long before someone stopped to help. It was a guy on a very loud Harley. From Dave’s perspective. He only saw the front tire as the guy pulled up, and a pair of rough-looking leather boots.
With his motor still on, the first words out of his mouth to Dave were yelled over the loud motor, “WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED, MAN?” Dave, whose neck was fused from the accident that left him paralyzed with limited mobility, made it hard to turn to his right to see whoever the boots and motorcycle belonged to, had to shout over his shoulder and the running motor to explain, “I LOST CONTROL OF MY WHEELCHAIR.” The guy shouted, “HOW THE FUCK DID THAT HAPPEN?” over the still running blappy sounding Harley motor. Dave, on his side, went on to explain from the ground, shouting, “ME AND MY FRIEND nodded toward the other side of the highway where Debbie was waiting with her bike for a clearing in the traffic to cross WERE OUT FOR A RIDE.” Motor revs, guy shouts, “MO-THER FU-CKER!!! WHERE THE FUCK WERE YOU GOING?” Dave shouts, “WE WERE HEADED UP THE HILL TO THE LOOKOUT.” Biker shouts over STILL running motor, “MUUUUU-THER FUUUUU-CKER!!” Pauses, “YOU KNOW THAT LOOKOUT IS CLOSED!??” Dave shouts over THE STILL RUNNING MOTOR, “YES, BUT I THOUGHT WE COULD GO AROUND THE BARRICADE.” Biker shouts again, “MUUUU-THER FU-CKKKKKER!!” Dave continued explaining loudly, “I BLEW A FUSE AND LOST CONTROL OF MY CHAIR, FLEW BACKWARD DOWNHILL, ACROSS THE HIGHWAY TO HERE WHERE I CRASHED.” The biker was incredulous at what Dave was attempting to do in his wheelchair and at his lucky crash. Each time the biker’s responses grew louder (I only have one size of all caps, so just read it louder for emphasis) “MOTHER FUCKER!! AND YOU LANDED OVER HERE?! MOTHER FUCKER!!!” After the interrogation and shock at what he had encountered, he finally thought to ask-shout, “ARE YOU OK, MAN?” Dave responded with, “OH, THIS? I WAS LIKE THIS ALREADY.” The biker laughed, “HOW CAN I HELP MAN?” Dave suggested-shouted “YOU THINK YOU CAN HELP STAND MY CHAIR UP IF POSSIBLE?” The guy put his kickstand down, finally turned off the goddamn motor, walked around Dave’s crash site, surveying the damage to the missing front wheel, and yelled again, “MOTHER FUCKER! YOUR FRONT WHEEL IS MISSING! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? (Pause) MO-THER FU-CKER!!” He attempted to stand Dave and the Wheelchair up but could not…and exclaimed another “MOTHER FUCKER!” As he looked around for the wheel.
I think the guy was in shock, and Mother Fucker was all that would come out of his mouth…been there, done that. At that point, Dave started laughing uncontrollably, probably from shock, ya, both he and that mother fucking biker had to be in shock. Dave responded, “My wheel is broken off? ahahahahahahah.” He laughed for a long moment.
He was then in fast-talking mode at that point, shock and all will do that to you, “I wasn’t really worried and hadn’t really thought about the danger because honestly, what is the worst that could happen? I’m already paralyzed. It’s not like I am going to get hurt.” To that, the biker laughed… “MOTHER FUCKER!!”
Debbie made it across the highway, and many people had stopped to help. Between all of them, they were able to right the wheelchair with Dave in it. I should mention again that Dave was probably close to 230 pounds and his wheelchair was easily another hundred. It was not easy putting him in his wheelchair when everything was aligned properly, but standing him up from a crash had to be incredibly hard. They balanced the front left corner of his chair, the part missing the front left wheel on the curb.
Our brother Scott lived in town at that time and not that far away from the crash site, so Debbie rode her bike to his house to get him and to call our Dad to bring Dave’s van. Once Dave was righted, the biker kicked over his motor and took off, shaking his head with a smile and a nod to Dave. “Bye Dude.” That was when Dave first saw the back of his vest had a Hell’s Angel logo on it.
Scott arrived with Debbie and a large screwdriver to try to bend the tweaked front end of the wheelchair back well enough to be able to reinsert the pin of the front wheel, if only temporarily. Our Dad arrived, and he and Scott were able to load Dave in his van and get him home. In hindsight, this was not the best idea but provides a great sense of Dave’s openness to adventure. “Why not? What’s the worst that can happen?”
Dave laughed every time he told this story and probably didn’t let himself think of how close he came to finding out what might be worse than being paralyzed. I heard the story that afternoon when Dave arrived home. MOTHER FUCKER!
My mom later told me that their dear friends Billie and Jim Daniel had stopped by the house not long after the day of Dave’s backward mother fucking spectacular Super Dave Osborne crash while on their way out of town for a road trip up the coast. Dave had plenty of seating in his bedroom, and it was common for visitors of our parents to hang out in Dave’s room the entire visit. This story was juicy storytelling fodder; who doesn’t love a great story? And Dave, of course, told them. My parents were not super prudish, but they also were not ones to ever drop an f-bomb, nor were their friends, but they were all crying with side-splitting laughter as Dave related the story to them. Mother fucker!
Bille and Jim headed up the coast on their road trip of several stops visiting friends along the way. When they returned, Billie called my mom to let her know that half of the California coast may have heard the story of Dave’s Mother Fucking crash by now, that they told everyone they stopped to visit, and everyone laughed themselves to tears. “MOTHER FUCKER!!”
I wish to state for the permanent record, all the right people, from all walks of life, even a few angels, magically ended up on Dave’s path at the right time, without fail. The one true proof of magic in this life I have witnessed since forever with this guy, that his life story has repeatedly one close call at a time (rinse, repeat) outlined.
© Mardi Linane Copyright 2020