On part of my trip to work, I ride a ferry. Generally, there are one or two state patrol cars parked at the ferry dock, observing as we load. Usually, at least one of the police cars includes a dog to sniff the cars before they start to drive on board the ferry.

Last Friday morning, there was a brief news item in the paper that someone on one of the state ferries had observed suspicious looking people taking photographs on board a ferry (different route than mine). That evening as I boarded my evening ferry, besides noticing four state patrol cars, I also observed four black-clad men wearing conspicuous side arms boarding the ferries and observing all the cars as they boarded. Later, the men, whose black outfits bore the letters, “United States Coast Guard,” patrolled the passenger decks. Their hands were relaxed, but not far from their pistols.

Last night, Thursday, the black clad Coast Guardsmen (this time with one black clad woman among them) were back again, once more observing the boarding and departing cars and patrolling the passenger decks. The news media have been very quite about ferry activity after that one brief news item, with no mention of any special Coast Guard Activity.

3M Close Calls

August 5, 2007

Random Granddaughter, at three years of age, has learned to make sure her mommies help her put on her helmet when she rides her tricycle or her scooter.

When I was 11, I rode my unreliable bicycle in heavy traffic from home to Brea Junior High School and along the five miles of busy Orange County, California highway from Brea to Fullerton and back without a helmet protecting my empty head.

My best friends, Frankie and Scottie, were not much more athletic than I, but they were less timid. Near where we lived and rode our bicycles, one residential street descended a steep hill ending in a sharp curve at the bottom. When my friends released their bicycle brakes to race down the hill as fast as their bicycles would go and bank around the turn leaning close to the ground, I would keep my brakes on and descend more carefully. When I caught up with them, my friends would laugh at me for being chicken, though not too cruelly, as we were best friends after all.

One day, riding by myself, I decided to try “dead man’s curve” to see if I could take it like they did. Just as I sent into the turn, the chain guard came off my always unreliable bicycle, tangled itself in the spokes, and the *!#$ bike dragged me along the asphalt. I don’t know how much protection a helmet would have provided against the bumps and scrapes I received, but when I picked myself up from the ground and brought my hand to my to my very sore face, I found blood. I don’t remember if I broke my glasses.

Blubbering a bit more than I should have as an 11-year-old boy, I walked myself and my mangled bicycle home. When I staggered through the door with my blood-covered face, I half scared my mother to death.

After she mopped the blood off my face, she discovered the actual physical damage was not that bad. However, that incident convinced me to be a “chicken” for the rest of my days. Whether it is coincidence or not, I don’t know, but I have never suffered a broken bone in my 63-years of life.

For a while when we were in our twenties, my wife and I rode bicycles for recreation and exercise. Our three-year-old daughter rode in a little child’s seat on the back of my bicycle. Mostly we rode at parks, though sometimes in traffic to get to the park. I can’t remember if we provided our daughter with a helmet; I sure hope we did.

When she goes for a ride with her mommies in their station wagon, RG climbs into a child’s safety seat that is so sturdy and approved it might survive a moon landing.

When I was 9, around 1953, I rode with my uncle Don and his brother Dick in a car traveling from Los Angeles to the Nichols family ranch near Hemet. Don was driving, Dick was sitting in the middle of the front seat, and I was sitting next to the passenger’s-side door. In those primitive days, that car, like most American cars of the time, was not equipped with seat belts.

Somewhere along the way, the passenger’s side door fell off. Completely off, clattering onto the highway with a loud crash. Dick, with the fast reflexes of a cowboy, grabbed me, so I didn’t bounce along the side of the highway like the car door was doing.

Later, Uncle Donald became entranced with Citroens, an eccentric French car. (Aren’t the words French and eccentric redundant?) One of their features of the standard model of the time (called a DS) was an air-suspension system that could raise and lower the car. Imitating Uncle Donald, my father bought a Citroen station wagon as well.


Later, as a poor married couple, my wife and I bought a Citroen 2CV. This was the cheap model. It not only didn’t have an air suspension; we were lucky it had any kind of suspension at all. 2CVs were wildly popular in Europe, but never really caught on in the United States.

It ran on two-cylinders. It had a top-speed of 50 miles per hour, which made it very practical for driving on Los Angeles freeways. It got about 100 miles per gallon. The seats could be unbuckled from the floor and removed from the car. When we went to a hootenanny in a field, we provided our own seats instead of sitting on the ground. We had some sort of primitive baby car seat for our little daughter.

Riding in this car was about as safe as riding in a egg shell with wheels.

How I survived to grow up, and my daughter survived to grow up, I don’t know.