HOW TO FLY YOUR CHEVY UPSIDE DOWN & BACKWARDS….
IT REALLY WASN’T WORTH THE EFFORT!
It was the early summer of 1969, the Manson Family had yet to kill Sharon Tate, and others. The Vietnam war was starting to become politically incorrect. Free love was still in effect, at least near the intersection of Haight and Ashbury in the city of San Francisco, as well as across the Bay in the city of Bezerkly. Near the Berzerkly of 1969 University campus one could easily find any drug one wanted to smoke or drop or otherwise! When walking the sidewalk near UCB hippies walking by were proactively hawking their wares saying “acid” or “weed” or “reds” as people walked by. But this story isn’t about those easy to acquire drugs. This story is about alcohol. The legal drug that most anti drug people won’t admit actually is a drug.
This story is true, or at least as true as I can remember it, given the fact that I had consumed at least a half of a fifth of whiskey and had been chasing it with hits from a quart beer bottle. This alcoholic misadventure took place when I was only twenty one years of age and of course had a twnty one year old brain which probably should have precluded my drinking and driving.
I wanted to celebrate my birthday with a bang, and my two friends Bill and Bob (their real names are not used to protect their stupidity) decided to “get drunk and party.” Getting drunk and partying in the year 1969 almost always involved operating a motor vehicle, usually a car with four wheels as was the case here. Party on wheels as it were. The car? A pristine, two door 1963 Chevrolet Bel-Air with an in-line six-cylinder motor, and three speed transmission with column shift. It had the factory sierra brown metallic paint, and looked outstanding after a good wax job. It was a Friday night as I remember, and I bought the booze being the only 21 year old in the trio. I bought a bottle of bourbon whiskey for each of us…and a case or quarts of beer for chasers. We started off driving Southbound on Highway 101 (El Camino Real) away from Santa Maria California just as the sun was going down. That’s the last thing I remember. I regained consciousness in a Santa Maria hospital the next morning. My neck was so stretched and weak from a whiplash injury I was unable to raise my head off of the pillow. When I asked the nurse why I was in the hospital she said, “you had an car accident.” When I then asked her where the two other guys were that were in the car with me she said “oh, they didn’t bring them here.” The only thing I could think was I had killed my two friends, and they had been taken to the mortuary. Man, talk about a scary freakin bummer! After two miserable hours, Bill and Bob walked into my hospital room both wearing foam rubber neck support collars. Both had big grins on their faces, and both had whip-lash injuries similar to mine, but not quite as bad. I gotta tell ya seeing those two walk into the room was a biggest relief of my life! I actually thought they had gotten killed by my drunk driving. I couldn’t remember a damn thing about the night before, so the two told me the story.
We drove out of town (Santa Maria) and headed South bound towards Los Alamos, a small tourist town bisected by the 101 freeway. I was told we then drove to Los Olivos (from a connector road on Highway 101) then up Highway 154 past all the Cachuma lake campgrounds. The entire time we were taking big gulps of whiskey from the quarts, then big hits off the beer quarts, and laughing our asses off. The radio volume was cranked way up. After two hours of driving around we were drunker than drunk. It was then that the wreck happened.
According to Bill and Bob, we were driving on a frontage road North bound on the way home in Los Alamos when I decided it was time to get on the freeway. To do that I made a right turn towards the on ramp about 2 long blocks East, then I tried to make a left turn onto the 101 on ramp. That couldn’t possible happen because the car was traveling at 85-90 miles per hour, and the recommended speed on the sign for the turn to ramp was 15 MPH. We didn’t make the turn, it wasn’t physically possible. The car hit an 18 inch high curb head-on (at 85-90) and flipped into the air upside down traveling backwards, then landed on the roof caving in the drivers side roof all the way to the steering wheel. The car then bounced into the air again and flew across a 7 foot deep ditch with about a foot of water in the bottom and landed on the ground on the wheels with the motor still running. Without a pilots license I actually flew the Chevy up side down and backwards about 100 feet give or take. I was told that I then drunkenly staggered out of the car and tried to walk across the ditch with water in the bottom. But in my drunken state I perceived the steeply angled ditch wall as flat level ground. When I got to the ditch I literally ran uncontrollably down the incline and face planted in the water. When I got up, still drunk, I attempted to negotiate the uphill side of the ditch, again treating it as flat ground and repeatedly fell backwards into the now muddy water. I eventually make it to the top of other side of the ditch and walked over to the bottom of the freeway on ramp. The three of us idiots sat on the curb until the long arm of the law, the California Highway patrol showed up. I was a soggy, muddy mess, as were Bill and Bon after repeatedly trying to help me out of the ditch. When the somewhat disgusted Highway Patrol Officer cop started asking me questions I told him my car had been stolen, even though it was sitting about a hundred feet away with the motor running and lights on. I was told that when he asked me my name, I started singing loudly Jingle Bells, and way off-key as well. Lights on, nobody home! The moral of the story is patently obvious, don’t drink and drive. It just isn’t constructive. In the afternoon, two days after the wreck, I had the Chevy towed to my house. I sat in the drivers seat and steered, while a friend of mine pulled me home with his Rambler station wagon. Don’t drink and ride, and whatever you do don’t fly your perfectly good 1963 upside down and backwards. It’s very hard on the passengers and the roof. At least it was in my case. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!