The third incident with Earl Major’s Porsche 911 occurred on Saturday, January 5, 1974. i know that because Reagan’ 55 mph nationwide speed limit went into effect on the previous Wednesday and may have contributed to the confusion.
Earl’s ship, the USS Fox, had completed its overhaul in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, and the ship would be leaving for its homeport of San Diego on Monday. Earl was taking his personal possessions from his apartment on Manhattan Beach to San Diego, then driving back to be on the ship’s transit to homeport. He came by our Navy housing in San Pedro to say good-by, i think more to my wife; Snooks, the old English Sheepdog; BK, our great cat; and most of all Blythe who had a mutual admiration society with him.
He left for San Diego around 10:00 am. i felt sorry for him having to drive that wonderful road machine without exceeding the magic new limit of 55…and keeping the RPM above 3000. About an hour later, he called from a pay phone. The Porsche had died as Earl reached the I-405 and I-5 merge in Irvine, roughly fifty miles from our quarters. He had pulled into the safety island between the two interstates (new overpasses and ramps have eliminated that island). He asked if i could come help him. Obviously, i immediately agreed with Kathie’s concurrence and headed south in the small Corona station wagon. i reached him and the Porsche in, yep, about an hour.
The traffic was not as crazy on those two major freeways as they are now, but even on a Saturday, there were plenty of cars. Earl and i stood in the middle and strategized on the best plan to get him off the freeway. He had found a Porsche maintenance location just off off the next exit, which was less than a half-mile from our island. After checking the position of our bumpers, we decided the best solution was for me to push him to and up the exit ramp, then on to the shop which fortunately was about a half-mile from the exit.
We got in our cars and with hand signals while finding a spot with no traffic crossed the I-405 side of the merge onto the shoulder to proceed to the exit ramp. A highway patrol came up behind us. i thought how nice and considerate of the CHP to give us protection while we got off the freeway.
Then he turned on his flashing lights and motioned us to stop. We were less than 100 yards from the exit ramp.
He asked what we thought we were doing. We told him. He said that was against the law. We asked, “What law?”
He pondered and looked through some book he pulled out of his patrol car. “It’s unsafe and against the law,” he repeated.
We repeated, “What law?” then added, “We weren’t speeding. Is there a law for going too slow?”
“I’ll have to check,” he said and then made a call on his radio. Another trooper showed up. They discussed it some more and made another radio call. This was repeated until there were six patrol cars around us and finally the supervisor joined them. What traffic there was had slowed drastically due to everyone looky-looing to see what great crime against man and the laws of the Golden Bear state was being pursued by such a large contingent of CHIPS (remember that show?).
After over an hour, the troopers agreed, and the original trooper wrote me a ticket, but none for Earl. The trooper said, “It’s illegal to push a car on the interstates.”
i looked at the ticket and read i had been charged with speeding at five miles an hour. i decided not to argue and asked, “Is it illegal to tow one?”
“No,” he said. Most of the six cars had taken off. He quickly joined them.
Earl and i drove up to the nearest hardware store, purchased some two-inch line (rope for you landlubbers) and returned. We did a sailor’s jury rig on the tow line, and i pulled the Porsche to the repair shop. We went back to Long Beach and i took Earl to his ship.
i scheduled my court appearance at the Long Beach courthouse. Earl insisted he go with me and testify as a material witness. Kathie decided she would go with us in case she might add to the testimony. On the scheduled day, we dressed up as we thought appropriate. Earl and i wore conservative suits and ties, thinking our uniforms might look like we were trying to influence the court. Kathie also dressed conservatively.
We arrived at the courthouse and stood in a long line of ticketed citizens, most of whom probably had never owned a tie. Most in our line looked like they were either gang members, homeless, both, or worse. After about a half hour, we got to the window to check-in.
The clerk looked at my ticket and started to laugh. She said, “I don’t think you have much to worry about.” We filed into the courtroom, sitting near the back. The first several tickets were dispatched quickly with some pretty harsh fines. i was nervous even though the three of us had gone over our strategy a number of times. i was going to explain what happened to the judge and then call Earl to verify my testimony, and then Kathie, if needed, to vouch for our truthfulness.
They called me and i walked to the front, the bailiff was to the judge’s right. The judge read the ticket. “What is this?” he marveled. Then he turned to the bailiff and asked him, “Have you ever heard of someone getting a ticket for speeding at five miles per hour?”
The bailiff did not do too well suppressing his guffaw. The judge frowned at him and asked me to explain. I did.”
He looked at the ticket for a long time and then said, “Well, if it’s not against the law, it should be.” So he poured over a book of state statutes on driving laws.
“Well, i can’t find any law against pushing a car at five miles an hour. Don’t do it again. Case dismissed.”
Earl, Kathie, and i went to dinner at a nice place to celebrate. I now think it was sort of sad the Porsche was just a two-seater. We should have gone in it rather than the Corona station wagon. We laughed a lot about the whole thing.