VACAVILLE — It’s nothing for Jim Daniels to take a trip across town – from his home near Markham Elementary School to Sam’s Club, or even to a friend’s house, about an hour away.
Daniels isn’t in a car. The 80-year-old Santa Claus-lookalike rides a shiny red, four-wheel scooter, decked out with American flags, four batteries for extra mileage and a matching red trailer that was originally designed to carry two children.
“I run all over Vacaville,” said the disabled Air Force veteran.
He wants other seniors to know that if he can get out and around with some simple modifications, so can they. Twice Daniels was stricken with cancer, both times diagnosed at Stage 4. The first was in 1978 and the second in 1997. The second time, he said the chemotherapy messed up his eyes and he couldn’t drive anymore. He officially gave up driving in December 2007.
If he wanted to go somewhere, he had to ask his wife. He also spent a lot of time staring at the four walls and the ceiling, he said.
“And you know that’s not conducive to a healthy marriage,” he said.
He bought the shiny red scooter 2½ years ago after searching for a price that he and his disabled wife of 40 years, Rosie Daniels, 67, could afford. They’ve since add a matching red canopy and while it gave him mobility going to and from various places, he found that the small black wire basket on the front didn’t allow him to carry too many items. He found himself making consecutive trips to the grocery store because he couldn’t carry everything in the basket.
A morphine-induced dream while at David Grant Medical Center with pneumonia gave him the idea of a little cart behind the scooter.
“I’m not allergic to morphine, but when they give it to me, I hallucinate,” he said, chuckling.
He could not afford the price of anything new, so he went to look in a thrift store – someone had recently turned in a wheeled, two-child bike carrier that could hold up to 100 pounds. It cost Daniels $45 and it opened up a whole new life for him. Someone helped him modify the hitch to attach to the scooter. Now it’s just one trip to the grocery store – loaded with up to 100 pounds of groceries.
“It’s something when you see me coming out with all my groceries,” he said.
The four batteries allow him to go about 30 miles, so he also goes to the senior center, Vacaville-Elmira Cemetery to visit fellow veterans and, with the trailer, he takes his accordion with him to meetings for the local accordion club.
On a recent sunny day, he hooked up the trailer to the scooter with a quick turn of a socket wrench. He got in and took off . . . sort of, at about 5 mph.
“This is it – wide open,” he said with a smile, as he headed up his street.
He meets all sorts of drivers – many don’t slow down and he once had to bail off his scooter quickly as a pickup truck headed toward him. Turns out the driver was texting, Daniels said. His wife worries about him, she said, when he’s out and about. She had a recent scare when he didn’t show up to a friend’s house when she thought he should be there.
But the scooter allows him to get wherever he wants.
“It gives him the freedom to take off and go,” she said.
Jim Daniels wants others to know they can do the same thing – get out of bed, get outdoors.
“I want people to know they don’t have to stay cooped up in the house,” he said. “I want them to be able to get out and enjoy what God has made available to us.”
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.