After just six short days, the Memorial Ghost Bike for Joshua Raine Laven was removed by CalTrans.
This is the story of Josh's last ride...
The Memorial Ghost Bike was erected on Sunday June 10th to honor Josh after he was struck and killed by a hit and run driver in the early hours of May 4, 2012 on Highway 1, near mile marker 25.16.
That night he was riding back to a campsite near Davenport, with his faithful canine companion Ozzy in the basket of his bike, when the driver of a 2002-2005 Dodge Ram pickup truck struck and killed him.
Josh and his dog laid at the side of the road all night long until about 10 a.m. when myself, my husband, and another cyclist stopped when we saw the debris in the bike lane and little Ozzy laying, still breathing, against the curb.
We continued to search the bushes, knowing that the rider of the bike must still be nearby, either hurt or dead, as he would not have left his dog there if he was able to walk away from this crash. It took us several tense minutes, but just below a large poison oak bush, Josh's shoes were visible. My husband, Steve made his way down the steep embankment to check his pulse, while I was on the phone with 911. Unfortunately, Josh was cold and had no pulse, he was gone...
As I was petting Ozzy, and telling him everything was going to be alright, he looked up at me with a sweet look. I'll never forget it. We tried to call our friends at Ark Animal Hospital, as they are just a few miles away, to try to get help for Ozzy...but realized we couldn't carry him safely on our tandem bicycle, so we waited for Animal Services.
They came quickly. A tall, burley A.S. Officer gently picked up Ozzy with a blanket and took him to the shelter for care. Luckily, Ozzy only had only minor neck and hip injuries and has recovered fully. He was of course a bit traumatized, dehydrated, and covered in ticks, from lying there near the grassy curb all night long, as Josh die in the bushes just below him.
Josh Laven had ridden the bike of his friend, Dr. Jebediah Gaffney, across the U.S. as a memorial to Jeb who died while traveling in Cambodia. Josh and Ozzy made it by bicycle from Cape Cod, MA, to New York, then took the train to Florida, and continued by bicycle (towing a trailer) along the “southern tier” to Los Angeles.
They made it to LA without too many problems, before heading north up the Coast. San Francisco was his final destination. He had planned to visit some friends near San Francisco before flying to India where he would finish his training as a Yoga teacher.
However, as Josh and Ozzy got to Santa Cruz his luck changed for the worse. The frame on Jeb's bike cracked, and he could not continue to ride this bike; plus he was running low on money.
Josh found in Santa Cruz, and started putting in time there in trade for a new bike frame and the parts he would need. The black bike he was riding when he got hit and killed on Highway 1 was the new bike at he'd been working on.
This bike still wasn't 100 percent ready to ride with the weight of his trailer and gear to San Francisco, but he was able to ride it to and from town and had a milk crate attached for Ozzy to ride in. He was so close, another week, and he could have finished his trek.
After the news of Josh's death, some of the folks at The Bike Church and neighboring SubRosa, offered to build a Ghost Bike in memorial of Josh aka “Squash”. We were happy to hear about this project and let Josh's family in Cape Cod know that we would do a memorial ride from Santa Cruz out to the site and place the bike there in honor of Josh.
Josh's Mom, Jennifer Putnam, immediately said she wanted to come out for this Memorial, along with her sister Dilys and Josh's good friend Kyle Parker.
Jennifer first called me a few days after she was notified of the death of her son; it was a difficult call to take. She tried to hold back tears and she told me this was her only child and that she wanted to thank Steve and I for finding Josh and for getting help for Ozzy, and told us she wanted us to adopt Ozzy.
She felt we had a special bond with Ozzy now. We said we would be happy to adopt him, but only if someone from the family couldn't and that we didn't want to rush her decision. She decided to have Kim Day, a friend of Josh's who now lives in Pacifica, come and get Ozzy out of the shelter and keep him until she could come out and decide where Ozzy's “forever home” would be.
Jennifer and I talked frequently in the weeks leading up to her trip out to Santa Cruz for Josh's Ghost Bike Memorial ride. Another one of Josh's high school friends that now lives in Santa Cruz, Matt Clarke, joined me and Steve in finding all of Josh's belongings including Jeb's cracked bike frame that Josh rode more than 3,000 miles on. Josh's Mom was in tears hearing this news, it was hard for her to be so far away and not be able to just go and find her son's stuff. Both Josh's and Jeb's mothers agreed that the Ghost Bike should be built up using Jeb's bike frame.
The following week Matt, Steve and I met up with Josh Muir, from The Bike Church. Josh Muir would take Jeb's frame and some other parts we had collected from Josh's stuff and build the Ghost Bike. Since Josh Muir is also the owner of Francis Cycles, he had the shop and tools to do this right, and what a great job he did!
"Josh Squash's" family and friends that came for the Memorial were all astonished when they saw Josh Muir ride his bike up, towing the Ghost Bike in a trailer. It was so beautiful, everyone was in tears.
There were lots of hugs and then we started the procession of bikes with two cars of family and friends following the bikes with the car flashers on. It was then that Josh's Mom, Jennifer, realized how fast the cars on Highway 1 drive, and how little room the bicycles have in many spots.
At one point, we used the tail cars to block traffic so that the lead bike towing the Ghost Bike could safely get by cars parked in the bike lane. Some of the guys lifted the bike onto the pole we had put in cement a few days before. Josh Muir had made a beautiful “head badge” out of brass and mounted it to the pole. It was perfect. Everyone was so pleased with the memorial and had hoped the Ghost Bike would stand proudly there for a long time. But, that was not to be...
The following Sunday, Jennifer and I went to bring fresh flowers to the site. As I pulled onto Coast Road to park, she yelled out, ITS GONE!
I said, no it can't be, maybe the bushes are blocking your view of it?
But no, she was right, we parked and walked toward the site...we couldn't believe it everything was gone, pole and all! We collected the old flowers that were lying in the bushes and on the ground, and then added the new ones. We stood there in shock and disgust and tears ran down our faces.
How could someone take away the memorial so quickly? We were warned by CHP that it was likely CalTrans would remove it after a while, so we even left my phone number on the pole and back of the bike, to call us if it needed to be removed. We figured we might get a call in a few months, not days...I checked my phone, no one had called. We didn't know what to think.
This was such a special bike to many people. It was one of a kind and such a big part of Josh's life. It was the perfect memorial for him, we didn't want it to end up in some dumpster. Sunday night we spent trying to figure out how to get it back. We were so upset with CalTrans, yet we wondered if it was a neighbor instead, or even the driver that killed Josh, not wanting to face up to what they had done or have a reminder each time they drive by.
Monday morning, I called CalTrans and got transferred a few times until I found the right person. Once I spoke with Russ Ellingworth, I had a renewed sense of hope. Russ is the maintenance yard supervisor and had seen the bike come in and had set it aside to save it for us. He was so compassionate and even offered to bring it to us, since we didn't have a truck available. I said to Jennifer, “there are still good people out there after all” -it made our day!
Later on Monday, I called back to CalTrans to find out what we could do differently to be able to leave the memorial there longer. I thought the standard was one year, if it is safely off the roadway?
I got transferred around a bit, and ended up at the Permit Office for CalTrans, after speaking to Steve there, I learned there is no such permit available. Their concern is for safety, and they are afraid it distracts drivers and is unsafe for people to stop and put flowers. We understand this, so we asked about just putting up a small sign. He said he'd check into it and get back to me..
So now we have the Ghost Bike back and would love to find a “permanent” home for it, maybe near Highway 1, but not on CalTrans property?
If we can't find a place for it here, we will ship it back to Massachusetts and Josh's family will find a place on Cape Cod to erect it in his honor there.
Josh's Mom told me that she wishes it could stay in the Santa Cruz area, maybe near the Coastal Rail Trail that she hopes will be built soon.
She also asked that we keep looking for this 2002 to 2005 Dodge Ram Truck, we now think it is dark green in color, since we found some green paint chips at the accident site. Yesterday, we looked around in the weeds and bushes where he was killed and we found some small pieces of items that belonged to Josh, along with some headlight, mirror pieces and green paint chips. We've turned this over to the CHP investigator, and hope this will help to identify the truck and driver who has killer Josh and has not yet come forward
We are still trying to build a reward fund that could motivate someone to help in identifying the driver. If you can help, please donate to:
PayPal Account: forJoshSquash@gmail.com
Any unclaimed reward money, will be donated to help get the Coastal Rail Trail built. We will continue to get involved in pushing this project forward, since we believe that if this bike trail was is place, Josh would still be with us today.
We have a unique opportunity to provide a bike trail that keeps cars and bikes separated, from Davenport to Santa Cruz along this rail line, we need to get this completed! Santa Cruz County needs more bike safe routes. Now that we have adopted Ozzy, and we have Josh's old basket on one of our bikes, we would love to take Ozzy for a ride someday on the new Coastal Rail Trail. Josh would love that – come on community, let's make it happen!