Out takes from "The minor adventures of a motorcycle courier" - Kawasaki KLR 650 Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 11-23-2011, 01:44 PM Thread Starter
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Out takes from "The minor adventures of a motorcycle courier"

This is a few of the posts I made in a forum regarding my history as a motorcycle courier. If you would like to see the full thread go to: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=375701

I started as a Motorcycle courier in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1992.
I grew up riding bikes and being a courier seemed like a great way to make a buck or two while doing something I enjoyed. Of course the romance of being a motorcycle courier was a big part of it, I mean there are stories throughout history of 2 wheeled couriers trekking great distances with the single mind set of delivering the package at all costs.

I had just moved to SF and had a friend who lived in an apartment where a big pile of rusting motorcycles sat in the courtyard untouched for at least a year. One rainy day I began sifting through the pile and buried at the bottom was a black 1974 BMW R75/6 that someone had rammed into something head on. I went through the DMV process and eventually got a title. After a few used parts the front end was complete and I was riding around.

I got a job at Quicksilver Messenger Service and my first delivery I got hopelessly lost trying to find a very hidden address. Time went by and things smoothed out and I was mixing it up 10hrs a day in the highways and byways of the Bay Area. I had a Belstaff Jacket and pants, some old school motocross boots and a beat up helmet, topped off with my over the shoulder courier bag. I would ride sometimes +300 miles in a day, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Rafael, San Jose, it would not be unusual to pass over all five bridges in the bay on a good day.

One of the most memorable jobs I had at Quicksilver was delivering news film for the FIFA World Cup held in Palo Alto. I had full press credentials that afforded me full access and parking permits to park right at the front of the stadium. I would show up at the start of the matches and roam around awhile. I spent time in the press boxes surrounded by a hundred tv announcers screaming GOOOOOOAAAAALLLL in a hundred languages.

At halftime I would run down to the field, collect film from a bunch of photographers and then blaze off to the News Agency about 15 or so miles away and try to return for the final pickup before the game would let out to avoid traffic.

One occasion I returned a little late due to the heavy traffic, Brazil had won and the crowd had flooded the streets in celebration. I rode down the street trying to get to the stadium and the crowd became thicker and thicker until finally, I left my bike in the middle of the street surrounded by celebrating fans and made my way to the pick up. I was actually surprised to find my bike later and it was still in one piece on the stand.

On another trip I got jumped by some Secret Service type guys as they thought I was there to kill the Colombian president.

More to come.......

Tractorking
Sitting on a dock of the Bay
Redwood City, California

“Although motorcycle riding is romantic, motorcycle maintenance is purely classic.”
Robert M. Pirsig
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post #2 of 5 Old 11-23-2011, 04:48 PM Thread Starter
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Motorcycle couriers risk their lives to deliver London's parcel. It is a job that peaked in the 80's and since the advent of the internet and other technologies, the need for these drivers has significantly disappeared.


Tractorking
Sitting on a dock of the Bay
Redwood City, California

“Although motorcycle riding is romantic, motorcycle maintenance is purely classic.”
Robert M. Pirsig
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post #3 of 5 Old 11-28-2011, 01:42 PM Thread Starter
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I later went to work for the imfamous Lightning Express (LX) owned by the reknowned Ray Roy and the late Chris Crew.This was the hardcore of Motorcycle companies. Quicksilver had mostly bicycles and drivers and one or two motos to fill the gap. Lightning had 20 motos, 8 bikes and 2 drivers.

During the 89 earthquake that disabled the Bay Bridge, Lightning bought a motorboat and had couriers on both sides of the bay using the motorboat to ferry the packages across the bay to awaiting riders. This was hardcore.

The BMW was a great out of town bike but since I was low on the totem pole at my new company I was doing mostly in-town work. Rookies got in-town short jobs and Vets(Gravy Dogs) got the big runs as it was all commision based. I picked a Honda XL600 and was suprised to find out later that pretty much everyone that worked there had the same bike as a back up. When we were on standby downtown on a slow day there would be 4 or 5 XL’s lined up. We would eventually get bored if it was slow and take a group ride to find the best jumps in the hills of the city.

As a rookie I had to take the bottom of the barrel. The day I got the XL 600 was Halloween the year of the dreaded El Nino winter where it rained buckets for 6 months. The bike still had dirt knobbies and the tail/brake light wasent working, but what the hell, I was hardcore.

I had delivered packages in town all day in the pouring rain, when I came into the office at the end of the day (6:30pm) ready to go have some beer and party in the streets. My dispatcher informed me he had 15 packages going south all over the bay area that had to be delivered in 3 hours. This was definatly going to take me far from home and it would be midnight by the time I got back.

I told him I would do it but while I was there in the office I was going to bitch about it. He said I could bitch about it today but not tomarrow. So I proceeded to rant and rave for about 30mins and then set out.

It was dark, I had no tail light, It was raining and the dirt tire were scary at 70mph in the wet. The deliveries were big houses in the hills with no street lights and very diffcult to find the address. I scared many children, the strange guy in black riding a motorcycle on halloween.

I finally got home at midnight-thirty.

I was frickin HARD CORE. I had proven myself and after that day I mostly got good jobs. I was officially a Gravy Dog!

One day while making delivery’s on a misty grey day I was flowing through traffic and came to a stop light, there were cars backed up and I filitered my way to the crosswalk. As I passed the row of cars I had noticed a young kid on a 2 stroke waiting behind the cars. He saw me go to the front and eventually made his wasy to the front in the other lane. The light turned green and he zipped off the line at high revs. I knew the next light would be red from experience and I put-putted along, came to the next line of cars where the kid was sitting at the back. I slowly motored to the front of the line and he, once again made his way next to me.

At this point I had a few minutes to observe him. He was riding a 2 stroke 125 street bike that was tottally illegal and probably his big brothers race bike. He had a Oakland Raiders jacket, you know with the big pirate skull on the back and a helmet adorned with Flying Tigers teeth. I realized that his friends were in the cars around us and that highschool had just let out.

I was sporting my red white and blue Evil Keneviel leathers and contemplating popping a wheelie or something. I decided that this was my work and I didnt need to impress anyone. The light turned green and I laid on the thumper pretty hard to get a jump on the traffic and the sketchy kid. I heard his throttle rev pretty high behind me and I said to myself “dont drop the clutch”. Sure enough, the next I heard was a bang and silence and a bang, and then plastic debris flying by my left side. Then the kid came sliding past me on the pavement. Then the bike pogo-ing end over end, front wheel, big bouce, back wheel, big bounce, front wheel. Suddenly it was an arms length away on my left side, I popped up on the side walk and speed away to safety. I looked back and saw the kid skittering out of the way of traffic. He had looped the bike

I have to tell you, I never laughed out loud so hard in my life. Call it cruel but I had a serious case of Freudenschade. I eventually rolled back by and a friend of his was helping pick up the scraps and all seemed ok except a bruised ego.

On another day I was riding through Union Square and came to a stop light, noticed some sort of frenzy and realized there was money flying everywhere. I jumped off the bike and rounded up about $500 in random bills. I soon found out that some one had attempted to snatch a wad of cash from a tourist and the money went flying in the windy streets. I felt bad and gave it back to the guy, you cant have bad Karma when you ride a motorcycle everyday.

I remember the crappy stuff too:
So tired I drafted a semi for miles to stay out of the wind and not think.
I carried a box bigger than me and my bike on the backrack, it was an airfilter for a rooftop airconditioner, lite but big.
Getting sideswiped, Traffic tickets, breakdowns and flats.

Tractorking
Sitting on a dock of the Bay
Redwood City, California

“Although motorcycle riding is romantic, motorcycle maintenance is purely classic.”
Robert M. Pirsig
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post #4 of 5 Old 11-28-2011, 02:52 PM
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That was a great read. I have a courier friend. Not for me. Always was kind of tempted though. Mostly for the camaraderie. Thanks. Glad you're still with us.




"In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV." R. Pirsig

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AKA JD Mader or you can call me "Dan" just not early for dinner.

Click my handle for a link to my homepage/blog...which has nothing to do with MCs. Free literature and music! Viva La Revolucion!
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post #5 of 5 Old 12-02-2011, 03:27 AM Thread Starter
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Fun stuff

We had an address, 1390 Montgomery, that was pretty tricky to get to. The street broke up several times as the building was located on a steep hill over looking the Bay. The shortest route, end of the street, up a flight of steps, on a street for a block, then up some steps. I loved doing that on the thumper.

I also ripped straight across Golden gate park many times, for those that don't know, it a pretty big park, about 3 miles long and a mile or two across.
If you were in the Richmond and had to get to the Sunset, you could go the long way through the streets, but if you were in the right place a nice rip across the grass and dirt through the trees was quit a blast.

Chris Crew was a legend in San Francisco. He was one of the owners at Lightning and was notorious for being chased by the police.

Chris would haul ass with the cops in tow and if he made it to the city they were toast. He would rip into the garage, spray paint his helmet a different color, change his bag and his jacket and finish out the day delivering packages.

On one occasion all the couriers were hanging out at a local dive called Harvey Wu’s Place.

Harveys was a small store with a little kitchen counter and was owned by one of those older Chinese mafia types. Harvey cashed paychecks for messengers and everyone had a tab for buying beer and food during the week before payday. The best analogy of the place and the characters is the Cantina scene from Star Wars. On a Friday you could cash your check, pay your tab, get a 40oz and pick up a little herb from the guys out front. Harveys had it all!

So we are all standing around on Friday night around 6pm, drinking and smoking, when Chris Crew comes ripping around the corner with his gal on the back. He pulls up, she jumps off and they casually exchange a hug and chat for half a second. In the distance police sirens were coming closer. Around the corner comes two police cars squealing tires. all light and sirens wailing. Chris drops the clutch and takes off in a wheelie, right hand on the throttle and the left hand high in the air giving them the finger.

Apparently they had tried to pull him over and he bolted, got some distance so he could drop off his gal and then headed out to ditch the cops.

Cant get away with that stuff these days.

Tractorking
Sitting on a dock of the Bay
Redwood City, California

“Although motorcycle riding is romantic, motorcycle maintenance is purely classic.”
Robert M. Pirsig
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