The minor adventures of a motorcycle courier

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by JoeyBones, Aug 20, 2008.

  1. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    Aha! You're the original Stig!!!!
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  2. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat

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    You are making my day my brother. :lurk
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  3. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

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    The Plane Crash:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I was working the day that an Air Florida plane crashed into the 14th street bridge after taking off in a snowstorm. I actually headed home a couple of hours early since it had been snowing all day (yeah I rode in the snow back then – nowadays I hate to even ride in the RAIN). By the time I got home to Southern Maryland I was just crawling through two or three inches of the stuff. The news on TV was all about the crash – many people died and we all watched horrified as that lone helicopter pilot plucked a handful of survivors from the icy Potomac. The plane had slammed in to the bridge on it's way down into the river.
    <o:p> </o:p>
    A few days later, I had a delivery across the river in Virginia. Coming back over the 14th Street bridge I rode in the left-hand lane, stood up on my pegs, and looked over at a crane lifting the tail section of the plane out of the river just as I bump-bump-bumped over the scrape marks the plane had made in the surface of the bridge. If I close my eyes I can still see that unnatural sight and feel that little rumble. And I hate flying out of National airport to this day.


    Smallest and Biggest Packages:<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I get a call to go to some fancy-schmancy restaurant to retrieve a forgotten American Express card. I grab the card, fly over to the Watergate complex (parking on the sidewalk of course), find the right hotel room and hand the card back to a very relieved Beverly Sills, of Opera fame. As I hand it to her I say, naturally, "Your American Express card, Ma'am. Next time, don't leave the restaurant without it!". We both laugh. She thanks me. She promptly forgets the entire incident ever happened while I recall it clearly almost three decades later.
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The folks at Hill & Knowlton (PR firm) arrange a surprise birthday party for one of the girls in the office. The day before, she is told cryptically to "wear pants instead of a skirt". Warned a day ahead of time, I actually washed and waxed my little Suzuki, bolted a flimsy pair of passenger pegs to the swingarm and rooted around for my extra helmet. I show up at the appointed hour, and once again never removing my helmet (with the dark-tinted face shield), tell her I'm there for a "pick-up". I place her on what passed for a pillion seat on the little dual-sport and show off my high-speed lane-splitting abilities as I deliver her twenty blocks across town to the Four Seasons for lunch. Everybody laughed when I had her boss sign my delivery confirmation sheet. They had a limo take her back. More STYLE maybe, but that limo just HAD to take twice as long as I did. Later I heard that she had taken a job in the White House Press Office.

    #23
  4. martin_nj

    martin_nj czesc!

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    very fun read, i can imagine most of the scenes but pics would really have sealed the deal :clap
    #24
  5. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

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    Only one I could find.....

    [​IMG]

    :rofl
    #25
  6. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat

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    #26
  7. kevlar930

    kevlar930 Been here awhile

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    Great Friday entertainment while waiting for happy hour!:clap
    #27
  8. RideHard

    RideHard forever n00b

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    I think story is better without pictures.
    Like reading a book rather then watching TV.:D
    #28
  9. Milhaus

    Milhaus Made in Denmark

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    Great read!!! :freaky
    #29
  10. qwiksilver

    qwiksilver Been here awhile

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    I've got to show this to my neighbor. He's a motorcycle messenger in Los Angeles on a 1000cc Kawasaki.

    And keep 'em coming...my office is intrigued. :lurk
    #30
  11. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

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    The Roommate:

    My college roommate (one of two in the three-bedroom apartment we shared) rode a Honda Hawk (400? 450?) and wanted to get in on the fun and the money. I got him a job with my company and taught him a thing or two about DC's bizarre street layouts. Three or four weeks into his new job, I'm driving up New York Avenue on a delivery and I come across his banged up Honda laying in the street, a MetroBus with it's flashers on and some fresh-looking scratches on the side, and three police cars. Oh, and an ambulance just pulling away. Cops told me he smacked the side of the bus, crashed, and the bus ran over his leg. I went straight to the hospital to see how he was. Well, not exactly STRAIGHT. I did deliver my package first.

    He got a job at a restaurant after that. We fixed up his Honda and he rode afterwards, but his Courier career lasted less than a month - I did it for over two years while taking classes at night. Later, he got into drugs pretty heavy, and at one of my birthday parties (Halloween - always a party on my birthday) he dropped acid and his personality changed overnight. We ended up throwing him out of the apartment.

    Patrick, my other roommate and best friend, was killed by a drunk driver that Fall (Man oh man I still miss that guy) and I moved back home with my parents and my little brother for a while.

    The Little Brother:

    My brother Andrew is almost 5 years younger than me, which gave me the opportunity to be a bad influence on him when I was 20 or 21 and he was 15 or 16&#8230;.

    I don&#8217;t remember the make or model of Andrew&#8217;s first dirt bike &#8211; it was an 80 or 100cc something or other. I do remember that we bought it from a kid down the road one day while our parents were out shopping, and &#8220;surprised&#8217; them with the purchase ($150, if memory serves) when they got home. Better to ask forgiveness than permission, etc etc.

    They were only mad for a couple of days, as I recall &#8211; my mother had always considered me a daredevil, starting with the time, at age 12, I built a ramp of plywood and cinderblocks, had five younger neighborhood kids lie down on the street and jumped them all on my Schwinn with the banana seat and sissy bar. The kids were not injured (I cleared them by five feet &#8211; I wish there had been TEN little kids hanging around that day), but the handlebars of the bicycle came loose when I hit the ramp and I landed on my head, requiring stitches. I still have the scar.

    And there were two times as a teenager that I was taken to the emergency room in an ambulance (one was a skateboard thing and one involved a big huge inner-tube from some massive construction vehicle). So I guess my mother had SOME reason to be worried, but then, she never bought into the &#8220;Joey is immortal&#8221; thing like I did&#8230;

    Ok, back to the little brother story, which is at least marginally related to the Courier stories:

    We lived in Brandywine, MD &#8211; out in the country with a big cornfield next to our house, high-tension power lines about a mile away, and enough woods in between that we could snake our way between the house and the power lines without going on any roads. We did have to ride in a little stream for about 100 yards to go through the tunnel underneath the four lanes of Route 5, but that was part of the adventure.

    So after riding around Washington Monday through Friday, I&#8217;d wake my brother up early on Saturday mornings and we&#8217;d head out for the power lines. Although we had to cross several roads (Route 301 among them), we never had to ride on any, and we could make our way all over Southern Maryland. I remember maybe two occasions where his bike broke down and I towed him back home using a rope tied between my rear frame and his handlebars. Through several miles of dirt trails, water crossings, road crossings, and then back though the tunnel. He remembers it as his motorcycle breaking down and having to be towed home EVERY time we went out, but that can&#8217;t be the case&#8230;.

    In the winter, when it would snow, we&#8217;d tie a long rope to the back of my SP400 and take turns pulling each other across the cornfield stubble on a sled. Or sometimes on Burch Hill Road next to the cornfield. Until a car came by, anyway. It&#8217;s the simple pleasures in life that really matter, don&#8217;t you think?

    I somehow got my hands on a used YZ125 during this time and would go blasting through the woods at high speeds. Andrew would take it out once in a while by himself, and became pretty good at hauling ass through the trails&#8230;&#8230; Well, until the day he was doing a wheelie in third gear and flipped over backwards, breaking his wrist and bending the new handlebars I had JUST installed. The bone was sticking out of the skin and he had to walk the half-mile or so through the woods back to the house, bleeding and crying and, apparently, to my very observant big-brother eyes, in some serious pain.

    Our parents weren&#8217;t home, so I had to take him to the emergency room. We had two choices for transportation to the hospital &#8211; my SP400 or the completely original and bone-stock 1953 Chevy pick-up our Dad had for hauling stuff around. We chose the truck, but considering what a rough-riding sum-bitch that truck was, I believe we probably should have taken the bike. We bounced and jarred ourselves all the way to the hospital, making him cry even more. I got home after dark so waited until the next day to go fetch the bike, which laid on it's side for 18 hours with no ill effects.

    To this day he claims that the throttle stuck as a result of something I did wrong when changing the handlebars. He&#8217;s crazy, that kid.

    I drew a little motorcycle on his cast. With bent handlebars.



    (two or three more installments......stay tuned.....)
    #31
  12. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat

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    Just great stuff....reminds me of so much BMXing in my town (I was the "wheelie king" to younger kids I find out later--wish I'd known then--though it'd a made my head even bigger than it was)...local sand pits, the Morris Canal, the power lines, stunting into the empty community pool...ah, you bring it all back...:trp
    #32
  13. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

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    Wow I'd love to hear some of his stories! L.A is so spread out.....

    Washington DC is a square (well, with one corner cut off that belongs to Northern Virginia) that is only about ten miles on a side, I think. A long trip back in those days, in that place, was 6 or 7 miles. Most trips were a mile or 2 or 3.

    I did run into Northern Virginia pretty often, including picking up small packages or documents from National Airport (the airport is like 2 or 3 miles from the White House which is only a couple of miles from the Capital, etc). I would just pull around the barriers and park in the lot reserved for members of Congress. If the guards asked me what the hell I was doing, I'd just say that I was making a pickup for Tip O'Neill. "Oh....Uh....Ok. Make it quick....".

    I bet security around there is different now. I remember going into the Pentagon and leaving my helmet on. I think I did flip up the tinted shield though....

    Come to think of it, I believe the only two places I took my helmet off were at CIA HQ and when going inside the White House - if just going to the side door of the White House I was allowed to leave it on.... So I guess I should have said earlier that I ALMOST never took it off.

    As for your office being intrigued, I am very flattered and pleased that so many are enjoying the stories. Washington DC is really such a small place that if you hung out there for any length of time you were bound to see or run into politicians and other notables. I remember picking up passports and visas for people whose names I recognized at the time (names that escape me now, so many years later). And security was practically non-existent - someone earlier in the thread had a friend who was a bicycle courier in the 90's and the guards would let him bypass the metal detectors at the Capital Building. When I was there, there weren't any metal detectors!

    A lot of the cool stuff that I saw or did back then was because I was truly a lunatic on two wheels in an environment where the cops just looked the other way (I am such a conservative rider today that the ZRX I just sold still had the outermost chicken strips on the tires after 1,700 miles - funny how passing 40 changes your perspective). Sometimes I was just lucky, and sometimes I got chosen for special assignments because I was somewhat educated and well spoken - this was the case in my next installment, one of the coolest things I've ever done, on or off of a motorcycle. I'll post it up over the weekend (I have this whole thing in a Word Doc and I'm pasting pieces as I go along).

    Then the last story I'll post is simply a coincidence - being in the right place at the right time......or maybe wrong place at the wrong time.....
    #33
  14. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat

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    Ooooh, I know what's coming!!! But I won't tell...yer killin' me Joe, heck with the movies, this is way more fun.

    -Bill
    #34
  15. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

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    Mmm. I remember my brother and I stunt-riding off the diving board, into a full community pool.... 1973. Montgomery, AL.....

    All the cool stuff you and I and thousands of others did back before the term "BMX" was even invented! Give us a Mountain bike today with some suspension and 21 speeds? We could jump over 11 little kids. Make that 12!

    When I was 15 I used my paper-route money to buy a unicycle, and taught myself to ride it over the course of one summer. Now there's an interesting skill that is really quite useless - although I did dream of running away to join the circus, since I had (still have, I think) a true circus-like "skill". I can't juggle though. Not even a little bit.
    #35
  16. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat

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    This was between 1979 and 84...the power lines and sand pits were "owned" by the MXers, but we were in right in there with 'em and they didn't roost us.

    Sorry...not hijacking--I just thought if I tell a story of my own, it might peek more of yours, for when you wrap up the thread.

    The entrance to the canal/pits/power lines was right down the end of my street--same with the closed community pool.

    The pool was unique. There was sand at the shallow end and it gradually got deeper, with sloping sides becoming ever steeper from zero degrees to ninety degrees.

    We'd jump in perpendicular to the side of the pool, then jet up the other side, get vertical, do a 180 and go back down then up the other side. Usually we'd just jump out and "horse" back onto level ground. Sometimes we'd just let our bike fly and land on our feet, like we flew out of the pool.

    I tried to jump in once, but instead of perpendicular to the side...almost parallel. The result was a near disaster. My tires never caught on the steep edge and the bike just flew out from under me as I smashed my face and removed my left eyebrow on the corner of the pool.

    I was stunned and laughing, my best pal was so horrified that I had to help him get his bike through the hole in the fence. We arrived home with my hamburger eyebrow (and more, of course). By this stage in life my mom just said, "Oh Billy...just go clean yourself up". No hugs, no kisses, just exasperation...it took a BB in the head to get her excited :evil
    #36
  17. Pantah

    Pantah PJ Fan from Boston

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    JoeyBones - Thanks for your stories. I've enjoyed them. In 2001 I was assigned in DC for about a year. I lived in an apartment next to the Naval Archives at 8th and Pennsylvania. I brought a MZ Supermoto with me and that was pretty much my transportation. It was lots of fun, but could be hairy at times with the crazed drivers around there. But did enjoy motoring all those interesting street grids. I thought the cops were pretty tolerant to motorcyclists, too. They often told me where to park to avoid ticketing.

    Anyway, thanks again. A fun read.
    #37
  18. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

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    Lights, Camera, Action!

    There&#8217;s actually a little &#8220;prequel&#8221; to this installment &#8211; when I was 17 and 18, I lived in Montgomery, AL and my only mode of transport was a Suzuki TS185 (I actually have a pic of me on that one - just need to scan it and post it). For fun on weekends I&#8217;d explore off-road riding opportunities, and found a GREAT riding place &#8211; an old abandoned quarry with trails all around it. LOTS of fun. But, ummm, the only way that I knew to get there was to ride a mile or two down the railroad tracks. And when I say &#8220;down the railroad tracks&#8221; I mean &#8220;DOWN THE RAILROAD TRACKS&#8221;. Right down the middle &#8211; there was a lot of dense underbrush right close on both sides of the tracks. Bumpity-bumpity-bump-bump-bump.

    Ok. Maybe it wasn&#8217;t the ONLY way I knew how to get there, but it was certainly the most EFFICIENT way to get there&#8230;.

    Three or four times I did meet a freight train coming the other way, and I would simply swing over to the inside of the right-hand rail and take a hard left, driving over the left-hand rail and wedging myself up against the aforementioned dense brush until the train had passed. Looking back, I am sure I gave more than one Train Engineer a heart attack, and when I think about the possibility of slipping on the rail, taking a spill and laying there while a train bears down on me&#8230;. Well anyway I&#8217;d like to here and now formally apologize to those Train Engineers. And to my mother, who never knew about it and hopefully won't read this.

    Ok. Back to the Courier story&#8230;&#8230;

    Post-Newsweek Stations was a group of three TV stations owned by The Washington Post and Newsweek &#8211; one in Hartford, one in Miami and the other in Detroit. The Washington DC "bureau" of PNS was a regular customer of the Courier company I worked for and I had made deliveries for them a bunch of times.

    In preparation for the Ronald Reagan Inauguration Extravaganza in 1981 (many many parties etc. over a four day period), PNS asked my company if they could hire me on a daily, rather than per trip basis. The money was good and it sounded like fun so we set it up. They had a small studio on South Capital street, and there were two places where they uploaded video via satellite &#8211; one in upper Northwest (Connecticut Avenue) and one near the Washington Monument / Smithsonian Institute (L'Enfant Plaza).

    The very first order of business was to give me an "all access pass" for my motorcycle &#8211; a large plastic card, issued by the Secret Service, that I taped across the front of my gauges. This pass gave me the right to cross police lines, drive on closed roads, and park anywhere I felt like during the four days. Well, I already parked wherever I felt like but for a few days I was OFFICIAL! I was a member of the PRESS!

    The routine quickly became pretty clear. The PNS folks, led by a very funny and nice guy named Richard Schlesinger, would do interviews or shoot video of meetings, proclamations, dances, parties, protests, whatever &#8211; then they would hand me the video tape, I'd drop it in my saddlebag (actually a Washington Star Newspaper delivery shoulder-bag strapped on the side of my Suzuki) and scoot off to the satellite uplink location. Sometimes I'd zoom to Connecticut Avenue and sometimes I'd zoom to L'Enfant Plaza, depending on where they had satellite time booked. It was always a close call &#8211; it seemed like every interview ended ten minutes before their satellite "appointment". I was HUSTLING all day long, but got to stand behind the cameraman during the interview or whatever. By the middle of the second day I was holding lights and pulling cables, then grabbing the video tape and FLYING across town. I could get the video across town in ten or fifteen minutes while the PNS van would take twenty-five, thirty or more.

    There's nothing more exciting than speeding through town, approaching a roadblock where the road is closed for some upcoming ceremony, having the cops check out the Secret Service pass, and then move the barriers to wave you through. I got to see our new President and First Lady from less than 50 feet away, I got to shake hands with Wayne Newton, and I got to drive like a friggin&#8217; maniac with the official endorsement (in my mind anyway) of the U.S Government.

    The pressure to reduce the delivery time of these video tapes was pretty intense. I really think they must have scheduled the interviews and things for RIGHT before their satellite bookings! Sometimes we would all meet at the studio on South Capital St. while tapes were edited, and then I'd grab them and zip off to the satellite place. On the third day, I came into town extra early and did a little reconnaissance. When we all met at the studio for breakfast I was pleased to tell Richard that "I found a shortcut to L'Enfant Plaza, but if a train comes I'm SCREWED". He laughed until tears came to his eyes, and immediately called three or four people to tell them the story.

    Driving down those railroad tracks between South Capital Street and L'Enfant Plaza saved me a ton of time &#8211; I could make that trip in 5 minutes flat. And the train never came along while I was on the tracks. These were freight train tracks, not the Metro / Subway, thank goodness. If one HAD come along, I figured I could turn sharp enough to cross one of the rails and get out of the way (now you see why I wrote the &#8220;prequel&#8221; up above).

    A couple of years after the Reagan Inauguration, Richard moved on to other reporting jobs. The PNS Group sold off some stations and bought others, and I think the railroad tracks may have gone away too, taken over by some development company.

    Years later, I saw Richard Schlesinger on "60 Minutes", and CBS News, and he can be seen now on CBS' "48 hours". He's won some Emmy awards. I wish I had stayed in touch with him!
    #38
  19. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    :thumb

    :lurk :lurk
    #39
  20. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    Why in hell do they do that? If they'd just keep moving (or stop sooner) :huh

    I used to carry a long-handled ball peen hammer in Saigon (circa 1966) :D
    #40