The minor adventures of a motorcycle courier

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

  1. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat Supporter

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    Joey, go drop him an email. I bet it can be had. He'd shit chickens if he heard from you. In his mind you're the celebrity.

    I'm going to go mining...
    #41
  2. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

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    The Very Minor Brush With History, Sort Of:

    It was no big deal to see the presidential motorcade cruising through town. Reagan really liked goin' places. The motorcade always had two or three motorcycle cops in front, then a police car, then three black limo's, then two black Suburbans followed by another police car and two more motorcycles. The Presidential limo had the roof raised by about 6" so it was very distinctive. They never used sirens, but the motorcycle cops would ride ahead, stop in the middle of each intersection and stop traffic for a minute in all directions, taking off again just as the procession came into the intersection. I probably saw that motorcade six or seven times between the inauguration and the event I'm about to describe here.

    So I'm tooling westbound on H street with a packet of documents in my saddlebag. It was Monday afternoon, March 30th, 1981. As I approached the intersection of 17th street, I had a green light and was doing my usual 40 or 45 miles an hour. Suddenly a lone Police motorcycle came flying into the intersection (from my right, crossing in front of me) with his lights on but no siren. The driver held his hands up, palms outward to stop traffic, but never even slowed down. I locked up my rear wheel and slid into the intersection, stopping less than ten feet from the path of the motorcycle cop (I remember him looking at me as he went by - they wore open-faced helmets). Right behind that motorcycle cop came the Presidential limo, one black Suburban and one Police car. They were HAULING ASS, and it was certainly odd to see a truncated version of the motorcade. At that point on 17th street, you're only a block from the White House gate on Pennsylvania Avenue. Not moving because I expected more limos and cops to be following them (it turned out there weren't), I watched as the limo came to a screeching halt just before the gate, paused a second, then peeled off on a hard right, heading Westbound on Pennsylvania Avenue at full throttle. The Suburban and the police car followed. The motorcycle cop had already entered the gates; he circled around and took off after the limo.

    Sure that something weird was going on, I drove the last block or two to my next stop which just happened to be the Associated Press offices. When I got there the place was in pandemonium with people yelling into phones and running around, and several people huddled over the teletype machine. I had a guy sign for my package and asked him what the hell was going on. He told me that someone had just shot at the President up at the Washington Hilton, that Reagan was not hit and was now back at the White House. I told him what I had seen just a few minutes earlier and that in my opinion the President was most certainly NOT back at the White House. He called over his manager and had me repeat the story. This guy was pretty sharp - he saw immediately that something was wrong and told the first guy I was talking to that he needed to run over to George Washington University Hospital right away just in case. The Hospital was just a few blocks from the White House, right up Pennsylvania Avenue in the direction the limo had headed.

    I decided to hang around for a bit and see what happened. A short while later, the teletype machine announced that Reagan had indeed been shot, and was being taken to GWU Hospital. It seems that he was being shoved into the limo when the bullet struck him, and at first he just thought he had broken a rib or something. Right before they got to the White House he coughed up some blood.

    Thanks to me I guess, the guys from AP had a little head start in the Press's mad dash to George Washington University Hospital that afternoon!

    The next day I rode up to the Washington Hilton and saw the blood stains on the sidewalk where the shooting took place; two officers and Press Secretary James Brady were shot during the assassination attempt.

    Creepy.
    #42
  3. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

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    The Wrap Up

    So that's the end of my courier stories. All 100% true. It was a wild couple of years and I've always wanted to put them in writing. I may send them off to a magazine someday and see what happens - although to be honest most of the motorcycle couriers at that time were just as nuts as me, and some probably more so. I'm sure there are many untold stories out there.

    Eventually I found myself working part-time as a courier, part time as a Sales person for a Kawasaki / Suzuki dealership (Clinton Cycles), and still taking classes when I could. When my trusty Suzuki was stolen (recovered by the police one day later but totaled), I replaced it with a GS450E. But I only drove the 450 as a courier for a few weeks before "retiring" from the life - if I couldn't drive up some steps once in a while I just wasn't interested.

    That GS450E figures in another adventure - 1,500 miles from Miami to Atlanta (for a 24 hour visit with a lady friend) to Washington in 72 hours. But that's another story for another time.

    In 2001, I trailered a Yamaha TW200 to my old stomping grounds in Brandywine, MD, and spent a day exploring the old trails under the power lines. Growth and development had cut off some parts of where we used to ride, but I had a blast and will go back some day on a KLR or the like (anyone in Maryland - go to where Burch Hill Rd meets Branch Ave / Rt. 5. If you ignore the No Trespassing signs you should be able to make your way off-road all the way to the Patuxent river).

    I fell in love with the early-eighties KZ1000R Eddie Lawson Replica, but couldn't afford it and would certainly be dead by now if I had been able to buy such a beast at that age and with the attitude I had. But I do love my 1999 "replica of the replica" ZRX 1100 (Green of course).

    Another bike I lusted after back then, sitting there in the Clinton Cycles showroom, was the Suzuki GS850G. Fast forward from 1982 to last week - I just found a pristine, garage-kept, 100% original, time-capsule example of a 1979 GS850G in Florida with only 13,800 miles on it. I'm going to go pick it up in the next couple of weeks and drop some posts into both the Old Skool and Road Warrior threads. Next year I'll park a GS or RT or Gold Wing or KLR or something else new right next to it (I have no idea what I want next, hence the Suzuki purchase to help me figure it out. ;)

    Last summer I was in Washington, DC on business, and found myself driving past the Supreme Court.

    In my Jeep.

    Looking at those steps.
    #43
  4. Pantah

    Pantah Jiggy Dog Fan from Scottsdale Supporter

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    :clap :clap :clap :clap :clap
    #44
  5. Hughlysses

    Hughlysses Long timer

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    Awesome! :thumbup
    #45
  6. Bonnie Abbzug

    Bonnie Abbzug Property of Hayduke

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    Fantastic read! Thank you so much for sharing it with us :clap !
    #46
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  7. Uglyprimate

    Uglyprimate UglyPirate

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    I actually enjoyed reading this without pics. Moved along smoother than a video screen in my mind.
    #47
  8. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat Supporter

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    Fantastic stuff Joe. Classic. I just read the thread to my wife. What a hoot.
    #48
  9. JourneyRider.com

    JourneyRider.com Long timer

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    Damn, we need more posts JoeyBones.
    #49
  10. VOR LOC

    VOR LOC n00b

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    Fantastic! I had a smile on my face the whole time.
    #50
  11. Stretch67

    Stretch67 Mad Scientist Supporter

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    I enjoyed that. Thanks for taking the time.
    #51
  12. bongodave

    bongodave Fixing Stupid

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    I work as a courier (sorry, in a car,) and see MC couriers all the time here in LA.
    Most seem to like V-twin sport bikes, but they use everything. Some use scooters around downtown or Century City (big lawyer areas).

    I often thought that a DS bike would be the best for such a job, due to the step-riding, curb jumping abilities. Maybe a light motard (DR 400?).

    I had an NX 650 in Chicago, and rode a few steps myself. I also worked as a courier for some indy press during the 1996 DNC. Didn't get paid, but it was an adventure, to say the least.

    Got there too late to get the video of cops beating up a bunch of folks. They'd already destroyed the evidence. Too bad. It was brutal, according to the camera man.

    You've got me thinking...
    #52
  13. Timba

    Timba Luckiest Man Alive

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    Excellent stories! Thank you.:thumbup
    #53
  14. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

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    Well I'm very flattered to hear you say that! So..... here's a quick story that's related (if very remotely....).

    My best friend Patrick was killed at age 20 by the drunk driver (twice the legal limit) of a Pepperidge Farm Bread Truck. The company KNEW the guy had two previous DUI convictions and still let him drive. To this day I don't buy their products. Pat and I had lots of adventures in the 7 or 8 years before he died - at least one of them on a motorcycle....

    In between the TS185 of my late teens and the SP400 of my Courier days, I briefly owned a Honda CB450 (or could it have been a 400? It was a twin, not a four-cylinder...).

    So at 6 or 7 PM on a Friday evening, we decide to run up to New York City and see the sites. We probably had some fantasy involving slutty disco chicks at Studio 54 or something. I don't remember for sure, but slutty disco chicks figured pretty heavy in most of our thoughts in those days.

    So it's 7 PM, we have virtually no money, and we head for New York, some 240 miles distant, two-up on my 450. Which at that time was maybe ten years old?

    The trip up was uneventful. We found our way (eventually) to Times Square, parked the bike, and wandered around looking for adventure sometime around midnight. And we actually did see a slutty disco chick outside of Studio 54! She was wrapped partially in Aluminum foil, but in a sexy kind of way (this was 1980 and disco was not yet dead - on life support maybe but not yet dead). She wouldn't even look at us, but as hope springs eternal in a young man's breast we maintained our smiles and moved on. By 2 AM we had eaten, turned down a dozen prostitutes, and were back on the bike driving down Broadway when....

    (at this point in the narrative I should probably make a confession. While I EVENTUALLY LEARNED how to perform sufficient chain maintenance to keep the thing together, I had not, at this point, perfected the task. Meaning I hadn't lubed it in a while)

    So we're dead broke, aged 18 and 20, no credit cards to our name, driving down Broadway at 2 AM on a Friday night / Saturday morning on a ten-year old Honda and the chain falls off. And this is where the "adventure" part gets started.....

    Stay tuned.
    #54
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  15. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat Supporter

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    (In my best George Costanza voice)...."we're back baby!!"
    #55
  16. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

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    ...... so I pull over to the curb, and we look back up the street to see my chain laying in the middle of the road while, less than a block away, a couple of taxi's pulled away from the light and headed in our direction.

    Before I could even think to mention that several cars running over the chain could eliminate the one chance we had of getting home, Pat ran the 30 yards to the chain, picked it up by one end, and for reasons that he could never fully explain, stood in the middle of the street swinging the greasy chain around in a circle over his head.

    Every one of those taxis came to a halt and waited for Pat to stroll back to the sidewalk and bring me the chain. I guess that was a pretty scary sight for them, even for Manhattan at 2 in the morning.

    Since his hands were already FILTHY, I suggested that he hang on to it while we figured out what to do. We ended up coasting or pushing the bike 5 or 6 blocks (mostly downhill thank goodness) until we came across a gas station. Yes there were actual gas stations in Manhattan back then. This one had gas pumps, a handful of cars sitting around in the middle of repair jobs, and 3 service bays. It was also in a bad neighborhood, absolutely disgustingly dirty, and of course, closed.

    We parked the bike near the service bays and took as good a look at the chain as we could in the dim light. I felt like I could possibly remove the one bent link and beat the thing back together using a spare link I carried under the seat if I could find a hammer or something. I had done that once before, on a weekend ass-haulin' trip to Ohio to see a girl (that was the experience that at least taught me to carry an extra link, if not to use chain lube more often). And yes there's a pattern developing here - chasing after women in other states and not being very good at taking care of my chain.

    Anyway. We decide to get some shut-eye since it was now 3 AM. We counted our money and confirmed that we had about $20 between us - enough for gas and tolls but no food, drinks, hotel, or motorcycle chains. We picked a really dark area out of the way of any bad guys and laid down between two of the cars in the mixture of dirt, grass, trash and spit. And probably even worse stuff that I chose not to think about. Well, then something happened that MADE me think about it. A prostitute brought her "customer" to the gas station, slipped in between the next two cars, hiked up her skirt and they started goin' at it while standing up.... about 20 feet away from us. The guy never saw us (he was a little busy), but the girl saw us, and actually gave us a little wave.... while she was conducting business.

    After they left, Pat and I decided that light was better than dark so we moved over to the front door of the gas station and laid down on the sidewalk. Pat bumped his helmet up against the window and that woke up the guy sleeping inside, who came over to the door in order to scare the living crap out of us. Well, he just asked us what we were doing but I swear he couldn't have scared us more if he had tried.

    After we explained our situation, he opened up the shop and let me use his tools. I don't remember exactly how (this was a LONG time ago), but I got the chain back together using the extra link, a hammer, vice-grips and a piece of 4 X 4, and back on the Honda.

    We left that gas station at 4:45, drove through the Lincoln tunnel and got ourselves on the NJ Turnpike. Just as dawn began to break, we reached a rest area, parked and laid down on the grass to get a little sleep.

    At that moment, it began to rain....

    As I'm sure many others on this website can attest, true exhaustion makes it easy to sleep on the ground, in the rain, wearing jeans, with your helmet on.

    The girl came back from Ohio just long enough to dump me and I sold the Honda to buy the SP400. Pat died less than a year later, changing my life in many ways. When I think of him today I can clearly see him standing in the middle of the street swinging that chain around over his head for no other reason then it just felt good.

    I got better at taking care of a chain but never became an expert - I can't ever seem to adjust them properly. "O" ring chains are a big help, but the bike I just bought is a shaft drive and I'm looking forward to that!

    Most of the other stories from that period in my life (age 18 - 25) involve motorcycles, but they don't rate so high on the adventure scale. Well, there was the Ohio trip, the Miami - Atlanta - Washington trip and the time, on a bet, I rode my GPZ550 from the Washington Beltway to the Rt. 50 Bridge at Ocean City in 2 hours and 5 minutes. And the one wreck I had in those days was with a girl on the back - a girl who was visiting me from England for the summer and broke her wrist in the accident (talk about PAPERWORK).

    And when I bought my ZRX, I flew down to Ft. Lauderdale and the seller met me at the curbside baggage claim area - he took off his tag and put mine on while I strapped on the soft saddlebags I had carried on the plane. He left while I put the tank bag in place. Before I could even get my helmet on, the cops were giving me crap. I hadn't even swung a leg over my new bike for the first time and the cops were after me!

    I pulled out of Ft. Lauderdale airport on a bike I had owned for five minutes and drove straight back to Maryland - 1,200 miles in 48 hours. So while I ride more conservatively now, I still have some sense of adventure.

    I lubed the chain three times on that trip.


    :brow
    #56
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  17. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat Supporter

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    Reminds me of a few things...dang!! Mini-skirted friend on the back of my GL500 down Park Ave...
    #57
  18. Hogan

    Hogan Adventurer

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    Fantastic stories!

    This does, however, give me an idea. I'm 19, and I live in DC (Boston for school, by my home is in DC) I wonder if any of those companies are still around? It would be a good excuse to pick up a supermoto if nothing else... I'm going to have to look into this, it sounds like far too much fun to pass up.
    #58
  19. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat Supporter

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    My brother, I think you are almost 30 years too late. They'll lock you up for 1/2 of what he did...BUT it's all about expectations perhaps.

    Riding around obeying the minimum might be ok...:lurk
    #59
  20. neduro

    neduro Addict

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    Great stuff, thanks for taking the time to share.
    #60