from Hideouswhitenoise #31,Spring 1997
"You're crazy to ride your bike in downtown traffic," thebaggage lady claimed. I was getting worried, that was the second personwho had given me that wide eyed expression with the half smile twist whenI mentioned that I was going to ride my bike in downtown Boston Traffic.
It was only after I learned that it was illegal to ride a bike anywhereon the property of Logan Airport that I came to the conclusion that Bostonmight not be all that friendly of a place to ride a bike.
But how bad could it be? Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to participatein my first Alleycat race in a foreign city. But the first place prizeof $888.00 American put up by Timbuk2 bags was to tempting a prize to passon. Not that I had any chance of winning, but I was the only Canadian downhere and I had to put in a showing.
But this was all part of the strategy. The Americans would think thatall Canadians were as slow as me and when they came to race in the GreatWhite North, they would be taken completely by surprise.
But regardless of strategy, or stupidity, I was going to race in thisCrazy Eight race, named after the date, the amount of check-points andthe prize money, and damn the consequences. And hey, it would be more romanticto get run down in a foreign city anyway. Off to find the water shuttle.
And in the end I didn't get run down I did end up losing my stop watch,gloves, wrench and Alley cat racing cherry I did get to know Boston inthe only way you can, on the back of a bike. As I crossed the inner harbourI couldn't help but think if you put a CN Tower and a Skydome beside Boston'sfinancial district how similar the skylines would be to Toronto's, butI would soon learn how different they were up close.
Upon landing I obtained directions to find bike messengers from thewater taxi dude and I and Daughter of Elephant bike charged into traffic.It took about five minutes to assimilate with the metal monsters and realizethat traffic was traffic no matter what city you were in.
The old part of the city was filled with beautiful architecture andurban planning that could only be achieved before the advent of the carbonburner. The streets were narrow and windy making it easy to dominate traffic,but who knows I might have hit town during a mellow period. Police don'tseem to care about traffic infractions It appeared the messengers of Bostonhad trained their auto drivers well.
My search ended at a famous brand named coffee shop where a gaggle ofcouriers congregated and also Elvis. He asked me not to go into details,but its true Elvis is running a messenger company in Boston.
Everyone was really friendly and pleased that someone had come all theway from Toronto to get run over in Boston. As always the Canadians werethe first to arrive and last to leave. Sometimes harder to get rid of thencockroaches.
It wasn't long before I was set up with a place to stay, the luxuriousseventh floor of 140 Boylston, home of Performance Messengers, who werealso gracious enough to give over the space after the party, and beingtoured around the city by Matt, one of the race organizers.
He gave me pointers on the course and pointed out key monuments. Hehad to do some calls and rode off, but not before giving me one more crypticclue. “Keep your eyes out for Dunkin' Donuts.
My best strategy would be to go over the course a few times to familiarizemyself with the terrain. This would give me an advantage over the hometown riders. But yah know, I had seen most of the course and Daughter ofElephant Bike had an amazing memory, so if I got lost she would find theway. I decided to find some beer and get stanked.
That night was a blur of meeting more people and seeing messengers fromother cities watching couriers from New York slowly dribble into town intwo's and threes.
But that night wasn't all just drinking and socializing, it was alsoan eyeopener about what it's like to ride in boston. What it comes downto is that Bike Messengers and cyclists in general are hated by City Hall.
To get your bike on the subway, you have to get a license from CityHall that costs you $5.00. Many messengers told me of stories concerningmessengers and police. At the time I could only feel revulsion, but nowI can't really remember what they were all about. Blame the Pilgrim. Ifthere are any Boston Messengers reading this please send examples< href="mailto:email@example.com>
I think the night ended at a bar, but who knows. After drinking a coupleof those giant jugs of Pilgrim beer, I wasn't quite sure where, or whoI was.
The morning came to quickly with me and D.O.E. bike joining a posseof New York messengers riding the course. The race was scheduled to startat 1:08 p.m. and as the start time approached, so did the crappy weather.The snow started to fall as did the temperature.
The starting point was Copley Square a small park situated in the stuckbetween Boylston and St. James Ave. As the time slowly approached, thefront steps of the square slowly filled with riders and spectators.
Media filtered through the racers while race organizers passed out racenumbers and tried to answer last minute questions. The official count ofracers were 77 with a few from Philly, Washington, a big crew of twentyfrom NY and one lone rider from Toronto.
Just after 1:00 p.m. the racers positioned their bikes on the squareand stepped back twenty feet. They waited for the countdown and then itcame and we were off.
The drivers of Boston didn't expect to be suddenly confronted by 77howling messengers hitting the street enmasse, weaving through traffic,racing to the first check-point. The race was set up that you didn't haveto follow any set pattern to complete the race. All you had to do was makeall eight check-points and then get back to the finish line.
I followed most of the racers to the deserted lobby of 300 Massachusetts.Ave. Racers ran about like cops with their heads chopped off, finally findingthe checkpoint in the back of the building.
Next was a bar at 822 Beacon St where you had to suck back a drink.Over the bridge to Cambridge and 77 Massachusetts Ave, the front door ofMIT where you were given a raw egg to carry around. A right on Main St.to Kendall Square to pack a potato. Gee, we weren't going to have to stopand cook something weird along the way were we?
Across the Charles River Dam stopping at a Dunkin' Donuts for a Bostoncream donut to drop on the front steps of the State Police Barracks at160 Beverly. Over to Pemberton Square where you were given a huge bookto carry. To 140 Boylston, up six flights of stairs to have your ass whippedby not one but two dominatrix's and then to One Financial Place and thefinish line.
Nearing the finish, my chain came off and wedged its way between thecrank and the frame so I was forced to run the last few blocks over thefinish line. I might not of won, but I was the first Canadian over theline I was the only Canadian in the race,, but hey I'll get my glory whereI can.
Half way through the race the snow had turned to freezing rain and thento rain, but I didn't care I was having to much fun to know how soakedI was until it was all said and done. And when it was done so was I. Ibarely had enough energy to drag myself back to the keg party and drinkuntil 3:30 in the morning.
The winner was Bobeck from Boston who won the cash and a ticket to Torontofor the Human Powered Roller coaster, with other miscellaneous prizes givenout by Kryptonite locks and other sponsors who I don't know who they werebecause I was too tanked during the award ceremony to remember.
The week-end was a howling lot of fun and like all of these events Imet messengers from other cities that in the end were just like me. Fuckedup. Hats off to Jeff, Jesse and Matt and whoever else was involved in theorganization of this crazy event. I had so much fun I'm coming back nextyear.
Arriving back home in Toronto, aching from sleeping on a floor and feverishwith a cold, I asked the information desk what was the best route to ridemy bike into the city. The woman behind the desk gave me a wide eyed lookwith a half smile twist. "You have to be crazy to ride your bike indowntown traffic."
If you have comments or suggestions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org