Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Russian River Ride, circa 1997

I wasn't yet a messenger when I was invited to join my first Russian River Ride, the traditional bike messenger ride to where else, the Russian River.

We met at Harvey's downtown.  Harvey was the entrepreneur of a small convenience store in a ghettoey area of downtown and he generously allowed bike messengers to purchase snacks and drinks on store credit, and consume them in his alley.  He was such a hero to bike messengers, many referred to him as Saint Harvey.

We'd head through Golden Gate Park and across the bridge, down the hill into Sausalinto, out past Petaluma and finally, after about 80 miles, into a big grassy and somewhat muddy area right alongside the Russian River.  I'm still unsure on why we were allowed to camp there, but we were.

I was so intimidated that first year, by the athleticism of the messengers. and by the distance of 80 miles  I put 80 small dashes on a little piece of paper and taped it to my handlebars, so I could visualize 80 miles.
The day went well, and was not without surprises.  One of the best happened past Petaluma, in what felt like the middle of nowhere.  Surrounded by beautiful Sonoma county rolling meadows and farmlands, it seemed pretty far away from everything.  There was a small building on the horizon, and there was a healthy sized bike pile in front, so I pulled over and went in.  Turns out it was a little divey bar, the kind with dollar bills pinned all over the ceiling.  Tradition calls for us to each down a shot before going on our way.
The rest of the ride that day is a little hazy to me, but I made it.  There was a huge group, maybe 100 of us, and we had a really fun weekend.  I'll never forget chewing a huge piece of strawberry bubble gum and swimming back and forth across the river.  I dragged a big innertube and gave people rides to the other shore and back.  I dubbed myself "messenger of the river".

The ride back was easier, probably because we jumped on the Larkspur ferry back to the city.  The ferry folks let us make a giant bike pile out on the bow.  The boat ride was one of the best parts of the weekend, and always made me feel a bit sentimental, even nostalgic, as we came back into San Francisco


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