121 Year Old Route Resurrected

In 1894 the Pullman Strike cut San Francisco off from all physical communication.

From the San Francisco Examiner on July 7, 1894:

“An enterprising citizen of Fresno has organized a bicycle mail relay from that city to San Francisco to carry letters only. The route taken is west to Gilroy, then north through San Jose to this city.”

For $0.25 you could have a letter carried relay style from a bike shop in San Francisco all the way to a bike shop in Fresno. From there, or 16 other cities along the route, the local post office could deliver your letter right to the recipient’s door.

This weekend the route will be recreated. All that’s left is to get some mail.

In 1894 each letter was carried on the backs of 8 different bike messengers over 210 miles. The journey took about 18 hours, riding single speed bikes on mostly unpaved roads.

800 stamps were produced so quickly that an glaring mistake was overlooked. San Francisco was misspelled San “Fransisco.”

Full story here: Ingenuity, Murder, Fraud and Fixies (San Francisco in 1894)

On Friday a small group of friends will commemorate this ride by departing from a bike shop in San Francisco and tracing the same route to Fresno. None of them are bike messengers, and in fact, this will be the longest ride of their lives.

All they need now is mail.

This is where you come in. Stop in Mission Bicycle Company any time between now and 6:00 pm on Friday night if you would like to send a commemorative postcard to anyone in Fresno.

Don’t have any friends in Fresno? The recreators will hand deliver a message to any of the following stops.

After 121 years, the price remains $0.25.

Meet Junior: Bicycle Messenger Warrior of the Mission

Anyone who commutes down Valencia or Market on the regular no doubt has come across this fellow at one time or another.  How could you possibly miss his grey grizzled flowing beard and locks, or his duct-taped battletank of a Schwinn Sapphire that he pedals around so furiously?

This morning I finally decided to say a little more than “what’s up?” and managed to have quite a nice rolling conversation with the guy (I’m sure the fact that I was wearing the exact same jacket helped too), starting on Valencia at around 17th and lasting all the way to the end of Market.  Here’s a paraphrased transcript of our “interview” while in motion:

On how long in the biz:

I’ve been a bike messenger in SF for 35 years.  The last 28 of those years have been on this Schwinn Sapphire, except for about 3 months when it was stolen in the Mission.  Luckily, a friend spotted it about 3 months later at Bay and Gough.  The jerks couldn’t even get the U-lock off (they had cut through a skinny pole to which it had been attached to get it), so they just dumped it!

On Critical Mass:

It all started when a bunch of drunk bike messengers got tired of SF police handing out $20 tickets to cyclists all the time for bullshit minor offenses, like not putting your foot down at a stop sign.  $20 was a big chunk of your take home pay way back then, so they decided to shut down some key intersections around the city and show the cops they couldn’t just fuck with them.  Seems to have gotten their attention.

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