Let me take you for a ride

If you’re in downtown Raleigh or Glenwood South today between 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., call this number — 623-5555 — and I’ll be your vehicle, baby, I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.  (And I’ll promise not to sing bad Top 40 songs from the ‘70s.)

Today’s my first day as a rickshaw driver.

I’ve waited a year for this day. When I left the N&O last year, I explored an array of options. I wouldn’t mind getting paid to ride a bike, I thought. I contacted Team Radio Shack, but they were full up. Then I saw a rickshaw downtown. That looks like fun, I thought. I’d love to do that. At least until a spot opens up with Team Radio Shack. I applied and waited.

In February, I got the call (e-mail, actually). Sunday, I went through five-hour training with my new employer, Raleigh Rickshaw. I don’t know how rickshaw outfits operate in other cities (well, I do know of one), but these guys are pros. We discussed how to deal with customers, we discussed the proper care and feeding of the bikes, we discussed the rules of the road. Then, before they sent us out on the road they had us pass a cone course in the parking lot behind Raleigh Rickshaw’s downtown depot. Good thing: Riding a tricycle with a rear differential is a whole different sport than riding a two-wheeler. (It’s a physics thing, which I won’t get into because I don’t understand it.) By dusk I was deemed fit to join the 40-plus ranks of Raleigh Rickshaw drivers.

I’m out there to have some fun, to talk to y’all, and to get a workout. The trike itself weighs 165 pounds and it has a load limit of about 400 pounds. It’s pretty easy to hit 550 pounds total with two normal-size adults in tow. And I never realized it before Sunday, but downtown Raleigh is full of hills. Or at least inclines, every one of which you notice when you’re pulling that much weight. Six hours in this saddle is one good workout. (RR owner Donald Mertrud told me he’s burned up to 3,500 calories on a shift.)

So if you’re in downtown or Glenwood South today, give us a ring. It’s supposed to hit 72, the perfect day for a convertible ride through town. And, this is a courtesy ride, there’s no fee. The driver’s are reimbursed through the generosity of your tips, which, I’m guessing, on the first day of the year to top 70 degrees knows no bounds.

The number to call again, 623-5555. That’s 623-5555. And ask for Joe.

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