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.

On the new green bike lanes and separators sprouting up all over the city:

I’m kind of worried that they are a precursor to beginning widespread bicycle ticketing around the city.  You know, like back before the Critical Mass days.  I’m all for cyclists obeying the rules of the road, but the interpretation of those rules is at issue, and the price of those tickets has increased to around $300 nowadays, which can be the same as a paycheck!  But I try to stay out of politics . . .

On the craziest thing he’s ever seen on the road:

A bike messenger was rolling by a parked car just as the lady inside suddenly opened her door.  Predictably, the messenger crashed into the door and wound up partially inside the driver’s side of the car.  The women freaks out and starts to scream “RAPE!” at the top of her lungs.  The dude is obviously injured, but she’s yelling at him and hitting him with her purse and still screaming at him.  Even the fact that his bike was right there did nothing to dissuade her accusations.  It took a few police cars and the paramedic’s arrival to finally calm her down.  I dunno, anything to get out of paying hospital bills I guess.


18 Responses to “Meet Junior: Bicycle Messenger Warrior of the Mission”

  1. 0101! says:

    i want to smoke a j with this dude

    • Amazing! Junior was the top gravy dog at Rocket Messenger Servive in 1977 when I was working there. And he was considered an “old-timer” then, having been biking since 1968. Long may you rock, Junior!

      • Hey Jr.: Do you remember a messenger named Jimbo, aka J. R. Swanson, who used to be one of the top gravy dogs at Special T back in the ’80s? Cool guy and excellent artist as well. Always wondered what happened to him. And Crud, and Pete Moss, and Spazz, and Little Joe, and Charlie (the old dispatcher at Rocket) and the Biker Bashes and . . .

        • James says:

          Hey Ace!

          Remember me? Biff? I was Jim’s (#2′s) good buddy (still am) and roommate. We were all at the T together back in the day (like 82-84?). With Little Joe on the mic. Jim’s doing well. Living up in Humboldt County. In fact he’s coming here this weekend. I live in Berkeley. You around? I know he’d like to see you.

  2. This may be the only person who should be allowed to ride Critical Mass. I guess he could have an honor guard.

    Sorta like the 1906 earthquake celebration.

  3. Merlin Olsen's Sister says:

    Who remembers the lady messenger who looked like an Eastern-Bloc wrestler in her smedium size tshirts? Bike-pile in the vacant lot behind Harvey’s on Fridays – I mean HerionCrackMickey’sday? Rico? Those yellow clown-bikes? Dissing Walkers (foot-messengers)? R.I.P. The Wall, Jaks, Jerks, Hanx, and Eb. Most newjack bikers are hella toy. Critical mass started irreversibly sucking around month 3.

    • Lisa says:

      I remember the lady you’re talking about. Even twenty years ago, that lady and this dude were the oldest bike messengers in SF. Also, Junior worked the door at the Saloon in North Beach for a few years. Either that or he just hung around there and acted like he worked there.

      I miss all the flocks of bike messengers hanging out downtown under massive clouds of weed. And whenever it rained hard, they’d all call in sick.

  4. Merlin Olsen's Sister says:


  5. Neo Displacer says:

    thank you for the interview with Junior. He most certainly will be the last messenger standing. I see him at my office almost daily. I work nearby too many lawyers and lawyers are the only ones who need messengers anymore. Way back in the early mid 90′s I watched him build a camper shell for his Datsun pickup with little more than a hammer and a hand saw. He used to park the thing on Folsom and 19 but it’s hardly there anymore. I think I saw it on Harrison. I think I admire this guy more than most.

  6. Kyle Madison says:

    “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.”

    Yeah, now cyclists don’t even stop at stop signs or even stop lights. How far we’ve come!

  7. Amy says:

    He serves my office all the time. Friendly dude.

  8. Jr. says:

    Actually my bike is a Spitfire.The muscle guy Patrick took hormones to become Patty a she-male.Aquit independent,i knew him as a guy,friendly,but as a “girl”hard to deal with.The guy at the Saloon fools alot of people.I’m not hiom,yet one night i stopped by as musicians coming in handed me a bag of equipment thinking he was me.Some honkey called up parking having them hang a pink abandoned vehickle-move it note on my truck.I told them to claim it hadn’t been moved for at “least” 3 days they’d have to have 2 street sweep tickets on me and i move it every night.I said don’t tell me a family man in the Sunset parks his car 2 blocks away 4 times a week to keep out of the 72 hour limit.All they could say was anyone is allowed to annonomously call in a complaint,and…i don’t live in that block…so i had to move it further every night to keep out of thier footdown bullshit anti-deadhead bus zone.I mean everybody thinks i live in my camper,but the door opens outward and has an exterior lock.there is no way i could sleep in it unless the tailgate at—least was down,muffled brainless fingerpointing idiots.Other than that,i’m known for many things,see you around hopefully

    • Jr. says:

      it’s like sittin there chewing on some food and someone comes up saying thats an awsome swallow,like what??? i do that every night.It’s not the work…it’s the danger,to have survived that many stray bullets,car doors and Iowa tourists opening thier door on you,now “that”is amazing,like where would i be without me.I remember all the dead people,for whatever drove them on,but i realize none had anything in common to what brought me here,no time to be too social,but i know them all as well as anyone can.You know the traffic is full of shit,but that’s just how they are,you learn to accept what they’ve become,it’s them that have to live with it.Hey it’s been a cool 2 years summer,sad winters moving in,like what the Hell do we live in a beach community for to grunt 2 years to go to the beach 3 god damned times,all the nice girls gone to big joe cool,will i ever see the pink side of success again.Still it’s a nice job,alot of great people…i love you all

  9. orko says:

    i want to smoke a j with this dude

  10. You ought to take part in a contest for one of the finest websites on the net.
    I am going to recommend this site!