Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ridin' Dirty - Gettin' hassled by the fuzz

'The most dangerous men on earth are those who are afraid they are wimps'
-James Gilligan

While roaming the streets, taking in all the enchantment, sometimes a night rider encounters dangers.

Pot holes to China, shards of glass, tigers, drunken drivers, FOUR Loko-induced black outs, rival gangs of night riders.

I've been asked if I travel armed. The answer is no. My samurai swords are awkward and my tech-9, fully loaded, adds too much weight. This isn't to say the perils are not many and great.

In my brief time in the brother- sisterhood, I have faced a few scary moments. The scariest so far occurred when Mr. Q and I peddled from Kenmore to the U District so plastered my recall is shrouded in a thick FOUR Loko fog. One minute we're at the top of Lake Washington. Next, we're on the Ave.

Last night, in the wearisome land of Tukwila, that unmemorable southern Seattle suburb remembered mainly when one gangbanger shoots another gangbanger at Southcenter Mall, I found myself in the scariest confrontation of my young career.

It started as any normal stop. Jeremiah and I had departed Magnolia in a light, misty rain and proceeded south. By the time we struck upon South Park, remote now that the bridge is down, the roads were dry and during the stretch of access road paralleling Highway 99 the air warmed to the mid 40s. What started damp turned into a nice night for a ride.

We crossed the city limit and into Tukwila and coasted over the Green River at about 1 a.m., admiring the exposed rock at low tide. Usually we rest under a bridge 100 yards farther down river. Instead, we opted to lie on a giant bolder on a mud pile. The small park sat beside a dead end street among one of many modular Boeing office parks sprawling to the base of Mount Rainer.

Most times when we stop I like to throw a little Phil Collins on the jam box, a little "In the air tonight," and visualize my successes. It's a time of rejuvenation, it allows a moment to reflect on what has been achieved.

Not minutes after smoking a bowl a cop drove down the dead end. I didn't think much of it. Cyclists are of no interest to cops, in my experience. In fact, cyclists are of no interest to anyone behind the wheel. We are invisible, a mixed blessing for night riders.

I was lying on my back on the boulder. Our lights were off. Besides being stoned, and smoking a cigarette, we weren't doing anything. I didn't bring the jam box, so we had to hum "In the air tonight" while visualizing.

"He's getting out of his car," Jeremiah reported.

"Is he taking a piss?"

Seattle cops don't like to get out of their cars. They like to shine their lights at you and holler over the PA, "Parks closed!" Sometimes they wait to watch you saunter back into the road like a scolded Labrador. In some public spaces, like Gas Works Park, you can almost set a watch to the police visits to roust afterhours stoners and lovers out of the park. Nothing to get worked up about.

I couldn't imagine he would be interested in us. Yet, I was wrong, he was interested.

He approached us not saying anything, and we exchanged greetings when he wasn't but 10 feet away.

He was young, maybe 25 years old. He was tall, stocky, a weight-lifter, shaved head, black uniform, and when he spoke he used the contrived deep diction of an insecure military man, almost stereotypical, the voice of a man possessed by more firepower than experience. (See Officer Ian Birk)

"Out on a late night bike ride?"

Yes, we said.

He didn't seem to believe us.

"You guys doing anything beside smoking cigarettes? You must have seen the beer cans and syringes?"

I kept my hands on my knees, right where he could see them.

I didn't quite realize it at the time, as I was more annoyed and afraid he could still smell an odor he should have recognized from his training and experience as the green leafy substance known as marihuana, but my life was in danger.

He wanted our IDs. He ran them through dispatch. We waited in the quiet for our criminal records to be retrieved from the data base that swells with all society's secrets. We could hear what he said, but not what the dispatcher said back. Our small talk was stilted. Jeremiah said the area was pretty. The young officer said he couldn't think of it that way after what he had seen here. I tried to engage him about night riding, I told him we often ride around the lake in the middle of the night. That it was something we did. He didn't appear interested. I was annoyed, but I didn't want him to ask to search me or my bag.

When we were found to be without warrants we knew because he told us to have a good night.

"Remember to dispose of your cigarettes properly," he said.

The guy who said the small park on the river was overcrowded with beer cans and syringes left us with an anti-litter public safety message. The guy, well-armed and trained to anticipate the worst, who approached two men close to his size, in the dark, in a place known for high crime, ended up warning us about, what? Forest fires? On a muddy river bank, where one couldn't start a fire with a blow torch? The guy who risked his life -- if we were outlaws, and not total pussies -- and, most importantly to me, risked mine, did it all to run two IDs for warrants.

Recently, the area has seen many murderous attacks on police officers. Also recently, in broad daylight, with many witnesses, a Seattle cop gunned down a stumbling inebriate holding a pocket knife.

In all my night rides, through our neighborhoods of ill repute, down steep slopes after pounding an alocopop and puffing a grape Swisher, I have never felt my life was in greater danger than standing in the dark with a young, dumb Tukwila cop.

The lesson I learned from this ordeal is simple: Tukwila sucks.


  1. Green River, man. Its mud hides more than just syringes and beer cans...

  2. if that kitten cop thought we were ditching a body he is even stupider than he looked.