They’re called drivers but they ride bikes. And they deliver food for Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches on Wall Street in downtown Spokane. What’s it like to jump on your bike and deliver a sandwich or maybe two 30-piece platters? I took an extended lunch and shadowed several of the drivers as they made their deliveries. It was actually kind of fun.
My first run was with Zack Layton. We had a quick stop on the Washington Street side of the Liberty Building. After that we sprinted down Main across Division and over to the nursing school in the University District. We returned via the Centennial Trail, Spokane Falls Blvd, and Wall Street.
Next, I followed Levi Guthmiller to 901 N. Monroe. He zipped across the Post Street Bridge and powered up Lincoln Street increasing the gap between us and making me feel like my pedaling was an exercise in futility. The pickup truck that pulled out in front of me not only endangered me but also increased the separation between us. The driver could only muster a blank look, which I took as an apology. I made my way to Mallon and then crossed Monroe. I caught up with Levi‘s bike. He was long gone somewhere upstairs in the building.
For my third trip I tried to stick with Andrew Ackerman. He bolted away from me going down Sprague on our way to 1st and Cedar. He got a block ahead of me, but the traffic lights worked in my favor to hold him up, and we arrived at the destination together. I was more than warmed up now.
Next up was Jessica Duran. She told me we were going near Division and 2nd Avenue. She jumped on her bike and went from zero to ludicrous speed in 2.3 seconds. Again, had it not been for traffic lights, she would have ditched me. Keeping up with most of the riders was more of a matter of keeping them in sight than actually keeping up. As I rolled up behind Jessica at a red light, I was thankful I had a moment to take a couple of breaths. I’m no slouch on a bike, but cyclists 30 or more years my junior who happen to be in good shape are in a much more competitive category than me. Our return trip went smoothly since it was mostly downhill.
There’s a friendly competition among the drivers to see who can make certain deliveries in the fastest time. One delivery is to Inland Imaging at 801 S. Stevens. Andrew Ackerman holds the record for this run – seven minutes for the round trip. It’s not just a matter of speed and strength climbing up Stevens. You also have to hit the traffic lights just right coming back down Washington.
“There are some runs I know when I can really crush it,” says Ackerman. He also says the competition part adds to the fun. Otherwise, it’s just another boring delivery. Recently Alexian Lane, equipped with a new road bike, took a shot at the record and tied it. Small wonder. Lane is on the River City Red cycling team and incorporates his work into his training.
Speed is important in another respect because the quicker the driver returns, the quicker they get another delivery – and another tip. The drivers I spoke with say it takes three to six months to learn all the destinations and the best routes to follow to make the deliveries as quickly as possible.
To my surprise, most of the drivers have been working there for two or three years. Kassandra Sandaker and Ian Butler describe the work environment as fun and the crew as family. For them and their team members, making deliveries by bicycle is icing on the cake. It’s like getting paid to have fun. Drivers – I’m still not used to referring to them by that name – do 10-15 deliveries and cover 15-20 miles a day. On really busy days, they can get 25-30 deliveries. It’s fast paced and the time passes quickly.
Weather is another factor to consider. It was raining on the day I shadowed them. Some of the drivers wore jeans, and their pant legs and backsides were soaked. Winter calls for more layers of clothing, and most of the drivers ride on fatter or more heavily treaded tires.
Regardless of the conditions, these drivers enjoy their work, especially since it melds so well with the cycling lifestyle. //