Liquor Store Drive-Thru by Bike

It was getting late. I knew it would be cold outside.

I was starting to think of my commute home, and thinking of what pretext I might have to get a ride home from my wife — a pretext that would not involve an admission that I just didn’t feel like cycling home.

Aha! My Dahon folding bike has been stranded at the office ever since I started winter commuting with my mountain bike.

I got my wife on the phone.

“Honey, could you swing by and pick up my folding bike [and my lazy ass] so I can get it home?”

“Well, no,” she said. “But could you swing by the liquor store on the way home and pick up some kind of orange liqueur?”

This was good news and bad news.

The good news was that my wife no longer considers my bike commuting as an activity that hinders me from running errands.

The bad news was that my wife no longer considers my bike commuting as an activity that hinders me from running errands.

The other good news was that I’ll be picking up some orange liqueur.

“Sure. No problem. See you a bit.”


My boss said, “Feel free to use the Really Big Bongo to get your Dahon home.”

Damn eavesdropper.

The “Really Big Bongo” is a prototype bike cargo trailer based on the Wandertec Bongo — only it’s really big.

So I hooked up the RBB to the Kalkhoff electric bike from our JOYBAGâ„¢ fleet. I loaded the trailer with my Dahon and a few other bulky things that needed to go home and have been collecting around my desk. About 50 pounds of cargo.

The Kalkhoff has a bright Busch & Müller headlight and tail light, which I augmented with my Planet Bike Superflash tail light and Light & Motion Urban 500 headlight.

Once again I was heading home lit up and flashing like the Las Vegas Strip — but this time pulling a ridiculously big bike trailer.

This is the biggest bike trailer I’ve ever pulled, but it pulls nicely. I climbed to the top of San Francisco Street with the electric assist on full power, panting and wishing I could just twist the throttle and let the bike do all the work. I was in a seriously lazy mood. (I don’t care what the e-bike haters say: electric bikes are not scooters.)

When I pulled into the liquor store drive-thru, I remembered to pull down my balaclava, because I don’t like being shot at or arrested.

Really Big Bongo Goes to the Liquor StoreI waited.

I got off the bike, put down the kickstand, and stomped on the black rubber hose with both boots.


Eventually, the clerk came to the window. He’s your classic mountain-college-town bearded liquor-store guy. Utterly un-phased by the sight of me and my blinding, flashing bike and trailer.

Maybe this guy has seen everything. Maybe utility cycling is almost mainstream in this town. Or maybe he was just stoned.

I bought a bottle of orangecello. You can almost see it in the photo, poking out of my rack-top bag in a paper bag — and looking more like a tallboy than a classy 21-dollar-per-bottle digestif.

My mother-in-law is visiting. Did I mention that?

I pedaled home and parked the bike and trailer, barely leaving enough room for her car. Stupid car.

Big Bongo and Dahon

After dinner, I asked, “So how about some of that orangecello?”

“No,” I was told, “We’re going to use that in a cake.”

In a cake!

What I’m really trying to say here, is that you can do anything on a bike — including being taken for granted. And that’s the way it should be.

(In a cake.)

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13 thoughts on “Liquor Store Drive-Thru by Bike”

  1. Dr. M says:

    Ted your bike commuting tales are priceless! Your wife is fortunate to have a cycling husband and not a video game couch potato although you could be that too! A man or woman who bike commutes may have a lazy day but is definitely NOT a sloth.

    I have an old Blue Sky Cycle Cart from when I used to haul the kids and a few bags of groceries. Good times, good times. However after reading this, I’m tempted to revive it for cargo use. I don’t want to look like a homeless person towing her possessions on the road. I mean, if I were, I’d embrace it and all but such is not the case,(not yet anyway). Can you recommend a few more cyclechic-ish alternatives in cargo biking? That Blue Sky won’t be going anywhere unless it’s been fully restored.

  2. Ray Lovinggood says:

    I think you are not Ted Johnson, but Rodney Dangerfield, reincarnated…

  3. Tom Bowden says:

    I once bought my Fuji fixie home from the LBS by grabbing it by the stem/bar inetersection and pulling it alongside me on my Basso. No liquor was involved and no animals of any kind were injured in the process.

  4. Ted Johnson says:

    It might ruin the story, but tonight I found out that the bottle of orangecello was not purchased with the cake in mind. Instead a very small quantity — two tablespoons — was used opportunistically in the cake, and the rest is still in the house waiting for the right occasion.

  5. Karen says:

    Dr. D:

    The cycle chic crowd favors the bakfiets. Mikael Colville-Anderson, our god, pedals kids, Christmas tree and beer in a Bullet.

  6. Karen says:

    I need more Orangecello in my life.

  7. BluesCat says:

    Twenty-one bucks for twenty-five ounces of booze?!? Jeez! I can’t think of ANY occasion — short of winning the lottery — worth THAT much!

    Heck, the Ol’ BluesCat celebrates EVERY day of Continued Verticalness with a Blue Moon at a FRACTION of that cost! Sometimes brought to my home courtesy of the Official BluesCat Beer Truck (also known as my 2008 EZ Sport recumbent).

    One drawback I have found to the economy of riding your bike through the drive-thru at the liquor store: the smirk on the face of the driver in the car behind you which says “Gotta pick up your suds with your bike now, eh? THAT’LL teach ya ta drink and drive, you Old Fool!”

  8. Don Doornbos says:

    Great story…I knew I had crossed a sort of milestone while on one of my commutes home I pulled through the CVS drive through to pick up a prescription because I didn’t have my lock with me and there really isn’t a bike-friendly lock set up anyhow. Felt kinda weird but good!


  9. BluesCat says:

    Don – I’ve ridden through the drive-thru at my local Walgreens for several years now. Back in may of 2010, I had a snippy little pharmacy tech inform me that “the NEXT time you bring a prescription down here you need to park that ‘thing’ and come into the store.”

    (You can read my blog post: Bikes Unsafe in Drive-Thrus, Really?

    To make a long story short, I wrote to the corporate headquarters of Walgreens telling them I thought they were discouraging the healthy activity of bicycling. They passed my message down to the store manager who contacted me and told me he didn’t see anything wrong with riding a bike through their drive-thru. I haven’t seen that pharmacy tech in a long time, and I’m STILL riding my bike through the drive-thru a couple of times a month!

  10. J Rob says:

    I always feel like I’m showing off when I take my bike through the drive-thru, but it hasn’t stopped me from doing it.

  11. johnnyk says:

    @BluesCat, I have had the same issues with Walgreens. I still go through the drive-thru especially since the RedBox movie rental box took the place where the bike rack used to be at my local Walgreens. I too wrote Walgreens and they responded with a message that said they would put in a work order right away to get a new bike rack installed. That was a year ago and they have yet to do anything they assured me they would do. If there was another 24hour pharmacy I could use I would. CVS is closer but they don’t keep the same hours and they don’t keep the same prescriptions in stock. Anyway they allow Motor-cycles which is the same approx. size as my commuter bike especially if I put my panniers on.

  12. BluesCat says:

    johnnyk – Yeah, from the way the Walgreens manager I spoke to put it, it seems to be left to the discretion of the individual store manager whether bikes are allowed in the drive-thrus. The overriding concern seems to be safety and liability, so I think there is plenty of ammunition there for discussing it with the store management to get his or her policy changed. To wit:

    1. I cannot find a single instance of where there has been a car/bicycle accident in a drive-thru, much less a case where a company has been sued on account of one.
    2. Most states have laws which give a bicycle the same rights to the roadway as automobiles, shouldn’t they also have the same, protected rights to parking lots, driveways and drive-thrus?
    3. A lot of riding a bike is about healthy life choices, since the one of the staples of the business of Walgreens is people’s health, why would they discourage this healthy choice?
    4. Since the corporate offices of Walgreens do not have a policy of prohibiting bikes from the drive-thrus, they evidently do not see a safety or liability issue here, how can an individual store manager see one?

    If none of these arguments work, I know of a final, parting shot which has worked a few times for me: “Gee, okay, maybe I’ll just contact the folks over at Channel So-and-So News and see what the consumer advocates THERE think of this.” 😉

  13. Ben says:

    I tried to go through a McDonald’s drive-thru once because I had just ridden quite a bit and I needed a little protein and the dining room was closed. They acted as though I wasn’t even there, so I went across the street to Wendy’s and gave them my money instead. Then I wrote McDonald’s customer service department and complained. They said that they valued my business and were looking into it, and that’s the last I heard. Needless to say I haven’t been to McDonald’s since.

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