My experience pedicab driving at the Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees baseball games at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL during Memorial Day weekend 2013.

Tropicana Field.

This baseball series was the best choice for work during that weekend because there weren’t many alternatives that were gonna pay as much as I wanted. In addition to the games, there was also the 97X Backyard BBQ music festival at Vinoy Park on Saturday May 25th. I was told working the previous year for that event was good. I didn’t work it at that time so this year would be my first one. Yankees games usually have high attendance on weekends but that wasn’t the case this time around. Vinoy Park events are usually guaranteed to be good but that also wasn’t the case this time around. Needless to say I didn’t deposit as many funds into my bank account as I expected but it still turned out to be a good weekend and an even better learning experience.

A first for me on this trip was to stay overnight in a rented room rather than sleep in my car. I found a cheap place in Tampa at the right price that I didn’t think was far from where I’d be working in St. Pete but the lesson learned from that is it’s better to pay a little more to get a place inside the city that I’m working, if possible, because when factoring in gas and travel time, I was better off with other choices available in St. Pete. But I’m glad I got the place that I did because I wouldn’t have known otherwise. With the profit expectations I had in mind and then not reaching them, that plays a factor.

The sucky part about being on the beginning part of I-275 southbound in Tampa is with all the road construction going on, you can’t get off of that highway in a timely fashion because all of the exits are closed between downtown and US 92. I checked into my room first before hitting up the Friday Rays game. Since it was a Friday during rush hour and I couldn’t exit where I wanted to (because online maps aren’t updated with the latest road changes), I arrived a little later than I would’ve preferred but it was still about the right time based on the rides I was getting. No rain in the forecast but it was pretty damn humid. I worked it the way I’ve worked every game in the past. I had no pedicab competition and that’s a good thing because that would’ve been overkill. I was expecting attendance to be near or above 30,000 like Yankees games are apt to do on weekends like this one but the final tally was just over 17,000. Far below my expectations but I made the best of the situation.

It was kinda slow at first but that’s because I wasn’t where I needed to be. The usual spots weren’t hopping so that gave me time to explore unlike in the past and that allowed me to remain consistently busy, get some rides, and make some decent money from the game. Not nearly as much as I wanted but it wasn’t a bad take at all and that surprised me. The tips were good and that helped. Being a night game, around the time it ended is when things started jumping off downtown. There was a Daddy Yankee concert at Jannus Live and he had the place on fire. There seemed to be a lot going on downtown and I was getting good rides for a while but eventually it slowed down. At that point, I left to rest up for the 97X Backyard BBQ on Saturday.

The downtown St. Pete scene ain’t bad but the main corridor is only one city block. I stayed close to that to get my rides. Cab drivers did the same. They know better than me so I had to keep my eyes open to see where people were going and coming from. On the corner where the entrance to Jannus Live is, there’s a high police presence. I saw 2 people get arrested within hours of each other. I found out that the city stops serving alcohol at 3am. Orlando is trying to go in that direction. Putting a timestamp on alcohol sales is about the same as trying to stop it from being sold on Sunday. I say let it flow 24/7. That’s what it does anyway, right? If people don’t get it from your bar or club, they’ll just get it someplace else. Loosen up the restrictions while making smart and reasonable policy to accommodate those changes and everything will work itself out.

Had I stuck around to work later that Friday night, I would’ve seen what the drunk scene was like. What I mean is, how would it look when everything is closed? In Orlando, people eat and loiter the streets (mostly guys trying to hook up with bar and club girls). Since the main corridor in St. Pete ain’t that big, it would’ve been interesting to see how things went down there. Saturday was the main reason I chose to make a 3-day weekend of it. Although the BBQ was mostly a free event and mostly tattooed and sunburned white kids attended, I didn’t think that would matter because they still had to park far away. Well, dammit, it mattered. They weren’t taking rides going to Vinoy Park and people leaving the event didn’t wanna pay what a ride is worth. I didn’t get a single ride from anyone going to the event. In the day, I only got a couple of rides leaving it from people who were willing to pay the price. At night was the same deal.

It got to the point where I abandoned the event to go work the second Rays game that was going on in the afternoon at the same time as the BBQ. That was a good move on my part because attendance was better and it was a better overall day than Friday. I did return to the BBQ when rides died down at the entrance of the Rays game but I didn’t get jack for a ride. Plenty of people coming, plenty of people going, nobody riding. Another pedicab driver did get one ride but even he abandoned the event along with cabbies and golf cart drivers. It wasn’t worth it.

I got a lot of inquiries about rides and when I told people how much it was gonna cost, they didn’t bite. I know now that’s what goes along with most free events. Definitely not all of them but this one for sure. Some would like to compare it to the Vans Warped Tour. Same demographic, same music, same venue, but the difference is the Warped Tour is a PAID ticketed event and people take rides and spend money because of it. I worked it for the first time last year and it was an excellent event to work. It’s pretty obvious I won’t be working another of these BBQ’s. I returned to The Trop for rides and I continued to get them. Baseball was the better option for me. No rain again and it wasn’t as humid. Once the game was over, the BBQ was still going on so I went back there to work the exit but got few rides out of it. I’ll take a few rides over no rides.

97X Backyard BBQ.

It was a long and brutal day and I had an acceptable haul. When the concert was completely over, the wind picked up tremendously and the temperature dropped accordingly. No way was I gonna work downtown with winds that high slowing me down. In combination with the hilly roads in the area, I called it a day. It was such a beautiful night with a full moon that I went into Vinoy Park for the first time to relax on a bench overlooking the waterfront and facing downtown. It was peaceful and I got some much needed rest and grub as the winds, cool temperatures, and lunar cycle made for what could’ve been a very romantic evening.

I was rested enough that I still attempted to get some rides downtown and got 2 of them. The last one was a party of 5 going up Central Avenue which is steeply uphill from the waterfront. I thought I could do it but couldn’t. It was just like another ride I had at the BBQ with a party of 4 wanting to go up 5th Avenue from the park but it gets really steep and I was out of juice. I had to let them off. I knew it was time for me to go home when I’m not able to complete rides but at least I learned some things. One is to not ever work the BBQ again and the other is not to take too large of a load when your body isn’t ready for it. I know the dollar signs are tempting but customer satisfaction and maintaining a healthy body are equally as important.

Had it been earlier in the day, sure, I could’ve taken those large parties. It’s wise to know where people are going when working in downtown St. Pete because you definitely don’t wanna go in the direction of a steep road. Unfortunately, it’s easy to do and that limits the effectiveness of a pedicab in that environment. A cab or golf cart can be better options depending on party size and direction of travel. No, the wind didn’t give me a boost uphill at all and yes, it was blowing in that direction. It just wasn’t my night but overall it was a successful day.

On Sunday May 26th is when I applied the knowledge I gained from the previous 2 days of Rays games to get rides. I knew where to go, how to stage, where the flow was coming from, and all that good stuff. I stayed pretty busy during the game which had a late exit. The Saturday game went extra innings and that helps to make more money because you can have a good average per hour but it doesn’t mean much if the hours aren’t long. Sunday didn’t have extra innings but people were trickling out of the stadium long after the game ended for some reason. I have no idea why. I was the only person who stuck around. The golf cart and cab drivers had long since left. Sunday was a decent day just like the other ones.

I’m glad I worked that weekend in St. Pete because even with games of low attendance, I know how to make money at those games now, so when a big one comes up, I’ll be fully prepared on how to stay busy. The key is understanding that people arrive late for shit so it’s not always a good idea to think something has died down when it really hasn’t. That’s how I got some rides that I never did before in the past. Observation. It’s a good skill to develop. I had a great time in St. Pete. I learned some things at the Rays games and worked downtown more extensively than the one time I did in the past at the first Honda Grand Prix that I worked.

I’d say the highlight of my trip was relaxing at Vinoy Park. The view from there and the feeling I had while there is another reason why St. Pete is my favorite city to work in although I can do without the steep roads. While chilling on the bench, I saw the masses of people who left the BBQ stuck in traffic. It was just as bad as when I worked there on the 4th of July. I mean, traffic wasn’t moving at all for a very long time. That’s because cops don’t do a good job of getting things moving. They operate based on traffic signal cycling when they should be the ones taking control to get people on the interstate. Same thing happened at The Trop. In Orlando, the cops will cuss you out and even kick your car if you don’t move your ass or stop when they tell you to. Yes, I’ve seen it happen. I’m not saying St. Pete cops should become assholes like Orlando cops but they’ve got work to do when it comes to efficiently directing traffic. What it really is is collecting an easy paycheck. Why work hard when you don’t have to?

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