Pedaling for cash: Great in downtown Minneapolis, not in Duluth

  • Updated: September 1, 2012 - 9:40 PM
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Lucky Phousirith spent his summer operating a bike cab in Minneapolis before returning the UMD, where he's a pole vaulter on the track team. Photo by CURT BROWN

You could call it foreshadowing or a lame attempt at teenage humor.

Lucky Phousirith joked with his buddies at the University of Minnesota Duluth last year about his short-lived entrepreneurial brainstorm to cure his thin-wallet blues.

"I told them I was going to start giving rickshaw rides across campus for $5," he said.

Back home earlier this summer, he was scanning Craigslist for a job when he came across one promising "the greatest summer job ever." He only hoped it would be better than his previous summer work, slinging Sonic burgers in Savage.

"I figured it would be some stupid sales job but I clicked on it anyway," he said.

The next thing he knew, he was among the hundred licensed bicycle-pedaling cabbies in downtown Minneapolis, escorting conventioneers, stag partyers and Twins fans on bar-hopping romps for Twin Town Pedicabs.

"It was work, of course, but it sure was a lot of fun," he said.

Back to start his sophomore year at UMD, where he's majoring in exercise science and pole vaulting for the track team, Phousirith smiles at his summer-job memories.

There were the two fat guys and their thin pal going a half-mile from Pizza Luce to the Marquette Hotel.

"The skinny guy had to sit on one of their laps," he said. "We have a 600-pound limit and we pushed it that night."

Then there was the romantic ride for a just-engaged couple. Gay Pride weekend was his most profitable, and the summer ended with some drama when two women lost their friend.

"We found her back outside their hotel and they started yelling for joy, 'You saved us!'"

Phousirith declined to divulge how much money he earned, saying, "we do pretty well, and it was enough that I'll definitely be back next summer."

Born Anoulack Lucky Phousirith, he was given his middle name by his grandfather, "but everyone calls me Lucky."

He grew up in Burnsville with his mom and two half sisters. His father died from a blood disorder when Lucky was a toddler. A tattoo on the underside of his right bicep -- with the scripted words "family" over "everything" -- testifies to his close-knit family values.

"My mom was shocked at first but then said she guessed it was kind of cool," he said.

He began pole vaulting as a Burnsville High sophomore, clearing 12 feet, 6 inches on his career-best leap.

"It's scary at first, but it's a good rush and mental confidence is the key," he said. "If you get psyched out on the runway, it's not happening."

With his legs now strengthened from a summer of pedalling and a workout regimen of 500 push-ups a day, he hopes to eclipse his record. But he has no plans to continue his bike-cab business on the shores of Lake Superior.

"With the hills of Duluth," Phousirith said, "that would be terrible."

CURT BROWN

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