NEAR WEST SIDE — As the Blackhawks gear up to continue their record-breaking streak on the ice Wednesday night, two Garfield Park men will also gear up, but far from the relatively warm confines of the United Center.
Regardless of the weather, Mike Gifford and Dave Ryndak will be on the streets on the Near West Side — taking fans to and from the game vs. the Colorado Avalanche on the back of their pedicabs.
Wednesday night's chilly temperatures won't stop them, just as they slogged through the elements during the biggest snowstorm in two years Tuesday night.
Gifford and Ryndak, both 27, were out on Madison Street braving the freezing temperatures and slushy streets. Fans laughed as they happily hopped on the back of the open-air pedicabs for the short trip to the United Center even as the snow fell around them.
“Some of my favorite rickshaw rides were taken in blizzards,” Ryndak said. “There are definitely spirited customers. I like that.”
Ryndak was bundled in several layers of wool clothing and his feet were wrapped with plastic garbage bags to protect them from the elements.
Business has been good during the Blackhawks' streak.
“Hawks fans and Bears fans — it doesn’t matter what the weather is. They’ll still take pedicab rides,” said Gifford.
Gifford and Ryndak work for themselves and have been driving pedicabs at Chicago sporting events and concerts for seven years. They can typically be found before United Center events in front of West End bar, 1326 W. Madison St.
“It’s a good distance. It’s kind of close, but kind of far. People don’t want to walk it,” Gifford said.
After games, the two are stationed on Madison right in front of the United Center.
“After the game, traffic’s all messed up. And last year during the snow storms, during the Blackhawks games, were some of my best days,” said Gifford. “You can make some good money if you tough it out.”
Most pedicab rides for two people cost between $25 and $35 to go to either the Madison Street bars after the game, to the downtown train stations or to Halsted to find a taxi.
And during games? “We sit at Dunkin Donuts and watch CNN and drink coffee,” Gifford said with a laugh.
Ryndak said there’s no secret to driving a pedicab in the harsh weather: “You just got to muster the internal sunshine,” he quipped, even on the dark and gloomy nights of a Chicago winter.