For Jennifer Hozik and her colleagues, every day is a constant struggle.
Ms. Hozik is a pedicab driver in Annapolis, negotiating the narrow streets, huffing and puffing up the steep incline called Main Street and bearing the occasional overweight tourist around the capital city.
"My father suggested it," said the 20-year-old Kent Island resident, a senior at Washington College. "I do crew and I wanted to keep in shape."
Virginia Frisch, 19, of Annapolis, perched on her pedicab, recalls the first day she took the rickshaw-like vehicle up the slow, steady incline of King George Street.
"After I got up that hill, I thought I was going to keel over and die," she said, recalling that hot, humid day with a weary smile.
But for the 73 riders of R&R; Pedicabs Inc., their cross to bear is Main Street, the Mount Everest for the pedicab squadron. They learn ways to get around it, taking the lower-angled side streets up to Church and State circles.
The pedicab drivers work six- to seven-hour shifts, only two or three days each week to keep from physical burn out. Besides giving tourists a lift, they offer historical tidbits about Annapolis. Some drivers like to embellish their presentations.
Mike Klasmeier, 18, of Crownsville, often points out a former house of ill-repute. And Brennan McCarthy, 23, of Sherwood Forest, prefers ghost stories as well as Navy lore. He describes the early part of the century, the night before the U.S. Navy officially prohibited the alcohol ration. "The biggest party in the Navy," he said with a laugh.
Riders are paid only in tips, earning about $5 an hour. They say the money is much better on Friday and Saturday nights, when bar patrons are in a giddy, generous mood.
Besides the physical strain, the other hazard of the job is the low-payer and nonpayer. Ms. Hozik recalls a 45-minute ride one day that ended with the couple handing her a dollar. "I think they wanted to give me a 10," she said. Ms. Frisch remembers ferrying two young girls who then cupped their hands and released nothing but air.
But such instances are rare and are outweighed by the kindness of those back-seat strangers. Ms. Hozik has received a cash tip and an ice cream. And Ms. Frisch once got dinner.
Mr. McCarthy remembers one harried sailor who forgot his wife's birthday and asked the pedicab driver to go out in search of flowers and a birthday cake. He received a $17 tip.