Temporary Sanity

Weather: Sunny and 86°F (30°C)

"Buy the ticket, take the ride." - HST

“Buy the ticket, take the ride.” – Hunter S. Thompson

“Sometimes, the ride takes YOU!” – =gc=

Yesterday was Ride to Work Day, and it rained hard on us here in the Twin Cities. Scarlet O’Baron and I were the only motorbike on the roads, or so it seemed. I didn’t see another rider all the way to work, and it wasn’t even raining then. What a shame.

Today is another perfect Minnesota Summer day. The sky is so blue, it almost hurts to look at it. Especially when I stand up in my cube, and gaze longingly out the window across the room.

I had a meeting with The Boss this morning, and instead of using the conference room we had reserved, he elected to hold it outside at the picnic table. It was so nice out there that going back inside was pure torture.

I think that is what made me snap…

By lunchtime, I was fidgeting in front of my computer screen, trying but failing to concentrate on the technical procedure I was supposed to be writing. Something had happened to the chemicals in my brain, and I was beginning to have Dangerous Thoughts.

Existential Gravity was pulling against the perfectly rational desire to get out and enjoy this beautiful weather, before the rains come again as they are forecasted tomorrow. This is not a Professional Attitude, I thought. What was happening to me? Is this how ordinary, everyday workers suddenly go sane?

After lunchtime, I had to run one more report for the day, and then it was back to that horrible writing assignment. The Boss was walking by, on his way to another meeting, and before I could think about what I was doing, I found myself trotting up to him and asking:

“Is there any sort of off-the-cuff reason you would accept for me taking the rest of today off?”

A tiny smile turned the corners of his mouth up, almost imperceptibly. “Sure!”, he said. “You’re not working on anything hot right now, are you?”

Yeah, I know… this was a trap. It is the kind of thing that brings an avalanche of wretched new assignments crashing down on your head, burying you in the rubble of your own self-indulgence.

Still, he knew by my own admission that my head just wasn’t in the game this afternoon. I was already commited to this rash course of action, and we both knew that too.

“Nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow.”, I said. “I’ll wrap things up nice and neat so I can start right in early tomorrow morning.”

He nodded, and walked off, already seconds late for his meeting. I went back to my cubicle in a daze. My heart rate had jumped, and I felt the endorphins beginning to circulate through my system.

FREEDOM! The sun, the sky, and the roads were calling me. I shut everything down, and tried not to gloat as I bid my fellow workers farewell for the day. I punched the clock, and flew out the door. In seconds, Scarlet and I were on the road, with no idea where to go but Away!

And away we went. We stayed on the sidestreets, to savor the peace and quiet of empty residential neighborhoods. We meandered towards the river, past hundreds of houses, but I saw very few children playing outside. How strange, I thought. Where are they? I saw their bicycles, balls, and other yard toys laying about, but the kids were nowhere to be seen.

What a change from when I grew up. During the summers, we had the run of the neighborhood, from right after breakfast until our mothers hollered out the door for us to come in for lunch. Sometimes their voices had to reach a whole block away to get our attention. Marine drill instructors could learn a thing or two from some of those ladies.

But everyone on this side of town has cable TV these days. When a hundred and fifty channels aren’t enough, the kids have their video games to absorb them in the air-conditioned comfort of the family home theater. So I suppose the call of the great outdoors isn’t as strong in them as it was with us. Our moms monopolized the black and white TV with their daily dose of soap operas, so there was really nothing at all for us to do indoors but help out with the housework.

Then you have to think about the fear instilled in every kid nowadays of the malevolent stranger, the predator who might scoop them off the front lawn and into some terrible ordeal to be viewed in full color on the evening news. Better to stay rooted in front of the tube, where the advertisers can reach them reliably, and shape their synapses to create good consumers who will buy on credit.

Yikes! Where did all that come from? I thought I was just going to tell you about my wonderful stolen weekday afternoon ride, my brief attack of sanity.

Yes. Let’s get back to that.

Eventually, Scarlet and I made it to West River Road. Her cooling system was functioning well, after the mods we made during development. I actually opened up the grille vents a bit more with a Dremel tool last night, to increase the airflow through the radiator. This allows the engine to operate in it’s nominal temperature range, in all conditions from idling in heavy traffic to full throttle on the freeway.

I can foresee a lot of this kind of tinkering in my immediate future, as Scarlet O’Baron is my very own hotrod scooter, and not just a development mule. This means that I can be a little more radical in the modifications I make, because they don’t have to be suitable for mass production.

The river road was almost empty of motorized traffic, but there were scads of cyclists and joggers out enjoying an extended lunchtime workout.

I really did have some errands to run, and they would be taken care of presently. But for the moment, I just wanted to savor these nearly empty roads, in the precious few hours before the after-work rush. With the sun directly overhead, the light was too harsh to make for good photography, so the camera remained stowed under the seat.

Eventually we made it to our river crossing at the Lake Street bridge. We stopped in the bike lane, in the middle of the bridge, just to look out at the water and the boats and the beautiful green parkland that stretched off to the horizon. The Twin Cities really are a nice place to live, as long as you don’t have to travel the freeways on a regular basis.

On the Saint Paul side of the river, we made short work of my errands. Then we headed for home, just as the rush hour got under way. Scarlet is just as nimble in traffic as her lighter, less powerful brother was. The bonus, of course, is when it comes time to pass. I don’t have to plot and plan the maneuver so much, but just twist the grip and make a move. There are still some cages who can spoil our fun if they choose to, but for the most part, that extra 100ccs make life a good bit simpler, and perhaps even a little safer.

It’s amazing how profound a mere two hours can be, when they are taken away from the insanity of the daily grind, and given over to the simple enjoyment of personal freedom. And there is no better vehicle on which to experience this than the humble motorbike, be it a scooter or a full-dress Hog.

Tomorrow I will arrive at work refreshed, and ready to take on that assignment that was giving me so much trouble today. These moments of temporary sanity pay dividends that cannot be measured by the cold, stark metrics of the business world.

But now I know that my boss understands, and that is a revelation that I never could have predicted. It means a lot.

15 Responses to “Temporary Sanity”

  1. Terry Says:

    I along with a few others made the Ride To Work journey. We were short, by half, the normal numbers but did make it. Odd, as I have only driven my car once to work since May. To me, it would be something different to “ride” my car to work in July.

    As a bonus, my wife called to inform me that a new ORANGE Frogg Toggs rainsuit had arrived as an early B-Day gift from my parents. Life is good…

  2. Mad Says:

    Great, now I feel like taking an afternoon off…

  3. SAM Says:

    I too rode to work on Ride to Work Day. In fact it was pleasing to think that I purchased the bike and got it road-worthy just in time for Ride to Work Day. I find myself excited each morning for my commute to work. Why? Because it isn’t so much my commute, but instead joyful ride.

    Sometimes it just feels good to be a responsible citizen who refuses to give in to the steel caged pressure.

    My new mantra “Two wheels or no wheels.”

  4. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Terry: Orange? They still won’t see you.

    Mad: Like The Man says, “Just Do It.”

    SAM: You hit the RTW nail on the head right there. I mean, we love to ride, right? It is our hobby, our passion, our way of life. It is the reason we work in the first place, when you get right down to it. (Besides all the obvious family subsistence stuff… don’t interrupt me here, I’m on a roll.)

    So riding to work, we get to indulge in our passion. It may look like we are merely commuting, like all the rest of the sheep out there, but in fact we are Having Fun in Public.

    This, of course, is illegal if the thought police catch you doing it.

    But they haven’t caught on yet.

    Ride well,

  5. Steve Williams Says:

    I rode to work and the weather was fine. Lots of other bikes on the road and the 5 motorcycle spaces at my office were filled—Vespa, Goldwing, Harley, BMW, Vespa. Two Vespas at our place now!

    I certainly relate to the antsy I-want-to-be-somewhere-else feeling, both as an employee and a boss. Like you my boss is open to those times when it would be better for me to be somewhere else and I afford the same to my staff.

    About riding through neighborhoods with no kids in sight—I see the same thing here. When I was a kid I was out the door by 9AM on a Saturday morning (had to watch a few cartoons) and my friends and I would be gone until dinner building forts, exploring new places, making dirt bombs, playing ball, mumbly peg, teasing girls, climbing trees, walking into town to check out the new stuff in the toy store or Western Auto for a look at bicycles. It was a full kid life.

    I can only figure that kids now are not allowed to venture out, that they prefer air-conditioning to the harsh realities of weather, that video games and computers are more compelling than digging holes in the woods and tossing dirt clods at each other. And god forbid should a kid acquire a BB gun and blink at bottles, birds, chipmonks or whatever other unfortunate target should appear….

    Anways, this is about riding. And riding is a lot like those kid adventures for me. I turned 52 on Ride to Work day. And that ride was just one more adventure!

    Have fun on Scarlet O’Baron.


  6. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Steve: Pretty much everyone of our generation, (At 43 years old, I’m at the very tail end of the `boomers, I think…) had a similar experience growing up.

    But with the advent of Cable TV, Video Games, and 24-hour news channels, the children all but disappeared from the streets. The news channels took scary stories from all around the country, and made them feel like they were happening in your own backyards.

    So even though the number of rabid child-molesters probably didn’t suddenly increase exponentially, the exposure they got in the media certainly did.

    Yes, with all of our wonderful new technology, we also got a great big dose of Fear, which was gleefully stoked by a broadcast media who now envisioned a huge, captive audience.

    Well, screw all this soapbox stuff. My daughter Emily is downstairs right now, getting ready for our scooter ride to the zoo. Time to get on with real life in meatspace…

    Ride well,

  7. seagullplayer Says:

    Great reads, I have been gone to Church Camp with teenagers…
    Anyway, just got caught back up.
    I’ll have to check out your cuz’s blog.
    On average I near miss one deer a week on my ride to work. Your right, after a while you just stop even talking about it. We don’t have moose, but we do see the stray cow now and again.

    Rubber down

  8. Biker Betty Says:

    That is a really nice boss you have. Glad to hear Scarlet O’Baron is working out nicely. How many cc’s is she again? Sounded like a nice afternoon. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Wishing you many more adventures, Betty :)

  9. Craig Says:

    Hey Gary, I like your writing, it has a very honest voice, and I have a question that needs an honest answer. Who am I? I’m torn between to two fraternal twins; the Suzuki SV1000S and the Ducati S4R.

    Presumably either bike will carry a social message that will define me, which message should I send?

    The Ducati is gorgeous. But with it comes the risk of having to endure smugness from those who own cheaper bikes that are actually running.

    The Suzuki is more comfortable and cheaper. But, I will probably own no more than two or three motorcycles in my lifetime, I cant afford to waste them.

  10. Gary Charpentier Says:

    SGP: This has been a busy month, putting on lots of miles. I assume my readers are doing the same, and that’s a good thing.

    Betty: Scarlet is 250ccs in a 150 chassis. This translates to Big Fun, as you will see in my next post.

    Craig: You’re joking, right? The motorcycle you buy should be defined by your riding needs, and by what you can afford to spend. You can personalize any motorbike to send any message you want, if that is important to you. Are you choosing between motorbikes here, or lifestyles?

    Of course, I appreciate your reference to stereotypes. But if you are really trying to decide between the two bikes, I would take a hard look at what you are trying to get out of your motorcycle experience. The SV is a perfectly adequate sport-tourer, and if that is what you are looking for, it seems kind of silly to spend the extra money on the S4.

    However, I also understand the lure of Ducati. Years ago, I worked two full-time jobs for six months in order to save up enough $$$ to buy one. They certainly do cast a spell. But it is more of an aesthetic experience than a practical one. Does that make any sense?

    Well, good luck to you, whichever you choose.

    Ride well,

  11. irondad Says:

    Funny you should write this blog post at this exact time. I was just reviewing 6 weeks at this new job. Life is so much more awesome as I can actually be and express my natural self. Here we are more “goal” oriented than “task” oriented. We’re actually encouraged to recharge creativity for the next rush of action by taking “active rest”.

    Like the immortal words of Br’er Rabbit: Please don’t throw me in that briar patch!”

    You nailed it on the head with the “Fun in Public” thing. We look serious as commuters. I try to hide the lifting of the corner of my mouth. I call it a sneer but it’s really a grin.

  12. Gary Charpentier Says:

    “irondad” Dan: There is no hiding the joy that I take from riding. People all around me notice it every day, and that’s probably why motorcycle ridership has increased at least 50% at every workplace where I have held a job.

    I take great pleasure in helping potential riders shop for a first bike, and directing them to the local MSF course. You might, as others have, call me a “Moto-Evangelist”. I preach the gospel of two-wheels (and-a-motor) to anyone who will listen, any time I can.

    But then, I’m sure you do too…

    Yes, we do enjoy a high level of synchronicity. Thanks Dan…

    Ride well,

  13. Biker Betty Says:


    I guess I’m a “Moto-evangelist” too (and my husband). We are always sharing the joys of motorcycling. And if anyone shows interest we tell them to take the MSF course first. We took the MSF course first, to see if we still enjoyed motorcycling (it had been many years since we had been on bikes). We learned soooo much in the course and were glad we took it before buying anything. We took the course, loved it totally, then hunted thru the papers for used bikes. We both found our respective bikes within weeks and now life is good. Betty :)

  14. TrackstarNate Says:

    I am saving my money for a honda ruckus, or similar 250 scoot! And I plan on riding it through the winter on a 15 mile or so commute to work from eden prairie to bloomington. I really enjoyed reading your blog!! semper fi!!

  15. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Betty: Keep spreadin’ the word, Sister!

    TrackstarNate: Thanks for writing in. Does your name refer to the great Trackstar Motorsports store that is now defunct? That place was so cool, and to have a coffeehouse on-site just made it all the better.

    But of course, as with everything else nowadays, Nothing Cool Ever Lasts.

    The Ruckus seems like it would be the perfect mount for winter, right out of the box. Good luck, and please check in from time to time, to let us know how it’s going. Better yet, start a blog!

    Semper fi,