Weather: Sunny and 86Â°F (30Â°C)
“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.