The 5 O’clock Horror Show

Weather: 31°F (0°C) Under partly cloudy skies.
Road Conditions: Dry and salty.

Scarlet pauses in front of that other city, Minneapolis.

The name of this blog implies that I do my rambling during rush hour, which is true. However, the point of my rambling is to find a way around the typical rush hour gridlock, and search for adventure on the way home from work. So far, so good…

However, there are two distinct rush hours here in our Twin Cities. The earlier one is predominantly blue-collar, and it takes place from 3 pm to around 4:30. This is when I ramble the sidestreets, because most of these folks make a beeline for the freeways. The sidestreets allow me to keep moving, with occasional stops for signs or lights, but I never get stuck in gridlock.

If I stop at a restaurant on one of my ramble plans, I always stay until well after the White Collar Yuppie Rush starts at 5 pm. Why? Because by that time, the freeways are a hopeless mess, and the cell-phone yacking, SUV-driving scum let their GPS’s guide them through these mazelike streets which I took so long to explore on my own. They overwhelm the street’s capacity in a hurry, and become stacked up behind these stopsigns and signal lights until nobody can get anywhere!

Normally, I try to avoid this situation like the plague. But last night, I had no choice…

I worked a bit later than usual, and I had a couple of stops to make on the way home. But my wife Amy had a doctor’s appointment at 6:30, so Scarlet and I found ourselves having to navigate home through the legions of Lexi and battalions of BMWs. It was one of the hairiest missions we have ever taken on.

What is it with Yuppies and their need to control everything? Multi-tasking behind the wheel, they still saw us in their rearview mirrors as we stalked them, setting up a pass.

This happened several times; as soon as we pulled into the left lane, they would either speed up with their considerable V8 torque and run right up on the next line of behemoths, or actually pull over into us, essentially trying to run us off the road! Apparently, they are so comprehensively insured that they can risk manslaughter of a scooterist on a public street in front of many witnesses.

Why? Because of course, the witnesses are all of their own kind:

“Of course she ran him over, your Honor! The little hooligan was trying to PASS her! On a SCOOTER! This just cannot be allowed. We must keep these people in their proper place, which of course, is behind us!”

Since Scarlet doesn’t have the ground clearance or suspension of Frogwing, I had to get very creative in my tactics for getting around these monsters. Many times I cursed my mittens for muzzling my middle finger. But in the end we did it… We made it home in time. And since my lawyer is out of town right now, that’s all I’m going to say.

16 Responses to “The 5 O’clock Horror Show”

  1. Bill Sommers Says:

    Once again, the Mad Max-mobile drivers got to see that happy scooterist using his back handed waving technique.

    I think that the Yuppy Handbook clearly reads that “You do control everything, as far as you know”. I for one, despise everything about what makes up the “Young Urban Professional” attitude, and how it applies to their “Better than thou” style of driving. Dangerous people.

    Have fun,

  2. Nikodelrey Says:

    Yesterday I was tooling around on my KLR when I saw a homemade bumper sticker that read, “Bikes Start Seeing Motorists”. It may of just been referring to bicyclist but perhaps to motorcycliest as well. Thankfully I had gloves on and didn’t need to curse my mittens. When a cage hits someone on two wheels the cage wins and when someone on two wheels hit a cage the cage still wins. I guess I don’t get his complaint. However I did have fun tooling around Saint Paul.
    Ciao, Nick

  3. Sidewalk Dan Says:

    I was just thinking – ‘hey, isn’t that MPLS???’

    Unfortunate for me that’s my daily skyline – though I see it from the Whorehouse – I mean Warehouse District.

    Any chance you are behind the Guthrie by the Mississippi Mile?

  4. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Bill: I couldn’t believe how true these people were being to their stereotype. I passed lines of them, all bumper-to-bumper, all nattering into their Nokias, and the ones that were actually paying attention were either scowling at me or actively trying to kill me!

    I guess all that money they make still doesn’t give them any peace of mind… Either that, or they are all “Agents” from The Matrix?

    Niko: “Motorists”? HAH! That’s almost as ridiculous as calling them “drivers”. Most of these people are just barely above passenger status, and the industry keeps making vehicles that caters to those who don’t want to be bothered with actually piloting the thing.

    I couldn’t wear mittens on a KLR, or any standard motorcycle for that matter. It would work for the left hand, but not for the right; I always cover the front brake with two fingers.

    Sidewalk Dan: Yes, that’s exactly where I was. This is the first right turn after the board-street in front of the Mill Ruins Museum and Guthrie Theatre. Those ugly orange fences are everywhere down along the waterfront these days.

    Ride well,

  5. DaveT Says:

    I have an idea, totally unworkable, of course. Along with a driver license you are issued a paint ball “marker”. When you see someone driving unsafely, yakking on a cell phone, or just being an idiot behind the wheel, you tag their car with a paint ball. The police are empowered to stop any vehicle covered with paint splotches and charge the driver with “Excessive stupidity in the operation of a motor vehicle.” Their license is immediately confiscated and they will not get it back until they take remedial driver training and pass a driving test, at their own expense. Repeat offenders will be encouraged to ride a bicycle. :) Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

    Ride safe
    Dave T.

  6. Dan Jones Says:

    Seems to me it’s not just two-wheelers they can’t cope with. On the way back from McGregor last weekend we had several repeats of this scenario.

    Speed limit 55-60. SUV toddling along at a liesurely 50 MPH. Stay politely back waiting for opportunity to pass. Passing lane opens up so I signal, speed up, pull left, and start to pass. As I pull alongside the SUV seems to have picked up speed. now going 75 and staying even. A final mash on the gas pedal and I eventually creep past at 85 MPH as the passing lane begins to close.

    WTF is up with that? Ego problem? Control freak? Or just plain A**hole? Thank goodness the Tacoma has that little extra burst of juice or I’d be stuck behind these characters forever.

    On the scoot I’m extremely cautious of these drivers. I don’t want their ego problems to become my physical problems.

    Ramblin’ Dan

  7. Gary Charpentier Says:

    DaveT: I like your idea. But of course, these are the same people who involve themselves in politics, so it would never even get off the ground, let alone fly.

    Ramblin’ Dan: I think it’s both ego problem and control issue. These folks are all about ego. They spend a lot of money on a big, powerful gas hog, and they expect absolute supremacy on the roads because of it. They will travel at their chosen speed, and nobody is allowed to pass them, because it might make them feel icky. It might make a certain part of their anatomy shrink. Then they have to double their dose of “Enzyte” to compensate, and buy an even bigger gas hog. It’s a vicious cycle, really, and I almost feel sorry for them. *Almost…*

    Ride well,

  8. Lobsterman Says:

    This sort of behavior isn’t limited to Yuppies or SUVs, Lexi, BMW etc.

    This morning on my 7 mile commute into downtown Cincinnati, I was passed twice – on the right – by beater Honda types coming from the blue collar side of town.

    Apparently they both decided that I couldn’t possibly accelerate or go fast enough on that little orange scooter to be allowed in front of them. Never mind that I could easily beat them to the posted speed limit on that street and exceed that limit by another 30mph or so. They both passed on my right and then cut me off. There’s even a left lan they could have used to do it legally.

  9. Jos Harrison Says:

    I see this all the time as I drive a lesser vehicle. While I don’t ride my scooter any more (and its up for sale), I do drive a taxi, and you should see how we get treated by other drivers, particularly those in expensive cars. Remember, taxis are scum of the earth, and should be run off the road at every opportunity.. at least that’s how these people act.

  10. Harvey Binder Says:

    Thank all that is good I live where I do. When I lived in north Minneapolis I gave up riding motorcycles altogether. Sorry, but the dumbest people the world over got together and designed those so called “roads” I grew up in the Milwaukee and south Chicago area so you could say I’m familiar with heavy traffic. The roads to get anywhere [in the twin cities] are a needless maze. Entrance and exit ramps should not cause drivers to intersect each other. And merging freeways are not supposed to be gotten to from both the fast AND slow lanes. Before we can even deal with the road users who veil their craving to be respected by looking down upon the people in the lane next to them, we have to recitfy the Knot of No Exit ie anything inside 494/694. Let’s make the roads sensible first. I can live with insecure drivers because they’re pretty predictable. I have a very difficult time accepting poorly designed roads. Especially when they exist for generations without significant improvement.

    Harv aka The Roadbum

  11. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Lobsterman: Nice name! I would like to hear the story behind that.

    Anyway, you’ve got to remember, when you say “Honda”, it could mean either cages or bikes. I’m going to assume bikes here, although I wouldn’t put it past most of the “Fast and Furious” crowd to do the same thing.

    What can I say? These were probably youngsters, nerves jazzed by caffiene and adrenaline, and reflexes honed by video games. They have no concept of manners or even morals these days, so what’s to stop them?

    Still, the issue is not the same. They were passing you. Sure, it was a dangerous and illegal way to pass, but for whatever reason, they felt the need to go faster.

    In my case, the Yuppies were trundling along in their linear herd, clogging up my usual pathway home. When I decided to pass them in the absence of oncoming traffic, some of them decided to block me because I was on a scooter. I didn’t rate the same consideration I would have had if I had been driving, say, a Porsche Cayenne. This is Class Warfare on the roads, pure and simple.

    Joe: See the Class Warfare reference above. That’s what we have come to, here in the Twenty-First Century. “All men are created equal.”? Sure, but some are more “equal” than others…

    Harvey: I could write a book in response to that. But I cannot accept the premise that road design, maintenance, and construction are purely to blame. I agree about the pure cloverleaf intersection. Cars have become too capable of rapid braking and acceleration to make that design viable anymore. The diamond interchange has always been superior. But I do love to take a fine sportbike for a 60mph bank into one of those 25mph exits.

    The point is that some people in our culture have become so focused on making and managing money that even driving has become a chore they would rather not deal with. When they do pay attention, they notice people like me trying to get around them, and their egos kick in. Then they endanger my life by making aggressive moves, secure in the belief that the worst that can happen is that they will have to pay their deductable. Ho Hum… right?

    Meanwhile, my wife and child lose their husband and father, all because some college-educated twit had a tantrum in traffic.

    My point is this: don’t blame it on the roads, and don’t blame it on the government. In the end, we all have to live together, and we all have to travel. Nobody has the right to kill somebody else out there on the roads, just because they were trying to get where they are going.

    Ride well,

  12. Harvey Binder Says:

    I gotta say that with proper roads people do drive differently. More relaxed. The population of Chicago should cause more distress but it doesn’t. Yes people need to take responsibility but take outdated road design out of the equation and the driving population settles into a manageable pattern very quickly. Albeit traffic picks up speed but the flow and the cordial attitude is much improved.

    Correct the roads and some of the frustration goes away. Maybe the need to be the top dog in some cases too. I do very much blame the outdated design of the roads. Not that anyone has to agree with me, either. I’m ok with that as long as people are ok with my views as I am with theirs.


  13. Steve Williams Says:

    Sounds like a horrific ride even in a cage. Thankfully I never have to face that unless I travel to New York, Philadelphia, or Pittsburgh. We have lots of yuppies, seniors, blue and white collar workers here in central Pennsylvania and don’t have the sort of Mad Max nutiness though.

    I’ll point my finger at the density of the population and resulting frantic living that comes from that especially on the road. While I have had more than one run in with a mindless driver here for the most part people are extremely polite on the road and almost fall over themselves to let others go ahead. A benefit of having only 125,000 souls, half segregated on campus, in a community.

    I have been to cities that I would love to live in but it always came with this comment—- as long as I could live in an area that I would not have to drive. If I could walk or use a subway that would be the ticket.

    I ride with mittens this time of year and don’t find them restrictive at all. *grin*

    Take care of yourself out there Gary!

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

  14. Mad Says:

    Seems to be a lot this kind of thing going around lately, looking at Snarks post, your post and my last post. I guess the car drivers are comming out of their huddled hibernations inside their boxes and are looking to bag a few rider’s heads as trophies.

  15. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Harvey: Point taken. See below…

    Steve: Yes, I have seen the bucolic roads you ride, and I’ve envious. The road where all of this happened is beautiful, running right alongside the river as it does, but these folks don’t even appreciate the beauty. All they are doing is avoiding the gridlock on the freeway by creating gridlock on the parkway. The whole situation is ridiculous. I’ve got to credit Roadbum with his observation that our roads have not kept up with our population growth, but as long as people are going to remain allergic to taxes, I don’t see how we are going to solve this.

    Mad: Hey, he lives! Long time, no see…

    Yes, they are bringing their road-rage with them when they leave the freeways and invade my sidestreets. I can’t wait until Spring, when I can get back aboard Frogwing and pass the lot of them on the grass!

    Ride well,

  16. Lobsterman Says:


    Sorry about the Honda reference, I realize on reflection that was ambiguous. These weren’t bikes or Fast and Furious video game hopped up kids. These Hondas were 4 door commuter cages driven by adults.

    I think it is mostly the same as your situation. Had I been in a car they never would have passed me on the right from a stop light, but the scooter isn’t given consideration. I see it every day on my commute.

    I am generally given respect (or at least respectfully safe treatment) by bikes of all kinds while on my scooter. Cages and pedestrians often act as if I am not there, even when they can clearly see me. This manifests itself in all kinds of rude behavior on the road.

    As for the lobsterman thing, it goes back lots of years and involves a very bad sunburn.