16 November, 2005 Temperature: 20 degrees
We barely got an inch of snow last night, but that wasn’t the problem. When I got off work at around four p.m., it was raining and about 34 degrees. In other words, freezing rain. This is one of those weather conditions which are dangerous no matter how many wheels you have underneath you. Fortunately, it was not yet freezing on the roads, and I figured I had better get home before it did. The other bad thing about the rain was the fact that it found every non-waterproof chink in my cold weather armor. By the time I pulled into my driveway, my hands and feet were numb with cold.
Lesson: I need better gloves and boots.
The Kanetsu electric liner worked as advertised, keeping my core nice and warm. I began noticing ice patches on the road when I was only about three miles from home. The bike wiggled and hunted a bit on it’s dry-road tires, but I found that dragging my feet at about 25 mph stabilized the ride. I don’t think there will be much danger of falling in these conditions, but sliding past a stop sign or traffic signal is a real possibility, if I don’t take the proper precautions.
There was no question of trying to ride to school, staying until late at night, and then trying to deal with the freshly frozen roads all the way home. In the dark. That would be just plain stupid. I drove the car to school. Still, I completed my 50 mile daily commute on the scooter, in tough conditions, and I’m pretty satisfied with the results.
This morning, the rain had turned to snow flurries. The Baron started right up on battery, but the idle rpm was erratic. I may have to figure out how to install a manual choke on this machine. I let some air out of the tires, so they might get better traction on the frozen spots, and we left my driveway at 7:25 a.m.
The Saint Paul side of the commute was pleasant, with most of the roads in “good winter driving conditions”. This is traffic-wonk speak for wet, chemically-treated roads with salty/sandy/slushy patches. However, as soon as I crossed the Lake Street Bridge, from Ramsey into Hennepin county, there was a marked change in the amount of traction available. It seems that big-time Minneapolis had no real interest in keeping the side streets clear of snow. They sprinkled salt and sand haphazardly at stopsigns and some corners, but for the most part they seem really stingy with their resources. I hope this changes as the season wears on. Kudos for Ramsey County and the City of Saint Paul. Keep up the good work!
So, there was no gazing at scenery this morning. All my attention was on the patch of pavement about 50 feet ahead of my front wheel, and the movement of the surrounding traffic. What a difference two hours makes in the level of traffic activity! Leaving at 5:30 in the morning, the Baron and I had the streets to ourselves. By 7:30, there were cars, trucks, and SUVs everywhere, and none of them expected to see a scooter on the road.
We got a whole spectrum of reactions from our fellow commuters: from smiles and waves or thumbs-up; to scowls and impatient honks from those in a hurry. Invariably, those who scowled and honked were driving some expensive luxury car or SUV, had a cell phone glued to their ear, and were stomping on the gas like it was still under a buck-a-gallon. I guess these are People Who Matter. How dare I get in their way on this little toy? “Make way, peasant!”.
It will be interesting to see how these attitudes evolve over the course of the winter. If the same people see us out there, day after day, will they become more sympathetic? Or more aggressive? Stay tuned….