16 December, 2005 Temperature: 21 degrees F
My alarm clock was very rude this morning. It went off just when I was dreaming about palm trees and sand, with the surf pounding in my ears. I swatted the thing until it shut up, and enjoyed another thirty minutes of blissful slumber. Then I awoke with a start. It’s Friday! I only have to put in a half day today, because of all the time I spent on the road for the audits early this week. Let’s get on the road before the zombies come out!
Zombies, you say? Yes. These are the box-creatures who, spirits drained from four days of wage slavery, stagger out onto the roads in their cars and trucks to tackle that last hurdle. Their attention is fixed on the goal. Their minds are already planning weekend activities. The last thing they are looking for is a lone iconoclast on a motorscooter. They can not, they will not, see me. I don’t belong in their plan for the day. Their gaze is focused long-range, on the end of their weekly misery. If they have to run over me to get there, too bad.
This is the way I have to think, riding a scooter in a Minnesota winter. I’m sure that most of the people who drive these vehicles mean me no harm on a personal level, but they have developed habits which endanger me no less than if they did. So I treat them all as zombies, and avoid them whenever possible.
It was still snowing this morning. The road in front of my house had another inch or two of accumulation. That meant the side streets would be dicey, and I didn’t want to deal with that. So I ran a bit of Mapquest in my head. Let’s see… If I turn left on Annapolis and go to Highway 13, I can bypass all those residential streets on the other side of the High Bridge. But that will mean crossing the bridge on Interstate 35E, which I normally avoid for any number of reasons. Traffic goes fast there, and the road is a river of brine to prevent any snow from sticking and freezing on the high-speed surface. The road spray there is usually horrendous. But if we got there early enough, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.
Well, why not? This blog needs some variety anyway. So off we went, the Baron and I. As expected, the main artery roads were well plowed and salted. Highway 13 has a forty mph speed limit, so that section was beautiful. Turning right on the ramp for 35E, I twisted the throttle to the stop. I figured that if we could reach fifty mph before we merged, we should be okay, because the other traffic would be slowing for the off-ramp in the right lane. As it turned out, there was no drama at all. We probably cut a mile and five minutes off our regular commute time. I didn’t get to enjoy the smells of breakfast cooking in the homes along the river, but today I was on a mission to get to work and get it over with.
We rode the normal route as far as the end of West River Road. Then I opted to take the speedway again, and we joined the traffic on Highway 55. This has graduated speed limits, from forty in the residential section to fifty in the industrial parks. This was well within our capabilities, but by now there were many zombies on the road and we were getting inundated with filthy road spray. I had to swipe my glove across my visor at every stoplight. All this did was to change the kaleidoscope pattern of oncoming headlights from starbursts into streaks. I couldn’t see the road surface at all, and that is never a comfortable feeling. We got to work in an hour and three minutes, but I was covered head to foot in nasty, slushy gunk.
This is the price I pay when I forget the zen nature of scooter commuting: Don’t worry, don’t hurry, you will get there all the same. You will spend the same amount of time working, no matter what time you get there. Enjoy the ride, for sometimes that is all you have.
I did my work, I served my time, and I left it all behind before noon. The Baron and I stopped at a local watering hole to visit with one of our readers. We talked about this blog and the implications of the Winter Scooter Commuter project, and we discussed his disturbing SUV habit. But he will have to find the strength within himself to break the bonds with insecurity and ego. I have planted a seed, hopefully it will grow. That is all I can do.
Tomorrow, the Baron and I are going on a road trip. We will cross the border into Wisconsin, that land of beer and cheese and antiquated motorcycle technology. There we will meet with another of our readers, a very dear friend and an excellent rider, at a coffee shop called the Daily Grind. I can’t wait. It has been too long.