19 December, 2005 Temperature: -8 degrees F
What a difference eleven degrees make.
On Saturday, when we rode to Wisconsin, it was three degrees Farenheit. That was cold, but quite manageable. This morning, the atmosphere felt dangerous. Walking out my front door was like stepping out of a spaceship onto another planet. I think it was a good bit more humid, because I saw some fog in the air around the streetlights. The fact that it was dark out when I left only added to the menacing illusion. Eight degrees below zero might just be Danger Cold.
My garage door was frozen shut. I had to beat and kick the thing to break it loose, and that boosted my respiration and heart rate up a notch. Then, after I had extricated the Baron from his cave, when I pushed the button to close the door, it only stopped for a split second, and then opened back up. The ice caked on the bottom was playing hell with the safety circuit. So I grabbed the shovel and scraped all the packed snow and ice off the bottom of the door, and off the floor where it seats. It went down and stayed closed the second time, but now I was perspiring underneath all my layers of cold weather gear.
The Baron started, but wouldn’t idle. I think the oil had thickened up a bit overnight, and I had to sit there and tweak the throttle to keep him running until he warmed up. Still, I have to say I am mightily impressed that this bargain-class, Chinese scooter is standing up to all of this cold weather abuse. I don’t think that a big-name-brand scooter could do any better. None of them are designed for this.
Every system on the scooter was complaining about the cold. The key locks and switches were sticky. The suspension was stiff, and the handlebars felt like I had a steering damper fitted up. Every dip and bump in the road elicited a creak or a groan from somewhere on the machine. I believe we approached the Baron’s operational limits this morning. Let’s call it minus ten degrees for a launch abort.
The first thing I realized as we rolled gingerly down the street, was that what looked like dry pavement was still quite slippery. The salt brine which had splattered us on warmer days was in fact frozen this morning. We wouldn’t get splashed, but we had precious little traction. It didn’t feel like fun at all.
Five miles or so down the road, all that sweat and heavy breathing caused frost to form on the inside of the visor. Oncoming cars with headlights blazing blinded me. I stopped in at the first gas station I came to, thawed out my helmet and wiped the visor. People inside pointedly ignored me as they went about their business. It was that “crazy-man” syndrome again. I left without a word.
Another seven miles down the road, and the frost was beginning to form again. Dunn Brothers to the rescue. I pulled into the coffee shop, and spent some time there drying out my balaclava and sipping hot cocoa. This was going to have to be one of those leisurely commutes.
After twenty minutes or so in front of the fireplace, I felt ready to go on. We rode the remaining fourteen miles to work with only minimal frost forming on the visor. We took Highway 55 again, but since the salt brine was frozen, we didn’t get splattered by other traffic. My feet were pretty cold by the time we arrived, but they weren’t numb. For once, I was happy to be at work.
It warmed up some, during the day. I went out and started the Baron during breaks, letting him run for five - ten minutes to charge the battery and keep the oil in a liquid state. By quitting time, it was thirteen degrees, well within our comfort zone. We had a nice, relaxed, and fun ride home.
What a difference twenty-one degrees make.