20 December, 2005 Temperature: 7 degrees F
This morning, the Baron and I had a unique challenge. Banner Engineering, R&D department was holding a holiday chili contest. Since I won last time, that makes me the defending champion, so I was pretty much obligated to enter a batch for this competition. The question was: How was I going to transport a crockpot full of chili on a scooter over icy roads, twenty-six miles to work, without having a terribly messy accident?
The answer was: The same way I have been transporting my own arse on the same roads every day for the last six weeks, only slower.
Why slower? Well, the only place I could think of to put the five-quart crock pot full of my wife Amy’s exotic “Rough Rider Chili” was in a milk crate on the luggage rack. That puts a substantial weight out back, high over the rear wheel, and makes the handling even sketchier than it already is. I was amazed to find that the five-quart Rival Crock Pot fit perfectly within the milk crate, with very little clearance, as though it were designed for just this purpose. I placed a folded-up towel in the bottom of the crate for more cushioning, duct-taped the lid to the pot, and bungee-corded the whole apparatus tightly together to make a perfect chili transportation vessel.
Some of you are thinking, “Why not put it on the deck, between the seat and the leg shield? This would make for a lower center of gravity and better handling.”
I thought about that. But then I realized that I move my feet around a lot when I ride on slippery roads, in order to weight the scooter properly and keep our balance. A great lump of chili sitting right in the middle of the deck would make me a very uneasy rider. It might have worked, but I did it my own way. That’s what iconoclasts do. (It’s in the Official Rules of Iconoclastery: section three, paragraph one.)
So, with the chili thus secured, and the Baron warmed up and idling steadily, we took off out of my driveway, wobbling into the street, at 5:15 a.m.
I spent some time getting used to the feel of that extra weight. The front end felt skatey over any snow or slush. Thankfully, the roads had a couple of dry wheel ruts to follow in most places, with the ice pack down the center. Once we got onto the main thoroughfares, the ice disappeared, and we had only brine and road spray to deal with. At five-thirty, there were very few other vehicles roaming about, so the spray was manageable. This was all part of The Plan, of course.
And so it went, all the way to work. I didn’t stop for coffee this morning, because I was quite comfortable with the temperature, and I knew that our slower speeds were costing us time. The later I punch-in, the later I have to stay. The later I stay, the heavier the traffic is on the way home.
My caution was rewarded with an uneventful trip. We pulled up to the R&D building at six thirty-two. I unloaded the precious cargo, and plugged the crock-pot into a ready power strip on a table in the cafeteria. Mission Accomplished.
The chili contest was fun. We had a lot more entries this year, and folks had been doing their homework. There was everything from pure Texas chili with only meat and pepper sauce, to a sort of chili-flavored Minnesota hot-dish, with rice, beans, and corn, and only a little heat. Amy’s creation was heavy on the Texas influence, with a few great northern beans, chunks of onion and bell pepper for texture. We had opted for a medium heat, because of the diverse nature of the “judges”. Little did we know. The hot-dish won. We came in second. There is no accounting for Minnesota Scandiwegian tastes.