30 December, 2005 Temperature: 30 degrees F
Well, THAT was exciting….
I rode on what seemed like frozen butter for about eight miles this morning. Both feet out the whole time, between fifteen and twenty miles per hour. That’s hard on the abs and groin muscles after awhile.
We got three inches of wet, heavy snow overnight, and I think half the snowplow drivers are on holiday vacation. That’s the only reason I can think of for the conditions on the sidestreets this morning. I didn’t take my normal route, because those roads were impassable on a scooter. Really, studs wouldn’t have helped much, because they wouldn’t have reached anything solid to bite into. Don’t talk to me about ice screws, that would be silly. Tire chains? Depends how much hassle they are. I know for sure I would have to remove the front fender.
It’s alright if you can just ride on virgin snow, because the wheels then have a sort of rudder effect, and you can give your legs a break once in awhile. But when you have ruts all over the place from cars and trucks, turning this way and that, it causes the wheels to deflect a little and unsettles your balance. So you have to keep those feet, with their heavy snowmobile boots, stuck out there to stabilize the ride. By the time I had reached Grand Avenue and Snelling, I had turned off the electric vest and opened the visor on my helmet, and still I was overheating. If I keep this up, my middle will go from keg to six-pack in no time!
So, my ride to work is 26.3 miles. I rode eight on the treacherous sidestreets. What happened to the other eighteen miles? Well, I did something that, at the beginning of this adventure, I said I wouldn’t do. I rode the freeways. From inside my helmet, sweating and cursing at the conditions on the sidestreets, it seemed like the only thing to do at the time.
Freeways are the only roads that get cleared, no matter what, in this kind of weather. I entered I-94 West at Snelling, and rode full-freaking-throttle in the right lane. Even though I was doing between 45 and 60 mph, everything out there was passing me, except the jerks who would pull right up on my back wheel and hit the high-beams. People feel so safe inside their little boxes, don’t they? What would they do if traffic came to a stop, and I dismounted my scooter to go have a little chat with them? Pee their pants, no doubt. Then reach for the gun in the glovebox, I suppose…
Well, the freeway is no place for a scooter in these conditions. The road spray was atrocious! I finally got to try out the Vee-Wipes that Aerostich sent me. This is a little windshield-wiper device that clamps to your thumb. When your visor gets obscured by spray, you just swipe it across and you have clear vision for a few seconds, and then you do it again. And again… It works well, but the conditions really were overwhelming this morning.
Speaking of things that work well, I am in awe of this little Baron scooter. Redline on this 150cc four-stroke engine is at 8,000 rpms. We spent most of our time on the freeway at or just slightly above that. At that speed, the motor sounds like a small turbine. There are harmonic resonances between the engine and the CVT drivetrain that just sing. We did this for eighteen miles, and when we pulled off the freeway, the Baron returned to his normal, mild-mannered self. Truly amazing.
My Aerostich Darien jacket and gear kept me warm and dry. The HJC snowmobile helmet and boots from Bob’s Cycle Supply did their job too. The Kenda tires were out of their depth, literally. But then they weren’t designed for this. They work very well in normal crappy conditions. I’ve got to plug my sponsors here, because on days like this, I really appreciate all their help.
But I don’t think I want to do that freeway thing again. It is no fun at all, and extremely dangerous to boot. Especially in the dark, with other vehicles suffering from the same road spray, and some of them with no blue juice for their windshield wipers. Looking at it from their perspective, I can see why my being out there pissed them off.
Well, they can have their freeway. I must find a way to cope on the sidestreets. Either leave home at four in the morning, and ride through the virgin snow, or wait until the plows have taken care of the roads along my route. Or take the car. How depressing.