Out of The Well

06 January, 2006 Temperature: 35 degrees F

Sometimes it’s hard to be a rugged individualist. When conditions conspire to present no challenge, how does one triumph over adversity? For the past week we have had grey skies, no snow, dry roads, and I’ve been riding a scooter that just keeps going and going like that long-eared critter on the battery commercial. Ho hum, no drama there.

Joe Soucheray has stopped calling me. So have Ian and Margery at FM107. WCCO TV? Am I bleeding? Fuhgeddaboudit! The “scooterboy” story is yesterday’s news. Well… fine!

Where the heck was all that media stuff taking me anyway? Was that the reason I did this in the first place? No! I did this to escape the phenomenon I have identified as Existential Gravity, which takes hold with a deadly grip during the normally harsh Minnesota winter. We have spoken here about the horror of a life lived in boxes. When the very atmosphere endeavors to kill us, we seek safety in our homes, cars, offices, cubicles, and finally, television sets. Boxes all.

But right here in Minnesota, in January no less, what do I see around me?

Dwindling snow cover that melts for two-to-three hours a day. People out jogging and bicycling and even riding motorbikes as if it were early spring or late autumn. The only thing missing is the sun, and that is scheduled to make an appearance tomorrow, along with more of the same balmy temperatures. Where’s the challenge? Where’s the adventure? This is almost like everyday riding during the normal season, except for the occasional treacherous ice patch.

I suppose I should be grateful. When I planned this project, way back in late October, I anticipated heavy snows and arctic temperatures. Some pundits in the Windsock and Crystal Ball Guild had predicted a harsh winter for Minnesota, and I bought into it. I should be overjoyed by the fact that I can go outside in shorts and a sweatshirt, and wash the salt and grime off the scooter with the garden hose. I should be thankful that I can commute on a scooter in relative comfort, enjoying eighty-mpg fuel economy, when everyone else seems to be suffering from the ridiculous gas prices. I should be happy that I can go out and ride anywhere in the Twin Cities and have fun doing it, right now.

I should… so I guess I will.

To do otherwise would be to surrender to the Existential Gravity which has plagued my existence from the moment I started to do what I was told as a child.

You may recall that moment in your own life, when your cognitive skills reached a point where a parent or authority figure could compel your obedience by the use of either positive or negative reinforcement? The old “carrot or stick” analogy? That moment when you realized that food, comfort, and security weren’t just the natural conditions of life? Wasn’t that the first moment you became aware of Existential Gravity? Yes, and that’s when it all started going to hell.

I must tell you, I have some really brilliant friends. The Twin Cities motorbike scene breeds them like rabbits. So does the engineering firm at which I spend way too much of my time. The upside of this is that I get to have some very stimulating conversations. After my last post, when I was having a pity party about life degenerating into the routine, my wonderful, loyal friends came to my rescue and pulled me out of the Existential Gravity well with some really startling revelations.

To wit:

My friend Denny is especially brilliant. How so? Well, he parlayed a bachelor’s degree in music education into a master’s of software engineering. What would you call that? Ambi-cranial? This guy is a counter-culture genius! When I came into work looking glum on Thursday morning, he engaged me in a fascinating exploration of the Existential Gravity which was bringing me down. Together, we developed an astounding theory, which I will try to relate to you here…

Just as Newtonian Gravity manifests most strongly around Black Holes, we have deduced that Existential Gravity emanates most heavily from Brown Holes.

Think of the implications! Doesn’t it explain most of the miserable mysteries of human co-existence? Especially in the workplace? And what about traffic?

We hereby postulate: Proximity to Brown Holes causes most of the stress and strife in our everyday lives!

(We will use the abbreviation “E-G” to refer to Existential Gravity hereafter. That will simplify things, and cause future readers to refer to the earlier entries in this blog. I hope…)

The ramifications percolated in my head all day long. When it was finally time to punch out from work, I couldn’t wait to get to First Thursday, at Dulono’s Pizza in uptown Minneapolis, to reveal this theory and develop it further.

Now, First Thursday was originally a meeting of the Twin Cities Norton Owner’s Club, going back as far as anyone can remember. On the first Thursday of every month, they would meet and discuss club business over frosty beverages and some of the best pizza and pasta in town.

But in the nineties, people started showing up on other bikes, in huge numbers, and it soon became untenable as a functioning club meeting. So the TCNOC switched to other venues during the normal riding season. But in winter, when the barbarian hordes store their motorbikes, these cultured folk return to their roots, and hold their dignified proceedings here in relative peace.

As a struggling moto-journalist, I have been a welcome intruder in their midst on occasion, and for that I am duly grateful. This night, I went to seek the wise counsel of my friend “Buster Brown”. He is a charter member of this august body, and a Berkeley-trained attack lawyer whose services I have engaged on occasion, when being unfairly hassled by The Man.

Buster Brown has the uncanny ability to dissect any theory, hypothesis, or opinion with scalpel-sharp rhetoric and critical analysis. Especially when he is drinking. I found him “in his cups”, so-to-speak, and let fly with our whole E-G concept. He grasped the fundamentals quickly, confirmed our logic, and proceeded to expound with great eloquence.

Buster said: “The first question of concern to two-wheeled commuters is; Do SUVs naturally form around Brown Holes?”

See what I mean? His reasoning is so elegant. You want to embrace this hypothesis with both hands and nurture it. Unfortunately, this would predicate that Brown Holes attract heavy metals and luxury appointments around themselves in some complex form of natural selection. If you apply known scientific principals to this theory, it seems highly unlikely that this is the case, even though the preponderance of evidence supports the hypothesis. Puzzling… isn’t it? Well, that’s why he is such a good lawyer.

However, if you focus the investigation more tightly, you realize that the singular element that Brown Holes attract most strongly is… money! Yes, it appears that the main purpose for the existence of Brown Holes is the accumulation of wealth. This is a constant which tracks through all the equations one can apply to it.

Eureka! Think about it….

Whenever you feel the dragging, loathesome effects of E-G, look around you. Obviously, Brown Holes are not always visible to the naked eye, but they are detectable by the negative effects they have on your well-being. When you are feeling put-upon and beaten-down, are there rich people in your vicinity? Or maybe those people who are desparately trying to become rich? Hmmmm…

I tell you again, my friends are brilliant!

But tonight, I may have found an exception. It was an anomalous encounter, and I don’t quite know what to make of it.

It was dark, as it usually is this time of year. I rode up to a stoplight in Minneapolis, just south of the Mississippi River on Plymouth Avenue. Like an apparition, a stylish black scooter with a sidecar appeared out of the darkness in the intersection on my right. I waved at the rider, and he couldn’t have failed to see me. I saw his helmet turn my way. But he didn’t wave back…

Snubbed by a Scooter-Nazi?

When my light turned green, I gassed it across the road and honked the horn, but still he didn’t wave. Here we were, the only two scooter guys out on a Friday night in frozen Minneapolis, yet he couldn’t wave to me because… why?

- His hands were frozen to the handlebars? Not likely in 30-degree weather.

- His scooter is an Indian copy of an Italian original, but mostly made out of metal? Hence my Chinese “tupperware” scooter is beneath his recognition? How dumb.

- My scooter is a Chinese original, copy of nothing else, but unworthy of any respect, or even acknowledgement. Why?

But then another, much more alarming possibility occurred to me. This is something that I have been reluctant to introduce into this blog, because the implications are too horrible to contemplate. However, somebody must have the courage to sound the alarm, if indeed this is what is happening…

Are you ready?

I think I have just encountered the first Brown Hole wrapped in the bodywork of a scooter. Sure, it had three wheels, but you have to recognize the significance.

Am I the first to point out that we have seen this phenomenon with certain segments of the Harley population? No. There are well-documented reports of the existence, even convergence of Brown Holes at annual events in Sturgis, South Dakota and Daytona, Florida. These are not Ride-to-Work people, but rather just poseurs out to impress people with an image that they don’t actually own in real life.

Let’s face it: Brown Holes are everywhere. They seem to emanate from either Texas, or Washington DC… but we can’t confirm that. They may be randomly scattered amongst the worlwide population. What we do know is, if you show any independent tendencies, like riding a motorbike to work, for instance, they are just waiting to bring you down, in more ways than one.

Your motorbike is your only salvation. Ride! Ride fast, ride well, and be vigilant.

25 Responses to “Out of The Well”

  1. Mad Says:

    I shall be pondering this brown hole theory… interesting.

    On the subject of the non nodding/waving scooterist I can postulate a few theories.
    1. Maybe he’s like so many of the scooter riders over here who don’t return my greetings? Quite simply they are pure pragmatists, they got scooters as they cheapest most convenient method of getting from a to b. They have no idea of the fellowship of riders that exist. He could well have been sitting there wondering why you were nodding and honking.
    2. You say he was on an Indian copy of a Vespa? I’ve known a few people who’ve tried those things and they are awful. He couldn’t wave or nod because any sudden moves could cause bits to fall of his scoot… like the engine.
    3. I can’t think of a third theory… let’s just say he was a Scooter snob?

  2. Dick Aal Says:

    Your theory on “brown holes” is an interesting one. After a couple of weeks of very heavy rain out here in Northern California, all of our potholes seem to have gotten rid of their patches. It would hurt to hit one I saw yesterday that was about 10 inches deep about two feet across and four feet long.
    I submit to you that the brown holes are actually potholes in the pavement. This would support the theory that SUV’s surround them (and probably cause them) and the do attract money mostly what you spend on alignment, new wheels and at times hospital bills.

  3. Ron Johnston Says:

    Todays entry left me with a sense of astounded revelation which I can only compare to Dave Bowman’s statement at the end of Space Odyssey - “My God… It’s full of stars!”

    Great writing!

  4. mnscooter Says:

    Alright, we are receiving outraged comments from Stella owners. It was never my intention to offend riders of any particular brand. It was the behavior of one particular rider who offended me, and I should have left the brand of scooter out of this.

    To Stella riders everywhere: I apologize.

    However, I am moderating any further comments related to this brand loyalty topic, including my own, earlier reply. It doesn’t help to further the cause of Ride to Work, and it certainly is not the focus of The Baron in Winter to prove any one scooter is better than another.

    Ride well,

  5. Brad Says:

    Umm… a little harsh on the Stella guy, aren’t you.

    Maybe he’s a little ADD and was looking at something else. It’s cool and all that you enjoy riding and I like you’re blog, but I think you should lighten up a little.

  6. mnscooter Says:

    Hi Brad, please read the above. We really need to get past this. I wish this “Stella Guy” would write in and contact me, because I wouldn’t mind having a civilized conversation. I have apologized, and removed my own offending comments from this section. That’s all I can do.

    Ride well,

  7. irondad Says:

    I have attained a new awareness of things by pondering “E-G” and “brown-holes”. It does explain certain things and I am always up for new ways to look at and think about the world around me. I salute you for venturing outside the “mundane”. What blows me away is how easily we ( as in motorcyclists ) are divided by little things. I always thought we were individualists but my experience is that a lot of us want to be indivuals “together” which means we have little tolerance for the dissent of others.

    One of these days this trait will turn around and firmly bite us in the fleshy portions of the backside. Making pointed reference to when this happens may be painful to some people if they see themselves reflected in this mirror. On the other hand, SOMEBODY needs to brave enough to point out that the Emperor has “no biking clothes on”. Good for you.

  8. 433 Says:

    I know the Black Stella Sidecar Guy — He’s my girlfriend Amy’s boss. He had a Vino up until this year, when Amy told him how much fun we were having with my Stella. He’s ridden to work every day this year so far. He’s the friendliest guy in the world, but not yet involved in the riding community. He didn’t know about the double-beep until I told him, either. Why expect that people should know unwritten rules?

  9. mnscooter Says:

    Well, that’s reasonable. Thank you, 433.

    Look, that entire blog entry was written tongue-in-cheek. Unfortunately, humor almost always involves making sport of someone else. That works fine when we are talking about large, 4-wheeled vehicles, because they are not usually part of this audience. But I should have known that any motorbike stereotypes were going to be off-limits in here. My mistake. I have already apologized.

    Tell this guy that I was offering a salute and that I really appreciate his dedication. The very idea that someone riding such a rig in the middle of winter would be inexperienced in two-wheeled etiquette really never occurred to me. What would you have thought in my place?

    This blog is about riding to work, every day, on two wheels, come what may. I should have stayed within those bounds, but things were getting kind of boring. This weekend, I thought a bit of humor and controversy would spice things up a bit, but all it did was bring out the bile of a few local malcontents. These guys need to get out and ride, that’s all.

    Ride well,

  10. 433 Says:

    >The very idea that someone riding such a rig in the middle of winter would
    >be inexperienced in two-wheeled etiquette really never occurred to me. What
    >would you have thought in my place?

    I would have thought “Hey, it’s winter, and when I’m riding I don’t take a hand off the handlebars unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

    I’d much rather have people ride safe than beep or wave at me.

    I’ll often be riding around the lakes, or the U of M, when I come upon scooterists and give them the double-beep to no avail. However, I don’t get all bent out of shape about it. I’m just happy more people are out riding

  11. Mad Says:

    Did you know in France they wave their foot as a bike greeting (saves letting go of the bars to wave)? If I hadn’t been told I’m sure I’d ride through France very puzzled at all their nutters shaking their boots…

  12. mnscooter Says:

    To 433: Okay, I think we get it now. I wasn’t all “bent out of shape”. This entire thread was satirical in nature. It’s called “humor”. Something that seems to be in short supply during the winter in Minnesota.

    To Mad: Yeah? Over here a shaken boot means there is gravel or something slippery on the road.

    Look folks, I’ve been riding a long time, on everything from Harleys down to this tough little Chinese scooter. Taking a hand off the bars to wave is really no big deal to me, unless I am negotiating tricky road or trail conditions.

    Maybe I lost sight of the fact that there are a lot of novices out there, who don’t have my comfort level on two wheels, to whom lifting a hand from the bars to wave is a daring maneuver. To be honest, however, I don’t ever remember feeling like that.

    But I don’t want this blog to degenerate into a bunch of bickering over rider etiquette or brand loyalty issues. There are plenty of other forums out there for that. If you want to talk about riding to work, how to deal with the various challenges involved, etc., you are in the right place.

    Irondad is right. We don’t need conflict amongst ourselves when most of the automotive public is already against us.

    `Nuff said. It’s time for me to ride to work now.

  13. 433 Says:

    > Okay, I think we get it now. I wasn’t all “bent out of shape”. This entire
    > thread was satirical in nature. It’s called “humor”. Something that seems
    > to be in short supply during the winter in Minnesota.

    Yeah, you’ve said that. Just because you intend something to be funny doesn’t make it so. It’s okay, we’re not all humor writers. It takes a long time to develop the skill, and some people never get it.

  14. David Eakin Says:

    “I always thought we were individualists but my experience is that a lot of us want to be indivuals “together” which means we have little tolerance for the dissent of others.”

    I think that even the most die-hard individualist still looks for some level of social acceptance. Even the most rugged mountain men came to town once in a while. It has always intrigued me as to how we form these “pockets” of society. I never knew that fellow Jeep Wrangler drivers wave at each other until my Wife got one (of course, there are several individual interpretations on what constitutes a wave). But “it’s a Jeep thing and I don’t understand”. Sounds like it is time for the “scooterboy” and the “Black Stella rigman” to swap stories at a First Thursday.

  15. xfnFan Says:

    “I waved at the rider, and he couldn’t have failed to see me. I saw his helmet turn my way. ”

    I can’t believe this. How many times have you been heard, “He look right at me” before the accident? The only way you survive on a motorcycle is to assume that no one sees you even when they look right at you or make eye contact. This is one of the oldest rules in the book. Why would you assume for one second that he actually saw you?

  16. Mad Says:

    I’m glad you told me that Gary or I’d be shaking my boot at people trying to warn me when I get round to visiting the States.

  17. 883-Dude Says:

    A quote from the Ah-nold after his accident the other day:

    “She looked into my eyes and backed up anyway,” Schwarzenegger said of the woman, whom police refused to identify. He added that she “felt guilty” about the accident.

  18. Mad Says:

    It’s strange how a seemingly innocous subject like waving/nodding/beeping/foot shaking/standing up and bowing seems to spark such vicious debate. One of my regular bike forums was like a war zone for weeks after someone asked if we should nod at scooters.

  19. Laurence Says:

    Your blog thought-provoking as always but I doubt your claim that “My scooter is a Chinese original, copy of nothing else” is anywhere near true. I visit China once a year, and am a close observer of the country. When copyright means nothing, why would anyone in his right mind go through the process of developing a technology? Much easier to rip it off, and that’s the Chinese mindset.

  20. mnscooter Says:

    Laurence, you are right about the Chinese using technology gleaned from other countries. That is what happens when greedy corporations exploit a foreign, slave-wage labor force for more profit and competitive advantage. Get used to it, because it is happening everywhere.

    In this case, however, I was referring to the actual style of the scooter. The Baron SX is not a copy of anything else in the current European or Japanese scooter market. I’m told it does indeed use a GY6 engine, which is supposedly a Chinese copy of a Honda design. I have no problem with that right now, it’s working just fine.

    I’m not a fan of the current global economic paradigm, Laurence, but I do recognize reality when I see it.

    Ride well,

  21. REv J Says:

    “She looked into my eyes and backed up anyway.” This sounds like my ex-wife.
    Interesting debate. I commute on a Harley and encounter many scooters. I’ll greet the scooter people, even chat at the stoplight, esp. if: she’s pretty, they have a cool ride, or the weather’s bad.
    They’re braving it same as me.
    I have found that Harley riders won’t wave as often when I’m on my sport bike. It’s the “Harley Wave” to most of them. So When I’m on the HD, I only initiate the wave to non-HD riders.
    I think the motorcycle people & scooter people can get along despite what the Rockers did to ther Mods. it was an unfortunate misunderstanding…

  22. Lev Says:

    So what fun would it be in writing a perfectly politically correct blog? If you make a joke, someone is always going to be offended. I think the Scooter Nazi thing was funny. And I think two scooterists at an intersection in the middle of winter really SHOULD wave to each other.

  23. fnirt Says:

    If it were June and they didn’t wave back I might get grumpy. But even then it’s a little petty. But it’s January. In Minnesota. JANUARY. In MINNESOTA. Anybody on two wheels in this state in this month deserves respect. Regardless of how much they do or do not wave. It’s not just cars out to get you, it’s ice and snow and air so cold it BURNS you frozen.

    All is love. Anyone on a scooter, no matter how rude or snobby or self righteous is still.. on a scooter.

  24. cernunnus Says:

    Hi Gary,

    It seems you met my wife. Sorry I didn’t wave, but I honestly didn’t see you. If I thought you would have heard my “beep-beep” after you passed I would have offered it. In any case, I’ve followed the threads at minnecoota that a friend pointed out. All things condidered, I hold no grudges, and I’m copacetiic with your follow-up. I’ll say the same thing there once my registration is confirmed ;) By the way, you met my wife riding a Vino (the same kind as my old scoot) on a commute to Plymouth. She describes you as a friendly and nice guy, so I’ll defer to her judgement (and your apology in the forum) and call it resolved. Ride safe, ride free.

    Black Stella Scooter Guy

  25. mnscooter Says:

    Man, am I glad you wrote in. Now maybe we can put this issue to bed.

    Yes, I remember meeting your wife. I was on my way to lunch at Wendy’s on the KLR, contemplating this scooter project.

    You didn’t see me? Wow. You should read the “Thoughtful Thursday” entry(19 Jan)… maybe “biker black” really IS invisible. FWIW, this whole thing really was meant as a satire. The S.N. thing just flowed right out of the rest of that whole Existential Gravity/Brown Hole theory. I never thought it would blow up in my face.

    Thanks for writing.

    Ride well,

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