Sunday Ride, Monday Slide

16 January, 2006 32 degrees F

Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. Being a good son, I rode over to visit her and Dad at their place in North Saint Paul. The sun was out with a vengeance, and it was a balmy 38 degrees when the Baron and I launched out of the driveway.

Huh… January in Minnesota, and I’m riding a scooter on a sunny Sunday morning as though it were April. What could be better than that?

We rolled down Robert Street and across the bridge into downtown Saint Paul. There were only a few cars about, and I was able to gaze up at the incredible variety of architecture, old and new. The contrasts are striking, but I have always preferred the former. When building a skyscraper, you can’t go too ornate in my book. The stark, newer stuff just looks like they were trying to cheap-out on the construction… and they probably were. It took real craftsmen to build the old art-deco courthouse, for instance.

Well, enough of that, I had better watch where we’re going here.

We turned right on Seventh Street and rolled up to one red light after another. We were hitting them all, but it allowed me to look around and enjoy the sunshine, and the smiling faces of kids staring and waving from other vehicles. I just know I am looking at future riders here, you can see the wonder in their eyes.

My route to North Saint Paul takes us way down Seventh to Johnson Parkway, through a lot of traffic signals and some pretty heavy traffic on most days. Then we take other sidestreets until we reach the other Seventh Street, which is the main drag in my old hometown. Most of my old hangouts are gone now. Time has a way of doing that. But our old house is just a couple blocks across Highway 36, and we arrived in plenty of time for me to enjoy a nice breakfast with my folks. They were heading up to one of the local casinos later in the day, but we enjoyed our eggs and toast and caught up on all the latest family news.

Dad told me about a shortcut that would bypass many of the traffic signals on the way home. Instead of turning onto Johnson Parkway, he told me to go straight ahead on Phalen Boulevard. This is a sort of parkway now, with a 35 mph speed limit, and no stops for several miles until Payne Avenue. Just perfect for the Baron and I.

Sure enough, we rode uninterrupted, on flawless pavement for several miles alongside the railroad tracks. This time of year, it isn’t what you would call beautiful, but I could see some potential here when things start to green up. I’ll bet it cut several minutes off our time, and made for a much nicer ride than the other route. The Baron certainly liked it. That’s his ideal cruising speed. Mom, I think I just found a reason to visit more often…

This morning, we had another routine commute on dry roads. I hate to feel like I’m taking this for granted, but that is an undeniable fact. However, when we left work this evening, it was under a brooding sky which showered us with sleet and freezing rain. It was 32 degrees, the exact freezing temperature of water. These are most dangerous conditions, because you really can’t tell if that is water or fresh ice you are looking at. The sticky mixture clogs your helmet visor, and you have to keep wiping it with something. Lucky for me, Aerostich sent “Vee-Wipes” for me to try out.

This is like a mini-windshield wiper that goes around the thumb or finger of your glove. You just swipe it across your visor or goggles whenever your vision is obscured. My only problem with it is the way it cuts down the circulation to whichever digit you choose to install it on. There are three sizes, but the largest still causes my thumb to go numb. Perhaps I will try my index finger next time.

Our roads are now “well-seasoned” with salt and chemicals, so the rain coming down wasn’t so quick to freeze. It wasn’t until we were only a few miles from home that the sleet turned to heavy, wet snow, and this started to freeze to the road. By the time we were only a mile from our driveway, there were snow-covered ice patches everywhere, and traction was becoming scarce. We had wheelspin when we took off, and brake-slide when we tried to stop. One of our hairiest moments occurred while negotiating the steep hill where Bernard Street descends towards the stoplight on Robert Street. This is a very busy intersection at rush hour, and we were not slowing down much. I squeezed and let-off the rear brake, and we fishtailed down the hill. The light going our way was red, and the cross-traffic on Robert was moving right along at about 40 mph.

I lowered my “landing gear” and dug my boots into the slushy pavement, just before I gingerly began applying the front brake. That did the trick. We got stopped in the middle of the cross-walk and waited for the light to change. Then it was a four-point crawl the remaining couple of blocks home.

Well, this was exactly what I asked for, wasn’t it? Something to write about in the blog? Why do I get so disgusted when life is easy? I just don’t know. Tomorrow morning might bring those impossible, frozen butter conditions again. I’m not taking the freeway this time. That was insane. Frankly, I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I will tell you about it tomorrow.

12 Responses to “Sunday Ride, Monday Slide”

  1. Dick Aal Says:

    I went on a 200 mile journey in Northern California also Sunday. It was quite a contrast. I looked On the weather before taking off, and it showed temperatures in New York City and Boston that were going to be higher than mine. It was 34 degrees when I left and did not get above 40 degrees all day. We rode up the freeway towards Lake county. As I rode along enjoying the ride with about 16 other motorcycles, I looked over at the lady in her M-B SUV cage/box. She was drinking a cup of coffee and wondering about the sanity of us riding long beside her. She was driving straight in her lane as she wasn’t also talking on the cell phone. I on the other side was wondering about her sanity going down the road in that cage/box when she could be enjoying the beautiful outdoors. Other than getting my fingers a little cold it was a great day to be out doors. We avoided some of the twisty mountain roads in the morning because of ice but took full advantage of them on the return in the afternoon. All in all it was a great day to be on two wheels.

  2. Mad Says:

    All bike gloves should come with a wiper blade attached, my RST winter gloves do and they are indispensible but my summer gloves don’t and it really frustrates me.

  3. Mad Says:

    Oh and hey, any chance of your temperature reports being in Celcius too? I’ll work with old money in almost any measure except Farenheit, so I have no idea how cold you are.

  4. Ron Johnston Says:

    Yesterdays commute home (on the scooter) was almost too much fun. In spite conditions slick enough that I witnessed two fender benders, and found a Sunbird on its lid in my front yard when I got home, I managed to keep the rubber side down the whole way. The trip took 45 minutes instead of the usual 20 because I had to keep stopping to clear the snow from my visor, plus I chose to walk down the long steep grade past the schools on 30th when I saw the first accident there. My wife said I arrived home with the same silly grin on my face as the day I bought the scooter.

    Anyway, I am glad to read you are getting some of the challenges you hoped for. Stay safe.

  5. mnscooter Says:

    Alright then, Mad. Since you are such a loyal reader, I will do the conversion myself. “(F-32)x5/9″ - is what it says in my little desktop reference here. So our 15 degrees F this morning translates to -9.44 degrees C. We have been seeing between +5 and -10 C for the past month or so. Not really very cold. But I will include the C value in future posts, in the interest of international cooperation… and for the children.

    Ron, way to go! I’m glad you’re having fun out there, and I know you are being careful. The Vee-Wipe is worth a try, if you think you are going to ride often in sloppy conditions.

    Dick, I think our winter weather has been strange all over the country. Most reports I get talk about unusual conditions. It’s either global warming, or a government conspiracy of some sort. Wait, I didn’t say that. We can’t be going off-topic here. Nope.

    Ride well,
    =gc=

  6. Dick Aal Says:

    OOOOHHHH we better not say that!! You might get another 20+ hits on the political side. It has been strange but then weather itself is strange and there have been many strange weather patterns in the past and will in the future. BUT the thing with strange weather patterns, when riding on two wheels all year long year after year, you get to enjoy them.

  7. irondad Says:

    I would love to have some variety in the weather. Although I admit I don’t really fancy riding in ice. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, thanks. It would, however, be interesting to try it on a scooter sometime. I bet the experience you are getting in riding with limited traction, etc., will directly translate to a higher skill level and comfort on your traditional shift bikes. Oh wait, you are also an experienced KLR guy so perhaps not. It’s all about fun and victory over adversity, isn’t it? That’s why we get bored with “nice” conditions. It sucks to suffer but feels tremendous looking back.

    Our weather is and has been rain. We are supposed to get 2″ today alone. Haven’t seen the sun except for that brief spell I mentioned earlier. Being a fellow hardcore rider I say with respect and good wishes “I hope you get all the hard conditions and challenges you desire”. By the way, good boy for visiting Mom on her birthday. Even us “hard asses” need a momma’s love!

  8. Mad Says:

    Ain’t I just a pain? ;)
    Thanks Gary, if it makes you feel any better that’s quite a bit colder than we’ve been getting here. I think I’ve only ridden in negative celcius three times so far this year.

  9. mnscooter Says:

    Thanks Dick, and Dan. Weather is a part of life that box-people avoid, yet we seek to experience. But yeah, like anything else, the same thing all the time gets to be monotonous. Although I have never complained about a rash of dry, sunny weather during the normal riding season.

    Hey Mad, I checked the Intellicast 10-day fortune cookie for London. TEN, SOLID, DAYS, OF, RAIN…!? Is that for real? This sounds like what “irondad” is going through. That’s his blog in the link on page right.

    I’m surprised your Island doesn’t swamp and sink into the Atlantic. I know umbrellas are mandatory over there, but do you people wear life preservers?

    Swim well,
    =gc=

  10. Mad Says:

    Nah, the weather guys always say rain here because, yes, somewhere it probably is raining but I don’t think we get that much really… well ok it does rain a bit… Yes it is a damp island particularly in winter but…

    No one’s going to believe me are they?

    *Sigh*

    Yeah it rains every day.

    Seriously though, I haven’t needed to get my overall waterproofs out since November, since then I’ve only ridden through the odd bit of drizzle.

  11. Mad Says:

    Hey cheers for the pointer to Irondads blog, I’ve had a right good rummage over there and I think I shall pester him on a regular basis too!
    I guess I better do a bit more blogging on this whole biking thing, I did after all spend a day with a police accident investigation team.

  12. irondad Says:

    Mad,

    I would not consider your comments to be “pestering”. I am totally grateful for the company over there!

    Thanks for noticing me.

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