Groundhog Day?

02 February, 2006 Temperature: 43 degrees F (6°C)

Can you believe this? It’s Groundhog Day, the very beginning of February in Minnesota, and we are enjoying springtime weather. It feels like April out there!

Normally, I would be reporting single digit lows and highs in the teens. Today, when I awoke, it was twenty nine degrees (-2C) at my house, and rising fast. Our ride to work was uneventful. The Baron and I purred through the darkness like a wraith. The slush had vanished overnight, leaving the roads dry, salty, and sandy as usual. We left early enough to avoid most of the traffic, and I arrived at work in a peaceful, relaxed frame of mind. Just perfect for what the rest of the day had in store.

The sun came out around noon, and you could feel spirits rise throughout the building. A lot of folks went out for lunch, leaving their brown bags in the `fridge.

I saw smiles on faces that normally wear no expression at all. I don’t know what that subterranean rat out east saw today, but everyone who ventured outside our building certainly saw their shadows…and they were glad.

It appears our existential gravity took the day off. Before I knew it, quitting time had arrived, and I found myself facing an early ride home in the sunshine. Does it get any better than this?

I also remembered the memory stick for my camera, and that was stowed safely under the Baron’s comfy seat. With the sun rather low in the western sky, there were some beautiful images to capture on my way home.

Rolling down Golden Valley Road, we stopped at a railroad bridge with a curious history. This bridge spans a dip in the road which frequently catches a truck driver out. The large clearance sign you see here is almost brand new, but already it has been damaged by an inattentive or overconfident trucker, who rammed his trailer into the span when he thought he had room to squeeze under.

Low-la Bridge-a-duh

In the five years I have been commuting on this route, I have seen that sign replaced three times. I can’t recall if it has ever read more than eleven feet, eight inches. You would think they would fudge it a bit over time, as truck after truck came to grief there. But knowing typical bureaucracy, you have to suspect they just ordered an identical replacement and sent the crew back out to clean up the mess once again. That’s called “government job security”.

Of course, if you look at the road underneath that bridge, you realize that they probably spend their whole budget for this section of road on replacing the clearance signs. If I don’t make it home from work some night, come look for me in one of those potholes.

After I stowed the camera, we rolled on down to the Mississippi River for the scenic portion of our nightly journey. I don’t often get off work this early, so the sunlight was especially dramatic on some of the landmarks along the opposite bank.

Along the way, I spied another scooterist in my rearview mirror. I slowed down so that he drew abreast at a stopsign. We spoke for a moment, but then we were blocking traffic, so we moved onto the plank road in front of the Mill Ruins Museum.

This fellow’s name is Alex. He was riding a TGB (Taiwan Golden Bee) 101S, in blue and black. This is a 50cc, sort of dual-sport scooter which I had test-ridden before I discovered the Red Baron. My impression was that it didn’t seem adequate for the punishment I intended to inflict during this project. These small scooters are limited by law to a 30 mph top speed, and that would not do on Shephard Road.

It seemed to be running just fine on this beautiful day, however, and you can ride these little ones without a motorcycle endorsement. Alex rides occasionally in the winter, but he tells me the thing just will not start in temperatures below thirty-one degrees.

I wish I had thought to take his picture, but I could feel the sun sinking lower in the sky, and I wanted to get on to the other scenery along my route. Who knows when we might get another day like this.

So I told him about this blog, and hopefully he will visit us. Alex, if you do, leave a comment with your email address, and maybe we can go for a ride along the river sometime.

The Baron and I continued on down West River Road, stopping here and there to snap a photograph. This one, for instance, is just under the 35W bridge.

Take the low road... trust me.

That’s a freeway I might have been sitting on at that very moment, had I elected to drive my pickup truck through the winter. It is a three-to-four lane affair, with otherwise normal people driving like psychopaths, trying to shave a few precious minutes off of their commutes. It never works, but apparently it is worth risking other people’s lives, as well as their own, just to try. I don’t go there anymore.

Further on, we rode beneath the trees where the strange, vast multitude of crows are roosting this year. It was here that I witnessed an incredible sight: There was a flight of four Canadian Geese in perfect, disciplined formation, amongst a maelstrom of these flying hooligans in their black feather jackets.

“Caw! Cawww! CAWWW!!!”, they cried as they swooped and dove at the interlopers.

But calm as you please, and faster than the crows could follow, the geese continued on their unerring vector towards… who knows what? They probably had a payload to drop on a golf course somewhere.

What a fascinating ride…and I wasn’t even halfway home. We crossed the river at Lake Street, and I got thumbs-up, peace signs, and “whoo-hoos” from folks out for a stroll along the parkway paths. This is more reaction than I have seen in months, and all because the sun decided to make a statement tonight.

Saint Paul Skyline

We rolled down East River Road, past the brewery, and down a maze of residential streets to the High Bridge. There, I parked the Baron and took this one last shot of the Saint Paul skyline, as promised. You can see the 1st Bank Building there, standing proud amongst it’s lesser neighbors. I elected to leave out some of the more modern structures in this shot, as they never feature in my mental pictures of Home.

I missed First Thursday tonight, due to previous family commitments. But my ride home was definitely one to remember.

9 Responses to “Groundhog Day?”

  1. Burt Kaufman Says:

    Well, it’s early February in Texas as well, since we DO have the same months of the year, down here. On the other hand, it was about 70 today.
    Sort of takes the adventure out it, eh?

  2. mnscooter Says:

    Howdy Burt.

    Well, if you classify “adventure” as having your life in danger, then…no!

    If you are riding in any kind of 4-or-more-wheeled traffic, riding a motorbike is ALWAYS an adventure.

    But of course, I do know what you meant there. Nature isn’t trying to kill me at the moment, so life is good.

    Ride well,

  3. Dan Jones Says:

    I really like the photos, Gary. Adds another dimension to an already colorful blog.

    Days like this make me anxious. I’ll be ordering my scooter around mid February so that it will arrive about April first. Tomorrow I’m off to the Motorcycle Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center to search out more toys and goodies for the new scooter and some pants and gloves for me. I always like to get those “show specials”.

    The cold weather predicted for the next few weeks should serve to keep my enthusiasm under control for a while longer.

  4. Mad Says:

    Good post Gary, loved the pics. I think we’ve got your weather again, it’s been freezing cold here for that last few days.

  5. David Eakin Says:

    Well, if you really trust this kind of thing, the report from Central PA is that Phil again saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of “mild winter.”
    In a related news item - the cherry trees in Washington DC are in full bloom; about 2 months ahead of schedule. All this should be perfect fodder for the “global warming alarmists” (as opposed to last year which was better for the “return of the ice age alarmists”).
    It is interesting that you judged the 50cc scooter to be not powerful enough for your commute. [I would tend to agree, but I have seen several articles on how to de-restrict the 50cc engine and obtain a 50mph top speed.] Now that you have some miles under you, do you have a different perspective on 150cc being a competent size for commuting (versus a 250cc or larger engine)?

  6. Dick Aal Says:

    Your comment “I don’t get it anymore” on the commute commandos struck a cord. I remember several years ago I had a friend who started commuting to work by bus instead of driving. We went out to lunch together frequently and with him riding the bus, I would drive to lunch. One day a driver cut me off as we were going to lunch. I made quite a few remarks about her intelligence, family lineage, etc. in a load voice.

    John, with a smile on his face said: “Since I have been riding the bus I don’t talk like that anymore”

    That illustrated a lot and I realized he had mellowed out a tremendous amount since not having the daily commute hassle.

  7. mnscooter Says:

    Great comments, guys. I’ll start with Dan: I will probably see you at the show. I am going on Saturday, and plan to spend some time around the Baron booth, meeting folks and answering questions.

    Mad, we got our weather back this morning… in spades! Stay tuned…

    David, I always knew that the 150cc would be adequate for my commute through the city. But I do know it requires more than that if you want the freeway option. I felt very threatened out there, the one time I tried it. But if you can stick to city streets and parkways, the smaller scooters are just fine.

    Dick, I learned this lesson early on in my scooter experience. The biggest thing I miss about my motorcycle is the excess power. I don’t have to be humble in traffic on my KLR. If people are pissing me off, I take to the ditches, or just grab a handful of throttle and blow right on past them.

    The scooter has taught me patience and humility, and it wasn’t an easy lesson. It’s going to be interesting to see how I readjust to the big bike come Spring. Will I be more tolerant? Or will we see the Return of the Urban Guerrilla? I honestly don’t know.

    Ride well,

  8. irondad Says:

    Given access to a jungle, the Gorilla will always rule. It is the nature of man. It is our task to always be strong enough to be gentle.

  9. Alexander the Great Says:

    It was a great day for a ride but unfortunately I had class and couldn’t chat. I’d love to go for a ride sometime when the weather warms up a little.

    I’d agree with the ‘otherwise normal people behaving as phycopaths’. I see more people stressed out from driving their cars in traffic, speeding and worrying about if that car that pulled behind them is just a tag along or a secret smokey.

    When I’m not riding my scooter I generally ride my K2 Enemy (that’s a pedelbike for those of you bringing up your search engine). The problems with being invisible are even bigger when your average speed is only 12-15 mph.

    happy bikin’


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