09 February, 2006 Temperature: 26 degrees F (-3°C)

This is not what I intended to write about tonight.

I am sitting back at my desk, at work, and it is six thirty p.m.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, we got a couple inches of snow today, and traffic was snarled up all over the Twin Cities when I got off work at three-thirty. No big deal, I thought. I’ve dealt with worse than this.

The Baron started right up, and I let his engine warm for awhile as I put on my gloves and readied my mind for the challenge ahead. To test the traction I would find out on the road, I spun a few donuts in the parking lot. Two clockwise, and then two counterclockwise. No problem. Same old sloppery conditions I rode in last week.

We made it about five miles, carefully, taking no unnecessary risks. Then, pulling away from a stopsign in a residential neighborhood, the Baron sputtered a couple of times and died.

I’m not going to bore you with the details, other than to say that I checked fuel flow, and that didn’t seem to be the problem. Most likely an electrical gremlin, but I didn’t have the tools necessary to check that. As happened before, at least a hundred cars passed me while I was there on the side of the road, with the seat up and parts scattered in the snow. One after another, they passed by without even slowing down. What is wrong with people these days?

I know… I have no cell phone. What’s the matter with ME?

It was unbelievable good fortune that my friend Jerre Waye was driving by, and he stopped to help. He never drives this way, but tonight he had to run an errand. We pushed the Baron over to a nearby house, knocked on the door, and the nice lady there said we could leave the scooter in her driveway until I could return with a truck. Then Jerre drove me to a local gas station, where I called my Baron pit crew. They came and got us, with no complaints. These are good people.

Now I am waiting at work for my wife to come get me. They aren’t going to start on the Baron until tomorrow, so I am going to have to find another way to work in the morning. A quick phone call, and it’s Dad to the rescue. He’s good that way. This is one nice thing about living close to your extended family.

So now I wait, reeking of gas, while Amy fights the traffic to come pick me up. Am I sorry I started this whole thing? No. This is one bad day, out of how many good ones? Whatever the failure was, it is just another data point in my Baron Test Pilot report, and hopefully it will help the engineers at the factory build a better scooter in the future.

My last two blog entries were leading up to something. Tonight I had planned to discuss how attitude affects your safety and enjoyment of the ride. Events dictated otherwise, obviously. Well, there’s always tomorrow.

13 Responses to “Ordeal”

  1. Buster Brown Says:

    Well, my friend, it looks as if we are all having the shit week. Mine started on Monday, when I rear-ended a pregnant woman on the freeway, EB I94, early rush hour, right under Franklin Ave. I was on my way to my brother’s house for his opinion on a howling front end. I really wanted him to say that the wheel bearing, or whatever it was, would make it to Pueblo and back without disintegrating, so that I could go on the Elephant Ride.

    I am relieved to hear that the young woman and her baby are unscathed, as was her Honda. Unfortunately, the Soccer Bitch is totaled. No Elephant Ride for me this year. I thought about flying to Colorado, but the Soccer Bitch was scheduled to take three bikes to Texas in March for a trip to the Copper Canyon. It seemed like a good idea to stick around and shop for a replacement tow vehicle. I need to do it this weekend while I still have a rental car. My past-middle-age 3-series BMW would ordinarily get me around, but after 285,000 miles, the clutch hydraulics picked this week to go Tango Uniform on me.

    So for the weekend, at least, I have become the enemy. The local Enterprise shop couln’t give me a small sedan, but they had a deal on a Durango through the body shop. I think it might have a Hemi. Remember how your folks would hold up the car keys on New Years Eve, not that they didn’t trust you, but because you couldn’t do anything about “the other guy”. Well, I am “the other guy”, and I am in a bad mood.

  2. Dick Aal Says:

    Hang in there! You can have days like that with any mode of transportation. I have had similar problems with a motorcycle, a bicycle, and a car. It does get you down but think on the bright side. It is only one day out of your usual trip and nothing bad really happened. You will be back there soon.

  3. Tiff Says:

    Best laid plans and all that. Hope that it all turns out OK. Bet you some salt has got into a connector and corroded it…..

    By the way, I posted a comment a couple of weeks ago that I was test riding a honda and a triumph….well, I plumped for the triumph, photo here:

    Gotta wait a week for the finance to go through, and she’s all mine…..

    Comes with a full set of luggage, so I can all but retire the car, except for when transporting the dogs…..

  4. Mad Says:

    I hate that sinking feeling when your bike strands you, my scooter did that to me many times and no, car drivers never stop.
    I hope it’s fixed soon Gary and I’ve been looking forward to this attitude post.

  5. Seagullplayer Says:

    Glad you where not running at speed in traffic. I’m sure it’s something simple.
    Two words; Prepaid cellular

    Keep us posted.

    Rubber down

  6. David Eakin Says:

    Gary, Isn’t it amazing how we get these pre-conceived (unrealistic) expectations? When I first started driving, it was very commonplace for cars to only (reliably) last 80,000-100,000 miles. Now, I would not even consider purchasing a car if I knew it would not go at least 150,000 without major work. We now live in an “appliance” era where we expect most every technology to be inexpensive initially, last for an inordinate time without care (I know this is not the case with you and the Baron), and then discard/replace when it no longer functions. I was recently reading an article about how a couple of people took brand new Honda 750 Nighthawks across Mother Russia and endured some of the worst “roads” possible; even needing to re-weld the frames a couple of times en route. Now who would have thought that the Honda Nighthawk was not an adventure tourer capable of extended third-world conditions? I guess the bottom line is that the low-price, mass-produced Chinese scooter biz cannot yet be counted on to create a product for extended/repeated commuter use in extreme conditions without incident - so get/take a cell phone ;-).

  7. Steve Williams Says:

    I took a couple lessons from your post Gary. One has to do with patience and the other with choices. When things don’t go my way I always struggle to be patient lest I make rash decisions. I can remember vehicles that had a couple problems and I decided that they were “done”, got rid of them only to see the new owner drive them successfully (and cheaply) for many years.

    When I’m patient like you appear to be I can make the right choices. Looking forward to the attitude post.


  8. irondad Says:

    I can’t resist the cop reply, again. It is sometimes a blessing that no one stops. Depending on who you are, ( as in your ability to protect yourself ) you might not want to deal with the ones who DO stop. It’s a different world these days. Predators are out of proportion.

    Hope The Baron just had a small hiccup. It’s wonderful to have friends and family in times of need. We need the good side to balance things out. Otherwise, what would be the point, huh?


  9. jim Says:

    I just found out obout this blog when I read about it in one of my bike magazines. Told a guy at work about it, rides a wing most of time to work, and we are getting a big kick out of it.
    I used to ride a lot in snow and ice when I lived in north east Iowa. But then again that was in country not in a big city.
    Now I live in north west Arkansas and ride every month, maybe not every day but at least every month.

  10. mnscooter Says:

    Wow. Guys, these are all great comments. But I think I am going to put off my replies until tomorrow, so I can get this “attitude” entry together. Besides, that gives you something new to read.

    Buster, sorry to hear about your horrible week. MUCH worse than mine. Beware! I have not yet determined whether brown holes cause SUVs, or vice-versa. Don’t let the existential gravity sneak up on you.

    Ride well,

  11. mnscooter Says:

    Let me start by saying Welcome Aboard, Jim. Northwest Arkansas, eh? I’ll bet you have some incredible roads there. Buster Brown occasionally goes for a Fall Colors tour thereabouts, I think.

    Tiff, I am so happy for you! I have always wanted a new Triumph, but have never been able to afford one. So I use my journalistic credentials to… now this is a great British slang word… blag an extended test ride now and then. That three-cylinder engine sounds like a Ferrari at high revs, through the right pipe. Sweeeeeeeeeet!

    I’m skipping around here…

    ALRIGHT ALREADY! I will look into prepaid cellular. Jeez, you guys make it sound like a crime not to have one. I know… it’s not just about me anymore. My girls need to know when I’m going to be late getting home.

    Which brings me to David’s very perceptive comment. Yes, as technology and quality evolve, we do have higher expectations from our machinery. That is one reason why I am doing this project.

    What many here don’t know is that I have been keeping a technical record of every incident and failure on an excel spreadsheet for translation to the engineers at the Baron factory in China.

    Along with this blog being a source of entertainment and encouragement for the two-wheeled commuting public, it is also a sort of HALT/HASS test for Baron scooters. Essentially, I am doing R&D for Baron in America.

    They will, of course, do an ROI analysis before incorporating any improvements indicated by my research. We have to preserve the cost advantage, after all. But the Baron crew here in Plymouth, Minnesota really are dedicated to improving the quality of these products. I wouldn’t be involved with them if this were not the case.

    This is very analogous to our early experience with Japanese motorcycles.

    Steve… about patience: I don’t know how “hands-on” you are with your machinery. I’m going to use another wonderful Brit slang term here… Fettling (tuning, or working on) your own bike can be a real source of satisfaction. It can also be a pain in the ass, if you have other plans and obligations. Motorbikes are not complex mechanisms. There are only so many things that can go wrong. But it can still be baffling if you aren’t technically inclined.

    I always figure it will take me twice as long as the shop mechanic to fix any problem. If my time on that particular day is worth more than half the hourly labor rate, then I let them fix it. Otherwise, I do it myself. That’s also a good excuse to keep and buy more tools!

    Thanks again for writing, guys.

    Ride well,

  12. Mad Says:

    Oooh I love a good fettle me. Ain’t English slang reet gradly?

  13. Steve Williams Says:

    Hello Gary,

    Over the years I have tinkered with a wide range of vehicles and machines from pulling an engine from a Ferrari 308GTS to rebuilding the transmission in my 1962 Ford Falcon. But over the years I have really tired of doing any maintenance on vehicles. After replacing the head gasket on a Mazda pickup truck a couple of years ago I swore “Never again”. And I have been true to that oath. I did add some oil to my lawn mower last year.

    I’ve toyed with the idea of tinkering with the Vespa but I just don’t want to. And that stand can lead to some small amount of impatience on my part when things don’t work right.

    I understand the satisfaction pay off—these days I get it from working in the garden—specifically bringing back big rocks from forays into the mountains and fields around here and making paths and walls and “stuff”.

    You never have to worry about something not working with a rock.