Back on Course

28 February, 2006 24 degrees F (-4°C)

Well, just as I feared, Amy wouldn’t let me stay home today to take care of her. She had all the help modern pharmaceuticals can provide, and kept the telephone close in case she changed her mind. I think all the positive energy coming from my readers probably helped as well. You know who you are… Thanks.

So the Baron and I rode out into the darkness once again. We needed an early takeoff, so we could leave work in time to make our last checkup at Baron HQ tonight. The ride to work was routine, with dry roads and little traffic. I rode slower than I did last night, and had some time to look around at the city lights and the stark shadows of bare trees along the parkways. There isn’t much snow left, and what little there is seems to be stained and dirty, ready to melt away into the brown grass and dead leaves.

But there is danger in the forecast. Freezing drizzle is supposed to start after midnight tonight, and keep on through morning. I could awaken to streets of glare ice again. The Iceman cometh back? We’ll know in less than ten hours.

My workday was actually pretty interesting. I am setting up some new lab equipment, and learning how to operate it at the same time. A job like that makes time pass pretty quickly, and keeps Existential Gravity at bay. Soon enough, it was time to leave for the five mile trek to Baron HQ. This was to be our last checkup before the end of winter. So of course, the Baron was running flawlessly in 38 degree (3°C) weather.

As well he should, I suppose. He is quite well-sorted by now. He has stood up to these conditions much better than I expected. The salt has corroded things, but not nearly to the extent that I had feared. The variator was a bit worn, as were the roller weights, but not enough to warrant replacement yet. However, since we had everything apart, we did it anyway. I get the feeling that Crew Chief Loren would rather not see me again this winter. He is a busy man, what with Spring on the way and scooters to assemble.

CEO Lev was there, and we talked about the future. My services as R&D consultant will still be needed come spring, as they bring the new 250cc models online. I’m not sure how that is going to impact this blog, but it looks like I will be commuting on a variety of different models of scooter, as well as on my KLR “Frogwing”. All-in-all, it looks like an interesting season to come.

But Lev has thrown a curveball my way. He wants the Baron back sometime after March 20th, as a display piece and promotional tool. We talked about hanging him from the high ceiling of the warehouse/showroom, sort of like a Smithsonian exhibit. How cool is that? I’m going to miss the little fellow, though. He is a real trooper, and I was actually hoping to modify him somewhat with hotrod parts from the aftermarket. Alas, it is not to be.

We have twenty more days together, and then the future is uncertain. Whatever happens after that, I still have to ride to work. So I am going to keep on blogging here as long as Andy wants to let me. The title may change, but the song remains the same.

Poking Around...I leave you tonight with a photo that I took in my wanderings on Saturday. It kind of illustrates the gnarly places I like to poke around in, even on a scooter. That old power plant in the background is abandoned, but for awhile there it was home to a bunch of “River Rats”. These were nomadic folk who sailed the river in various kinds of live-aboard houseboats, and docked wherever they could without getting hassled by The Man.

If you view Saint Paul on Google Earth, look to the Southwest of downtown. You will see an older aerial view of this powerplant with several boats moored around it. They are gone now. The Man got `em, as he eventually gets anyone who isn’t paying him rent or protection money. It’s a sorry state of affairs in a country that still calls itself Free.

15 Responses to “Back on Course”

  1. Lev Says:

    Gary, I think you misunderstood. I don’t want to take away your toys. I want to exchange the old for the new. You will still have the scooter… just one with less than 10K km on it. And if you want to do a hot rod project, I will help you! We have some cool performance parts on the way, so this will be a fun summer!

    By the way, if there are any experienced metal fabricators in Minneapolis area who’d like to help us develop a 250cc retro, please contact me. We need to modify and strengthen the existing frame to fit the bigger engine, then send the prototype to China for production.

  2. mnscooter Says:

    No sweat, Lev. We are on the same page. I was just getting sentimental there, because I had become attached to the little beast. But after seeing some of the new stuff there tonight, I am excited about the season to come.

    Ride well,

  3. Tiff Says:

    Lev, I’d love that job! Unfortunately I’m: (a) in Coventry, UK, not Minneapolis and (b) only an amateur metal basher. Meanwhile, here’s some inspiration: ;)

    Gary, Just to let you know, I picked up the new sprint ST saturday, and it’s bliss! The only minor hiccough was catching myself doing 135mph on the motorway - need to be a bit wary of that throttle, now. Plus as a new triumph owner, I apparently qualify for a free factory tour! I’ll try and get some photos……

  4. Mad Says:

    Um when they decide they need a British R&D tester just remember me :D

  5. Seagullplayer Says:

    Last night on the way home I saw the sight of all sights, a scooter!
    On the road ahead of me! I followed him for several miles, but never got close enough to make out much. He was keeping with traffic with no problem, 45 to 55 mph. Here in rural Southern Indiana that is almost unheard of, and in February to boot! I couldn’t wait to tell you.
    It was new, cause it was still clean, wish I knew what the make was.
    These 250cc machines are really starting to peak my interest…
    Hope your wife is better today.

    Rubber Down

  6. Gone Away Says:

    .oO(As an interloper who doesn’t understand the whole bike thing, I’d best keep my voice down. Nice photograph, especially as I like gnarly places too…)

  7. Ron Johnston Says:

    Thanks for the google earth tip. The power plant was easy to find, and now I have traced several of the routes you’ve described. Cool.

  8. Steve Williams Says:

    Seems sad to put the little fellow out to pasture but I understand the marketing imperatives. Sounds like you are just going to have lot’s of riding and riding related activities. When are you going to be able to quit your day job and make this your life’s work?

    I think I would consider early retirement for a riding or scooter related passion that paid some bills.

    A 250cc Baron. I’m sure I speak for all your faithful blog readers that with the 250 version we’ll expect to see some wheelie pictures.

  9. mnscooter Says:

    Okay, from the top…

    Tiff, That’s brilliant! Can’t wait for the photos. Isn’t that just about the best motor sound ever?

    Mad, Will do. What do you think, Lev? Baron Global R&D? ;^)

    SGP (aka Mark?) - That woman is incorrigible. She is actually going to her part time job today, despite my objections. I thought I was the only one in our family who was allowed to be incorrigible. Now it appears the Charpentier family has no groan-ups in it at all. (spelling was intentional… think about it.) Then again, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Let us know if you decide to go and test-ride a scooter. I’d love to hear what you think.

    Clive, thanks for writing. That reminds me, I haven’t checked your site in awhile. Shout as loud as you like in here, bikers are a noisy lot anyway.

    FWIW, most of my weekend riding consists of “poking around” like that. My friend, known in here as Buster Brown, is a master of that, and he inspired much of what became “Backroads Diary”. A motorbike is the perfect transportation for photography. Just ask Mr. Williams.

    Hey Ron, Good! I was hoping someone would take a look. I wish I had taken some photos from ground level when they were still around. It looked for all the world like a floating village, with wires strung from generators, little satellite dishes and TV antennas, Christmas lights strung up in the summer… you get the idea. I always meant to ride over there and introduce myself, but never did. They looked like a fascinating tribe.

    Steve… yeah. This isn’t the end, by any means. It really is going to be a fun riding season. As a matter of fact, you have given me an idea…

    I am now taking suggestions for what to call this blog once winter is over. Since we are on the Ride to Work site, it will have to deal with commuting topics, on scooters and my KLR. I may throw a special “Backroads Diary” entry in here from time to time, if I take any interesting road trips. But this blog will need a new name. Just send in your suggestions to this comments section, on whatever entry is current. I don’t know if I can offer a prize for the winning entry or not. I’ll have to talk to my sponsors.

    Ride well,

  10. Seagullplayer Says:

    If you where keeping the Baron it could have been:
    “Missions of the Red Baron” or “Daily Sorties of the Red Baron”
    (sp error not intended)

    Rubber Down

    Correct, Mark


    The Baron in Summer

    Seems obvious.

  12. Mad Says:

    Tiff! You’re a Coventrian, me too; what a coincidence. It’s a small world but I wouldn’t want to paint it.

  13. mnscooter Says:

    Mark, Robin, and everyone else…

    See the next entry. One of my sponsors came through in a big way. We have ourselves a contest!

    Ride well,

  14. Keith Says:

    In Google Earth can you give the latitude and longitude of the power plant?

  15. mnscooter Says:

    Sure, but that makes it a bit too easy, no?

    44°55′34.40 N
    93°06′56.07 W

    Now, see all the boats that were tied up there? Today there is nothing but a big, ugly warning sign. The city, or whoever owns the property, is doing nothing at all with it. It is just sitting there, devoid of life.

    Just another classic example of the capitalist principle “MINE!” in action: “We must stamp out freedom and individuality wherever we find it, so that all good consumers can remain undisturbed.” - The Man

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