03 March, 2006 Temperature: 30 degrees F (-1°C)
The morning commute was strange today. It being a Friday, I expected the usual early-risers to be out in force, aggressively forging ahead with their minds on the coming weekend. Much to my surprise, our route was virtually deserted. It was as if everyone who usually drives here on Friday morning took the day off. I checked my calendar at work, and it isn’t a government holiday. What gives?
I’m not complaining, mind you. The ride this morning went beautifully. We flowed around corners, from stopsign to stoplight, with no wasted time or motion. We arrived at work in about an hour, and I was happy and ready to roll. Today was the day of our Scoot! Quarterly magazine photo shoot, and we were going to do it out on Medicine Lake. I’d been looking forward to this.
Yes, all the snow and ice is gone off the roads, and the only place one can really experience the total lack of traction is out on a frozen lake. My photographer, Tracy Mayer, is also one of the engineers in our R&D department. She knew where we could gain access to Medicine Lake from a public boat ramp. Perfect.
Steve Williams reads my blog. He has a blog of his own, called “Scooter in the Sticks”. The link is in the sidebar on the right side of this page. He also rides his Vespa scooter to work in the Pennsylvania Winter. Today he rode it on snow and ice. What kind of lunatic would do a thing like that?
This morning, cresting a hill at 20 mph, he rode down the other side on a sheet of glare ice. Dragging both feet, he squeezed his rear brake, the wheel locked up, and he started to slide sideways. This was probably as far as his thinking went on the subject, up to that point. He was all out of tricks. Unfortunately, physics had a few more cards left to play.
Steve and his Vespa fell down, gently. They were able to get right back up again and complete their ride to work, stopping enroute to take a wonderful self portrait, apparently none the worse for their adventure.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
My workday went slowly. Existential Gravity was in full effect, the ticks separated from the tocks by what seemed like a full minute. I think I got carpal tunnel from drumming my fingers on my desk. It was agony!
But finally, we escaped. We fled the building under a flat, grey sky. The clouds had moved in, spoiling our beautiful light, and we would just have to make the best of it.
The boat ramp was bumpy, and the ice around it was rutted and treacherous. The Baron and I rode slowly out towards the snow-covered plain where we would perform our little stunts for the camera. Tracy walked gingerly after us, cradling her expensive camera and taking no chances.
We practiced for a bit, spinning donuts and trying our flat-track turns on a surface quite unlike the slushy-snowy-sandy mix we encounter out on the roads. I went for one balls-out donut, full throttle, and ended up on my ass with the Baron laying on top of me. Score one for Medicine Lake.
Getting up from that, I began my runs for the photographic record. Accelerating across the snow, when we reached bare ice I turned the bars and gassed it, dropping my foot and drifting sideways, looking right into the camera lens. Well, it sure felt like we were sideways. What the camera saw was perhaps less dramatic than what I had imagined. The fact is, out on this slick surface, if you really get sideways like we do on the road, you get horizontal soon after. The front tire just doesn’t have any grip out here on the lake, and I didn’t want to run over my photographer.
We finished up with the Baron and I spinning more donuts, throwing snowy roost at the camera. Tracy captured dozens of images, some of which have got to be good enough for publication.
I thought about Steve’s fall today, and how he must have felt after trying everything he knew to try and save it. Then I compared that to my sheepish grin and chuckle, as I pushed the Baron upright, after we tumbled on the ice doing stupid scooter tricks. Falling down is just something you accept when you try to tackle these conditions on two wheels. You wear the proper safety gear, so that a mishap doesn’t turn into a disaster, and you take your lumps in stride. This is all part of having fun on a motorbike. It still beats driving around in a cage, living in a box, and trying to insulate yourself from the big, bad world.