Baron Battered, But Unbeaten

15 March, 2006 Weather: Mild winter conditions, horrible roads.

I would really like to know what Public Works was doing on Monday night, into Tuesday morning. None of the sidestreets that I ride received any attention. These roads still had ridges and ruts of solid ice, frozen from the slush left on the streets overnight. Road conditions were worse on Tuesday morning than they were when I rode home on Monday afternoon. This is inexcusable.

Have the cities and counties run out of salt and sand? Hardly. After our mild January and February, they still have stockpiles of the stuff. Have they already laid off some of the plow drivers? I don’t know, but I would sure like to find out.

I suited up on Tuesday morning, ready to ride the Baron to work. When I went to pull him out of the garage, he wouldn’t budge. He acted like his front brake was stuck on. Why? On closer inspection, I found the entire space between the tire and fender was solid ice. The spaces between the three spokes of the wheel were filled with ice and snow. This was a lightbulb revelation! Now I knew why it felt like the front tire had gone bald on Monday. Now I knew why the ice and snow seemed especially slick on my ride home. The snow and ice had packed into the fender and were acting like a front brake every time I hit a slippery surface.

That was why I strained my groin muscles holding the front end off the ground so many times. That’s why my right knee is a solid mass of black and blue right now. That fender would have to come off if I was going to ride in any more heavy, wet, sticky snow.

I thought about busting out the tools and doing it right then, but I was already late for work. The thought of trying to hurry down such treacherous roads with weak legs and a bruised knee convinced me that it would be OK to drive the cage to work. Throw Old Man Winter a bone, let him win one round… why not?

On Monday, The Baron and I proved that we could punch our way through his worst blizzard of this season. We both deserved a little R&R. So I drove…

I piloted our family Beetle down the roads which comprise my normal scootering route. This would be a reconnaissance for Wednesday morning. I found frozen ruts so bad that the suspension bottomed out. I heard ominous scraping sounds underneath the floorpan. I could imagine a mini-iceberg ripping the guts out of the oilpan, turning us into a four-wheeled Titanic.

This imagination thing got so bad that I started driving with the tires on the high-spots, straddling the ruts and sliding everywhere. There was NO WAY I could have ridden through there on the Baron. But I would take the same route on the way home, just to see if conditions had improved.

They had, but not much. West River Road was still not safe for a scooter. The only improvements had come from sun-melt, but this didn’t affect the shady spots. I doubt that a plow truck went down there all day. East River Road was only a little better. There were still long stretches of solid ice, with little or no salt/sand mix to aid traction.

If the Baron and I were to ride this morning, I would have to come up with a different route.

Using Google Earth, I flew a virtual route that took Robert Street to Kellogg, to Marion, to University Avenue. University parallels I-94 through the Twin Cities. It is a high-traffic thoroughfare, so it should be in good shape. From University, I could cross the river and hook up with Highway 55 via a couple of sidestreets, minimizing our exposure to the really wretched conditions.

For once, everything went exactly as planned. We made it to work this morning in an hour and ten minutes. There was little traffic, as we left early, and the conditions were just as I had predicted. The ride home wouldn’t go as smoothly, however.

The Baron looked pretty beat-up sitting out in the parking lot. The plastic along the right side is scraped, and there’s a big chunk missing out of the “dash”. There are cracks all along the floorboard and around the steering head. Then there were his spindly fork legs sticking out, naked without their stylish fender. Still, after three crashes in one day, he carried me to work like a champion this morning.

The ride home, along the same University Avenue route, was a traffic nightmare. I didn’t leave work until almost four p.m., and it was four-thirty by the time we got into the thick of the traffic along this four-to-six-lane boulevard. The traffic signals prevent it from being a free-for-all, but you sure spend a lot of time waiting for your chance to dash another block, only to stop again. It was maddening, not to mention dangerous. I believe there are a lot of road-ragin’ refugees from the freeway who drive this route. People make the most ridiculous moves, just to get a car length or two ahead. Nobody was looking for a scooter out there, and I was feeling extremely vulnerable on the Baron.

We made it home, but it took us nearly two hours. I hate that route. I won’t ride it again, if I have any choice, not during rush hour.

Tomorrow we are supposed to get another six inches of snow. With my scooter roads still in lousy condition from Monday’s blizzard, and with my body still mending from the damage it sustained, I don’t think I want to deal with this.

I’m starting to feel like a “short-timer” in one of those Vietnam War movies. Man, I am so close to going back to the real world of Springtime riding and commuting that I don’t want to get zapped so close to the end of my “tour”. My repairs to the family Beetle are working, and my wife has found a friend at work she can carpool with, so the cage thing is very tempting.

I’m not going to make a decision tonight. I’ll wait until after my morning “briefing” of news and weather reports before making up my mind. Six inches of snow is the deciding factor. If we are going to get that, it would be irresponsible and foolhardy to try and ride. The Baron and I have nothing more to prove, and I don’t want to be laid up in a hospital for the first part of the real riding season.

Tune in tomorrow…

16 Responses to “Baron Battered, But Unbeaten”

  1. Lev Says:

    Hey, Gary! Make sure we still have something left to put up under the ceiling!

    Ha-ha-ha… :)

  2. irondad Says:

    Been there, done that, on the ‘nam short timer. Paranoid from papers to plane. No shame in doing your duty and wanting to get to the new scenery. Time to feed yourself, now. Wait it out with my blessing, bro. Your cager time will last how long? You know your addiction. I see it in the mirror every day.

  3. Mad Says:

    It’s true, The Baron and yourself have proven your hardiness in winter. All the winter rider readers appreciate that fact. Best to look after that knee I’d say.

  4. Seagullplayer Says:

    I think you are making the right choice.
    When they hang the Baron from the ceiling, what would it be saying to people if it was all broken up.
    “Ya, thats the one the guy rode all last winter.”
    “Man, what did he look like?”

    Wrecking three times on the commute to work is not what people want to hear when selecting a mode of transport. If you get killed your sending the wrong message.
    Be careful out there, may God have your back.

    Rubber Down.

  5. mnscooter Says:

    I stepped out the front door this morning, and there were six inches of snow on my steps. I drove the cage to work. I will drive tomorrow too. Then, over the weekend, I will monitor the road conditions and make the decision for Monday. Monday is important symbolically, because it is the last calendar day of Winter. But again, I won’t ride if it is too dangerous.

    You can’t compete with Old Man Winter. Not when he really unloads on you. I look back to that sunrise a few weeks ago, and I have to wonder if that really was a warning. No, what the Baron and I have proven here is that you can ride through MOST of the winter, save a ton of money on gas, and have fun doing it.

    But when the conditions become this dangerous, it would be nothing less than stupid to ride on two wheels. Even three would be a stretch. Thanks again for your support everybody.

    Ride well,
    =gc=

  6. Bob Says:

    Gary,
    I look forward to reading your blog every day. You’ve already won the contest. Driving conditions here in the Twin Cities (I live in Savage) have been HORRID since Monday morning and are of course now getting worse. I fully support and agree with your decision to park the Baron, at this point, for however long you choose. As Lev notes above, we all want to see the Baron on display. Spring weather is near! More importantly, your safety and sanity are a primary concern (and we blog readers have a selfish interest in looking forward to even more of your writing!).
    I’m guessing I speak for many others who enjoy your stories but don’t necessarily respond on the blog. SUGGESTION: When the Baron goes on display, hold an open house at the dealership so people can come in and meet you and maybe share a story of their own. Call it the Sunday after the Baron goes on display from 2-4PM.
    Take care,
    Bob

  7. Nick Says:

    Gary, I wouldn’t blame you. Lots of the roads are trechorous right now with the sheets of ice that are a coupla inches higher than the pavement. Also, these sheets of ice are sporatic and with the new blacket of snow, unseen. You have kicked ass thus far and I’m sure you and the Baron could of made it, but damn. Later, Nick

  8. Seagullplayer Says:

    As fate would have it a new scooter shop opened on the road I travel everday to work. Tuesday I finally stopped and had a look around. They deal mostly with a company called Daelim. Is there a place online where I can read some user reviews of different scooters, including Daelim’s?
    He is expecting a 250cc in a couple weeks.

  9. Mad Says:

    “I rest my case your honour”

    Good man

  10. mnscooter Says:

    Bob, thanks for the kind words. I like your suggestion. I’m sure Lev will be reading this soon. What do you say, Lev?

    Nick, I would like to think that we could have made the University Avenue run, but that is assuming nobody ran us over. When the traffic gets that thick, in slippery conditions, the risk factor goes through the roof. I have to weigh those risks against the reward, and frankly, it ain’t worth it!

    Mark, I don’t know anything at all about Daelim, but I will look them up over the weekend.

    www.scooterbbs.com -is a good source of information for different brands of scooters, but you have to sort through a lot of chatter and noise to get to the useful information. I’ll send you an email if I find anything.

    Thanks Mad. Yeah, I want to be healthy for Spring. It’s going to be a fun season with the whole family mounted on scooters.

    Ride well,
    =gc=

  11. Lev Says:

    Open house sounds great! Let’s do it.

  12. jim Says:

    You know, after reading about the scooterati up there in the twin cities it reminded me of the scene out of Quadrophenia when the mods and the rockers had a go at it in Brighton:)

  13. mnscooter Says:

    Sounds good, Lev!

    Jim, I’ve thought of that scenario a few times myself… Having been a Rocker most of my life, I would have a real hard time siding with the Mods. I always saw the Rockers as the more honorable and noble group, and the Mods just seemed so…

    Well, I’m going to get myself in trouble again here. Let’s just say, I Know What You Mean.

    Ride well,
    =gc=

  14. Rob Tsou Says:

    I guess we’re pretty lucky here in Atlanta in that the local club doesn’t discriminate. Both me and my Honda Elite (arguably the strangest looking scooter ever) have been encouraged to come out and hang. The people are all great and it’s a good bit of fun but the family thing does get in the way as it does sometimes. Granted, almost all of them have some kind of Eye-talian machine, they still welcomed me and my Spacey!

    On a related note, I took the scoot out for a ride today and it was great! After sitting for almost a year or so, I got it out and running. I think it’s a little down on top speed (just about 55 on level ground) but I’m hoping the Seafoam will help that.

    Happy Scootering folks!

    Rob

  15. mnscooter Says:

    Hey Rob, it’s been my experience that you can never go wrong with a Honda. The only time a Honda has failed me was when I beat it to death trying to race against sportbikes thirty years newer.

    That’s funny, I thought the Helix was the strangest scooter ever. Which one was in the Devo commercial?

    Ride well,
    =gc=

  16. Rob Tsou Says:

    That would be mine (actually it’s the Elite 150 Deluxe while mine is the plain Elite 150). Ha! They also did a commercial with Grace Jones and Adam Ant.

    Be safe!

    Rob

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