Lessons Learned…

16 March, 2006 Weather: Snow all morning, mild afternoon.

Well, I didn’t need a briefing to see that there were six inches of snow on my front steps this morning. Opening the screen door, I stuck a yardstick into the snow, and I knew right away that I would be driving today.

My neighborhood was covered in white, including the streets. And those streets were treacherous, because the fresh white blanket covered ice ruts and ridges which would throw the Baron and I to the ground with no warning at all. It wasn’t scooter weather, that’s for sure.

I won’t bore you with my morning commute in the cage through freeway traffic.

But I want to tell you about some lessons I have learned this week, which bring the entire Minnesota Winter Scooter Commuter project into perspective.

First, on the way home this afternoon, I decided to do another reconnaissance of my scooter route. What I found was very revealing. Public Works crews had been busy since last night preparing the roads for the coming snowstorm. They got out ahead of the snow and laid down a nice layer of salt and sand. Apparently, they were fully staffed, because there was nothing but slush on even the worst sections of my favorite roads home.

This started me thinking…

Monday’s storm started on Sunday night. If P.W. is like any other union, members get double-time pay for working on Sundays and Holidays. Could it be that the managers of Public Works decided to save some money on labor by waiting until Monday morning, after the worst of the storm damage was done, to send out the full compliment of crews? Is this why the ice was allowed to build up on the sidestreets to the point where they were dangerous to cars, let alone crazy me on a scooter? I don’t know. I will probably never know. But it is something to keep in mind on Winter Mondays in the future.

The second thing I learned: There is a reason dirt bikes are built with fenders far above the tires. That is so your front wheel doesn’t get clogged and lock up whenever you encounter a slip-sloppery mess like I did on Monday morning.

The third thing: Never try to ride in snow that is deeper than your ground clearance. This should be self-explanatory, but it never occurred to me until Monday morning.

Finally, I learned to take some time to weigh the risks of my actions against the possible rewards. The risks I took on Monday were way out of proportion to what I had intended at the beginning of this project. But I got so carried away with the challenge that I let my brutal jarhead mentality come to the fore, crushing all reason and rationality with it’s implacable, relentless will to win against impossible odds.

Riding to work is a wonderful thing, for so many reasons, but it is not an overpowering mandate. Never risk your life just to get to work. Wait a day, and the misery will still be there, waiting for YOU. Get there safely, so you can live to ride another day.

7 Responses to “Lessons Learned…”

  1. Tiff Says:

    *applauds*

  2. Seagullplayer Says:

    I think at the end of the project you should look back over your adventure and list the “operational conditions” that you recommend riding in.
    Maybe list three different levels of rider ability.
    Old lady, realistic, crazy man, or something like that.
    Your blog has been/is a great read, but alot of people will just want to cut to the chase as it where. I’m sure you are planning a very nice summery of your winter thoughts anyway, I can’t believe it’s just a Monday away.
    I’m going to miss reading this. I hope you will get to ride Monday, and I hope it’s a bight, bright sun shinny day.

    Rubber down

  3. mnscooter Says:

    Thank you, Tiff… Thankyouverymusshhh. (Flips up collar and walks offstage.)

    Mark, those are pretty much my plans for next week. I was sorely tempted to ride today (NPI), but I am giving this knee another couple of days to heal up. Monday we ride for sure.

    Watch for tonight’s blog entry. This will be the last call for “Name My Blog” contest entries. I will be sorting through all of them over the weekend, and consulting with my Ride To Work coleagues to pick the winner. I will announce the winner on Monday.

    Ride well,
    =gc=

  4. irondad Says:

    Bro,
    I may do the longer version via e-mail. We are both coming to the end of chapters. I made the decision I’ve been putting off. There is a sadness combined with excitement to see what the next chapter holds. This particular last chapter has been intense for both of us. The intensity makes the ending harder to bear. At the moment it seems like nothing else will be equal. I feel sort of drained and sad at the moment. You seem the same way. Kind of a period of limbo while winding up for the next one. Feels weird, doesn’t it?

    I’m not sure if my blog entry last night was sharing or a memoir.

    Anyway, I was also thinking of your circumstances when I wrote it. I might be inclined to nominate the name of the post as your new blog title:

    Sedans don’t go VROOM.

    It sort of simply sums up things for me. Your missus and cute munchkin won’t be riding for the same reason as you and I. Yet, I’m positive they’ll enjoy the extra fun and excitement.

    Dan

  5. Keith Says:

    Your article on risk today makes me ask a question I have been thinking of asking you for the past few days. Before my son was born 2 years ago I rode to work most of the time when the temps were above 50. I put 15,000 miles on my bike 4 years in a row. In 2004 when my son was born I only rode 3000 miles. Last year I rode 6000. Part of the reason I don’t ride as much is that riding in traffic is not much fun and it is just easier to drive a car in traffic. The other part is for fear of getting killed and leaving my young son without a father. I know you have 2 girls. How do you deal with the risk factors of riding and the responsiblity for your family? I’m asking because I am coming up with my own answer to that question, not because I think you are doing anything wrong.

  6. mnscooter Says:

    Irondad, I don’t think I can explain exactly why I ride anymore. It has become such an essential part of my life, of who I am, that I can’t imagine ever NOT riding. Riding motorbikes is my hobby, my avocation, and my source of transportation to and from work. Think about how cool that is!

    I get to practice my hobby and my passion in life on the way to and from this disagreeable but necessary activity we call Work. The ride can be as long as I want to make it. On weekends, I ride some more! When I can ride year round, in all weather… that, my friend, is total bliss. Except in a blizzard, that is.

    Keith… I have a daughter Emily and my wife Amy depending on me. For convenience’ sake, I just call them “My Girls”. The risks I took on Monday were irresponsible, maybe even inexcusable. But my girls forgive me, because they love and understand me for who I am.

    They know that, even though I have nothing left to prove, I can’t resist testing myself like this. It makes me feel alive and strong and it defines who I am as a man.

    Having said that, I don’t see myself taking these kinds of risks in the future. I ‘misunderestimated’ the strength of that storm and the horrible conditions of the roads on Monday. Had I known how difficult that would be, and that my work would be closed when I got there, I would have stayed home.

    But then I wouldn’t have discovered the Edge, that set of conditions which would make my scooter commute a challenge worthy of a Warrior. I’m happy that it happened, that the Baron and I were equal to the challenge, but I will never knowingly take risks like that again. I don’t have the right to gamble with my girls’ future like that.

    I hope that helps you reconcile whatever conflict you are trying to sort out right now.

    Ride well,
    =gc=

  7. Terry Says:

    Gary
    I’ve been reading your blog all winter, it’s shure enjoyable to read, much better than box people’s entertainment (TV).I have a Silverwing, which I call the “little scoot” and a Yamaha TW 200 DP bike, which I use for the forest roads and trails up north where we live.I’m the only one around here that has a scooter with more power than my motorcycle.
    After going to AZ for 14 winters , we stayed in good ol’ MN this winter and enjoyed snowmobiling everyday and working on our house. I look forward to your summer blogs, keep your distance from cagers and the Baron sounds like a super scoot. You could name your blog” I’m smiling and having fun going to and from work” thanks again for your blogs,look forward for more.
    enjoy life
    Terry

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