The End is Nigh…

24 March, 2006 Weather: Cloudy and 31°F (-1°C).

So much has happened in the past week. We saw the calander end of Winter come and go on Monday. We wrapped up the Minnesota Winter Scooter Commuter project in the media on Tuesday. I was delirious with insomnia on Wednesday, and completely silent on Thursday.

This morning, after having finally caught up on my sleep, I walked out to the garage with a spring in my step. The roads were dry, and the sun was up. It was time to have some FUN again!

The Baron started up with his usual enthusiasm, and we rolled out into the street about thirty minutes earlier than usual. Knowing that our little adventure was going to end soon, I wanted to get out ahead of the zombies so we could have a little playtime on the roads.

Things actually went according to plan, for once. We rolled down Bernard St. all the way to Smith Avenue before we saw another vehicle. This was a small sedan with an elderly lady behind the wheel, and we passed her heading towards the High Bridge.

Crossing the river, it wasn’t yet light enough to take a decent photograph, so I continued on. This wasn’t winter riding, except for the fact that it was one degree below freezing, and we could encounter ice at any time. Our twists and turns through the neighborhood down by the brewery yielded the usual smells of coffee and bacon. I’m trying to remember if these are as pungent in the summer as they are on a mild late-winter morning. I hardly seem to notice them in the summer, but for some reason they become significant in the Winter. I’m not sure why.

Riding on, we passed darkened houses on our way to Shephard Road. Rolling onto this fast thoroughfare, I twisted the throttle to the stop, and then backed it off just a fraction. This seems to be the setting that the Baron likes best. He doesn’t like absolute full-throttle for some reason these days. We accelerated to an indicated 60 mph, which translates to something like the speed limit of 50 here, and that’s all he had to give this morning. RPMs were safely below the 8K redline, reading around 6,500.

I’m thinking that it’s time for a tune-up. We have just turned 10,350 kilometers, and have passed the recommended service interval. The Baron starts and runs just fine, but top-end performance is beginning to decline a bit. The reality is, if you are depending on a 150cc scooter as daily transportation, you should probably plan your route to work around streets which have a maximum 45 mph speed limit. Though these scooters will run at up to 65 mph on level ground, in ideal conditions, they will only cruise reliably at between 40 to 50 mph in normal everyday use. Hills and headwinds come into play, and they are more significant than you would think.

Back in my world, work went more smoothly today. I had a good plan and worked it well, until late in the day, when I was sent on an errand to our distribution center. This place just happens to be within a quarter-mile of Baron Headquarters, and that turned out to be a good thing.

The Baron kept up a 50 mph cruising speed on the highway, but it just wasn’t fast enough to be out there amongst the Friday afternoon crowd. People were passing us at close quarters doing 65 mph or better. This was dangerous. It was at that point where I made a fateful decision… Today would be a good day to retire the Baron in Winter.

When I got to distribution, I called Tony at Baron HQ. They had a Baron 250 PM ready for me. This is a new offering that they want me to test in the commuter role. The 250s will do around 80 mph on the top end, more than enough to keep up with highway traffic. This fitted into their plans perfectly. So I figured, why not?

The “Red Baron” 150SX that I had ridden all Winter has served us well. Calendar Winter was over, and the snow that still lingers will be gone within a week or so. (I hope!) Spring is here, and it is time to move on.

This is not the last post in “The Baron in Winter”, however. I have to go back and try to sort out all the lessons I learned from this experience. This means reviewing both my posts and your comments, to come up with a comprehensive summary of this Winter riding experience. I welcome your comments during this weekend, but I plan to post the last entry on Sunday night.

Thanks for sharing this adventure with me. It was fun, most of the time, and the rest was really a learning experience. I’m not sure where we are going from here, but that’s what makes it exciting, right?

Tomorrow I will busy myself with getting Frogwing up and running for the season ahead. The black 250 PM is sitting in my garage as I type this, and I plan to ride that to work on Monday. The adventure will continue, but on different bikes, and under the title “Rush Hour Rambling”. I hope you stay with us. It’s going to be a great season.

7 Responses to “The End is Nigh…”

  1. Eric Says:

    Hey Gary,

    For all the uncertainty and change over the last few weeks, it seems like it’s turning out to be a pretty smooth transition! The Red Baron made it through an entire Minnesota winter under your merciless butt, and lives to tell his tale under the guise of a mild-mannered museum curator. He could still give it a go if he was pressed into service, but it’s time for a much deserved retirement.

    So you get to test the new 250 huh? Sounds like a blast. Between frogwing and your new scoot, I have no doubt that “It’s going to be a great season.” Congrats on a job well done, can’t wait to see the new chapter unfold.

    By the way… I’m just curious, is the new blog going to be at the same page and under the same bookmark? I have no doubt you’ll let us know, but it was a question lingering in my sleep deprived mind tonight.



  2. Steve Williams Says:

    I think you have an exciting opportunity ahead of you Gary. Your riding and writing have affected many people. In the motorcycle world we need more writing that deals with the everyday realities of riding. There is plenty of glorification of chrome and engines and accessories and it doesn’t help most of us to read about rides across the Sahara or through the Alps. I want to know what is like to integrate riding into my own life.

    Your work helps those of us who are newbies to make informed decisions.



  3. Jeff Says:

    Hi Gary,

    Thankyou so much for sharing your story this winter. Your blog has been the one I most avidly read. You’re a braver man than I, I’m waiting for them to sweep the crud off the roads before I venture out on my bike.

    Stay safe.


  4. Chewy Says:

    It is worth great sadnes we report the passing……

    Thanks, Gary. I, too, will be getting my Suzuki VS800 Intruder ready for the warmer weather. With all I have read, maybe I can stretch the season. These St. Paul streets are rough, and my commute leads to White Bear Lake.

  5. mnscooter Says:

    Thanks guys. As always, from the top…

    Eric, yeah, it was kind of sad to park the Red Baron for the last time. But when I was able to keep up with left-lane traffic on Highway 55 on the way back to work, I started to get over it.

    I’m not sure how the address situation is going to play out. I’ll have to ask Shane on Monday.

    Steve, you make a great point. We need people to know that motorcycling doesn’t have to be just a weekend activity. Riding to work makes your life more vivid, and makes getting up in the morning a good bit easier.

    Jeff, hope to see you out there soon!

    Chewy, The Red Baron isn’t dead… he’s just restin’!

    Ride well,

  6. jim Says:

    I have gotten hooked on this blog. Kind of like a soap opera, or survivor on the mean streets of the frozen north.
    Heck, now my brother-in-law is talking about a scooter. That’s two maybe converts in the last week alone. Hallejuh, ane Praise the Lord!!!!!!!:)

  7. irondad Says:

    Remember, Bro,
    It’s going from a 150 to a 250. The little black throttle thing will make a little more noise when you twist it. Exercise wrist management and don’t let that extra power go to your head. You could get downright giddy at 80!

    Tee hee

Leave a Reply