Archive for September, 2006

Ramble Plan Two: Mississippi Meander

Friday, September 29th, 2006

Weather: Rumors of Rain

Riverside Rest Stop
Scarlet relaxes on one of the twisty bits of pavement down along the river.

The photo above was taken a few days ago, when the sun was out and the roads were dry. Scarlet and I rode to work in the rain yesterday, and Frogwing and I left a half hour early this morning in order to miss the showers that are tracking this way on radar. I’ve never known Autumn to bring so much precipitation before. I suppose we are making up for our dry Summer.

Ramble Plan Two takes in much of my original route to work, which I adhered to through most of last Winter. But instead of staying on the main parkways, we spend some time exploring many of the little roads which lead to parkland along the riverbanks. The Twin Cities are really doing a good job of preserving public land along the Mississippi.

Scarlet and I stopped several times along the way. While she leaned casually on her sidestand, I enjoyed river views from several different perspectives. There were park benches situated high above the river on the bluffs, and picnic grounds right down by the water’s edge. It was a peaceful, contemplative journey, and for once I arrived home with a restful heart.

There were a couple of these little access roads which tempted me to play speed racer, but the sightlines weren’t there for successful apex-strafing. Cages constantly come and go along these roads, and most of the drivers are not focused on driving. The scenery is too distracting.

So we behaved ourselves, that afternoon. But I am thinking we may have to come back and visit very early some Sunday morning…

Yes, Ramble Plan Two is a keeper, for those days when work has been extra-stressful, and I don’t feel much like talking to other folks. I’ll just sit down by the riverside and let the current wash my cares away.

By the time I walk through my front door at home, I’ll be a Happy Daddy again.

Ego

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Weather: Troubled skies, cold but dry.

What a difference 100ccs make!

Though they look almost identical, Scarlet is a completely different animal from the Red Baron. In traffic, we scoot and we squirt and we zoom past somnolent motorists with the greatest of ease. We can even keep up with traffic on the city freeways if we want. But we seldom want that.

Gone is the Zen sensibility I had developed with the Red Baron. I don’t have to simply accept any situation in traffic anymore. Passing on city streets is simply a matter of twisting the throttle and swooping around the obstacle. We beat out all cages in the stoplight drag races. Scarlet and I have the power and torque to make moves I only dreamed of on the Red Baron.

But these moves have their consequences, as I learned on the way home tonight.

There has been an explosion of road destruction projects around my home this autumn. I think it has a lot to do with the new condos they are building on Robert Street. Somebody paid big bribes to the city to make the surrounding thoroughfares more attractive.

As a result, Scarlet and I cannot ride all the way down our home street anymore. We have to make a detour, which takes us down a much busier street than we normally like to ride. Tonight, we found that street choked with cages, as the “Road Closed” signs channelled all traffic into a big bottleneck.

Approaching this mess, we came to a stopsign. A large, black 4×4 pickup pulled up to the street on our left. Since we were to his right, and were going straight ahead, I assumed we had the right-of-way. We started to go, and this guy roared out into the intersection ahead of us. Jackass… Yes, but there’s more to come.

There was a stoplight up ahead, as this street crossed the busy Robert Street. There are two lanes on Robert, but only the left lane was moving. One hundred yards up from the light, there was a car parked in the right lane. This stopped the cars from using it, but for a scooter it was an open invitation.

Jackass in the pickup truck had bullied his way to the head of the right turn line, but found himself stymied by the bumper-to-bumper traffic going by. Scarlet and I crept up the right side, next to the curb, and made the right turn ahead of him. We had gone about fifty yards when I heard the most gawd-awful racket of bellowing V-8 and shrieking, tortured rubber behind us.

In my rearview mirror, I watched this moron light up his tires and spin a complete 180° turn into cross-traffic, ending up with his front tires over the curb and his front bumper blocking the sidewalk. The cars all around honked at him, but Scarlet and I merged into the left lane and continued on home.

Safe in my driveway, I contemplated what had just happened. Obviously, this jerk had wanted to come roaring up behind us, probably within a couple feet of our rear tire, or some such juvenile tactic. But the truck got away from him, endangering innocent people in the process.

If the nearest motorist in the left lane on Robert Street hadn’t been paying attention, there would have been a collision, possibly with injuries. If there had been pedestrians on the sidewalk at the location where his bumper intruded, there may have been casualties. Would I have been the cause of all that?

Indirectly, yes. My ego drove me to take advantage of our single-track footprint and slip ahead of him in traffic. His ego pushed him into a temper tantrum that could have killed or injured innocent people. All so I could arrive home maybe a whole minute sooner?

Let’s be honest; I wasn’t trying to save time. I was just trying to tweak this Jackass. I hate people like that, and here was my chance to prove… what? That two-wheels are better than four? We all know that. But we will never convince people like him. So why take a chance on provoking them?

Well, I guess it was just like every other split-second decision I make in traffic. I almost always err towards the aggressive. That’s a legacy of my time in the Marine Corps… attack-attack-attack! It has worked for me so far, but I fear I may need to rethink my strategy. If something had happened to somebody’s little child because of this, I would have a very hard time living with myself.

Candyland!

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

Weather: Sunny and warm, at last.

Candyland!
Emily Rose and Scarlet join Lucy and Snoopy outside Candyland.

The sun finally came out on Sunday, appropriately enough. I was lying in bed, still recovering from this creepy crud, in the midst of some dream or other, when a beam of sunlight pierced my south-facing window and stabbed me in the eye.

This startled me awake, dream forgotten, and I was overcome by a sudden urge to ride!

I threw back the covers and looked at the clock… after noon already!? Opening my bedroom door, I called out for Emily to get ready for a scooter ride.

“Where are we going?”, she asked.

“Wherever you want.”, I said.

“Candyland!” she crowed, and started jumping up and down.

“Your wish is my command, Princess.”

So I showered and donned my riding gear, and found her waiting impatiently for me outside. I rolled Scarlet O’Baron out of the garage and into the sunlight. Emily mounted up first, her feet finding the new footpegs I mounted right away. She is much keener to ride now that she can reach the pegs comfortably.

I sat down and relished the feeling of her little arms around me, and her helmet against my back. This is such a precious thing we have together.

We rolled down the driveway, and out into the street. It felt so good to be outdoors again. I breathed as deep as my stuffy nose allowed… and promptly sneezed inside my full-face helmet. Whoa there, big guy, let’s take this slow.

I stopped to clear my visor, and we rode down the hill to the Wabasha bridge over the Mississippi river.

Candyland is a little shop in the middle of downtown Saint Paul. I had heard about it for years, but we had never been there. Let me tell you, it is a dentist’s nightmare, and a child’s dream.

Candy is cooked and mixed and shaped and stretched into every imaginable confection. Then it is put on display in glass bins for eager shoppers to choose from. They don’t provide any free samples, but they did sell us a single chocolate-covered caramel by weight. Emily decided she didn’t like it, but I suspect it wasn’t due to the taste. The poor girl has at least one loose tooth at the moment, and I can imagine that caramel is tricky under such circumstances.

We ended up buying one of those spiral-shaped rainbow lollipops like Lucy is sporting in the photograph. Then we rode the long way home through the city.

I could feel the weight shift this way and that as Emily craned her neck to look up at all the tall buildings. She was having a ball back there.

By the time we got home, I had run out of gas. My little burst of energy had faded, and it was time to go back to bed. But at least I got in one good ride for the weekend.