Archive for November, 2006

Breakfast Preview…

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

Weather: Cloudy and 41°F (5°C)

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The inside of Mickey’s Diner, my breakfast destination tomorrow.

I never stop for breakfast on my ride to work. Mostly because I get up so early that there are precious few options. Only the major chains like Perkins and Denny’s are open reliably at that hour of the morning, and none of them are located along my normal commute. Even if they were, the cuisine isn’t really worthy of getting up early.

There might be one or two places on Grand Avenue, but I’ve been bypassing that route now for a couple of years. However, there is one place, only a quarter-mile or so off my beaten path, which has intrigued me for a long time. Mickey’s Diner has fought off City Hall and the wrecking ball more times than anyone else, and finally achieved Historical Landmark status several years ago.

I stopped there for coffee once, a couple seasons back, and took the shot you see up top. That was probably 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and I was getting an early start on some roadtrip for my old column “Backroads Diary”.

This place has been featured in movies since then, and you hardly ever see it as deserted as it was that day. I’ve been wanting to do this review for some time now, ever since I started Rush Hour Rambling, but every time I ride by, I can see people standing behind the folks seated at the counter, and sometimes even a line out the door.

Well, tomorrow is it. I’m going to get up extra-early, and ride out of my way to give you a breakfast review of Saint Paul’s most famous diner, complete with a closeup of whatever greasy-spoon classic strikes my fancy.

I’m only writing this preview to make sure I get my arse out of bed and actually do this thing in the morning. It’s supposed to snow tonight, and who knows what condition the roads are going to be in tomorrow. No matter. This will motivate me to get-up, suit-up, and brave the challenges bright and early. This is my promise, and now I am committed.

So what do you think? Omelette, French Toast, or Bacon and Eggs?

A Blast from the Past

Friday, November 10th, 2006

Weather: 36°F (3°C)

Sorry, no photo today. In the excitement of suiting up for the first real snowfall of the season, I forgot to bring my camera.

While it did snow this morning, there was certainly not enough to accumulate on the ground. There was a full-fledged blizzard only sixty miles to our south, but the storm only struck the Twin Cities a glancing blow. It was only enough to give me that “starfield” effect in my visor as Scarlet and I rode along the parkways in the dark.

Since there was no drama in that, and my ride home was relatively tame for a Friday, I can’t really think of anything to write about tonight.

However…

I was cleaning out an old hard drive today, and I came across what was supposed to be the last entry in my old “Diary of a Cafe Racer” column.

After my daughter Emily was born, the decision was made to end DCR and begin something new, and less hazardous. But in the eleventh hour, I had a change of heart, and carried on with DCR for another two years. The subject matter was more varied, and the focus was shifted from my own personal exploits to those of others, and to the machinery itself.

So, without further ado, and apologies to Ride To Work, here is the unpublished final entry in “Diary of a Cafe Racer”: (This is a bit long, maybe you want to grab a beverage?)

Diary of a Cafe Racer: The End?

Take my word for it. You can only spend so much time “on the throttle,” as it were…then the Forces of Evil take over. Beware!

-Dr. Hunter S.Thompson

Indeed. Prophetic words from one of my heroes. I’ve delayed the inevitable long enough. No longer able to walk the outlaw walk with impunity as I have in the past, I am finding it impossible to talk the talk any longer. Bigger Things have assumed top priority in my life, and I am going to have to hang up my leathers for awhile. I am so out-of-touch with my adrenal glands lately I fear they may have dried up and shrivelled like raisins.

But when one is on probation for Heinous Speed Crimes, labelled Inimical to Public Safety by the State Patrol, then merely being stopped for a minor speeding violation can mean jail time.

I’ve been there, worn the orange shirt, and ate the truly hideous slop they call “food”. I’m not going back. I may roadrace again someday, when finances permit. This will be at least five years hence, after my fiery little red-haired Emily Rose has started school and her mother has gone back to work. But for now I’m going to spend some time in the pits…

The Forces of Evil were certainly with me that morning in March a couple of years ago when, faced with another cold winter commute on the NX650, right on the leading edge of Spring, I realized I was late for work and would never get there in time on the old thumper.

My black CBR1000 Hurricane lurked menacingly in the shadows of the garage, lit only by the green LED on it’s battery tender. I could hear it whispering to me, telling me “I can get you there… trust me.” Without a moment’s hesitation, I removed the leads from the battery, snapped the seat in place, turned the key and she started right up.

Nineteen degrees farenheit is not especially cold here in Minnesota. But water freezes well above this and frozen tires give very little grip on likewise frozen pavement. The air is dense and oxygen-rich at that temperature, giving horsepower a healthy boost over normal, and the combination of these factors make for some rather dangerous operating conditions.

I took note of these facts as the rear tire spun on the freeway entrance ramp, but then put it all out of my mind as I concentrated on blasting holes through traffic…

Interstate 94 is a pretty crowded stretch of freeway during the morning commute. But anyone who has ever ridden in a California rush hour, and anyone who has ever had to get somewhere fast on a bike in an emergency, knows that you CAN split lanes without touching cars on either side of you, even at speeds much higher than traffic.

That is to say, it is physically possible. But it is also against the law here in Minnesota, and it really, REALLY pisses people off! So, when they see someone on a sportbike, in the WINTER, schussing past them between the Escalade and the Explorer, they immediately reach for the cell phone and frantically dial 9-1-1!

Meanwhile, back in the saddle, my brain was on fire and my eyes burned like lasers as I scanned through my rapidly fogging face shield for an open trajectory between rolling, lane-changing obstacles. I actually brushed someone’s fender with my left thigh while shooting the gap to daylight in the fast lane. No paint on my leathers, no skin off my ass, I guess.

When I took a moment to glance at the speedometer, it registered over 120mph. I raised my head to guide my path and vowed never to look down at that incriminating dial again.

I’m not sure when the Highway Patrol began chasing me. Between the whoosh of the wind past my helmet, the rush of the intakes directly below the gastank, and the wail of the twin Yoshimura race cans, I never heard the sirens until they came up the right shoulder of the road. I never saw the lights because my visor was fogged where the mirrors usually are, and I was focused most intently on the tunnel of pavement between and around the traffic ahead. But when I finally looked over and saw the crew-cut blonde lady trooper barrelling up the shoulder at 90 miles per hour, I knew the game was up.

I raised my left hand above my head and pointed over to the left shoulder. Then I pulled over to the side and stopped, calmly putting the bike on the sidestand, and waited.

“GET ON THE GROUND!!!”

I was subjected to the full felony-stop routine: Glocks in my face and the savage clamp of the cuffs on my wrists…

The worst part of the whole ordeal was listening to my captors receiving kudos over the radio while we waited for the tow truck to take my Hurricane away forever. Apparently there were quite a few troopers involved, if not in the chase, at least rooting from the sidelines.

Yes, I had thought about running. The devil himself was screaming in my ear to FLEE! Twist that throttle and leave the bastards in your icy dust! But then I thought about Emily Rose and Amy at home, watching the morning news and learning about a fatal accident involving a motorcycle in a high-speed chase on I94 at 6:30 in the morning… and all the fight went right out of me.

I was booked and spent a long four days in Ramsey County Jail. They took away my license for awhile, and I ended up paying fines and going on probation for a few years.

This is the reality of café racing these days. It takes total commitment and a complete lack of respect for the law and the safety of those around you. Maybe it is still relatively doable out in the sticks somewhere. But not here in the city, not anymore. The cops have cameras, helicopters, and outraged motorists with cellphones on their side, and we few remaining outlaw hooligans are seriously overmatched.

It was an incredible ride while it lasted, but it’s time for me to move on to other things. I’ll be around the scene from time to time, keeping a low profile and staying out of trouble. For those of you hardcores who carry on the tradition, I salute you. Just don’t get yourselves locked-up or killed.

Creepy Day, Crazy Night

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

Weather: Drizzle and 59°F (15°C)

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Scarlet O’Baron, running on empty, delivers us safely home.

The title of this post sounds like something I should have written on Halloween. But the reality of Election Day in America was much more frightening than a bunch of department store demons.

Now, I know that this is a motorcycle website, and that politics and motorcycles seldom mix, except under the auspices of the AMA or ABATE organizations. But I am going to tell you about my own personal and riding experiences on this most stressful day in our American Democratic Republic.

Attempting to vote when the polls opened this morning, in my traditionally Democratic district, I found that our one single ballot reader machine had malfunctioned. The nice old lady who was operating it told me that we should put our ballots into the slot on the side of what looked like a garbage can, and that they would run them through the machine after it had been “fixed”.

I tried, and tried again, to get my ballot to feed into the machine, but to no avail. I asked the nice lady if the “fixer” was coming from the offices of Karl Rove. She looked back at me with a blank stare… she really didn’t know what I was implying. She said simply that “The fellow from the state offices is on his way, and your ballot is safe here with us.”

All-righty then. If you say so. I’m a working man, and I have to Ride to Work. Can’t let the practice of my Constitutional Duty interfere with Commerce!

So I left, feeling like my civic will and intentions had been swallowed by a great big Hefty Bag.

The atmosphere at work was very busy, and I had a huge, repetitive workload to deal with. It took me beyond my normal quitting time, and by the end of it, I was rather disgruntled. It seems I wasn’t the only one…

On the way home, people seemed to go out of their way to try to kill me. I had two drivers do U-turns right in front of me, where it was only Scarlet’s light weight and good brakes that saved us from certain disaster. Then there were the clueless arseholes turning right or left in front of us, tires squealing on the wet pavement, roaring off to who-knows-where, but obviously pissed off.

Have you ever been able to just feel the mood of the traffic around you? Well, I certainly did tonight, and that mood was angry! When you add anger to the usual mix of inattention, distraction, and self-absorbtion, you get some very dangerous drivers indeed.

By the time Scarlet and I arrived home, I realised that it didn’t really matter which way we voted in this country anymore. The Rich are gonna get richer, and the Poor are gonna get poorer, until the whole world resembles the feudal kingdoms of old. The American Middle Class are an Endangered Species, soon to be eliminated by the Global Economy. It doesn’t matter who takes power in Washington D.C.

In the end, I can only take comfort in Ogri’s Maxim: “Stuff everything! I’ve alway got my bike.”