Ramble Plan Oscar: Making Lemonade…

Weather: Hot, humid and hazy.
Road Conditions: Still horrendous, due to the bridge collapse.

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Click on the image to see the best scooter parking spot ever.

“Conchscooter” said a very interesting thing in the Comments section the other day, regarding the 35W bridge collapse, and the effect it has had on our lives here in the Twin Cities, and my own commute in particular…

I have no doubt you will squeeze lemonade from this lemon handed to you by an uncaring Fate, and set us a fine example of how to cope with chaos. I look forward to your words.

Wow, what a burden to lay on a guy!

Not only am I supposed to make something positive come out of this, but I have to set an example too? Why can’t I wallow in self-pity and aggression like most of the other “motorists” out there?

But seriously, I have been working very hard at trying to find a reasonable “utility” route for my everyday commute. Work threw me a curveball by transferring me temporarily to our production facility, to “do some time in the trenches”, as it were. Their timing, as always, was impeccable…

This place is five miles further along the same roads, out on the edge of the suburban sprawl known as Plymouth. My commute is now at least 31 miles, each way. The fact that I have to use city streets to get there, now that the freeways are screwed, makes this much more interesting.

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Showing No Fear… Rose poses beneath the bridges of Saint Paul.

After battling the traffic rather aggressively on Frogwing for the first few days following the disaster, I decided that a different approach was needed.

Vespa Rose was fresh from her 3,000 mile service, and was wearing a new Kenda 413 sport tire on her rear wheel. It was time to get out there and see if we couldn’t scoot around all this trouble and strife.

Instead of confrontation and brute force, we would try a little finesse and false humility to get us through these bridge-collapse traffic hassles. Much easier on the blood pressure, and SO much better for my “driving record”.

Ramble Plan Oscar is a to-from route, much the same as Alpha was. Since I have photographed the ride home here, that is what I will describe.

Keep in mind that these roads are much more deserted in the early morning, and the going much easier. The ride TO work takes just over an hour, while the ride home takes almost three, with the necessary stops along the way.

These are the sacrifices I make, just to keep you all entertained…

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More priviledged parking, in front of Nye’s Polonaise. Traffic is envious…

Esquire Magazine did an exhaustive search last year, to find what they consider to be “The Best Bar in America”. Wouldn’t you know it? They picked a place that was right in the middle of Ramble Plan Oscar!

Nye’s serves food as well, and of course they offer all the usual soft drinks. This is the perfect refuge in which to wait for traffic to die down, if you happen along during gridlock.

The only problem for me was parking Rose out-of-sight around the corner. I couldn’t do it, for worrying that she might be vandalized by some of the characters who prowl this part of town.

So I asked one of the owners if I could park in that convenient little nook, next to the sidewalk at the front of the building. “A Vespa? One of those little scooters? No problem!”

Things would have been different had I been riding Frogwing. There’s just something about the sight of a scooter parked on the sidewalk, snuggled up close to a building, that just looks right

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A moment of silence, outside the Saint Paul Cathedral.

After our Nye’s interlude, Rose and I proceded along Hennepin to 15th Ave SE, where we turned right and headed for Como. This is the main thoroughfare featured on Ramble Plan Bravo, and it looks like a promising alternative to my preferred parkway routes.

Como isn’t as heavily travelled as some of the other main roads through the cities, like University and Lake Street/Marshall Avenue. Of course, it is also only one-lane in each direction for much of its length.

But on a scooter, you can make that one lane into one-and-a-half, when you need to… and the funny thing is, people don’t get very mad at you for doing so.

I respond to the honk of a horn with a wave, and that defuses the situation. “Hey, I’m just a clueless dummy on a cute little scooter. Sorry I got in your way.” (But I’m STILL ahead of you!)

This kind of subterfuge feels much better than the Urban Guerrilla tactics I am compelled to deploy on big, gnarly Frogwing. “Motorists” are too busy admiring Rose’s graceful lines to memorize her license plate number…

Eventually, we made our way into Saint Paul. We rambled up one street, and down another, stopping to take that photo of the Cathedral up above there. As a lapsed Catholic, I can never pass that place without at least stopping for a look. Then The Guilt takes hold, and I have to leave. Funny, how that works.

The River Boat Grill. Best restaurant location in the Twin Cities.

We crossed the Mississippi River on the Wabasha Bridge. Down below is Harriet Island, and a place that I have wanted to go to ever since I first heard of it.

The River Boat Grill is one of those places that you read about in the paper, and make a mental note to visit at the first opportunity.

But then daily life intrudes, and the place is just not on your regular circuit of travel.

Well, the 35W bridge-collapse has upset my regular circuit just enough that I remembered to take the left turn onto Water Street, which led us through a series of curves, under looming bridges, to the parking lot above the Showboat Landing on Harriet Island.

There, I parked Rose in a sea of cages, and wandered down the boardwalk/dock in search of The River Boat Grill.

You enter a gangway on the stern of the boat, and the sign directs you up to the second deck. There, under the roof provided by the third deck, are typical weatherproof tables and chairs set up in rows. The bar is forward, as is the kitchen, restrooms, and the walk along the starboard rail which yields such a gorgeous view of Saint Paul from The River.

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The River Boat Burger with fries: a River Boat specialty.

My waiter, Ron, found me standing at the port rail, gazing anxiously up at the parking lot. I was looking for Rose, hoping I could keep an eye on her from one of the empty tables. When he asked, I told him what was troubling me, and he said “Oh, people park scooters and little bikes down here all the time. Go ahead and bring it on down!”

Music to my ears. (See the photo at the top of the page.)

Once seated, since he had been so accomodating, I asked for his recommendation for dinner. Without hesitation, he said, “River Boat Burger.” The menu listed it as: Bleu cheese and chopped onions blended into a ground beef patty, served with pickles and horseradish cheese on the side.

That was good enough for me.

So… did I fulfill my mission? Did I find a positive side to all the horrific events of the past couple weeks? No. I don’t think there really is one. This was a disaster, pure and simple.

You deal with it. You cope. My initial reaction was aggressive, and in hindsight I think that was wrong. The way I’m dealing with it now, riding Rose, seems much more copacetic.

14 Responses to “Ramble Plan Oscar: Making Lemonade…”

  1. Steve Williams Says:

    Another lemonade please….

    Great post and good thoughts. Whatever happens you do seem to make the best of it. I’ve found everyone I ask if I can park the Vespa up next to their buildings say yes. Speaks well to the idea of Vespa in people’s heads.

    Your pictures get more and more compelling from the one along the river with the city in the background to Rose in front of the cathedral. I find myself wanting to ride in those places.

    The towboat took me back. I used to be a welder in a shipyard on the Ohio River where we built towboats and barges. Memory lane….

  2. Bill Sommers Says:

    Boy, those photo’s are great, and as usual, the food made me instantly hungry.

    I feel bad about what happened with the bridge collapse, and how you have been affected, but am happy to read that you are putting the squeeze to the lemon.

    By the way, a rural bridge on one of my favorite ride routes was closed as a direct result of your home town disaster. The only bridge in the State of Washington to be barricaded. The ripple effect I guess.

    Have fun,

  3. Biker Betty Says:

    Everybody I know here in Colorado feel so bad about what happened there. We think of the families who have lost loved ones. We have two bridges that have been under repairs since early spring and know what it’s like to have to come up with another plan. We have the interstate cutting right thru our city and only a few bridges to get from one side to the other. What idiot thought of that!!!

    Love your photos. You can definitely get away with parking just about anywhere with your beautiful vespa. I have been asked to move a few times and park where the cars park, sigh. Seems a purple yamaha 650 isn’t cute enough, lol.

    Here’s to lemonade (clink),

    Biker Betty :)

  4. shaun Says:

    Biker betty I feal your pain. Folks dont take to kindly to big red (VTX 1800) on there side walk. F Rose is a good sport. Them is some good pics you take with that image box of yours. I to have found a nice ride threw the MPLS now that the the 94 hate pool is standing room only. University was the only bad part…. funny how ALL of the roads close to or around the mess are under construction and filed down to one lane….. I love the light law here. Thanks for showing a newbee the way on that one. Ride hard and have fun at distribution.

  5. Paul Streeter Says:

    Gary, the good news is that River Road will be open before they finish re-building the bridge overhead. It will still be months though.

  6. Bob Kunkel Says:

    Always meant to hit Nye’s, now I have even more reason to do so. After lunch at the River Boat Grill, maybe.

    Sorry your commute got longer due to changes at work, and of course even more sorry about the difficulties caused by the bridge disaster. I like hearing how you’re transitioning from brute force and confrontation to finesse and false humility, or at least trying it out for a while. Not always an easy transition to make, especially for a serious Type A trained to use his Type A traits for maximum effect.

    Given a hard choice between a wolf or a lamb, I’ve got to pick wolf. It’s a matter of survival, or maybe just my silly macho pride. But when the wolf decides to use a little finesse and score points with style and guile, buddy, that’s the ticket. I’d rather laugh inside and KNOW I won. The other moron just isn’t worth the possible consequences. Most of the time.

    Great post!

  7. WeeMcD Says:

    Gary, every so often your posts call to me, driving me out of the dark corners from where I lurk most of the time. You parked Rose near one of my favorite lunchtime “thinking” areas in St. Paul. When I worked in DT St. Paul, I’d ride dear Scoot down to the river and just sit along its mighty shores to gather my thoughts. It really is a great spot. I’ve never had any problems with parking Scoot down there. Great post and the photos are top notch.

    I may just have to take my wife out for a ride on the new Vstrom tonight with the promise of dinner on the River. I’ve been meaning to grab a bite to eat at the River Boat Grill. Tonight is the night. Thanks for the reminder!

    I wonder how the folks on the river will react to me parking the Wee down there?

  8. Greg Says:

    First, good lemonade! Second, “lapsed Catholic”, I knew there was something I liked about you, other than your motorbike antics! I prefer the phrase “recovering Cathoholic” (borrowed that from George Carlin) Enjoy your newest ramble plan & as always, ride well!

  9. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Steve: This Vespa really is a magical thing. It’s amazing the PR potential it has, versus any kind of motorcycle. It felt so much better to be riding the Vespa through the city, rather than Frogwing. It’s easier to just twist and go, and cagers don’t get so defensive. Thanks for your compliment on my photography. That means a lot, coming from you…

    Bill: The REAL ripple effect of this is being damped by the media, as much as they can. Our federal government has spent SO MUCH of our money on war, and tax cuts for the rich, that we have nothing left to spend on maintaining our infrastructure! That’s the bottom line, and nobody in the media seems to give a damn. Same as it ever was…

    Betty: I truly feel like the wolf in sheep’s clothing when I am riding Rose. And she is SO photogenic! Where Frogwing breaks up the frame, I can integrate Rose harmoniously into almost any composition. Business owners probably think of her as a nice decoration in front of the shop, so they often encourage me to park “creatively”.

    shaun: Fun? Oh, so that’s what they call it. Feels like sweat and frustration to me. Anyway, use that red-light law with care. Remember, it is only an “affirmative defence”, which means that they will still probably pull you over, and ticket you, and you will have to use this to defend yourself in court.

    Paul: Well, that’s sort-of good news, I guess. Where do you get your secret information?

    Bob: What a great comment! I think I’ll just let that stand on it’s own…

    WeeMcD: That’s great! Please tell them Gary from “Rush Hour Rambling” sent you. They will be amazed when people actually show up because of my writing about them.

    Greg: Oh, I was raised in the strict tradition, including latin masses way back in the sixties. I don’t think you EVER recover from that. But having searched and explored all manner of other spiritualities, I’ve kind of gotten comfortable with my “lapsed” status.

    Thanks everybody for writing in.

    Ride well,

  10. WeeMcD Says:

    The River Boat Grill is a great spot. The Bistro Buger was very good. It could have been larger. Just being right on the river with a good burger and a cold dark brew in hand was worth every penny. By the way, the price isn’t too bad. I’ll go back again and highly reco for others to check it out.

  11. Gary Charpentier Says:

    WeeMcD: Do you still have a scooter? Or do you call your Wee-Strom “Scoot”? The “Rattle My Bones” scooter rally is happening next week, and Rose and I are going to be there for some of it. How could we not?

    As for the prices at the Riverboat Grill, I think that they would be a little high on some urban avenue. But right there on the river? Total bargain!

    Ride well,

  12. conchscooter Says:

    Hah! I feel completely vindicated,I knew you could do it. And i second the comments about the photos too. I liked the Cathedral particularly, perhaps because I too am lapsed, ora pro nobis…
    On the subject of bridges I have been incensed, even though I don’t watch TV. I read the report about the nation’s bridges as a whole and they need 190 billion to be secured. On a personal note three of the 42 bridges along Highway One in the Keys have been declared in need of work. Heaven knows what that means. And we don’t have alternative rambles!
    Five, possibly 13 dead, just seems so random. In our worst recent hurricane in 2005 not one person in Key West died even though half the city flooded. I can’t stop thinking about how death is so random.
    Sorry this is so lengthy but I have been feeling annoyed.

  13. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Conchscooter: I completely understand your feeling of annoyance. It’s like we are living in a national hologram right now, where everyday life is pretty normal, but working class folks can feel the wolf at the door.

    Those of us who ride, get outside that hologram once in awhile, and see life for what it really is. But the majority of folks in the industrialized world go from the easy chair in front of the TV, to the easy chair behind the wheel, to the ergonomic chair in their cubical or office, where they participate in generating the hologram that sustains them in air-conditioned comfort.

    I have to thank Joe Bageant (see the link on the sidebar), for waking me up to this hologram concept. Joe’s is the only link there that is not about motorbikes. He is a curmudgeonly old writer and a friend of mine who doesn’t mind spending an hour on the phone with me solving the world’s problems.

    Just finished reading his book: “Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches From America’s Class War”, and I highly recommend it to anyone who feels confused and/or frustrated with the state of affairs in the United States right now.

    I’m busting out of the hologram this weekend. Darkness tonight will find me sitting in a lawn chair, on a high-spot in the swamp near McGregor, MN.

    There I will watch the light of the campfire reflecting off of Rose’s legshield, while I sip bourbon and listen to the family myths and legends, as told by my father in the grand oral tradition.

    You can expect a full report when I come back, either Sunday or Monday night.

    Ride well,

  14. shaun Says:

    responding to responce…… well done. There is a definate flock sindrom with the herd and they are all ok with the direction there sheperds are drunkinly/blindly leading them. It is indead a sad state of afairs. There is alott to be said about the cycle/scooter rider and there level of awareness hence the reson what ever it is to ride. (gas, joy, trafic, the big FU to cage life, or just the simple fealing of freedom) It is nice to solve the issues of humanity over a good sip and a long chat. Thanks once more for the great blog.