The Horrible Death of Ramble Plan Alpha

Weather: Sunny skies, but gloomy outlook.
Road Conditions: FUBAR (Look it up…)

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This is what They do when they don’t know what else to do.

By now, everyone who reads this blog must know about the horrible tragedy of the I-35W bridge collapse. It has been on the national news almost 24/7 for the past couple of days.

Before I go any further, let me extend my heartfelt sympathy to the families of those who lost loved ones, or are anxiously visiting hospital patients, or are still waiting for news on somebody who is suddenly missing from their lives.

This was a horrible disaster, and it happened right here in my home town. So I have got to temper my frustration at losing my favorite route to and from work with an understanding that others have lost so much more.

Ramble Plan Alpha was my lifeline. It was the calm, slow route along beautiful parkways, down by the Mississippi River, that made commuting on a scooter during the Winter possible. The scenery was gorgeous, and the traffic moved along at speeds between 25 and 35 miles per hour.

It took me exactly one hour, plus or minus a couple of minutes, to complete Ramble Plan Alpha, almost every single time. On evenings when work had taken everything I had to give for that day, I welcomed the tranquility that this green corridor offered on the ride home.

But last Wednesday, something horrible happened. Now West River Road is buried under tons of concrete and steel, and the remains of who knows how many vehicles… and worse.

The City of Minneapolis put out a map of road closures, in response to this disaster. I faithfully downloaded it, and printed it out, to place under the clear cover of Frogwing’s tankbag. In these days of uncertain road conditions, I have elected to rely on the multi-surface capability of my old faithful companion to get me to and from work.

But that map doesn’t take into account the whims of civic so-called “leaders”, and their desire to keep any unauthorized imagery from getting into the public domain. Roads are blocked off far from the published locations, to block any possible sightlines to the collapsed bridge, and the activities going on there. Only those with corporate press-passes are allowed access, because their imagery will be carefully scrutinized before publication.

I’m seeing badges everywhere. Police reserves, and even retirees are being imported from the surrounding suburbs, to man roadblocks and deny access to as many people as possible. I’m sure I could get there on foot, or even on a mountain bike, but there is no way to infiltrate the Authorities’ battle lines on any kind of motor vehicle.

So tonight, Frogwing and I were funnelled into the worst traffic we have ever seen. Hennepin Avenue was an absolute nightmare. We had to resort to guerrilla tactics in order to get anywhere. Let’s put it this way: we only took to the sidewalks when there were no pedestrians present.

To that guy in the big 4×4 diesel pickup truck who tried to run me over… Be glad it was only your mirror I amputated! I’m on a motorbike, asshole! I’m GOING to get ahead of you! GET USED TO IT!!!

(Note to Ride to Work(tm): This might be good bumper-sticker material. Oh, motorbikes don’t have bumpers… never mind.)

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This is a sample of the scenery on our new main route home from work.

So, we are now defaulting to a modified Ramble Plan Bravo. This takes us past The Sportsman’s Pub, home of that wonderful chili that I reviewed last year.

The streets we use to get there are choked with the traffic overflow from I-35W, but so far I haven’t been able to figure out a way around them. It’s going to require an extra measure of patience, creativity, and maybe outright lawlessness to make my job worth the commute in the future.

I mean, we can’t move. Housing near work is WAY higher than where I live right now. Our house is not ready for sale anyway, and it would take several years of hated labor on my part to bring it up to spec.

So, I am going to have to discover new Ramble Plans to get around all this craziness. When the Repugnican National Convention comes here next year, I’m gonna have to leave. There’s no way I will grant Right of Way to Rich Bastards in Limosines… and they will have plenty of armed mercenaries willing to take me down.

Better to choose my battles….

16 Responses to “The Horrible Death of Ramble Plan Alpha”

  1. Steve Williams Says:

    Terrible tragedy on so many levels. And I am left thinking that things are just falling apart. And I don’t mean just roads and bridges. I hope the coming days and weeks will prove me wrong otherwise this event will be more fuel on the fear fire.

    Good luck on your route finding and I hope you find some peace on the way. Don’t let things grind you up.


  2. Bill Sommers Says:

    I was trying to find a polite way to convey my message of sadness, and of relief in that you are safe and well, as well as your family, but man…this sucks so bad. I actually give a hoot about you my friend, and hope that all things will smooth out soon so you may enjoy the moments before and after work. Hopefully normalcy will return to Minneapolis soon as well.


  3. Buster Brown Says:

    It is curious to me that MNDoT responds to anticipated congestion by closing lanes. Shouldn’t they keep as many driveable routes open as possible? More road, less congestion.

  4. Tom Staggs Says:

    And you don’t think that the Democratic National Convention won’t have
    “Rich Bastards in Limosines” being allowed to mess up traffic in what ever city they are meeting? With our communication system I feel that both conventions are unnecessary and a boondoggle. Really FUBAR

  5. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Steve: Your comment brings to mind an old addage from my Jarhead days; “Illigitimati non carborundum.” -or- Don’t let the bastards grind you down. You must be an optimist… you chose “up”.

    Bill: This is all just a part of turning our once-great nation into a huge, cheap labor pool for the rich. Instead of being moderately wealthy in the Greatest Nation on Earth, these folks would rather be Kings amongst the rubble. Normalcy went away a long time ago…

    Buster: Since when did MNDoT operate on anything resembling logic? This is CYA time… they don’t want anybody with an uncensored long lens getting anywhere near that bridge, lest they expose Official Negligence on the part of our sElected leaders.

    Besides that, we have Visitors coming from D.C. today…

    Tom: I’m sure they will, but they’re not coming HERE. I’m not naive enough to think that there is any measurable difference between either party of political criminals running this country right now.

    They all eat out of the same trough, and you have got to be of a certain class to even participate in the process. All of the bickering shown in the media is just bread and circuses, and everybody who actually WORKS for a living is getting screwed from both sides. It’s already been proven several times that the vote is rigged.

    The roads are a perfect analogy for American society at large… Let them deteriorate! It doesn’t hurt the Rich – they ride in helicopters! But try to raise taxes to repair vital infrastructure, and they will throw you out of office so fast your head will spin… if you’re lucky. If you’re not lucky, if you REALLY piss them off, your name is Wellstone.

    Ride well,

  6. The Snark Says:

    Gary, I saw the pictures in the papers and first thought was me wondering if you were ok. Which you obviously are. My sympathy to those caught up in the tragedy. At least you can ride your way past the congestion. Ride safe brother.

  7. conchscooter Says:

    Its been said before but amply illustrated by this unecessary mess- everyone’s routine hangs by a thin and fragile thread. That same day 60 people died and 70 were reported injured in one of the daily car bomb attacks in Baghdad- a place where our leaders have spent billions creating chaos (no running water for the past week) instead of saving our lives and treasure doing the boring, mundane job of leadership- maintaining infrastructure.
    In Europe people have been flooded and struck by incredible heat. Australia seems to have been a public barbeque for years and foot and mouth is back in England. These are times to try men’s souls.
    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.

  8. Sidewalk Dan Says:


    I hope you and I can have a brew sometime to let you know how I really feel about this mess. I could fill this blog to its capacity with what I want to say. As your audience may know, bridges are my life. And to see this one collapse the way it did, is unreal to say the least.

    This is a horrendous wake up call that those of us in the business have known for years. I could cut and paste quotes from those in power, but you will see them back pedal yourself in the coming days and weeks. Just watch.

    Yes, Henn. is quite nasty – and I also have resorted to breaking the law (in my car no less) to get around. Surgery went well so I’m back on the bike Monday. Your moniker of Sidewalk Dan is really going to get a workout – as I believe lane splitting is going to be a fact of life around here for a while. Somehow I think a bike splitting lanes will be their least concern these days.

    Oh, and once you cross the Henn. Bridge, try staying on Henn. until just before the RR tracks (33rd Ave SE) where that hooks you up w/ Como. That has been smooth sailing (40 mph +) for me, even driving two for two days.

    Good luck brother.

    Sidewalk Dan out.

  9. irondad Says:

    Tough times. bad for many. A fine line exists between Military Man and Militant. Choose wisely, oh brother of my heart.

  10. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Snark: It’s so funny. I read about your confrontations in traffic over there, where maybe the law enforcement isn’t quite so capable as it is here, and I think about how I would behave there. Then I think back to that jarhead in the Geo Metro the other day, and realize that I just might be doing the same behaviour on my bike these days. Gotta stop that…

    It seems that Marines are spring-loaded to aggression. But I don’t want to spend my life like that. It’s too hard on the blood pressure.

    Conch: Thanks for your confidence. I hope I am worthy of it. It’s been raining here all day, but I did manage to get out and hang with some new and very interesting riders over at a place called Blue Cat Motors. Squeezed a few drops out of the lemon there…

    Sidewalk Dan: I’m so glad your surgery went well. It’s also nice to read words of support from someone who is dealing with the same conditions. I will try the route you mention here, and see how that works out. Just let me know when and where you want to meet for that brew.

    Irondad: Oh, I am definitely militant. I crossed that line long ago. But I am militant about motorbike activism, about encouraging people to explore their transportation options and make better choices.

    I’m not just a loose cannon out there. When I can peacefully slide past a line of cages in traffic, I’m sure it pisses most of them off, but I’m also sure that somebody in that line is thinking how much better off they would be on a bike.

    But when somebody actively tries to hurt me with a 6,000 lb weapon, I have to get a little bit radical. That probably ruins the image for those people I was just talking about, but I’m not going to be a doormat either.

    I do my best to react rationally out there, but right now the local situation is completely irrational. If I have to choose between wolf or sheep, I’m gonna choose wolf every time.

    Ride well,

  11. From the Seattle of the Midwest « Scootin’ Old Skool Says:

    [...] An interesting perspective on the situation can be found in this post from Gary Charpentier’s blog, Rush Hour Rambling. He rides motorcycle, not a scooter, but his observations about the potential traffic chaos that results from the loss of a major corridor in a large city are worthy of note… [...]

  12. Mad Says:

    Urban Guerilla! The worse the traffic situation gets the better our chosen transport is. The cages are trapped but we’ll find a way through/round. I nearly had “Nice queue suckers!” put on my numberplate but I reconsidered when I got worried about some crazed cager trying to make me into a hood ornament in revenge…

  13. MatL Says:

    I’m hoping that the only reason that they closed things so far it is to keep the lookey-lou’s from hurnting themselves getting a souviner. ( don’t want to think who would want a souviner) … There were a few folks that had a few too many this weekend and got arrested. It sounded like they went through 3 levels of ‘police tape’.

    The no-drive zones will NEED to be moved closer to the bridge once the U of M starts classes. There is NO way the existing setup will handle the influx of students attempting to get to the U for classes. If they don’t reopen the U of M exit on 35 just north of 94 — I hate to imagine how much worse your commute will get.

    I just hope you can hold on for another month.

  14. shaun Says:

    a pint a ride and a soak…… It was a good day for all. Embaricing and frustrating are the two baggiest things I can think of with this whole B.S. of a situation. Mad props to you for showing the cage monkey a good what for. I had a sweet time with a “benz” cage last summer stupid bastard. His time was more important then the rest of ours but I “attempted” to show him otherwise. I talked to Rob yesterday and we and a few other people were the only ones to show up. WEEK, Blue Cat is a great shop if you live in the TC you should check them out. Good stuff. The tunnel of hate isnt to bad in the AM but PM is a JOKE

  15. seagullplayer Says:

    The locals around here have made some very bad choices in road construction this year into the industrial park I work at. Some should at least be fired.
    At any rate, they have cut our access to and from the park (about 15-20 companies) in half, making for some very busy streets at least three times a day. I have found that by changing my work hours by 30 minutes, I solve most of the problem. Flex time is a great benefit! Maybe you could consider something along those lines?
    Better late and safe than…

  16. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Mad: I remind them every day what a waste of time and money their cages are. But it seems most modern people insist on living in an easy chair, even if they have to sit in traffic for hours.

    MatL: I have no choice but to “hold on”. It’s not going to get better any time soon. My current route takes city streets instead of parkways, and the endless stopsigns/lights drive me nuts already! I’m making liberal use of that Minnesota stoplight law in the mornings, but it doesn’t help on the way home… too much cross-traffic.

    shaun: DUDE! Like, I had a bitchin’ time too! (Heh…)
    I’ll be doing a piece here on Blue Cat Motors very soon. Gotta tell one of their monkey stories, and let people know how extremely cool their shop and “business model” is.

    seagullplayer: I’m already stretching flex time for all it’s worth. I’ve been temporarily transferred to our local production facility, five miles further away down the same damn roads, just in time for this disaster. I leave at 5:30 a.m., and don’t typically arrive until sometime after 6:30. The ride home in the evening is a nightmare in spots, but not so bad in others. Ramble Plan Oscar isn’t bad… I’ll be writing that up tonight.

    Ride well,