Saturday, July 26, 2008

Eventually The Odds Catch You

Or at least they do for me.

I've been commuting on my scooter, all 150-awesome-cc of it, from the moment the weather warmed up enough and other than the aftermarket rear rack shedding a few parts (gonna hafta buy the Bajaj one), it's been a treat. Sunshine and blue skies, unless I was ridin' before sunup.

Sure, there was the lecture from a guy in a pickup truck one morning at 4:20 am: "You shouldn't be out on these roads on that thing at this hour!," to which I said nothing at all, 'cos, well, you never do know. Even about worried-sounding gents in F150s.

But Friday....

I had to work late, having had a late start after the morning's Plumbing Emergency. Darkness was not yet falling at the end of my day, but it was at least packing its parachute. As I put my toolbag, work gloves and hoodie[1] back in my locker and got the helmet, jacket, riding gloves and boots out, I had a sense, a foreboding a-- sniff?!

Went out the employee exit into sticky thick air with a strong tang of ozone. A whiff of rain. Sure enough, as I was packing my briefcase,[2] street shoes and a box of Assorted Stuff bound for the Skunk Works North Campus on my machine, one single fat drop went PLINK! on my helmet. Still, it was only the one, I thought, whistling past the graveyard the merest little.

Out the gate (the vehicle-sensing coil only barely admits my Chetak is there) and across to Northbound Lane (not its real name), which, like most of the North-South streets on the near-Northeast side, makes a series of graceful S-curves every few blocks where various surveyor's work didn't quite line up. What's a half-block between friends? Took the first one at 40 mph and as the scooter and I returned to vertical, cruised right into genuine Midwestern rain. On a nice greasy street.[3]

Okay, okay, steady on, I've done this. For very short distances in the old neighborhood. Okay, I learned about this in the MSF class. Be careful. Slow down. Park for awhile if you can, the worst time is right at the start of a rain--

Yeah, right. No place to stop here but one, it's got nowhere to get my bike (and the, oops, cardboard box on the rear rack) out of the rain plus the day is not going to stop getting darker -- a process somewhat hastened by the nice, thick, woolly layer of rainclouds.

Stay in the tire tracks, take more time to set up for turns, slower, slower.... Luckily, auto traffic was slower, too. As the rain fell harder, I found droplets were getting past the windscreen and even under my glasses. Good news: my helmet's got a fine visor. Bad news: that would then be three layers of plastic though which I would be peering at the world, two of them well-peppered with raindrops.

Three layers of fairly clean plastic. It works. The rain front was a bit diagonal and patchy, so I rode in and out of fresh rain the entire trip home. Uneventfully.

After all, I had done it before, even though only for short rides. And once again, the astonishingly-good MSF instructors[4] had managed to get the information I needed stuck inside my skull, there and waiting.

Oh, yes, one more thing? Motorscooters do have nice floorboards and legshields; mine's got a good-sized windscreen. Withal, my knees get soaked! Small price to pay.
1. Starships run cold in the techie spaces!
2. Yes, toolbox and briefcase, don't you wish you had a light-blue-collar job like mine? Design it, build it, sweep up afterwards. It's rarely dull!
3. This being North of US 40, it was greaSy. South of Washington St., it'd be greaZy. Just as slippery either way. Still, the forms must be observed.
4. The classes are brilliantly designed -- you will learn! -- but the guys who taught the class were outstanding even so.


Anonymous said...

Darkness was not yet falling at the end of my day, but it was at least packing its parachute.

That's the kind of thing that makes me love your blog.

phlegmfatale said...

I got a little nervous there.

Anonymous said...

Congrats! Won't ever be an "I've-never" again. My first time in the rain, I went all-out (not by choice). I had to lean about 15 degrees to starboard just to stay upright in the wind & buckets of water. You gain experience quickly, eh?

Anonymous said...

Heh...try doing that on a road bike with no visor, a helmet that's half full of vent holes, in the middle of NYC Midtown traffic, rubber brakes barely registering a slow-down much less a stop, dodging pedestrians running for cover and drivers who suddenly forget how to drive. Oh, and tires so thin, it makes you wonder how it has any traction at all. ;)

Anyway, I'm glad and relieved you made it home safe and sound, but you never mentioned if the contents of said cardboard box did or not.

By the way, I love how you and Tam have such a command of of the English language. Words are like the paint on an artist's palette as she's painting her masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

Glad you made it home ok. At least you didn't have to go to work in wet clothes.

Jay G said...

BTDT. Try to avoid it if at all possible.

I typically run into the wild 'n' wooly stuff on the run back from Laconia every summer - there's just something about being > 2 hours from home base that brings out the storm clouds every single year...

It's hairy enough around town. On a highway at 60 MPH it's downright nerve-wracking...