Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Midwest Scooter Enthusiast

Momento Mori

I'm the type who is willing to ride as long as the roads are clear. In years past it was not unusual to find me out in the middle of this month. Days when the sun shone brightly and warmed the pavement and the snow melted into little streams in the ditches.

Time has a way of of marking you. It changes things. It changes everyone. In a sense that's good but in another way it also makes some of us long for times as they were. Memories of rides when we were bundled like overstuffed pillows just to stay warm. Helmets fogging and frigid tunnels of draft wind getting past layers of fabric. Parts of you were sweat soaked and other parts were almost painfully cold. The upper "seal" where your helmet met the clear face shield had a drawing effect that brought icy air right across your forehead. Windburn hurts. It taught us to take strips of felt and glue it to the top of our shields.

As the years have accumulated I notice I have less desire to ride those days which would have seemed worth the effort in my youth. Vehicles have gotten almost exponentially larger, traffic has increased, and cell phones and all manner of insidious devices are taking the attention needed to pilot cars, away from their drivers. Roads once had a little sand and salt to clear the way. They're now layered on with the stuff to the point they look like cookie sheets poured over with cinnamon oatmeal.

Scooters and protective riding apparel have vastly improved. We scooterists learn to become more aware with each advance in the name of safety. These things remind us just how vulnerable we are in traffic. Each improvement, whether it be the cushion and fit of our helmets or the design of our scooters' new brake systems also tends to remind us of our own mortality.

The attention span of the auto driving public has waned with the same kinds of protective inventiveness in cars as seen in the bike world. We scooterists learn to become more aware while the majority of people driving cars seem to think each safety improvement is a reason to think less about driving and more about... multitasking!

I learned to ride in the dirt. In gravel. On wet grass. I know many of my generation started just as I have, graduating to the street when getting dirty or tearing clothes became more of a hassle than just getting on the paved surfaces. So its not a matter of skill regarding whether or not to ride the nice winter days, it's a desire not to become the negative part of the equation to someone else's attempt to do it all while driving.

Will I ride anytime during these winter months? If the sand is drawn to the sides of the streets and people in cars seem to be concentrating on driving instead of thinking of other things, you can bet on it. I know my riding skill level. What I don't know is the driver attentiveness of the four wheeled vehicles around me. And that is the thing that has changed over time more than anything.