Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mid February Blues

You can pull a rabbit out of a hat but you can't predict when the spring will come. It doesn't matter how much you stare up at the sky and beg it to stop dumping snow where you live, February is one of those months which is completely unpredictable. Three days of warmth followed by three inches of snow. Bleah.

Now don't get me wrong, I like winter. My kids pile onto each other in the yard, covering themselves with white powder until it turns to slush and they get cold. Its fun to watch them romp. Before long I'm feeling icy wetness down my back too. It feels colder than it did when I was their age. Or maybe memories just get more pleasant with time.

Before long I'm looking at the sky again. Looking at the driveway, wondering how long before all the new snow will melt. Hoping the plows don't pour more rock salt on my scooter haunts anymore this winter.

February teases you. It turns up the heat for a few days then brings you snow squalls bearing gifts;


I think most scooterists are tougher than I am. My limit is in the upper twenties fahrenheit. I've seen more than a few scooters running happy well below that temp in the fall and I expect they'll be back out again once the roads are reasonably passable. Being that this is Minnesota, a few warm days usually melt most of the road snow but not all. And under that snow is ice. I'm not tall by anyone's stretch of imagination. I'm up (or down) to my limit on the LX just to reach the ground. Balls of my feet, maybe. When you can't adequately pad across slick surfaces, you wait for those surfaces to melt and evaporate. Rain is not snow. Puddles react the same whether they're deep or shallow. You just need to get to the surface underneath. Snow, on the other hand, can be treacherous in more than a few ways.

Its the reason I've got one of the bikes I wanted since I was a kid but not the other. Sportsters are low. Sportster Huggers are even lower. BMW R1200R's are not. Although I hear they can be lowered with kits provided by BMW itself, but the local dealer here has never had one set up that way for me to try.

Despite my paltry excuse for an excuse, I don't ride below the mid twenties. Maybe if I had heated riding gear things would be different. So far keeping the furnace stoked (eating a thick meal beforehand and stopping mid ride for another thick meal has been pretty good at keeping me sufficiently warm.

Last night's snowfall has made the roads dreck. Its probably into the teens on the mercury by now. Tonight everything will refreeze and become a different kind of dreck. And all this rider wants to do it ride.

I really want to believe the local weather forecasts but I don't know.

This is central Minnesota and its February.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Equality of Scooter

I walked into the kitchen this morning and noticed a large jar-like container. What's this, I thought. Maple Syrup. I turned around and poured myself a cup of joe. Then I had to look again because the jar was of a unique shape. Don't they always do that with Maple Syrup? Maybe, but more often than not, jars like this one signified the product was local. Sure enough, the label said the contents were from somewhere here in Minnesota. A town in the northwoods I imagine. Didn't recognize the name.

I asked my wife where she got it. Craft show. Said there were all sorts of locally produced products there. Even some treats from across the river in Wisconsin.

Now I grew up in Wisconsin. During a time when your family knew your butcher. And your butcher knew your family. And your relatives. And their kids. And the schools you and your cousins were attending. It was a small world and I get the feeling these things happened this way because they were intentionally built upon those sorts of relationships.

We were on the poor side of middle class. No doubt we were making ends meet, but every penny consumed could be accounted. If you really wanted something you found a way to earn the money towards it. Sometimes the parents simply overruled you when you told them your plans. So you kept your money, waiting until you had enough for a need and a treat. Because if you saved enough for a need, your parents were more willing to allow you to spend a little toward something fun. Its not an unhappy life, trust me.

I have an uncle. He's now a millionaire. It was said that when Grampa gave him a dollar, he would turn it over three times before settling on its use.

That lesson is not the only one we carry with us in this family. From each relative there are memories of what was done to eek out a living until finances improved. Yet we were never for want. Not really. Oh, we could have dreams about some new thing like a bicycle (as kids) or new lawnmower (as adults). But the reality was, what we had really never hindered us from doing what we wanted.

The trips to the farms were fun. Like field trips. Early Saturday mornings we'd pack up and meet uncles, aunts and cousins at some farm not far out of the city limits. Thick German and Polish accents but mostly everyone just spoke the languages they were most comfortable with. Bushels of potatoes and vegetables we didn't normally grow in the city were loaded (stuffed) into trunks and backseats of Buicks and Oldsmobiles. Us kids merely sat wedged in where we could between the bounty.

Those are some of the best memories I have.

It all came back to me as I thought about that jar of maple syrup. They were indeed good times. We still get some of those things when we head up to Annette's folks. People who never forgot the best ways to live. Only now we don't have room for a chest freezer or the storage for those things as I remember them. Modern houses have no real basements. Or places to keep such things.

But there's a little room in this modern disfunctionally designed excuse for a house. Enough that I could make special runs for things which don't take up much space and are locally made or grown.

Things which would fit on a scooter.