by Gary Charpentier
Friday, February 4th, 2005. Today, Old Man Winter blinked. I’ve been staring him in the face for the last two months, just waiting for a chance to bust Frogwing out of mothballs and hit the road, if only for one stolen day. The weather forecasts predicted record high temperatures for Friday and Saturday. I prepared by swapping in a new maintenance-free battery and changing the oil, and this morning we were ready when the alarm clock roused me for work at 5 a.m.

The sidestreets were still covered in ice from snow melt that had re-frozen overnight. I’ve dealt with this before and it just takes a little extra care in turning and stopping. We made it safely to the freeway where we endured salt-spray from other vehicles all the way to my job in Plymouth. At least the interstate was free of ice.

The zombies in their cars and trucks were not expecting to see a motorcycle amongst them in this weather. Four times I had to take evasive action as a sleepy motorist drifted right into us, totally oblivious to our presence. After the second time, I hit the high beams and just left them on. I don’t think it made much difference.

The salt-spray was hazardous as it accumulated on my visor. Swiping at it with my gloved hand just kind of smeared it around. What I needed was some sort of helmet-mounted wiper gizmo with a bug juice dispenser. I suppose I could design one and try to have it manufactured, but I’m sure the market for such a device would be pretty sparse. As with many other aspects of winter riding, I just accepted it and endured. At least I wasn’t cold. The heated vest and layers of riding gear kept me toasty warm the whole way.

We brave these early morning horrors in the cold and the dark for one reason: The payoff of a sunny afternoon, riding in the middle of Winter. Arriving safely at work, I tore into my agenda with gusto, trying to make the time go by as quickly as possible. By one-thirty in the afternoon, I had finished all my scheduled tasks and found myself fidgeting at my desk. The Boss had been in a pretty good mood all day, so I decided to take a chance. I went to his office and told him point-blank, “Look, I have absolutely no legitimate excuse for leaving early today. But would you mind terribly much if I took off at two?” He looked up from his computer screen, glanced out the window then back at me and said, “Going riding, eh?” I just smiled… “Sure, go ahead.”

I didn’t have to be told twice. I wrapped things up back at my desk, punched the clock and rolled out of the parking lot with my hair on fire.

Going home was out of the question, of course. I rode around the sidestreets of Plymouth and Golden Valley, taking turns at random, just enjoying the sensation of riding around in the sunny 50-degree weather. The ice was gone from the roads and there was no salt spray on the residential streets. This was pure bliss. After about an hour of this, I turned down Wirth Parkway and headed towards Plymouth Avenue and Northeast Minneapolis. There was a place there that I had visited once before called Psycho Suzy’s Motor Lounge. This is a funky little drive-in, I think it used to be an A&W, that has been redone in a sort of kitschy Hot Rod / Tiki Bar theme. They have great pizza and excellent appetizers, and I think I am going to have to do a “Will Ride for Food” feature on them sometime this spring. No time for food today, though. A quick coke to quench my thirst and I was back in the saddle.

Rolling down West River Road, I found a few spots where ice had survived the day in the shade of the bluffs along the river. I rode cautiously and when I wasn’t watching for ice I was marvelling at how much of the scenery is visible with the trees bare of their foliage. At one point I looked up at the I-94 bridge and noticed that the Friday rush hour had already begun. Though I couldn’t see the cars from this low vantage point, the slow moving trucks told a familiar tale of gridlock and percolating road rage. I was very thankful not to be up there amongst them.

After another hour of aimless wandering on the St. Paul side of the river, I started to head in the general direction of home. The sun was getting low in the sky and I wanted to wash the salt off of Frogwing before I put him away for the night. To do this, I filled a bucket with cold water and a little dish soap. I have a long-handled brush that I use to scrub away all the dirt I can see, and then I rinse it all off with a spray attachment on the garden hose. I don’t pressure-wash my bike because I’ve heard this can blast the grease out of bearings and seals. That doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. Finally, I blew the bike dry with the air compressor, and sprayed all the exposed metal parts (except the brake discs) with a liberal coating of WD-40. That done, I parked Frogwing in the garage and turned out the lights.

Saturday, February 05, 2005. International Motorcycle Show Day! My friend Tim Schaeffer drove all the way from Aberdeen, South Dakota to attend this show with me. His son Nick accompanied us. I brought a camera along to try and capture some of the sights but soon realized that the place was too crowded to get a clean shot of anything. Note to self: Next time, arrange to do the photos before the show opens.

We wandered from one display to another with no particular plan in mind. The primary impression was sensory overload. This year was strange for me because there wasn’t any particular bike I was lusting after. Frogwing fills all my motorcycling needs right now. I was more interested in seeing my People. At nearly every booth and display there was someone I knew from past rides or rallies or other motorcycle business.

I’m afraid I must have bored my companions, stopping to talk to somebody every few minutes. Eventually, we had to part company, as we kept losing each other in the growing crowd. I finally left after finding that I could only move around the periphery and couldn’t get into any of the displays without being crushed by herds of humanity. From the size of the crowd and the variety of new products, it looks like the industry is in great shape heading into 2005.

However the show did it’s job. I left there with new route plans and fresh ideas, completely psyched for the season ahead. We should have only a few more weeks of this crappy cold weather, and we can put Old Man Winter to bed.



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