Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Scoota Commuta

For about a month now I've been riding a little Chinese 49 cc moped to work. It is 28.5 miles one way and it takes me about 47 minutes to drive in to work and anywhere from 53 minutes to an hour and five minutes (prevailing wind in my face) to get home. It used to take me about 35 minutes each way. I really enjoy that little moped. I wanted to get a motorcycle but as many fathers will understand, my wife was against it. She caved in when I suggested the moped because it is much slower (=traffic has to rush around you frantically on hills and curves) and therefore must be safer to operate. I settled for the moped, hoping that cashing in the "cool" factor of riding an actual motorcycle would be repaid in increased fuel economy (as if I could ever grab that elusive "cool factor" with anything I do), and expected to see an added benefit of getting 70-80 miles to the gallon of gasoline. I am really out of my mind happy about getting a whopping 103 mpg with the throttle wide open all the way! Take that Global Carbon Footprint! I can fill up with 89 octane for about $5.00 and some change.

There is nothing very romantic in the little machine itself. It sounds as if it is being held back all the time and wants to really whine. I smell a little like a lawnmower when I get to my destination and have really cool 80's fly-backs to go with the rest of the "dry look" hair. It isn't very comfortable to ride and the broken tailbone I have from the stupid cliff-jumping keeps me from ever relaxing. I get a knot in my shoulder from holding the throttle wide open for almost an hour. However, riding the moped allows me a little freedom that I otherwise don't feel. I tend to get a little caged-up feeling when I have to ride in an automobile now. I don't get the full effect of the new-mown hay, walls of lucious cattails, blossoming maples, ash, and willow, and the whole plethora of smells that pours out from a dairy farm - molasses, grain, silage, heady manure, and just a hint of the smell from a wet nose of a newborn calf. I also miss out on the effect the little machine has on the fauna along the road. Cows come running to the roadside fence as they hear me approach, deer spook but have to turn around and stop with curious ears spread wide, and both ring-necked pheasants and wild turkey alike run along side as I pass by not knowing whether they should take wing or hunker low until they just stand there looking at me as I continue down the edge of the road inches from the white line.

The weather adds adventure to the mix. I've only gotten wet twice and am pretty adept at checking the weather and taking off at just the right time to miss the showers. You are really much closer to weather on a moped. You are immersed in the air ionized by lightning, you feel the sting of the rain on your face, the sun shines warm on your body even if the air is cool, the wind slows you noticeably or gives you speed like you've never before had when its at your back. When you get wet on a moped, you are wet everywhere but the backs of your legs. It is cold in the morning and cool in the afternoon. I can't picture myself in riding leathers or a full face helmet so I would imagine that I'll have to come up with some humiliating-yet-warm getup this fall to lengthen my moped season.

The little bike responds to the weather also. It runs fast and smooth in the cool air, a little sluggish and soft when its very warm, sputters in the rain, and struggles against the wind. It seems to have a personality all its own, much like the junker cars I used to drive. I guess all in all this little bike helps me find that child-like joy that I sometimes lose track of. I get laughed at and laugh right back with a wave. I get the 'finger' and well, sometimes, have used it as well when someone speeds by dangerously close (not saying its right, just saying its me and I'm not always right). I hunker down behind the fairing in the front to cut down wind resistance to see how fast I can get to work. On a relaxing ride I can stop quick and just enjoy the sunrise, the sunset, a singing Redwinged Blackbird or watch a Bald Eagle sitting in a dead limb high over the Maple River. There is much that has come with the cheap little machine and I'm much the richer for it in many ways. So as I sit here and listen to the bubbles come off a fresh batch of homebrew beer and hammer out this entry for some day later when I have forgotten who I am, I'm thankful for the little bike, a good life, and a cool evening to take a ride around town.


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