The morning weather forecast called for sun in the morning followed by a chance of snow showers or rain with no accumulation and temperatures approaching 40° F. I had already put my seat and rear bag covers on at noon in preparation for the moisture predicted to arrive. Through my office window I saw the flurries begin not concerned because in my head I was thinking of above freezing temperatures. Let it snow, it won’t stick.
When I saddled up the snow was just beginning to stick on the parking lot surface. I’m thinking to myself that’s OK. The rush hour traffic will wear it away on the road. Waiting to pull out of the parking lot I’m rubbing my feet on the road surface checking the traction. There is enough on the ground to plow little ridges of snow and slush around my boots. Not too bad I tell myself, it will get better once I am on the main road.
A mile later the road is completely covered in slushy grease and it is snowing hard—-ice pellets and snow and the wind is gusting causing the Vespa to lurch. Feet go down in outrigger fashion to help stabilize things. At one point I with a Ford Explorer bearing down on me from behind while I’m traveling at the impolite speed of 20 MPH in a 25 MPH zone and am having a difficult time seeing as ice gathers on the outside of my visor while the inside fogs. I am trying to wipe both sides and control the scooter at the same time. At almost the last moment I see a pile of snow across the road courtesy of some thoughtful sidewalk shoveler who never caught up with the last snowfall. Feet down, slight rear brake to slow a bit before impact, I strike the pile hoping to follow a tire track through. The Vespa shudders to one side and I feel the front wheel break free. A food down holds the scooter up until I come out the other side and regain a bit of traction.
I turn off onto a side street to let the traffic go by and regroup. I’m thinking it was not a good idea to ride home after all. At least not with traffic this heavy. I consider an alternate route but the side streets are even worse. I’m not comfortable abandoning the scooter at this point so I determine that I will continue to ride home. I wait awhile at the intersection until I see a long gap in traffic and pull back onto the road. A long hill is ahead that I must go over and come back down the other side. The scooter navigates the uphill easily with the rear wheel only spinning once or twice. I’m already thinking of the steeper downhill side complete with a reverse banked turn. I pull over at the top of the hill to let traffic pass, clean the visor again, and think about how to approach this next hazard.
Several vehicles beep their horn. They are either indicating support or reminding me that I’m crazy. I can accept either sentiment. Once car stops. It is my daughter Hannah and her boyfriend Jason. They offer a ride home and when I decline they offer to drive behind me to keep the vehicles away from me. Now there’s a plan.
I make it down the hill to the intersection with the main road out of town towards home. Four lanes of rush hour traffic thankfully traveling quite slowly due to weather and malfunctioning traffic lights. Jason and Hannah follow me about two miles where I turn off into their neighborhood and into their garage. The smart rider might have accepted the offer to park the scooter and take a ride home in the VW. I dried my visor with a paper towel and thought about the route home, another four miles wandering through neighborhoods and a back road into town. I knew there wouldn’t be much traffic and I had come this far already so I make a decision to ride the rest of the way home.
I admit at this point it is a challenge. I want to know if I can do it and I assess the risk to be manageable. It is close to the edge though. The route now has seen much less traffic and the quality of the snow on the road is different, deeper, and much slicker. Feet come down more often. The wind is worse when I get to the open areas and I’m breathing heavily from the effort only making the visor problems worse. I stop to take pictures mainly as a chance to clean the visor.
The last long hill into town is slow going because the snow starts to fall faster and I have to keep my speed to about 10 MPH otherwise there will be no chance to stop or pull over if someone rushes up behind me. I’m wiping snow from visor and mirrors and trying to pay attention to my track on the road.
I finally pull into my driveway about an hour and ten minutes after leaving work. A 15-minute ride on a dry day by the direct route. I wiped as much of the snow and slush from the scooter and pushed it into the garage.
Just because I made it home without incident I am not sure if I made the right decision. Had I known at the beginning how bad it would be I might have parked the scooter in the parking garage at work and took the bus home. I admit to some apprehension at leaving it parked all night like that but it may have been an error in judgment on my part. At the very least I was riding at the edge of unmanageability.