Impatience to ride and choosing to believe the sunnier of two weather prospects contributed to an error in evaluating the risk of riding this morning. And there was also the fact that I ignored the direct evidence that the driveway that was wet last night was ice this morning. Ignoring that I walked to the road to find dry, salty pavement. In my head I’m repeating the weather forecast, “…near 50 degrees this afternoon…” I’m standing in the road, it’s 8 AM and the temperature is 27 degrees Fahrenheit.
On the road I am thinking about breakfast and not the ice. Out of town and into the countryside I begin seeing intermittent ice strips along the road from streams of water that ran during yesterday’s thaw. I’m still not processing the data. Instead I point the scooter straight ahead across the ice, these patches that are still narrow. Breakfast in Centre Hall or Bellefonte? Ten miles or fifteen? My stomach is managing the ride.
A 50-foot wide swath of ice. Yesterday is was liquid water but now it is a big stop sign. It’s not a little patch of ice. It’s not black ice which has more traction to it than this stuff. It’s shiny deep ice.
This is how a rider manages shiny ice:
- Pull over and stop
- Look in the mirrors for traffic
- Push up the visor and admire the ice
- Say to yourself “What the f…??”
- Decide not to ride to Centre Hall or Bellefonte for breakfast
- Admire the ice some more
- Begin picking out the least slippery path across the ice
- Cross the ice
Right, cross the ice.
There’s an element of machismo in riding. Perhaps less on a Vespa but it’s still there. It evaporates crossing ice. Anyone watching knows you’re an idiot. Or worse. Feet down pattering around as the scooter moves forward slowly searching for just a tiny bit of traction from a stray piece of gravel. The scooter moves in directions is shouldn’t, boots find no purchase. Constant attention to the mirrors for traffic. I am fortunate in my little world that traffic is minimal to non-existent. No one is watching. I don’t just look stupid doing this, I am stupid. Poor decision-making back in the driveway.
Over the next two miles I repeat the process a dozen times as each ice hazard seems to become more complex, like a puzzle book or increasing difficulty. My brain is working now to determine an ice-free route. That means a main traffic artery where use and excessive salt will mean less likelihood of ice. A half hour later I am at Barnes and Noble. Not the breakfast I planned but one requiring a reasonable amount of risk.
I sat and wrote this down before I forgot what happened. I like to forget things that don’t go my way or illuminate me in a bright, positive light. It’s one of the unexpected benefits of blogging — learning something about how I operate. While I successfully managed the risk on the road I did not do a good job managing the consideration of risk to determine if I would ride. The mistaken application of a weather forecast for later in the day, ignoring the significance of ice in the driveway, and allowing my desire to ride cloud my judgment, all worked together to produce a failure in managing the risks I am willing to take.
I learned some things today. And I did bring home a giant chocolate chip cookie.