Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Another foggy morning with temperatures near the freezing mark. Heavy frost on both cars but the driveway and road were damp or dry. The weather report said 31F but my scooter reading was 35F. So off I went to work.
The fog was heavier this morning though creating another risk management factor.
A quick stop at the Pennsylvania Military Museum to look around and make a few pictures in the fog. The collection is growing. Almost fell on some ice that was well hidden. Would hate to report a winter injury acquired on foot.
Here's where the accident almost happened. Parked the scooter on a solid sheet of ice, jumped of for a picture and almost went down. Sloppy technique.
The world is reduced to a few graphical elements in the fog -- scooter, lines and white space. That must have something to do with my continued fascination with this weather event.
Cutting through the State College, Pennsylvania neighborhoods on the way to work is a relaxing path. Little traffic save for the occasional dog walker. Easy to park in the middle of the road for pictures.
The morning work schedule didn't leave much time for pictures or wandering and that's ok. I'm happy to have a Vespa commute to start the day.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
The clock radio alarm went off this morning with the weather report warning of possible ice on untreated surfaces due to fog. As enchanting as fog can be it has to be carefully considered when the thermometer is pointing at 32F.
After walking the dog, paying attention to the road surface, and watching the thermometer rise I made the decision to ride to work.
The roads were mostly dry or damp with no obvious ice. Keeping the helmet visor clear was an ongoing challenge until the helmet came off at work.
The meandering trip passed through familiar places though always strangely different when shrouded in fog. I remember wandering through these places on foot with my big wooden view camera exposing sheets of black and white film and watching the world appear in a tray of developer in the darkroom.
I miss those days.
The only ice to be found this morning was off the road and halfway to town the temperature indicator on the Vespa displayed 34F.
Cutting across the east end of campus afforded a nice view of Mount Nittany emerging from a muted sunrise.
Only scooters in the parking lot now though with predictions of the temperature approaching 50 later in the week could see a few motorcycles around.
The biggest downside of commuting this time of year is darkness at the end of the day. While it wasn't cold, 35F, it can be discouraging to climb aboard the Vespa in the dark on days when it is cold.
This day, I was just glad the warnings of frozen fog did not materialize. Just another fine Vespa commute to start the day right.
Monday, December 02, 2013
Unshaven, rested, relaxed. That's what a week of vacation can do for a person. My friend Gordon made the photograph, my wife Kim said I looked relaxed, and I know I'm rested and unshaven. The past week has been an exercise in no plans, no schedule, no goals, no nothing. I like to think I'm a creature of habit but it's more likely I'm a creature of circumstance. With no schedule to adhere to I've stayed up 'til dawn, slept past noon, hung out in coffee shops and generally watched the world go by.
And did some Vespa riding.
On days I didn't sleep past noon I was out in the cold with the dog or on the Vespa. A week of that was all it took to acclimate to the frigid weather. Now everything from 20F and higher feels comfortable. Or at least tolerable.
This image was made on Sunday morning at sunrise with Junior in tow. A dog offers fine examples of how to embrace life at it's simplest level.
Junior pausing briefly for me to make a portrait. Cold enough outside for his breath to freeze over the hair on his neck. He just walked through the living room, looked at me, and went upstairs to bed. "He know's the day's over," said Kim. "No more walks, treats or food. Nothing left but to go to sleep."
I'm almost in the same place.
It's been a cold week with snow and ice and have helped thicken my riding blood. This morning Mr. Pumpkin looked particularly annoyed by the 18F temperature reading as I got ready to ride into town to meet my photography compatriots at Saint's Cafe. Neither the Vespa or I uttered a complaint.
Morning has more attraction for me than any other time of day -- visually and mentally. I awake quickly with no need for coffee or tea. Seeing the sun rise and the warm beams of light lick through the trees continues to cause the heart to beat faster.
Allen Street is still asleep at 8:30 on a Sunday morning. Plenty of parking and no traffic to contend with is fine by me.
Saint's Cafe in State College, Pennsylvania. The holiday decorations have already gone up. The place seems personal, friendly and like home.
Simple pleasures during the vacation. Hot chocolate and a few moments alone with my thoughts.
During the past week the Vespa and I have ridden the familiar tracks and explored some new ones. The snow and ice have offered an opportunity to sharpen my skills and mind and the time away from work has allowed my batteries to recharge so I can jump head first into some big projects.
And the rides have given me a chance to catch up with old friends if only for a few moments. But mostly I just laid about in decadent sloth. So much for plans to organize my digital photos or straightening up the garage. It was far more satisfying to nap, eat, ride play with the dog, hang out with Kim and anything other than be a responsible adult.
Damn, I guess I need to go upstairs and shave now.
Sunday, December 01, 2013
Signs of the coming holidays are everywhere. Commercially, retailers have been turning the wheels on the Christmas shopping season for weeks. Lighting and decorations have appeared on homes and in towns before Thanksgiving. I'm not immune to the buzz and feel the nostalgic pull of holiday memories from long ago. This year I want to channel that nostalgia into a project or story.
Just don't know what...
Exploring the extravagant gingerbread towns and other miniature landscapes revealed a scooter making rounds through a snow-covered village. Perhaps there's a clue there for some sort of project of my own. I couldn't decide which would be colder -- the pizzas or the rider's face.
Let the season unfold and let's see what happens.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
The entire morning was focused on dreaming. Or more precisely on ideas and paths not considered or taken, of flights of fancy and journeys of partnership that might be explored. The morning ride had me thinking about what to write in Kim's birthday card.
Another cold morning though sunshine took the edge off making the snow and cold seem little more than a picturesque landscape in which to explore. A week off work provided ample opportunity to acquire a taste for the cold and grow relaxed with the winter riding ritual.
Seven days ago the thought of riding through a frozen cornfield would seem a technical stretch. Today it seemed almost normal. So normal that thoughts of birthdays and dreams came easy.
Before the Vespa, Kim and I explored these mountains on foot with cameras and notebooks. And before that fall and winter backpacking. Now, as the Vespa slowly prowls along small paths and roads puzzle over what's next here for Kim and I; how will our lives unfold.
The morning had a postcard quality to it with blue sky draped with white clouds over a mix of snow and ice. Riding was a joy.
Joy might give the wrong impression. While the main roads were clear it didn't take long to find snow and ice still lingering on secondary roads. Caution was in order.
Coming across a local Christmas tree farm moved thinking from birthday to another season. Christmas will be here in less than a month. Time is flying.
The ride at times felt like a dream, a scene from Lord of the Rings with familiar places transformed into new ones.
Riding this time of year when the temperature drops below freezing it's important to anticipate problems. This snow covered road exits from a clear dry road. On warm days I would enter this road at 40mph. Knowing it might now be dry I crawled on at 10. Good thing too because at a higher speed I would have lost control. In cold weather you can never ride faster than what you can see.
The message of this picture: I have little traffic to content with as I navigate the snow and ice. And there was a lot of ice hidden beneath the light dusting of snow.
It's been like a dream...
Friday, November 29, 2013
With a lot of discussion lately focused on snow and riding I took a look around YouTube and found a short film that explores some of the possibilities of riding on snow and ice. The first look at a winter equipped Vespa takes place at 2:09. Take a look at some of the scooters racing around the track in Germany -- Those aggressive studs make it possible to really lean into a turn!
The video was produced by the S.I.P. Scooter Shop in Germany.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Thinking about the things that make winter riding so attractive -- so few vehicles on the road. Stir in Thanksgiving Day and I'm all alone.
Didn't think I would find much traffic on Thanksgiving morning. With most people already at their destinations and the rest staying warm inside I had the neighborhood to myself. Mostly.
Cold can be deceptive. With the sun out it "seemed" to not be so bad but just a few moments with the gloves off left my hands hurting. A little wind combined with 23F did its work.
State College, Pennsylvania is dead on Thanksgiving morning. Penn State is closed and everyone is somewhere else. Would have parked the Vespa in the middle of the crosswalk for a picture except my luck would have the only police car on patrol roll up as I was lining up the shot.
Reminded me of Abbey Road.
Allen Street, the hub of downtown State College was empty. Reminded me of holidays of my youth when everything, everywhere closed. God help the person in need of food or fuel.
The road this morning led out of town to Cracker Barrel where I would meet a friend for Thanksgiving breakfast. His idea. Last night I suggested Denny's. Nothing with a more local flavor was open.
The parking lot at Cracker Barrel appeared to border on the tundra. Perhaps because I parked beyond the cars to gain this view. Everything isn't always as it appears.
Breakfast was ok. The company much better. Always nice to get together with friends. Cracker Barrel had a big fire burning in a huge fireplace. I could easily have lay down in front of it and gone to sleep. I'm that kind of guy.
As much as I like to ride, it's good, no, it's great to be home.
Walking with the dog through the neighborhood today, watching his simple pleasure being alive and running on the earth, made me think about gratitude and thanks for the simple things in life. Henry David Thoreau offered one perspective of thanksgiving that I'd like to share with readers of Scooter in the Sticks...
“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite - only a sense of existence. Well, anything for variety. I am ready to try this for the next ten thousand years, and exhaust it. How sweet to think of! my extremities well charred, and my intellectual part too, so that there is no danger of worm or rot for a long while. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.” ― Henry David Thoreau
All the best to you and yours for a fine Thanksgiving Day.