I finally got the call last night that my scooter was ready to come home. As antsy as I’ve been to get her back, I was also a little nervous. I have made a point of trying to ride as many days as possible since I took my MSF course, just to practice and develop the muscle memory and brain training. Physical coordination does not come very naturally to me (this can be confirmed by many independent sources), so repetition is key. Eleven days without a bike when I’m this new to the game… let’s just say I almost had to remind myself where the blinker was.
Luckily, the route from the shop back to U City is mainly straight and low-speed. Once I got going, I was on familiar streets and had plenty of stoplights where I could pause and take a breath, survey the traffic, and decide my next move. I didn’t really want to go home, not yet, but where?
West looked good. Why not? I took Midland north from Olive, a pleasant divided four-lane with trees in the median. It goes through a bunch of little northside munis so it’s pretty potholed and patched in spots, but that’s just an exercise in hazard awareness and avoidance, right? Press, lean, press, lean, watch the surface nine seconds ahead, take this bump, avoid that one. Midland became Dorsett and turned westward. The surface smoothed out noticeably after crossing Lindbergh, and I soon found myself at Dorsett and I-270. I’m not terribly familiar with the area but had a vague memory of how to get to Creve Coeur Lake, a very pretty county park, so I headed that way. Marine Road had some really nice S-curves that were a new challenge for me – pretty tight, in a wooded area so there was minimal visibility around the corners, and all downhill. The posted speed limit for that stretch was 25 mph, I probably took it slower than I needed to because I was nervous, but that’s learning.
The view opened up at the lake and it was pretty much perfect. The sun was just above the horizon, people were on the beach and out on the walking and cycling paths, a sailboat sliced through the water. It was warm but not humid. I meandered along the shore road at about 30 mph, wishing I had a GoPro or something to capture the picturesque scene but having such a pleasant time I didn’t feel like stopping to take a photo with my phone. You’ll just have to trust me.
And then the road didn’t go quite where I thought it was going to go.
I thought the road went around the whole lake. I was wrong. And I learned I was wrong as I approached the stoplight where my road ended at the Maryland Heights Expressway.
This expressway isn’t really an expressway – not the way a lot of the world thinks of it. It’s MO State Highway 141, four to six lanes divided with a speed limit of 55 mph. In some stretches there are intersections and stoplights, in some there are ramps and exits. The GT200 has a listed top speed of 74 mph and should be more than capable of handling that road, but I’d never taken her above 50, not for more than a few seconds and not in traffic, so…
So of course I went for it. It was a beautiful night for a ride and my bike was finally back and we were having a great time. Why stop? Why not push myself a little further and see how it feels?
It felt good. SO GOOD. I was a little bit on edge – not scared or nervous really, maybe just anxious – as I got a feel for things, changing my posture a little and turning my head at high speed to check my blind spot. Whoa, did that feel different. The road had some gentle curves, which also felt different at that speed. I tried not to focus too much on the speedo and instead just keep myself consistent with the traffic, but I did notice the needle hanging out around 65 mph. People were still zipping right by me but I didn’t care to go any faster. I have heard that scooter speedometers are not the most accurate, so I’m quite curious to try this again with a GPS speedometer and see what I am really doing.
I was really tempted to just keep going, but in the interest of keeping myself in territory that was at least somewhat familiar, I exited the expressway at Ladue Road and turned back east. That was also a very pleasant stretch – green fields and white fences, nice hills for practicing throttle control. Ladue police are notoriously heavy-handed in traffic patrol – which may be why I haven’t seen a lot of jerk drivers in Ladue – so it was a nice breather after the excitement of 65 mph.
I could have taken that road almost all the way home, but I still wasn’t ready to call it an evening. I turned south on Lindbergh Boulevard and if there was one dumb move I made on that whole ride, it was that turn. I didn’t fall over or anything. But Lindbergh is full of idiots of the worst kind. The kind that race one another and stop suddenly in traffic and in general are morons who seem to be actively trying to remove themselves from the gene pool. Fatal accidents happen on this road not infrequently, usually the result of these fools getting speedy.
Literally within two minutes of getting on that road I was zoomed past by two vehicles weaving in and out of the lanes, one trying to catch up to the other. I watched my position and stayed back, and I still ended up having to do a pretty quick slow-down when the cars got in the lane to turn left and then one of them darted back over in front of me. Both brakes, even pressure, no skid and no panic. I think I handled it as well as I could, but it was still pretty nervewracking because that was the first time I had to do a hard stop with a real obstacle in front of me. It’s pretty different stopping for a steel bumper instead of a little line on the pavement. Every time I ride I’m putting my training to use, and I’m still encountering an awful lot of firsts. And glad to have that first overwith, I got off Lindbergh at the next light and meandered home through Clayton.
- I want a windscreen ASAP.
- And a GoPro.
- And a phone mount for the handlebar to use that GPS speedometer app.
- Stay off Lindbergh Boulevard. Forever.
- Keep practicing.