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One for the Road: Snowmageddon

By Shadow

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As we creep toward spring, you most likely do not want to see, hear, feel, taste, touch or even read about snow. It’s the bane of the northern-dwelling motorcyclists’ existence—unless you’re an ice racer or some sort of daredevil that delights in taunting Mother Nature. Boston and its environs, with more than 104″ of snow this season (and more to come), is close to breaking the record for the most inches of snow in one winter since 1872, when snowfall totals were first recorded there.

New England residents have developed various coping mechanisms, such as Boston’s Kyle Waring who is selling snow to those in warmer climates. He charges $89 for six pounds, but he will not sell to other Northeast states because, “We’re in the business of expunging snow!” Then there’s Allen Queen from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, whose granddaughter in Glen Burnie, Maryland, had never seen snow. So Queen, the parts manager at Precision Harley-Davidson, decided to surprise her with a truckload of snow just so she could play in it, throw snowballs and build a snowman.

That’s all well and good, but all winter, my primary focus has been simply to keep the path between my garage and the street clear of anything that would prevent me from riding a motorcycle. The last time I rode was probably January, when I took one of my bikes to the shop. I had to dodge snowstorms, and had I waited another few days, I would’ve been socked in for the duration.

I spend an inordinate amount of time plowing, shoveling, chopping and salting. And so far, it’s been the second-coldest New Jersey winter on record, but last week, a single day with 40-plus degree temperatures was forecast. I was bound and determined to get out and ride, but another 6″ of snow had fallen the night before. Early in the afternoon I got out the snow thrower and proceeded to blaze a trail up the driveway. Near the top, it stalled. And stalled again. The tendonitis in my right shoulder started acting up from the multiple pull starts required. And it was getting warm out there! Off went the jacket, hat and gloves.

I played with the idle and the choke and finally realized it was all jammed up because the melting snow was so heavy it had blocked the chute. After clearing out the offending white stuff, I grabbed the throttle and clutch release and the big ol’ 318cc 8 hp Power Max 826LE threw me backwards against a 4-foot snow bank which I slid down and then landed in an icy puddle in the street. On my butt. Wearing just jeans, a sweatshirt and my boots. I was no longer overheated. Apparently I had it in reverse gear and set at jackrabbit instead of tortoise (in its infinite wisdom, Toro had decided that we mere mortals could not understand “high” and “low” and even needed help with “1” and “2”). But I had to finish. I wanted to at least take a test ride before my Daytona departure.

After the drive and pavement in back of the garage was plowed, I noticed that the entire gas line to my backup generator was completely covered with snow—about three feet of it. Northern New Jersey had experienced power outages and I didn’t want to be caught short, so I found the thick black line and started clearing the entire thing from the house to the generator because I couldn’t remember exactly where the gas shutoff valve was. I got to the end and realized I’d cleared a path for the big black garden hose, which looked, to me, exactly like the gas line.

This time I followed the real gas line and eventually uncovered the valve, I started up the snow thrower again and muscled it around to get it back through the open garage door. But I forgot to move the chute to the side and streams of snow shot inside the garage, covering the bikes near the door with a blanket of white. Time to call it quits. I closed everything up, headed upstairs for a hot shower and then fell asleep on the couch. By the time I woke up, it was dark and cold again. Too late to ride.

Weather conditions haven’t gotten much better since then. Every day has brought more meteorological indignities. But now we’re getting down to the wire. Three more days before I leave for Daytona, and I still can’t get a bike out of the garage. The temperature when I’m scheduled to leave on Saturday is forecast at 15 degrees. And the results of Monday’s plowing and salting exercise were obliterated by yesterday afternoon’s snowfall that was immediately followed by sleet and then, as temperatures rose a bit, rain that lasted through the evening. The snowy pavement in back of my garage is now frozen over. I think I’ll take up ice-skating.

But wait! Maybe there’s a better idea. I read that Mr. Queen of Pawtucket has already taken two truckloads of snow down to his granddaughter in Maryland, and he plans to make it an annual tradition. There must be plenty of other folks who would love to give their grandchildren the gift of snow. And I’ve got plenty of it here on my property. Just come and get it… before Saturday morning.

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