I hang with a lot of IT Strategy types – you know, the type that are prone to pronouncements that are intended to sound like harbingers of an inevitable future.
These types are prone to utterances like “Work is something you do, not somewhere you go.”
Strategy types are correct about as often as weathermen.
So, I’ve been putting on a lot of miles.
I’ve found a new gig, with a new outfit – one that will let me work directly with clients to solve their technical problems. And while I’m learning the ropes, and, more importantly – learning my new teammates – it is in my best interest for work to be somewhere I go.
That somewhere is in the center of Baltimore city – about 60 miles from my home in Jefferson.
It’s not like I haven’t got the perfect hammer for that nail – my K1200LT vaporizes intercity distances effortlessly. But adjusting – after several home based work years – to the time required, to the changes in circadians, and frankly, to get my best high-speed distance riding form thawed out – has sent a slight judder through the overall system.
It’s July in Maryland, which used to be something that produced fairly predictable weather patterns – patterns that apparently don’t hold, anymore. In the early mornings, when I leave The Shop, it’s been sunny and in the low 60s. I troll easily through the neighborhood and the new informal Jefferson Bypass through Roundtree Road, trying to get some heat in the engine before reaching for the whip. By the time I roll onto 340 East, the thermostat is opening and I roll each gear well out to around 6500 rpm under light throttle before shifting up. I don’t get top gear until the very top of the hill, and then thonk into top around 80 and then hit the tunnel of trees on the shaded side of the ridge.
The short US 340 sprint downhill though Frederick and over to I-70 and 270 has become surprisingly crowded – at the interchange, the majority of those people elect for 270 towards Washington – at which point the road to Baltimore really opens up and lets one open the throttle too. A few miles east of The City of Frederick one finds that rolling, high-speed groove, and enters the state of the perfect meditative Ohmmm. Just under 4000 rpm shows what for a K1200LT is a loafing 82 mph that makes the green and rolling countryside a thing of joy. Sometimes I carry a few more revs on cruise than that.
A K12 is in its element here – unstressed at speed, with tons of passing power available – it could do this for days and days. Unfortunately, it can only do this on this particular run for a little over 40 miles, until the US 29 interchange comes in range. US 29 is one of Greater Baltimore Washington’s Mother Roads – it was one of two primary North/South roads though the region – running through Northern Virginia, DC and Columbia, Maryland, before I 95 was built. 29 carries 3 lanes of traffic in each direction, and where it ends as it meets the Interstate, I-70 is only two lanes wide. I may not be a certified math genius, but I’m pretty sure 2+3 is NOT 2.
29, predictably, is where the trouble starts in the morning on the way in, and where it ends in the afternoon on the way home.
As I get to the 29 interchange, brake lights come on, downshifts are blipped, and depending on my timing, we either troll along at about 30 mph in second gear – or its drop down to first to find the slowest steady speed one can manage without working the clutch. Once clear of the merge at US 29, speeds come back up for just a little while, until get to the Baltimore beltway. The Beltway connects 70 – that comes in from the west – with I-95 – which runs either through the Fort McHenry tunnel towards Philly and New York, or straight into downtown Baltimore.
There’s only a mere five miles of Beltway between those two routes. All five of those miles are under construction. In both directions.
So add peak rush hour insanity to some demoed paving surfaces, toss in Jersey Barrier or two, and you have all the ingredients required for a relaxing ride in the country. It only took a day or two of this for my agility and mobility skills within the traffic stream to come roaring all the way back to peak function.
After the short Adventure Ride ™, one picks up I-95 that leads straight up into the city. 95 has six lanes in each direction, and despite the volume is always moving briskly, which quickly brings the downtown Baltimore skyline into view. With its cluster of skyscrapers, its pair of Stadiums for the Orioles and Ravens, The Bromo Seltzer tower – a sponsored copy of the Campanile of Florence — and the harbor all in view, all of the good things I’ve ever thought about Baltimore come rushing back every time I make this run. The 395 spur takes the ride right into the heart of downtown – I’ve only got 6-7 blocks to the Baltimore Street office – although those blocks can be congested. By this time of the morning the heat of the day is starting up, and being stuck in surface traffic with a half-scale formula racing engine riding in my lap does not necessarily represent that which most fun about motorcycling.
Calvert Street North dumps me right at the entrance to the office’s garage – an older ramp design inside the office tower itself, which, on a larger motorcycle is another kind of adventure ride.
One of the officers of my new company saw me on my way from the garage, still accoutered in my Roadcrafter Suit, and wanted to know if I regarded my new job as so dangerous as to require full armor. I cheerfully responded that were that the case, I would certainly also be wearing my helmet.
The new job is engaging, and there is lots for me to learn or adapt – it demands my focus, and time has been flying by.
So most days it seems I am pulling back on my gear and velcroing stuff to other stuff with almost not being aware of any time in between.
At quitting time, with temperatures up into the 90s, and people carrying some ‘tude after a day at work, reversing those 6 or 7 blocks is a tad more hellish.
People will try to tell you that inner city Baltimore motorcyclists have a complete and utter disregard for the extent to which traffic laws apply to them. Those nameless people that are always trying to tell you things would, in this case, be largely and materially correct.
One of those stylish riders – combining shorts, a tank top, a Sportster with drag pipes and a Chromed German Military-style helmet – pulled a racetrack inside pass on the shoulder on the big SUV behind me while making the right turn into Conway Street, which leads back to 395 and the slab outta town. He was pretty pleased with himself as he flicked back in front of that SUV, at least until the millisecond he discovered that one cannot actually see through or around massive SUVs, and that he had failed to see the fairly large object that already occupied the space – in this case, LT straddling me.
His eyes got real big. I communicated to him that I held a dim view of his intelligence. He made no significant effort to refute my assertion.
Summer in Maryland has always meant thunderstorms, but storms lately are more localized, stronger and potentially more violent. Given how well the current generation of Aerostich suits has implemented waterproofing, I really don’t ever worry about getting wet at all anymore. Hitting any storm means closing the vent zippers, closing the LT’s cockpit wind deflectors, setting the electric windshield’s height to just below my eyeline, and jamming on. The Avon Storm tires I run handle rain like you’d expect from a British tire. If there’s ever been a better foul weather motorcycle, I have no experience or even news of it.
Coming home yesterday, I intersected the path of one of these violent downbursts. I buttoned up for rain, and didn’t even feel the need to back my road speed off – the Storms were perfectly planted, under both power and braking. I know there are people out there that already question my rationality when it comes to motorcycling, but given a choice between making this run in 95 degree heat, or cooled off by the rain and running a wet 77, I’ll pick the rain every time. In the western portion of the run, on open Interstate at speed, the LT didn’t provide even a single moment of drama, even in conditions that had the more timid automobilists pulling off the roadway.
And in the time it takes to pass a few cars, and think a few things, I found myself rolling back up my driveway at home again. Time and distance vaporization indeed.
Sweet Doris from Baltimore and I are looking for a house somewhere substantially closer to that Baltimore street office. With Finn having moved to the City after being hired by an architecture firm there, my job there, and her parents, who increasingly need her help, there, there is a confluence of forces that should be sufficient to finally get her back home.
Until we figure it all out, though, I’m content to keep trying to wear out a K12, one hundred twenty miles at a time. I’d be the first one, I think, to be successful in that.