What is the draw of 45 miles per hour?
I was wondering this morning, and not for the first time, why 45mph is sooo popular. It seems like everyone's doing it, and I don't get it. It's not the speed limit, yet it's not exactly slow enough to see the sights, either. It's nothing. It's like making the statement "I don't really want to go where I'm going."
Today it was raining on my drive to work...people were going 45. Why? I dunno, it wasn't raining hard, the roads in Michigan don't get slippery when it rains, visibility was fine...everybody just slowed down 10 miles per hour. Basically, I have a personal problem with that. When I'm going somewhere, I want to get there -- without dawdling, without dallying, without holding up M37. I don't really speed, either. I used to, but I slowed down when I got a Jeep that pulled down a whopping twelve miles per gallon. I would call my driving Agressive-but-Not-Fast. Actually I'd call it "assertive." My little rectangle of road is MY road, dangit.
It gets frustrating on my bike, too. Sorry, long build up to a not-very-interesting story follows...
I lived in Lafayette, Indiana for five years, (from 1996-2001) but my bike was in storage up here in Michigan for a couple of those, say from late 1995 until mid-late 1997 when we sold my late mother's farm. At that time I loaded up a U-Haul with a bunch of stuff, including my motorcycle, and made the eight hour drive down to Indiana.
Since most of you probably don't have the misfortune of being familiar with Lafayette, Indiana, I suppose I have to describe. Lafayette is in northwest Indiana, about a half-hour east of the Illinois border and about two hours south of the Michigan border, right on the I65 freeway that runs from Chicago to Indianapolis. Northwest Indiana is an ugly wasteland of absolute flatness, corn and soybean fields right to the edge of the road, and two-lane country roads. Lafayette itself is an ugly, dirty factory town -- I counted at least 16 factories on the map -- and seems to follow the edict of "If we can't farm it, subdivide it...if we can't subdivide it, pave it." Houses are routinely built 10 feet from each other. The entire town always smells like one of the two AE Staley corn processing plants that bracket Lafayette, and the smell is a barely describable mixture of burnt peanuts and sauerkraut. If we were lucky, we'd smell hot aluminum from the Alcoa ingot-smelting factory instead of AE Staley.
And the drivers are the most maddiningly stupid, slow, inattentive, ignorant, impatient, distracted, bunch of nincompoops I've yet had to deal with. Sorry if I sound like I'm sugarcoating.
In the five years I lived there, I seriously believed that I was going to be put in the hospital by one of them, and I am to this day surprised that I was not.
So, the bike. Right. It would have been the spring of '98 when I pulled the cover off the bike and made it run for the first time in two years. I can spare you the procedural details but once it was running, it was pretty obvious that the carbs were fairly gummed up. The motor was popping and spitting, and vibrating more than a parallel twin normally vibrates, and there was no such thing as "idle." I had to keep blipping the throttle to keep the motor alive, but it was really nothing that a good run through the country wouldn't cure. "Blowing the squirrels out," is what I called it.
And so I set out. Our apartment was downtown, so I had to putt up 7th street, cross a pair of 1-ways, go through the downtown to 9th street, and take 9th street out of town. The whole way picture it as "pop pop, spit, vroom" as I rode at 25mph in town, and "bvroom, bvroom, bvrooooom" at every red light. At last, and it took 20 minutes or so, I had gone the 3 miles across town and was on 9th street, headed out. And I was behind someone. And they were going 45.
Now, all the bike and I REALLY needed was to get some WOT time when accelerating, and get the bike over 3000 rpm at cruise...you know, heat the motor up, burn out the cobwebs, that kind of thing. Nope. Forty-five...more popping and spitting, lots of turbulence off the car in front of me, and a steady stream of oncoming traffic to prevent passing -- until...YES! I could pass! And I did! "BWAAAAAA....aaaa...pop...spit....DAMMIT!" -- because another Hoosier simply pulled out in front of me. And went 45.
And so it went. No matter what road I was on, no matter how far out in the godforsaken cornfields I was, I could NOT get away from people going 45 in front of me. I pulled back into our driveway after an hour or so on the road -- bike running no better than when I started -- frustrated to the gills, and fuming about spending an hour eating a bunch of Hoosiers' turbulence, exhaust gas and tossed cigarette butts.
It was, I can say, the very first time I'd ever gone for a motorcycle ride and come back MORE stressed than before I left.