August 28, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

(Thanks Charlie6 for the inspiring new title)

Now that summer with temperatures way beyond 30C (86F) has finally arrived I find myself declining offers to ride every so often because I simply feel uncomfortable traveling in full gear, and I don't want to risk my skin and bones by riding in less.

A group meet-up would usually gather somewhat between 9 and 10AM on Sundays, and the trip might take between three and five hours, so one will naturally be exposed to the hottest time of the day. Not my favourite, hence I didn't get to ride much except for the daily commute and the occasional evening getaway.
 Scootin' with hubby

My preferred summer time riding happens in the early hours. What seems to be a repeat agonizing procedure during workweek has never been an issue on a Sunday: I get up at dawn, and hit the road by sunrise.
By the time I reach my preferred byways the sun has already eaten away most of the fog. The roads are mine! The air is still crisp and fresh, unspoiled by the pollution likely to be caused by later cage traffic.
Not the slightest breeze moves the air, the waters are mirror-like, undisturbed by any rippling. I have been on these roads many times but the ever changing landscape and skies fascinate me anew.
Not long ago these peaks were still sporting their snow caps, but the last remainders have vanished during last few weeks of hot weather.

Somebody's home, and former business, when times were different. Some will see only decay, and today its only potential might be in tearing it down, because it might be beyond repairs.
There is not much available on the net but I found out that the store was built in the Roaring Twenties of the last century to provide groceries and general merchandise to its new residents likely to be working for Imperial Oil on the north shore of Burrard Inlet. It was also used as a local gathering place and community landmark back in the days.
The verandah is no longer usable for any kind of gathering, today it is a danger to the public, and the former view to the inlet is obstructed by overgrowth forest. As I am carefully moving around the steps and floorboards waver and creak, as if they were to give way any second now.
Vandalism had done their share on this piece of history, and the railing was partly kicked apart. I hope that it is not too late and not been given up already, and that it will see a new visionary owner one day that could bring this building back to life.

Back home at 10AM, just in time for breakfast with the spousal unit.

August 23, 2011

Epic rides on little scooters

While surfing the net I recently came across some brave scooterista who mastered huge distance travel on their 'underpowered' vehicles.

There is Binh Cheung who rode from California to Alaska (and back)... on a Symba! Jari Tulilahti from Finland scooted all over Europe with his Vespa. And Eric Swanger dared to take his Vespa down the legendary Route 66.


All those tales from the road are admirable and inspiring, and show that it doesn't take a big bike, expensive expedition equipment and a bunch of sponsors to make it happen.

August 15, 2011

Sunday Ride to Eat and even more Scooter Farkles

It was a busy and somewhat expensive weekend but included not much riding. Friday afternoon I scootered to Urban Wasp. Last weekend we had brought in the red Vespa to get the back light replaced which broke during our Washington trip. It turned out to be a warranty issue, and got fixed at no cost for us. Also, Bella got a brand-new rear tire mounted, as the other was compromised due to the flat tire experienced during the same travels. So, I picked up the red one, and left the plum (some would say eggplant) one at the dealership as it needed a long overdue service, and a change of the worn out rear tire as well.

Saturday we picked up parts at our warehouse south of the border which we had ordered at Scooterwest. On the way back we stopped at Holeshot Motorsports, and got sucked into their sales event. We acquired new motorcycle boots (Shift Kicker) and gloves (Shift Hybrid X) for the husband, and boots (Icon Tarmac) for myself.  By the time we finished shopping, the Vespa dealership called to inform that Paolo was ready for pick-up, and we headed downtown to take him home.

With both scooters back in the parkade further farkelization ensued. Beautiful Bella got a Vespa top case in red, and a power plug in black, while Paolo is now sporting a front rack, a side stand and a power plug (colour: sand), too.
Today we weren't in the mood for a longer trip, and aimed for a ride to eat at Shake'n'Shingle in Maple Ridge, a rustic log cabin offering typical but tasty pub grub. While Mr M. chose a burger, I decided for a crab sandwich with hand-cut fries. It was fresh and good.
The additional weight of the front rack seems to take its toll on the riding stability. Steering feels awkward, and I am still getting used to the different feel of the bike. I am not yet sure if I like it, but I will give it another try.
The shiny red box on Bella is a real eye catcher, and the husband is more than pleased with the scooter's improved appearance.
The power plugs on both vehicles will not only enable us to 'feed' the GPS, but also operate the Stop'n'Go mini air compressor much easier in case of emergency.
I opted for the sand coloured version as it goes well with the seat and roll bag. It was a simple plug and play installation, as the bike had already a prepared harness inside just waiting for hook-up.
One very convenient farkle is the scooter side stand which is much less cumbersome to operate than the center stand, especially for quick photo ops. I adopted the idea from Sergei's blog (Brilliant pictures by the way, please look for yourselves.), who had hurt his foot during his epic Canada-to-Mexico trip on a Vespa, and couldn't operate his center stand very well. Since my knee is acting up every so often, the side stand is exactly what I need.

Now the Vespa's are even better prepared for our next adventures.

August 08, 2011

The Loop

It's been a long time coming! I had planned the ride many times before as day trip or weekend trip but it never happened. But today is the day!

As I plan to get up very early in the morning, I pack my rucksack the evening before:
Additional gear: Rain pants (serves as lucky charm), silk gloves, spare gloves, balaclava, ear plugs, a pair of thin socks
Food: Bananas, energy bars, gum, water, energy drinks, sandwiches
Tools 'n' stuff: Tire pressure gauge, mini air compressor, tire repair set, Leatherman, First Aid kit, fuel bottle (full), zip ties, duct tape, oil, bungee net
5:30 AM Filled up Rover's peanut tank for the first leg of the journey, and hit the Sea-to-Sky highway. The sun is just coming up, and traffic is almost non existent.
Yes, please!
As the sun rises higher the beauty of the scenery unfolds. The temperature drops to 9C (48F), and I pull out my silk liners and the balaclava.
Warming up and snacking at Green Lake (past Whistler).
150km later the mountain road takes its toll: The peanut tank is drained. I am almost running on empty before Pemberton, and have to make use of my fuel bottle.
No gas for the next 98 km on Duffey Lake Road. I refill the bottle... just in case.
We find our rhythm and wave through the twisties. The 'mind-meld' begins, and motorcycle and human become one entity.
Just your average roadside waterfall. I drive by, and have to turn around. Transposition manoeuvres with the Sporty are not as easy as with the Vespa. I almost dump Rover, when slipping on the gravel.
Around 11AM the weather gods take pity on me. It is getting warmer, and I swap the balaclava against the do-rag, and lose the silk gloves and the woolen socks.
Calm reflections at Duffey Lake
Where the road follows the river.
It is getting warmer, and the fleece shirt can be tossed now. The landscape changes, and becomes desert-like.
After refreshment the inner layer of the mesh jacket has to go. The temperatures are close to 30C (86F).
Sometimes it becomes difficult to concentrate on the road with all those spectacular vistas around. A few times I overestimate my skills, miscalculate the different physics of the Sporty, and take a turn 'too hot'. Nothing serious, but a reminder to keep eyes and mind focused on the road.
There is a bus-load of tourists at the Teton lake view point. So, I wait until they are gone, and have lunch, while enjoying the view.
I top up on fuel in Lillooet, and turn South on Highway 12 following the Fraser River.
The vistas are different now, but no less stunning.
It is high noon, and the sun burns holes in my helmet.
I have to stop every so often to re-hydrate myself. Water and sport drinks do wonders and keep me refreshed.
Lytton, at the conflux of the mud coloured Fraser River and the turquoise Thompson River is the self proclaimed hot-spot Canada's, the temperatures hit 34C (93F), and I tend to believe it.
At Boston Bar I put five bucks worth of fuel in the tank for the home run through Fraser Canyon, now following Highway 1 to Hope, before I get on to my home stretch on Highway 7 through Fraser Valley.

A gorgeous day comes to an end.
575km (375 mi.) 
Ten hours of bliss.

Life is a highway scenic byway
I want to ride it all night day long
(and that's exactly what I did today)

August 04, 2011

Farkling Experiment with Rover

The previous owner of Rover had thrown in a few farkles that needed some closer investigation, and required a field test a.k.a. sunset ride. The items were never used. Is was super easy to remove the single seat, and put the Sundowner bucket seat on. Also, the installation of the quick release sissy bar was a no brainer.
Although I like the visual appearance of the single seat better I have to admit, the Sundowner is mighty comfy, so I am going to keep it for a while. Not sure about the sissy bar though, as I will remain a single rider. But it can probably hold some luggage, which when placed on the passenger seat, will make a proper back rest for me.
Something similar to this could work.
Two hours and roughly 100km later the 'test' was completed, and the bike got tucked away again, until next time...

August 03, 2011

Three offerings to the Road Gods

It was sunny, calm, yet a bit chilly with 11C (52F), not what we had expected for an August morning. We bundled up, packed our steeds, and off we went. Traffic was surprisingly easy. Nobody seems to feel the need to rush to work contrary to the rush into and from recreational activities.
Our first stop was at Chateau St Michelle to capture the vineyard in the morning light.
Secondary roads were empty, and we could enjoy a mellow scooter speed (50 mph). After briefly encountering another drop in temperatures where the fog hadn’t lifted yet, my body demanded hot chocolate topped with whipped cream, stat.
In Monroe we had said beverage and a typical American style breakfast with pancakes, eggs and meat stuff at the Hitching Post Café, an eatery with Wild West themed murals. Fruit were not even an option on the menu. The food was nothing to write home about, other than it filled the tummy and was warm.
Traveling on byways makes it sometimes harder to find the right way. There is no ‘slowest route’ option in the GPS, so we had to use good old fashioned maps to find our way. We got lucky and found on some fantastic small roads, ideal for scootering.
On the few occasions we met people they were surprised that we traveled ‘all the way’ from Canada on these tiny motorcycles. Some weren't even familiar with the brand Vespa at all, but everyone was quite impressed that they could do 80 mpg and highway speed.

Then came our first offering to the Road Gods:
Halfway home Bella started ‘limping’. She had run over a staple, which punched two holes in the rubber, and now we were left stranded with a flat tire at Arlington.
After an odyssey throughout town, with multiple stops to refill air, we found out that tire shops and repair shops don’t fix motorcycle tires, and that every single motorcycle shop was closed on Mondays. Here's the nasty little bugger:
We (I) carried a tubeless tire plug kit, but will that do any good in case of a double puncture? That’s when we met Myron. His shop was next to the last closed-on-Monday dealerships we had visited. We watched his kids quad racing in the backyard, and so Roland took his chances and went to talk to him. It turned out that the guy builds and repairs motors of all kinds, and also is into quad and motorcycle racing. Besides he had a dear friend who was German, a pilot and actually just got off the phone with the pilot’s son, who lives in Germany and is also into motorsports.
Myron multitasking
In no time our Samaritan had fixed the tire, and proudly gave us a tour around his shop. Meanwhile Bella got a cat scan while the plugs dried up.
Thanks to Myron we were back on the road an hour later. He helped, not thinking liability (the answer we got at Les Schwab), and he refused to take our money. God bless those people, the world definitely needs more Myron's. We owe you big time (and a six-pack of German beer!).

We anticipated Highway 9 to be heavy with traffic but we had a serene and uninterrupted journey to the border, and the tire didn’t lose a whiff of air.

Then came our second offering to the Road Gods:
Starting with a panic attack: The husband couldn’t find his passport! Now what? He kept it in the iPad pouch, but while pulling this thing out many times throughout our journey the document must have slipped out at one point, unnoticed by its user.

At the Sumas border we meekly confessed to the mishap. The border official didn't even frown, was calm and nice, filled out a form and sent Roland to the customs building. Another friendly immigration officer said to us “Shit happens, eh?!”, checked hubby's drivers license, asked him a few personal questions, double-checked his answers with data in the computer, and five minutes later we were back on the road. No long wait, no major inquiry, no harassment, no incarceration. Canada, the beautiful, the free and kind country with their kind people surprised us yet again! We felt so relieved, we almost cried.

The last leg of the journey was supposed to be uneventful, or so we thought. We went over the bumpy bridge in Mission, that’s where our third offering to the Road Gods was presented:
I was riding behind Bella, when I suddenly saw sparks flying. The rubber still looked good, and it took me a few seconds to realize that the tail light was gone. We couldn’t stop on the bridge as there was no shoulder to park, so we slowly rode to the next exit. Thankfully the drivers realized that we had trouble and passed us very carefully.

Bella’s tail light was toast. The holding bracket must have had a fatigue break during the bumpy ride, and the light had hit the ground and the hot exhaust several times dangling from the wire. Naturally it didn’t survive the procedure (the light bulb was still on though). We unplugged the cables, tucked the damaged light fixtures under Bella's seat, continued our last leg of the journey, and finally arrived home, otherwise unscathed.

I haven’t talked much about Paolo, haven’t I? He didn't miss a beat, started on the first push of the button, was humming along all the time, didn’t lose any of his bits, and was as reliable as a Beemer. Poor Bella, first she was a brand-new Diva, now she has character, and stories from the road to tell.

Given the heavy weekend traffic we were exposed to, the offerings to the road gods were well worth it. We didn’t encounter any serious situations. We enjoyed the trip very much, and the scooters did not fail us. They kept on rolling, and rolling, almost 800 km in three days under different road and weather conditions. VESPA rules!