Thursday, May 7, 2015

Spring is finally here!

It took its time, but Spring has arrived in force. The trees are in bloom and the weather is finally good enough to encourage daily riding. 

It's somewhat of a difficult choice these days since I have two vehicles that I enjoy equally, but today was different. Today is the National Day of Prayer and the Christian Motorcyclist Association arranged a group prayer ride around Lancaster county.

We met at the Sheetz on Oregon Pike, just off route 30 and I joined up with the Western Lancaster county group. The route took us through New Holland, Terre Hill, Adamstown, Denver, Ephrata, and Akron. We stopped for about half an hour in each borough to pray for each community, then rode to East Petersburg for the final staging to ride into the Day of Prayer event at the WJTL Radio, "Junction Center."

The event was imense. There were many hundreds of people there, perhaps over a thousand, and the speaker; Ravi Zacharias, was amazing. He's one of those people that is very intelligent, yet he puts out so much information that it's difficult to process it all at once. What stood out to me most was when he said something about reaching out to the hand of God in the darkness and learning to trust.

After the message, it was time to head home. The scoot was parked in, but it gave me more time to chat with some of the other riders.

All in all, a wonderful day. I'm feeling drained, but rejuvenated all at once. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Those old forgotten roads

I used to hate driving. Nearly seven years ago, a little red scooter offered an alternative. Five months later, a silver Kymco added more joy to the idea of vehicular excursions. Riding a scooter was unlike driving any car I'd ever sat in. That's changed a bit. Turns out I was driving the wrong cars.

A vehicle that hugs the road is loads of fun. A pleasant interior, good suspension, and a decent power to weight ratio makes a world of difference.

Then there's the roads.

Roads make the ride. If the vehicle isn't up to the challenge, the ride won't be much to talk about. Leaning into a corner on a bike, or feeling the g's as centrifugal force battles with the grip of the tires over possession of one's spine in a good car, the feel of flying down arbor arched first lanes, the excitement of whirring along between fields on a snaking farm path. All the perfect road needs is the perfect ride. I now know this can come in both two and four wheeled varieties.

Often, my work days come as split-shifts with a five hour window between. Days like today give opportunity to hit the unpopulated asphalt capillaries between the major arteries used by the bored masses in their humdrum voyage from A to B. Lower fuel prices make it more affordable to indulge in some wandering and G-forces; the fully repaired suspension hugging tight to the road surface, and a light breeze sneaking in through the sunroof.

Something about those roads. Those who have taken the road less traveled in a good car or on a bike or scooter know, they know and they look for every opportunity to take it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Winter's icy grasp

The chill of winter is here in force. The once intrepid adventurer reclines, cocooned in a warm wooden chrysalis, away from the icy blasts of the northern winds. When he does venture out, the sleek, silver form of open aired freedom is left idle in favor of a conveyance more protective from the elements.

It wasn't so long ago that there was only one car parked in front of this house and the scooter was the only way to go in the wintertime, but for this writer, the cold just isn't inviting anymore. Little things like, oh, breathing for example, have become more important than fuel economy. Thoughts of those days bring a sigh of nostalgia. They are a pleasant memory of times gone by.

Spring waits under a broken blanket of snow and frost, the daylight waning later each day and the morning dawning sooner. Soon, soon, the intrepid adventurer will ride his noble steed again, but for now, it's warm in here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ball and chain

Just a few short weeks ago, the jag was at Steffy's Garage for a loose nut on the lower ball joint. As always, there's a reason these things happen. The following Monday, she went back to the shop since it felt the same as it had before. The mechanics went over it and found that the lower control arm was worn around the post for the joint, so they mended that as well.

Despite the mending, the front end still felt strange and Penelope developed a frightening groan and creak every time the wheel turned. She visited the garage again last week and the verdict was bad bushings. The mechanic insisted she could be safely driven despite the noise, so she was taken home and only driven a few times.

Yesterday, on the way to take the kid to work, this happened:

Passing over a light bump in the road, the front right wheel made a horrible bang and poor Penelope started careening off into the opposing lane. With the brakes firmly depressed and some creative steering or possibly wishful thinking, she was brought to a stand-still on the edge of the road.

Time was spent awaiting a roll-back and with more hideous clatter, Penelope was unceremoniously dragged from the banking and onto the truck.

This past winter, the lower ball joint was replaced with what was presumed to be a new, properly constructed unit. As one can see from the above photo, the lower ball joint is not exactly where it belongs, and that hole in the wheel is not what one would normally term "stock." It turns out that the replacement part was never lubricated at the factory. For those who aren't familiar, these parts are supposed to be pre-lubricated and sealed. Since there was no lubrication, the parts would bind and heat up, causing damage to the surrounding areas. From the explanation given by the mechanic, this wasn't showing up when the vehicle was on a lift because there was no weight on the wheel. 

Steffy's contacted the vendor, who agreed that this part had been defective. The vendor then contacted the manufacturer, who apparently can't see the problem with producing a faulty product and therefore refuses responsibility for their failure to produce quality merchandise. The manufacturer's name is withheld at this time as there may be future litigation.

Thankfully both Steffy's Garage and the vendor are willing to stand by their work and show integrity in so doing. This means there will be no out of pocket expense at this point in time. 

It boggles the mind really, but for now, it is a relief to know that Penelope will be receiving an almost complete right front suspension, wheel, and two front tires (because of equal wear). 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Foggy in the morning

It's autumn, and September has given up her place to October. With the progression of the season, cooler nights have brought morning fog to the Conestoga valley. 

Riding in fog comes with it's own unique set of challenges and increased danger.  For riders whose primary riding takes place commuting over the same roads every day, there is the benefit of memory. We often find ourselves zoning out a bit on familiar roads due to familiarity. Fog changes that; corners, bumps, intersections, and other landmarks become a matter of memory or guesswork. A very familiar road is like an old friend; we know its traits and idiosyncrasies, and even its quirky sense of humor. In the fog, we are reminded of which roads are truly our friends, and which are mere acquaintances revealing a hidden character trait or two we never knew they had.  

Even those roads we ride every day reveal to us whether we truly know them when the visibility is poor. That little depression we always avoided, suddenly grabs a tire, or a hidden driveway belches forth an unexpected vehicle. Things we take for granted on clear days become a danger when the view ahead is dim.

But the sun always comes out eventually. It's harvest time here in Lancaster county. The farm stands are cycling away from fresh tomatoes, peppers, corn, and green beans, and on to more autumnal produce.

Occasionally one will happen by an "honor" stand, such as the pumpkin stand pictured above, where the prices can be extremely reasonable. The fall colors invite passerby to stop and browse at their own leisure, choosing to purchase or not, as fancy might take them. A pair of pumpkins and some gourds found their way into the scooter's crate to eventually find a home in the front garden next to some newly planted mums.

Autumn is such a peaceful sleepy time of year. The greens and yellows of summer give way to golds, oranges, reds and browns. Foggy mornings pass to reveal a waning sun which stretches its fingers forlornly across the landscape in a final attempt to warm the ground rendered dormant by the change of seasons relenting as it sinks into the southwestern horizon, defeated for today but resolved to return once again on the morrow to fight again the battle with the harbingers of winter.