Thursday, December 15, 2011

December scootin'!

It's the halfway mark in December and nearly 60 degrees at 10pm. Wow. What a night for a ride!

It was a bit wet, but no chance of ice due to the temperature and the Silver Streak was feeling its oats. The long way home gave a nice opportunity for a stop at the airport. There wasn't any air traffic tonight, but the parked planes gave a decent backdrop for the scoot.

...and there were houses bedecked in Christmas lights on some of the side streets.

The pictures aren't the best quality, but I don't think they are too bad for having been taken by my Windows phone.

I hope you all are riding safe, and if I don't post again before Christmas, I wish you all a pleasant one. If you don't celebrate Christmas, have a pleasant one anyway. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fruitville Pike is usually busy in the afternoon and evening, but today I was headed north and the traffic started to bog down just north of Delp road. Coming down the hill and through the next light, it seemed that there was some hold up. At first I thought it was construction, but the traffic wasn't moving like it would if there was someone directing traffic. then I thought it might be a school bus, but the wait was too long.

I rounded the corner and was greeted by the sight of a fat English bulldog wandering around in the road. A good Samaritan had stopped to try to coax the canine out of the road, but when she would try to move her car to get it off the roadway, he would follow her.

I pulled the scooter to the side of the road and together we were able to get the dog into the grass. I sat with him while she moved her car. He was a friendly bugger, and really seemed to enjoy the attention. A few minutes later, his owners showed up to claim their missing mutt.

After the day I'd had, it was nice to do something purposeful.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Three years with Kymco...

...And there's no turning back.

The Silver Streak is just about to pass 15,000 miles (24,116 kilometers on the clock), and is still purring along. It passed inspection like a champ, only requiring new tires, and still gets a consistent 80 miles per gallon on ethanol laced gasoline (89 on ethanol free when available).

Kymco started out as an engine and parts supplier for Honda in 1963 (ref. Scooter underground). As I recall, and I don't have the time to look it up just now, Honda cut them loose in the early 90's because they had grown enough as a company and no longer needed Honda's oversight or help. It's an interesting business model that one does not see happen very often, but my understanding is that this is normal Honda operating policy. If true, it's obvious that the move didn't hurt Honda any, and has proven a boon to folks who want a quality motor-scooter, cycle, or ATV at a reasonable price point.

With that in mind, one could reasonably say that when one purchases a Kymco, one is buying a Honda engine, with a reasonable pricetag, and slightly inferior fit and finish.
  • The engine works like a Honda, lasts like a Honda, and purrs like a Honda.
  • The bodywork is plastic, looks plastic, and feels plastic, but it does what it is supposed to do.
  • The suspension is good for a small bike. It has enough give for average bumps in the road.
  • Handling remains excellent. The bike is light and nimble making cornering a blast.
  • Braking remains reliable. Rear brakes are always worse than front brakes, especially when they are a drum, but that is by design since no one wants to lock up that rear tire in a pinch. The front disc is adequate and provides enough stopping power.
The most common question I receive is "Do you still have your scooter, and how is it running?" This should answer the question. I'll still say, it's not a Vespa, but that's a good thing. It didn't cost me nearly as much out the door (less than half the cost of a Vespa 150LX), and it's just as reliable. Yes, it's not as nice to look at (Vespa's do have that Je ne sait quois), but if you want that, get a "Like 200i", and you'll be a happy camper for several thousand miles. Buy yourself a nice flat screen with the money you'll save...ok, three or four flat screens...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Life's continuing journey

Nissan (pretty sure it was them), had an ad campaign more than a decade ago that featured an Asian man and a small dog (pretty certain it was a Jack Russell), of which the theme was "life is a journey, enjoy the ride." It seems too profound for a car commercial, and the deep wisdom is there, regardless of it's original purpose.

Life's journey takes us many places that we don't necessarily wish to travel. When riding a scooter or motorbike, it's a bit more enjoyable, but for the most part, life's journey doesn't always take us through the fun twists and turns of mountain roads, but rather through the heartache and frustration of urban traffic.

When a family member has a chronic illness, or a child makes ill advised choices or a parent (or other loved one) passes away, these, among other experiences, test our mettle, resolve and integrity.

Sometimes faith is the source from which we draw our strength. Sometimes it is family. Others may look to distracting pursuits (anything from food, to sports, to video games, to television, or whatever), as a coping mechanism. Some of us look to a combination of these and may have other ways of dealing with stress.

These times of heartache are always rough...I wish life were easier.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

All politics are loco

Following these early Republican presidential debates and the news coverage of the campaigns has proven yet again that the media (including Fox) want to control the outcome by following only the candidates they like and giving only brief mention of the others, in hope that no one notices.

Here are the candidates as I see them. Bear in mind, these are only my impressions an should be taken with a grain of salt. If you're offended, oh well, deal with it.

• Mitt Romney: mandatory health care = bad. Sure, it was for a state and is not the same as a federal mandate, but still, I come from that state and have family members who got screwed by that law. Seems to regurgitate talking points.

• Rick Perry: can you say, "plastic?" He feels like a politician to me. We don't need more politicians in Washington. My fear with Perry is that he will talk well to get elected, but then turn around and do whatever is politically expedient. Seems to regurgitate talking points.

• Michelle Bachman: still plastic, though she's done ok so far. Also seems to regurgitate talking points, and her hair in the one debate was just plain scary. Shallow, I know, but just the same...

• Newt Gingrich: feels like yesterday's news and doesn't seem to know where he stands on certain issues all the time. Still regurgitates talking points, but doesn't get as much time to do so as the others in debates.

• John Huntsman: I really don't know much about the guy, but in the one debate I watched, he seemed evasive and looked something like a Ken doll with grey feathering in his hair.

• Rick Santorum: I like Rick, but he's been around politics for too long. He plays the game...maybe too well.

• Ron Paul: I really used to like Ron Paul, but seein him in debate with others, he seemed a little unhinged. I like his libertarian viewpoint and agree with him almost completely on political things (with a few exceptions).

• Herman Cain: now here's the peach of the bunch (he is from Atlanta). He has a tax plan. He doesn't go back on talking points. He is impassioned and you can feel it when he speaks. He's not a political insider. I could go on, but I will stop there.

There are a few other minor candidates, but these are the most visible. The media focus so much on Perry and Romney because they are (to their way of thinking) the most beatable candidates. Let's hear more from the people with real ideas, who are more than simply guys who look good in a suit.

Strumming along

It may be an odd sight to see, but residents of East Petersburg and parts of manheim township may be starting to become accustomed to the sight of a guy on a scooter with a guitar case on his back.

As mentioned previously, I took up the guitar again a few months back. It often accompanies me to work, though I have yet to get up the nerve to take it to any parks to play. The gentlemen at the group home enjoy music of any sort, no matter how poorly played it may be, so there have been plenty of opportunities to practice.

This year, during Teen Week (my church's week of teen "camp") I had my first opportunity to play in front of a real audience. I played my harmonica as well and it was less challenging than I originally feared.

Last week, a capo and some fingernail picks were added to my inventory. I find the capo to be a little odd. I don't like how it seems to stifle the fullness of the instrument's sound, but it opens up a huge range of songs.

The fingernail picks are nice. I was playing without a pick, but since I'm a nailbiter (I know, bad habit, blah blah blah), it becomes uncomfortable after a while. Regular picks are hard to hold onto and seem to enjoy flying out of my hand, so the fingernail pick is very nice.

So the scooting guitarist rides again. Who knows, one day he might get up the nerve to play in a park, or on a sidewalk in the city. We shall see...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rainy Tuesday...Gotta love New England

The morning started off cloudy and dim. Not the kind of day on which one anticipates a relaxing time outdoors, but the roads were still dry and the scooter was running, so it was time to take a ride.

The first stop was Stanley Park again, to get some pictures of the flora. The light rain had left droplets on the flowers.

The roses were especially beautiful this morning.

This particular weeping spruce draws the eye as one travels toward one of the many paths leading down to the ponds. From this angle, it looks much like a slightly misshapen mastodon.

A stroll down to the duck pond and up the other side takes one past an old school house, behind which can be found the herb gardens.

This joyful little fellow seems completely unbothered by both the lack of water in his pitcher and the near miss from the tree branch that most likely came to rest there during the recent hurricane.

It was time to leave the park and continue down the road, but not before a picture was taken of the scooter in front of one of the park's many fountains.

More pictures from the weekend can be found here:

Monday, September 5, 2011

"My cathedral"

Yesterday I woke up a little later than I intended, so I did church by myself. I slung my guitar case over my shoulder and scootered to Stanley Park. While sitting in the rose garden strumming chords, I was reminded of the Chris Rice song: "My Cathedral".

The song talks of worshiping the Creator in the creation. During the hour or so that I spent in those gardens, I felt very connected to my Creator and felt cleansed by the experience.
A wedding was in the process of starting, so I found my way out of the gardens and down to the ponds. There I met this little fella sitting amongst the pond weeds in the frog pond.

My mother had a family get together planned for the afternoon, but I even found some beauty in her backyard.

Today my mother and I took a jaunt up to Deerfield, Mass. to visit Yankee Candle. We stopped at a couple of farm markets and mostly just enjoyed the conversation and time together.

There were flowers everywhere, and lush vegetation. Unfortunately, there were several places where flood damage was plainly seen. I did not get any photos of the flood damage since I was in a moving vehicle, but I may take the time tomorrow to revisit some of the places I did not get to photograph today.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Trailered and trottin'

Ok, so the title's lame, but hey.

Three weeks ago, I was given a pickup truck, so, since I was able to do so, I put the scooter on the back, strapped it down, and went north to Massachusetts. I have been long overdue for a visit home and needed some time to myself, but due to the holiday weekend, I was unwilling to travel the 300+ miles home on two wheels.

As soon as I arrived at my mother's house, the scooter came off the truck, and I took it all through about seven towns. It's running on fresh rubber since it wouldn't pass inspection without tires, and it had an oil change earlier today so performance is at peak levels. I ran it up some back roads through Russel Mass into Huntingdon, then up into Chester to a fresh water spring in Becket, then up into Blandford to walk around the fairgrounds and take in the horse draw.

I sketched a little while watching the horses, then continued on my way back down the mountains into Westfield, stopped in for supper at my mom's house, then headed to Holyoke to visit my sister and her family.

While the ride was fun and the mountain air refreshing, There was something that struck me; everything is run down, the people, the roads, the buildings. Everything.

Mills stand empty, where thirty years ago they bustling with activity.

Weeds and trees have started to reclaim these old buildings. Unfortunately, they seem to be reclaiming the people too in a way. The faces of the people I saw reflect a hopelessness I have never seen in this country. I spoke to three folks I met while riding, and each of them indicated they were out of work and unable to find any employment. These were just average folks, each of them very different in appearance and skills, and each of them struggling to cope with the difficulty finding a job in this state.

On an upward note, I visited with some old family friends who were quite taken with my scooter. They are older folks in their 70's and she's had hip surgery and can't ride his Harley. She loved the step through frame and the big wheels. So, I believe I have won another convert.

I'll have more pictures and comments in a day or two.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Riding around with the wind in my face

Sunday morning dawned, and my wife awoke with a stomach bug. I had intended to go to the Ephrata Ride-in, but had to get my son to Sunday School. We rode the Sabre to Church and had a decent time of it. My son went to his class and I to mine, and it was pretty good, until I started to feel something stirring within my innards, and not in a good way (which would be pretty weird in church anyway). So, after Sunday school, we headed home so I could join my wife in to speak.

On the way home, the kid wanted to run by the ride-in to see the bikes. So, despite my discomfort, we popped through.

I handed the boy my camera and he was able to take a couple clear shots. It was 10:30 by the time we got there, and overcast, and there weren't very many bikes present. I'm not sure whether it was the time, or the weather, or a combination of the two. We passed a fair amount of riders leaving when we were going in, and about the same amount going in as we were leaving.

On the way home, I got lost a bit on the backroads between Ephrata and Manheim. I was a bit worried, but was able to hold myself together. It's one of those times I'm very thankful my Sabre is a smooth ride and that I don't own a Harley Vibro-Glide.

Our Bunny is growing bigger by the day. We found a bit of fencing at Pet-Smart so we let her hop around outside (with supervision). I'll eventually build her a hutch so she can be outside without supervision, but I'm not going to leave her alone in an enclosure she could hop out of or from which a predator could get her.

So life continues unabated. The scooter and the Sabre continue to be reliable transportation, and with gas prices continuing to bop up and down, I'm happy for their judicious fuel economy. Next week is camp week at Church, so I'll be putting back and forth to Woodcrest retreat on the scoot, and gritting my teeth on those bad roads at the campground.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Family addition

Two weeks ago, we added a new furry friend to our ever growing fuzzball population. She is a lionhead rabbit and has a sweet and curious disposition. I've wanted a rabbit for years and our finances allowed for it, so we decided it was time.

My son adores her and Mia (the name he chose for her), seems to take to him pretty well too.

We purchased a green and pink halter for her so we can eventually take her for walks, but she's still so small she slips right out of it. So...we tried it out on the cats.

Jojo was not impressed. He sat on the ground and did a dead man's crawl trying to get out of it. Lizzie's reaction was even funnier.

She held on to the doorjamb and wouldn't let us pick her up until we took it off of her. My hands now bear the wounds of that ordeal. The laughs were worth it.

I don't know how it would work, but I'd love to be able to modify my crate so I can take the bunny for rides on my scooter, but being a gentle animal, I doubt she'd deal very well with the stress of that activity.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

True amusement

Friday was a very hot day to spend walking around Hershey Park. With a heat index of 115, the weather was truly brutal. The youth group had planned this outing for several months, so there was no changing the date. Armed with a hydration plan and sunscreen, the boy and I set out on the Sabre to meet the rest of the group at the convergence of routes 72 and 322.

Riding through Lancaster, Lebanon, and Dauphin counties during the early morning was not too bad as the thermometer had not yet hit its apex. We had only a slight issue upon hitting Hershey when I became distracted by the smell of chocolate and stalled the bike. Oops...

Arrival at the park was met with a sweet surprise as I was waved in past the outer lots to a space nice and close to the entrance. Riding a motorbike has its perks.

We joined our youth group at the church's van and headed into the park. At this point, the sweat was already rolling off in buckets. We stopped for water (which we were provided with at no extra charge), and headed to the first roller coaster of the day, the Fahrenheit. It was an interesting nauseating ride, but not as bad as the Wildcat, which I did not enjoy all that much. I like wooden coasters generally, but the wildcat provides a bit more jostling than I prefer.

By the time the night was through, we had been on every coaster in the park (except for the sidewinder which had gotten stuck), and I found myself chuckling at the speed claims for each of the coasters. One of the coaster operators proudly proclaimed a top speed of 56 mph, and I thought, "I can do better than that any time I want, and I don't make myself nauseous in the process!"

On the way home, I topped that speed several times as we happily buzzed past the fields and forests on the way home. With as much as it costs to go to an amusement park, it seems rather silly to spend that money when I can go further and faster than any of the rides at Hershey Park, and see more countryside, while spending a whole lot less in the long run.

There's also the unfortunate side effects of walking around an amusement park and up and down stairs in 100 degree heat. Two days later, I am unable to walk without severe pain in my legs and hip. I don't have as much difficulty after riding for hours.

So, I'll continue to enjoy my back roads and hills in solitude, rather than milling about with sweaty masses of humanity. Others may choose to do otherwise, but I will be content.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Flora on the roadside

Scooting down the road offers great opportunities to see the things on the roadside and beyond. Enclosed vehicles have roof supports (and the attached roof) that impede a good view. Here in Lancaster County, at this time of the year, there are flowers a-plenty on the roadside.

These yellow flowers are what my dad used to call wild mustard. Whether that's what they really are or not, I do not know, but they grow on the roadside not too far from the place where I work.

Then there are cornflowers, which are all over the place. It's interesting to note that most of them are blue (cornflower blue, oddly enough), but every so often, There will be a plant with white or lavender blooms. There is such a wonderful diversity in all species, as designed by the Creator, even in such little things as flowers, and all the way up to humankind.

Morning glories are often found on the roadside in Lancaster County. Here we see a mound of them above a stone culvert.

Riding a scooter provides so much opportunity for relaxation. The flowers are just the tip of the iceberg.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

What's the difference

I'm going to hypothesize a bit and possibly do a little intellectual wandering, so pardon my ramblings should they occur.

In the spring of 2008, I was able to convince my wife to let me get a scooter because gas prices were rising rapidly. They weren't quite $3.50 yet, but they were getting there. After gas rose above $3.50 a gallon all remaining 50cc scooters vanished quickly from showrooms and none of the dealers for the mainstream manufacturers were able to replace them until much later in the year, with the exception of a few of the smaller upstarts like Kymco, SYM, and Genuine, though they would get snapped up almost as soon as they rolled off the truck. Chinese scooters were available in abundance and many folks availed themselves of these with varying results.

Gas topped out (around here) at just a bit over four bucks a gallon toward the end of summer that year, and suddenly there were plenty of new 50cc scooters at the Honda and Yamaha dealer, but alas, the Japanese manufacturers were too late to jump on the bandwagon and many of those 2009 scooters still sit, awaiting the backside of a happy scootster.


Well, here's my theory, or theories really. First off, Gas prices haven't rocketed up as quickly. Certainly, they rose fast enough to cause some concern, but not nearly as fast as they did in 2008. Add to that the current drop in prices to under $3.50, and we can guess that folks may be breathing a little easier.

The second difference is the lack of disposable income for most Americans. We just plain don't have the extra money to spend, so it might take a bit more than gas at $3.50+ to force us to make the move to two wheels. Despite promises of economic recovery from our president and his doting followers, no such recovery has taken place, and unemployment remains high.

So, what will it take to get folks back into buying small motorbikes and scooters? Gas at $4.00 a gallon? $5.00? I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Friday, June 17, 2011

General update

Spring has been here, and is almost gone. Yeah, I've been riding. I've been busy around the house. I did some planting about a month ago, and got this shot with my bikes in front of one of my gardens.

Aside from a week or two of warmer weather, the spring riding season has been wonderful. There has been rain in the evenings, but the days have been cool and enjoyable.

I missed this spring's scooter rally due to a family emergency. My wife was sick for three weeks during that time and was in the hospital the day of the rally, so it wasn't really a convenient for me that weekend. I was sorry to miss it but family comes first.

The cornflowers are out along the side of the road. My commute takes me past field upon field of flowers. It's really quite nice.

My family went black raspberry picking today. The sun was warm, but the air was cool enough to make it an enjoyable outing.

I've recently had to replace my classical guitar with a nice Ibanez acoustic. I've taken it a few places on my scoot, and I've been practicing with it. I have never been able to read music, despite trying for years to learn, so trading to an acoustic has allowed me to learn some chords. My fingers hurt like mad, but it's been a lot of fun. Chord changes are getting easier, and I'm actually to the point where I can sing along while I play.

Hopefully as the summer progresses, I can find some time to ride the scoot to a few of the local parks where I can play in the outdoors.

The summer's not even started, but I think it's going to be a good one.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gonna shoot me a groundhog

Spring has been here for nearly a month, and yet, there have been so few pleasant riding days. This year seems to be all gloom and bleh. O.K., that may not be a word found in the dictionary, but it's the only one that really applies. After all, I went out to ride my scooter to work on April first, and there was a thin layer of snow on it. Talk about an April Fool's joke.

The Sabre has a new set of plugs in it, thanks to the sunny day on Friday. The previous plugs were well and truly carbonated as they had not been swapped since I bought the bike. Later in the week, I'll try to impose upon my brother-in-law to help me get the tank off so I can get at the air filter and swap that out. The Bike's Fuel economy is slipping a little, and while the new plugs have certainly boosted performance, a clean air filter won't hurt anything.

It is amazing what a difference the clean plugs have made. The Sabre almost seems to jump out from under me. It's reminding me why I love that bike so much.

The Scoot is not forgotten. She awaits an oil change, a new Air filter (which costs $20, but trying to vacuum off the gunk is no longer effective), and a fresh plug. I also need to pop the cap off the engine and take a peek at the valves, though the engine shows no signs that they need adjustment.

So, I need a sunny day. I think I need to go groundhog hunting. He promised spring would be early and he lied.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gas and go...

It's one of the main talking points in the news again, just as it was three years ago. Gas is getting pricey again, by U.S. standards at least.

Another phenomenon has re-surfaced as well; folks are asking me questions about my scooter and talking about getting one for themselves.

Gas may not be as expensive here as it is in other parts of the world, but when you've only got so much budget to work with, spending above a dollar more per gallon than we were a year ago can make things interesting.

While it's not really the reason I own the scoot, it's sure nice to look at a $5.00 total instead of a $40.00 total when I stop at the gas pump. Filling up my wife's car threatens to send me into a panic, but the scooter, and to some extent, the cycle, are far less stressful at the pump.

My hope is that with this new surge of interest in scooters (and motorbikes) will come an influx of riders and fewer cagers. While there will be a learning curve for these new riders, I will cross my fingers and trust that they will come to enjoy their new mode of transport, thereby evening the odds against the crazies who want to kill us with their large steel and plastic enclosures.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spring's inexhorable March

There are few times of year that I find myself longing for as much as spring since I started riding a scooter. Winter riding, while necessary for me with my limited vehicular options, is not necessarily enjoyable most of the time, especially this past winter which seemed colder than other more recent winters.

Despite the rain outside, it appears the groundhog may have been right this year and we have ourselves an early spring. For the last three weeks, I rode the Sabre almost exclusively, leaving my scooter under the protective cover of a friend's enclosed porch. I was unable to get my scooter back until a week ago, but have been using it again due to recurrent rain. I am so very thankful for that full fairing.

Today was a balmy 52 degrees, but very wet, so the Sabre sits neglected once again while I ride my trusty 9 horses to work.

The onset of warm weather has me longing for another sunny day to either meander along country roads with the sun on my back whilst astride my trusty Kymco, or to blast down the highway or around some local twisties upon my Sabre.

The fever of spring is upon me.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Winter blitz

I haven't written much this winter, but quite honestly, there hasn't been much to say.

It's been very cold. So cold that on more than one occasion, the scoot would not start. It simply protested and spluttered, but would not turn over for me. Riding has been utilitarian only. Even today, I will admit, I chose to use the wife's car to get to work, despite the 40+ degree temps.

The cover I bought last fall has been very effective and invaluable what with the ice and snow we've gotten this year. I do ride most days, despite the snow and cold, but it's not as pleasant as riding in warmer weather.

Today was the first day in a while that I can recall seeing more than one other rider, and rarely even that. About two weeks ago there was a squid on his rice rocket buzzing down Petersburg road at 100 mph (just a wild guess, but he was a blur) in 20 degree weather, but other than that, I've seen few other bikes, until today.

Today I saw four or five.

The Sabre sits in a friend's enclosed porch, out of the elements, waiting for pleasant weather, which should appear this week, but until it warms up to 50 degrees or more, it will stay where it is, and the scooter will remain the ride of choice.

Having a scooter has saved me a huge chunk on gas, and insurance. It's not, perhaps, the easiest vehicle to ride year round, but the benefits have outweighed the negatives. I do want a truck eventually, simply for the utility of having such a vehicle, but for now, the mighty scooter will keep ferrying me back and forth.