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. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A little junk in my trunk

Well, the Jag's being silly again. Do you remember those comedy gags where cause and effect don't match up; like when a drawer is closed on a bureau and a different drawer opens on its own? Well, the Jag thinks it is a comedian.

You kinda have to see it for yourself to get the full giggle out of it.

So, yeah. Penelope's British. She walks to the beat of a different drummer.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A bolt and a belt

It's amazing how much havoc a little loose nut can create. That can be taken in different ways, I know, but in this case, I mean a literal metal nut.

Over the last two months, I've been experiencing increasing amounts of "bump steer" while driving the Jag. For those who do not know (and I did not until recently), bump steer occurs when there is an issue with the front steering assembly and one hits a bump or other abnormality in the road surface. The bump causes changes in the camber and alignment due to any number of issues with the front end.

On Saturday, a friend was having his brakes replaced by another friend who is a freelance mechanic. He offered to take a look at the Jag and see what was causing the problem. So, we shook the wheels good and looked at the brakes and so on, and there seemed to be nothing really obvious. As he did not have the equipment there in the driveway to properly assess the steering rack, he suggested I take it to a shop to have it looked at.

Yesterday and then this morning, the bump steer was even worse than previously. It was so bad, I felt like I was driving in heavily gusting winds. As soon as I could, I called the garage I normally visit and they told me to get the Jag there as quickly as possible.

The above is a picture of the lower ball joint on the front passenger side of the Jag. It was so loose that the front wheel had a large amount of play in it. Apparently while messing about with the wheels on Saturday, though the wheel wouldn't shake at all for us, we managed to loosen it up a little further.

But now Petunia is back to feeling like herself again. It's amazing how a good bolt tightening can help one feel so much better.

Which brings us to the boy's scooter. As previously reported; two weeks ago, the belt blew. Another was purchased and with a newly purchased impact wrench in hand, was then installed. This was a relatively easy repair, but ineffective as the belt I'd purchase turned out to be rather...well, cheap as one can see:

Yes, that's the "new" belt. It lasted all of a mile and a half. So, a better quality belt (Powerlink), was purchased, as well as a new variator just in case, and those are now running well. The new belt has about ten miles on it and has been checked for wear, of which there seems to be none so far.

So my opinion continues to stand. Chinese Scooters work for secondary transport. They are cheap to fix when something goes wrong, but it seems there's a lot that can go wrong with them.


Funny thing happened as my kid was on his way home from work. It's another loose nut story. The nut came loose that holds the opposing plate for the variator. So the variator would spin out, but since it had no pressure from the kickstarter gear plate, there was no friction to move the belt. A few minutes, a few twists with a socket wrench, and he was able to limp it home. A bit of threadlocker is all that is needed and it should be right as rain. Still, it's more work to do.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

low carb

I spent most of my Saturday with my arms elbow deep in the bowels of a Chinese scooter. 

It was a cool day, so it wasn't the worst way to spend an afternoon.  It's amazing how much trouble that shiny silver carb cover was hiding. 

About two months ago, the scooter in question went to a shop to have the carb checked because it was flooding. It was fine for about two weeks, then earlier this week, it started flooding again. After work on Saturday, I opened it up, put a bit of carb cleaner in it, and it fired up and was puttering away nicely, then cut out. We loaded it in the back of my wife's car (it was at the home of one of my son's friends), and took it home. At home, a quick inspection revealed that, wonder of wonders, there was no gas in the tank, which is apparently a requirement of internal combustion engines. After the addition of fuel, the scooter again fired right up, and seemed to be idling fine. After a few minutes at idle though, it suddenly started to rev higher and higher, then cut out. Apparently this is what was happening when it was shredding belts a few years back, except in that case, the engine would rev so fast the belt would fly apart.

It would then start and run for a bit, then eventually flooded. I tinkered with this and that and since the carb has been worked on a few times and I have no idea how to competently take the thing apart so I just ordered a new one off Amazon for $25.00. It's a standard carb type and replacement parts are so cheap, it wasn't worth taking to someone for a rebuild. I figured it might take some tuning, but would be easier than trying to figure out what is wrong with the old one. I also ordered a new fuel petcock as it was one of the other possible causes of this revving issue, and for good measure ordered one of those snazzy little air filters to replace the crummy old airbox.

The parts arrived today and were waiting for me in the mailbox when I got home at six. After about an hour of unplugging this and that, replugging this and that, and mashing my knuckles into the scooter frame, the new carb was in place along with the replacement petcock.

A quick last check and I inserted the key into the ignition and hit the starter. The starter whirred and whirred as fuel slowly trickled down the transparent lines to the fuel filter. A few moments later, the engine chugged to life, sounding better than it ever has to my ears. The scooter ran for a good twenty minutes with no issues and idled at a regular rate.

So, yes, I still think Chinese scooters aren't for everyone, but with a bit of mechanical ability (and if I'm any measure to go by, it's not a whole lot), they can be repaired and maintained very inexpensively. Consider that my Kymco just had to go through inspection, and the bill for labor and parts came to $455.00. Compare that to this little 50cc with its simple engine and it's hard to argue that they aren't a viable alternative. I'm not certain I would rely on a China scoot as my sole transport; however, I will keep observing and continue to take in data.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Slithey Toves and such things

Frogg Toggs actually. Earlier this year, I purchased a Frogg Toggs Pro-Action jacket in anticipation of my whirlwind journey through a good chunk of the North-East. I've run it in everything from light rain to a raging thunderstorm complete with hail, and I'll say it's not a bad product. I've even purchased one for my son, and he purchased a pair of pants for himself. That having been said, here's the long story:

Back in May, I needed something to keep the rain off me while I traveled to Massachusetts via central Pennsylvania and the heart of New York State. To be honest, I didn't run into too much rain until late Tuesday, but the rain that afternoon put my jacket to a good test while walking and riding around the small town of Schroon Lake. It was a hard steady rain and my torso stayed dry, except in the places where there was no watertight seal. I think if I put the hood up under my helmet, that would take care of the bulk of the problem with water getting in at the neck, so some of that was my own fault.

Thursday of that week, I ran into more rain as I visited my friend Guy in Connecticut and I found water getting into the sleeves, but this seemed to be due to my gloves being completely sodden and the gloves tucked into the sleeves instead of the other way around. Still, my torso remained fairly dry since I had closed up the jacket's neck as tightly as possible.

Between then and now, I've used the jacket in several small showers, for which a rain jacket was hardly needed, and three thunderstorms. Now, as I've mentioned before, riding in a thunderstorm is not for the faint of heart. It's a dangerous endeavor, and I do not recommend it. That said, in two of the storms, the jacket worked fine, but in the last, it worked until the deluge really started in. There was just so much rain it was coming in at the neck, up the sleeves, in through the bottom, and so on. I don't think it came through the fabric at all since the contents of the pockets remained dry.

My son, who so kindly modeled both garments for me, found both the jacket and pants to work very well for him without a bit of moisture penetrating either garment. This was in light as well as steady rain.

So my verdict is this. I think the Pro-Action line is a good product and would recommend it; however, if you're going into heavy rain, make sure you have the sleeves tightly tucked into your gloves and the hood up under your helmet so rain doesn't go down the back of your neck. In my experience, rain gear is going to have its limits simply based on the severity of the weather, but for my money, I'd buy Frogg Toggs again.

My dog likes them too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Into every life...

My car was in the shop for a month. During that time there was only one choice of transportation; the scoot. Not a bad choice really, but there are times it's a less exciting (or more depending on your perspective) alternative to using a car.

There are things one encounters head on while riding a motorcycle or scooter. Bugs, rocks, cigarette butts (still aflame mind you), and various and sundry other objects and debris. For this reason, I have found a full face helmet with a shield is invaluable.

Then there's rain. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind a little rain, but over the last two months, I have had the dubious pleasure of riding in three distinct heavy thunderstorms. Nothing reminds one quite how alive (and wanting to remain so) one is, like a bolt of lightning so close that the thunder is immediate, when protected by nothing more than a thin layer of water repellent jacket, a helmet and a pair of sodden rain gloves.

There was another discovery I made on one of those adventures; hail hurts! The most recent storm I endured (see video) included these lovely little balls of ice pelting down amidst the heaviest rain in which I've ever ridden. The rain was so heavy, my Frogg Toggs jacket was quickly penetrated by the deluge and rendered completely useless. By the time I arrived at home, my clothing was thoroughly drenched, even my shirt, so I just stripped it all off and threw it in the washing machine. Even so, I felt invigorated! It was one of the most exciting rides of my life!

Getting back to the topic of bugs and other debris, wearing a helmet with a full face shield quickly reveals what kinds of things will hit a rider in the face. The above image shows some insect remains, but can't show the other things that might come flying at a rider. Just this week, a driver in a 5 series BMW decided his lit cigarette butt belonged in my face; my helmet prevented this. I have no issue with people smoking so long as they're polite about it: i.e., don't smoke in doorways I have to walk through, don't blow smoke in my face, and don't throw your cigarette butts at me.

Riding motorcycles and scooters can be great fun, but it can be hazardous too. I've not been riding as long as some, but in my brief time in the saddle, I've found that the pleasures of the ride can be ruined by little turns of events, but proper gear can lessen those effects. Yes, it doesn't solve every problem, and even the best gear has its limits, as my experience with the Frogg Toggs jacket proves, but it makes a difference. In point of fact, my son used the same jacket today in a moderate rain and it worked very well.

So ride safe, take precautions, and have fun. The rain may fall, but you don't have to stop riding.

The following Video is linked above, but here it is:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Still running

Six years ago, I made an entry about my friend Kevin's purchase of a Wildfire scooter. At the time, I'll admit I didn't expect it to run for more than a year. As it is, it's still running, but it's not his anymore, it's mine. Well, technically, it's my son's, but my name's on the title, and I've offered to pay him a bit for it as a little extra to put down on something bigger, just so it doesn't get sold away. See, my buddy got a Honda Elite 110 from Lancaster Honda a year ago, and he gave the Wildfire to my kid.

Looking back at what I wrote all those years ago, it's apparent that I wasn't wrong about some things. The plastics are now old and brittle. A brisk wind knocked the thing over and shattered a side panel, not just cracked mind you, shattered. Any plastics that were originally clear are now yellowed and foggy, and the amber plastics on the rear blinkers are now clear. I find the irony in that amusing.

As you can see, the instrument cluster is unreadable.

The brakes are still pretty bad, and I've not sure how I got the impression that the front brake was a disk; it's a drum.

As the machine has aged it seems the CVT has loosened up a bit. Acceleration isn't quite as bad as it used to be, and on a downgrade, it will get up to 45 mph. Uphill is still dodgy, but then, it's a 50cc. As the boy and I have been putzing around, I've noticed that it seems very perky for him, but then, he's about 50 lbs lighter than me. Just the same, he's been able to keep up to the speed limit easily in 35 and 40 mph zones, which is what one expects from a scooter of this size.

note the missing lower side panel

As one will observe, the Wildfire is now red and black. Yes, it's a rattle can job, and it needs another coat, but the boy wanted it that way and I didn't see the harm. 

The machine sat for a while and it had some flooding issues, but after a carb cleaning. it runs fine again. As I was riding it back from the shop where the carb was tended to, I was reminded just how much fun it is to ride a 50cc scooter. Yes, the machine isn't quite as peppy for me as it is for my son, but it's still a lot of fun to ride. The engine still runs well, if a little fast at idle (which is adjustable of course). 

So, six years later, I still think you get what you pay for. Yes, the scooter still runs. It has over 4,000 miles on the odometer (converted from over 7000 km), which is quite something really. It's certainly a testament that the machine was well put together, but while the plastics on my Kymco are still bright and all the right colors, and I can actually see my instrument cluster, well, the Wildfire just isn't. The motor runs and there's no argument that if that's what you're looking for, that's what you'll get, but if I were looking to plop down good money on a new machine, I'd still go for something with a longer track record and fewer issues. let's not forget the issues with the transmission blowing belts a few years back. Yes, that issue has now been fixed, but it took finding a mechanic who works on Chinese scooters and there's not too many of those around here. 

Bottom line, I'll abide by what I've said all along; If you know what your doing, or have a good mechanic who knows what he's doing, then a Chinese scooter is not necessarily a bad choice; however, you're going to have to deal with issues other than the mechanical, and that, for me, makes it a tough call. If you're absolutely desperate for transportation, or just want something really cheap (in more ways than one) to bop around on, then it's not the worst choice you can make, and I say this as the owner of just such a machine. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Small packages (Honda Grom Review)

Yep, I rode the Grom yesterday. I can't see that name without thinking of a character from a popular game series and it makes me chuckle every time. But the Grom is not an orc. It's not quite big enough to classify as such. What it is though is an amazing little machine.

And when I say little, I mean it. It feels small and nimble, but with that 47 inch wheelbase, it's practically a minibike. In point of fact, the Grom's wheelbase is a fraction of an inch shorter than Honda's 80cc junior trail bike.

So, here's the Grom in a nutshell. You can see the link for the entire list of specifications, but what I took away from it is that it's a tiny, light, agile bike and it's a blast to ride on open roads. If I could get luggage and a rack for a crate, it might make a great stomper, though I have reservations on that, which will be expounded presently.

The transmission is a smooth little four speed. There's a nifty digital readout on the dash with a rev counter and the speedo. The horizontal 125cc engine is peppy and puts out good power form suburban or rural commuting. And that, for me, is the problem with the Grom.

Kevin, the sales manager at Lancaster Honda, asked me if it would be something that would fit my particular riding needs, and I had to honestly say no.

Here's the problem, it's not the size of the bike, the size is perfect. I think it's perfectly suited for rural and suburban riding for someone who is neither traveling a long distance, nor having to face stop-and-go traffic. A manual bike isn't the best for city riding, in any engine size, but it can be done. Just the same, take a look at any major city outside the U.S. that has a lot of motor-bikes and you'll see that the bulk of them are scooters, for that very reason. Then there's the engine.

Yes, the engine felt peppy on Dairy road, but it didn't feel like it had quite the oomph of my own scooter's. I'd take such a bike on a long trip, but I'd be happier with just a touch more power. I sat there looking at it for a moment after my brief jaunt, and I wrestled with the idea of possibly buying the bike, but it just didn't have quite everything it needed to convince me.

So, the Grom is a niche bike, but I think it could spark interest in small bikes in the mainstream. It looks fantastic and it is fun to ride, so long as there's not a lot of stop and start.

Bottom line, if Honda puts a 150 in a future version, it will turn my head, that's for sure.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Scooters are the soul of simplicity.  There's no clutch so acceleration is steady and seamless. The riding position is comfortable yet can be aggressive if need arises. Scooter engines are small and easy to maintian.
Riding to work, running small errands, riding just for fun; it's all possible on a scooter. Add to that list long distance ridig, with the proper sense of adventure, and they are the perfect little machine.
On top of that, you can surprise random people on a scooter. Today I popped into Manheim to grab something from the auto parts store. I'd been buzzing along back roads and came to a stop light.  A guy in a 3 series Beemer pulled up alongside and expressed his shock at how fast my little rattle-trap can go. This led to a short conversation about what make my scooter is and so on.
A couple weeks ago,  I went for a ride with a friend. He has a 250cc Yamaha V-Star and he had a buddy along on an old Goldwing 1100 trike. Both were amazed that the little 150 kept up, and even out-accellerated both of them. It made for great conversation,  and it shows just how good Honda engine design really is, not to mention the testament to Kymco's build quality. 
There's a lot to be said for simplicity. Things don't need to be complicated or flashy to surprise people; they just have to work well.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Gone to the dogs

There are disadvantages to having a small dog. One receives insults for not having a "real man's dog." One doesn't feel quite as secure when walking down a dark alley...while walking a shih tzu. Hunting is somewhat out of the question, since a small dog has, what one man at church referred to as "a low wheel base."

But, there is a huge advantage when it comes to riding on two wheels. Small dogs work. Little Maggie, my eight pound Maltese, loves to ride. She has an "Outward Hound" flat bottom pooch pouch, which works very well for her to perch in front of the rider and gives her great access to the wind around the edge of the windscreen. There has been one issue with the bag. The drawstring around the top of the pouch was not well attached and pulled loose. This does not seem to change the safety of the pooch since she is still well secured by a collar restraint, but it does allow her to put her paws out over the edge. This happened after only six uses of the product.

 The flat bottom allows the pooch to feel secure, and when the drawstring was still attached, it allowd the owner to cinch the opening closed so doggy paws can't get out. There is also a small zipper pocket in the front gives a place to put a small leash and perhaps a plastic baggy for potty stops.

Then there's the newest addition to Maggie's riding attire: Doggles. They are PetSmart brand dog goggles, but they seem to work. She certainly looks happy wearing them.

On the way home from the pet store, she really leaned out around the windscreen, "lapping up" the feel of the wind. The construction of the goggles seems sound and they fit her well, though she needs a bit of a haircut. Maggie tolerated the doggles well until we were almost home. this might have been due to her need for a trim.

We don't have a doggy helmet as, from what I've read, the jury is still out on whether they even are necessary. 

To sum up, a small dog is a lot of fun to ride with. There are safety issues that should be addressed first, such as securing and protecting the animal, but if you have a small dog who likes rides in a car, chances are, rides on a motorbike will be a big hit as well.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Making light of things, again

It has been a lovely day. The day dawned with some low lying fog and a glorious sunrise. I spent a fair bit of the day on the scooter. After my early shift at work (I'm working splits at present), it was off to Terre Hill I went to drop off a book for my pastor and riding buddy. He has just over 900 miles on his Honda Elite 110 since last summer, which is respectable I think.

We rode out of Terre Hill and over to Ephrata to run some errands. The sun was bright and the air clear. I did pick up something useful at Auto Zone. As my few followers may remember, I installed LED lights on my scooter a few years back. Due to my amateur attempt at wiring them in, I accidentally over-volted them, so today, on the advice of my friend Guy, I bought an inline fuse socket and some 7.5 amp fuses.

After replacing the damaged LEDs, everything seems to work fine again. If anything, I think these new lights are brighter than the old ones.

Tomorrow is another day. I'll be buzzing around a lot between home and work and training and back to work, so if you're in the Lancaster area, who knows, you might see a crazy guy on a silver scooter buzzing around like a mad worker bee.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The old work horse

People think I'm crazy. Yeah, I know, this is a shock. On the way from Lancaster to western New York state, through the middle of New York state, up into the Adirondacks, down through the Berkshires, then back to Pennsylvania through the Catskills and the Delaware Watergap, several people I met along the way seemed surprised, even dumbstruck that such a feat is possible, or at least that anyone would be intrepid enough to try it (intrepid being a nice word for "looney").

Most of these folks were met at gas stations while I was filling up, but one stands out. I was at an intersection in Westfield, Mass., getting ready to make a left turn in front of what used to be Popoli's Honda, when the guy in the truck behind me honked his horn. I turned to see what the matter was, as the light was still red, and he hollared out the window, "You didn't really drive that all the way from Pennsylvania, did you?" I responded in the affirmative and invited him to pull into the nearby package store parking lot for a chat.

We pulled in and had a nice conversation for several minutes. He and the lady with him were very interested in my exploits, and astonished that my little scooter was able to make it to Massachusetts from Pennsylvania.

When one stops to think about, it, while this is shocking to Americans, who are used to big bikes and don't realize what a small bike can really do, it's not a surprise to the rest of the world.

Other work horses, well, one is technically a mule

In many less developed countries, scooters are everywhere. Not only are they everywhere, they are used to carry everything. Pictures abound on the Internet, of scooters with whole families riding on them, or scooters being used to haul unlikely or ungainly items.

This is my favorite third world scooter picture. I don't think his spares are the right size.

The presenters of the British motoring show "Top Gear," did a special several years back in which they motored up the coast of Vietnam on small displacement motorbikes, two of which were scooters (well, the Honda 50 is somewhat of a hybrid scooter/motorcycle, but it's scooterish enough for my purposes here). They went over a thousand miles and the Honda had no mechanical problems the entire distance of the trip.

Of course, Vietnam isn't the United States and there are many differences in socio-ecconomics, so it's not terribly surprising that most Americans can't get their heads around the idea of long distance motoring on a small bike. It can be done, and it is a blast.

There are issues of seat comfort of course, but there are remedies for that problem. Just the same, long distance rides are worth it. The solitude alone is priceless. I can say without question that this is the only time I've ever gone on a vacation from which I returned truly invigorated and refreshed.

Yes, it's a little crazy by American standards, but when I consider the savings in fuel and the adventure and the memories, yeah, sometimes it's worth it to be a little crazy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Take the long way home...

A lot of ground was covered last week. If you'd like a rough map of where I went, you can find it here.

The route starts at "horseshoe road" and ends in "East Petersburg". I put in a good bit more than the miles listed though.

Here you can find a link to the route down "Adirondack Road"

Then there's the lovely stretch of route 895.

And For good measure, I've outlined route 23 in Massachusetts, starting at Stanley Park and heading down Western Avenue to route 20, then off up into the mountains on 23.

If you ever do make it to Westfield, Massachusetts, Stanley Park is a definite "must see."

Monday, June 9, 2014

Great curves

One of the things I've been looking for on my recent ride around a bit of the northeast,  is great roads for riding a scooter.  My Kymco is admittedly not terribly fast, and scooters in general,  discounting the maxi scooters, aren't designed for highway riding.

No, the basic, small-engined motor scooter is designed with city driving in mind, or perhaps puttering around rural by roads.  So the secondary roads are what I've targeted. Here follows a list of what makes a road a great scootering road:

  • lower speed limits, especially important for the smallest scooter engines 
  • smooth road surfaces, because let's face it; scooter wheels are tiny and feel the bumps
  • Scenery. After all, motoring on a slow bike isn't much fun if there's nothing to see
  • Quaint little towns or even big towns. A bit of history is a big bonus here.
  • Curves and hills. Honestly, uphill isn't as fun as down, but you gotta have the twisties.

Many of these roads have been mentioned already, but I've compiled them here in a list for easy reference.

The first was route 287 north of Williamsport, PA. It was twisty and the surroundings were fabulous. The road conditions were decent as well. There were a few small towns to spice things up, and the speed limit won't be an issue for smaller engines.

The road through Letchworth Park was interesting in a few places, but as a riding road,  it really doesn't cut it. Sure, by all means, visit the park. The scenery is breathtaking.  Just don't go there just for the ride, the speed limits take all the fun out of it. The exception here might be 50cc scooters. I can see one of those being a blast here.

Route 20 across the middle of New York state is not terribly twisty, but it does go through some neat towns and there are some great hills. The speed limit will keep smaller engined scooters on the berm though.

Route 8 from Utica to Warren County, NY has potential, but there are some 55 mph zones, making it tricky for small displacement engines. Still, the mountains are amazing and he road surface is fairly good. There are plenty of small towns, but not a lot of gas stops, so be prepared. Also be prepared for horrible road surfaces after the Warren county line.

Adirondack Road on the east side of Schroon Lake is so curvy and hilly and twisty. Caution is advised due to sand on the road, but with a bit of care, this road is worth it. Stop in at the Adirondack Country Store in the morning for blueberry pancakes.

Route 9 between Pottersville and Chestertown can't be missed. Beautiful waterfront riding with absolutely smooth road surfaces and fantastic corners combine to make this one of my favorites on the trip. Even after Chestertown on into Lake George, Rt. 9 is worth the time, though the speed limits go up to 55 in places.

Route 346 in Vermont is short but breathtaking. The church below says it all.

Route 112 through Worthington, and then left onto Montgomery road turned out mostly smooth and twisty. The Westfield River follows much of it, and the Berkshire hill towns are wonderfully quaint. Of course, then you hit the Westfield city line and the road turns into the moon.

Route 23 from Woronoco, MA, all the way to the NY state line is a fantastic ride, with the exception of parts of great Barrington, which are also transplants from the moon. The road is twisty, mountainous, and passes through delightful hill towns with speed limits that are generally scooter friendly even for the smallest displacement machines. This was probably my second favorite on the whole trip.

Routes 23, to 9s, to 199, to 209 to the PA border. This set of roads was a blast, with a few small rough patches. They are not the best routes for a 50cc scooter, or even anything less than maybe a 110, because of the 55 mph speed zones. Aside from that, the ride is great. There aren't that many twisties, but it's still a beautiful ride and there is plenty to see.

Then there was route 209 in PA north of Stroudsburg. They've repaved it through the Delaware Water Gap, which has moved this road from one of my least favorites up toward the top of the list. The rest of 209 wasn't bad either, but this was pretty good.

And my favorite stretch of road, what I might even call the perfect scootering road, is route 895 between routes 61 and 183. The speeds are perfect for scooter riding, the curves are gentle as are the hills, and the surroundings are simply breathtaking.

The final road on the list, of which I am ambivalent, but deserves mention, is route 419 between Shaefferstown and route 183. It's a bit straight, and there are a few rough patches, but the farmland and towns all around are worth the time.

So, there you have it; some great roads from my perspective on the seat of a Kymco People 150 scooter. Your mileage may vary depending on construction and the seasons, but as of the date of this writing, you have my recommendations.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

There and back again...

On a road in Pennsylvania there was a crazy man on a scooter. Not your run of the mill crazy man, but a truly insane soul who embarked on a journey of over 1300 miles over eight days on a six year old, small displacement scooter. 

And what a journey it was. Up and down hills, around many bends,  and through lovely countryside. 

As reported in prior posts, the journey started in Lancaster Pennsylvania,  then wandered through the mountains to Western New York, over the top of the finger lakes, up through the adirondacks, through Lake George and a motorcycle rally, then down through the Berkshires to my sister's home.

Thursday dawned soggy and cold, but a friend in Connecticut wanted a visit, and I'd not seen my high school in years so popped in for a visit, said hello to a few of he faculty,  then headed out to visit my friend Guy. He's an Iraq war vet and quite the motorhead. I wish I'd thought to take some photos of his old Triumph.

After a nice meal of steaks on the grill,  well seasoned potatoes and corn, we chatted for a while,  then I headed off again. Later I went to see a movie (the new X-men film, which I enjoyed despite some glaring continuity issues), and finally went back to my sister's house and eventually ended up in my tent.

Friday I took my mother out for breakfast,  did a little work around her house, put a roast in the crock pot,  then went to Stanley Park for a walk. After supper, I returned to my sister's place and had some good conversation with my brother-in-law,  sister, and nephews, then retired to my tent for the night. 

This morning dawned bright and sunny. After some breakfast and a farewell for my family, it was time to depart again. After a marathon ride of over 300 miles with only a few brief stops, I made it back home. It took less than 10 hours, which is an improvement over the last time I went from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania on the scoot.

I'll be compiling a list of the great scootering roads I found in my travels, but that will wait for another day.
Pre-trip odometer reading
Odometer reading after the trip 

A country store in New York

One of the great scootering roads I found in PA.
Flowers by a stream at Stanley Park in Westfield, MA 

  Azaleas and rhododendrons in Stanley Park 

Friday, June 6, 2014

A journey through the mountains

Wednesday morning I woke to the sound of birds outside the cabin on World of Life Island where I had spent the night. The sun was bright and the lake sparkled in the early light.

After breakfast and a bit of set painting,  I said farewell to my brother, packed up my gear, and headed for the boat dock where I was ferried back to the town of Schroon Lake. Once the scooter was packed up, and after a quick stop for gas, I started off toward Lake George.

If you're ever traveling through the Appalachians, route 9 berween Schroon Lake and Pottersville is a constant string of bumps and divots. But then you get through Pottersville and turn onto 9 toward Chestertown,  and it's a different world entirely.  The road surface is smooth as silk and there's a lake to the left or right most of the five mile distance. The curves of the road are continuously snaking through the mountains and beside the glorious mountain lakes. Once through Chestertown,  the road isn't quite as twisty, but it still has the glorious view as well as several big hills.

It was in Pottersville that I started to see a large number of bikers, but it was in Chestertown that I fell in behind a group of goldwings. Apparently this week is Americade in Lake George.  The place was full of motorbikes,  out of which I saw only a handful of other scooters.  From what I saw, perhaps a tenth of the bikes were goldwings, with the rest being primarily cruisers, and only a smattering of sport bikes. It wasn't quite the Harley-fest that one might find at Sturgis,  but they definitely had the largest representation.

While I saw a few bikes going in, and one older guy on a camo'd up Big Ruckus, the town of Lake George was awash with chrome and bar pirates.  I was disappointed that there were so few scooters, but it was still something to see. I'd considered avoiding the town entirely by going north around the top of Schroon Lake to Ticonderoga, then down through Vermont,  but I'm glad I decided to go through Lake George instead. I considered stopping for a while, but wanted to get to Massachusetts,  so I stopped only long enough to take a few quick photos,  then rolled merrily along on my way.

As I moved southward,  the number of bikers gradually thinned, and the road rolled by beneath me. The ride along the Champlain Canal was beautiful, but eventually I turned off toward Vermont. I wasn't in Vermont for long, but route 386 was lovely.

And then I hit construction...um, I mean, Massachusetts.  The roads through Williamstown were dreadful. After picking my teeth up off the road, I eventually was able to make it past the construction and found another gem: route 112 through Worthington,  Mass.. it's just staggeringly beautiful and the road wss in fairly good condition.  Route 112 goes through rural country,  then follows the Westfield river, and if one turns left ont Montgomery road before crossing the river into Huntington, one is rewarded with more smooth curvy roads...and then one falls into a giant pothole upon crossing into Westfield.  North road is what they've labeled this endless string of pitfalls connected by occasional bits of asphalt.

Eventually I made it to my sister's house and set up for the night. My nephews helped me set up my tent, and after supper I went to visit my mother.

It was a good day and a fun ride.