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, 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. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tired out

Its been a long day. I made it to Massachusetts,  but I'm tired. So tonight I'll just share some pictures. Tomorrow I'll have more to say I'm sure.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Back to the beginning...

20 years ago, I graduated from Word of Life Bible Institute in Pottersville,  New York.  It was a one year intensive Bible program eqivalent (or perhaps a little more than that), to a four year Bible degree without the other subjects like math, science, literature,  and so on.

Anyway, I didn't always agree with the views of the professors or guest speakers, but I gained a lot from my time there and I think it was a key factor in the shaping of my adult self.

It was also the first place I ever rode a scooter.  Yeah, this is where it all began. It was a little Honda belonging to a guy in my dorm. I don't know if it was an Elite or an Aero or something else, but I remember it was chunky and square and only 50cc's. It also had character. The owner had lost the key, so we started it with a pair of aligator clips.

I remember a few rides clearly on that thing. It was fantastic, if a little scary since the roads here outside Schroon Lake have mostly 55 mph speed limits.

So I started my day this morning in the little Village of Bouckville,  NY. I'd slept poorly,  but the bed was hard and lumpy. Give it a moment.

Anyway, after rolling up my sleeping bag, taking the tent down and packing everything back on the scooter,  I popped back onto U.S. 20 and headed east to rt. 12 north.

Utica was a pretty easy ride,  though riding on anything wider than two lanes on the scoot at speeds over 40 mph always freaks me out. The Streak handled it better than I and by 7:30 we were well past Utica and in the mountains heading eastish toward Pottersville.  We made pretty good time and it took less than four hours to make the trip. 

I'll tell ya, as riding roads go, route 8, west of Warren county, is pretty sweet. At the Warren county line it turns into a minefield of bumps and lumps and poorly done asphalt patches. Even then there's a gem of a corner to be found, in the rare place where Frankenstein didn't feel he needed to pit stitching on his monster.

Well anyway, I arrived in Pottersville and went down memory lane a bit. I caught up some with the director of admissions and he showed me some of the changes on campus. Below you should find a photo of the dorm where I caught the scooter bug.

After visiting the old alma mater, I popped up to the town of Schroon Lake,  touched base with my brother and wandered around the town a bit.  I also enjoyed a nice lunch at a little restaurant in town,  Pitkins I think it is. 

After washing my clothes at the laundromat, I popped up around the top of Schroon Lake and found a gem. Yeah, a diamond in the roaugh really, but wow. Adirondack Road is amazing. It is a rider's dream of twists, turns, ups and downs. It's also a rider's nightmare of sand and uneven road surfaces. The folks who maintain the road seem to think filling potholes with sand equals road repair.  Even so, the road was excellent. 

I made my way back to Schroon lake and am now in a cabin on Word of Life Island. I helped out a bit with some painting they needed done, so they put me up for the night. Seems a fair bargain. Tonight the bed won't be so lumpy.

Today's photos are in order of the chronology of my tale from getting up to heading to bed.

Monday, June 2, 2014

a little over two hours...

Says Google maps about my route today,  which took over seven.

It was a good ride though. I started out by buzzing through Letchworth State Park, where there are a few fun twisties, even at the speeds posted. The scenery was breathtaking.

I left the park about 9:30 and started out on my main route. It wasn't a bad route by far and I got to see a bit of the finger lakes, as well as some beautiful mountains and valleys. 

I'll tell you though,  a 150cc scooter goes faster downhill than up.

I arrived at the campground around 3, but no one was here, so I headed to visit my aunt for a bit. While there, the camp clerk called and said to just go ahead and set up my tent and someone would be around eventually. 

So, here I am, all set up. It's a bit warm, but I'm sure that will change now that the sun is behind the mountains. 

Enjoy the pictures. I'll label them once I get to a regular computer. My tablet lets me post pictures, but doesn't let me do much with them.