Friday, December 18, 2015

That's different.

I don't pay much attention to modern music or pop culture, but if someone does something related to scooters, I usually hear about it eventually. So, despite misgivings, I watched Macklemore's "Downtown" last night. With the caveat that I find the use of profanity, the objectification of women, and the excessive crotch grabbing objectionable, the video is...well, nothing short of epic. See for yourself:

Monday, December 14, 2015

A bit of fun with history

One of the downsides of school is the projects. Our research project requires that we do a presentation. Since I'm in more pain than I think I want to be in to stand up for ten to twenty minutes, I put together a mini-documentary film instead.

Feedback is appreciated.


Please note that the video has been updated to its final version. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Down, but not out

It's been a while since my last entry, and I apologize for that. This is partly due to my busy schedule, and partly due to being hospitalized earlier this week as the result of a motorcycle wreck. I'm going to be fine. The only injuries I sustained were a broken clavicle and some bumps and bruises.

I will be posting again soon, but right now I need to go sleep off some pain meds.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Something to be thankful for

So, today is the day we Americans set aside to thank God for His many blessings as the separatists did almost 400 years ago. Despite what many will say, the Pilgrims, (not what they called themselves by the by), did not hold the first thanksgiving feast to thank the Wampanoag, nor did they set out on a quest of genocide against them (the Separatists, i.e. the Pilgrims, never killed any of the aboriginal peoples of this continent, that wasn't their style, they were peaceful folk), no, the Separatists held the first thanksgiving to thank God for His faithfulness and they invited the Wampanoag, their trading partners, to join them in thanking God.

So it is that I also am thankful to the Almighty for His blessings. I had to work today, and my wife is with her family (I won't divulge where my kid is), so my best friend, who doubles as my pastor, invited me to join his family for Thanksgiving dinner.

It's a beautiful day out there, and the ride was grand. Any clouds in the sky were so thin they let the sun through and the temperature hung between 50 and 60 degrees. The traffic wasn't too horrible either.

Riding up the highway toward Ephrata, more than a few Thanksgiving day travelers were obviously amused by sight of Rowlf on a scooter. I was only on the highway for about two miles and didn't push the throttle too much. I got off at the Ephrata exit, and headed toward Terre Hill. The traffic was heavier on the back roads, and the bike-n-buggy Mennonites were out in force. A fair number seemed amused by Rowlf.

Dinner at Kevin and Diane's house was wonderful, complete with a pecan covered sweet potato dish. It was a blessing to be surrounded by friends. Unfortunately it was all too short a time and I had to leave for work.

The road between Terre Hill and Lebanon ranges through hills, valleys and small towns. It's really quite a lovely ride and even passes the Middle Creek project, while offering up all sorts of twists and turns for the cornering enthusiast. The best part of it was, the pre-thanksgiving-dinner traffic had all tapered off and the roads were lonely and quiet, just the way I like them.

So today, I am thankful for friends, family, open roads, solitude, and the joy of the two-wheeler, among other things of course. This country may not be perfect, but we are blessed and that is another thing to thank God for.

Friday, November 20, 2015

River Ride

Last week was a bit more relaxed, due to some time off from work. School still progressed as normal in the mornings, but there was no need to be anywhere after. This led to opportunities to ride off the beaten path.

The Susquehanna River flows along the northeast edge of York county. Some of the river's edge is  inaccessible due to the way the landscape or roads closed to public use. Those roads that are accessible vary in quality, but the view, oh that is worth dealing with a few potholes.

As rivers go, the Susquehanna is fairly wide, and over a mile across in places. It's not the Mississippi,  nor the Hudson, but it's lovely and dotted with rocks and islands. If one pays attention, the river has a fair population of bald eagles. They can often be seen soaring high above, riding the air currents from the water below.

The PCX passed under the spreading branches of trees having shed their autumn splendor, the putter of its engine beating a mild staccato against the sound of flowing water. Fallen leaves blew into its wake, in a gold and amber wave.

The river road eventually ended with a big sign marked "Private Drive," but a bit of back-tracking found a track leading up out of the river valley and back into the countryside, then on toward the main roads and back across the river into Lancaster County.

Finding an idyllic locale for a leisurely ride takes little effort. All one needs is a vehicle and a little bit of time. Scooters and motorbikes are ideal for this kind of escape. There is nothing between the rider and the elements to detract from the overall experience. Even at this time of year when the temperatures are cooler, riding through the halls of nature is freeing and invigorating.

Sometimes it's just nice to go out and live.


Thanks to all my loyal readers for giving me a reason to write. I've really enjoyed it over the years. I will continue to write and hope to eventually turn this hobby into a career. Some of you may have noticed that there is a link to my GoFundMe page in the right sidebar of this blog. If you are so inclined, any assistance would be greatly appreciated.


Monday, November 9, 2015

A red cup? That's a problem? Really?

I generally keep this space to topics related to scooters and motorcycles. Of course, I also sometimes address matters of faith, and today, today I'm so furious I wish the written word had audible volume. 

Christmas is coming. Christmas as a religious holiday is a celebration and remembrance of the birth of God's Son in a human body. Historians and Bible scholars generally agree that Jesus Christ was not born on December 25th, but rather sometime in spring (when lambs are generally born), or possibly summer. 

Pine trees, snow flakes, sled rides, snowmen, mistletoe, and any number of other things that are associated with the Christmas holiday, are human additions to the celebration. These things have absolutely no relevance to the celebration of Christ's birth and are simply human tradition. 

So, along comes Starbucks and they have the audacity to not put any of these traditional images on their "holiday" cups. We'll leave the stupidity of renaming everything Christmas related to "holiday," for another day, there's another stupidity that's far more glaring. 

So, you're going to boycott Starbucks and accuse them of trying to take Christ out of Christmas because they went minimalist? You're that shallow, that privileged, that spoiled and pampered that this is what you're going to protest? Really?!!!


Ok, I feel better now. Actually,  no I don't. This infuriates me!

There are many things that are worth protesting, but this is not one of them. The purpose of Jesus' Christ's birth is the salvation of mankind through his death on the Cross in our place. God's son did not come to earth in human form just so we can have cups with snowflakes on them. 

If this is what is important to you, I question your understanding of the scriptures. I question your grip on reality. 

Jesus' words are recorded in Matthew 10: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles."

With that in mind, is it really worth making a big fuss over a paper cup? 

Autumn bliss

Darkness departs late and descends early this time of year. The skies are often a steely grey, portending the approach of winter. With these annual changes come cooler temperatures and the need for bundling up, but for the intrepid few who ride year round in those places where the seasons change, the colder months provide unique experiences, vistas, and dangers.

The temperature this morning was a balmy 31 degrees (that's Fahrenheit for those across the Atlantic). Out of the closet came the trusty scarf, gloves were doubled, the orange coverall went on, and it was hoped that one pair of socks would be enough. Looking a bit like a bright orange adult version of Randy Parker (think "a Christmas story), the winterized scooterist left his home.

The sun was on the rise and had not yet crested the horizon at the outset of the journey, but was well risen upon arrival at the destination. Thirty miles on a frosty morning is a good test for one's mettle and the windproofing of his riding gear.

The solitude of the cold weather ride is a wondrous thing. Fewer riders venture forth when the mercury falls below the 50 degree mark, and fewer still as it descends toward and then past the freezing point. This is both a benefit and a danger. Those who do take their two-wheelers out in the colder months can enjoy the solitude yet should beware the automobile driver who is no longer as alert to the presence of motorcycles.

Additional danger lies in the chance of catching a chill or developing frostbite. When one's toes start to burn from the cold, it's a sure sign that the footwear needs an upgrade. Doubling up on gloves seems to help with finger numbing. Of course, one can't really go wrong with heated gear, if one can afford it.

As the days grow cooler there is the added potential of ice on the road. In the early part of Autumn, this is not generally a concern in south-central Pennsylvania, but by the time November has rolled in icy conditions are possible.

This morning, a matched set of chilly toes was the only drawback to the ride to school. The next morning ride will see in place of cloth shoes, a nice set of steel toed boots.

By the time school let out for the day, the temperature had risen well into the fifties. The extra layer was no longer necesary and so it was that atop the crate was strapped an orange roll of coverall. The morning ride with its chill to the extremeties, was made more worthwhile by the journey home along streets gilded with maples still in leaf. 

A stop at a park along the Susquehanna with a view of the Columbia-Wrightsville bridge added a needed punctuation to an already glorious day. Autumn can mean less comfort on the journey, but it holds its own alure and even perhaps a hint of magic.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Living with it - 2013 Honda PCX150

Time flies when you're having fun, and so it is that over two and a half months have passed since my purchase of a 2013 Honda PCX150. As of my arrival at school this morning, there were almost 3200 miles on the clock. So it seems appropriate to address how it is to live with. While there have been changes to the machine for the 2015 model year, they amount to a few minor tweaks and most of these observations will still apply. There are also still many 2013 PCX models available as left-overs and for those seeking a used scooter, this should be of some help.

First off, it is different by far from my old Kymco. The riding position, seat height, wheelbase, torque, horsepower, maneuverability, and any number of other things are not the same, even if only marginally so. Of course, it's a different style of scooter, and indeed was designed  from the ground up to be different from previous scooterly products.

As a review, the PCX-150 was originally billed as a "sports scooter," which is subjective of course. As far as the looks go, with a stock windscreen it has some resemblance to a sport bike from the front, but the profile is closer to that of larger touring scooters like the Honda Forza, and Silverwing, or the venerable Suzuki Burgman. The stock windshield was the first thing to go, as it didn't really live up to the name. Some people like it, but my personal taste is for something a bit taller. The Givi screen has been perfect for my own riding needs, and changes the looks from the front to match the impression given by its profile.

Technically, the PCX is very modern, and though it looks like a bigger scooter, it's still a one lunger with a small displacement cylinder. Fuel injection makes it a peppy little scoot, with quick acceleration and a top speed of 67 mph as tested by GPS.  It's only a 150, so highway travel, while legal, is not recommended. Riding on the highway tanks the fuel economy (I know, bad pun), and even though it is a liquid cooled engine, that kind of constant pounding is not going to do the dinky little piston any favors. While I've run it all over and have done some highway, including a short jaunt up I-83 earlier today,  it's much more at home on the back roads.

On a 2013, like mine, the instrument panel and controls are nicely laid out. The only quibble I have with it is the horn arrangement. The buttons for the horn and turn signals are reversed from the normal placement on most bikes and scooters. This has led to accidentally hitting the horn when trying to signal, or the reverse. Even after two months, I still get it mixed up. Otherwise though, I love the look of the chrome bars and the easy to read instrument cluster. Every time I see it, I'm impressed by just how pretty it looks. That may be odd, but it speaks to quality of manufacture in my opinion.

The engine starts with the stator instead of a traditional ignition motor. I'm ambivalent on whether this was a smart move. Yes, it means one less component, but whether it wears out the stator more quickly, time will tell. So far there have been no issues and starting is nearly immediate.

Braking is supplied by a three piston front disk assembly and a rear drum. The left handle operates the rear brake and the center piston of the front brake, while the right handle puts all of the pistons to use up front. Stopping power is good, though it's not going to stand up on the front wheel under hard braking, not in my experience at least. While I've had no issues, some users of the forums have experienced poor handling and brake lockups on wet roads. I'm not 100% certain, but one of the videos a user posted showed obviously greasy road conditions. Other pictures of crash sites showed poor road conditions as well, which leads me to believe the scooter is not the primary culprit.

The ride on the PCX is somewhat firm, and the last 3200 miles have driven home the fact that a new seat should be on my Christmas list. I wasn't quite sure about the "rump-bump" on the 2013's seat when I first purchased the machine. It wasn't until I started putting my feet on the forward floorboards that it started to make sense. This seating position pushes one's rear back against the bump, helping create a sense of security. Even so, the seat numbs the hinderparts after about an hour of riding.

The suspension is acceptable, if a bit on the stiff side. Eventually, aftermarket shocks will find their way onto the rear, just out of my own personal preference and really more for looks than for practicality. The front fork is sufficient and will probably remain unmodified. There is plenty of bounce and it doesn't bottom out on bigger bumps, though more gravity challenged riders might have a varied experience. If you'll recall, I rode the PCX from Lancaster to Massachusetts and back around Labor Day this year, so it's not so bad as to put a stop to such shenanigans.

The ride is crisp, agile and secure in the corners on a good clean road. It doesn't exactly throw itself into corners, but it's definitely capable in the twisties. One of the roads I travel on the way to and from school has a number of bends that allow for a moderate lean and the PCX travels through them with ease, even on a wet surface. Harder turns are a bit more challenging and the PCX doesn't seem quite as sure. Where the PCX really shines is it's touring ability. It not only looks like a big touring scooter, it feels like one. Yes, the seat needs work and the suspension could be tweaked, but it still travels better than one would expect for something so small.

Maintenance can be a bit of a trial. For the shade-tree mechanic, the PCX is not extremely wrenching friendly. There are bits here and there that lead me to think Honda's engineers were inspired to discourage amateurs from doing more than the occasional oil change, though it's more likely the design was intended to be as space saving as possible. Oil changes require that the rear brake line be moved, which isn't a huge deal, but there are two panels to remove if one needs to work on the CVT, and if any maintenance must be done on the engine itself (like valve clearances), a number of body panels have to come off. This is fine if you have time and a garage, but if your only option is to work outside, that's a bit of a tall order for an afternoon. Once the panels are off, it can still be a bit of a squeeze. Honda has focused so on making everything fit in as small a space as possible, even getting in at the battery has gotten my fingers pinched.

For practicality, the PCX is very good. I can't quite shut the seat with my helmet inside, but it has plenty of capacity. One user on the boards has fit the entirety of a 24 pack of Dasani water in the underseat storage. As seen on my recent camping trip, the underseat storage, crate on the rear rack, and a pair of saddlebags are more than sufficient for a single traveler.

Fuel economy has been a mixed bag. I average about 86 mpg as tracked by Some riders get up to 100 mpg out of their PCX's, but I'll admit I ride a bit hard and have no choice but to travel on the highway at least once a day for a short hop on the way to school, then back again to get across the Susquehanna river on the way to work in the afternoon.

So after nearly three months with a PCX and a good bit of road passed under the wheels, I'm still very happy with it. running nearly 80 miles a day some days is a lot more than many bigger bikes will do comfortably, and the PCX does exactly what I need, with a bit left over for the unexpected. If indeed Honda was trying to blur the lines a bit between scooter and motorcycle, I'd say they've made some strides in the right direction. It's not going to be mistaken for a motorcycle by anyone who knows better, but it does manage to exude less of the geekiness of the traditional small scooter. Now if only the rider would get rid of his silly helmet cover...yeah, not gonna happen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Learning curve

Going back to school after 17 years is a bit daunting. It helps when a fair number of the other members of the class are in the same boat.

When I graduated from high school, I was accepted to an art school out in the midwest. I was not 100% convinced I wanted to go to a 4 year college, but my parents and mentors and so on were all convinced it was best. At the last minute, my plans changed. My brother was working for the Word of Life Ranch that summer, and my family had gone up for a visit. Word of Life International also runs a Bible institute which offers the equivalent of a four year biblical/divinity bachelor's program without any pesky courses outside that field of study. It was such a moving experience, I stayed for the second year term which was more of a pastor/youth pastor training program. It was on that visit that I decided to apply to the Bible Institute.

This was a decision that changed the course of my life. I thoroughly loved the coursework and earned over a 3.8 average the first year and over a 3.5 the second. This was something new for me because academics was always a drudgery before. I had an offer to become a pastor of a small church in New Hampshire, but when my dad got wind of it, he was not happy and demanded that I move on to get a full bachelor's diploma. Being the dutiful son, I did as I was asked and was miserable for two and a half years. Then I met my future wife and the misery subsided until after we got married (that's a joke if you read this dear, I love you more than life itself). In any event, I struggled for motivation while at Lancaster Bible College. It's not the college's fault, I just wasn't really interested. I barely graduated with a C average for a bachelor's in Biblical studies and 30 hours of what would have been a computer sciences degree had LBC been accredited to offer such a thing.

Two and a half years of my post-educational life were spent working for a local internet company here in Lancaster County, and then the  tech bubble burst, and there went any hope of a decent job in that industry. I worked for nearly five years at the PennDOT call center in Lancaster city, until the state gave that contract to an out-of-state company, found myself floating between part-time jobs then ended up  where I have worked for more than nine years. Don't get me wrong, I love the individuals I work with at Friendship Community, and treasure the memories of those friends who have since  passed into the  next world. But it is becoming impossible to support a household on less than $12.00 an hour and I'm just beat up physically and mentally from the unique stresses of this  work.

Enter, a career change.

I've been dabbling in motorcycle repair now for several years. God has gifted me with an ability with tools and with seeing how things fit together. And I love the schooling. My time at YTI's Motorcycle Technology Center has been far from boring.  In fact, I feel much as I did my first days at Word of Life. I'm refreshed, rejuvenated, and excited to awaken every day to a new learning experience.

The ride to work is amazing on those days that I take the scooter. The leaves are falling from the trees and it's moving on toward winter.

We're not doing a whole lot in the lab just yet, but i've gotten to move a few bikes around, practice safe workshop stuff and have learned enough in this first week to keep me wanting to go back for more.

And I still get to ride off to work every day with my ears flapping in the wind.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

and so it begins...

This morning, I became a student again after seventeen years out of college. I'm attending the Motorcycle Technology Center at York Technical institute.

Thus begins the fulfillment of a dream. Working with my hands is extremely fulfilling and something I've wanted to do for years. I'm not 100% certain where this will take me, but I'm going to keep writing as I am able.

I'm considering taking my writing to the next level, or opening my own shop. At this point, it's too soon to say.

Today was more of a meet and greet, setting up ipads and accounts and so on. I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring, but I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

It's a scooter thing...

It's funny how different people are moved by different things. As the weather grows increasingly cooler, riding a scooter invariably raises some eyebrows. The other day a co-worker was baffled by the idea that anyone would want to ride a scooter on a cold day. It wasn't something I could explain. The closest I could come to an explanation was to amend the Jeep motto to: "It's a scooter thing, you wouldn't understand."

Those of us who know the joy of riding a scooter or motorbike on a clear, crisp, autumn day, understand what it is that draws us to do so. It's something we can't really put a finger on. 

Yesterday was a long day at work. I rode to one location near Leola, PA, worked for eight hours, then set our for another home in South Lebanon. I had an hour and a half between shifts, which allowed me to take my time. 

Taking the scenic route on an autumn day lends itself to breathtaking views. Perhaps this is part of what keeps me riding as the seasons change. Riding a scooter or motorbike has a way of connecting the rider to nature. Of course, it the weather really turns or there are wet leaves on the road, the connection can become very personal, but we won't explore that for the moment. 

Yesterday's ride didn't disappoint. Lancaster and Lebanon counties are lovely in the fall. My route ran past the Middle Creek project. The reflection in the lake surface was breathtaking and the fall air was so fresh and clean. Maybe this is indeed that inexplicable something that draws riders out in cooler weather. The beauty and the chill air make me feel uniquely alive. 

While it may be impossible to completely relate these feelings to the uninitiated, we who enjoy riding motorcycles and scooters in all sorts of weather understand. We know the freedom and the rush. We know how it makes us feel especially alive. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

All hyped up and nowhere to go

Earlier today I read an article decrying the stupidity of the Hydrogen car. Of course, the article had many kind things to say about electric cars, while ignoring that many of the issues they had with hydrogen vehicles are also problems facing owners of electric vehicles. Let's face it, both plug-in electric and hydrogen electric vehicles rely heavily on fossil fuels at some point to obtain their energy.

Either way, buying a car is not a truly "green" thing to do. Think about it: to build any car, resources must be mined or extracted, processed, and formed into the various parts. The larger the car, the more resources are needed. Certainly, recycled items are now being used for plastic parts in some cars, but that's just a small piece of the pie. Even the smallest cars available here in the states require more resources than any scooter.

Scooters and small bikes, like the Honda Grom pictured above, use fewer resources to make, not to mention the resources needed for operation and maintenance. Thinking that you're doing a favor to the environment by buying a car, is a delusion. Frankly, thinking you're doing a favor to the environment by buying a bike is only marginally less deluded, but still has less impact in the long run simply by nature of the substantially smaller amount of resources needed.

Scooters and small bikes are versatile, inexpensive, and practical transportation. Most passenger cars carry one person most of the time. This just does not seem practical to me, which is why I personally rely on my scooter far more than my car. It just doesn't make sense to run a five passenger vehicle that gets 20ish mpg when a scoot will get me (and sometimes the dog too), to whichever destination is needful. Certainly, there are times that a car is preferred, such as blizzard and monsoon conditions, but even then (as previously discussed in my Nissan Leaf overview), an electric or hydrogen car would cost more in the long run than I could easily justify.

Hydrogen vehicles may eventually get less expensive, but for now, they cost about as much as electric cars which makes them little more than a political fashion statement. I'm a simple guy and can't make that kind of statement on my income, so I'll stick to my 14 year old Jag (she turns 14 this month), and my lovely Honda PCX.

Sure, scooters aren't the equivalent of the popular kid in school. Some might even think them to be the geek or nerd, but in the end, geeks and nerds tend to have a future past highschool. Electric and hydrogen cars are popular with people who want us to think we should be "saving the planet." I know, as do my many bikey friends, that those of us on two wheels can stifle a laugh when the pious Prius driver's pass with their cages festooned in earthy-crunchy-save-the-planet bumper stickers. We know that their "carbon footprint" is a sasquatch's compared to the tiny rabbit trail we leave.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The invisible man

It's how we feel when we ride sometimes. It doesn't really make any sense either. We're bigger than bicycles, but people seem to see them most of the time. We're louder than pedestrians, but still, they don't seem to get hit nearly as often as we do. What gives?

The normal response is: "I didn't see the motorcycle."

That's right folks, we're invisible. This past May, I was on a ride with seven others. The lead bike was a cherry red Goldwing, and all the other bikes but mine were big and loud. Even so, a lady in a Volvo pulled out right in front of the group. I'm sure, had she hit us, the response would have been the same tired answer...but the truth is, she didn't look. I watched her as we neared the corner. She never looked left and just pulled out across traffic. Thankfully, we were all able to stop since we were slowing to take a corner, but it was close.

The only thing I can figure to do is to make them look. I try to be so visible that there is no way the "I didn't see him" excuse can hold any water. We've just crossed the threshold into autumn, so warmer clothing is coming out. This means that many will see me wearing my blaze orange coverall. It cost 29.99 at Cabela's a few years back and may be the single best $30 scootering item I've ever bought. Yes, I do use it for hunting as well, so I'm really getting my money's worth out of it. I've noticed that people do seem to look twice when I'm wearing it. I've only had one person pull out in front of me while wearing this suit.

On warmer days, I have a vest, but it doesn't seem to grab the eyes as much as full body orange. It's cooler, which is nice, but I've still had plenty of close calls while wearing it, so it really doesn't seem to help all that much.

Then there's the helmet. Mohawks, horns, crazy helmets, and helmet covers seem to be eye catching. Rowlf certainly gets plenty of attention and Maggie seems to enjoy having another dog to ride with. It's funny to watch as people who were not at all tuned in go from a look of boredom, to recognition, to grinning. While traveling north on I-84 in New York, I chuckled as a mini-van pulled alongside then ahead, then fell back, then passed me completely, all while the passenger filmed the spectacle of a muppet on a motorscooter. Hey, they saw me. That's something at least.

It's a bit of a trade-off though. One afternoon, on my way to work, I arrived at a four way stop. The woman crossing the intersection in front of me was so intent upon waving, she nearly hit the stop sign to my right. At least she didn't hit me. That's a win right there.

It's not foolproof since there will always be people who just aren't tuned in while driving, but there are certainly ways we can try to catch their attention.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Hay Creek Festival

So here I am, laying on the couch with my head pounding. I know, writing is probably not recommended, abut I despise doing nothing. Being hyperactive (or hyper-aware, as I prefer to call it), even when my head feels like Uncle Fester got to it, my mind still runs a mile a minute.

Sometimes, when the brain won't stop churning, I remember things I've done and places I've been, the beautiful things I've seen and other bits of trivia. While browsing through my pictures, I found some of the Hay Creek Festival from a couple weeks back. My lovely wife and I decided to finish my week off on a high note and went to Hay creek for the day.  

For starters, the setting is Beautiful. Add to that the sound of the clacking and clicking and brapping and fizzing and popping of hit-or-miss engines, and it's a lot of fun for those of us with a more mechanical bent who just like old stuff.

Many of the engines on display were working scale models.

Others were the real thing and were running anything from water pumps to corn grinders. My friend and pastor, Kevin, always attends the festival and takes his own engines along. One of the engines at his tent was interesting. I has a bronze lion's head on the flapper for the water pump. 

It's a bit hard to see in the photo but te nose of the lion can just be seen poking out of the water behind the red hose. The craftsmanship that went into making a lot of these things just doesn't seem to happen these days. No one wants to pay for the amount of time and work that goes into making thngs by hand and doing it well. That so much of this old stuff still runs is a testament to the dedication and pride of those who made it.

 There were also plenty of old cars, including this lovely T-bird with a "tomato soup" paint job. The car selection seemed thinner this year than previously. 

The festival also includes food of course, which we were too busy eating to take photos of. Just the same, the apple cobbler was a little slice of heaven. 

Up the hill a ways there are artisans selling anything from honey to flintlock rifles to hand-made sauerkraut. There are also vendors selling crafts and jewelry. 

If you're ever near Morgantown PA on the second weekend of September, Hay Creek is a great place to spend a day. . 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Like buttah!

There are many things that are good with lumps in them such as: Chunky peanut butter, gravy, tea (with sugar), ice cream. There are other things that aren't good lumpy including: mattresses, carpets, milk (unless you want to make cheese), and roads. Yes, no one likes a lumpy and bumpy road.

On my recent trip north, I found a back road in rural New Jersey that was so full of potholes I thought the Swiss had been by for a visit. In south-western Massachusetts, route 57 through Granville was so torn up for road work, it made me question whether World War III had started in the Berkshires. Then there's Lemon street here in little old East Pete.

Bumpity bump bump bump

About two years ago, there was a water main break on Lemon Street. Understandably, this kind of thing happens with older infrastructure; however, the road has since been torn up multiple times and the road surface is so bad, those times I can't avoid going north on Lemon Street, I ride in the opposite lane when I can, just to save my suspension. 

Things changed for the worse last week. There was more digging on Lemon Street, and they didn't patch it, just filled it in and topped it with gravel. There are no signs, no warning, not even a bit of orange paint to mark the spot. Late last week, I didn't realize this and nearly wiped out. Thankfully the patch is short enough that I was able to recover. Then today, I tried to go around the gravel and instead hit the northward edge of the poorly patched tunnel to China. The jolt of hitting the front wheel on the edge of the abyss nearly took me off my scooter and sent everything in my crate flying, including a $10 can of waterproofing spray for my rain gear, which quickly got squashed by an oncoming car (thankfully it was the can, not me). There was no obvious damage to the scoot, but I was doing less than the speed limit, which probably prevented such a thing.

The abyss by the light of day

I went to the borough office and explained the situation to the young lady behind the counter. She took my info and my number, and said she'd give it to whomever is responsible for the roads. This was around 10 am this morning. As of 8:00 pm this evening, there is still no warning, no sign, and the road is still unsafe for those of us on two wheels.

After visiting the borough office, I returned home, took a nap, then went to work to discover a delightful surprise: Fresh asphalt on route 897 just south of Lebanon. Oh, it was beautiful. Yes, I had to wait to be allowed through on the single open lane, but it was a smooth slice of road-heaven.

Upon arrival at work, there was another surprise. Yes, more fresh asphalt. At the time, it was still being laid down and smooshed into place by rollers, but oh, the finished product is smooth like buttah! So, despite a migraine and having to go home from work a bit early, at least the road home was pleasant to ride on.

Even more, when I got home, a lovely sunset was bidding farewell to the day. So, even with nearly wrecking my scoot, the roads improved and the ride goes on...tomorrow, after the migraine passes.

Monday, September 14, 2015

On the hunt

It's that time of year again. The time where everything is starting to change from green to shades of red, purple, orange, gold and brown. Here in Pennsylvania, mourning dove and goose seasons have opened. This means long walks around fields of corn, alfalfa, or soybeans. It doesn't necessarily mean any dove or goose meat on the table though.

Some will call me cruel for hunting doves. I don't look at it that way. They are an animal like any other and are perfect game for someone like myself who doesn't have the ability to stand or sit still for very long. To be honest, the doves are nearly as safe with me hunting them as they would be without. I used to be a much better shot, but it seems time has changed that.

I put my Remington 870 Wingmaster 20 gauge in its travel bag, which was then strapped in front of the crate, and headed to the farm I normally hunt.

It was a lovely day for a walk. The fields of soybeans stretched away as I strode around the outer edge. There were dragonflies flitting this way and that above the green and brown plants, but the only birds to be seen were sparrows and a few raptors overhead. This was fine since I don't really go hunting for the wild game, but rather for the joy of being outdoors, besides, not shooting anything means I don't have to clean it.

Going hunting on a scooter requires a bit of minimalism. It also helps not to forget that there's a gun strapped to the bike. I kinda forgot until the the gun case knocked into my neighbor's truck. There was no damage to either the truck or the shotgun, but it threw me off balance which nearly made me dump the scoot. Even so, scooters are a perfect way to get out for small game. One doesn't need much to hunt small animals; just a firearm, some ammo, and a place to put the results of the day's hunt. Scooters or other small bikes can easily provide this.

The small things in life seem to have a healing power. Being alone has its own catharsis. The beauty of nature, time with one's thoughts, time with God, all alone with no one else around. It's a beautiful thing.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The long journey home

I spent two days in Massachusetts. On Monday, time was spent with my sister's family and with my Mom. On Tuesday morning, I went to visit the Christian school I attended from fifth grade on up; Pioneer Valley Christian School (now Academy). It was a little strange seeing all the changes. The building isn't much like I remember it, and many of the teachers are new to me. Still, it was good to see that the school is still going.

On Tuesday afternoon, my mom needed help picking out a new computer. That event. I love my mother dearly, but many techies out there will understand that no matter how old we get, our mothers (or sometimes our fathers), will always question our judgement, no matter how many degrees or certifications we have, which makes helping them shop for any kind of technology an adventure. Eventually, she settled on the computer I suggested and was very happy with it once it was set up and running at home.

The next morning dawned warm and bright. My intended departure time was delayed a bit by breakfast (Mom made me cheesy eggs with toast), but at 9:30 after goodbyes were said and hugs were given, it was time to go. Rowlf was removed from my helmet due to the heat, which allowed for better ventilation. The tent and sleeping bag were left behind to save a bit of weight.

I took a different course home as it was an all day ride. This took me over the dam at the end of the Barkhamsted reservoir. At my accustomed stopping place, an older gentleman had stopped for a smoke break and his lovely Nissan GTR sat shining in the sun. The contrast between the powerful supercar and the practical and perky scooter provided a brief chuckle. After a short car chat with the gentleman, it was time to get back on the road.

For the most part, I followed route 202 and 6 south and west through Connecticut and into New York state. This led through small towns and down into the Hudson River valley. I've ridden the same route to the Bear Mountain toll bridge, up 202 and 6 along the river. This is quite possibly one of the most enjoyable short stretches of road for riding a small, quick motorbike or scooter. There was a Triumph that buzzed past me at the bottom of the hill, but couldn't quite pull away, which spoke more for the Honda PCX150's abilities than for mine.

Of course, when my own abilities come into play, I overshoot hairpin turns just a bit. Thankfully, no one was coming the other way. The video shows 202 west on the other side of the Hudson from my favorite bit of road, but it was still quite good. Unfortunately, it was a wrong turn, so I had to backtrack, but it was worth it.

Somewhere along the way, I saw another car that caught my attention. Such a pretty thing and when the owner drove off in it, the noise was lovely. It's a Jaguar F-Type for those who don't immediately recognize it.

A few miles on, route 6 became a four lane, which wove its way through New York toward Rt. 84, which I got on for a short hop. After crossing into PA, it was back to the secondary roads for a while, then down through the Delaware Water Gap. Then the GPS tried to be funny again. It wanted to take me into New Jersey, which would have added more than an hour to the trip. I chose to ignore it and followed 209 south through the Poconos with a short hop on Rt. 80 west.

Small town USA seems to always have at least one small creek bubbling through. Some, like the one pictured, have trees and shrubs around. Others have had the flora stripped from their banks and have even been imprisoned between stone or cement walls.

Another commonality small towns have in the U.S. are churches. There's always at least one with a steeple dominating the landscape.

As one draws closer to Lancaster County, the churches become more and more common, sometimes being the only building nearby, or perhaps only surrounded by two or three homes.

Since I was returning home on a Wednesday night, and would be arriving around time for prayer meeting, I decided to pop by my own church in Terre Hill. I got there just in time to see a lovely sunset. So, having left Westfield Massachusetts at 9:30 am I arrived in Terre Hill just before 7 pm. About ten and a half hours on a 150cc scooter isn't too bad, especially with a little wandering along the way. After leaving the church, the last 18 miles to home were a breeze.

As I've said before, taking a scooter on a long distance journey is not for everyone. For me, it's cleansing. The time alone allows introspection, and the small engine forces me to take my time. The lightness of the bike makes the corners a delightful adventure, and as I've discovered, the Honda PCX150 is capable of highway travel, at least for a few exits at a time, though that's not nearly as much fun as the secondary roads.

More than three hundred miles in one day over mountains and rivers... I think the Honda has passed the test.