Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My brain strain...

... and a break, courtesy of Peak Powersports in Barrie, BMW Motorrad, and Marigold Public Relations.


This actually happened a few weeks ago, but my frantic study routine gets in the way of EVERYTHING that isn't studying for a Bar exam. Oh... and there was a whirlwind trip to visit family and dear friends in Los Angeles and San Diego. There will be, in the fullness of time, an entertaining video of that trip, I promise.

To be perfectly honest, my overtaxed brain really needed to take a step or two back, before charging ahead for the rush to the finish in a few weeks' time.

I hope that you enjoy this tiny little hiatus, I sure did. Big thank you to Katie from Marigold Public Relations for doing double duty filming with the number two camera.

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Cycles by Density & Time, made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Taking stock: truth, mayhem, and death

Taking a minuscule break from my breakneck studying routine, because it's important.

Time is running short, so I'll be brief, and then follow my nose back into the books.

I have from time to time posted about politics. Last year I posted a vlog about truth. Prior to that I posted about the risks of the Trump presidency, here, and here.

I wasn't surprised when some thought I was overreacting, that things would never be that bad. After all, lies and meaningless bluster don't kill, right?

There are elections looming now. There's still time to think carefully, and to consider the importance of truth, no matter what your particular stripe might be. And to vote.

Here are some sobering thoughts to help with that chore.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New Year, HUGE challenge


I remember the year, not that long ago, when I posted over 100 times.

Last year I became convinced that the future was video and I tied a vlog to my blog and the posting frequency plummeted.

It's sad in a way, because you get into the habit of posting, and you have an audience of loyal readers, and in some way you drift away from that mode of expression, the constant give and take, and it hurts.

The irony is that the time commitment to social media ramps up considerably when you shift from blogging to vlogging.

There's a natural equation or algorithm at play here. The busier I get, the less presence I have here. That troubles me, but, what can you do?

You gotta do what you gotta do!

This year dawns with a mountain in plain view that I must climb. Like a friend who leaves to climb Everest, it means that there is going to be absence in your life, as my life gets really, really interesting.

It's all explained in the video, so have a look.

I really do feel that I am letting you down by not posting more blog posts or vlog episodes, so I may decide to shift gears and come back here to let you know that all is well and give you an idea of my progress.

Once thing is certain: I am more committed than ever to my Life on two wheels so, when I return from that mountaintop, I will return here.

Happy new year to all!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Ephemera circa 2017

As I struggle to wrap my mind around YouTube and my barely nascent career as a YouTube 'creator', there are still mysteries in the blogosphere that are curious puzzles I am likely never to solve.

Among the puzzles are messages that 2017 has floated into my inbox praising this blog as a top-rated go-to moto-blog. As much as I can't help lapping up the praise, I remain skeptical.

There was a Dilbert cartoon I stumbled on that I have alluded to in the past where the punchline was "will work for recognition".  Since I don't get any financial reward for the work I do here, in the Dilbert spirit I have posted my 'awards' in the sidebar.

Most recently, I received a very nice email from some kind folks informing me that science and statistics had rewarded me with a fresh accolade:


I apologize for this evil display of pride, justly ranked among the seven deadly sins. Yet, I just can't help myself. In my defense, I feel that the kind people who went to the effort to find and list my blog deserve to have me recognize the recognition. There's that, plus, as the internet evolves as it must, this ephemeral praise will evaporate like the gasoline I often manage to spill when I gas up the Vespa. In that spirit this post is where the recognition belongs, where it will get buried as time passes and future posts pile on, eventually sinking into Google's bottomless basement storage locker until it gets dredged up from time to time in response to some random search.

Oh well, that's all for now.

It's time for me to get back to my 'studio' to grind away at the YouTube challenge cum mystery. I've got to crack 10,000 views on my channel to unlock some prizes in the shape of enhanced permissions and the shadowy possibility of some monetization that may or may not ever materialize. In this respect I'm like a teenager toiling away at a video game in the basement hoping that today is the day that I unlock the Sceptre of Ottokar (no... wait, that was a Tintin story...).

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Great Post-it Tab Hack


I am writing a book.

The subject is ultra-dry, and potentially crushingly boring.

It's about document management. More specifically document management for governance professionals.

I am working hard to inject as much wit and humour as possible as I plod along. With a little luck, my students and readers will come to share my passion for organizing the heck out of a potential maelstrom of information.

The book is to support a records management course I'll be teaching as part of the Governance Professionals of Canada professional education certification program.

Governance is a fascinating field because you work at the highest level of the organization you serve. The nature of the beast is that you find yourself responsible for a broad range of activities spanning the gamut from running the Board of Directors, to corporate and securities law compliance, ethics monitoring training and compliance, and a bunch of other stuff, as well as the mundane range of responsibilities that come with management responsibility including staffing, budgeting and the rest.

The result is that in no time you find yourself surrounded by records: minute books, corporate files, insider reporting files, mergers and acquisitions files, stock exchange compliance files, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

The key to taming the beast is to develop strong records management skills.

More or less in that vein, a trivial little skill I taught myself is to make quick-and-dirty custom-printed tabs to label files and books.

When a file becomes thick with documents, and grows into one volume after another, being able to find the four or five key documents in a hurry is a real blessing. The same goes for the key sections of the numerous weighty books sitting on the shelf. Thick heavy books like "everything you need to know about UK corporations law but were afraid to ask" (a thousand-plus page tome, and not its real name).  You get the picture.

In the context of working on the book, studying for Bar exams to come in March (yes, life is like a huge game of snakes and ladders after all), and organizing my home office, I remembered my little Post-it notes hack.

It occurred to me that some of you might benefit from this little trick as well.

Hopefully I managed to convey the gist of this trick in the video.

The music for this episode is Santorini 2 by Vibe Mountain made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library

Friday, November 24, 2017

Vespa, TREE-ed!!!

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Here is my desperate bid for YouTube viraldom!

Well, not really. I mean, don't get me wrong, I aspire to viraldom, but I'm not into kidding myself, I'm nowhere even remotely close to that. Seriously.

In this episode come along as a fetch a Christmas tree as a favour to my daughter Lauren.

This is where you learn that when you ride a Vespa, no errand is beyond reach.

The music for this episode of the vlog is Swipesy Cakewalk by E's Jammy Jams made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

If you've been living under a rock, and you've never heard of Steve Williams and Scooter in the Sticks, by all means go have a peak at what Steve's up to.

If you were hoping that this episode was going to be Five-0 in the 6ixI I'm afraid it's still in the studio waiting for more bits and pieces to come together. Hopefully when it finally sees the light of day you won't be disappointed. Also in the works are Vespa maintenance videos including an oil change, hub oil change, and yes, a cooling system flush and thermostat replacement. Exciting stuff indeed.

Thanks for watching, and stay tuned!

Friday, October 27, 2017

I broke my 40 year-old Ray Bans!!!

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I love, love, love my sunglasses.

I've posted before about my Ray Ban Outdoorsman aviators. My optometrist had told me, way back in 2011, that the Ray Ban Outdoorsman had been discontinued.

Lucky for me that he was wrong, wrong, wrong.

I just bought a brand new pair of Outdoorsman aviators.

Currently aviators are back in style.

In the years I have owned them, they have been out of style, in style, out of style, back in favour, outcast, and now, really back in style. I don't care, truly I don't. I love my Ray Bans.

They broke (actually only the left temple broke) because I subjected them to poor treatment. I admit this freely now, just as I admitted it in the past. First off, they are intended for use they way they come from the store, i.e. not with prescription lenses. I forced the frames to accept prescription lenses (which in fairness, is not really a problem).

The real abuse happened as my eyesight deteriorated over time. As my eyes got funkier, the lenses got way curvier, and well, there's the rub. Literally.

Watch the video. I think that I succeeded in describing the failure in exquisite detail that even the  most casual viewer will immediately understand.

Now for the good news.

If you have had similar issues, if you have given up wearing Ray Ban aviators because your prescription is interfering with the actual operation of the frames, then especially watch the video, because all these years later, I finally found the cure. Watch the video.

I am content, chuffed, happy, ecstatic really, that I now have a pair of Ray Ban Outdoorsman aviators that will outlive me, no matter how pathetic my eyesight becomes.


Detailed show notes:

My Ray Ban sunglasses are the Outdoorsman model (model number RB3030) purchased in 1977 and worn pretty much daily ever since. The left temple snapped three weeks ago. The lenses are my existing prescription lenses. Here’s a link to the glasses.

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels was sourced in the excellent YouTube Audio Library and is Cop A Feel by Audionautix which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
Artist: http://audionautix.com/ 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A conversation with Steve Williams

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Why would anyone in their right mind choose to write a blog?

Well... if that is a question that occasionally pops up as you browse among the more than 650 million web sites currently cluttering the interwebs, while you keep bumping into some of the estimated 200 million sites that are blogs, and you scratch your head wondering what on earth could possibly drive a person to blog, here, on a silver platter, is a golden opportunity to learn why two of us are driven to post aspects of their daily lives for all to see. Watch the video.

In fact, for all you social or behavioral scientists and psychiatrists out there, this is particularly exciting, because as Steve Williams and I, both of us seasoned well-followed, and (hopefully) well-respected bloggers candidly expose our respective motives, it will no doubt thrill you to know that I started blogging in some measure because I felt compelled to follow Steve's example. Somewhere in that overly long, tangled sentence, there is the tip of an epidemiological study in psychiatry begging to begin. Watch the video.

Anyway... I'm afraid you'll be compelled to watch the video if you really want to learn what makes us tick. Good luck with that. Watch the video.

If any of those social scientists and psychiatrists I alluded to watch the video and have insights into our character flaws they'd care to share in the fleeting hope that both, or either of us, might use those insights to mitigate our failings, please leave a comment below. You just never know. Please watch the video.

Steve and I thank you in advance.

The music for this episode is Laid Back Guitars by Kevin MacLeod and it is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license and is made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library 
Source: Incompetech.com
Artist: Incompetech

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Riding a Zombie

Can a Vespa rise from the dead?

Is it possible for a blown head gasket, something akin to a brain aneurysm, to heal spontaneously?

If not, was the gasket in fact blown?

And if not, whence the coolant leak?

So many questions. For the time being no satisfactory answer.

Here are the facts as I know them. I need your insight.

After a long day’s ride from State College to Niagara falls, some 370 kilometers, a coolant leak in the engine compartment brought the day’s ride to an abrupt end.

It was impossible to see the source of the leak. The coolant was running down onto the center stand pivot or axle and dripping from there. You can see this symptom in the video I posted as episode 22 of the vlog.

Other symptoms: when I opened the saddle to refuel, steam was rising from the engine compartment. When I removed the underseat bucket to reveal the engine, there was coolant everywhere, as if there was a spraying coolant leak. The underside of the seat compartment bucket was wet. When I started the bike with the bucket out, the coolant was dripping from the stand below the motor, but there was no evidence of a leak seen from above the engine.

That’s all I’ve got.

Last week I needed to get my bike down from its P1 parking spot to a temporary spot on P3 because the P1 level was being pressure washed.

I refilled the cooling system with tap water, up to the lower fill mark on the reservoir. I fully expected to see the water begin dripping down the stand. But there was no leak. I started the motor. Still no leak. I left the motor running until the bike reached normal operating temperature. Still no leak.

I rode down to P3. Still no leak.

Two days later I checked on the bike before riding back up to P1. Yup, still dry.

I discussed the situation with Ed Thomas. Ed thought that perhaps the water was leaking into the oil pan via the blown gasket rather than leaking to the outside. He suggested checking the coolant level in the reservoir, and checking the oil level. If both were at their normal levels, it would be reasonable to conclude that the coolant wasn’t leaking into the oil. I checked and the levels were normal.

Today I decided I would hop on the Vespa to run a few errands and eventually make my way over to Ed’s workshop, to talk, well... talk shop, and zombie Vespas. You guessed it, still no evidence of any leak. That, and I kept an eagle-eye on the instrument panel: the engine temperature remained normal the whole way. The check engine light lit up a couple of times, but reset itself with an engine restart. That happened three times on the way to Ed’s, each time shortly after one of my little errand stops. It never happened on the way home.

Ed’s as stumped as I am.

The only other thing I can think of, is that close to the Pennsylvania New York border, I refueled at a tiny country gas station, and I realized that the helpful attendant handed me a nozzle switched to regular gasoline with ethanol. I only realized it had happened further down the road when the engine started stumbling slightly. Three tanks of 91 octane fuel later, the performance symptoms disappeared. I don’t think that’s relevant. I just mention it because it’s the only other engine-related issue that occured on the trip.

So there you have it. The Vespa seems for all the world to be running like a top. Or at least running as well as it did when I set out for the wilds of Pennsylvania.

I know many of my readers have what I’ll call mechanical literacy. What is your take on this little Italian mystery?

Is there any chance that the coolant leak might have come from the coolant bleed valve at the top of the engine?

Can a blown gasket heal itself?

Should I overhaul the engine on the assumption that there is a defective gasket?

What would you do?

Like I said, I am stumped.

Thanks for reading.

PS: I also posted this mystery to the ModernVespa forum: here’s a link.


In this shot taken from the Episode 22 video, filmed within 15 to 20 minutes of the discovery of the leak:
  • The circle is the thermostat housing and the nubby thing in the circle at the twelve o'clock position is the coolant bleed valve.
  • The arrows point to the areas that are wet as a result of the leak. 
  • Remember that the pet carrier / underseat container was in place when the leak was leaking. It seems consistent with a leak from the thermostat that the wet areas are aft of the thermostat. 
  • The areas forward from the thermostat are dry.
  • Whatever that evidence points to, it is not really consistent with a head gasket leak, or so it seems to me.

Another MV'er (whom I believe to be another mechanically literate person) had this to say: "It is very rare to have an external coolant leak turn out to be a head gasket. It would usually go into the engine oil or out the exhaust."

Yet another MV commenter had this to say: "Hmm. Not clear whether you mean the gasket at the base of the cylinder (possible) or the one which seals the two halves of the crankcase (unlikely). You don't develop anywhere near as much pressure in the crankcase and spraying coolant all over does not seem likely to me. You would lose engine oil if anything. I think the thermostat/bleed valve area sounds far more likely as you suggest. Probably time for a trip back to Vespa Toronto West for reconsideration."

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

1K klicks in the Sticks

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Yes it actually is the long-awaited little Vespa tour way down south to State College Pennsylvania where I get to enjoy a guided tour of the mountains and valleys made famous by Steve Williams on his blog Scooter in the Sticks.

I got to spend a couple of nights at Paul Ruby's home which was a privilege all of its own. Paul is an electrical engineer who traded his job at a Fortune 500 company to become an intrepid re-seller of scientific equipment on e-Bay. It's a big deal! I fully intend to respect Paul's privacy, so no lurid details of deal-making, wheeling and dealing will be told here, suffice to say, that Paul is social media royalty. It is an honour to count Paul among my friends.

It's impossible to create a video that comes even close to conveying in any accurate way the world that Steve portrays on Scooter in the Sticks. In an upcoming interview with Steve, you'll hear in his own words the sources of his motivation and his art. In this video I offer a glimpse of that world, the mountains and valleys that surround State College and provide Steve with his inspiration.

Scooter in the Sticks was a key source of information and inspiration for me when I was thirsty for information on Vespa ownership and riding in the many months that preceded my plunge into that world. My decision led to everything I had hoped for and it slowly unfolded into a life-changing and life-affirming pursuit that far exceeded even my fondest hopes and daydreams. Steve's blog made a big contribution to that transformation, and I am deeply indebted to him.

In those early days, I never dared to imagine that I would meet Steve, much less enjoy Steve and Paul's hospitality, and have the good fortune to call them friends.

The music selections for this episode of Life on two wheels are One more chance and Livin' up by Otis McDonald, I wear headphones and Yard Sale by Silent Partner, and Walk the dog by Coyote Hearing, made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library, as well as Think Tank by Audionautix which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license and also available in the YouTube Audio Library.

Episodes 24 and 25 of the vlog are ready to be posted so you'll be spared the long wait you had to put up with anticipating the release of episode 23.

See you soon, on Life on two wheels!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Requiem for a Vespa

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My 2010 Vespa GTS Super Sport 300 i.e. (it's appropriate use the complete full name on solemn occasions like this) is dead. Just over 50,000 kilometers on the clock, young for a Vespa. It led an action-packed life.

The gory details are in the video.

It started its life in Pontedera Italy, a little industrial town near Pisa, in Tuscany. I visited its birthplace a few years back at the end of the Tuscan Loop in the company of Sonja and Roland.

Bob Leong (aka BobSkoot, may he rest in peace) invited me to join him and Karen (aka V-Star Lady) for an epic Atlantic Ocean seaside jaunt back in 2013. He said I could come if I upgraded from the Vespa LX150 I was riding at the time, to a Vespa GTS. In the early spring of 2013 I purchased the Vespa from Carl Normandeau who was moving up to a brand new BMW R1200GS (what a thing of beauty). Carl had already logged twenty some-odd thousand kilometers on the Vespa by the time I took over. Last I heard, Carl was longing for another Vespa in his garage to keep his BMW company. I wonder if he pulled the trigger on that.

In the time the black Vespa and I spent together we commuted day after day, after day, and toured all over the place: Montreal, Cornwall, Ottawa, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, State College, Hartford, Ogunquit, Kennebunkport, Portland, Old Orchard Beach, the Adirondacks, Kingston, Belleville, Stouffville, Wasaga Beach, Midland, St-Catharines, Buffalo, State College, and finally, Niagara Falls, where our adventure came to an abrupt end.

Along the way that Vespa and I met moto-blogging legends and, to be honest, my relationship with that bike has been life-altering, truly it has.

I assure you, my life on two wheels doesn't end here. It's just going on a little hiatus, that's all. In the meantime this blog and the new vlog will continue to plow along. There are riding episodes to come that are still in the works, some social commentary, preparing for the Vespa's departure and documenting the de-farkling (it will be sold as a project bike to an as yet-unfound kind soul whom, I hope, will drag it back to life on the road), maybe some food rants and recipes, and rest assured, so much more.

So keep an eye on this space.

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Doctor True by Jingle Punks, made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

The expert but sad diagnosis for my 2010 Vespa GTS 300 i.e. was performed by Lou DiBiase of Vespa Toronto West. When it comes to Vespas, Lou has no equal.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The 2017 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride

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Come along with me as I ride my Vespa GTS 300i.e. in the Toronto edition of the 2017 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride.

What I don't show in the video is that when the bikes started rolling at the start, my Vespa stubbornly refused to get going. It just wouldn't start and left me stranded in the parking lot on the lake at Woodbine. I took off my jacket, pushed the bike into some shade, hauled out my tools and set to work. The symptoms (no starter, no lights, no power to the 12 volt outlets, nada, zip) indicated to me that the culprit had to be the battery. My heart sank as I faced the fact that not only was my Gentleman's Ride sunk, but so was an epic ride scheduled for Monday through Wednesday. "Drats" doesn't begin to cover the vocabulary I chose to express my immense frustration.

I tore into the battery compartment, removing the Classic Racks floor cargo rack and the battery cover. You'll recall from the last episode that I had removed the battery recently when I replaced the high tension lead. Everything seemed fine. Just to be sure I checked the battery terminals to make sure that they were tight. I managed to get a turn or two out of the terminal screws, but not enough to explain the electrical issue, I thought.

I put everything back together and began to ponder my fate. Just to convince myself that I was thoroughly screwed (pardon the pun), I flicked the ignition back on and punched the starter. Lo and behold, the bike fired right up.

I straightened myself out to look dignified, and set off to join the ride. I managed to track them down at the Queen's Park scheduled stop. All in all the malfunction didn't interfere all that much with my mission.

I hope you enjoy the video.

There is much more to come on Life on two wheels: the Monday to Wednesday trip happened (at least two videos to come), I broke down yet again (coolant leak, again, and again, this time somewhere in the engine compartment, impossible to see), and I have some technical videos coming on an oil change, my commentary on police services in Toronto (5.0 in the Six) and so much more.

The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride is a charity motorcycle ride that takes place world-wide each September. This video chronicles the 2017 DGR in Toronto. Proceeds from the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride go the Movember Foundation. Please give generously.

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Forget Me Not by SE's Jammy Jams, and Gypsy Dance by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena, both made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Parts are fun!

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OMG!! Things must be picking up in the Life on two wheels studio, because YES, it's another episode!

Viewer beware, this is the very first technical episode. Those of you who thought that there would be another wild bar-hopping episode following the previous episode on the wonders of St. John's Newfoundland, will be sadly disappointed.

In this episode I dig into the guts of my Vespa to rip out the ignition (or high tension) wire that sank my trip to Pennsylvania, pick up replacement parts from Vespa Toronto West, build another high tension wire from scratch (coil to spark plug), install it on the bike, and PRESTO!!! My untrustworthy ignition is a thing of the past.

I made this episode in honour of Ken Wilson, who provided moral support in the background. Ken was a little let down that I chose to end my trip failure video without delving into the root of the problem, choosing instead to focus on Texas barbecue (now come on, who can blame me, honestly??)

I plan to post this episode on ModernVespa.com on the off chance that anyone suffering with a similar issue will find this episode to be helpful.

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Give by Silent Partner, made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

That's it for now folks!

See you  next time, on Life on two wheels, the vlog

Monday, September 11, 2017


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It's another episode of your favourite vlog, Life on two wheels! Screech1!!!!! in this case is not what you get when you spin your wheels or slam on the brakes. Fasten your seat belts, this is by far the most ambitious vlog episode to date.

In this episode I take you all the way to easternmost Canada. That's right, you're coming along for a trip to St. John's Newfoundland. It's a nice bookend for the earlier episode when you got to come with me to Victoria British Columbia. From one end of the Trans-Canada Highway to the other, in two painless clicks. You have to admit, that's not too shabby.

The annual conference of Governance Professionals of Canada was taking place in St. John's, and Susan had never been to Newfoundland, so off we went. I had been there for the first time back in 2009, and was already an honorary Newfoundlander, so I wisely considered, having already been screeched-in, that I was dispensed from having to kiss the cod a second time. Besides, on Tuesday night, in the midst of the rowdy mayhem on George street, I looked that blessed, twisted, frozen, lifeless fish in its muddy dead eye, and I'm pretty sure it was the same slimy character I kissed on the lips back in '09.

The conference was a resounding success and Susan and I left The Rock with memories to last a lifetime. Newfoundland has a kind of mystical wonder to it. Its ubiquitous pastel-coloured jellybean clapboard row homes, cottages and sheds brighten its rocky shores wherever Newfoundlanders live, from Come-By-Chance to Cornerbrook, and from Burgeo to Bonavista.

Tag along with me for a taste of Celtic Canada at its very best. You're just a click away!

The music for this episode is Celtic Impulse by Kevin MacLeod and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license and is brought to you courtesy of the excellent YouTube Audio Library.

For the story of my new (old) pirate hat, please click here, and for my obsession with Rick Mercer, please click here. For the lyrics to Rant and Roar, please click here.

Things have been hectic in the Life on two wheels studio and there are plenty of episodes to come. You have 5.0 in The Six and Parts are Fun to look forward to, as well as a long delayed jaunt down south of the border to spend some time with legendary fellow moto-blogger and dedicated Vespa-holic Steve Williams. Unfortunately that might be delayed into 2018. There are some technical bits to come relating to an oil change, and ignition work on the Vespa as well. So the upshot is that there's lots to look forward to.

Stay tuned!


1. Screech.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.