Friday, July 29, 2011

The evolution of parking

Last year I put up a post on scooter parking and BIXI stands. You can get to that post by clicking here.

Now, a little over a year later, my theory that each BIXI stand offers parking for at least two scooters seems to have taken root as a generalized practice here.

Am I only an observer, or, by publishing my observation, did I interfere with what might have been, and contribute in one way or another to expanding an isolated event into an actual trend?

Evidence in favour of the latter is the fact that my original post that mentioned the theory that BIXI stands offered natural scooter parking is the fourth most viewed post on my blog.

I'll never know.

I'm definitely not in flash-mob territory, but it's a tantalizing thought, if only for me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Saturday joyride

Late Saturday afternoon, after a dip in the pool, I hopped on my Vespa and headed west along the lake shore towards Ste Anne de Bellevue.

It was a nice opportunity to try out my new-to-me BMW Motorrad Air Flow summer riding jacket. For the occasion I removed my windshield.

All I can say is wow! It's like not wearing a riding jacket at all. Plus it looks really nice, it's beautifully made, has all the right armor, and fits me like a proverbial glove.
To give it a good try, I decided to ride over the Galipault bridge to Ile Perrot. Once there I followed the country highway that goes along the lake.

I stopped to take these pictures before turning around to head back home.
Across the lake looking east, you can see the city. It's easy with the naked eye, tougher with the Iphone camera.

I zoomed in to get a picture that allows the skyline to be seen. It's grainy because it's taken with a digital zoom, but it's good enough to let you see what I mean.
I switched on the GPS tracker on my Iphone so I would be able to post a map of the return ride.

View ile-perrot-jaunt in a larger map
That straight bit on the West Island is a couple of exits' worth of Autoroute 20 where I got up to about 65 mph indicated on the Vespa's speedometer, or about 57 mph in real GPS verified speed.

All in all, a very nice 28 km jaunt on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The things you see

I spotted this girl riding a trike and trailering a small house, on the de Maisonneuve street bike path downtown. I had to take a picture to share here. All thanks to Steve Jobs and the Iphone!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Planes, trains and automobiles

That's the fitting title of the current exhibit at the Dorval Museum.
It's fitting because Dorval is home to Montreal's Trudeau international airport, so named for our former famous Prime Minister. I had occasion to meeet him briefly in his retirement back in 1997. It's weird to think that I personally met someone with an aiport named after them.

Dorval is also host to a stop on the trans-continental railway, and it's the automobile that made Dorval one of the metropolis' early bedroom communities.

I've been living on the West Island for more than twenty years and only recently became aware that Dorval had a museum. It's on Lakeshore Blvd. which is my usual commuting route.

There's something about scooter commuting that invites small digressions. I chalk it up to a number of factors:
  • The pace is a little more leisurely.
  • You are connected to the path you follow because the sounds, sights and smells are experienced more intimately than in a car.
  • It's somehow easier to stop and check things out because the scooter is small and so manoeuvrable.
  • You tend to take more quiet routes where there are more interesting things to see.
The Dorval Museum is a case in point. I had noticed it during my commutes, tucked away along the lake, a stone's throw from the Forest & Stream Club.  I have a previous post on the club that you can get to by clicking here.

Thursday morning I took a few minutes out to explore. I parked my Vespa at the back of the empty parking lot where there's flagstone path leading to the water's edge.
The museum is only open in the afternoon so I peered through the window for a glimpse of what this tiny museum might have to offer.

I was a little surprised to find a moped in the museum, although finding a lifesize plane, train or even automobile would have been shocking. That serendipitous find dovetails nicely with the two-wheeled theme here.
I made a mental note to pop in sometime this summer to see what else this little gem has to offer and find out the story of that moped.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

One of these things does not belong

Imagine my surprise.

I've seen a bike like this before of course. In Washington this past April.

No, I doubt that anyone rode the bike here and docked it.  BIXI supplies the DC Capital Bikeshare equipment and somehow one of those bikes slipped into the Montreal network.

I wonder if there are Montreal branded BIXIs in DC or Toronto?  Kind of like a public bike exchange program.

On my way back to the office 20 minutes later, the DC bike was gone. If I didn't have the picture to prove to myself that my eyes didn't deceive me I might be thinking I had hallucinated the whole thing.

Do you think the guy might be pedalling back to DC?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Night Ride

Is your riding confined to daylight?

Mine is, mostly.  Night rides are nice because they are exceptions.

Cool, dark glides on quiet roads with the glow of instruments for mood lighting.

The reassuring feeling of control emanating from the dashboard instruments in sharp contrast to the night, cloaking familiar scenes, now more sensed than seen.

Moonlight silvery on the lake.  Moths streeking in bright trails silently by my visor.

Truly a special scooter commuter's treat. Almost makes up for working late.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Crazy ... hazy days of summer

 I just love, love, love this time of year.

There is nothing quite as soothing and relaxing as looking out over a lake in summer and seeing a far shore veiled in haze.  That's what greeted me today, five minutes into my morning commute.

Friday, July 8, 2011

This bridge won't burn!

Wikimedia Commons photo
 I finally did it!

In the end it wasn't nearly as death-defying as anyone might expect.  On my lunch hour I crossed the Victoria Bridge.

The title for this post hints at the fact that the bridge is made of cast iron, and the bridge piers are constructed of huge granite blocks.  It's the oldest of Montreal's bridges, having been built in the 1850's, yet it's the only one that isn't in imminent danger of catastrophic collapse.

View Victoria-bridge in a larger map
The Google map for this post was generated with my Iphone using a free GPS tracking app.  I have no clue how interactive it will be until I submit the post.  This is the first map I'm embedding.  Fingers crossed. [ed.: well that worked!]

The issue with the Victoria Bridge is that it has a metal grid deck.  It's legendary among drivers and there are quite a number who won't use the bridge because a) it makes cars squirm, and b) you can see the water below if you look down at the roadway.

I more or less knew what to expect because the Charlevoix bridge across the Lachine Canal that I cross almost daily has the same decking.  But the Charlevoix is a tiny bridge, relatively speaking, and there's always traffic, so you cross it at maybe 30 km/h.

You don't even find out about the posted limit on the Victoria until you're on the bridge.  And the bridge approach is long and convoluted enough, with a tunnel on the approach, so you don't even get to see the bridge until you're committed to it.

It turns out that the posted speed limit on the bridge is a very reasonable, reassuring, and quite comfortable 50 km/h.

To err on the side of caution I approached this ride in full ATGATT (ed.: all the gear, all the time - for the benefit of the non-rider readers out there).  Corazzo 5.0 armored jacket, motorcycle gloves, Nolan N102 modular full-face helmet, my hiking boots, and even zipped up the legs on my Tourmaster Caliber pants to close the open gaps on my thighs that provide much-needed summer ventilation.  Buzz Aldrin wasn't wearing much more gear when he set out for his celebrated moon walk.

To make sure I documented this life-altering ride to its full historic potential, I made sure before setting out that my my Garmin StreetPilot i5 GPS unit was up and running, and that my Iphone was well positioned to capture video of the ride.
GPS and Iphone on RAM mounts
I was a little disappointed because there was a maintenance van on the bridge that backed up the traffic.  We crawled onto the bridge.  Traffic eventually maxed out at 51 km/h as reported by my Garmin StreetPilot i5 GPS unit.  The squirm factor was quite pronounced, and was more nerve-wracking on a powered two-wheeler than at the wheel of a car.  The bike not only squirms in the horizontal plane (i.e. side-to-side) but also in the vertical plane (i.e. the wheels sway left and right under you, as if you were alternately leaning left, then right).

I'll revisit this post to add a Youtube video of this very memorable crossing.

[ed.: here's that video]

The return trip across the bridge proved to be more in line with my expectations.  The traffic was lighter and sailing across at a good clip.  My GPS showed 71 km/h when I glanced at it.  I can't say that the squirm got any worse really.  I wondered what it would feel like to perform an evasive procedure on that surface.  The nice thing about a bridge is that there are no squirrels; the nice thing about a bridge with a metal deck is that there are no sewer covers, and best of all, no !"/%$?/\#!! pot-holes, so there was nothing to evade.  Just as well because with all the squirming going on, I was in no mind to experiment.

My visor was up, and about halfway across the span a large-ish bug did a suicide run at my face, clipping me on the left cheek.  I took the chance of taking my left hand off the handlebars to close the visor.

Thank heavens I did, because when I got to the final third of the bridge, whatever the insects were, they were rising from the sides of the bridge and coming at me by the tens.  It was like the battle of Britain.  OK, that's an exaggeration.  I felt better shields-up though I can tell you.

My big adventure was tempered, and put into much-needed perspective, when I pulled up beside a guy about my age on a much smaller 50cc two-stroke scoot stopped at the first traffic light on the Montreal side of the bridge.  There he sits: shorts, short-sleeved shirt, glove-less, loafers, and an open-faced helmet.

He sees me, shoots me a great big beaming smile, and, in inimitable Québécois French says "Ça brasse en titi s'ul pont, einh?" which, loosely translated, means "It really sways on the bridge, eh?"

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lachine Village

Lachine Borough Town Hall
My usual route into work takes me along St-Joseph boulevard through the heart of old Lachine village.  St-Joseph boulevard is the continuation of Lakeshore road and it is in the village of Lachine that the Lachine Canal begins.  The canal is a 19th century work that allowed shipping to bypass the formidable Lachine rapids.  The canal opens at the eastern end of Lake St-Louis and heads downstream towards the port of Montreal.

The Montreal borough of Lachine takes its name from a massive, shameless, 17th century, bold-faced, lie.

Unwilling to admit to their capricious royal patrons in Europe that they had failed to find a westward passage to the riches of India and China, the european explorers called the westernmost place they could reach in their exploration "Lachine", or la Chine in French, or China in English; and the indigenous inhabitants of North America they called "Indians".  Asked if they had gotten to China and India, their reply was a disingenuous mais oui!

There you go, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, sort of.  I can do no better than to give the last word on this to Mark Twain who famously observed that "a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes".

Lachine, before the advent of the Lachine Canal, was the jumping off point for the great fur trade.   From here voyageurs headed up the St-Lawrence in huge cargo canoes towards the great lakes.  Fortified warehouses were built to store the furs eventually bound for the port of Montreal on their way to old Europe.  Some of those buildings are still standing.
Lachine Fur Trade Museum
Today, the waterfront in the Lachine village is a mix of residential properties and charming restaurants.
Il Fornetto - one of the many restaurants in the Lachine Village
 Sitting in the middle of the village is the stately borough town hall, that you can see in the first photo in this post.

Across the way is the oldest portion of the lachine canal that today serves mainly as a landscape element in the linear park that follows the shore.

Further east, just beyond the village, pleasure boaters can enter the first of several locks that eventually lead all the way to the port of Montreal where there is a marina right at the foot of old Montreal.

My scooter commute traces most of that path, breaking off and crossing the canal at the Charlevoix bridge where I head into the downtown core.

Monday, July 4, 2011


It's Monday, July 4, 2011, and though it's Independence Day for the lucky folks in the US, it's the first day back to work for me.  Maybe that's why I couldn't keep my fingers out of the frame when I took the picture.

I decided to take a northern route to the office that takes me through the Montreal borough of Outremont, a very upscale neighborhood on the north slope of Mount Royal.
The northern portion of Outremont, that's to say the part below Cote Ste-Catherine road, sits on a gentle slope and is laid out on a fairly straightforward grid.  The streets feature either detached or semi-detached brick and stone cottages on lots that are narrow but deep rectangles.  Typically each home has a driveway leading to either a free-standing garage, or a garage that is part of the home, but that is accessed at the rear of the property.

In some cases, particularly towards the eastern reach of the municipality, the homes are row houses with an alleyway in the rear for access to garages or sheds in the yard.
As you can see, Outremont is an oasis of green and relative calm that sits close to downtown.  It's large nineteenth and early twentieth century homes make it a desirable location with home prices to match.

The corner of Fairmont and Hutchison towards the northeastern edge of the town is where you'll find the Croissanterie Figaro.  I've mentioned this delightful corner café in a post last year which you can find by clicking here.  If you look very carefully you can just spot my Vespa LX150 parked at the curb.
In no time a fresh croissant and bowl of café au lait is there to serve as a very gentle and genteel introduction back to my work-a-day scoot commute.
Jealous yet? You should be :)

As always, there's more to come.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Business and pleasure

The past two weeks have been hectic.

A conference to attend in Colorado Springs, followed by a summer getaway, first to Bryce Canyon in Utah (nature in all its glory), then to Las Vegas, Nevada (a blitz of glitz, glitz, glitz).

Both places were a lot of fun and relaxation at both ends of the spectrum.  Just the ticket to change things up and refresh my perspective.
Life on two wheels has therefore been on the back burner, but I do have this to share which is kind of relevant.
Two intrepid Las Vegas police officers making a traffic stop on Las Vegas Boulevard, in the middle lane, on bicycles.

I don't imagine the driver was much of a scofflaw, but it would have been cool if he had made a break for it, just to see those two officers hell bent for leather in hot pursuit.

The scoot commute resumes in earnest tomorrow, weather permitting.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.