Monday, April 30, 2012


 Every time I see one it shocks me.

My Vespa LX150 dwarfs, dominates, towers over, the real Mini.

Those new Minis are huge, hulking, massive, imposing cars, unworthy of the name.

It's a wonder that two real people can fit inside a real Mini.  You'd expect that they wouldn't have doors.  That there would be a gaping hole in the roof in which to perch, hunkered down to reach the steering wheel, like a too-big kid in a too-small pedal car.

But then I guess that the modern Vespa is to the vintage Vespa, what the modern Mini is to the original.

Friday, April 27, 2012

GoPro: Take II

Bobskoot is a man of many talents.

I have a lot to learn from Bob.

I believe Bob to be a GoPro wizard.  A wizard not just in the usual technical sense, but in the best possible sense, the artistic sense.

I am a beginner, a dilettante, a mouse in the corner of the Wizard's lair.

Trying to learn I am, as Bob, Yoda to my Luke, tosses me hints.  "Thirty degrees left".  "Fat Gecko". 'Stealth; excellent pictures, makes it does'.

That last bit paraphrases Bob's advice, though now I can't locate the comment.  Did I delete it in an iPhone clumsy moment?  Did I imagine Bob's advice?  Or is Bob whispering in my inner ear from the other quadrant of the planet by some wizardly means?  No... no... now I'm getting carried away. And yet...

I am struggling with the angle advice.  I think that I'm intoxicated with the view in which my Vespa and I waste a third of the frame while the sights are neglected.  Definitely not Jeddi material.  And I didn't quite take the Fat Gecko advice literally either.  I concluded that the GoPro suction mount was functionally equivalent to the Fat Gecko mount.  Call it a slightly rebellious riff on the Master's injunction.

I need to hone the craft because there are missions looming.

I won't be attacking any Death Stars, but my GoPro is going to be my mini-Lucas, with my iPhone as my R2D2, when I bag more big bridges this riding season.

Here's a practice run.  Let me know how I'm doing.

PS: Want to see GoPro in action? Check out the incredibly cool thread on Modern Vespa as the Cannonballers wrap up their run across the US south, San Diego bound.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


 Here's a how-to of a different kind, but definitely a vital scooter / moto related skill.

Yes, sewing patches.

There is a technique to sewing on patches that makes the job fairly simple so that anyone can do it, and do it well.

Here's how to do it.

First the obvious, decide where you want the patch.

Once you know that, it helps to use a few straight pins to pin the patch to the fabric.

Since most patches have a black border, you should probably use black thread.  If the border is not black, use thread that matches the patch border.

Next once the needle is threaded, stitch the thread from front to back through the patch border.
Now, fold the patch back a little and stitch the thread through the fabric.  All you are doing it inserting needle just inside the outer layer of the garment's fabric and right back out, and just behind where the edge of the patch will sit. Those stiches in the garment fabric won't show, and they don't need to be symmetrical, or neat, or tidy.  As long as they sit back from the edge of the patch they'll be fine.  The stitches that matter are those that are back and forth through the patch border.
Next, stitch the thread through the patch border, this time from the back to the front.  Position your stitch about one sixteenth of an inch away from where the first stitch went through the border.

Now repeat those steps going around the edge of the patch until all the edges are sewn.  Then keep going to overlap the beginning and end of your stitching by at least half an inch or so.

With each stich, lie the patch down flat against the fabric and smooth the patch and fabric out, to make sure that your sewing is not binding anywhere.

As you sew along, you'll see that there is a little slack in the last two or three stitches that makes the job easy to do.

And there you have it.

If the patch border is very tight, using pliers to push and pull the needle through beats trying to use a thimble.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Washington DC, at least the small portion of it that lies within the confines of the Four Seasons Hotel, is full of "type-A" folks of both genders.

These people, when they aren't actively involved in VERY IMPORTANT MEETINGS, wander about the hallways, gardens, terraces, and patios with their smart devices glued to their faces having VERY IMPORTANT CONVERSATIONS.

They show tremendous respect for each other's turf, and in the garden adjoining the hotel, seemed to have each developed a 50 foot privacy radius in which they paced, intent on their VERY IMPORTANT CONVERSATION.

 I decided to take a five minute break in the garden to get some much needed fresh air and sunshine.

This was how I came to observe this somewhat peculiar behavior.

Imagine my surprise when I found this idyllic watercourse making its way to the Potomac right there in the hotel's garden.

I think you'll be bound to agree that it looks like it was lifted straight out of rural England.  The very antithesis of yammering yuppies on Blackberries and iPhones.

Monday, April 23, 2012

On a wing and a prayer

 My preferred transportation is my Vespa, by a wide margin.

Today the destination was Washington DC. The Vespa wasn't an option.

Yet there was quite a rare treat in store.  Transportation was courtesy of the aeronautical equivalent of a Vespa, in this case a Beechcraft 9 passenger King Air.
The cross-winds at Dulles were ferocious.  Being able to see out of the cockpit windows and the side windows simultaneously during the landing was a treat, and made counter steering the Vespa at full throttle on a curving expressway ramp seem quite tame by comparison.

The plane seemed headed straight for the runway, but was gyrating on its axis by what seemed to be 15 to 20 degrees to the left then to the same extent to the right.  Turbulence was simultaneously tossing us up and down like a toy.

The amazing thing was that the plane touched down light as a feather, with no wrenching at all.  Seeing all the left-right rotation in the split-seconds before the plane touched down made that smooth landing all the more improbable and remarkable.  I guess that gets chalked up to the pilot's skill.

All things considered, I didn't miss the scoot commute today.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rick's Ride A:H

As a result of a Blogger / iPad glitch, this post devoted to Rick's ride self-destructed.

If you've already read this post and have come back, only to find that it's not quite what you saw the first time around, that's because it's not.

Rick Snyder set out on April 22, 2012 on the Scooter Cannonball run.  You will find numerous links to the 2012 Cannonball towards the bottom of the links on the right side of the page.

I exchanged some correspondence with Rick before his great adventure and I told him I'd be sharing the fun vicariously through Rick.

One way I did that was, like hundreds of others, was to compulsively visit the Official Cannonball thread on

Another way was to follow Rick's progress on the website that tracked the Cannonballers in real time.  I took a number of snapshots of Rick's epic ride which you will find below.

Perhaps Rick will one day provide some context for these screen shots.

In the meantime you can visit the ModernVespa thread and read Rick's posts.  His MV username is Scuterbrau.  There was quite a bit of drama as Rick stuck to Bill Dog like glue as Bill did battle not only with the epic ride, but more importantly with a raging staph infection in his left hand that ultimately led to emergency surgery and intravenous antibiotics on arrival at destination in San Diego.

It's a riveting true real-time story of human resilience in the face of adversity.

So here, without further editorial comment are the snapshots of Rick's ride.  Hopefully there won't be any further Blogger glitches interfering with this post.

A: April 22, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.:

B: April 22, 2012 at 6:45 p.m.:
C: April 23, 2012 at 12:37 p.m.:
D: April 23, 2012 at 6:07 p.m.:
E: April 24, 2012 at 3:57 p.m.:
F: April 25, 2012 at 6:27 p.m.:
G: April 28, 2012 at 4:07 p.m.:
H: April 30, 2012 at 11:03 a.m.:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Montreal landmarks

Canajun was hoping for a glimpse of the Montreal he was familiar with before he moved away.

Here is a ride video I shot the other day that might scratch that itch.

The route is along Cote des Neiges road heading towards downtown.  The video begins on the north side of the mountain on Cote des Neiges, just a block or two south of Queen Mary road.

Once past Queen Mary, if you're familiar with the city, you may remember the following landmarks.
  • at the 23 second mark, crossing Queen Mary;
  • from the 44 second mark to the 1 minute 22 second mark, the Mount Royal Cemetery.  The gates are at the 1:22 mark.
  • at the 2:05 mark you will see the armory right where the Camilien Houde Parkway goes through Mount Royal Park, heading east towards Park avenue, Fletcher's Field and Montreal's SoHo that we call "the Plateau".
  • at the 2:17 mark is the high point of Cote des Neiges road.  Everything beyond this point is downhill.
  • at 3:10 you see the apartment buildings that are now condos I believe, that sit like an island dividing the north and south bound sections of Cote des Neiges road.
  • at 4:30, I branch off Cote des Neiges road and onto Dr. Penfield avenue (formerly McGregor avenue).  Actually it looks like I am going straight, but in fact it's Cote des Neiges road the veers right towards Sherbrooke street.
  • from 5:14 on, this is the Golden Square Mile section of downtown, also sometime called Embassy Row.  This is where the wealthiest of Montreal's elite built palatial homes in the late 1800's.  Many of those stately homes are now consulates, hence the name.
  • at 5:50 the western edge of the McGill University campus begins.
  • the two buildings on the left at 6:00 are the biology department.  The second building has a greenhouse on the roof that glows eerily at night.  It's a grow-op.
  • at 6:08 are the two buildings of the law faculty, named Chancellor Day Hall, with the actual Chancellor Day Hall being the second building, also a former robber-baron palace, bequeathed to McGill long ago in a bid for atonement, no doubt.
  • at 6:09 I turn right onto Stanley street heading south towards Sherbrooke.
  • the building at 6:30 is the new Sofitel hotel that sits at the corner of Sherbrooke and Stanley.  It used to be the Canadian headquarters of Air Liquide, or Canadian Liquid Air.
  • at 7:18 the building on the southeast corner is the headquarters of CGI Group Inc., where I work.
  • at 8:26 is the end of my commute.

Friday, April 20, 2012

So, sew

Actually, I am not "so-so", I'm really quite pleased with my progress.

This week I rolled over the personal 10,000th mile in the saddle.

My Vespa's odometer recorded its 10,000th mile last fall.  But I got my Vespa with 1,304 miles already on the clock, I didn't get to my personal 10,000th mile until a few days ago.

So now I get to sew my Modern Vespa 10,000 mile patch onto my Corazzo riding jacket.

Locations, locations!?!?  On the arm, or on the chest?  On the collar maybe? Or is sewing it on the collar too military-dress-uniform-palace-gards-ish?

Maybe I'll do it on the weekend.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Windy ride!

Stiff winds overnight brought warmer weather to Tuesday's commute.

The wind was from the south and came gusting over Lake St-Louis. My Vespa was buffeted by the wind all along the lake and well into the city as well.

The expressway miles I've racked up have gotten me used to wind blast, particularly the intense buffeting and cavitation that 18-wheelers leave in their wake. So the blustery weather wasn't a concern.

The silver lining was the way the weather altered the landscape. It painted the lake a heaving mass of silvery grey, frothy chop, punctuated by angry shots of spray where the waves met the rocky shore.

I was tempted to stop and attempt a photograph a few times, but chose to continue riding.

When I got to the foot of the lake in Lachine, the scene was so captivating I couldn't resist taking a few minutes to share the scene here.

I took the opening photo for this post while waiting for a business associate for an early evening meeting. I rode my Vespa to the meeting. I was pleased to find Costanza parking, as usual, with the added bonus of another Vespa to share the space with.
I believe Vespas don't attract parking citations because they invariably add to the beauty of the urban landscape. At least that's my theory. Maybe I've just been lucky.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Home: Going and coming

This is what you might think of as a sandwich post. 

This is the meat.

The bookends that make it into a sandwich are two separate videos.  One leaving the garage at work and riding to the entrance ramp to the expressway.  The other, from the end of the off-ramp and into the garage at home.

These are the first GoPro ride videos I've posted.  They aren't the first I've recorded on my Vespa though.

A few weeks ago I recorded my commute, end-to-end.  That video is too large to post to YouTube, so you won't see it here.  For that ride I had mounted the camera on a mirror stem using a RAM mount and the head from my SLIK monopod.  When I saw the vibration of the camera with that set up I thought the video would be one massive mess of vibration.

I was amazed when I saw the result.  Certainly not solid by any means, yet, in the circumstances, still very usable video.  The GoPro is one wicked good camera.

For these videos, the camera was mounted using the same RAM mount, without the SLIK head, on a RAM ball mount on the grab rail.

As you can see the video is, well, I hesitate to say it, but rock solid comes to mind.  All I can say is "Wow!!!".  Worth every penny.


Now here's the back end of the sandwich. As an added bonus, it's an action flick, thanks to the speeding police cruiser at the 1':40" mark.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Art or science?

I'll be the first to confess that I'm no artist.  At least not when it comes to using my fingers to make pictures.

My iPad and the very useful Penultimate app let me explore my artistic inclinations, such as they are, without much fuss.

It interests me to observe the similarity in each of these scribble-sketches.  There is a satisfaction I got from the exercise.  The satisfaction that the essence of a Vespa seemed to emerge from my scribbling.  The cowl in the lower left sketch, for instance.

I didn't sketch any particular Vespa, and the Vespa was in my mind, I wasn't sketching it while looking at my Vespa, or any other Vespa or image.

Making these images, just as they are, would not have been possible, it seems to me, if my Vespa was not such a presence in my life.  Washing the machine, running my hands over its lines; taking it apart; putting it back together; looking at it from every conceivable angle;  filling the tires; filling the tank;  riding it for 10,000 wondrous miles.  All these experiences flowed from my fingers onto the iPad screen.  Time after time.  Resulting in remarkably similar images.

This is art.  Not good art.  But art.  It certainly isn't science.

Riding is like that too.  Why is it that I can ride full-throttle along a curving expressway ramp and merge into traffic with confidence?  How do I roll at barely a walk, inching my way in traffic with my feet firmly planted on the floorboard?  How do I swoop around a corner and accelerate down a boulevard like a bird in flight?

Clearly science dictates the mechanics.  Centrifugal force; gasoline exploding in the cylinder; friction between the tires and the road; the grip of the disc brake; gravity tugging at the chassis.

But art is what makes riding both possible, and thoroughly enjoyable.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.