Monday, July 29, 2013

Rider profile: Steve Williams

Name:  Steve Williams
Find me on Earth: Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, USA
Find me Online: Scooter in the Sticks; @ScooterNSticks on Twitter; Scooter in the Sticks on Facebook, and my fall 2017 vlog interview with Steve.
Interview Date: Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Interview Location: Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, USA

Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Steve: While I did some riding as a kid in high school, dirt bikes, borrowed motorcycles and such, I don't really consider my riding to have begun until I was 51.

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Steve: Two.  The first was a Vespa LX150 and the second my current Vespa GTS250ie.

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

Steve: A Vespa GTS250ie.  And yes, it is my favorite -- of the ones I have owned and of everything I have ever ridden.

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

Steve: Riding in winter has presented the most challenges -- technically and psychologically.  When the temperature drops below the freezing mark my riding persona must change.  Everything is different because, well, everything is different.  Whether dealing with a cold road surface on a sunny day at 20F or with snow or ice, you have to think and act differently.  Riding in winter forces me to pay attention in a hyper-focused manner.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

Steve: I suppose I consider myself a moto-commuter most of the time and a meditation rider the rest. By that I mean the act of riding, moving over the road, delivers a calmness and serenity that I've not achieved through other means.  Doesn't matter when I go or what I see, just the ride seems to work. Even the commutes to work.

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

Steve: Solitary riding is definitely my default choice and matches my temperament.  I've ridden in two big group rides and have found that a strain.  Too much going on, too many people.  Probably why I don't like big parties, concerts or other crowded events.

I do ride with friends though from time to time -- one or two other riders and while I enjoy the camraderie and social aspects I always feel like I have to watch out for them and spend a lot of time watching where they are, what they're doing and such.  Maybe everyone does that.

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarassing riding moment.

Steve: Two things come to mind and both involve the scooter hitting the pavement.  The first was during a slow speed slide in the snow, one foot down and dragging the scooter racing style to a stop until I lost my footing and the Vespa went down.  First thing I did was jump up and look around to make sure no one saw me.  Reminded me of Pee Wee in Pee Wee's Big Adventure when he crashed his bicycle and jumping up and exclaiming to anyone who might have witnessed the event, "I meant to do that!".

Same with me, I meant to drop the scooter in the snow. No one saw though and it led me to purchase armored pants.

The second was a real bonehead mistake.  Scooter is on the center stand along the road.  My camera is sitting on the seat as I prepare to move the scooter to a better position for a photograph.  As the scooter comes off the stand the camera begins to fall.  In that instant I have to decide whether to hold onto the scooter or grab the camera.  I choose the camera and the scooter hits the pavement.  I felt stupid and lazy for doing that.  Oh well.

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

Steve: Home.  A ride to the place where I grew up outside of Pittsburgh.  It's a different experience moving through all the little streets and alleys on a scooter than passing by in a car.  Much more visceral, sense-based experience.  The ride triggered memories and emotions I didn't realize were there. Of all the rides I have made in the 40K plus miles I have ridden that day stands out still as the special riding experience.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

Steve: Riding is meditation.  Since I was in college I have chased some way to make my life slow down.  When I took my first ride on the Vespa I finally found the answer.  Fun, excitement, utility, transportation -- those are all secondary rewards.

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

I wish, I hope, that I can continue to ride until the end -- that my last ride isn't far from my last breath…

Can you grant me that?

_____________________________

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rider profile: Paul Ruby

Name:  Paul Ruby
Find me on Earth:  State College,  Pennsylvania, USA
Find me Online:  http://www.pdruby.com/homepage/home.htm
Interview Date:  Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Interview Location:  State College,  Pennsylvania, USA

Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Paul: In 1984, 28 years old.

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Paul: I've lost count.  20-30 probably.

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

Paul: 1964 Vespa 90,  1965 Vespa 150GL, 2007 Piaggio Fly 150, 2009 Ducati 1198, 2007 BMW K1200GT  The Ducati is the most exhilarating. The BMW is the best distance cruiser I've had.   The 1965 Vespa 150GL is very classy and timeless.  

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

Paul: I'm not a natural rider.  Everything I've learned I've learned by doing it the wrong way first.  The skill I now have that I like the most is confidence.

I can toss that big BMW around pretty good.  I can turn tight circles.  I can lock the back brake up and slide along the road with them all.  My balance and control has never been better.  I know my limits.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

Paul: I'm a blend of those but I don't tend to take the motorcycle if it's raining.  Who likes riding with soggy underwear?

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

Paul: I like to ride with friends.  It's more fun and I like to share experiences.

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarassing riding moment.

Paul: That's an easy one.  I was trying to impress a girl once. She was on the back of my Harley Sportster and we were riding along the dirt road through the woods.

A large mud puddle went across the road. I slowed to near walking speed.  Half way through the puddle the front wheel started to slide to one side.  I yelled, "Jump off!"  I think she jumped off and landed on her feet. But the motorcycle fell over in a foot of muddy water and steam rose from it. We later got married.

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

Paul: Mostly the rides Steve (Williams) and I go on are my favorites.  We just go to good diners or visiting friends.  It's pretty simple.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

Paul: That's easy.  Nothing philosophical. It's fun.  Also the Ducati makes my ____  1/2" longer when I get into the throttle. No smart remarks!

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

Paul: I would like you to arrange Angelina Jolie to go to Burger King with me on my scooter.  Take photos.

_____________________________

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Settling back into a normal routine

I'm back to my daily commute...
... and back to hopping on my Vespa to get to more distant lunch dates. Like today's lunch with my close friend Andrew on a rare visit from London, Ontario.

Andrew is staying at a very classy boutique hotel in Old Montreal.

We had lunch at Titanic, a nice little chef-owned soup, salad and sandwich place in Old Montreal on St-Pierre street.  That modest description truly fails to do this place justice.

Neither one of us could resist their Mac-n-Cheese.

Could you?  Dare I say it?  It's even better than Bleecher's in Seattle.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour - The long ride home

I knew I had to hustle. Time was not my friend. I feared that somewhere along my route in Vermont some forest dweller was planning a stroll on the Interstate for when I'd be rolling through.

I still needed to grab a bite to eat though while restaurants were plentiful.

As I rolled up the street I saw that Tom had broken off from the group as well. We happened to be going the same way. Two identical Vespas navigating northwest and away from Old Orchard Beach. As our paths diverged we honked our horns goodby.

I lost as little time as possible refueling the Vespa and refilling my five liter spare gas tank. I had gassed up using the jerry can in the morning so as not to delay the group joyride. There happened to be a fast food joint across the street where I wolfed down a burger.

I punched the home button on my Garmin, cleared the avoidance preferences I had set in New Hampshire for expressways and toll roads, and I began the ride to Montreal. The day was sunny and clear and the heat wave we had all week had lifted. It promised to be perfect riding weather.

Getting away was weird at first. The GPS seemed to have conspired with the state of Maine to loop me through three tollbooths within no more than ten minutes. For a bit I thought I was riding in a vicious circle. If I was, then it was truly a conspiracy because they changed up the toll collector each time. It was like a Hitchcock movie, or the lead-in to an episode of the Twilight Zone. Three bucks. Not so bad.

The brief stint on the Interstate led to increasingly rural bi-ways, then to country highways as I slowly climbed from sea level towards the rolling hills of Maine. I eventually joined Route 302 headed northwest towards New Hampshire and the White Mountains. Oddly, in all our trips to Maine we had never come this way. We had either followed Route 26 further to the east, or I-93 further to the west, but never 302.

I knew I was in North Conway when I ran into bumper to bumper traffic down the main street. The congestion stretched for a mile or more. With literally no time to lose, I skirted the parade and lane split to by-pass the mess. This is where a Vespa shines. The CVT transmission and compact footprint make quick and easy work of the most daunting bumper-to-bumper traffic. In no time at all North Conway was in my mirrors.

After North Conway, Route 302 goes through the heart of the White Mountains. The scenery on this highway is simply spectacular. There were plenty of motorcycles on the road. I ended up riding behind a couple of guys on sport bikes. I was following them when the route twisted its way through Crawford Notch. I had managed to forget that a shortcoming of my particular Vespa is the side stand. I dialed in the countersteer for the tightest twist in the road and nearly ground the side stand down to the bolts. Now to be honest, that did freak me out. I handled it with an application of rear brake to scrub off enough speed to correct the trajectory and negotiate the notch more conservatively with less lean. Unless I remove the side stand, my Vespa is not a machine for twisties.

By five o'clock the shadows were getting long making it harder to see wildlife that might be lurking past the shoulders. I saw my first upright non-flat gopher poised on the left lane contemplating a myopic stroll to the great beyond. A couple of times a pungent feral odor wafted into my helmet. Deer musk. I rolled off the throttle and peeled my eyes.

In the fullness of time I reached the Stanstead border crossing at about 6:00 p.m.  It was later than I would have liked. I still had a good hour of riding in deer and moose country before reaching the relative safety of the plains of farmland east of Montreal.

The Montreal bound traffic on Autoroute 10 grew with each passing mile. At one point a fool on a sport bike with his girlfriend riding pillion flew by.  I say he was a fool because he was going much too fast, likely doing at least 140 km/h, and riding extremely aggressively, tailgating cars in the left hand lane, dodging left and right either looking for a way to slip by the car, or trying to intimidate the driver into getting out of the left lane.  I couldn't resist shaking my head in disbelief and disgust.  Why would his girlfriend stay on that bike?

Forty-five minutes later the traffic on westbound Autoroute 10 came to a sudden stop.  Until that point, my estimated time of arrival on the Garmin had never gone past 8:29 p.m.  At the border I had called Susan to say to expect me home at 8:30.  I phoned her to tell her that it looked like I had hit the traffic of cottagers returning to the city and based on where I was, it could take forever to get home.

It wasn't returning cottagers.  It was an accident.  Cars, RVs, and motorcycles  had pulled over to the side, people were milling around, and others were attempting to direct traffic.  The left lane was where the incident, whatever it was, had occurred.  There were no first responders on the scene.  As I rolled by the focus of everyone's attention, there was a car in the left hand lane, apparently undamaged, but, there were at least three people crouching on the trunk lid, hood and roof attending to the inert body of a person lying on top of the car.  I couldn't be sure, but the jeans and leather jacket seemed to be those of the madman's pillion.  If it was, he must have hit a car and catapulted his pillion onto the roof of the other car.

It was an unnerving tail to a week-long moto adventure. A good ten minutes later a police cruiser wailed past on the east-bound side of the autoroute.  I knew where it was headed.  I never saw an ambulance.  Clearly one was desperately needed.

About forty-five minutes still to go before crossing onto the island of Montreal and clearly I needed fuel.  I should have just pulled onto the shoulder and filled up from my jerry can but I was still a little shaken by the accident aftermath I had witnessed.  I hit the call button on the Sena and asked Siri to take me to a gas station.  She cheerfully replied that the closest station was four kilometers away and suggested I take the next exit.

I did something I hadn't done the whole trip.  I tossed the right side ROK strap to the right side of the bike.  Somehow, that strap had always ended on the left side during my refueling stops and I would have to pull it through to re-secure it.  I remember thinking 'I'm getting the hang of this in time to end the trip'.  I took my time refueling.  The driver at the adjacent pump came over to chat and enquire about how one takes a Vespa moto camping.  He was amazed when he found out where I was coming from.

When I reloaded my gear, I realized that my right-hand ROK strap that I had tossed over to the right side, had had a nasty encounter with the red-hot exhaust.
It held, just barely.  All I needed it to do was hold enough not to come off and trail in the wind.  Fortunately it made it home, still in one piece.   I made a note never to do that again, and to buy a new set of ROK straps.

At 8:45 p.m., I rounded the corner of my street, hit the garage door remote and rolled into the garage.  There was a finality when I hit the kill switch.

The last thing I did was to check the odometer against my departure reading: 2,862 kilometers over nine days, or 1,778 miles.  Quite a trip for a first-timer.

I was glad to be home, safe and sound.

I gave Susan a long, long hug.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour - The last day for me

I woke up as usual before every one else.

I crept to the powder room and did my best to be as quiet as a mouse in the house.

A little later on, Bob crawled out of his sleeping bag and began his day too.

We had camped on Mike and Rebecca's living room and dining room floors respectively.  I can't speak for Bob but I had a nice restful night's sleep.  There were two cats in the house, but for whatever reason my allergies never really kicked in.

I packed up my gear, and loaded up the Vespa.  Karen and Bob were staying on for another day before heading up the coast towards the maritime provinces, but I needed to be home, hopefully before nightfall.  The last couple of hours of my day's ride would be in farmland and urban areas, but before that there would be very long stretches of woodland.  Dusk in the woodlands brought with it the risk of deer and moose on the road.  I wanted to get out of the woodland stretches well before dusk.

The plan for today in Portland was for Tina, Kevin and Tom to drop by for breakfast, and then for Mike and Tom to lead us all on an abbreviated tour of local sights.  My hope was that we could be rolling by 9:00 a.m.

Karen had set out bright and early and had picked us up a huge batch of bagels to share. Needless to say, breakfast was great, but we got a late start.

Tom took the lead as we headed out.  We got separated by the world's longest traffic signal.  No worries though because Mike was sweeping with Rebecca as a pillion, so we were in expert hands.

As will see, we eventually caught up at the Portland Head Lighthouse.
We soaked up the views at this stunning park.
Mike pointed out landmarks for me on the horizon and explained the military defenses that protected what was once a strategic 18th and 19th century port.
Bob obliged us with one of his famous group pictures.
We saddled up and followed Tom southward.  The destination was Old Orchard Beach.  The only time I had gone there was when I was four or five years old with my parents.  My Dad had a 1950 Ford Prefect.  That's all I remember.

Susan and I have a love affair going with Ogunquit, Maine.  We just keep going back every few years.  We may wander as far north as Kennebunkport, but we never make it to Old Orchard Beach.

We may have to change that though, because what I saw, I liked.
More crowded than Ogunquit to be sure, and there's a hustle and bustle to Old Orchard Beach that sets it apart.  But I can see us having a nice time with a day trip here, the next time we're in Maine.
I glanced at my watch, and even though it was only a little past 1:00 p.m., I had that Cinderella feeling.  My time was running out.  If I was going to avoid dusk in the forest on the way home, I had to giddy-up and ride off on my own.

I bid farewell to all my new friends, and my old ones.  I knew that they had more fun in store.  I'd have to follow on their blogs.

The ride home will require yet another post.

I'll also add an epilogue to the 2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour posts with lessons learned from my first major long distance moto camping experience.  Other aspiring Vespa tourers may be able to learn a thing or two, and be in a position to leap at a touring opportunity if and when one presents itself.

Stay tuned folks.

Rider profile: Ed Kilner

Name: Ed Kilner
Find me on Earth:  Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Interview Date: Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Interview Location:  the Kilner residence
Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Ed: 1971, took the first rider safety course offered in Canada.  An Ottawa club & Honda went coast to coast giving the course. I took the one in Toronto. I was 26.

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Ed: Three: a 1970 Honda CL350, a 2000 Triumph Legend, and a 2011 BMW R1200RT.

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

Ed: My current bike, the BMW R1200RT is by far my favorite. It’s the Cadillac of sport touring bikes.

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

Ed: Avoiding tensing up – that kills control. I still do it sometimes when I have to make U-turns. The bike is big and heavy and I am still working on this skill.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

Ed:  I'm a tourer and otherwise a fair weather rider.

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

Ed:  Mostly solitary, or with one other rider. I have gone in larger groups, but it is not what I like. I generally follow the rules, but a large group loses cohesion sometimes and I don’t like passing the others – they give dirty looks. On the other hand, I like to keep the group leader in view. This is a conflict. Best to avoid large groups.

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarrassing riding moment.

Ed:  Just east of Pemberton BC last year, I dropped the bike on a hard left turn into a hairpin starting a mountain ascent.

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

Ed:  Vancouver Island. See the blog.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

Ed:  I just like it. Give me a performance machine, twisty roads, fresh air, outdoor smells, temperature variations, even rain can be ok.

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

Ed:  I'd love to ride from Bavaria south through Switzerland into Italy and down the coast; or, an injection of great skill; or, a larger inseam (already have peg lowering for knee pain reduction and bar backs for more upright position).

_____________________________

Monday, July 22, 2013

2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour - Coasting

On Saturday the traveling trio finally hit the Atlantic coast. It's in that sense that we 'coasted'.

We hit a traffic jam near the junction of I-295 and I-95 in New Hampshire but there was an exit right where the traffic had ground to a halt. We hopped off the Interstate, took some secondary roads and got directly onto I-95.

Karen opted to trade the Interstate for US Route 1 about 10 miles south of Portsmouth N.H. The slower pace was welcome, and it allowed our left coaster the opportunity to slowly immerse in the sights, sounds and smells of New England.

When we got to the other side of Portsmouth we took the section of I-95 that goes over the bridge into Maine. The state line cuts the massive bridge in two. Bob fantasized over the Sena intercom, suggesting that we should stop in the middle of the bridge to snap a 'welcome to Maine' shot. Needless to say, it was only a fantasy.

We did enter at the first rest stop just on the far side of the bridge. That rest stop is fairly unique because it serves both the Interstate and US 1 and both are accessible on opposite sides of the rest area.
Karen suggested that we stay on I-95 for one more exit just to skip the section of US 1 in Kittery that goes through outlet mall heaven (or hell, depending on how you feel about shopping for discount fashion items and housewares).

Once back on US 1, I was on very familiar ground.  I acted as Bob's in-helmet travel agent, pointing out the sights and icons of Ogunquit, Wells, and Kennebunkport along the way, including Wild Willy's burger shack, the shops and restaurants of Ogunquit, and the trolleys (Dolly, Wally, Polly, Holly and their other siblings).  Although we were on a time budget and had Mike, Tom and the crew waiting to welcome us in Portland, I led Bob and Karen down to the Ogunquit beach, over the little bridge over the river and to the beach parking lot.  The beach was thronged with holiday folk, and the river had its usual flotilla of bobbing tubers and floaters aiming to float around the bend and out to sea.  It's kind of a ritual experience for me.  It sounds more daring than it is.  One's bum drags on the bottom as the river meets the sea, so it's more of a natural water park grade adventure than anything else.

Bob snapped some pictures.

We shoved off and headed up US 1.

Along the way Bob and I indulged in a game that I dubbed 'will it wave?'.  We imagined it as a new segment on Letterman, along the lines of the infamous 'will it float?' genre.   I was about eight to ten car lengths ahead of our merry band.  There were many motorcycles and scooters headed south on the highway.  As soon as I spotted one, I'd give Bob a heads' up, and then I'd deliver a wave to the oncoming biker.  The Goldwing guys were the most stand-off-ish.  Or maybe they were doing 'the wave' but couldn't get their hands out beyond the enormous fairings where we could see them.  They might wave at me and not Bob and Karen, more often vice-versa.  I imagine some of our victims were mortified when they found that they were tricked into waving at a Vespa.  Maybe some later gnawed their hands off in remorse.  We had enormous fun with this for a good many miles.

As we got closer to Portland, the intersections got weird.  Bob was leading, I was second, and Karen was sweeping.

Now Karen is a very safe rider and I have a great deal of admiration for her conservative riding style.  Karen rarely speeds, and she likes to own her lane.  She was therefore very insulted (and rightly so) when an over-zealous officer in Bellefonte chided her for lane splitting.  I can tell you, as an expert witness, that she was doing nothing of the kind. Seriously, she wasn't.

Bob was having trouble figuring out the best lane positioning for these crazy Portland five-corner intersections with dog-leg and kangaroo-leg, and Dr. Seuss configurations.  I did my best to help him out with helpful intercom tips and hints.  "No Bob, not there!", "Oh Dear, now Karen's going to give you hell for that!!", "Bob just ask the chick in the car to let you cut in!", "Oh crap! Karen's not going to like that one!".

And so it went.  At one point I got Bob laughing so hard, I was worried he was going to drop his Beemer.

We eventually got to Mike's house in Portland, our destination for this leg of the tour.  Feathers may have been ruffled along the way, but at least there were no casualties of any kind.

Mike was very pleased to see his guests arrive.
Mike and Rebecca were perfect hosts, feeding us with homemade lobster rolls and delicious chicken, with all the right trimmings.

Tom was the executive chef.
Mike, Rebecca and Tina were the sous-chefs.

Unfortunately Tom had to cook and leave, celebrity chef style.  He had a party to attend that was far more important than our evening's goings-on.  He promised to return in the morning to assist Mike in giving us the grand scooter tour of Portland.

Tom has excellent taste in PTW's.
No that's not my bike, it's Tom's.

The meal was delicious, the company was first class, and the banter carried on until late in the evening.  Mike and Rebecca, Tina and Kevin, and Karen, Bob and I, were, it seemed, perfectly happy.  What more can one ask of life?

Bob and I found outlets to recharge our electronic toys (GoPros, iPhones, computers, iPads, Senas, etc., etc.).

Kevin  came up with a brainstorm brilliant idea.  He casually mentioned as we fished for chargers and USB cables, and searched for electrical outlets, that he planned to see if a single iPhone charger-thingy could recharge multiple devices if it were first connected to a USB hub.  Man-oh-man!  Brilliant, could that work?  Imagine the space saving, imagine the efficiency!  To Kevin's surprise, no sooner did he mention the idea than I fished out a tiny four-port USB hub.  It was a conference booth give-away a few years back, and I always keep it handy.  If that el-cheapo hub would work, any hub would work.  Kevin lost no time hooking it up to a single iPhone charger and then plugged my GoPro, GoPro wifi backpack, Sena, and GoPro remote into the hub.  We were like a couple of kids at a science fair.  And what do you know? IT WORKED!  Thank you, thank you, thank you Kevin!

Once the party broke up, the other guests said their good nights and left, and Karen, Bob and I blogged as much as possible, trying to cope with the inevitable backlog.  You see, it takes longer to blog about your life's experiences than it takes to live them.  Karen has a recipe that makes it a little easier.  She does the picture / prose currency exchange math: one picture being worth a thousand words.  As you can see, I am more of a word fan.  I spend a fortune in words and struggle getting the thousand-word photos in.  Oh well.  As my dear brother-in-law often says "A chacun son meshugaas!".

I fell asleep to the clickety-click of Bob's postings.  'Damn!' I thought as I drifted off to sleep, Bob's gonna out-blog me...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour - Gettin' outta Dodge

Come Friday morning, we had places to go, and bloggers to see.

We broke camp, loaded up the bikes, and hit the road. The ride objective was Hartford Connecticut, merely a waypoint on the road to Portland, Maine. Five hundred and twenty-eight kilometers of mainly Interstate travel ahead.

We stopped at the local McDonalds for coffee and a bite to eat before setting out in earnest.
The day started cool enough, but the heat wave blanketing the Northeast continued unabated and had us in its fiery grip all too soon. Temperatures by mid-afternoon soared into the high thirties. The thermometer on Bob's BMW R1200R reported 39C. The humidex-adjusted Fahrenheit temp reported in the newspaper in Hartford was 101F.  The day crushed all historical records by an uncomfortable margin.

My all-black, non-mesh Tourmaster Caliber armored pants, and Icon Patrol boots that serve well in October and November, were nowhere near as uncomfortable as you might imagine. In fact, believe it or not, they did not cause any huge discomfort. To some degree the heavy gear insulates you from the heat. Up top I was wearing my BMW Airflow 2 jacket, and the Tucano Urbano mesh summer riding gloves I picked up in May in Rome.

Stopping for fuel at about one hundred and twenty mile intervals to feed the Vespa's nine liter tank was not the hardship you might think. We all needed to take a leg stretching and water guzzling break. Unloading and re-loading the Vespa (two dry bags, and the emergency five liter fuel container), was a pain, but is necessary to get at the gas cap under the seat.  There's no point in moaning about it. It's part of the adventure. Just embrace it, refuel, drink water, and like Bedouins trecking across the Sahara, move on.

This was my first experience touring all day with other riders. I had zero experience with what it meant to keep pace with much bigger machines. At first I felt I would eventually slow my friends down so I used the long, long downhill run from State College on I-80 to ride with the throttle locked wide-open. It turned out not to be an appropriate strategy. I was just way too fast, and Karen preferred to keep a steady (more mature) pace at 65 mph.
It took me a while but I realized that I could easily keep that pace whether on the flats, or in the rolling hills.  I eventually settled in behind Karen, with Bob as sweep for the remainder of the trip.

Bob had never paired his Sena with another rider. After a little help from the manual, courtesy of Google, we set them up. What a pleasure. I was cruising along accompanied by Colin James and Rod Stewart, and my 'new swing' playlist rocking out of my iPhone, trading text messages with my friend Marc back home, fielding a call with Melanie at the office, and more importantly, able to communicate with Bob whenever the need arose. At first it was serious manly sharing of ride information. Eventually it became casual banter. Pretty much what we might have discussed in a car.

The only painful experience on this leg of the tour was an interminable bumper-to-bumper traffic jam just outside Hartford. I felt that the heat was beginning to make me feel sick. We finally made it to our Motel 6. Modest accommodations, but clean, comfortable, and AIR CONDITIONED!!!

We had dinner at the adjacent Denny's, then repaired to our rooms for the night.

It was a very satisfactory day.

Friday, July 19, 2013

2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour - R&R

Yesterday was day two for me in State College, and day one for Bob.

Bob needed some downtime following his trans-continental sprint.

Having enjoyed a restful night's sleep, Karen, Bob and I fired up our bikes and headed out for the 20 minute ride to meet Steve Williams and Paul Ruby for breakfast at The Corner Room in State College.

With Bob along this time, the blah-blah fest quickly went from moto to photo. Karen and I sometimes felt like poetry majors at an engineering conference. At one point Karen leaned in and said, sotto voce "Are they still speaking English?".

Just like a bunch of cowboys shooting up a saloon, all of a sudden there were cameras popping shots all over the place. No one was safe, nothing was sacred! I fear a picture of me in an extremely unflattering pose is bound to surface in the bloggosphere at any moment. My heavens I think I saw actual visual puns at work, and what certainly looked to me like photographic multi-cross, double-reflection work that may have come close to straining the fabric of space and time. If they hadn't eventually holstered their weapons, I might be writing this from a whole other dimension.

When the festivities were over we all went our separate ways.

With a good night's sleep and a full belly, Bob seemed fully recovered from his run across the continent because he took upon himself impromptu traffic duties.
Karen headed to Bellefonte to pay a parking ticket she got the previous day. A whopping $5.00. Makes one wonder if the city is losing money on the whole deal, what with salaries, servicing the meters, printing tickets, chasing scofflaws, and collecting the fines.

Bob and I headed to Kissell Motorsports for Bob's oil change.

The good folks at Kissell had their hands full and couldn't promise they would be able to squeeze the oil change in. I gave them my number to call if it turned out they could do it. That meant we got to spend quality time in the KOA pool, behaving like kids.

It happened that later in the afternoon and early evening it was time for Pistons and Pints, the eclectic moto gathering that Steve has been known to frequent. At breakfast we made semi-serious plans to attend.

Unfortunately it wasn't to be. Kissell's called late in the afternoon. They could squeeze Bob in after all. He and I hightailed it down to the shop. With the oil change done, we had to get back to the KOA to rejoin Karen who had no clue where we disappeared to. On the ride back, the skies turned ominously black all around us. I was convinced we were in for a downpour.

It was all enough to put the kabosh on Pistons and Pints for us. It was a real shame because Paul and Steve were there and I'm fairly certain the crazy Canucks would have been feted, had we shown up.

Steve and Paul called and we said our farewells, thanking them for their incredibly warm hospitality. Steve then said he was riding up to the Bellefonte KOA for one last visit. Many more photos were taken, and photography tips and tricks were exchanged between Bob and Steve. It was a really nice way to cap the evening, and the State College leg of our 2013 Blogger-to-Blogger Tour.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour - Fun and Games in State College


My day was off to an early start, as usual. There are peacocks, of all things, in proximity to our campsite. If you listen to the sound track of that video carefully you'll hear them. They lent an exotic air to our stay that complimented the large number of fireflies that were everywhere we looked. It reminded my of those forest scenes in Avatar. Very peaceful, very nice.

But there was no time for lollygagging. We had a breakfast date with Steve Williams in Bellefonte (pronounced "belfont" by the locals). When we got to the restaurant it was a pleasant surprise to find Paul Ruby waiting for us as well. It was a blogger-to-blogger tour double header.

We regaled each other with tall tales of moto daring-do, and explored our various areas of shared special interests. Steve and Paul were absolutely charming and managed to keep the Canadian jokes, jabs and jibber-jabber down to a tasteful few morsels.

Steve had to shove off for duties elsewhere, but left us in Paul's most capable hands. Paul enquired about our needs. Karen needed to get to a Wal-Mart, we both wanted to see the infamous Saints' Cafe (made famous by Scooter in the Sticks) and other landmarks of downtown State College, we needed to get to equally famous Kissell Motorsports (made famous for the same reason), and then we needed to make it back to our campsite to greet Bob on his imminent arrival (we were tracking his Spot Messenger relentlessly).

Paul fired up his red Ducati and led us on some beautiful back roads to downtown State College. Along the way at the crest of a hill in the midst of cornfields rose the very imposing Beaver Stadium. Wow, what a sight. I found out later that the stadium is the third football largest in the US. State College is a football shrine.

Paul abruptly stopped at a non-descript house (not his home), stashed his Ducati, and emerged on a blue painstakingly restored vintage Vespa to continue our tour.

He granted all our wishes, including introducing us to the owner of Saints' Cafe.

The last institutions on our tour were the Penn State campus (appropriately on College Street), and the oldest hotel in town, home to the landmark restaurant The Corner Room, which turned out to be the breakfast venue for day two.

After pointing out the Wal-Mart for Karen, Paul dropped us off at Kissell Motorsports so that we could confirm Bob's oil change for his Beemer.

As we ascended a long hill, my GTS started to misfire, and misfire worse than ever. All to say that now I not only needed to visit the legendary Kissel Motorsports, I really needed their assistance. You may recall that I opted not to address my fuel injection issue in Toronto because I needed to move up my departure for State College. I knew from a conversation with Craig Kissell last week, that he did not have my fuel injector in stock.

It didn't take much cajoling, name dropping and appealing to US - Canada brotherhood, to prevail upon them to swap out an injector from a showroom GTS for me. I decided to catch up on my blog while I waited for the repair to be done. Wow! I barely had time to figure out a suitable title for my post, and I was told the bike was good to go!!! Talk about stellar service by a Vespa dealer above and beyond the call of duty. Craig insisted that I take a run up the hill next to the dealership to see if the graft had taken and cured the GTS hiccups. Yessiree! No more hiccups! Smooth sailing ahead. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you Kissell Motorsports. You saved the 2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour from one major and potentially serious trip interruption, big time.

By the time I got back to camp, I needed the pool badly. That's where I headed without any hesitation or encouragement.

The capper for this wonderful day was Bobskoot motoring up the gravel entrance to our KOA. A sight for sore eyes. We were concerned because Bob had pushed his endurance to the limit. The big Beemer really came through for him.

Once his gear was off and stowed, and his tent pitched, Bob poured himself into the pool with us. He didn't emerge until his fingers were wrinkled like a kid in a bathtub with his favorite toys. He told us of his adventures at the Buffalo Bill Museum, and the Devil's Tower, and Mount Rushmore, and so many other places I would love to see. I was like a wide-eyed Venetian listening to the tales of a returning Marco Polo. How in the world did Bob manage to squeeze all of those wonders out of his itinerary and still make our rendez-vous on time?

I have said this before, but believe me now when I say, that Bob is a wizard.

Exhausted but happy, Karen, Bob and I repaired to our tents, bid each other good night, and fell asleep to the calls of the peacocks.

Believe it or not, there is more to come.

Editorial note: My iPad has decided that it doesn't like moto-touring, and has gone off to sulk. As a result I'm content to let it have it's time out. I am now trying to catch up on the blog posts before my memory of these momentous events dims, or worse yet, I begin to improve the history of this tour with stretchers and fantasy bits that embellish the truth beyond recognition. I have paired my Apple keyboard to my iPhone, and pulled some IT tricks out of my sleeves to keep this blog afloat. I may or may not ever make it back to pretty it up. Bear with me, this is the unvarnished, and likely typo-laden truth, untouched by the ministrations of a diligent editor.

2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour - Toronto to State College PA

I was still cooling my heels in Toronto, patiently waiting for Bob to get within a day's ride from State College, Pennsylvania.

Dawn had barely passed as I gazed out the open bedroom window at what promised to be another steamy day. I fumbled for my iPhone to take a peak at my e-mail. One of the messages that streamed in was from Steve Williams.

Family matters as early as Thursday threatened to complicate our planned get together.

I mulled that news. It didn't take me long to move my plans up. My original plan was to go to Vespa Toronto West to get a new fuel injector installed. There was risk that the intermittent fault would blossom into a total failure and strand me. Then again, the 400 mile ride on day one of the tour was uneventful. I weighed the risk of mechanical issues against missing a chance to meet with Steve. I had to get going.

I showered, dressed, and gathered my things as quietly as possible so as not to wake my sister and her family.

I went out and loaded all my gear on the bike, then went back in to make a light breakfast. I had planned to meet up with Ed Kilner after going to the Vespa dealer. I e-mailed to say I wanted to move our meeting to 9:00 or 9:30 and that I would call to confirm at a more civilized time like 8:45.

At 8:40 I said my goodbyes to my sister and brother-in-law and hit the road. I called Ed from the saddle to make sure moving up our meeting wasn't a problem: it wasn't.

Ed offered me a much-needed second cup of coffee. We chatted about touring and riding. Ed, like Bob, rides a BMW R1200R. He was impressed that I was touring on a Vespa. Bob had discussed meeting with Ed in Kingston, Ontario or alternatively, if Ed had the time, for Ed to ride with me to State College. Ed preferred to stick with the first option and meet with Bob in Kingston.

Ed has ridden in the direction of State College and was very familiar with the quirks of the route that the GPS prefers. He suggested that I ignore the GPS when it suggests crossing the border in Niagara, and opt instead for the Fort Erie Crossing.

Ed wished me safe travels and I set out.

How do I ride past Niagara Falls without stopping for a selfie of The Falls.

I hopped back on the Vespa and set my Garmin's sights on Fort Erie.

On the ramp to the QEW I was travelling at a good clip and there was a sweeping left-hand curve to the ramp. I dialed in the amount of counter-steering required to get the right trajectory and... wait for it... I felt more than heard (highway noise, full face helmet, earplugs, Colin James rocking Satellite Baby on my Sena) the scrape of the side stand. Brrrrrrrrrrecccccccchhhhhh!!!!

No big deal, but I got Siri to make a note of it to post here in case David Bogner (Treppenwitz on ModernVespa) stops by to read this post. You see I never scraped the stand until I read a post from him saying that he hated the side stand and ultimately removed it because it freaked him out each time it scraped. I might well get to that point too. Time will tell.

The border crossing and trip to State College was uneventful. The US Homeland Security Agent was full of questions about the Vespa with Quebec plates. I guess it was a first for him. He wished me safe travels.

I exchanged waves with every rider I met, and chatted with a Harley guy about midway to my destination who was really impressed with my beast of burden.

The one constant was perspiration. I went to great lengths to stay hydrated. At refueling stops (there were four), I would be drenched with perspiration by the time I had taken all the gear off, gassed up and gotten all the gear strapped back on. That's the Vespa greatest touring weakness: the location of the gas tank under the saddle, and it's meagre nine liter capacity. A soon as I get underway, the airflow makes quick work of the sweat and for 10 minutes I get the most wonderfull chilling from it. Once I dry off, I don't feel the heat as much. But I know that's because I'm still perspiring but it's evaporating at that same time. If I don't force myself to drink constantly, dehydration will be the inevitable result.

All I wanted to do once I got to the KOA in Bellefonte was to get into the pool. Karen greeted me as I rolled in. I parked the bike, made camp, and headed straight to the pool. Wonderful. A wonderful treat after a very full day's ride in sweltering heat.

When I dragged myself out of the pool, I called Steve Williams.

Amazingly, Steve rode to the KOA from his home in State College. I now know that it's a 20-30 minute ride.

Steve eventually rode off into the night after we made plans to meet in Bellefonte the next morning for breakfast.

A great end to a great day's ride.

Stay tuned, there's more in store.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rider profile: Dave Blackburn

Name: David Blackburn
Find me on Earth: White Lake, Ontario
Find me Online: ontwowheels-eh.blogspot.com
Interview Date: Saturday, July 13, 2013
Interview Location: Kettleman's Bagels, Bank street, Ottawa, Ontario

Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Dave: 1966. I was 17 and my best friend had a Honda Dream, I think it was, that he would let me ride on occasion. I didn't get my own bike until 1971 (I think).

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Dave: I can remember 16 but I think I'm missing some.

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

Dave: 2007 H-D Dyna Low-Rider. Yes. But then that's usually the case.

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

Dave: Not so much learned as developed - that sixth sense that's saved my skin more than once. Comes from a combination of training and experience - both good and bad experience.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

Dave: Mostly fair weather rider but not averse to getting caught in the rain on occasion. Hate riding in the cold though.

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

Dave: Prefer solitary or with one or two riders I know well. Exception is when I'm part of a very large group (100 or more) - that's pretty cool.

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarassing riding moment.

Dave: Perhaps I've blocked them all out as a defense mechanism, but aside from a couple of low-speed drops on sandy parking lots I really can't think of any.

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

Dave: There have been a few. The most awe-inspiring was approaching the Rockies north of Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway for the first time. The most interesting was riding in the badlands in South Dakota around Sturgis.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

Dave: The most basic of reasons - I like it. I like the smells of riding, the idea of being out there immersed in the elements (good and bad), the 360-degree panorama. The sense one sometimes gets of flying at ground level. The feeling of getting off and stretching after a long time in the saddle - and then getting back on again. It's all part of the package.

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

Dave: I'd love to ride New Zealand, tip to tip.

_____________________________

Dawn in State College, Pennsylvania

Monday, July 15, 2013

Rider profile: Peter Sanderson

Name: Peter Sanderson
Find me on Earth: Cornwall, Ontario, Canada
Find me Online: www.Vespaadventures.ca
Interview Date: Saturday, July 13, 2013
Interview Location: the Sanderson residence, Cornwall, Ontario

Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Peter: I was seventeen when I got my first motorcycle, a Yamaha 125 street bike in 1975.

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Peter: Yamaha 125, Honda CB 350, Kawasaki 400 and then I took a thirty year break from riding until now. I now own a Vespa 300 GTV.

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

Peter: Vespa GTV 300, yes it's a pretty cool bike and I would say it is my favorite to date.

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

Peter: I think I had a lot of problems with the theoretical portion of push steering.

It seems like the more I tried to push, the less my body lined up properly, and the more difficult it was. After a winter of not riding, I got on my bike in the spring and didn't even think about push steering. After that steering was never a problem.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

Peter: Today I am tourer and generally in fair weather. However, I just purchased a complete rain suit and I will never shy away from the rain in the future.

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

Peter: To date I'm a solitary rider but now my wife also has a 300 Vespa and I look forward to touring with her when my wrist heals. I also ride with another friend once in a while. I have never ridden in a large group of bikers.

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarassing riding moment.

Peter: When I first got my Vespa GTV, I was at a shopping center and it would not start. It was less than two days old. I had accidentally clicked the engine stop button and left it in the off position without noticing. A guy on a Harley came over and looked at the Vespa, turned the engine stop button to on position, held the brake and started the engine.

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

Peter: I think I enjoyed an early morning ride to Lake George the most. I had left early in the morning and rode by many lakes with a mist and fog on top of them. I think I took the most wonderful pictures along the way and when I arrived in Lake George the weather was beautiful.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

Peter: There is a feeling of freedom, the feeling of becoming one with my environment, a feeling of joy and a feeling of total satisfaction with life when I am riding. Because of my wrist surgery, I cannot ride this year and it is very depressing.

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

Peter: I would love to ride across Alaska.

_____________________________

Sunday, July 14, 2013

2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour - Kickoff and day one

I got off to a late start yesterday.

My initial thought was to meet Peter Sanderson at his home in Cornwall at around 9:00 a.m. and then continue on to Ottawa.

I also really wanted to install a fused lead directly from the battery terminating in an SAE two prong plug.  My portable compressor has an SAE plug so using it requires that kind of connection.  I also have a long 12V extension I could use for charging stuff at night.  I also needed to make a SAE to 12V cigarette lighter type female outlet.

My electrical skills are not first class, so it took longer than I planned.  I didn't get underway until closer to lunch time.

I did a little kickoff video once I got the bike loaded up.
I really enjoyed my visit with Peter.  I'll be posting his rider profile based on ten questions I'm asking all the riders I'm meeting.  I haven't decided exactly how I'll do that.  I think that the rider profiles deserve a separate post.
Even though Peter is convalescing from some very nasty surgery on his hand, he was the perfect host.  He was generous to a fault as well, giving me some Vespa swag, a Vespa cover that he no longer needed, and a chrome luggage rack for my topcase that he purchased, and decided not to use.

I said farewell to Peter and set out for my second destination: Ottawa, our nation's capital.

On the way I was trading text messages and eventually a phone call with Dave Blackburn (you may know him better as Canajun when he comments here from time to time).  The combination of my iPhone and Sena SMH10 bluetooth helmet headset makes staying in touch very easy.  The iPhone lets me know when a text message comes in, Siri reads text messages to me, and sends my reply flawlessly.

Dave happened to be in Ottawa proper (he lives about an hour west of the city).  It turns out his daughter lives just down the street from where my Dad lives and he suggested we meet at a bagel bakery and restaurant (Kettleman's) literally across the street from my Dad's apartment.

I got to my meeting with Dave at about three-thirty.  We spent a very agreeable hour or so chatting.  He offered a demonstration of the ingenious remote controlled GoPro panning mount he invented and built.

I shot a brief video with my iPhone.

Dave shoved off for home, and I rode across the street and parked in front of my Dad's place.

At 5:30 it was high time to hit the road for Toronto.  It was blistering hot.  I needed the quickest route from A to B.  I keyed my sister's address into my Garmin and was  happy to take its cues.  Once I made it through a massive lump of bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 417, it was clear sailing south to the 401 and then west towards Toronto.

I had hoped to be in Toronto before sundown.  That wasn't happening.  To be honest, I had never done the trip from Ottawa to Toronto.  Naively, I figured that if Ottawa was an hour and a half from Montreal, that would at least shorten the Ottawa to Toronto leg.  Apparently a navigator I'm not.  It turns out that Ottawa to Toronto is basically the same as Montreal to Toronto.  Who knew?

So it turned out to be like snakes and ladders.  It was 5:30 and I had a trip in front of me that would take a good five hours in an air conditioned car with cruise control and a 600 km range.  I now know what it's like to stop at very single service centre on the 401 (well maybe not all, I may have gone out on a limb and skipped the odd one).  It didn't matter because my butt and legs needed the pit stop as badly as the Vespa did.

All told, I basically traveled for twelve hours and covered 679 kms, or 422 miles if you prefer.

Today I ran errands with my brother-in-law and basically took it easy. I washed the Vespa, its first ever wash by my hand. The driveway was in the shade by late afternoon and the cool water splashing my bare feet was a welcome respite from the sweltering heat.

Before supper I pitched my tent in the back yard. My niece and nephew tumbled around in the tent, emerging drenched with perspiration.
Their earlier plans to sleep in the tent faded with the setting sun.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Coming down to the wire

Bobskoot has left Vancouver and is on his way to our agreed meeting place.
I still have preparation to do, including a little electrical work on the GTS to add an SAE power lead direct to the battery, I need a memory card for my GoPro, and a few other odds and sods.

Yesterday my Vespa went into the shop and got its oil change, a new rear tire and CVT belt, and a full tune up.
 Everything was looking peachy, and I expected the intermittent hiccups the engine was having to be a thing of the past.

I was hoping that my second-hand bike would be as fresh and functional as a brand new Vespa straight from the factory.  Like this one for instance.
Not so fast optimistic one!

The hiccups are still there. So the bike is back in the shop. The culprit has been found. An intermittent fault in the fuel injection. Oh dear.

I don't think it's going to be a problem. The only issue is getting it fixed. The dealer doesn't have the injector in stock. That's the bad news. The good news is that it doesn't need to come from the plant in Pontedera in Tuscany. Also the offending part is very small and should travel quickly (photo is from the ScooterWest site - if you need this part too, click the photo).
Still, my departure planned for Saturday may get postponed, which will delay my return. Not the end of the world because it is unlikely to put the trip in jeopardy or the rendez-vous with my fellow travelers.  I just want my GTS back in tip-top shape.

So cross your fingers for me and pray to the Piaggio injector gods.

  ___________________________________________________

PRECIOUS TIME PASSED
___________________________________________________

I checked back with my dealer.  They don't have the injector and can't get it for seven to ten days.

That news set me on a search farther afield.  

ScooterWest has the part, but getting it here in time is beyond the realm of possibility.  I then called Vespa Toronto West and was waiting for their service department to call me back.  

My next step was to call Kissell Motorsports in State College Pennsylvania.  Talk about service.  Of course I did drop Steve Williams' name.  But still.  They confirmed that they could get the part by Monday or Tuesday and slot me in to have it installed.  Craig Kissell mentioned that they gets lots of Canadian riders coming through and they reserve shop time for travelers' needs.  How cool is that?

Then Vespa Toronto West called me back.  They have the part, and they can install it on Tuesday when I'll be in Toronto.

Colour me very relieved.  Very relieved.

So the Great 2013 Coast to Coast Moto Blogger Get-together Extravaganza (Eastern Edition) is set to launch on schedule on Saturday, July 13, 2013 at 8:30 a.m. (all other things being equal).

The Great 2013 Coast to Coast Moto Blogger Get-together Extravaganza (Western Edition) launched on schedule yesterday.

Bobskoot is now here, well into Montana:

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Guilty, or not guilty

You be the judge.

It's finally freaking hot. I roll out of the underground garage at the office and onto Mountain street planning to head south.

I am greeted by hordes of teenage girls converging on the Bell Centre across the street from the office. Apparently all the commotion is caused by something called "One Direction".

Unfazed because I ride a Vespa, I filter through to the traffic light at the intersection right next to the Bell Centre. It's bedlam, and a police cruiser is sitting with its lights flashing blocking the northbound lane.

A police officer is doing traffic duty. She has all the traffic stopped, while vehicles are slowly backing out of the street that runs in front of the Bell Centre which is thronged with people.

Traffic is backing up in both directions as far as the eye can see.

I sit one pick up truck back from the intersection as the light cycles green, yellow, red, over, and over.

There is no reason for the southbound lane to be stopped and backing up, other than the police officer who is not allowing that lane, my lane, to proceed down Mountain street.

After 10 minutes of this, I've had it. The police officer is oblivious to the unnecessary mess she's making.

My latin blood gets the better of me, and I honk my Stebel horn. When she looks my way, I give the police officer the universal gesture for "come on, already, give us a break, let us go". You know that gesture, both arms rising like a conductor about to strike up the band. The universal gesture for expressing frustration for incompetence.

This elicits a fierce look from my adversary, and she interrupts the festivities to yell gruffly at me "I decide when you get to go, not you!"

She goes back to her duties messing up my commute and those of the hundreds of motorists victimized by her stunning inefficient performance.

What seems like another ten minutes passes. The pickup truck is lurching periodically in protest. My blood is beyond simmering.

I then do what any imbecile in similar circumstances would do, I deliver two more Stebel blasts. Once I have her attention I give her the universal symbol for "come on, please give us a break". In case you're wondering, that's arms oustretched, palms out, arms held downwards, pleading.

Officer plod is certainly paying attention now because she is coming for me with a vengeance.

"Driver's license!" she commands, her hand outstretched, a scowl on her face.

I ask her what law I've broken. "Driver's license!" she repeats ignoring my question. It isn't going well.

She grabs my license, and tells me to pull over and wait for her.

She ignores me for a while, but finally lets the traffic proceed. When she eventually marches over, she demands my registration. I tell her that I did nothing wrong. She says that I was showing disrespect for her authority. This I deny, suggesting to her that I was encouraging her to open the lane because she had a serious traffic snarl to uncork.

She storms off to her cruiser. I call Susan to explain my predicament. She's not surprised. She knows she married a shit disturbing lawyer.

When my friendly neighbourhood cop returns she has her partner in tow. I'm guessing as backup because of the surly dude on the menacing black Vespa. She has a gift for me. A $161 ticket as a reward for my public service. She snarls "You have thirty days to pay or contest". I tell her the traffic ticket is unnecessary. We aren't seeing eye to eye.

When I get home, I check out the offence I've been charged with committing: "Using the horn of a road vehicle, unnecessarily" it says.

Did I? I don't think so. I think that it was obviously necessary, since she was clearly abusing her authority, behaving incompetently with utter disregard for the public she was sworn to serve, and failing to do the very thing she was ostensibly there to do, direct traffic. She wasn't directing as much as obstructing.

In addition, I think that my use of the Stebel was protected by my right of freedom of speech under the constitution.

After all I'm on a bike in full armor and a full face helmet, all of which is black, in the sweltering 30C+ heat, and I have a Stebel air horn. What other choice did I have, honestly?

Your honor I rest my case, and place my fate in the hands of the court of public opinion.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Play Misty for me

This morning was a follow-up appointment with my GP to review blood tests results following my annual check up.

Turns out I've been a fairly good boy.

I rewarded myself by taking the slow route to work while listening to Jazz FM. The music playing softly in my helmet matched my mood, and the lake's mood, to a 'T'.
These photos, taken kilometers apart, one in Pointe Claire, one in Lachine show a common theme: it's high season for sailing school.
The sailboats that the yacht clubs use to train fledgling sailors remind me of ducklings. A flotilla all askew, and not going anywhere in an orderly way. Except the drink that is, when the skipper muffs a turn, or tack, or whatever the correct nautical term is for low-siding or high-siding a sailboat.

It's a shame I have to work.

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