Friday, January 31, 2014

Crazy plans

At the end of May I will find myself in the Tuscan hills, just a tad to the south of the midieval walled city of Lucca.  Forty kilometers due south is Pontedera.  It's an industrial manufacturing centre dominated by a massive factory complex.  No tourist in her right mind would go there.

But... there are three considerations at play that tip the balance in Pontedera's favour, if only for a tourist with a peculiar bent.  Like me.

The sprawling plant sits on Viale Rinaldo Piaggio, so-named for the founder of Piaggio & Co. SpA, an aircraft manufacturer that re-invented itself in post-war Italy by giving the world the iconic Vespa.  My Vespa came from that plant.

That's consideration number one.

Consideration number two, is that Piaggio offers a museum largely, though not entirely, devoted to Vespas.  That museum is a major draw for Vespa owners all over the world.

The third consideration is that there is at least one outfit in Pontedera where you can rent a Vespa for the day.

Picture exploring the museum, maybe picking up some Vespa swag in the museum shop, then setting off on a modern Vespa to explore the environs, going roughly north and west, following the banks of the river Arno, to Pisa and its eponymous tower.

Mark Twain did a grand tour of Europe, the Middle East and Egypt in the late nineteenth century that he documented in Innocents Abroad, which incidentally is free and can be downloaded to an e-reader.  If you haven't read it, I encourage you to.  You won't regret it for a moment.  It's delightful fun from cover to cover.  In a long rant complaining about the never-ending attribution of all Italian art forms to Michelangelo, he took a pot shot at the tower.
"In Pisa he designed every thing but the old shot-tower, and they would have attributed that to him if it had not been so awfully out of the perpendicular".
From Pisa, you can continue northwest for another 30-40 kms until you hit the Italian riviera.  One could toodle along there, heading up the coast, grab some lunch at an outdoor venue with a view of the Mediterranean, and then loop back to the east and towards the south, through the olive groves and hills of Tuscany, before dropping off the bike in Pontedera.

There is much to ponder, plot and plan before this little escapade transits from fantasy to reality.  But... it could happen.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Lid!!

It's official!

I ordered a new Nolan N-104 helmet and a Sena SMH10 headset to go with it.

When I tried it on I fell instantly in love with it.  It's the latest iteration of Nolan's modular helmet and will replace my Nolan N-102 in daily use.

I don't want to say too much about it.  I won't get my hands on it for another three weeks or so, and I plan to do a much more detailed blog post then, including how well I do installing the Sena headset on it.  Richard has the same helmet and headset combination and has a very helpful post that will guide me in the installation.  Click here to get there.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hear, hear!

To ride is a blessing, but it can be a surprisingly loud one.

I can hear the incredulous voices rising from many quarters "Dude, you ride a friggin' Vespa! What noise?"

Well... to you I say, get on my Vespa, get out on the highway, wind it up to 120 km/h, and then we'll talk about noise.  Motorcycle helmets get noisy, very noisy.  I love my Nolan, but it's not by any means near the top of the list of quietest helmets.

I discovered the solution when I cut the windscreen on my LX150 to mid height and was shocked at the turbulent buffetting I had.  You get an idea of what that is when someone opens one of the back windows of the car at highway speeds.

I already knew that many riders advocated ear plugs, but I didn't really get it until that moment.

For the last couple of years I've been wearing orange silicone ear plugs I picked up in the tool department at the local Sears store.  They've done the trick.  I never ride without ear plugs anymore. If you can believe it, my Sena headset sounds better with the earplugs.  And yes, I can still hear the traffic around me, and emergency vehicle sirens, almost as well as when I am driving Susan's BMW X3 with the windows up, the air on, and the radio belting tunes.

The orange ear plugs could stand to be replaced.  They certainly don't owe me anything.

A couple of weeks ago I downloaded the most recent Aerostitch catalogue <drools>.  That's when I saw that they offer an assortment of 10 different permanent ear plugs for US$28.  This morning I put in an order.  US$38 with delivery.  Not necessarily cheap, but certainly a cheap thrill (I ordered something from the Aerostitch catalogue... pinch me!)
Now I have a little something to look forward to.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Transitions, without a net

With a brutal winter having its way with us, there's not even the glimmer of a chance of riding.  The time I might have spent riding, I spend thinking.  That's a mixed blessing at best.

When you're a kid, important transitions happen in pretty quick succession.  I don't remember planning for them in any real way.  They just happened to me, and I moved on.

I guess it's in part my nature, in part because few kids plan much beyond a few days.  Maybe when Christmas looms kids can spend months planning for the gifts they want.  But that seems, at least for me when I was a kid, to be about it.

Things sure do change.

Retirement is the transition that looms large.  It has been that way for the past 26 years.  I began to save as soon as I realized the enormity of the challenge.  Lone provider, three kids, a job with no pension... it all adds up to a daunting biological clock ticking away mercilessly.   It seemed hopeless in the beginning.  I joked about retiring to a trailer park.

Now that retirement is single digits away, my boyish brown hair has shifted to gray, and the kids are on their own, retirement is really looming quite large.  It's been like rowing a boat on a dead calm sea towards an island that's a spot in the distance.  The island is now dominating the view.  I take stock often, and am more concerned with the vagaries of the markets than ever before.

I now think that we'll be OK.  There won't be a trailer park, unless it's by choice and it's my RV in a campground on the Florida coast. My financial planner said she's proud of me, that I've done better than some, and that's a comforting thought.  But I'm a worrier.  I wasn't an easy-going smiler in my youth, and there's less of that in me now.  Husband, father, breadwinner.  Done well, these things take a toll.  I am the polar opposite of Owen Wilson and Woody Allen would be best cast to play me in a movie.  OK, now I'm being too hard on myself.  I admire Woody.  He has the guts to say things out loud that most of us wouldn't dare utter.

I'm looking forward to having fewer cares, less stress.  I have to learn to smile, relax.  I've never been a dancer.  Dances make me shrink like a violet.  Maybe we'll take dancing lessons.  I'd like to be more like Paul Ruby.  I like Paul.

Hey Paul! Please leave Italy as you found it!  I'll be there in May and I'm looking forward to finding it as I last left it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

First step in a long project

It doesn't look like much, but that knob sitting between my two 12 volt outlets is the control for the Warm & Safe Heat-Troller® solid state control that will eventually control the Oxford Heaterz heated grips that will be installed in the coming weeks on my Vespa GTS.

As in the past, I will eventually post a detailed project report so that anyone with cold hands and an inclination to fiddle with their bike can have heated grips.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Earned my wings

Thanks to Peter's generosity, I have a really nice Vespa patch. I posted about this last September.

Thanks to time off during the holiday season, my wings are now permanently and prominently displayed on my summer riding jacket.  All it took was a little hot glue to hold the patch in place temporarily, and then a few tedious hours of sewing to make sure that the patch looks its best.
This emblem really strikes a chord. Many riders on Modern Vespa and on their blogs have said that their Vespas give them wings. My Vespa really did let me earn my wings, both figuratively and literally.

Thanks again Peter, my wings patch is very much appreciated.

Unfortunately, for the time being, my jacket and helmet spend the short days of winter languishing in my closet.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Pairings for wishes, not fishes

I confess that I altered the supermarket's display to take this picture. But it's their fault for offering cutesy-pie bottles of wine.

Some of my wishes for 2014 are modest. Others are extravagant. The extravagant wishes are a precious few. The remaining wishes are modest, and the modest ones are mine to realize. By this I mean that I can make them come true with some effort and a little commitment.

For instance, I began the year at a hefty 209 pounds. My wish is to whittle myself down to 185 pounds. It's doable, but requires both a short term change in lifestyle, and a long term change in lifestyle. Now that I've gone public with this wish, we'll see how I do with it.

Another modest wish is to live simply, and happily. I think that happiness is 80% state of mind, and 20% circumstance, with state of mind having pride of place. Time passes so swiftly, it's easy to let routine blend the days into a stream of trivial, if painless, sameness. My life would be better if I made the time really count.

I guess the big challenge is taking off the excess weight and keeping it off.  There is no doubt that the biggest contribution to my well-being begins and ends there.

So here we go, another year begins.  My very best wishes to all of you for a healthy, happy and fulfilling year.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.