Monday, November 17, 2014

Tales of the end, and Vespanomics

First, let's shed some light.

I managed to squeeze close to the last drop of fun out of the 2014 riding season.

On Thursday I set out for work at zero Celsius.  Not too bad, really.  I chose the middle route.  East on 20, northeast on 520 (AKA Cote de Liesse).  East on the service road to Lucerne, then south to Cote des Neiges, over the mountain to Sherbrooke, then east once more to Mountain and south to the office.

It was a great ride.  I noodled my way through traffic chaos where the 15, 40 and 520 converge at what Montrealers know as the 'Decarie traffic circle'.  No one observing that huge sprawling concluence of highways and service roads would ever in a lifetime think of it as a 'traffic circle'.  When I was four or five years old there was a roundabout there, but that time passed.

Here's what it looked like in 1957.
Vanier College historical archive image
An enlightened gent in a Ford F150 honked at me as I wove past his spot in what, for the time being, was a parking lot.  Go figure!?  By the time his wheels had rotated much past 360 degrees, I was long gone.  In what universe did I contribute to his hellish commute?  He should have been honking at all the cars and trucks that had him temporarily trapped, no?

I chose that route because the morning paper spread the news that the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts had acquired 'the Sun'.

That means that the magical Dale Chihuly glass sculpture has found a permanent home in front of the museum on Sherbrooke street.  I wanted to ride past before it gets stored for the winter... like my Vespa.
At lunch time I hopped on the bike and set out to strike another of the top five coffee shops off my list.  Le Couteau (The Knife) is on St-Denis at the corner of rue de Bienville.
As you can see, more than one Vespa owner was attracted here.
I grabbed a scone and a medium cappucino.  The scone was allright, a little dry if truth be told, but the coffee was truly excellent.  On a par with the other top-rated spots.
I doubt I'll be back though.  Myriade has coffee that is in every way as good and it's a hop-skip-and-a-jump from my office.  Le Couteau is just too far off my beaten track.

That leaves just two more of the top-five to check off.  One in Little Italy all the way north up St-Laurent, and the other to the south in Verdun on the newly gentrified stretch of Wellington street.  These little exploratory jaunts are largely made possible by Vespanomics (fast, fashionable, convenient, cheap transportation, with free parking exactly where you need it, 24-7).  It's possible that the end of the coffee shop expeditions will have to wait for the 2015 riding season.

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Friday brought colder weather still.  Negative territory in the morning at minus three Celsius, with a forecast of minus four for the evening commute.  Still no precipitation in the forecast though, so off I went, riding to work.

Ironically, riding the expressway to work in cold weather is more comfortable than riding the surface streets.  It's a little counter-intuitive because wind is a huge factor in the cold.  The fact is though that at higher speeds the engine puts out plenty of heat and the increased airflow forces that hot air into the Termoscud enclosure.  The other sensitive aspect of cold weather riding is the hands.  The tall windscreen deflects the airflow, and the heated grips do the rest to keep my hands warm.

On surface streets, there isn't quite as much hot air trapped in the enclosure, and the stop-and-go riding pattern due to stop signs and traffic lights and such, means hands more often on the brake levers and they are c-c-c-c-old, the reverse effect of heated grips.

At noon-ish, I heard a little hubbub in the office.  When I looked up, my colleagues were lined up at our 19th floor window wall watching a substantial snow squall make its way southeast along the side of the mountain towards downtown.  What the heck happened to the weatherman's prediction of 10% probability of precipitation??  Oh well... I wasn't overly concerned.  The streets remained dry and the snow squall went on its merry frigid way.

Now I have to say that even my Vespa's counter-intuitive cold-weather riding advantages have their limits.

Friday evening I met Susan, our son Jonathan and his girlfriend Vicky for dinner on Park Avenue on the Plateau.  Once again the Vespa shone, this time in the parking department.  Free parking steps from the restaurant is a big plus.

By the time we headed home after what was an excellent meal at Damas, it was pitch black and somewhat colder.

I made a beeline for home in a stiff headwind. The Termoscud did its job, but the long stretch of surface streets on the way to the expressway took its toll leaving my fingers well and truly chilled. With the heated grips burning hot, the result was a stinging sensation in my fingers as I flew home at 110 km/h on the 20.  Even my helmet, usually an impregnable zone of comfort, was getting chilled.

This ride was not a lot of fun. To venture further into winter temps, I'd have to add Tucano Urbano or Bagster handgrip muffs to combat the cold.

Living in Montreal makes that investment kind of fruitless because the snow will soon be the death knell for scooter commuting.

And that happened on Sunday morning.  And this morning too.

18 comments:

  1. That coffee place looks like a great place to sit and relax. Though having to drive there would eliminate any relaxing you may have done. I rarely have to deal with much traffic around here. Pretty nice...

    Thanks for the link on the glass sculpture!

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    1. The key for me is just getting out. The destination is just a little plus.

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  2. Ah, the last ride....such a long time until spring! :=(

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    1. Shhhhh... I'm trying not to think about it ;)

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  3. Hmmm, posted a comment earlier but seems to be gone...

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    1. Maybe it was your comment on the previous post? I checked the moderation page: nada.

      Otherwise it was gobbled by Google. I hate when that happens.

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  4. David - didn't start snowing here until Sunday and now it doesn't seem to want to stop though I hear it may be upward to +10 by the weekend (you might want to reconsider!) Oh well, time to enjoy the winter - bring it on, eh!

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    1. I heard the snowploughs rumble past in the night. Winter's here to stay.

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  5. David - I feel your pain in lost of riding days. Now I just look for excuses to go out and ride - do you need more milk dear? The weather here and the Vespa go together like the snow shovel and weather I left back in the Adirondacks. Come on down!

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    1. With a little luck, I may make it to Florida in February. I'd love to be able to rent a bike in Lauderdale or Miami and do an overnight to Key West.

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  6. Brrrr. Your morning temps are sounding like ours the last few days. -5C this morning.

    Glad you managed a few more rides. My question is why some bakers feel that scones need to be dry. Our Saturday coffee shop sells a lot of scones, but they are always really dry. Homemade is best.

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    1. You are so right! The best scones I have had came with a firm shell with crispy little edges with a light warm and fluffy-ish interior. With some jam and maybe English clotted cream, or Greek style yogourt, simply scrumptious.

      Dry and heavy, not so much.

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  7. Overnight to Cudjoe if you're smart.

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    1. Hmmm... That could happen in February-ish ;)

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  8. Replies
    1. When (not if) I ride down to Key West there will be no apron. I'll brave the chilly key air like a rider should.

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  9. hi David ,
    always dropping by for a quick read mate but been very busy of late ...how are you doing mate hope all is well!
    snow is a bugger for you & the Vespa , i know what you mean about heated grips they are ok with your hands wrapped around them but when you keep grabbing the leavers gosh its cold then!
    love the termoscud does it get cozy in there?
    have a lovely Christmas , i wish you and your family all the best.
    kindest regards
    len

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  10. Len I always enjoy reading your comments.

    Wishing you and yours a happy Christmas too.

    The space inside the Termoscud gets really nice and cosy thanks to the air flowing through the radiator. It almost makes me want to install a switch to run the radiator fan continuously for that stop-and-go traffic.

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