Monday, December 22, 2014

My very best wishes for the holidays!

And so another season of the ScootCommute draws to a close.

I cannot let the last few moments drift away without wishing each and every one of you my very, very best wishes for the new year.

If I have a wish for the new year, it is to meet, perchance to ride, with more of you.

Until then, to those of you enduring hibernation, stay snug, and to those of you in the southern hemisphere, soak up that wonderful summer weather and enjoy a bit of it for those of us knee-deep in snow.

Happy Holidays!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Taking a break; making some plans

When the posts dry up at the ScootCommute, you know I'm busy, busy, busy, looking after business.

It's not that there's any shortage of things to share with you. Quite the opposite.

Sunday, I got to take a break.

First I'll fill you in on how we chose to spend a restful Sunday. Then I'll share the blog posts that will be coming just as soon as I can free up some time to think, write, and shoot some pictures.

With nothing on the agenda, Susan and I lingered in our nice warm bed (we have a heated mattress pad. Don't have one? You have my sympathies). Once we got up and got going, we headed out for a nice tête-à-tête breakfast at Quartier du déjeuner on St-John's boulevard in Pointe Claire.  

Over our last round of bottomless coffee, I asked Susan whether she was up for a stroll through the art galleries on St-Paul street in the old city.

This Sunday was by no means a bitterly cold day, but it was certainly damp, and solidly overcast. Susan considered my suggestion carefully, clearly not relishing tramping along cold slushy streets. The saving grace was that the snow still draped on the trees turned the landscape into a never-ending series of postcards wherever you cared to look.
Fletcher's field, seen from Mount Royal avenue, looking west towards the mountain.
We parked on St-Nicholas street and made our way east on St-Paul's narrow 19th century sidewalks, dodging ice patches and puddles.

The galleries were invariably warm and inviting, and we had them mostly to ourselves.

We share a love of art, even if we are rarely on a wavelength where a painting, the price, our shrinking wallspace, and our budget align. Our taste over the years has evolved to the point where we tend to agree on more modern abstract art, or cityscapes.

Now good modern art is pricey. Today there were only one or two works in the two-to-three range that appealed. And a good handful in the eight-to-thirteen range that were all but tugging at our heart strings. Since we're talking not ones, tens, or even hundreds, but thousands, we came away wistful and empty-handed. That's our usual situation when we do the gallery stroll. It's good therapy though. The art gives our spirit wings, and the abstinence builds character.
What if art did rule the world?
Not quite ready to head for home, I set a course northward to the Plateau. If I couldn't buy a painting, I could certainly afford a couple of great cappuccinos.

The answer to our craving was as simple as 1-2-3. 123 Mount Royal West, that is. Café Plume.  If you're keeping track, Café Plume is number 4 on the top 5 list of cafés in the city compiled by Ms. Tastet. She bears her name well and does her father proud.
Unfortunately, Susan doesn't share my taste (or Élise Tastet's taste for that matter) in high-end micro-roastery espresso treats. She enjoyed the chocolate chunk and peanut cookie, but left me to savour the other half of her coffee. I couldn't let that heavenly coffee go to waste, now could I? Can you spell b-u-z-z-z-z-z-z-z?
So there you have it.  

Oh, right, I mentioned that there were blog topics begging to get out of my brain and into the virtual ink.

Busy time has coincided this year with an avalanche of stuff that screams for thoughtful and comprehensive reviews.

I have not one, but two very different riding jackets from Motorcycle House that I will review shortly.

The reviews will be two-parters. The first instalments will be technical reviews focusing on purpose, fit, and finish. Since riding is out of the question, the follow-up pieces will be ride reviews in the spring focused on how each of the jackets performs on the road. Well not on the road exactly. Crash tests are out-of-scope. At least that's the plan.

I think you'll enjoy the reviews. The jackets are very different, yet, as you might expect, share some things in common.

I've also been approached by another outfit interested in some product reviews. That one is still in the works.

And then there is a tale of Peter Sanderson's continuing generosity to share with you. Suffice to say that when Peter and Chantal left Vespa-land for Beemer territory,  Peter parted with a bunch of basically pristine OEM Vespa parts for a song.  Those precious parts are screaming for a post of their own.

Finally, Jim Mandle is working on a crazy scheme that three or four of us intrepid bloggers wouldn't rate as more than a snowball's chance in hell of working out. And now the odds-makers have upgraded his hare-brained scheme to 50-50 proposition. Let me put it this way: whether Jim's plans pan out or not, there will be grist for really interesting posts to come on that score. I don't dare say anything more on that topic for now, since it's better left hush-hush until it's a go, or a story.

In the meantime, if you crave moto-stories that are more than well-worth reading, check out the side bar.

In particular, if you need inspiration to undertake a life-altering adventure, be sure to follow the following incredible moto-madness journeys:
  • Michael Strauss' multi-continent ride from Johannesburg to Italy and the French Riviera;
  • Stephanie Yue's grand counter-clockwise USA tour that has her currently in southern Calfornia;
  • Ken Wilson's reprise of the Cross Egypt Challenge (got to find a link); and
  • Mike Saunder's epic ride from his home in the D.C. area south to Key West, then north to the Arctic Circle, and down to California.
Michael and Stephanie tour on Vespa GTSs, and believe it or not, Mike accomplished his amazing feat on a 50cc Honda Ruckus. Ken has more mileage on his Vespas than any other human ever, or so it seems to me, though his Egyptian tour was done on shifty Vespa-style scooters that look like they might be Stellas. Ken and Michael met up in Italy just a few weeks ago, after Ken wrapped up his second trek through the Sahara.

You come to expect that serious adventure-riders will be on BMWs or KTMs.

And that's part of the magic in these amazing road trips.  All on scooters, most on Vespas.  Totally counter-intuitive, totally true.

Take care my friends, and watch this space, there will be lots of interesting posts to come.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Among the joys of ModernVespa

Those of you who are familiar with my favorite haunts know that one of my regular hangouts is the ModernVespa forum.

The forum demands less of me than this blog.

ModernVespa always offers a smorgasboard of Vespa and non-Vespa topics to browse through, and when I find one that strikes my fancy, or one where someone needs advice that I am able to offer, I can dive in and join the fray.  It's not too much in terms of a commitment.  If I get busy, I can pull back, and the forum bus rolls along on its merry way, none the worse for my absence. 

Here, on the other hand, I'm the chief cook, bottle-washer and main entertainer, for better or for worse.  When I get busy, as I do at this time of year, the blog coasts to a stop.  The only sign of life lately is Conchscooter contributing an odd challenging comment that makes me chuckle.   Then I spend my few free moments in the morning pondering how best to reply.

Each medium has really nice features that I have come to appreciate more than I ever expected when my riding and social media adventures began.  If the blog demands a lot, it also returns much more than it takes.  This is where friendships are born, where the seeds of real adventures are sown, and bear fruit.

ModernVespa also has its charms.

One of the amazing things about ModernVespa, quite aside from virtually instantaneous top-notch technical advice, is the camaraderie of the forum.

The annual holiday gift exchange is a standout.

Each year for the past four years, A volunteer has offered to organize a holiday season gift exchange.  Once the gift exchange thread appears, forum members sign up, and the organizer pairs each giver, with a getter.  It sounds trivially simple, but there's much more to it than meets the eye.  This year Matthew offered a hilarious glimpse of the mayhem behind the scenes.  As one forum member pointed out 'no good deed goes unpunished', a famous quip variously attributed to Clare Booth Luce, Oscar Wilde, Billy Wilder, and Andrew W. Mellon.

And that's how a mystery box showed up on our doorstep on Friday. 
When I opened the box I found out that my benefactor was DaveLX, a forum member from London England.  Digging a little further into the box revealed a very generous gift. 
It's a cordless electric screwdriver from Black & Decker.  
The really cool thing about it, is that the screwdriver senses your hand motion and adjusts the direction, speed and torque based on whether you twist your wrist left, or right, and how much you turn the driver.

What a great holiday gift!

Amazingly, one of the few tools I didn't own, and never owned, was a cordless screwdriver.  It's odd that recently I found myself thinking I might buy one.  Funny how things like this happen serendipitously, isn't it?  It's as if the universe reads our thoughts.

Along those lines, there have been an unusually large number of articles in the press, online, on TV, and radio lately about physics, deep space exploration, and cosmology.  For instance, the calcium in our teeth didn't exist at the beginning of time.  It was born much,  much later in a supernova event.  Now that makes you think.

In one of the articles I stumbled on, among the theories about our universe, was one hypothesis that there is a chance, a tiny yet not-quite-possible-to-ignore chance, that our universe doesn't in fact exist.  Think along the lines of the movie The Matrix.

But then you stub your toe, or something equally dumb and painful, and the universe seems all too real.

Getting back on track for a moment, the gift exchange has a flipside.  The gift you give.

Knowing that things would quickly get too damn busy for me, I lost no time.

I got really lucky this year and drew the name of one of the most prominent members of the forum.  I was initially worried about what I could possibly get her.  I have had exchanges with Judy in the last couple of years.  I sent her a gremlin bell when I read that she didn't have one but that it was best if it came unsolicited.  Judy sent me a saddle heat shield. I can't remember which came first.

Fortunately, as I was strolling through a local department store, Judy's gift almost spoke to me.

An elf.

This one was not your run-of-the-mill Christmas elf.  He had a wry yet friendly expression that seemed worldy-wise and just a tiny bit ironic.  His clothes were appropriately elvish, yet clearly high-end and, yes, fashionable.  Wispy grey fur trimmed his elvish hat and collar framing his face and lending him an air of impish mystery.  He appeared to be of a certain age, not some adolescent elf, wise rather than child-like and prankish.

What a perfect gift for Judy Rossman of Waialua Hawaii.  Judy is one of the kindest, nicest, most giving individuals on the forum.  She is like a kind-hearted ModernVespa elf herself, quietly looking after people who may need looking-after.  Hopefully the elf will strike a chord for Judy as it did for me.

The US Postal Service says it was delivered, but so far Judy hasn't acknowledged it.  I hope the package wasn't pilfered before she could get to it.  One never knows.  That would be seriously bad karma, now wouldn't it?

Assuming it get into her hands safe and sound and Judy posts a photo, I'll post it here.  In my rush to get it off to Hawaii, I didn't take its picture.  Just as well, don't you think?

PS: The elf was delivered safe and sound, allbeit by a quite circuitous route.  Judy posted a photo.  Doesn't it look like the elf is earnestly explaining why it took him so long to get to Waialua?
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.