Wednesday, July 25, 2012

More piece of mind

My friend Andrew got me a Griplock for my birthday.

My wife Susan bought me a helicopter tour of the city for my birthday.
So how are these gifts related?

This past Sunday we took the helicopter tour.  What a great experience that was, worth every penny.  The Raven 1 helicopter was a four-person chopper about the size of a 1964 Volkswagen beetle.  We got a tour of the Helicraft hangar, a briefing on the helicopter business (their bread-and-butter these days is the natural resources sector, flying personnel and doing airborne high-tech prospecting, not city tours).

The company also runs a flight school, and I noticed that they had a showcase with heli-swag, including a $5 keychain with a embroidered fabric tag with the Helicraft name and web address on one side, and an official looking "Remove before flight" warning on the other.  I had to have it.

Riding a scooter gives me a feeling of flight, and it's essential to remove the Griplock before taking off on the Vespa... so now you see how my mind quickly knitted these things together, I hope.

With a little trip to the hardware store, a little drilling and Dremelling and fiddling, and ta-dah!

I have a cool Griplock with a remove-before-flight aircraft-like warning permanently attached.  Here's a tour of the cockpit.

Right up my alley.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A glimpse of heaven


How do you pass up an opportunity to take a picture?

I pulled into a lakeshore park to snap this picture from the saddle with my iPhone using the Camera+ app.

I took a bunch of shots, varying the exposure because I couldn't tell if I managed to capture what my eyes were seeing so plainly.

I don't know about you, but sunbeams evoke heaven.  I'm not religious at all, so I think it's just a clichĂ© that's been reinforced over time by countless cheesy images.

I don't think there are any serious artists living who waste time on sunbeams, are there?

Or photographers for that matter?  Well, maybe photographers.

And yet they are definitely worth stopping for.  A gift from nature, really.

So there you are, a glimpse of heaven.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Darlene's Foot Gear Challenge

Darlene, bless her heart, is encouraging bloggers to post pictures of their riding footwear, and favourite street shoes (on the assumption that for most folks that will be more than one pair of flip flops, and less than 75 pairs of pumps).

I'm not really that into shoes, but I like what I like, and then I tend to wear those until the miles poke holes in the soles.
When I'm riding (actually when I'm commuting), I opt for protection first and foremost.  I add "when I'm commuting" because that's what racks up all the miles (13K so far), so that's where the risk is most acute.

My current choice for riding foot gear is a pair of Icon Patrol boots.  They cover the ankle, they have really nice sturdy ankle support from a pair of ski-boot-like buckles, I rapid-lacing system, and good thick stiff protection all around.

A well-known, and well-loved Modern Vespa member came off his MP3 not long ago and posted a picture of the damage, including a pair of very similar, actually almost identical boots.  His were Joe Rockets, I think.

Anyway, when I saw that the twin buckles took the bulk of the pavement's abuse, and kept his ankle far from the punishment the buckles took, I was instantly sold on that design.

They are made in, where else, China.  They have a serious-ish design flaw in that the laces are threaded through fabric loops instead of eyelets or D-rings, with the result that the shoelace sawed through a few of those fabric loops in short order.

I solved the problem with some tiny McGizmo double carabiner clips that I installed on the fabric loops (if you look carefully, you'll see one in the photo.  Now the biners take all the abuse from the shoelace instead of the loops.  I had to do a little sewing for the couple of loops that were goners.  With that fix done, I love these boots. (Try to ignore all the papers on the office floor, my life is currently out of control nuts).

My current favourite pair of weekend street shoes are pale blue, washed-out looking, Timberland deck shoes.

I used to wear traditional Timberland deck shoes back in the 80's and loved the casual looks and the fact that they were indestructible.

They fell out of fashion favour (not that I'm a slave to fashion by any means).  Now they seem to making a comeback, allbeit in colours other than brown.

Hey, like or hate'em, as you please.  At least they're not pink Krocs!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One more reason to visit Montreal this summer

Canada isn't Italy, France, Japan or England, that much is plain. So if you're looking for something spectacular and so old that no one is quite sure what it is, by all means go to Stonehenge. If what you're missing is a city that is one large orchestrated canvas of 19th century charm, then head to Paris. In search of the epitome of landscape architecture? Off to Kyoto you go.

But if you're curious, and you're in the neighborhood of North America, and you want to know what Canada has to offer, I'd say go to Vancouver; you won't be disappointed, I promise.  If you're even remotely a foodie, you'll have found Nirvana.

If you find that's too much of a stretch to the west, then definitely come to Montreal.

No, I'm not going to wax on forever about the usual quasi-world-famous stuff that Montreal has to offer. I'm not even going to mention that stuff, not even going to mention one word bullet points.

I'm going to give you a great reason to come for a visit that you may never have heard of.

The Tom Wesselman exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

One word... stunning. Two words, hedonist's delight. Three words, quintessential pop art.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Here at last :)

 After keeping a close eye on the availability of the new WiFi remote for the GoPro camera, and hunting for it at local stores that carry GoPro cameras and accessories, I decided to order the remote from GoPro directly.
On Monday morning I dropped by Fedex on the way to work and I finally have this great device in my hands.

I plugged everything into USB power supplies (the WiFi backpack, the remote, and the Hero HD camera), and on Monday night I updated all three to the latest firmware revisions, which is a required step.

Once I am satisfied that everything is in order and I can operate the remote easily while riding, I will begin planning this summer's project to document Montreal bridges as a service to motorcycle and scooter riders planning rides to this fair city.

I plan to show key information about the bridge, type and condition of the roadbed, helmet cam video of the approach, the bridge and the return to surface streets, speed limit, actual vehicle speeds, hazards, and anything else I can think of to help PTW visitors.

My first tests were during Tuesday's commute.  I hung the remote from the Vespa lanyard  that Bob gave me when I was in Vancouver and that seems to be to be best way to use the remote.  It's easy to find the remote, press the buttons and see the current operating mode of the camera in real time.  I had mounted the camera on a RAM mount on the right passenger grab rail.  I thought I had angled the camera sufficiently off to the right, but on examining the results, I need to swing it out further still.  It's really not intuitive at all.  The extreme wide-angle lens makes it really difficult to position the camera efficiently using guesswork.

On the home leg of my commute I had the camera angled out at about 45 degrees that looks a little goofy on the bike, but the results are much better. Thanks Bob. You were right. I really should never question your advice.

Here's what that test video looks like.

So far the remote is everything I was hoping for, and then some.  I highly recommend it to all you GoPro users out there.  Worth every cent.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Scooters at the Petersen

Serendipity is a wonderful thing.

Sometimes you plan a trip down to the smallest detail. It seems that nothing is left to chance. Then you get to your destination and a museum is closed for renovations, or a planned exhibit was cancelled, or the restaurant you were dying to try has closed.

Other times, wonderful opportunities open that are completely unexpected.

 It's amazing how these things happen.

Early on during our not so recent trip to Los Angeles, we were on one of those hop-on, hop-off open-top sightseeing bus tours. We like those tours because they are not very expensive, they typically give you a lot of flexibility, and if you're in an unfamiliar city, they are a great way to get your bearings and figure out which sights and attractions you want to visit during your stay.

There we were, cruising through L.A. in the farmer's market district. We passed the Petersen automotive museum and the museum's electronic marquee flashed the word "scooter".

That was the only clue I needed.

A little Googling and I learned enough about the exhibit that I knew I had to see it. It turned out that there was indeed a scooter extravaganza that just might be the most definitive curated museum installation on that subject in the history of the world.

At first I thought that I might have missed it.  Luck was with me because it turned out that the exhibit was only wrapping up at the end of the month.

"... in the history of the world", really?

Well, I know it sounds like extravagant hyperbole, but in this case, I honestly think that the claim may be close to true.  There's the Dezer museum in Miami that has a large permanent collection of scooters, so technically that may be in some measure the world's most definitive permanent collection.  I've never been there, so I can't really say.  There's also the Piaggio museum in Pontadera Italy, but that exhibit is, as far as I know, entirely devoted to Piaggio products.

Putting aside the hyperbole for a moment, and without much further digression, you'll find some pictures I took below.

In many ways the most remarkable scooters in the exhibit were the Salsbury scooters.
Aside from having a certain Jetsons' kitschy appeal, it was quite a topical scooter to see. Only a few months ago, a 1947 Salsbury scooter handily won the 2012 Scooter Cannonball race rally traveling from Savannah Georgia to San Diego in just eight short days. It's true that the winning Salsbury was doctored with a state of the art 250cc Ninja motorcycle engine tucked under the bodywork. But when you see a Salsbury, riding one coast-to-coast seems like the most remote possibility.
Truth is often stranger than fiction.

As you might expect, Piaggio's Vespas were heavily represented, though for some strange reason I don't recall seeing any LX models.  As you will see, there was a Piaggio MP3, and a Vespa GT, and those bikes are in contention as my next commuting machines.  Decisions, decisions.
 When you compare the attention to style and detail of the Piaggio products to other scooters of similar vintage, you immediately see why Vespas became so iconic.
Among the surprises were the golf scooter above, and the Piaggio car in the exhibit.
Not bad for a little serendipity.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

This is how it all begins...

These are the early days of my nephew Gabriel's life on two wheels. His sister Hannah is still busy exploring life on two feet. Good times!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Improvements on all fronts

I finally bit the bullet and got the RAM mount I needed for the Garmin Nuvi GPS unit I have.  Like my other RAM mounts this one came from the Canadian branch of GPS City.  The power for the unit, like the power for the iPhone charger (the iPhone sits in a RAM mount on the right mirror stalk), comes from the 12 volt outlet I installed in the Vespa's glovebox.  The wires route out the bottom lip of the glovebox door and don't prevent the door from closing.

Two years ago I was using a Garmin Pilot i5 unit that was old and so finnicky that I just stopped using it.  Last night that unit hit the dustbin.

I now have all the instrumentation I need and there are no more mysteries about how long my commute really takes, or what the top speed was that I hit when the Vespa's speedometer, with typical Italian brio, tells me I'm sailing along at 72 mph.

In scientific terms it's really 105 km/h or 65.2439752 miles per hour.  Or so it was on this morning's commute.  Not too shabby for an LX150.  Piaggio should be proud to show the real speed, no?  Why opt for puffery when the truth is shockingly impressive?  Ahhhh... BRIO!

Speaking of Italian brio, isn't this a nice cozy picture?
Today I'm sharing my privileged parking spot with this gorgeous 50cc two-tone Vespa S.  Things are looking really spiffy in the garage now.  Won't be long now before the Ferraris show up, that's what I'm thinking.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Sometimes a little distance is needed to put things in perspective. When you face a challenge and you're not sure that you've got what it takes to make it through.

I remember when I was a kid. My friends and I would dream up challenges. It usually involved feats of daring-do. Jumping across ditches or streams that we would encounter in the summer when we were marauding on our bikes, for instance.

On those occasions, if you weren't sure that you could go the distance, you took a good few paces back and took a running leap instead of the usual lunge and jump. Sometime you cleared. Sometimes you ended up sopping wet and muddy.

A leap of faith often requires a mental step back before you run up to the challenge and launch yourself into space.

Scooters are good for that. They let you get your body into a different space quickly and efficiently. The physical view from the new space sometimes offers the inner distance you need to make the jump.

Lafontaine Park is where I found yesterday's inspiration. Fifteen minutes on a Vespa.

Happy Independence Day to friends and family in the US!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Views from the saddle

The morning and evening commutes are as different as different can be.

This morning's commute was cool, serene.  I took the slow lakeshore route and savored the ride.

The view of the lake shimmering in the early morning sun demanded that I pull into the parking lot just east of the Pointe Claire marina, sneak onto the gravel pedestrian path that leads to the pier and snap a picture to capture the mood.
The evening commute was one of those "shortest A to B affairs".  The headwind was stiff, with lots of buffeting from passing 18 wheelers, everyone hell-bent-for-leather to the burbs for the Canada Day long weekend.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The evolution of Muvbox

"What is a Muvbox?", you ask, and "how does a Muvbox evolve?"

A Muvbox is a restaurant concept that was born in Quebec. Think a combination of a Transformer and a shipping container, with retail ambitions.

The first Muvbox I came across was in the Old Port of Montreal, down in the southernmost part of the city locals know as "Old Montreal".

I posted on this a while back.

Last week at lunchtime I thought "lobster shack". The only real-ish lobster shack in Montreal is the Muvbox in the old port.

When I got there the evolution was evident.
First off, there was a longer line waiting for lobster treats than I was prepared to queue for.

The second thing I noticed was the second Muvbox.

Porchetta serves delicious roast pork sandwiches with some interesting sides like rapini.

A much shorter line made the Porchetta Muvbox an obviously wise choice.

One word: delicious.

Now there are two Muvbox choices in the Old Port.

When I rolled back in to my spot in the underground garage at work, there was more evolution waiting for me.

Yes that's right, there's now a second scooter commuter working in my building.

It only makes sense, because in the past two years there has been a scooter explosion in Montreal. It was only a question of time before another scooter showed up in the garage.

Two's company. I definitely don't want a crowd.

PS: in response to Conchscooter's comment, here is a shot taken from our 6th floor window.

Eight PTWs on a day when I opted for the cage due to my daughter's vehement objection because of rain in the forecast.  Three years ago, there might have been one, on average, on a nice day.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Your ride challenge

Martha (Living among Tourists) proposed a blog challenge earlier this month.  It's an interesting challenge: post images of your commute.

I wanted to use my GoPro to record and upload a timelapse sequence of my commute.  Since timelapse can show things at a frenzied pace, it seemed to me that the best route to show in that way would be the bee-line route I take at the end of the day when I've had enough and I just want to get home.

On those days, I take the expressway.  Even with heavy-ish traffic, it's usually the shortest distance and fastest way home from the office.

It took a while to get this done.  The actual shooting was easy enough.  Getting the timelapse sequence from my GoPro to YouTube via my Mac took far longer than I would have liked.  But as with most tricky things, the good news is now I know how to do rudimentary timelapse video.

How cool is that?  Knowing how to do timelapse is important, because, while it's not appropriate for many things, it's often the only practical way of showing things that normally take too much time to  see in a short period of time.  Like my commute.

So here it is.  My timelapse directorial debut.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Return to normal

This morning's commute was interrupted for café au lait and a croissant at Croissanterie Figaro, a favorite of mine on the Plateau.

After all the excitement that May and early June brought, it feels good to be returning to "normal".

I use the quotation marks, because it's a new "normal" for me.  For 45 years I was in a different space.

The true normal mode for my commute began in 1965.  That's when I started High School in Grade 8.  There was no middle school back then.

I had to take a bus to a train, and the train downtown.  For most of my life I have been primarily a train commuter.  I know that's not the  routine for most North American commuters.  In my case the train just happened to be the most logical choice even though I have moved around the city a fair bit over time.

When I wasn't on a train, I commuted by car.

All that changed in 2010 when the scoot commute began.

For my 30 km urban commute  (at least 60 km a day), my Vespa gets me where I need to be faster, and happier.

Get a life!  Get happy! Get a Vespa!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Another year, more happiness

It's my birthday!

Normally I try to fly under the radar, but when you turn 60, that's hard to do.

My colleagues were determined not to let the moment pass without a celebration.  Silly me, I thought that they might not notice.

So, so, so wrong, I was.
I am very touched, and thankful.

Thanks guys and gals!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Superman had his phonebooth...

It's odd that I haven't posted on this very important aspect of commuting on two wheels.

Whether you commute on a bicycle, a moped, a scooter, a motorcycle or one of those Bombardier Can-Am Spyders, the reality is that street clothes are not a good option.

The bicycle commute will be too sweaty, and, the moped option aside, if you value your skin, armored gear is a necessity.

What to do?

I can only speak for my own situation. It took me a while to get it down to an art, if not a science.

I'm lucky because I have a closed office with blinds on the windows. It would be the perfect changing room, except for the window right next to the door.

The solution I ultimately stumbled on to get the privacy I needed to change my clothing was a very inexpensive temporary pleated blind. They are designed for use when you move into a new home or apartment and haven't got window treatments. You cut them to size with a pair of scissors. There is no hardware, only two plastic clips to hold the blind together when it is not in use.

I simply mounted some self-adhesive hook-and-loop fastener to the ends of the blind and to each side of the window frame. When I arrive in the morning, I put up the blind, remove the plastic clothes peg type clamps, and presto, all the privacy I need to get out of my gear and into the suit I must wear for work.

My riding jacket hangs on a hanger on a hook on my office door. The hook is one of those removable self adhesive hooks that won't damage the door.

My armored pants fit into one of bottom file drawers in the credenza.

My armored boots just sit under the return portion of my extended desktop.

At the beginning of the riding season I bring my suits into the office and leave them hanging in the closet. There's plenty of room and I always have enough suits to change things up.

As you can see, I also have a trenchcoat and scarf handy for when it's nippy in the spring or fall, or for when it's raining during the day and I have to go out for a meeting.

My dress shoes sit under my desk where I keep the riding boots.

My helmet sits on top of one of my bookcases.

And there you have it.

This solution works really well for me. It just needs a little setting up and dismantling at either end of the riding season to ferry the office clothing back and forth in the car.

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