Friday, April 12, 2013


Yes, Trobairitz, it turns out that there is a colour for that (I hope all the U's in colour don't offend your US sensibilities).

Why?  Because I found a emotional colour wheel, and thrilled is a colour.
The nerd in me can't stop there.
Since I am colour-blind, I look at thrilled, and I think "" whereas green is the obvious right answer.

But am I green with envy? Tickled pink is closer.  Flushed with pride? That would be redder than pink, but closer still to the truth.

So what is the value of the colour wheel of emotion?  Well, it gets blue right, it seems.  Although, 99.99% of the time the blues lift my spirit.

The prevailing colour sentiment right this minute is white.  Friggin' white.
Really it should be yellow for daffodils.

Oh well, I plan to spend some quality time in the garage this weekend adding some white to my black GTS.  Details to follow.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

First commute

Today was my first commute of the season, and the first commute on my GTS 300.

I don't have any pictures to post, so I'll just share my impressions in point form:
  • This Vespa feels so substantial compared to the LX 150.  When I take it off the centre stand it drops down onto its supension like a big cat landing on its feet.  The 150 just came off the centre stand and stood there, without making a statement.
  • The throttle is twitchy.  Twist it too hard and the bike leaps forward.  Wow!
  • The seating is more comfortable for my 6 ft frame (not that the LX 150 wasn't comfortable too).  Ergonomically, Vespas are awesome.  Beautiful and functional.  Nice combination.
  • I'm no longer a stranger in a strange land on the expressway.  I can more than hold my own in any lane I choose. 
  • The top case is very spacious.  Space is the ultimate luxury.
  • The dual hydraulic disc brakes are... AWESOME!!!  Two fingers on the rear brake gives me full control.  Two fingers added on the front brake and I've got total braking capacity.  Silky smooth is what comes to mind.
  • I still don't have GPS mounted (no outlet, no RAM mounts installed) so I don't really know how fast my beast moves.  Judging on traffic flow, the 130 km/h I hit on the way home must be 120 km/h in GPS verified terms.  Time will tell.  I'm waiting for 12 volt outlets to come from Hong Kong.
  • Without front running lights, I feel just a tad invisible.  More so without my Admore brake light turn signal combo.
  • Man, I could have used heated grips this morning.  110 km/h at -1C for any length of time is.... bone chilling.  I spent five minutes in the garage at the office thawing my hands on the headlight.
  • Not having a Stebel air horn is another issue I have to address.  I hit the horn at 50 km/h to see what it's like, and it sounded like a cartoon roadrunner flipped off a coyote somewhere on another street.  Got to fix that this weekend.
  • I took off the Tucano Urbano winter apron.  I don't need it with my Tourmaster Caliber pants with the liner in. it was just way too hot.  Plus the look is a little... strange.
  • Another thing I'm missing? I still need a beeper or some kind of LED mounted on the windscreen to remind me to turn off the blinking blinkers.  GRRRRRR! Loser!
  • The greater width of the GTS really makes a big difference in sheltering from the wind.  Very nice.
  • Though the Vespa side stand is notoriously unreliable, it's kind of a cool way to dismount.  Plus bikes just look better on a side stand.  I know better than to trust it though.  One thread on Modern Vespa was titled "Side stand, you whore!"  Pretty graphic, but when a beautiful Vespa drops all by its lonesome... well you can sympathize with the person who posted that.
Overall, colour me THRILLED!!

Monday, April 8, 2013

I don't name my rides

As with any bold statement of fact, it's not quite true to say that I don't name my rides.

I swore at the earliest cars we owned, calling them all sorts of unmentionable names, mostly when they refused to start on a particularly loathsome winter day or night.

But I didn't really name any of our cars in the way that some folks name their vehicles.  Not even the 1976 midnight blue and camel interior Mustang we were so proud to drive, and not even the 1990 mid-life-crisis red Miata I owned from 1993 to 2012.

I did kind-of name my Vespa LX 150 though. I was trying to get up a sidewalk ramp to get to a better place to snap a picture and the centre stand hit the curb, amputating the wing on the right leg of the stand. Then and there I decided to call the scoot "peg leg". I may have mentioned it in a blog post at the time, and I don't think I actually ever uttered the name, or told anyone. So it doesn't really count.

What I do indulge in, is putting Modern Vespa stickers on the bike to proclaim my allegiance to the Modern Vespa forum. There is now one on the legshield at the front, and one on the topcase at the back.  The MV stickers look like a country identification sticker.  MV is a country.  Ask any of the other citizens.  And I don't mean the democratic republic of Moldavia (which is "MDA").  I have an MV sticker on my helmet too.  And I have one on my Civic.

This time, as I threatened, I have added QR codes linking to the Welcome page of this blog.
We'll see if anyone notices and actually comes to the blog from my bike.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hmmm... a collection?

No, no, no, no, no...

There is no collection beginning.  The LX 150 is for sale.  It needs a new home.

In the meantime, the garage is sure looking good.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A new day, a new season, a new ride

I woke to blue skies, sun streaming through our bedroom window, and a return to more seasonal temperatures.

Many of you know that I have been looking for a new bike.

Today I got exactly what I wanted.
As you can see my new Vespa is nicely equipped with a spacious top case, crash bars, and a Tucano Urbano winter commuting apron.  The pictures are not great, I snapped them with my iPhone once I had parked in the garage at work.  So soon in fact that the Vespa was temporarily on its side stand.  Minutes later it was on the much more trustworthy centre stand.

This bike is the most capable bike in Vespa history.

It is still the perfectly nimble bike more than suited for my suburban to urban commuter needs, but it also has the grunt it takes to ride long distances in the company of any cruising or adventure  motorcycle.

Don't misunderstand. My Vespa LX 150 is also perfectly suited for my commute downtown.  It has also proven that it can handle doing the commute on expressways as well as surface streets.

How will the new bike change things in that regard?

The GTS 300 is a few inches longer, a few inches wider, perhaps a little taller, and adds some great features, including larger wheels, dual hydraulic disc brakes, fuel injection, liquid cooling, more weight, and a substantially larger engine (278cc vs 150cc).

Piaggio rates the top speed of the LX 150 at 95 km/h and the GTS 300 at 129 km/h.  My experience is that on the expressway my LX does between 100 and 107 km/h depending on headwinds and tailwinds.   When I drive my car on expressways I limit my speed to 118 km/h and that's where I set the cruise control.  The GTS has the capability to match that performance.

In the coming weeks I promise to share with you how the new bike changes my commuting experience.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Winter finally seems to be losing its grip.

As the seasons enter their transition, so do I.

For what seems like months now, I am ever so slowly shifting from my nimble red Vespa LX150, to a nice brawny Vespa GTS 300 i.e. Super.  I have my current bike for sale, and am patiently waiting to get my hands on my new bike.

The seller is now ready to sell (having found a new bike for himself), I am ready to buy, and the dealer who will act as the go between to accommodate the sale (it's a sales tax issue - isn't it always?), will be ready to see us this week.

In the meantime, my Vespa is begging me to take it out.  Which I would have done today since it's a glorious sunny day, but the battery is on its last legs.

I can't sell it with a dying battery, so I went to a motorsports dealer who is close by, and who does sell Vespas.  I thought I'd jump in, grab a new battery, install it either today or tomorrow, and go out for an inaugural ride.

This little cat was sitting out front.  I couldn't resist taking a picture.
I wonder who did that paint job.

I went to the parts counter, the guy there searched way too long in a bunch of catalogs, couldn't seem to find the right catalogue with Vespa parts, called a colleague at a sister dealership, and then declared that the battery he hauled out of the inventory was the right one.

Except it didn't seem right to me, and, to be honest, I just don't trust their Vespa chops.  The capper was that he needed to add acid, then put the battery on a charger for what he said was 20 to 30 minutes, which seemed implausibly short to me.  I was timing out.  I left empty-handed, cursing under my breath.

In the end, here I sit, as the spring sun toasts my jeans through the family room window.  What I really want is some quality saddle time.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The ultimate word on tie-downs

When I mentioned a while back that my Scouting past influenced my outlook on securing gear, I may have understated how seriously I take the art of tying stuff up.

The more I think of this, the more I feel the need to come totally clean on this topic.

Here is a mini-encyclopedic post on the skills and tools in my quiver of rope tricks. By no means does it cover all the bases, all techniques, or all skill sets.

Serious boaters and mountaineers will be disappointed, you have been warned.

It's difficult to figure out how to approach this topic so bear with me here.

I've decided to start with the cords, ropes and webbing I keep handy ("cordage"), then move on to the knots I use, and finish off with what I call tools, which includes specialized tie-downs like ROK straps, and fiendishly clever tensioning devices.


           15' Webbed tow rope - 10,000 lbs breaking strength
           15' 3/8" marine dock line - 4,700 lbs breaking strength

I keep these ropes in the trunk of our car.  They don't get a lot of use, but, when you need them, it's sure nice to have them.  Like over Christmas when we got 45cm of snow.  A record dump, even for the Great White North.  Enough snow for my son's Acura to get well and truly mired.  What to do?

You pull up, pop the little cover hatch off the front bumper of your BMW X3 all-wheel drive, screw in the rescue hook, fetch the tow rope out of the trunk, hook it up, and haul that Acura free, that's what you do!

           Four 25' lengths of 550 paracord - 550 lbs breaking strength

It's called paracord because it was developed for use in parachutes and is a staple of military supplies.  It's light, compact, but incredibly strong.  I purchased this to have on the great 2013 moto road trip.  I'll stow it in my Vespa's pet carrier along with four Figure 9's.  Not sure what those are?  Read on.

           Web straps - 1,200 down to 275 lbs breaking strength

All the web strapping I use to tie stuff down I'll save for the tools category rather than covering it here  because it's not just strapping.  There are special dedicated tensioning devices of various designs built right into the webbing which makes each tie-down more of a special purpose device.  I'll discuss them below in more detail.


There's little point in having cordage on hand if you don't know how to tie the most important knots.

           Square knot

If there is one sure-fire preconceived notion about Scouts it's got to be about all those knots.

It may not have been the first thing I learned in my scouting career, but boy there is nothing quite like the complex mix of feelings associated with tying a simple square knot.  Why is such a simple knot the source of so much angst?  Why does such a simple knot require such deliberate care and concentration?

Maybe it's just me.  I just can't tie a simple knot without taking the time and care to make it a square knot.

Yet in all this time I still haven't figured out a way to tie a square knot without sweating it.  The worst thing is that when you get it wrong, it's a granny knot.  How embarrassing is that?  Is it the very fact that the knot is so beguilingly simple, that makes it so hard?
Granny knot
Quite aside from the frustrating and confounding nature of the simple square knot, and my compulsion to get it right, there are good reasons for using a square knot rather than a granny knot.  The square knot holds when the Granny knot slips.  Paradoxically, it's also much easier to loosen and untie the square knot.  It's therefore worth the effort to sweat the square knot.

Then again, maybe I'm the only person alive who sweats the square knot.  You think?

Here's how you do it:
Square knot

The bowline is really an important knot.  Everyone knows how to do a slip knot that is a kind of noose that tightens as you pull on it.  But what do you do when you need a loop on a rope or line that stays put, no matter how much pressure you apply?  There's really no substitute for the bowline.  It's an essential rescue knot. 

Here's what a bowline looks like.
Bowline knot

           Fisherman's knot

What do you do when you have two 25' ropes and you need a 50' rope?  Let's say that you plan to use the rope to rescue someone from a ravine or to help them up a steep slope. Or you are going to haul something up, or lower something down, and you don't want your ropes separating and the mission failing.

You might think that this is fit a job for a square knot.  And you'd be wrong.  Not secure enough.  Any knot in a rope will be the weak link.  The fisherman's knot is one knot that jams tighter as pressure is applied, while causing minimal impairment to the normal breaking strength of the rope.

The interesting thing about this knot, it that it's just two simple overhand knots, like that first knot you tie on the way to a square knot or a granny knot, or that first knot you tie when you tie your shoe laces.  The knots slip towards each other as you pull, and, as soon as they meet, jam tighter and tighter, the more pressure you apply to pull the two ropes apart, the tighter and more secure the knot becomes.  Like the square knot, the fisherman's knot, even when the stress on the line has jammed it solidly tight, comes apart fairly easily.

Here's what a fisherman's knot looks like.
Fisherman's knot

           Clove hitch

The clove hitch is a knot that I seldom use.  Having said that, when you need a clove hitch, only a clove hitch will really do.  You'll find this one handy when you need to tie a rope or a line to be secure and taught, tied to a dowel, ladder rung or limb.

Here's what a clove hitch looks like.
Clove hitch

           Surgeon's knot

This is the one knot I didn't learn as a Scout.  It's also called a butcher's knot.

It's a really useful knot when you need to tie a bundle.  For instance, you roll up a tarp, or a sleeping bag, or a carpet, or a cut of meat, and slip the rope or string around the bundle, bring the ends together to tie the knot that you hope will keep the bundle good and tight.  The granny knot is a bad choice, you know that.  The square knot is a good choice, normally, but as you tie it, it's nearly impossible not to let it slip, and the bundle won't be tight.  The surgeon's knot solves the problem.  It's simply a square knot with a single extra turn.

Here's what a surgeon's knot looks like.
Surgeon's knot

           "S" hooks

The lowly "S" hook is, well, a lowly "S" hook.  Nothing fancy.  I don't remember where I got the ones I have.  I think it may go back to when I used to haul a canoe around on the roof of my Subaru Chaser.  Very useful things that I keep in that stuff sack in the trunk.


Carabiners are truly useful devices.  They're easy to find because they seem to be everywhere.  The ones I use are designed for climbing.  We're talking serious carabiners.  Don't settle for anything less.  Find a store that sells mountain climbing gear, and buy three to four of these.  They are great because they make it a snap (literally) to attach a rope or line to an anchor point, or to another rope.  They take all the tension you can apply, and they let the rope slip with little abrasion.  You can also use them to clip gear together.  They're just endlessly useful, and they save time.  I keep mine in the trunk of my car clipped on a stuff sack that has all my contingency gear in it.  It's full of stuff that's nice to have on hand when the unexpected happens.

Here's what a decent carabiner looks like.

            Rope ratchets

I have two of these.  They're another bit of gear that sits in that stuff sack.  They take a 3/8" rope.  There is a hook attached to the ratchet, and another attached to the end of the line.  If you have a load to secure, or something that needs to be held fast, you simply hook up the rope ratchet, haul on the loose end, and clickety-clickety-click that rope is as tight as... well, as tight as a tightrope, and its not going to be slipping.

Here's what a rope ratchet looks like.

           Bar harness ("Canyon Dancer")

Trailering a scooter or motorcycle can seem like a daunting prospect, unless you have the right gear.  The most essential element in that gear is a bar harness.  Many folks call them canyon dancers.  That's a name I love to hear, and love to say.  For me, for whatever reason, I always picture a wild mustang in a box canyon with a horse-whispering cowboy gently taming the rearing steed.  Calling a bar harness a canyon dancer is like calling a facial tissue a Kleenex.

What the bar harness does is to give you a tie down anchor point for each end of the handlebars, but without risking damage to the bars or controls (horn, kill switch, turn indicators, throttle, headlamp, etc.), or, in the case of a scooter, to the plastic headset.

Here's what a Canyon Dancer bar harness looks like.  You can't see it in this image, but there are loops at the ends of the straps where you hook your tie-downs.

            Powersports tie-downs

You need four of these to secure a Vespa on a trailer.  One from each rear grab rail to a floor anchor point.  And one for each end loop on the bar harness.  Once the front wheel is chocked using a motorcycle chock or a piece of 4X4, and the four tie downs are good and tight, that scooter is amazingly rock solid on the trailer.  U-Haul offers an open trailer with a full width tailgate ramp, with sturdy floor anchor points that is ideally suited for hauling motorcycles.  All you need are the appropriate tie-downs.

Here's a shot of typical motorsports tie-downs.  This image is from  They supply heated grips and I'm a customer so I'm hoping that they'll be happy to trade my use of the image for this free shameless plug.  In Canada, Canadian Tire always has this type of tie-down in stock.

           Gear tie-downs

           ROK motorcycle straps

ROK straps come very highly recommended by motorcycle tourers and adventure riders.  Since the riding season is not yet underway, they are installed in the cargo bay of our BMW X3 where they are preventing stuff we need to carry from traveling around on their own every time we turn a corner.  The secret to ROK straps is the flat bungee sections that allows you to pull the strap tight and have it maintain constant pressure on the load.  The ends have loops that let you undo the quick release buckle, pass the strap section through the Vespa grab rail, loop the strap section through the loop, and pull it tight.  You do the same thing with the other strap section.  You then load up the rear passenger seat with whatever it is you need to carry, snap the buckle closed, then pull on the loose end until the load is secure and the ROK strap is applying sufficient pressure.  If my explanation has you baffled, here's a link to a Youtube video that's worth 10,000 words.

Here is what my ROK straps look like.

                      ROK pack straps

These straps, like the larger ROK straps, have a bungy section that maintains just the right amount of tension on the load to ensure that it won't budge.  The pressure can be controlled simply by tugging on the loose end of the strap.  These are new to me, but it's easy to see that they are going to be an essential go-to item in my bag of tie-down tricks.

Here is what a ROK pack strap looks like.  Yes it looks just like its sibling, but they're much smaller, more pack-like.


Wrapties are a 2017 invention and I am adding them here as a 2018 addition to this original post. Wrapties are an ingenious amalgam of Velcro and elastic strapping. The best way to understand what Wrapties bring to the equation is to check out episode 32 of the Life on two wheels vlog right here:

          Sea to Summit gear straps

These straps are amazing.  They have a higher load rating than the ROK pack straps and they're much more compact.  I have a pair of these that I always have on me when I travel.  They're indispensable for things like securing my rain jacket to my camera bag when the sun comes out, or the weather warms, or securing a carry-on or computer bag to my carry-on suitcase to free up my hands and make it easier to navigate an airport or city streets.  I have even used them to attach a car battery to the back seat of my Vespa.  I can't recommend them enough.

Here is what the Sea to Summit strap looks like.

           Nite Ize Figure 9 line tensioners

This is the one bit of kit I don't actually own yet.  So far, they are evading my attempts to buy them.  I think I'll have to buy them online.

The ingenious Figure 9 has been on my radar ever since I saw one a few years back at Atmosphere.  I wasn't sure I needed them.  Now that I know I do, they appear to be made of unobtainium.

For the time being here is a link to a Youtube video that shows what they do.

EDIT: I happened to be in Portland Oregon in March of 2013 and found the Figure 9 line tensioners I needed at REI.  Here is what one looks like in the company of twenty-five feet of blue paracord:

The paracord and Figure 9 were very useful for securing my tent fly on the 2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour.  You can read all about that here.

That's it.

I figure that these tie-down skills have served me very well so far, and are likely to continue to serve me well for the foreseeable future.

Still, life well-lived is one long education.  There's undoubtedly more to learn.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Call me crazy!

I'm toying with the idea of putting a Quick Response Code ("QR code") on my Vespa. Curious folks who want to know more about me, my Vespa, and our adventures could use the QR code to link to this blog.

If you're curious, give it a try.

Install a QR code scanner on your smartphone and try reading the QR code your computer screen with your smartphone. Worked like a charm on my iPhone using the ScanLife app.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Halfway there

I'm very slow with a needle and thread. I've persevered and now I'm halfway done.

The workmanship is, well, the best I'll say is, barely adequate. I measured twice and sewed once. Yet it's obvious to me that symmetry is wanting. Still, I've achieved my goal of adding quick release buckle closures to one of my Israeli saddlebags.

I think that once I've done the other one I'm going to take them to the shoemaker and have the stitching bolstered.

Then they'll be ready for the open road.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The birth and evolution of an icon

You don't need to understand Italian to learn how the Vespa GTS 300 Super is the reigning icon of a legendary brand.

Friday, February 15, 2013


Here's what I'm thinking once I get my grubby hands on the GTS (that I'm expecting to be fairly identical to this specimen, truth be told, plus the trunk for my junk, of course): - topic 87326
Not that Starbucks is not desirable fuel, but I'm thinking more along these lines:
Canadian Tire Corporation
The ingenious foot rack will come from Classic Racks.  I'm debating whether I want the cupholder version like the one above, or the version with the Vespa logo.

What do you think?

PS: Today, February 19, 2013, I finally got to see the GTS in the flesh and it is identical to the photo above, minus the rubber floor mat, with a topcase, Tucano Urbano Termoscud apron, and a few discreet chrome additions that the seller contributed. I have made a firm offer on the bike.  It's still early in the season, and the seller has got to get some other ducks in a row, so we're not there yet.  But we're closer, much closer.  Now it's time to back off and let nature take its course.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Slow and steady

I'm on the cusp of a shiny black and tan GTS 300.  Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

I have been talking to the current owner for almost two weeks now.  We were introduced by Paul at Alex Berthiaume & Fils, Montreal's Vespa dealer.

We're both very busy people, and well, let's face it, it's February and the Montreal riding season doesn't seem to be in sight.  Add to the non-conducive weather, the fact that my new friend is kind of attached to his GTS.  Can one love a machine?  Is a Vespa only a machine?

The thing that's slowing down the process, is that we both love our Vespas.  So it's more an adoption process, than the sale and purchase of a motor vehicle.

At this point you may well ask why I refer to the seller as a new "friend".  Here's the deal.  He's had his GTS for three years.  I've had my LX for three years.  He commutes.  I commute.  His commute is about 19-20 miles or approximately 31-33 kilometers.  Guess what? So is mine.  His odometer reads 24,000 kilometers.  My odometer reads 15,000 miles; same diff.  He dropped his bike and picked up some scratches.  I low-sided mine in a heavy rainstorm in September and picked some scratches.  He has all his servicing done at Alex Berthiaume... OK, OK, you get the drift.

Guess how long it takes for a discussion of me buying his bike to digress?  Less than 10 seconds.  We pretty much can't get much past "hello".

So now you know why this purchase is going to be slow and steady.

The next step is for my new friend to send me pictures of the adoptee.

Yes, yes, yes, I know, you want to see pics.  I promise to post them. Honest.  I just don't want to jynx this.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Soon time to say "Hello... goodbye"

The time has come to bid adieu to my trusty Vespa LX150.

We have shared darn close to 15,000 miles of pure fun together, but I'm planning to set my redhead free into the welcoming arms of a yet-to-be-identified stranger, as I shift my gaze to a younger trophy bike with more voluptuous curves. Yes, sad and bittersweet, but true.

Her rival is not a platinum blonde, or a suicide blonde. It's a Titanium Gray, semi-gloss, Vespa GTS 300.

This is just a tease. The plot is afoot. Details to follow in due course. Stay tuned.

PS: Aaaaarghhhh! My GTS dream machine slipped away, the seller's darling wife decided she wanted it. I celebrated too soon. Oh well, back to trolling Kijiji.

PPS: Oooooooh! All is not lost.  Another GTS, decent price... shhhhhhh! Got to keep the jynx at bay.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Satellites and Vespas, iPhones and Nuvis, Senas and Me

I've been experimenting with the maps application on the iPhone 5.

I know that Apple got flack for some poor execution on it so I wasn't expecting much.

What I am finding is that in fact the turn-by turn instructions are quite decent and so is the display.

Even better is the Bluetooth implementation.

So far I'm only testing it in the car, but my new Sena SMH10 helmet headset should work the same way as with my Honda Civic's Bluetooth.

I get the voice prompts loud and clear on the car stereo, the display on the phone is as legible as my Garmin Nuvi, the iPhone multi-tasks nicely, i.e. it can navigate, play music and make and receive calls simultaneously without hanging any of the three functions.

The one function that does hang (or at any rate gets superseded, so to speak), is music playing through an app other than the iPod app on the phone.

For instance, suppose I am listening to music streamed by Toronto's Jazz FM radio station 91.1 via their iPhone app (which is excellent, by the way).

Everything is great, I get the music, and, when necessary, I get the voice prompts for the navigation, and all the while the screen shows where I am on the road.  The issue arises if I make or receive a phone call.  The phone call supersedes the music and the voice navigation prompts.  The problem is that when I terminate the call, music returns as do the voice prompts, but, the music that plays is whatever was last played by the iPod app.

To get the streaming music to come back, I have to access the iPhone, stop the iPod player, go back to the Jazz FM app, stop and restart the streaming.  None of that is safe while driving a car, I doubt it's even possible on a motor bike.

The navigation function recalculates nicely, though the voice prompt doesn't announce "recalculating" but the display does show it.

As far as I can tell, the shortcomings (other than the streaming issue mentioned above) are:
  • There isn't much you can do to customize the Apple map app compared to my Garmin Nuvi (such as display options, avoidances, time vs route, etc.);

  • The voice prompt is sometimes not quite naggy enough on an urban expressway with complex interchanges (i.e no "in 250 meters keep left" prompts, so you need to keep an eye on the display to avoid the suspense).   For instance on a recent trip to Ottawa, the voice prompt didn't give any prompts at the junction of the expressways to Toronto and Ottawa, whereas the Garmin Nuvi was quite helpful, telling me " in 400 meters, keep right" while Siri was silent.  The display made the direction clear though.

  • Other times the voice prompt is needlessly verbose.  Once the Ottawa-Toronto junction was cleared, the Garmin announced "continue 140 kilometers".  Siri said, quite unhelpfully, "continue on autoroute Félix Leclerc".  She managed to mangle this as she does most street names, calling Félix, felliks.  Siri is smarter than Brittany (the name we have given to our Garmin gal, since we chose the UK voice as a preference), because Siri knows to say the name of the highway and Brittany doesn't.  However, I add that Siri did this 'unhelpfully' because it was unhelpful information, particularly before the junction, since none of the overhead signs or the highway signs make any reference to "Félix Leclerc".  As far as I know, only the Quebec Department of Transport knows that this section of highway 40 is named for one of Quebec's most celebrated authors.  Apparently they told Siri, but no one else.

    Brittany was then content to let me listen to some really nice jazz, while Siri insisted (to the point of annoyance) on repeating, at what seemed like two-minute intervals, always as unhelpfully, "continue on autoroute felliks leclerc". She did this even though the only possible alternative I had while she was telling me this was to put the BMW X3's all-wheel drive on the adventure setting and try to perform a Steve McQueen by running up the embankment beyond the right-side ditch, in the hope of getting sufficiently airborne to clear the deer fence and set myself free to roam into the adjoining farmer's field.

    What the hell was she thinking?  I asked her, but she didn't get my drift.  "I don't understand what truck are you singing about" she said.  I then asked Brittany, but she wouldn't break her silence.  Mutual respect among thinking devices, I suppose.  Thank the lord the BMW didn't join the conversation, because it could have.  That would have freaked me out.

    This silliness continued until about ten kilometers past the Ontario border.  Once in Ontario, Siri changed her tune slightly to "Continue west on TC".  It took me a good five kilometers to decipher that useless tidbit.  Finally it dawned on me... pc? teepee? dc? ec? tc?... OMG TC!!!! I'm on the Trans-Canada Highway...

    Siri finally settled in for the drive and left me alone until I reached Ottawa.  She must have sensed my annoyance because she never again repeated useless prompts.
All the silliness aside, the iPhone's turn-by-turn navigation is so good that I'm debating whether to go ahead with a planned GPS purchase.

What I was hoping to find was a waterproof GPS with Bluetooth turn-by-turn prompts.

That seems only available in the Zumo series which is very pricey.

I think the iPhone is already so good that there's no point spending all the extra cash on the Zumo.

I'll just use a combination of my existing Garmin Nuvi and the iPhone since I have RAM mounts and power for both devices. What the iPhone currently lacks, the Garmin has, and vice versa.

I still need to find out if the iPhone uses network data to navigate or not. If it does that could be what makes the Zumo cheaper for my planned summer road trip with both US and Canadian legs.  Some say that the iPhone stops performing as soon as it looses cell signal.  Others say that it continues to give voice prompts, only losing route display.  Frankly, my testing hasn't progressed that far.

Any thoughts?  I encourage you to use the comments feature on this post to add your two cents (or shekels, drachmas, kroners, or whatever you have that passes for useless change).
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.