Thursday, November 29, 2012

Friends, and long distance

When I was a kid growing up, long distance meant one thing: special, and often expensive, phone calls.

A long distance phone call was reserved for important occasions.

For regular communications there were airmail letters (if you had a lot to say) and postcards, if you wanted to share a few glib words and make people envy your vacation choice.

Things sure have changed.

And they continue to change. The internet has changed the way we live, sometimes in ways that are dramatic.

Take my life, for instance.

I blog.

Why? The source can be traced to my desire to commute to work on a scooter instead of driving a car or riding a train. It's a choice that few people make in North America. Because it's my nature, I turned to Google for information.

What I found was the Modern Vespa Forum, and a number of moto and scooter bloggers.

What a treasure trove those finds have turned out to be. I found all the information I thought I needed, and a whole bunch more that I didn't know I needed.

And that's what led to starting this blog.

I was raised to believe that giving is more important than receiving. Having received so much from people whose blogs I had read, I knew I had to start a blog of my own to return the favour.

I was not long after that I found the unexpected. I found friends. Good friends. What kind of good friends?

Well that depends how you define "friend". I suppose we all have slightly different definitions.

Some of us may make friends easily, and may have many friends.

Like many of us who have demanding careers, and have married and raised a family, personal time has been the exception rather than the rule for me.

I've never had many friends.

Long distance took a toll on the friendships I did have. Very close friends moved hundreds of miles away. It was difficult to maintain those friendships. In many cases, long distance eventually dissipated the intimacy and shared experience that make friendships work.

Lately a reversal is taking hold.

The more I ride, the more I blog and post on the forum.

My words are seeds, and I have literally sown thousands of them.  It often turns out that they are seeds of friendship.

Long distance friendships have sprouted. No one is more blown away by my new friendships than yours truly.

Let's get back to what it means to have a friend. I define friendship as someone who devotes precious time to you at the expense of spending time with someone else.

By that definition I have earned a number of friends.

I define a good, or close friend, as someone who will go out of their way for you. By that definition, I count four new good friends.

The interesting thing is that they are all long distance friendships.

I don't want to embarrass them because friends don't embarrass friends, so I won't go into detail about who they are, where they live, their acts of kindness, or how they have gone out of their way to spend time with me, or do special favours for me.

These are people I would invite to share my home in a heartbeat, lend my Vespa to, share a meal with, go out of my way to help, or travel with. Truly good, close friends.

This experience has helped me to understand the power of the internet and of shared interests to obliterate the barrier of long distance.

It's yet another way that riding a scooter has enriched my life more than I could have imagined when I set out on this adventure.

Life on two wheels rocks!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A package from far, far away...

The Modern Vespa Forum is a very special place and there are some very special people there.

One of those people is David Bogner. His forum handle is Treppenwitz.

David has a blog where he writes about life in Israel.  David is also a very frequent poster on the Modern Vespa forum.

Not long ago, David was at his Vespa dealer having his bike serviced when he came across some roll-up stowaway saddlebags.

He mentioned them on the forum.  A number of forum members were interested in them and asked where they could order them online.

I'll let David tell the story of what ensued.
"I frequent a forum of people who share my interest in scootering and Vespas. We don't all agree on anything, but our interests overlap to the extent that we find it rewarding to continue exchanging thoughts, ideas and humor.

I stumbled on a locally made product in an Israeli scooter shop and was so pleased with it that I naturally shared a picture and description of it on the forum.

Several people asked where they could get one so I went and asked the shop if the supplier had a web site. They didn't.

In the meantime even more people commented on the thread that they would love to get a set, and even more PMed me for supplier info.

Once I realized that it was a local product with no international distribution, the next step was obviously to work out the economics (including the pain in the ass factor) of doing a bulk buy and sending them out to whoever wanted them.

In the end it really wasn't that big a PITA. It cluttered up our dining room table for a couple of days and made a few people in the local post office roll their eyes and look at their watches.

But it benefited the local scooter shop, the manufacturer and the MV members who wanted the bags.

And MV as a community benefited because others will (hopefully) step up and do similar good deeds (on an individual or group level) to help one another source local products now that it doesn't seem like such a crazy thing.

Lastly, I benefited.... because it felt really good. I meant what I said earlier in the thread: The nicest thing in the world you can do for anybody is to let them help you."
David is too modest.

He purchased, and shipped no less than 68 sets of saddlebags, to MVers all over the world.

I didn't want to bother David to purchase saddlebags for me because I didn't think I really needed them.

Then a funny thing happened.

Bob called me to suggest that I join him, and a number of other moto bloggers, for a grand tour of the Maritimes next summer.  Wow!  What an invitation!

"OMG!! I need saddlebags!!!!"

I was late to the party.  I sent a sheepish private message to David, knowing that he had already gone way, way, way above and beyond the call of duty.  I was in no rush for them, and that was the consolation.  David could wait as long as he wanted before buying and sending me the saddlebags.  I was just hoping that he could squeeze in one more order.

In no time I got a reply from David.  "You're in luck..." he wrote.  Within minutes I dug up my PayPal account and sent him the money for the cost of the saddlebags and shipping, reminding him that there was no rush.

To make matters worse, for David (if that's possible, because he, like many of his countrymen, was already dodging rockets from the Gaza Strip), he had a bad encounter with a large diesel spill on his commute and sprained his knee in a slow motion crash as he valiantly tried to keep his Vespa upright.  You can read David's unflinching account of his accident here.

I messaged David to encourage him to take it easy and not to ship the saddlebags until he recovered from his injury.  Not surprisingly, David lost no time shipping those bags to me.

I received them on Friday of last week.
David's only request was that the lucky recipients post a picture of the saddlebags on their scooter once they received them.

Naturally I hauled my Vespa out its hibernation deep in the recesses of the garage and put the saddlebags on.
Before I put the bags on the scooter, I rummaged through my dresser and closet and stuffed into them what seemed to me to be enough clothing for a five to six day road trip.
There was room to spare. Oh... and no, the Teddy Bear is not a necessary travel companion.  He'll stay comfy on our bed for the foreseeable future.

I still need to figure a few things out to make the best use of the saddlebags.  The fact is, David has made a huge contribution to what I am sure is set to be the adventure of a lifetime.

Thank you David.

I owe you. Truly I do.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A reader asks about bridges

I just read parts of your Scooter blog and found it very inteeresting... I have a question for you: With most of the bridges being highways on/off the island, is there any way for 50cc scooter riders to leave legally? From the research I did back a few years ago, I recall the Highway Code stating 50cc scooters weren’t allowed on “limited access” roads or anywhere where the speed limit is >50 km/h. If this is true, are scooter riders essentially “trapped” on the island of Montreal, save for Dorval Island and Ile Bizard?

This limitation is why I want to move up to a motorcycle, because it seems ridiculous to me that in order to drive a 125/150cc scooter you need to go through the entire motorcycle licence process as you would a 1100 cc sport bike. If I’m going to do 2 years and $700+ of courses, I might as well get a 750cc and be able to go to Ottawa for the day.

Anyhow, respond if you have time or if you have covered it in your blog, I’ll take a look.



Hi Andrew,

When I started out with my scooter I wondered the same thing. 

I am legal on expressways since I have a 150cc model and am now comfortable on them and have taken a number of bridges. 

The challenge is more to the south shore. The one bridge that for sure is OK for a 50cc scoot is the Victoria Bridge. The only issue is that it has a metal deck that takes some getting used to. The good news is that you can practice on the Charlevoix bridge across the Lachine Canal. 

I think that the Jacques Cartier bridge might be OK as well.  Someone posted that they checked with the SQ who confirmed that it's OK for 50cc scoots. 

To the west the Galipeault on the 20 is OK from the on ramp in Ste-Anne de Bellevue towards Ile Perrot. Going back is OK too as long as you take the first exit. You will find that one a little hairy though because people speed. 

To the north there are a number of good choices: the bridge to Ile Bizard then the ferry to Laval. The Cartierville bridge, and the Pont Viau bridge. 

All to say that 50cc scoots aren't trapped on the island by any means. If you check out the link to the bridge posts at the top of the page you will find specific posts with more information. 



(This e-mail exchange was posted with the sender's permission)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Black arts

I enjoy learning how things work.

I get more satisfaction as I learn more and more about something.  It's even better if few are in the know.

This is true about life, law, information technology, riding, and parking.

The moment of true enjoyment is observing something for the first time that allows you to learn a new thing about a topic that interests you.

Parking, for instance.

Most people's interest in parking is limited to finding inexpensive, convenient parking. That's what motivates me too.

Most people drive cars. As with just about everything, when most people do something, it's relatively easy to learn, even if parts of it are difficult. Like parallel parking a car in a tight space. It's difficult, but driving instructors, family members and friends who are willing to teach the black art of parallel parking are easy to find.

Parking a scooter or a motorcycle is dumb, stupid, simple, compared to parking a car, right?

Well yes, and no. Is it spatially challenging? Not so much.

The challenge, as with a car, is finding Costanza parking.

Jerry Seinfeld is a really good observer.

His particular brand of enjoyment is learning the black art about the mundane things we all take for granted, sharing his insight with us, and then branding the knowledge, making it memorable.

So it goes with parking.  Costanza parking.

Costanza parking, named for Seinfeld's fictional pal George Costanza, is the holy grail of parking: free parking mere paces from your destination in a place where any parking spots are hard to find, and where even the expensive parking is less convenient than the Costanza parking.

Costanza parking is rare, unless you ride a Vespa.

When you ride a Vespa, Costanza parking is plentiful. There's even more Costanza parking for Vespas than for other motorcycles (yes, Vespas are motorcycles).

That's because Vespas are relatively small beautiful works of transportation art, and the parking warden (in Montreal we call them Green Onions because their uniforms were green and the tickets they give you make you cry) who will gleefully ticket a Harley, will cruise right on by, overlooking a Vespa.

This is critically important, because parking that attracts a ticket is the most expensive parking of all, the antithesis of Costanza parking.

What's my point (I know you're wondering)? Patience, we're getting there, I promise.

Costanza parking can seem more plentiful than it actually is. You know this. You're going to that great little restaurant you've dying to try, and wait! There's a spot! Oh... fire hydrant. Oh! There! ... Drats, a no stopping sign.

You see for cars there are signs, lots and lots of signs. All you need to do to find true Costanza parking is to read the signs: 'no parking' 'no parking 7:00 a.m, to 10:00 a.m.', blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Finding true Costanza parking with a powered two-wheeler is more a black art than a reading assignment.

Yes there are some signs: 'stationnement pour motos'. But they are rare, and even more rarely do the parking places they identify qualify as Costanza parking.

Like the coureurs de bois, Indian scouts, trappers, and woodsmen of old, you need arcane knowledge gained by keen and patient observation. You need to stop and stoop where others tramp hurriedly on, to scoop and sniff a handful of earth, notice a broken twig, or observe an overturned stone, to find the quarry.

It is by taking the time to pause and observe, the other day, that I learned more about moto parking.

You see, those wise in the ways of the PTWs teach that you can park a moto at the beginning or end of permitted street parking spots, in other words, technically in forbidden parking space, and you won't get ticketed. It's not written anywhere (or if it is I can't be bothered to find it).

I have shared this before, grasshopper.

What I observed recently is priceless. I'm a giver (as my MV friend Treppenwitz says) so I'm sharing it here with you.

Pay attention, grasshopper. Observe.

See the motos parked in the forbidden space, close by the permitted space.
See the dreaded Green Onion ticketing the hapless black car.
See the Green Onion stalking oh so closer to the motos, within p-e-r-f-e-c-t striking distance he is, p-r-e-c-i-o-u-s!
Oooooooh! NO TICKET!!!!

Bazinga! You're welcome!

PS: If parking interests you too, I have listed all the parking posts together as a topic in the gear posts page, which you can get to by clicking on the link above, or by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cold weather is here

When the cold sets in, I need to have all my cold weather riding strategies in play.

I found and installed the liner for my riding pants, my Icon winter gauntlets are standard fare, the grip heaters are set to medium low at the start, but quickly make their way to the maximum setting.  A windbreaker sits between my Corrazo underhoody and Corazzo 5.0 jacket.

With all that gear on you begin to feel like an astronaut... until you get underway.  Until then, hyperthermia is more a risk than hypothermia.

The gear that's way too much indoors, is perfect during the commute.  Even at expressway speeds there is no chill, no pain, only the joy of riding.

So what dictates the end of the season?  Icy roads; full stop.

Commuting is very different from casual riding.  You could take a ride on any winter day when the roads are dry and clear.  The gear I wear will keep you warm.  And if it wasn't quite up to the task, without spending a fortune, I could buy heated motorcycle clothing like a vest, for instance.

But commuting reliably and safely means that conditions have to be good for the hour spent on the road in the morning, and the hour spent on the road in the evening.  If a storm blows in during the day, the bike could be stuck downtown for days, weeks, or possibly a month, while I wait for roads to become safe.  That's not a good situation.

The scooter commuter therefore has to call it a day once the temperature drops to where snow is a real possibility.  And that day has come.  Snow flakes have been drifting down in the last few days and there are reports of significant snowfall outside the city.

Now that the 15,000 mile mark has rolled over on the odometer, I'm content to plug the scooter in, throw the cover on, and start looking for a winter project.

Friday, November 2, 2012

And now for a change of pace

Three years of the scoot commute have left me happy, and fat.

It's high time for a change of pace. I'm plugging in the Vespa soon and trading life on two wheels, for life on two feet. Exchanging rubber on the road, for boots on the ground. The shoe leather express.

Some folks here refer to it as taking the BMW to work (as in Bus, Metro, Walk).

I drove in yesterday morning owing to the continuing inclemencies of hurricane Sandy. Lauren wanted the car to go home early, so it was time for me and my newly acquired train pass to pound the pavement and hit the rails.

It's nice really, a brisk 15 minute walk, a brightly lit brand new double-decker commuter train. A nice place to blog, really.

I feel more virtuous already.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.