Monday, December 30, 2013

The outlook for 2014

There's no better way to prepare for the new year than by doing something totally crazy.

And here it is, the post that blows past the 100-post-self-imposed blog limit.

What's new?  2014 is showing signs of being an awesome year in the life of your host.  Some things that are on the horizon, the things that will be truly life-altering, can't be uttered out loud.

I think I'll just stick to some of the minor awesome things.  Like the recent past, for instance.

The Christmas holidays have been a blessing.  Jonathan, Lauren and Andrew shared our roof, as did Vicky, Jonathan's girlfriend.  We celebrated Susan's birthday with a gourmet dinner at one of the city's very best restaurants, Club Chasse et Pêche, in Old Montreal.  Bob, do you remember where we parked our bikes in the old city, right on a corner, and then went for a stroll?  Well, two or three doors up that street is where the restaurant is.  A slice of heaven on earth, truly.
Photo to jog Bob's memory
See how Bob got here
Before that, we celebrated Christmas, but on the 27th, not the 25th.  Vicky couldn't get away from Toronto until the 26th at the end of the day, so we held our gift giving and receiving desires in check until she was able to join us.

And what did Santa have in store for me?  I'm glad I asked.

Among many other things too numerous to mention, I got a state of the art Cuisinart Grind and Brew coffee maker.  The new model with the bur grinder.  Our old Grind and Brew quit on us a few days before Christmas, after more than ten years of loyal service.  A doohickey on the grinder bit that is vital to the operation of the whole machine broke off, rendering the entire thing utterly useless.  For those who are coffee lovers, the Grind and Brew is, in my not-so-humble opinion,  the very best drip coffee maker in the world.

Did I get anything that made my rider's heart skip a beat?  You betcha!

Lauren drew me in the family-only secret Santa draw and gave me Oxford Heaterz heated grips, and a Warm-N-Safe Heat Troller.  There will be much fiddling to install them on the GTS, including the obligatory self-imposed project report.  Some dremelling has already been done, and there is more to do before the deed is done.  Thank you, thank you, thank you Lauren!!!

And there you have it folks.  The 101st blog post.  So much for arbitrary limits and self-imposed constraints.  I am a rebel at heart anyway.  It suits me better than the alternative.  I guess this means that there is no way of telling how many blog posts will happen in 2014 now is there?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

One Hundred

This is the one hundredth Scootcommute blog post for 2013.
This is a blog post stew, a potpourri of random thoughts. Read on, you'll eventually understand.
      The bitter end     

On Sunday, November 24th, I put the Vespa into hibernation.

I checked the oil, checked and topped up the coolant level, checked the tire pressure, put in gasoline stabilizer, gave the bike a sponge bath, went to the gas station for a top-up, rolled the bike into position in the alcove at the back of the garage, put the cover on it, plugged in the battery tender, put away all the gear, and that was it.

The ride to get gas was very, very cold, especially on my legs because I was only wearing jeans. The odometer read 34,100 kilometers. The bike had 25,000 kilometers when I got it in March. That means just over 9,000 happy kilometers or 5,500 happy miles for the 2013 season. It should have been more. My moto tour consumed 3,000 km all by itself. But it's the commuting that really packs on the miles, and between March and November there was a lot of out of town travel and inclement weather that chewed into the commuting.

If anyone is counting, I know I am, that's 20,500 miles in the Vespa saddle for me. And I've only just begun. The 10,000 mile patch on my Corazzo jacket now feels inadequate. The next one is a 50K patch. I'm not even half way there.
      Not for the superstitious     

On Friday, December 13th, that's right, Friday the Thirteenth, I had tooth #18 (top right wisdom tooth, for the non-dental professionals among you) evicted.

My dentist had been recommending the eviction for years now. But, a tooth, is a tooth, is a tooth, no matter how unwelcome and useless it might be. I had done my level best to save it (actually to have my dentist save it). But in October it started acting out. And Stan did some creative work on it, against his better judgment. He said his last ditch effort "could last a week, a month, or a year" but he repeated his advice "it's time for that troublesome tooth to go".

Push came to yank when the on-and-off pain became distracting. When I went to see Stan fresh from a weekend of throbbing, he said "ready to get rid of it?" Sadly, I was.

The only appointment at the dental surgeon was for Friday the 13th. No surprise there. The fact that I leaped gleefully at the opportunity, tells you how meddlesome #18 had become. Other events had made me select the same day as the record date for all my company's year-end filings with securities authorities here and in the U.S. Now, if I were superstitious, that would have been the fate-tempting decision of all time. Adding a little tooth extraction was only putting one more dicey egg in that trouble-inviting date-basket.

As I write this on Saturday morning, it looks like I dodged the fate bullet. Friday the thirteenth, bah humbug to you! Hello Saturday the 14th! I'm under Susan's orders to lie low. She doesn't want my head to blow up. Fourteen hours post-op, and I'm feeling semi-human. But my mouth feels like Vancouver fourteen hours after the 2011 NHL riot.
      WTF - (Why the fuss?)     

It's now Wednesday, December 18.

I think I'll make this the last 2013 post, and cross my fingers that nothing crops up that begs to be shared between now and the very end of the year. Uh-Oh! What if Santa delivers Gerbing gloves on the 25th? What if I figure out how to make a four-way flasher circuit for the Vespa? What if Santa gets me new armored pants...?

If something does crop up, I think I may fiddle with this post to add to it, and in that way keep the Scootcommute to 100 posts for 2013. Ok, ok, that's kind of cheating, I know.

But 100 is such a nice round number. It's also a fairly ambitious undertaking. Just under two posts a week, on average. After all, I don't think I want to hold myself accountable for producing more than 100 posts in 2014. I certainly don't want this to become a chore. Something that makes a negative contribution to my life. And if I do blow past 100 posts, I'll never get to another decent, respectable target or cap. The next semi-worthy stop is 150, and that's a lousy cap. It's like one-and-a-half. 125 is worse, that's like one-and-a-quarter. Like some small ingredient in a recipe. Like cornstarch, or cream of tartar, or baking powder.

I enjoy writing blog posts. I never once thought I'd commit so much 'ink' to any topic. At least not to the Scootcommute. I did begin to write a spy novel. I haven't touched it in about five years, it seems. I tell myself that it's like wine in an oak cask. It's maturing. I'll come back to it when I get myself down to one day-job. I'll have a fresh perspective then. A better sense of my narrator's voice.

The Scootcommute has given me a little more confidence, at least as a writer. How pretentious does that sound? A while back I was in a cute little shop, full of cute little stuff. One thing was a small book of insults. One insult that comes to mind was suitable for a book reviewer. "That's not writing, that's typing!" Ouch!

If you're into insults, but you're already immersed in the spirit of the holidays, have a listen to You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch!. The version I have is off the Glee! Christmas album of a few years back, sung by K.D. Lang and Matthew Morrison. I don't want to spoil it too much for you if you haven't heard it, but "Your brain is full of spiders" is a personal favorite. Now Dr. Seuss, he was a writer.
Well, that's enough musing for one last post, if you ask me. Besides, there's an even chance I'll have to return and dump in more stuff to keep the total down to one hundred.

Time will surely tell.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Here we are in the midst of a temporary and all too short reprieve for North American turkeys.  Somewhere on the calendar between Canadian and US Thanksgiving.

That certainly doesn't mean that there is nothing to be thankful for, far from it.

Bob (yes that Bob) took up the production of a modest, little, and oh so exclusive, clothing line.  The production run was microscopic by normal fashion industry standards.
What the garments lack in runway finesse, they more than make up for in the exquisite and refined beauty of the micro-limited-edition artwork.  I may have to keep mine under lock and key.

Hopefully Karen, or Steve or Bob may one day put one up in a Sotheby's auction and the rest of us (or our lucky estates) will be able to watch the price get driven to stratospheric levels.  But not me... I'm holding on to mine.

Let us all give thanks to Bob.

Thanks Bob!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Let the shopping begin

This is a post for the trendy jet-setters among you.

Now that the Vespa riding season has closed, it's open season on Christmas shopping.

Ogilvy's has a Vespa LX50, skinned in the store's iconic tartan, front and centre in one of its Ste-Catherine street windows.

Ogilvy's windows, and particularly its Christmas displays, make even the grinchiest scrooge want to shop till he drops.  As you can see, the bike is laden with undoubtedly expensive chi-chi gifts suitable for the most discerning trophy wife or trophy husband.
This baby makes its appearance every few years or so in the holiday windows at Ogilvy's.  By the look of this bike it spends its substantial idle time between appearances safely stored in the store's prop department, because it bears not a single sign of wear or tear.

It's a fitting tribute to Vespas everywhere.  Vespas are perhaps, just perhaps, the bikes that best evoke that free-spirited, carefree, upscale, totally cool, yet eco-friendly urban lifestyle that the store feels will lure the fancy-pants crowd to spend, and spend.

For those who have the means to make a trip to Montreal just to do their money-is-no-object holiday shopping, the two city blocks  between Sherbrooke to the north, Ste-Catherine to the south, Mountain to the east, and Crescent to the west, are home to the toniest, most exclusive, and most expensive shopping Montreal has to offer.  Ogilvy's anchors the south-east corner.  The flagship Apple store is two doors west.  Holt Renfrew anchors the entire north end on Sherbrooke street.  In between you will find boutiques offering the nec plus ultra for Christmas, from Cartier, to Louis Vuiton, to Rolex, to Louboutin, to Jimmy Choo, and beyond.  Sadly, there are no Vespas for sale there, notwithstanding the promise Ogilvy's vitrine seems to make.

I suggest you book a suite at the Ritz Carlton right now.  While you<re at it, better make some reservations at Maison Boulud in the hotel, because that place will be hopping with hungry and wealthy holiday shoppers.  Snooze and you lose.  It may already be too late.

The gold diggers among you who aspire to become trophy wives should be able to find a suitable perch at Chef Daniel Boulud's bar where you'll be able to angle for a suitably wealthy sugar daddy.

I can almost hear the sleigh bells.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The thrill is gone...

... the thrill is gone away, the thrill is gone baby...
'Cause the snow has come, the snow has come my way...

Yes indeed, B.B. King and the weather has me singing the blues.

So long black Vespa...
Hello black Honda.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Think big, not small - thoughts on Quebec's charter of values

If there is a season or time of the year for thinking, it has to be November.

University students have exams looming and they have to be thinking.  Remembrance Day is this coming Monday, and that invariably gets me thinking.

This morning I set out for the office on my Vespa.  I had to think about that quite carefully.  The exquisite calculus of low temperatures and the probability of icy precipitation is more art than science.

The year is ending and my work requires me to be thinking, mostly about compliance filings and satisfying the myriad requirements of securities regulators and investors.  Christmas is also on the horizon. I need to think about gifts, holiday plans, and Susan's birthday.

Some thoughts are somber however.

Remembrance day brings my grandfather to mind.  He was a World War I veteran.  I only knew him through my grandmother's voice and her eyes, how tenderly and reverently she spoke of him.  Those are thoughts of loss, of pain.  You get to a point when you seem to know more people who have left this good earth than those who walk it still.  There are people in my iPhone address book who have left us.  Telephone numbers that only evoke memories, that either lead elsewhere, or nowhere, but that used to lead to the well known tones of peoples' voices.  I can hear them now.  "Hello!"  That simple word with the many lilts and intonations.  My mom, my grandmother, my mother in law, father in law, aunts, uncles, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbors, mentors.

When it comes to thinking, bigger is better than smaller.  Higher, is better than lower.  Anything that gets us to think, really think, is better than the alternative.  Life presents many opportunities to resist thought.  It takes guts to think.  Thinking leads us to the boundaries of our knowledge.  To where the fear of the unknown lurks in the shadows.

There are those, intellectually speaking, who prefer the comfort of the known.  The small circle of friends and family, the familial and familiar.  People who prefer simple explanations.  Sometimes, perhaps often, the comfort of simple explanations and familiar surroundings can best be found by walling out aspects of life, aspects of our humanity, that challenge the simplicity and comfort of our smaller, simpler lives.

I find that many people who succumb to the temptation to live simple, neat and tidy lives, in the midst of simple, neat and tidy surroundings, are small-minded.  They think simple low thoughts.  Often they get their comfort at best by exclusion, at worst by oppression.  This is how ghettos happen.  These are the headwaters of xenophobia, prejudice, biggotry, and racism.

This thinking season, there are stark choices facing those of us who live here, in the Province of Quebec.

A bill has been tabled in our legislature.  We like numbers here.  We especially like numbers when as a society we embark upon the politics of exclusion and oppression.  It's simpler, more comfortable, and invites less thought, when we use a number instead of a name.  Bill 22, Bill 101, Bill 60, now what's not to like?  It's certainly much better for the mover of low-brow, simple thoughts, to give the thing a number than to call it by its rightful name, like The Suppression of Other Cultures Act (Quebec).  It's easier to pretend you aren't a bigot when you promote Bill 60.  Isn't it?  To encourage people to use the number, you give the draft legislation a name that no one can manage in a single breath, much less commit to memory: Charte affirmant les valeurs de laïcité et de neutralité religieuse de l’État ainsi que d’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes et encadrant les demandes d’accommodement.  It even has the words égalité and charte - "equality" and "charter".  How bad can it be?

What better way to protect our culture, to make it shine brightly, than moving other cultures, different from ours, out of the light, into the shadows, towards darkness, and out of sight.  We can stand tall if we march onto the bowed backs of our minority neighbors, can't we?

Bill 60 is the latest and most odious example of institutional, government-sanctioned biggotry.  It's state of the art exclusionary politics of the worst kind.  It's the heavy leaden hand of the state, preparing to take a hefty swing at the usual suspects, all in the name of the mother culture.

To protect our culture we must take deadly aim at the virus that threatens us.  Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs.  Unless they hide their identities, mask their differences, become white like us, we will drum them out of public office, herd them out of public service, banish them from our government offices, schools, hospitals, municipal offices, recreation centres, remove them from our police and fire departments.  Heck, we don't even want them collecting our garbage.

Torontonians are hanging their heads in shame, wringing their hands, and squirming uncomfortably in the glare of world opinion because they have a mayor who is by all accounts failing as a mayor, and failing as a human being on many levels.

I would prefer every Quebec municipality to have its very own Rob Ford if it meant that Bill 60 simply vanished.

As a Quebecker, I feel anger, and deep, deep shame.  I also fear the inevitable consequences of the vile politics of exclusion.  This will get much worse before it gets better.

Those are my November thoughts for now.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Late October commute

It seems like just a short time ago that I went to a dealership north of the city to pick up my Vespa GTS.  That was the beginning of the 2013 season back in March.

Here I sit, looking at the dismal weather outside my office window.  The same diet of rain and fog is in store for the coming days. I know I won't be riding.  The temperatures are already dipping into sub-freezing digits; there has been frost on my Civic in the morning; I spotted a significant patch of ice mid-morning on the street outside the office earlier in the week.

None of these things bode well for commuting to work on a Vespa.

It's not that there isn't any joy in commuting in weather that's this cold.  Last night's commute was thoroughly enjoyable.

I sped westbound in the left lane along Autoroute 20.  It was 7:15 and the sun had set. The cold air blasted at my jacket, rippling the fabric along my arms.  I could feel the chill settling in, bit by bit.  Curious, I touched the button on my helmet communicator "Siri, what's the temperature?"  I said.  "It's currently four degrees Celsius" Siri replied.

The swing playlist resumed as I executed a little S swerve in my lane:  my way of expressing the joy of riding.  It's difficult for a non-rider to understand.  It's also a little routine that goes way back.  I remember doing the same thing and feeling pretty much the same satisfaction on my bicycle when I was a kid.

But now it's different.  There I was last night, cruising along at 110 km/h, listening to the Cherry Poppin Daddies' rendition of Dr. Bones, checking my mirrors, leaning into the turn as the highway veered left away from the airport exit.  It was just above freezing, I wasn't cold, I was chillin'.  I was rocking my Vespa home.  The GPS glowed brightly.  I didn't need it, it's just there so that I can tell how fast I'm really going.  I like the map shifting along as I ride.  It showed me the lake that was out of sight a mile or so to my left.

The ride ended, twenty-five minutes or so after it began.  One of the advantages of working late is that the traffic thins out.  As I rounded the corner I hit the button on the remote control dangling below the ignition.  The garage door rolled up.  I entered, glided to a stop, and hit the kill switch.

This could have been the last commute of 2013.

Rider profile: David Masse

Name: David Masse
Find me on Earth: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Find me Online:,, Motorcycle Men Podcast interview, Life on two wheels YouTube channel
Interview Date: July 29, 2013
Interview Location: Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada

Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

David: It had to be 1974. I was 22.

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

David: Just three. A black 1974 49cc Solex moped, a 2006 dragon red Vespa LX 150, and a 2010 black on black Vespa GTS 300 Super i.e. (Ed. - 2015: add to that a 2003 Honda Shadow VT750 ACE)

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

David: I still have the Vespa LX 150 but it's for sale (ed.: now sold), which means the GTS is really my current bike, and it's far and away my favorite.

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

David: Without a doubt, that would be counter-steering.  There's a single paragraph about it in the Quebec guide for those applying for a motorcycle license.  It just seemed nuts to me.  That to turn right, you steer left? Come on, it must be a test to weed out the feeble-minded.

And yet it's amazingly and counter-intuitively true.  And the faster you ride, the truer it is.  On the highway on the GTS, cruising at 110 kilometers an hour, changing lanes is all counter-steering.  Press right to go right, press left to go left.  It's amazing.  I owe learning to counter-steer to David Hough's excellent Proficient Motorcycling.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

David:  That's easy.  I'm definitely a commuter.  Commuting and touring place the most significant demands on the rider.  In both cases you have to be committed to the ride.  You can wait out really foul weather, but generally you need to be prepared to ride in wet weather, cold weather, and my personal favourite, wet and cold weather.  It takes preparation, good gear, and a well-equipped bike.

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

David:  I am generally a solitary rider, and I really enjoy riding alone.  Roughly half of my 2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour was solo riding, the other half was in the company of two much more accomplished riders.  I learned a lot about riding in a small group on the Tour, and that means I learned from mistakes that no doubt strained my companions' patience at times.

I also did a large group ride with the local scooter club the first year I returned to riding.  That was an interesting experience.  It was a motley crew, everything from a few kids on mopeds through a couple of maxi-scoots, and everything in between.  Riding rules resembled more those of a flock than a squadron. There were a lot of two-stroke scoots along.  As much fun as it was, and it was definitely fun, at the end of the day I felt like I had mowed lawns from dawn to dusk, and my clothes reeked of two-stroke exhaust fumes.

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarassing riding moment.

David:  It was a tiny incident, that took a few micro-seconds, but grew to embarrassing proportions.

Following the example of many motor bike owners before me, and inspired by what I had learned on the Modern Vespa forum, I replaced the stock horn on my Vespa LX with a Stebel air horn.  I was my first ambitious modification.  I had read some isolated reports of Stebel horn failures, and my wiring was initially a little wrong.  I loved the horn, but kind of expected that it could fail for some reason.

I pulled up to the garage at the office after a lunch time jaunt, and the door was closed.  In an effort to get the attendant's attention, I honked.  All I got was a pathetic whirring sound.  Damn! The Stebel's quit, I thought.  I imagined that the whirring sound I heard was the horn compressor barely spinning and managing only a faint hiss.

Certain I had a horn failure on my hands, I promptly sought help from the Modern Vespa forum.  Yikes!  In no time I was accused of being a troll (what the heck??) and of irresponsibly denigrating Stebel horns that were obviously akin to the holy grail of the MV inner circle.  I might as well have kicked a Harley at a biker bar.  The tempest eventually abated and I escaped relatively unscathed.

Initially I felt somewhat wronged.  The deep embarrassment descended upon me in private when it slowly dawned on me, weeks later, after a similar incident, that I had hit the starter button, not the horn button.   There never was a Stebel horn failure, and that horn is now in its second Vespa, and has still never failed.

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

David:  That's a tough one.  Almost every ride is filled with pleasure, and some rides are truly blissful.  In that sense, the best place my bike takes me is to a state of mind.  In terms of physical places, the best places have been the places I rode in Bob's company to meet up with Dave Dixon and Sonja and Roland Mager (Coquitlam BC) and Steve Williams (Bellefonte, PA, and State College, PA).   Steve and Dave, more than any others, inspired me to take up riding a Vespa.  I am sure neither of them realizes the important role they played.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

David: I always wanted to own and ride a Vespa motor scooter.  The desire was born in high school where I spent many a lunch break admiring the motor scooters that some of the college kids rode to school.  The closest I came back then was when I was in college and got a Solex moped for my birthday.  My mother was not prepared to let me ride anything more motorcycle-like than that.  I managed to wring a lot of happiness out of that little bike.

I only graduated to an actual Vespa in 2010, very recently.  I'm in my fourth season.  All I can say is that if I had even suspected the pleasure I have had riding my Vespas, I would have begun this adventure years and years earlier.

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

David: Never to become complacent, always to be aware and vigilant when I ride.  That, and one day to coax my darling wife onto the passenger saddle for modest little rides along the lake shore for coffee or ice cream.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fishy goings on

When I was a kid, I dreaded fishy Fridays. It's been an eon since I had a fishy Friday.

Last Sunday in Vancouver turned out to be fishy, but in a good way.

First we had breakfast.  You can't have much fun on an empty stomach, un-fueled by a cup or two of Joe.

Well prepared for adventure, we rolled out of the Marina Grill. If you didn't know this place existed, there's no way you could find it. There is however a clue. There's a sign for the restaurant hanging off a crane on the Vancouver-bound side of the second narrows bridge. By the time you see that sign it's way too late. As the farmers are famous for saying, "you can't get there from here".
Bob is secretive, because he loves surprises. Yvonne wasn't about to tip me to his game.

We set out in Yvonne's Subaru SUV.  Bob would only provide cryptic clues on where we were going.

It turned out that the first stop after breakfast was Deep Cove.  It's a charming little town perched on the rocky shore of Burrard Inlet, where the road ends, literally.  It would be too hard to describe this wonderful corner of the world.  Posting pictures will save me thousands of words.
Deep Cove is across the inlet from Burnaby Mountain, Ioco, and Belcarra.  The last time I was in those places I was in the company of Bob, Sonja, Roland, and Dave.

We then headed in the direction of Capilano with Bob teaching me the ins and outs of North Shore geography. It's all about canyons, ravines, streams and cuts. I'm not sure I retained more than the most obvious parts of the lessons.

We headed up a road I do know, the one that leads up to Grouse Mountain, somewhere on the far side of the Lion's Gate bridge.  Following a little bit of U-turn trial and error, we shot down a rabbit-hole of a side-street and followed its twisty route.  At the end of that road (truly a day of dead-end roads) we came upon the Capilano salmon hatchery.

It's quite something to see the salmon leaping up the ladder of small pools, against the torrent of water spilling downstream.
Regrettably I was unable to catch one in the act.

The old growth forest reminded me of Muir Woods just north of San Francisco.  The trees are not as tall, but the feeling is familiar, strolling among the towering trees, with the river rushing its way through the canyon.
The Lumix LF1 camera that I bought on Bob's recommendation seems to live up to Bob's assessment in spades.  It has an astonishingly good optical zoom, an excellent aperture that lets lots of light in, and a very large image sensor that allows you to capture some very attractive shots.
The rather unique thing is that there is a Panasonic app for the iPhone that lets you control the camera over the WiFi connection.  You can frame, zoom and shoot with a touch of the icon on the app.  The downside is that you end up with a goofy look of concentration on your face as you try to operate the app while looking nonchalant and debonaire.  Fail.
l used a slow shutter speed to lend more drama to this waterfall.

I thought we might be done for the day, but Bob had one more local pearl to share with me.

We headed towards Horseshoe Bay.  I recognized the winding road that hugs the shoreline.  Bob took a left turn down a street that looked more like a private driveway than a real street.  No tourist would have gone this way.

The street lead to a small point jutting into the water.
I'm not sure what the 'Pilot House' might be.  I was in a quiet contemplative place, and reading the plaque was the furthest thing from my mind.
This is a truly peaceful place.  It's a good place to come to sit and think.  There are a few benches for thinkers who prefer not to sit on the rock.
The city is visible, but barely intrudes on the serenity of this place.
It is a good place to think.

A very big thank you to Bob and Yvonne for devoting their Sunday to show me more sights.  The weather was dismal, but the company more than made up for it.

I had a great time.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Breakfast with Bob

I had to pick this title because it's whimsical.  It's not misleading, but it is inadequate.  A better title would be "A weekend with the Skoots".

Not too long ago I posted "Lunch with Bob".  Once more I'm sharing a meal with Bob, but it's not that Bob, it's this Bob.  If you're confused, it's all Bob's fault.

Last Saturday morning I was patiently waiting for Bob (see my previous post) so that I could have some breakfast.  We had decided the night before (I can't remember if it was before or after the excellent dinner I enjoyed in the company of Bob and Yvonne at Phnom Penh) that our Saturday morning breakfast venue would be the Tomahawk.  Vancouver is a foodie city.  At the risk of offending, I'll say that Vancouver and Montreal are neck-and-neck as the foodie capital of Canada.  It should come as no surprise that Vancouver attracted Guy Fiori and his Camaro.  Among the diners, drive-ins, and dives he showcased are those two fabulous eateries.
Suffice to say that we didn't come away hungry.
After breakfast, Bob and I set off to see the sights.

Lynn Creek is not a name that does justice to the rain forest valley that is barely a twenty minute drive from downtown Vancouver.

Simply stunning.  Those are just the right words.  Towering moss-covered trees, and a crystal clear stream babbling its way along the valley floor around smooth river-worn rocks as it leaves a shrouded grotto nestled at the end of the park.  Therapeutic is another good word.
Actually, you only get the therapy if you don't have a fear of heights or suspended bridges that bounce and sway.

The day was capped off by... more food.  This time all you can eat sushi in Richmond in the company of the Vancouver chapter of the British Columbia Corvette Club.

Bob gave me this pin.
The pin ceremony was brief ("here's a little something...") but not entirely devoid of decorum. I think I may have to buy a Corvette.  Yikes!

Once we were incapable of eating more food, there was endless chatter.  The words C2, C7, header, oil, and Bowling Green Kentucky, came up, a lot.  Next summer there is a massive Corvette rally in the states, and many members of the club are making the trip, including Bob and Yvonne.

Again I find myself privileged to meet truly exceptional people.  Jenny and Loren drove a Ford Model A Phaeton from Peking to Paris this past summer.  Two nicer people you'll never meet.  After the restaurant everyone headed over to Gordon and Sue's place for coffee and more conversation. This was an evening I truly enjoyed.

Not too shabby for a weekend on the wet coast.  And stay tuned, there's another instalment coming.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Westward, the wet coast beckons

I'm a little homesick.  I'm also a little hungry.  Where's Bob?

Just sitting here in Vancouver, waiting for Bob.
Where is he? Hi Sonja!  What are you and Roland up to?

The blog as real-time communication.  Fascinating.


That's right, stop!
How often do you do that? Stop the serious stuff you're up to? Like commuting?

I never used to. What stops me?

McDonalds stops lots of folks. So does Starbucks. Traffic stops most of us, likewise subway and train issues, bus delays, fuel stops. None of those count. Only voluntary stops and pauses count.

What stops me? More than any other thing, the sky stops me. First it arrests my eyes, then blows my mind, and that shifts my focus. I am drawn, I have to stop. The sky dictates the place, and my Vespa is my enabler.

Momentarily, I am distracted by necessity. Kickstand, helmet, gloves, iPhone, exposure, focus, composing, fussing, snapping. Knowing the picture doesn't have a prayer of translating what my eyes plainly see. Yet saving the moment, sharing the moment, in spite of the obvious imperfection, is a must.
So there it is. Wasted effort? Time wasted? Time well wasted. Effort well spent.

This is so much more important than... many other things.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lunch with Bob

I finally got to meet Bob Lush last week.

Bob suggested Mount Royal, in the area near the Smith House, across from the police riding stable.
It was a beautiful setting, on a gorgeous sun-drenched fall day.  Bob spoiled me.  He had stopped by Schwartz's on the way to the rendez-vous and picked up some smoked meat sandwiches and kosher dill pickles.  He flatly refused my attempt to pay.

We spent almost two hours chatting.

Oddly, we spent more time talking about sailing, than riding.

Bob is a fascinating guy, a retired sailing magazine publisher, and an expert sailor.  And I don't mean that he's a talented weekend fair-weather Lac St-Louis sailor.  I mean serious ocean sailing.  He spent twenty-odd years sailing his 37 foot sailboat in the Caribbean, from his home base in the Virgin Islands where he lived on his boat.  He's a skipper's skipper.  He taught himself celestial navigation, and then taught others the skills he learned.  Give Bob a decent sailboat, a sextant and some half decent charts, and there is nowhere on this planet he couldn't roam.

I am not a sailor, but I have known more than a few sailors.  Some with decent sailing skills, some who sailed by the seat of their pants, and others who made up for gaps in skills with large amounts of money.  Bob strikes me as a guy who knows more about bridging money gaps with mad skills than most other people I have been privileged to meet.

Oh... and Bob took up riding at 70, that's his ticket to freedom, and this is his ride.
I should add that I only know three riders who use throttle locks. There's Bob, there's me, and then there's Bob.

Monday, October 14, 2013

There's a Maniac Laughing at me

Guest Post by bobskoot:

Let me say that when you are traveling on unfamiliar roads, following your GPS doesn't give you the real story. You follow that purple line and it tells you to go straight, or make a turn. It doesn't necessarily tell you which lane you should be in. And so it was that I had to go straight but was caught in the left turn lane. I did ask the lady in the car next to me to let me in, but since I was in the Lead I also had to take care of those following behind, which was David (scootcommute) and Karen (Vstar*Lady)
We were nearing our destination and my GPS said to go straight for about half a block and then turn right.  I mean, how did I know not to be in the right lane where all traffic was supposed to turn right.   I had no alternative but to go where my gut told me but David was right behind me and he could see the predicament I was in and turned his GoPro on to record the whole thing.   I could hear him laughing at me all the way through my Sena helment communicator.

We were about to get another scolding from No Nonsense Karen.    I was having problems with my GoPro freezing due to a mistake I made performing the software upgrade so I missed recording the part where David (scootcommute) did a lane splitting maneuver somewhere near Old Orchard beach when he passed on the right to get past some slow moving cars.    It was the curb lane where normally there would be parked cars, except no cars were parked so he used that as an acceleration lane.   I somehow knew he was going to "gun it" when the light changed green but I think Karen thought we were going to make a right turn.

Needless to say we both got a scolding later in the day.   We both quickly learned that the teacher is always right

I am finding more time to edit and post my video and when I saw this clip that David recorded I just had to share it with you

bob skoot
Riding the Wet Coast, Vancouver, BC

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rider profile: Danielle Bartholomew (formerly Vallée)

Name: Danielle Bartholomew (formerly Vallée)
Find me on Earth: In a cafe somewhere in Montreal, Quebec. Or look for me in Tokyo!
Find me Online:
Interview Date: Thursday, August 1, 2013
Interview Location: At home in St-Lazare, Quebec
Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Danielle: Ha ha, I started less than 2 months ago and I'm 48! Is this my mid-life crisis? (I intend to thrive 'til I'm at least 96!).

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Danielle: Only the scooter I have now. I've always been attracted to classic motorcycles and Vespas but I have a fear of falling (even from a bicycle!), which led me to become an excellent hiker and a respectable weightlifter.

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

Danielle: I bought a brand new 2013 Honda Giorno 50cc scooter in Azuki brown, which I love. In the U.S. Honda calls it a Metropolitan. I'd actually planned to get a Vespa LX50 and the salesman took one look at my 5'4" frame and said there was no way I could sit on it with flat feet. So that steered me towards my Honda or the Yamaha Vino. I've since been reading about shaving down the foam in a Vespa seat to make it lower and narrower for shorter riders, so that could be a project for down the road. But in the meantime my Honda Giorno is a beautiful, well-built scooter and thank god, it doesn't sound like a mosquito.

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

Danielle: There are so many challenges on a scooter that I've never had to think about driving a car for 32 years. Like the wind pushing me around, or bugs smacking me in the face, or my body absorbing every dip and bump in the road, or the need for a strong core to stay alert, balanced and steady. Stuff like the crazy focus required on a scooter compared to a car where you can slouch and multi-task. The strange fact that when I take a turn I have to look way ahead to where I'm going rather than at the road just in front of me. I'd say counter-steering and cornering are still a bit tricky - it's still scary to go from riding at full throttle to slowing to take a sharp turn without a stop sign or traffic light to alert the drivers behind me.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

Danielle: Yes. :-) For now I'm sticking to fair weather. I can see that I'm going to want to ride deep into Fall but I want to be careful about biting off more than I can chew. And since I can't control other drivers, only my awareness of them, I never forget that. Once a week in the summer I finish work early so I've started commuting the 2+ hours in each direction on those days, between home and the heart of downtown Montreal. That is TIRING! But it's SO exhilarating! It's a beautiful ride along the lakeshore and the challenge of doing something a little crazy but basically safe definitely appeals to me. That commute is so long it feels like a tour!

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

Danielle: Since I'm so new to it I'm a solitary rider and to be honest, I like the silence and break from my iPhone, computer, TV, radio and all the "stuff" that makes my life better and yet not. Besides, none of my friends rides a scooter - god bless 'em, they're all out on their bicycles!

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarassing riding moment.

Danielle: Turning a corner in rural St-Lazare and going so wide I almost landed in the ditch! I still didn't have the feel of the throttle yet - you know, that ability to micro-adjust it so the scooter doesn't leap forward? Trying to get the handlebars to turn back onto the street I felt like I was wrestling a crocodile! I was in the middle of nowhere laughing out loud, thinking "YIKES! I haven't got a clue!!!" And I still don't; but I'm working on it. :-)

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

Danielle: Home! In the Spring I'm moving into a loft on the Lachine Canal near downtown and I'll use my scooter to get around. But in the meantime I still live in St-Lazare and this area is a paradise for riding with long, winding, hilly roads passing farms, carving through forests, and following the lake. I'm SO grateful to have started my riding here and I know after I move I'll be so happy to ride "home" to visit my sister and her family here. Also, my weekly commute along Lac St-Louis into Montreal and back is impossibly gorgeous and surreal. That long ride tests me in a lot of ways and rewards me in more than I can count.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

Danielle: I didn't intend to ride. But in May my co-worker Martin took me out for a spin on his motorcycle to help me let off some steam and - something inside me shifted. My fear of falling from a bike was replaced by the sudden, visceral need to feel that free again; within 2 weeks I'd bought a scooter having never ridden one. I tell people that there's something about the vulnerability, the speed, the smells, sounds, tastes - everything you feel, everything that riding asks of you and gives you back - that's exactly what I need in my life at this time to forget about my worries and just appreciate what is.

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

Danielle: I'd love to have my motorcycle license so I could ride a more powerful scooter like the Vespa GTS 300ie! And oh yeah, it would have to fit. ;-


Friday, October 11, 2013


Days are growing shorter; the 2013 riding season is gradually drawing to a close.

Without heated grips on the GTS, cold hands will soon be the bane of my commute.
This weekend is fully booked, and there is no time to install the tall windscreen and the Tucano Urbano apron. I can only hope that next week the weather will be kind-ish.

The consolation? Delightful sunsets, and the comforting glow of home at the end of the ride.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Kindness and generosity

'What goes around, comes around', 'pay it forward', 'do unto others...', 'random acts of kindness' are all phrases that encourage us to be generous and kind.

When you see people going places on two wheels, kindness and generosity are not the first sentiments that come to mind.

More often than not, the rider we see is solitary, the glimpse we get is fleeting.  There's not much time to form any impression.  If I think about this, trying to put myself back into the shoes I wore before I started riding, the impression that comes to mind more than any other is solitude.  The solitary rider.  Other impressions I imagine as I think about it some more, are somewhat unfavourable, often associated with loud pipes, sport bikers bent on breaking a land speed record, or even outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Because non-riders outnumber riders by a huge, huge proportion, I imagine that kindness and generosity are the furthest things from most people's minds when it comes to riding, and riders.

From my relatively new vantage point as a rider, the strongest impressions I have of riders are of generosity and kindness.

I won't name names, because no one is looking for praise or recognition, far from it.  But I can cite incredible acts of kindness and generosity I have witnessed, and personally benefited from.  I will admit to having performed some of those acts myself.  The truth is that it would be very difficult for me to balance the account by giving as much as I have received.  As some of you know, I have tried.  But it seems an impossible task.

So I do the best I can, with my modest means.  I did a nice turn recently for a rider I've never met, who lives in a far-off place.  I hope some day to visit, and to connect the face, the voice and the presence needed to complete our acquaintance, and our mutual acts of kindness and generosity.

This is just one of the ways riding has brought me happiness.

Me ka ha`aha`a,


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rider profile: Bob Lush

Name: Bob Lush
Find me on Earth:  Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Find me Online: E-mail only, and that's personal.
Interview Date: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Interview Location:  Mount Royal
Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Bob: I moved to Montreal 6 years ago and bought my first scooter about 6 months later. I was 70.

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Bob: My new 2011 Kymco Super 8 is my second. My first bike was an '02 Yamaha and was a super unit except it was not up to my weight and the Montreal potholes. I abused it terribly. The Kymco is robust but dangerously slow and I am currently in the midst of spending a fortune giving it some balls. (Not because I want to be fast, but because I want to be safe.) The Yamaha was by far my favorite.

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

Bob: 2011 Kymco Super 8 is my second.

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

Bob: I find Montreal drivers terribly anti-scooter, particularly women, but my biggest challenge is parking. It looks and sounds easy but I've received a few crippling tickets.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

Bob: I'm retired so can schedule my outings but have been caught in the rain a few times which scares the hell out of me. I figure at my age I've only got one fall left in me and do not look forward to it. I do not ride like a granny though.

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

Bob: I might be interested in group outings but so far language is a barrier, because I don't speak French.

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarassing riding moment.

Bob: A few years ago I suffered a loss of balance, and I almost stopped, which was embarrassing but painless. May they remain so.

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

Bob: Riding is my prime method of getting around and my most-fun times are when I get lost, which happens often, and end up exploring and finding new places and things.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

Bob: Riding is my prime method of getting around and my most-fun times are when I get lost, which happens often, and end up exploring and finding new places and things.

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

Bob: Riding 12 months a year, rather than 9, would be better but I don't live in the tropics anymore.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Late September Sunday Magic

It's late September, and unaccountably, we got blessed, truly blessed, with a summer weekend.

It was just too beautiful for words.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Alternative secure helmet storage

My topcase can't hold my helmet today because I am hauling other stuff home.

I thought I'd try the topcase rack as a place for the helmet during the day while the bike is parked at the office.  There is a cable lock and padlock that you can't see making sure the helmet doesn't walk away.

By the way, the bike on the right is a very nice Beemer, I think it's a R1200R, but there is no marking on it.  I do know that it has a very nice custom Corbin seat.  Black Beemer, black Vespa.  Nice parking companions.

On an irrelevant side note, Montreal is largely bedrock.  There are condos going up all around the office.  Lots and lots of dynamite (or whatever they use these days to blow stuff up) is being used.  There was a blast while I was stowing stuff on the bike.  Yikes!  Quite a different experience when you're underground across the street from the blast than being 19 floors above ground.  It sounded and felt like the Jurassic Park T-Rex was right around the corner stomping on an SUV.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tips on refueling a Vespa GTS

Refueling Vespas can be tricky.  Unless you don't mind splashing gasoline everywhere with liberal doses over whatever you might have in the pet carrier.  Then it's easy.

Refueling the Vespa GTS is even trickier than refueling the Vespa LX.  You see, the design of the fuel filler and surrounding area on the GTS is particularly good for getting unwanted fuel in the pet carrier.

For the uninitiated, the 'pet carrier' is the unofficial name of the underseat bin, so called because the manufacturer puts a sticker there that says "no pets".  Go figure.
Overfilling the gas tank can also contaminate the fuel evaporation control system and cause some form of engine failure.

The correct way to fill the tank is to point the pump handle to the rear of the bike.  Fill slowly until the automatic shutoff kicks in, then resist the temptation to add more fuel.
While that recipe will generally prevent fuel spills, there could still be a splash-back from the hose.  To keep fuel out of the pet carrier, here's the trick.  Lift the pet carrier and prop it up with the gas cap.  This gives you a good place for the gas cap and prevents gas from entering the pet carrier and contaminating your gloves, hoody, or lunch.  Win-win.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What do you think?

This has nothing to do with commuting on two wheels, but it made me chuckle.

We were visiting the amazing Chihuly exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and came upon this in an exhibition space.
I immediately thought of a band of native people getting even with an ATV careening across their land, or Custer's last stand, which was the second thought that crossed my mind.

It's an art installation currently displayed at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

What do you think?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rider profile: Dave Dixon

Name: Dave Dixon
Find me on Earth: Maple Ridge, BC
Find me Online: (Big Guy Small Scooter)
Interview Date: July 12, 2013
Interview Location: In the ether near Maple Ridge, BC
Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Dave: I first rode when I was backpacking in Europe. When I got to Greece, with people I was travelling with, we would rent either mopeds or Vespas and spend the day cruising around the Greek Islands. Back then I had long hair and we'd ride, helmet-less, on windy roads, exploring what we came across. We must have done that for about three weeks before moving on to the next part of the trip. I recall having some sort of button that had to slide to change gears but this was 1983 so I'm not sure how accurate my memory is. From that moment on, I loved Vespas and dreamed about having one.

Fast forward to 2006, 23 years later. Our union negotiated a $4000 signing bonus with the government for our contract. Instead of that money going down the endless hole of debt or to some other worthy cause, I thought this time, I'd realize my dream of having a Vespa.

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Dave: Two. My first Vespa was a black LX50 which I bought near new (250km) and put 15, 000km on it over 5 years. It took me as faraway south as Seattle and north to Powell River. I loved that scooter but after 5 years, it was time to move on.

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

Dave: My current bike is a Vespa 250 GTS. It has quite the history. The guy I bought it from picked it up in the US and rebuilt a fair bit of it. I bought it from him for $2500 (which was an amazing price) and then had Vespa Vancouver work on it which cost me another $1000. It is my favourite bike because it can go anywhere on any road and just eats up the miles. It feels more solid than the LX50 and has that extra oomph that makes riding a joy.

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

Dave: The most challenging riding skill would have to be riding twisties and curves at higher speed. I learned, and now I know, that you have to look at where you want the scoot to go. However, I do, from time to time, get distracted by the natural beauty in this part of the world and will, on occasion, get the funny feeling of instability for a split second until I focus on the road ahead again. I'm much better at it but still find it to be a feeling I dread.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

Dave: I live quite close to work so I walk most days but usually moto-commute twice a week. I ride in all types of weather and have gear that will keep me warm. I do love warm weather but I go a little crazy - if it's a local trip and it's quite hot out, I will often go in a t-shirt and jeans. I really do depend on my scooter as a mode of transportation - we gave our second car to my daughter in Prince George last fall and so my Vespa is my main vehicle now.

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

Dave: I usually ride solo but have ridden with other riders on a couple of occasions - which is extremely enjoyable. I want to ride more with groups.

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarassing riding moment.

Dave: I'll share this excerpt from my blog.

On the day of my motorcycle license test, It was raining hard so before taking off to practice, I put on a pair of gortex cycling overbooties so that my hiking boots would stay nice and dry. They attach with velcro and have served me well on many a cycling trip. I then headed off on the Suzuki Marauder 250 to practice.

After practicing my turns, my U-turns and everything else I could think of, I sped over to the testing centre, parked, turned off the bike and promptly fell over!

What had happened was the flap on the bottom of the gortex overbooty caught on the peg on the left side. When I tried to get off, my leg wouldn't go and I was thrown off balance. I fell down and the bike fell over as well.

Sometimes, Buddha or Lady Luck smiles at me after having a good laugh. I practically bounced off the ground and picked up the bike (lucky it was only a 250) and then looked around. Nobody saw me! Two minutes later and a crowd of people were in the lot but at that time I was completely alone amongst the other vehicles!

Sporting a slight limp from my scraped knee and no longer wearing the aforementioned vortex overbooties, I first hobbled, then walked into the testing centre. Surprisingly, after that horrible start, I manage to pass my test with flying colours!

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

Dave: Going over big bridges on my Vespa has always given me an awesome thrill. I still remember crossing the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver on my LX50 and feeling that I truly was on top of the world. The bridge in Washington state over Deception Pass is another awesome bridge. Approaching that bridge from the north is an amazing experience. But the best place I've been to always seems to be the destination of my most recent long tour - and that was Mount St. Helen's in Washington State. I rode from clouds and mist up to brilliant sunshine and had literally majestic views of the mountain.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

Dave: Because it's environmental, it's efficient, I like waving at other motorcyclists (at least the ones that wave back), I like being one of the few Vespa owners in Maple Ridge, I like screaming down the straightaway at 110 kmh (when it's safe, of course), and because riding my Vespa truly makes the journey more interesting than the destination.

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

Dave: Heck, let's go for another group ride! Oh, and it would be nice if smokers in cars stopped flicking their damned cigarettes out the window when I'm behind them!


Thursday, September 12, 2013

2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour - Epilogue and lessons learned

Copyright 2013 - Bob Leong
Of all the Tour posts, this is the one that I wasn't  sure how to approach.

For all the other posts there was a story.  Each had a beginning, a middle and an end.  This one required that I provide the structure.

I'll start with a narrative to let you have my thoughts on what the Tour was for me, how it came to be, how I fitted myself into it, how it became real for me, how the experience changed me.  After that's out of the way, I'll tackle the practical side of touring on a Vespa.

Be warned, this is a long, long post.  It evolved almost to stand-alone book length.  I wonder if a publisher... enough of that foolishness.  Here we go.

It all started with a call from Bobskoot in October, 2012.  It went something like this: "Dave, it's Bob, Bob Leong.  Dave, I need to ride to the Atlantic ocean.  I'm going to go there next July.  I'll be going by your place, I'll pick you up and you can come along. You'll need to get a new bike though.  A Vespa GTS will be plenty.  Karen's coming too.  You'll have no trouble keeping up on a GTS..."

It was a lot to take in.  I knew there was much more to this than buying a new bike.  A lot more.  I also knew that I was ready for it.  It was exciting.  It was an honor to be invited.  Wow!

I won't cover all the preparations over again.  You can read the posts on the Tour in their chronological order.  They're in the 'Touring on a Vespa' page.

There was a lot to adjust to.  I had to ease my loved ones into accepting that this was something I could do without interfering unduly with their happiness.  I needed to get myself to the point where I was ready for the adventure, both practically in terms of equipment, and mentally.  Bob was great.  He is one of the most knowledgeable people I know.  He is also generous.  He gave me a stove, a sleeping bag, and a bunch of other odds and ends I needed.  He also provided advice.

I wasn't into being spoon fed though.  I'm self-reliant.  I did my own homework.  I approached the challenge methodically.  In the end I was ready when the time came.

Being ready for an adventure doesn't mean being relaxed about it. There were moments of doubt and apprehension. Fear of the unknown is overstating how I felt. The best way I can put it is to say that second thoughts would drift into my mind. 'I don't have to do this.' 'It's not too late to back out.' 'It makes more sense to go to Florida with Susan, Jonathan and Andrew.'

The tried and true, the familiar, the well-trodden path, radiate very strong gravitational fields that make it difficult for us to set a course to new experiences. To say that it takes courage overstates the challenge. It does take a certain determination to ignore the voices whispering how comfortable your rut is, and how dim and uncertain the new path seems to be.

'I did it!!'

That's where I am today.

Touring is now part of my vocabulary. It has gone from theory to practice. There is a real satisfaction earned from having accomplished what I set out to do many, many months ago.

From where I sit now, I have a fresh appreciation for the meaning of adventure.  Have a look at the post where I explored that idea. You'll see the seventh step alluding to a memento.  The mementos for my touring adventure were the rider profiles I collected.  The idea expanded to include all the riders I have met and had meaningful exchanges with about the meaning of riding.  You'll find the interviews on the 'Rider profiles' page.

Time to move from philosophy to reality, from theory to practice.

In no particular order (actually, that's a lie, I've tried hard to keep a logical progression going), here are my observations resulting from the Tour.

The Vespa GTS Super as a touring bike

Vespa motor scooters were initially designed for the realities of post-war Italy.  They are short-haul machines designed to get people from A to B, where streets are often extremely narrow, to do it in style, in comfort, and with the ability to park in even the smallest available space.

They certainly have evolved since then. The large frame Vespa GTS 300 that is the star of the Tour is a very capable and sophisticated motorcycle compared to early Vespas. It's a 154 kilo (325 pound), 278cc, four cycle, fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, four-valve, dual disc brake, continously variable transmission driven, halogen lit, wonder of a bike, with a top speed of 80 miles per hour, and that gets 65 miles to the gallon.

But can they tour?

The answer is a definite yes.  There are many examples.  You don't need to go any further than the information on this page to find stunning accounts.  Check out the links in the side bar.  There are certainly dozens of stories about cross-continental trips on Vespas, including the small-frame LX 150, not just the large frame GTS.

Vespas are true beasts of burden.  With front and rear racks they have all the capacity anyone could want to tour for weeks on end with all the necessary gear.  Here is a short video I made as I was leaving that shows what my Vespa looked like fully loaded for the Tour:
Is a Vespa, even a large-frame Vespa, a really good touring bike?  The answer to that question has to be "no".

The Vespa's strengths are also its touring weaknesses.

My Vespa is rated a 300cc bike even though its actual displacement is only 278cc.  That makes it very sprightly in the city, and a serious contender on urban expressways. But even a 300 GTS Super will top out at just under 100 km/h with strong headwinds or a long uphill climb in the mountains.  Then again, averaging 110 km/h (more than 65 mph) is not a problem at all.  I reached 127 km/h (78 mph) on the Tour.  That's pretty much where my Vespa topped out with a full load of camping gear.

The second weak suit is range.

Fuel capacity

The design of the Vespa dictates a small fuel tank (it's only nine liters).  That's fine in the city where fuel is plentiful.  Since it sips fuel (I averaged 65 mpg on the Tour), the Vespa's range if you were to ride efficiently and run it dry, is about 240 km (150 miles).  If you're riding with the throttle locked open, as I sometimes was, fuel economy declines, and along with that so does the effective range.

That means that if you tour on a Vespa, expect to stop often to refuel.

To avoid worrying about running out of gas, I carried a five liter jerry can.  It turned out I never needed it, but it was really nice to know that if I did run out of gas, I still had a five liter reserve.  I refueled from the gas can twice, just as a matter of convenience.

In the end, the lack of effective range wasn't a problem.  I was mostly riding in a severe heat wave, and I needed those breaks to stay properly hydrated.

Another weakness related to the sleek design of the bike is the location of that small fuel tank and its filler tube.  Those are located under the saddle.  The frequent refueling means taking off the gear that has been strapped to the passenger seat, and even removing the jerry can from the footwell rack to get the seat open.  The jerry can had to be removed because it prevented the seat from opening fully.  Quite a bit of exercise I would have liked to avoid four to five times a day.  On the flip side, the exercise was a good break from the saddle.

Classic Rack

I wanted to carry extra fuel. There were a number of options available.  The principal alternatives were i) carry extra fuel in one liter MSR bottles (these can be mounted in various ways using clamps to either the rear rack, or a front rack); ii) install one or more one gallon Rotopax gasoline containers (these can also be installed under the rear rack or on or under a front rack); or, iii) carry a jerry can in the footwell.

The first option is quite elegant, and not too pricey.  MSR bottles are about $30 a piece.  The metal band clamps are cheap.  To see what the clamps look like, and how to mount a bottle under the rear rack, check out the video I posted here, at the 1:00 minute mark.  The only issue is that you can't carry much more than two liters of extra fuel that way, which won't buy much in the way of extra range.

The Rotopax solution is a really good hard-core touring option.  The downside is that it's the most expensive option and requires some custom work to install the special mounting brackets, and I'd need to get a front rack.

I opted for the footwell approach.  To do that securely, I purchased a footwell rack from Classic Racks in the UK, specifically this one:
The rack is very sturdy.  It's a slightly more expensive solution  than the MSR bottle route, but has the advantage of being more versatile because it adds useable carrying capacity that can be useful for more than just fuel.  The actual jerry can I chose is a five liter can that is the cheapest container: under ten dollars.  The only additional cost was a set of ROK pack straps that securely hold the jerry can on the footwell.
The solution is not perfect of course.  The rub with the jerry can on a footwell rack, as mentioned earlier, is that the jerry can interferes with opening the saddle.  To open the saddle you have to remove the gasoline can.  It's one more irritant added to the re-fueling challenge.  The nice thing about carryng five liters of extra fuel is that you can push the Vespa's range without worrying that you'll get stranded.  Very comforting indeed.

If touring became an annual ritual, I would definitely spring for one or two of the one gallon Rotopax cans, one of which I'd install under a new Vespa OEM front rack.

Estimating distance capacity and ride limits

I'm not one of those folks who calculate their fuel economy.  It's one of those quirks that separates humanity into three camps.  Those that do, those that don't, and the humans on this planet who don't drive motor vehicles.

I also don't pay attention to how often I refuel.  The answer is 'too often', but was it last Wednesday... no, that was when I got my hair done... Tuesday?  That seems right but... Ah heck, I just can't be bothered to remember.

To make matters foggier, for the longest time I never even realized the Vespa had a low fuel light.  The first time it flickered freaked me out.  'What the heck...' was approximately my reaction.  I didn't even know if there was a reserve of fuel when the gauge hit 'E'.

That level of insouciance is fine, perhaps admirable, in an urban commuter, when you're never far from a gas station.  It doesn't take you long to realize that it won't do when you're touring.  'Do I stop for gas at this station, or press on?'  I wanted a better answer than 'I think I might be OK' or 'beats me'.  I was going to have a five liter reserve tank, but I realized that I still needed to get a grip on my useful range.

About five weeks before my scheduled departure I started logging my fuel consumption.  I wrote down the date, the odometer reading, and the amount of fuel added to the tank.  I also noted the odometer reading when the low fuel light came on.

By subtracting the capacity of the tank (nine liters), with a few weeks' data, I was able to determine the following key statistics for my bike:
  • The distance covered on a full tank until the low fuel light came on ranged from a low of 181 km (113 miles), to a high of 206 kms (128 miles);
  • Fuel economy ranged from a low of 64 mpg, to a high of 69 mpg.  Sorry folks, all these years later and I can't do fuel economy in metric.
  • Distance between refueling stops ranged from a low of 202 kms (126 miles) to a high of 227 kms (141 miles).
The high end of the ranges of the fuel economy numbers included commuting at lower speeds.  You can see the dramatic impact higher speed makes.  The longer distance in the range numbers was achieved mainly by ignoring the low fuel light and praying to the fuel gods to keep the motor running.  Throughout this testing I never actually ran the tank dry.  Perhaps I should have, if only in the interests of scientific investigation.  Me being me, I knew I had enough information to guide my touring and refueling behaviour, and enough, is enough.

The conclusion on absolute range, based on the numbers I collected, including using every drop in the tank, and every drop in the five liter jerry can, is a maximum of 412 kms (256 miles).  If you are willing to fill the tank to the brim, and run it dry, the maximum range is a low of 244 kms (152 miles) and a high of 265 kms (165 miles).

What I really wanted to know was the practical range.  No heroics, sometimes pressing on with the fuel light on, but never running dry, and never tapping into the jerry can reserve.

Here's my take on it, for a 2010 Vespa 300 i.e. Super: ride till the fuel light begins to flicker, make a mental note of the odometer reading, then stop at the next gas station.  That gas station should be in within the next 40 to 50 kilometers (25 to 30 miles).  If you miscalculate, you'll run dry in anywhere from another 32 to 38 kilometers (20 to 24 miles).  Practically speaking, from the moment the low fuel light begins to flicker you've got between 72 and 88 kilometers (45 and 54 miles) left before you run dry.

That was good enough for me.  It meant that I could count on refueling every 215 kilometers on average, or every 134 miles.  In more simple terms, it means refueling three to four times a day.

My estimates rang true on the road.  I refueled about three times a day.  I never ran the tank dry.  I needed the refueling breaks to stretch my legs.  It turns out that my human body has about the same range limitations as my Vespa.

Power outlets

A modern Vespa is not just about gasoline.  It's also about electricity.  Twelve volt power outlets are important ingredients for any motorbike that will be used for commuting.  I would say that they are esssential on a touring bike.  I say they are essential because you will want to make sure that your cell phone stays fully charged, particularly if you occasionally use it for navigation.  You will also want to have a dedicated GPS device.  Both my cell phone (an Apple iPhone 5) and my GPS (a Garmin Nuvi) are mounted on RAM mounts on the left and right mirror stalks.
I mounted my two power outlets on the left kneepad.  You can read about the installation here, and you can see the outlets and RAM mounts in use in the video I posted here.  The outlets are controlled by the Vespa's ignition and are therefore off when the ignition is off.  This ensures that the battery doesn't accidentally discharge when there are accessories left plugged-in when the scooter is parked.

Inline feed from the battery

This was a late addition.  It had been on my to-do list from the moment I got the GTS 300, but life kept getting in the way.  Much as I would have wanted to get underway bright and early on the departure day, I didn't feel comfortable leaving without having the inline feed in place.

I'm pretty sure that many readers have no clue what I am referring to at this point.

Let me clear that up.

As mentioned earlier, I installed dual 12 volt outlets on the left knee pad.  Those outlets are controlled by the ignition.  When the ignition is off, the outlets are off.  The magic that makes that possible is described in detail here.

I wanted to have a simple way to hook accessories directly to the battery.  Why?  Let's take two examples:
  • I wanted to be able to patch a tire to repair a flat.  So far so good.  I carry tubeless tire repair tools and patching materials in my toolkit.  Once the tire is patched, it needs to be filled.  That's where my compressor comes in.  I have a portable compressor that is designed to plug into a cigarette lighter socket.  I had attempted to use the compressor with my LX 150 via the ignition-switched 12 volt outlet, and I blew a fuse, and that took out other stuff, due to poor circuit planning.  Vowing that would never happen again, I followed the advice of members on and installed a line directly from the battery terminating in an SAE two-prong plug.  Here's an image:
    The plug just hangs loose just below the left-side cowl.  Once I had the line installed, I lopped off the cigarette connector on the compressor and installed an SAE plug.  Unless I installed a similar line on the GTS 300, I wouldn't be able to use the compressor, and wouldn't be able to fix a flat.
  • I also thought I might need to charge something (like my Sena headset) overnight.  I couldn't leave the ignition on much less leave the motor running.  I happened to have a reasonably long extension wire with dual 12 volt cigarette-type outlets.  So I lopped the male cigarette connector off that and installed an SAE plug.
  • Finally, when winter rolls around, I'll want to plug the battery into a battery tender.  Guess what kind of plug that has - yup, SAE also.
I'm not the world's most talented electrician.  That's why I kicked off my tour five hours later than I would have liked, at noon rather than seven a.m.

Did I need the battery line during my trip?  Of course not.  But if I hadn't installed it, you know I would have ended up needing it.  Life is like that.

Side stand scrapes

The Vespa side stand is no longer standard on the GTS, but remains available as an option.  My bike happens to have one.  The side stand is much maligned.  That said, it turns out to be really useful because it makes it much easier to mount and dismount a Vespa that is fully loaded for touring.  Find out why here.

The downside of the side stand is that it will scrape on tight left hand turns.  Now that will freak you out!  Find out about that here, and here.

Tall windscreen

I was lucky.  The Vespa I bought came very nicely equipped including three OEM Vespa windscreens.  Two mid-height screens (one painted black to match the bike, and one clear), and one tall screen.

I had been using the black mid-height screen for commuting.  For the 2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour I installed the tall screen.  I reasoned that I'd be traveling for very long stretches, hundreds of kilometers, meaning long days in the saddle.  I wanted to avoid bug splatter on my helmet, and minimize tiring wind blast on my upper body.
It turned out that my hunches were borne out.  I was able to ride with my visor open, did not have any bugs strike my face, the windscreen did however accumulate a lot of bug debris.  You can also see the windscreen in the departure video I took.  No need to hunt, it's here.

I had quite a lot of experience with windscreens on my Vespa LX 150.  There was a lot of trial and error before reaching a happy place.  You can read about that here, and here.  For this trip, I cut the tall windscreen down to just below my nose.  That turned out to be just the right height.  It's a Goldilocks story.

Recently I rode for a week without a screen.  That's fine on the bi-ways, but no fun at all on expressways.  Any speed over 95 km/h will cause serious neck and back strain.

Blind spot mirrors

These were a late addition.  I added them only after the first day of the Tour.  They have quite possibly the best cost-benefit ratio of any other change I have ever made to my bikes.
The cost: under five dollars.  The benefit: priceless.

It was lane changes on the Trans-Canada Highway that made me crave blind spot mirrors.  There is literally no margin for error on a bike, at 110 km/h, moving from the middle lane to the passing lane, or merging into the slow lane from a pit stop or an entrance ramp.  The two little blind spot mirrors do the trick, and without in any way interfering with the main view in the mirror that lets me see what's going on behind me in my lane and in the adjoining lanes.

Now that I have them, I'll never ride a bike without them.

Touring speeds

My Vespa GTS 300 i.e. Super can hit a maximum GPS verified speed of 127 km/h (79 mph) traveling on a level expressway with average headwinds.

My traveling companions were riding a Yamaha V-Star 650 and a BMW R1200R respectively.  The Vespa is obviously no match for those bikes.  They can out-accelerate the Vespa at speed and maintain cruising speeds well in excess of the Vespa.  Accelerating off the mark, the Vespa is hard for many motorcycles to match.  At least in the first hundred feet or so.

Our average touring speed was in the range of 105 km/h (65 mph) and there was never a moment, regardless of the highways we travelled on, that keeping up was a challenge for me.  In fact, when travelling alone on the first few days of the Tour and the last day of the Tour, I chose to travel  quite a bit faster on Interstates and Canadian expressways.

Maintaining a high rate of speed when you are touring means having to crank the throttle and keep it cranked for hours on end.  There are ways to make that easier and less tiring.

A few weeks before starting the Tour I spent less than $20 on a throttle lock. I can't imaging riding long distances without one.  The throttle lock is the device on the left.  The device on the right is a throttle rocker, which I didn't find useful and did not use on the Tour.
Aside from providing relief from the strain of holding the throttle open, the throttle lock is useful for those occasions when you are traveling at speed and you need to free up your right hand to do something (like adjusting your helmet for instance).


When I commute, I choose to wear armored gear from head to toe.  By that I mean the following:
  • A Nolan N-102 modular full-face helmet;
  • Either a Corazzo 5.0 or BMW Airflow armored textile jacket.  For the Tour I chose the BMW, and thank heaven I did because all eight days were H-O-T;
  • Either Tucano Urbano summer riding gloves (my choice for the Tour), or all leather riding gloves, or Icon Patrol gauntlets, in that order cool, normal, and warm + waterproof;
  • Tourmaster Caliber armored waterproof riding pants;
  • Icon Patrol riding boots.
I sometimes make exceptions by forgoing the armored pants (usually because I am meeting people and want to be dressed more appropriately for the occasion), but otherwise for me its ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time).

I had recently gotten into the habit of riding surface streets with my modular helmet open.  Seeing what happened to an MVer in the UK recently has convinced me to button the helmet up.  I can do without titanium plates in my face, thank you very much.

Dealing with hot and humid weather

That was what the weatherman had in store for the Tour. In spades. The mercury was never below 90F during the day, and nights were hot and humid too.

When I commute I wear my riding pants over underwear, just as I would if they were jeans. That solution works well for commuting because my suits are in my office and I change there. I have a post on that strategy here.

For the Tour I wanted to be able to take my riding pants off. That meant having to wear something presentable as an underlayer. On the first day I chose a pair of shorts. Bobskoot does the same thing. He wears what appear to be light cotton gym shorts. I don't have those. The shorts I chose were way heavier than Bob's shorts appear to be.

The solution that ended up working very well for me came to me during my two-day layover at my sister's in Toronto. I had packed my favorite bathing suit. See below.
Copyright 2013 Bob Leong
Copyright 2013 Bob Leong
The hotter it got, the more I smiled to myself in a contented way. The bathing suit fabric looks presentable even when it is dripping wet. It doesn't cling, and doesn't discolour to reveal the portions that are drenched. The other plus, is that if there's a pool, lake or swimming hole at day's end or along the way, all you need to do is strip off the armor and plunge right in.
Copyright 2013 Bob Leong
Once the bathing suit dries (and it air dries really fast), it's nice and fresh and clean from the swim and ready for another steaming day's ride. The same thing held true for my T-shirt.


Traveling at highway speeds on a bike, even in the blistering heat, is fairly comfortable. I should preface that comment by pointing out that I don't tend to suffer from temperature extremes.

On the couple of occasions when we were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I was perspiring profusely. Since I was dressed for it, I didn't stress over it. I endured. The good thing is that as soon as you start rolling, the air flow cools you right down.  The first few minutes are heavenly, and then things just settle back to comfortable. Hot, but comfortable.

That comfort comes in some measure because you are still sweating, but the perspiration is evaporating at the same time, hence the feeling of comfort.

Which brings me to my point. If you don't go out of your way to drink lots of water, you will dehydrate. I made that mistake during day one. That lead to a persistent headache for the morning of the day after.  Lesson learned.  At every stop (and the small fuel tank imposed three to four each day), I'd buy a large bottle of water and polish it off right then and there.

I also brought along a water bottle. I had spent quite a long time at the sporting goods store carefully selecting the bottle. It was a one liter bottle, with a straw mechanism that made it much easier to drink from with a helmet on, and it had a carabiner on it allowing it to hang from the Vespa's bag hook. At every traffic light, I raised my helmet and drank as much as I could. By then the water was as hot as bathwater, but I knew the importance of drinking, so I didn't let that stop me.

Hydration issues: solved.

What to pack, and what to pack it in

In some ways this was my biggest challenge. I just didn't have any experience. I had bought a book in the spring on moto camping: Motorcycle Camping Made Easy. The book was a comfort and a big help. I also put a post on and I got lots of good advice there.

I started a list on my iPhone. Here is what that list ended up looking like. Bear in mind that the list evolved over weeks and months.


     Registration and insurance slips
     Extra keys
     Water bottle
     Plastic bottle for methyl hydrate stove fuel
     Waterproof matches
     Plastic plates
     Instant coffee
     Coffee Mate
     Instant soup
     Granola bars
     Tent and fly
     Sleeping pad
     Sleeping bag
     Paracord / Figure 9s
     Mantis Chair
     Hair gel
     Hair brush
     Toilet paper
     Shaving cream
     First aid kit
     Camp towel
     Bug spray
     BIKE / GEAR
     ROK straps
     ROK pack straps
     Sea to Summit straps
     5 liter gasoline container
     Helmet/jacket cable lock set
     Air pressure gauge
     Rain jacket
     Air Compressor
     Batteries (AAA)
     Fresh puncture repair
     Red turtle light
     White turtle light
     Emergency tool
        (glass breaking and seatbelt cutting tool)
     Riding jacket (BMW Airflow)
        Tucano Urbano summer mesh
        Light leather
        Icon Patrol gauntlets
     Baggies (rain protection for GPS and iPhone)
     Shamwow, rags
     Rain jacket
     Inline battery line to SAE plug
     Dual 12V outlets to SAE plug
     Cut down tall screen
     Socks (8 pairs)
     Underwear (8 pairs)
     Corazzo Underhoody
     Deck shoes
     Bathing suit
     Polos, Ts (8 shirts)
     Garmin Nuvi GPS + cable and RAM mount
     GoPro + RAM mounts
     DSLR camera + equipment
     iPad + equipment
     iPhone + cables and RAM mount
     Sena bluetooth helmet headset
     Compact binoculars

How much to pack

As you can see I packed a lot of stuff.  I had planned for cold weather which was a necessity, but the whole trip took place in a record heat wave, so the cold weather clothing was never used. I also didn't use up all eight days' worth of shirts, socks and underwear because I stumbled on a hot weather strategy that worked very well for me. See what I metioned about dealing with hot weather earlier.

How to pack it 

I ended up using every cubic inch of storage my Vespa could muster.

          Clothing and toiletries.

As soon as I knew that the Tour was in the offing, back in October 2012, I instantly knew that I needed saddlebags.  David Bogner (Treppenwitz on the Modern Vespa forum), came through for me big time.  You can read about the saddlebags and how I came to have them here: A package from far, far away...

The Israeli saddlebags are intended to be rolled up small and stowed under the scooter's seat.  The idea is that you're leaving work, and your spouse calls to announce that there are surprise guests for dinner and you need to bring home a week's worth of groceries.  Fortunately you have those saddlebags.  You slap them on the Vespa, stash all the groceries in them and ride home a hero.

What they aren't designed to do is carry all the clothing and toiletries you might need on a week long moto tour.  The first thing is that they aren't waterproof.  The next problem is that they only have a little bit of velcro to hold them closed.  That's fine for a quick run from the grocery store.

 Here's how I used them.  The most important thing to do was address the waterproofing.  I opted for Eagle Creek compression bags.  They're inexpensive, watertight and airtight.  You put the clothes in the bag, then close the zip lock, and as you roll the bag up, the air is forced out through one-way valves in the bottom, and voilà!  Vacuum-packed clothes.  The compression bags allowed me to fit all my clothes and toiletries into the saddlebags without a care in the world.  I could ride through a day long monsoon downpour and I was sure to have nice dry clothes at the other end.

The next challenge was the inadequate closures.  A trip to the local outdoor equipment store was all I needed to buy eight quick-release buckles and web-strapping.  I added two sets of straps and buckles to the front of each saddlebag, and one on each end, for a total of four buckle-closures on each bag.  Once I had sewed the straps and buckles where I needed them, I took the saddlebags to the local shoe repair shop and had the stitching on the straps re-inforced.
With the bags well-stuffed and the buckles snapped in and the straps pulled snug, my clothes were ready for the trip.

The total cost?  Well under $60.  It would be difficult to beat that!

          Tools and stuff

I normally carry a full set of tools in a roll-up tool bag.  They ride under the seat with a 12 volt air compressor.  And that's where they stayed the entire trip, along with my rain jacket.  I never needed any of it, and I'm most thankful I didn't. In truth, I did use the hammer on a tent peg
          Key odds and ends

The Vespa's glove compartment was the perfect home for... my passport, my 200 lumen flaslight, my tire pressure gauge, my monocular and compact binoculars (because you never know when you need to see close-up from a distance), and my Buff.

          Camping equipment

My tent and its related equipment (other than the poles), alcohol camping stove, camp mug, pot, Mantis camp chair, sleeping bag, camp pillow, camp towel, four 25-foot lengths of paracord, and four Figure 9 tensioners (for extra tension on the tent fly, as clothes line, or in case something needed to be tied down or up), all fit into one 30 liter dry bag.
25 feet of paracord and Figure9 tensioner
Mantis camp chair
A dry bag is a sturdy tubular rubberized bag with a roll top and secure snap buckles that, once closed, is waterproof.

A second smaller but longer dry bag held my sleeping pad, and the poles for the tent.

          Junk in the Trunk

Everything else on my list (other than the jerry can of gasoline, which you already know was secured to the footwell rack) fit in the Vespa's topcase.  All of it was happy to be there except my iPad.  It made its displeasure known by crashing, setting itself back to factory spec, and requiring a complete restore from the backup.  Sheesh!

ROK straps - and burn through

What's the best way to secure two large dry bags on a Vespa without worrying that they'll break loose?

I'm glad you asked.  The answer is simple: ROK straps.  Bob was the one who pointed me in the right direction.  ROK straps... well they rock!  It's genius really.  A ROK strap is a two piece wonder connected by a quick release buckle.  At the ends they have a loop.  Here's what I did.  I separated the two rock straps into their four components.  The long end of the straps (with the male buckle) I looped around the rear rack of my Vespa, one on each side.  The short end of the straps (the short bungee part with the female buckle) I looped around the grab rail, one on each side.

The rest is simple.  Load the dry bags onto the passenger seat.  Bring the long strap from the right side of the bike diagonally across and over the dry bags, and snap it into the left side buckle.  Do the same with the remaining strap.  You now have the ROK straps criss-cross holding down the load.

Tighten each strap, tuck the excess strap under the tightened strap, and there you are.

But that's not the end of the story.

All during the trip, I would unload the bike (several times a day - see the bit about fuel and range above), and would find the right side ROK strap on the left side of the bike.  This puzzled me.  I just wasn't paying attention I suppose.  By the eighth day I finally caught on.  I was refueling for the last time and caught myself doing the thing that made the right side strap hang on the left side.  I congratulated myself for finally clueing in, and tossed the strap back to the right side.

That, was a mistake.  The poor strap hit the muffler and was basically melted down to a single brittle strand.
Fortunately I only had 60 or 70 miles to go, and one ROK strap was sufficient to hold the camping gear securely.


A colleague at work kindly lent me a three-person tent (a Kelty of one variety or another), and a very nice thick mattress pad.

I highly recommend a three-person tent.  I had enough room in the tent to bring in all my gear, including the saddlebags, and sleep in comfort.  Just ducky, as my dear grandmother was fond of saying.
Copyright 2013 Bob Leong
Mine is the tent in the middle.  Home sweet (temporary) home.

Sleeping bag

You can tell by now that I'm no camper.  The first hint ought to have been that I needed to borrow the main bits of kit.

The same held true for the sleeping bag.  To be perfectly honest, I had picked up a sleeping bag at  Costco.  It ended up getting returned unused (you have to love Costco's return policy), because Bob, bless his heart, gave me a sleeping bag (a much nicer, much more compact sleeping bag, with a nice compression storage bag to boot), when I was in Vancouver for a visit.  He had used the bag in Oregon and found it too cold.

It was absolutely perfect for the Tour.

Mattress pad

My colleague Marlene has two self-inflating mattress pads, a really nice one, and a really, really nice thick and comfy one.  She wasn't planning a trip, so she lent me the luxury model.  Ahhhhh!  If you are planning a trip, get the luxury model, and sleep like a baby.

Stove and cooking

I didn't plan to do any real cooking.  But I did want to be able to make myself some tea, coffee or soup.  Bobskoot had sent me a very compact alcohol stove.  It's the lowest common denominator of camping stoves, but it's tiny, and will boil two cups of water quite effectively.  I put up a post on the stove when I received it.  You can read that post here.
The stove burns methyl hydrate alcohol which is readily available in hardware stores because it's used as the solvent for lacquers including shellac.  At first I was planning to transport the fuel in an MSR bottle, but I discovered that alcohol will oxidize aluminium, making an MSR bottle a poor choice.  I therefore bought a red one liter Nalgene water bottle for the methyl hydrate and mounted it under the rear rack using stainless steel belt clamps with large plastic thumb screws.  That turned out to be an excellent solution and ensured that I had more than enough alcohol for the trip.  You can see the bottle mounted under the rear rack in the video I posted here, at the 1:00 minute mark.

I brought instant coffee and tea and ended up using the stove two or three times during the trip.  It was very comforting in the evening to have a hot beverage, but since the entire week was hot and dry, the hot beverage was nice to have, but not absolutely essential.  If the weather had turned cool and wet, the ability to make tea, coffee or soup would truly have been a blessing.

Food to bring

All I brought was tea (never used it), coffee (used two or three times), granola bars (I might have had one).  That's it.  It was enough.  All the other food was purchased, one way or another.


I took along my Olympus DSLR and its various accessories, my GoPro camera, and my iPhone.  In the end, I didn't use the DSLR much.  The iPhone did most of the photography and that worked out just fine.

As for the GoPro, it is invaluable for video on the road and I would never travel anywhere without it.


Before taking this trip, I imagined quiet evenings in the glow of my iPad, happily sharing my adventures here.

I did do that, of course, but my iPad was sulking and had to be restored too often.  That sucked.

If I did moto camping often, I'd invest in a sturdy cheap laptop and call it a day.  I'd store everything in the cloud, and be done with it.

That's what Bob and Karen did, and they didn't have any of the grief I did.  Live and learn.

As for WiFi, it's in plentiful supply at campgrounds, and at the places you'd usually suspect (McDonalds, Starbucks, et al.)

Spot messengers, iPhone tracking

Bob got himself a Spot Messenger for the trip.  It made sense for him.  He was covering vast distances solo and wanted help at the touch of a button should the need arise, needed to let his loved ones see where he was whenever they wanted, and wanted friends along the route, including yours truly and Karen, to be able to arrange the rendez-vous in Pensylvania with as little fuss as possible.

The Spot Messenger does all that.

You can find them in Canada at outdoor stores, and at Canadian Tire stores.  The price is reasonable and for anyone leaving on a significant adventure, I think they're a must have.

I was headed for adventure also, but the shorter duration (a week vs a month and more) meant that I could do with less. By less, I mean my iPhone. Susan and I installed the Find Friends app on our iPhones which allows each of us the find the other by initiating a tracking request on the iPhone. This was potentially a more expensive solution than a Spot Messenger if we had used it often since Susan happened to be in Florida and we both have Canadian cell phone plans, but as a peace-of-mind option it was comforting and really inexpensive. Free in fact.


The one time Susan did reach out to touch base was at the end of day one of the Tour. She expected to find me at my sister's in Toronto. She was surprised to find me at 10:30 p.m. still riding the 401 and an hour outside of Toronto. That phone call, and the chat that ensued, was made possible by my iPhone and my Sena SMH10 Bluetooth helmet communication system. I cannot say enough good things about the Sena. Extraordinary sound quality even wearing earplugs, ease of use, versatility, and long battery life, top the list of superlatives. Worth every single penny.
And it doesn't stop there. I exchanged text messages and phone calls to set up meetings with fellow bloggers too.

The cherry on the ice cream sundae was the primary reason I got the Sena to begin with: bike-to-bike, rider-to-rider communication.  Bob had the same system. At the touch of a button we could talk wirelessly. It worked just like a one-button phone call. That is a huge advantage when you ride in a group. When Bob stayed a few days with us in Montreal on his return trip home, I gave him a guided sightseeing tour of the must-see Montreal sites courtesy of our Senas.


I know many prefer the old school paper map approach, but I am a big fan of GPS navigation. My Garmin Nuvi goes everywhere we do, we take it on vacation even when we fly if we plan to rent a car, and thanks to RAM mounts, it is a fixture on my Vespa. In addition to navigation, I also get the advantage of spot-on accurate speed readings (something most motorbike speedometers don't provide) and a trip computer.
Because I don't have a high-end dedicated motorcycle GPS like the Garmin Zumo, my GPS isn't waterproof (that's why I brought sandwich baggies) and it doesn't beam turn-by-turn voice directions to my Sena Bluetooth helmet headset, so at highway speeds I can't hear our Garmin gal Brittany (Susan and I prefer to listen to the British accented directions).

For occasions when I need the turn-by-turn directions, I get them from Siri on my iPhone. Brilliant.

Few things bring me as much pleasure as cruising on my Vespa listening to music. The Sena, aided and abetted by Siri, let me select and listen to tunes while I ride. If someone calls, or the intercom comes on, the music pauses. So very civilized, and a wonderful way to travel.

Crossing borders, paying tolls

I have to admit, this is awkward. It's difficult to fish out a wallet, small change, credit cards, a passport, and similar things, without removing your gloves. You need to do all this while balancing your bike, and without dropping anything.  If the occasion means interacting with an attendant or border guard, there is the other challenge of full-face helmets and ear plugs. A modular helmet helps because you can flip your lid. But it's still awkward.

"Sorry!" I yell, "I have trouble hearing you! I'm wearing earplugs!"

How many people know that many riders choose to wear earplugs when they ride? I'm guessing not the attendant or guard you're desperately trying to hear when she's talking to you.

 "Mhm hmmmt cnmmn hmmnnhm?" she says.  Huh?

To get at the earplugs you'll be juggling your gloves, your helmet, and the ear plugs, with a growing line up of cars behind you, and a puzzled attendant visibly wondering what the heck you're doing.

I usually have a recommendation for how to handle a situation. Regrettably, I have no clue how to address this awkwardness. Sorry! If you have a strategy that works for you, please post a comment and share your wisdom.

Wildlife hazards - Deer and moose

This is another touring challenge. It's serious, it's a deadly risk, and other than crossing your fingers, saying a little prayer, refusing to ride at dusk or at night through deer country, I can't provide advice.

Be aware of the risk, keep your eyes peeled, and ride very defensively.

Griplock, and other security measures

Definitely bring along your security gear.  By security gear I mean whatever locks you routinely use to secure your bike and gear.

In my case that means my Griplock, a padlock, and a short cable I use to lock my helmet to the bike, and a longer cable that I sometimes use to thread through my jacket or riding pants or both if I plan to leave them with the bike.

I also recommend bringing along a bike cover.  The bike cover I ended up bringing along was a gift I received from Peter Sanderson.  I originally planned to leave it at my sister's in Toronto.  It turned out that I had room to bring it, and I really appreciated having it on the Tour.  For one thing it keeps prying eyes off your ride and somewhat discourages casual tampering.  It also helps to keep your bike safe while you snore to the drone of mosquitoes at the campground, or the drone of the air conditioner at the motel if only because a good cover has lots of reflective material that may prevent someone from driving into your bike in the dead of night.
Copyright 2013 Bob Leong
There you have it: all the lessons learned during my first-ever moto tour.

Thanks for sticking around to hear me out.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.