Sunday, November 27, 2011

Making friends with Alessandro Volta, James Watt, and André-Marie Ampère

If I were an engineer, or a particle physicist, I would be qualified to tackle the laws of the universe.

As some of you may know, I am a lawyer.  That means that I am only licensed to handle man-made laws.  That's why I'm pretty sure there's no law that says I can't dabble in the laws of physics.

That is all the more true if the experiment I contemplate involves the more or less inconsequential, microscopic, minuscule corner of the universe in the dark, tiny places inside my Vespa.  Unless I manage to do something with the Vespa's electrical system that causes a black hole to form, or that creates a teensy bit of anti-matter, life as you and I know it will probably snake on into the future pretty much as we expect.

This puzzle-post is the first tentative dip of my right big toe into the most complex yet of my Vespa LX 150 modifications.

There will be more posts as I venture down into this rabbit hole, and be forewarned, I may yet decide to stop in my tracks and head off in the direction of trading up to a Vespa GTS of one variety or another.  Only time and this blog will tell.

For now, you will find below the bits and pieces of the puzzle as they lie helter skelter in my lawyer's brain, ill-equipped as it is for this journey [Ed.: when you see entries like this, it's me, making a snarky comment]:
+ = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
Oxford grips draw up to 4 amps (source: Oxford web site, user manual).

The pair of heated grips draws an average 3.6 amps when in operation.  Each grip can draw up to a maximum of 2 amps, so that means 4 amps of total draw at the maximum heat setting, of 28 to 30 watts. (source: Oxford web site, user manual) [Ed.: that's a math or physics mistake on Oxford's part.  In a 12 volt system, 3.6 amps is 43.2 watts and 4 amps is 48 watts.]

The Oxford electronic control automatically shuts off the grips to protect the battery from excessive discharge.  The shutoff point is 11.5 volts (source: Oxford web site, user manual).
  + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"The battery capacity that battery manufacturers print on a battery is usually the product of 20 hours multiplied by the maximum constant current that a new battery can supply for 20 hours at  68 F° (20 C°), down to a predetermined terminal voltage per cell. A battery rated at 100 A·h will deliver 5 A over a 20 hour period at room temperature." (source: Wikipedia)
 + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"There are only a few amps of excess alternator capacity on an LX150 to charge the battery above what is necessary to power the stock lighting. One 35-watt driving light uses 3 amps. You do         the math." (source: - "12 lamps on 1 LX"  - comment posted by SilverStreak on the thread posted by another MV member, Sunday, October 17, 2010)

  + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"You cannot convert watts to amps, since watts are power and amps are coulombs per second (like converting gallons to miles). HOWEVER, if you have at least least two of the following three: amps, volts and watts then the missing one can be calculated. Since watts are amps multiplied by volts, there is a simple relationship between them.

However, In some engineering disciplines the volts are more or less fixed, for example in house wiring, automotive wiring, or telephone wiring. In these limited fields technicians often have charts that relate amps to watts and this has caused some confusion. What these charts should be titled is "conversion of amps to watts at a fixed voltage of 110 volts" or "conversion of watts to amps at 13.8 volts," etc."


"The Following Equations can be used to convert between amps, volts, and watts.
  + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"Re: Heated grips?

pdxvespa wrote:

Has anyone installed heated grips? More to the point, can the electrical systems of the ET/LX/GT handle the extra load?  And if so, what does the installation involve.....?

phr3d answered:

1) Nope

2) Do you have specs on one?

I can do the math to verify. The regulated output at 3000 RPM is 7.5 A <----- Haynes is wrong here. I can't find it in my Workshop manual, so guessing 7.5 since it is fused at that. The Typhoon 125 puts out 8.5 A, so should be close.

Stock Battery is 9 a-H

Full Load:
Side Lamps   5 W
Brake      21 W
Turn      2 X 10 W (we'll assume you won't indicate both directions, but still 2 for front and rear)
Plates      5 W
Inst/Warn   1.2 W
Headlight   35 W

87.2 Watts /12 V = 7.27

Normal Running Load:
Side Lamps   5 W
Plates      5 W
Inst/Warn   1.2 W
Headlight   35 W

46.2 Watts /12 V = 3.85
So at 7.5 Amp out put at 2000 rpm (guessing this, see above). We have 0.23 Amps to spare under close to full load, and 3.65 under "normal". Hope I didn't miss anything.

3) I would take it to the battery, inline fuse it for whatever the Grip warmer is rated at. Relay it some something that only turns on when the engine is running.

Edit: Forgot it should be 2 x 10 W for turn signals because of front and back. Seems close to being in a drain situations."

(source: - "Re: heated grips" - posted by phr3d on November 13, 2005)
 + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
Vespa OEM battery specifications:
  • 12 Volts
  • 9 Amp Hour @10 hr rate
  • 0.9 Ah Charge Current
  • 130 CCA
(source: - Vespa LX150)
 + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"Charging rate
Charging rates for a trickle charge are very low. For example, if the normal capacity of a battery is C (ampere-hours), the battery may be designed to be discharged at a rate of C/8 or an 8-hour rate. The recharge rate may be at the C/8 rate or as fast as C/2 for some types of battery. A float or trickle charge might be as low as C/300 (a 300-hour discharge rate) to overcome the self-discharge. Allowable trickle charging rates must conform to the battery manufacturer's recommendations.
For a 12 V 60 Ah battery a C/300 rate would mean 60 A / 300 = 0,20 A = 200 mA"
(source: Wikipedia - Trickle charging)
 + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To sleep, perchance to dream

Well, the consolation prizes are:
  • The wonder that the first snowfall of the winter season always inspires.
  • Christmas morning is in sight.
  • I managed to keep the scoot commute rolling to within two commutes of winter's onslaught.
  • Once winter gets going, each day brings the 2012 scoot commute one day closer.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

T'is the season to be modding...

With the 2011 riding season all but in the history books, what's left for a dedicated scooter commuter to do?

I think you know the answer!

Yup! It's nearly open season on Vespa modding!!

So here's my wish list (in no particular order) for this season of plotting, hunting, thinking, wrenching, browsing, drooling, ordering, waiting, thinking, planning, installing, testing, and project reporting:
  • Purchase a new Cuppini windshield (to be cut down just barely below eye level
  • Sew my 2010 ModernVespa patch on my BMW Airflow jacket
  • Purchase and install heated grips at last,  either Oxford or Hot Grips. If they work on Keith's Symba, they should do just fine on my Vespa, as long as I install an electronic control unit to manage the electrical consumption
  • Install some nice shiny bar ends to go with the heated grips (I'm hoping it's an option with the Vespa LX handlebars)
  • Purchase a GoPro HD video camera
  • Replace all the Velcro on my Corazzo 5.0 riding jacket
As I think of other cool winter projects I'll add to the list!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nibbles for the kaffee klatsch

Sorry, no fresh pictures with this post, for a couple of reasons.

First off, things are crazy hectic at this time of year in the office and every minute is counted, including extra minutes during my commute.  Secondly, fighting the cold at this time of year means two pairs of gloves, which is my tactic this year.  A thin pair of merino wool glove liners and a pair of Icon gauntlets.  So stopping to shoot pictures requires a minute or so more, and it's sad to say, but it really is a minute I don't have.

It was cold enough on Friday morning (-1C / 30F) that I had no choice other than to stop to pull on my rain jacket after a few miles to add a wind proof layer. I have enough cold weather riding experience now to know how much exposure to the cold is going to be too much.

It was my turn to pick up nibbles for the Friday morning office kaffee klatsch. My fingers were tingling with cold when I stopped at Banette, a French bakery franchise on Sherbrooke Street in NDG.  The real borough name is a mouthful, so English-speaking Montrealers eons ago shortened Notre Dame de Grace to "NDG".  We are fond of that here.  We used to live in TMR (Town of Mount-Royal) and my brother in law used to live in DDO (Dollard Des Ormeaux).  In the east end of the Island there is RDP (Rivière des Prairies).  There are probably other examples of this inclination of ours to truncate the places we live, but I've already digressed enough.

16 miles, half of that at 60mph, had taken its toll by the time I got to NDG. And yet everything else was nice and warm, just cold tingly fingers. Not too shabby.  As any rider will tell you, it's all about the gear.

I took a few minutes to warm my bands on the headlight before going into the shop.

10 minutes later and I was on my way with my treats, with nice warm fingers. You know you're OK if your fingers warm up and recover from the cold quickly.

I know, I know, you're counting the minutes wasted (putting on the rain jacket, warming my fingers, ten minutes in the shop...) and you're thinking that I could have snapped at least one picture!  You'd be right.  As I pulled back into traffic I remembered that I had forgotten to snap a picture of Banette which I was planning to do.  Banette is a special place because it's not a Canadian or US franchise.  It's a franchise from France, and it's the only Banette outlet outside of France.  How cool is that?

So to make up for my forgetfulness, here is a shot of a Banette outlet in Paris, in the Latin Quarter that I took in 2008.
Their Montreal location is short on charm (at least it doesn't hold a candle to that location in Paris), but the pastries and croissants are incredible.  If you're not from around here, and you find yourself in Montreal with time to kill, it's worth setting your sights on.  Here's a shot of the Montreal Banette I found on the web. It's either a spring or fall shot because their tables aren't out, and there are no leaves on the trees.
So where was I... Oh yes, cold weather commuting tips.

If you chill your core, good luck. I did that on my last commute of the 2010 season and it took a space heater under my desk blasting away on high until noon to get the chill out of my body.

No such problem on Friday morning.  Another minute or so warming my hands on the headlight (it just feels so good) and when I got up to my office I was just as comfortable as after a summer commute.

Easy peasy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Too many questions; not nearly enough answers

We have owned many cars, and driven even more. Some were just OK. Some were just plain terrible. Some were money pits at a time in our lives when money was hard to come by. Some were very useful. Some were pretty impractical. Some we were glad to be rid of. Some we still can't bear to part with.

And yet, after all those hundreds of thousands of miles, not one of those countless cars ever came close to giving me the pleasure I get from riding my Vespa.

What the heck is it? I'm still just going from A to B. It's just that on my Vespa it's much more like going from "Eh!" to "be". It's existential. And after more than 9,000 miles (closer to 9,300 miles) the ride still satisfies me to the core.

This morning was quite chilly. And yet the ride was still pure joy. Skiing is like that too. And riding a bike. Canoeing too.

So is it the skill required to travel this way that makes it so special?

Is it the freedom that riders often write and talk about? And just what is that freedom? How are you more free on two wheels than on four or more?

Is it the risk, and taking chances? Then why wear all the gear all the time?

Could it be the challenge and facing that challenge square on? Is it really that challenging?

Why are there so many motorcycle and scooter blogs? Maybe I'm seeing trees because I'm in the forest. Are car blogs similar to PTW blogs? I don't know. I do know that in all my years of owning cars I wasn't tempted even once to join a car discussion forum, or write a blog.

So many questions, so few answers.

All I know is that it's getting really cold. On the ride home I'm positive that there were occasional snow flakes streaking white arcs through my field of vision.

And yet I'm still in the saddle, occasionally grinning like a mad man, yet inscrutable behind my visor.

What the heck is it?

I'll just have to keep riding until I figure it out.

Friday, November 4, 2011

You know it's cold when...

Capturing a shot like this on a Friday morning commute to work makes cold weather riding such a deeply satisfying experience.

Last season I packed in the scoot commute after a ride just below the freezing point. I had to pull into a McDonalds half way to the office to warm up over a cup of coffee. I was wearing ski mitts, and it just wasn't enough to deal with the windchill. When I got to the office I was probably well on my way to hypothermia.

This season I'm much better equipped. The windscreen makes a huge difference by keeping the wind off my hands. The lined riding pants and the layers under my riding jacket keep my core nice and warm. So basically the only effect left is cold fingers. That's manageable.

When I get off the bike in the underground garage, I pull off my gloves and place my hands on the headlight, one after the other. The residual warmth is just the ticket. Not too hot, just nice and toasty. By the time I get into my office and sit down to work, a hot mug of coffee is all I need to banish the rest of the chill in my hands.

The remaining issue is the condition of the roads. If there is a chance of precipitation that could become ice or frost on the road, that will spell the end of the 2011 scooter commuting season.

Time will tell, but, by any measure, the end is near. Repent!!

Monday, October 31, 2011


Happy Halloween!

This is T-H-E day for all those who ride orange Vespas!  Get your spook on you guys!

Changing the exposure on today's image of Lake St-Louis in the morning reveals more of who was hanging out all night just for this occasion.
Ride safely, and spookily!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hit the road Jack!

Last week was full of work-related challenges.  Everything went more or less as planned, but by the time the weekend rolled around, it sure was time for a break.  Unfortunately, the work-related duties intruded well into the weekend.

On Sunday I had some minor chores to take care of.  After lunch there was finally some me-time.

There is no better treat for me than hopping on my Vespa and hitting the road.  Even if my name isn't Jack.

I headed north, determined to take it slow and easy.  Take in the fall colors.  Enjoy the late fall sunshine.
Continuing on my northward course, I took a nice quiet back road that cuts obliquely across the western tip of the island, finding its way to the shore of the Lake of Two Mountains.
When I got to the lake, I couldn't resist the temptation to check up on the memorial.

Sure enough, Jim Katz was up to his quiet literary philanthropy.  Another copy of The Senneville Time Warp was discretely tucked into its special place on the monument.  It's a treat for me to see it there.  It makes my connection to the place much more meaningful.  Thanks Jim.
Something caught my attention out on the lake, behind the memorial.  Amazingly a couple of kite surfers were taking advantage of the stiff winds.  I tried to snap a picture.  I know that the kites are in the frame, but they blend in with the fall foliage and all but disappear.
From the memorial I began the ride home, westward along the shore.

On this trip there was no trace of summer left.  Leaves rustling in the breeze, pumpkins on stoops, folks strolling in heavy jackets and bulky sweaters, the scent of log fires in the air.

Thinking of Steve Williams, I took the Vespa off-road, into a grassy field, and down to the water's edge.

A small flotilla of geese was resting by the shore bobbing in the choppy frigid water.  Mother nature is good at camouflage, so you have to look carefully to see them.
Looking left and right, or south and north, the lake from this vantage point is just beautiful. Unfortunately it's just a question of time before someone snaps up this land for another McMansion.
I pushed on, slowly meandering homeward on Senneville road.

When I got to Ste-Anne de Bellevue, I went down to the boat ramp near the entrance to the lock that allows boaters to go from the Lake of Two Mountains into Lake St-Louis.

The boat slips at the marina are empty now, and many of the docks have been hauled ashore in preparation for winter's assault.
Further west it was the same story at the Baie d'Urfée Yacht Club.  The sailboats are all on shore and ready to hibernate.
All that was left to do was push on home.  The weather is supposed to be reasonably good this coming week, so the scoot commute is still on.  But the clock is definitely ticking down to the close of the season.

There was a snow storm warning over the past couple of days for the US northeast.  It's just a question of time before my world goes white too.

On a housekeeping note, a curious link seems to have developed between this blog and my Vespa. The odometer on the Vespa is at 10,385 miles, and the stats counter on the blog is at 10,023 pageviews, more or less neck and neck. With the winter hiatus looming, the blog is sure to pull way out in front of the Vespa.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


A few posts ago, I was discussing the routes I take to commute to and from work. In that post I discussed the faster and fastest routes I take.

Before I began this adventure of riding a motor scooter to work as an alternative to more traditional means of commuting (click here to go the beginning), I found a route to get downtown that didn't involve any higher speed roads.

It's a reasonably direct route that's also one of the most scenic on the Island.

So much so, that from late spring, through summer and well into the fall, the portion of the route that follows the lake shore boasts a weekend parade of motorcycles, motor scooters, sports cars, vintage cars, bicycles, inline skates, skateboards, in fact any form of conveyance that in any way spells "fun".

Tonight that was the route I took for the ride home.

At this time of year, as my scooter commuting season draws slowly to a close, the scenic route is very different, particularly at night.

The sun has long set by the time I leave the office and roll out of the underground garage at 6:20 p.m. The air temperature is four degrees Celsius, 39 degrees Fahrenheit.

When I make it to the lake at around 6:50 p.m. it's dark, cold, and desolate, except for the occasional jogger or dog walker. The lake is defined by the lights along the shore. The distant lights on the far side of the lake twinkle and shimmer faintly in a bright line snaking along the horizon. Those on this side are bolder, more distinct, and set further apart. Here and there they reveal the shape of buildings and the features of parks along the route.

The lights are on in many of the houses I pass. Warm, cozy pools of light that give meaning to the word "home". Occasionally the aroma of a hardwood fire wafts past me on the way, conjuring a vision of an unseen hearth or wood burning stove.

Leaves litter the road here and there and I imagine some of them scattering in my wake. My arms feel cool as the cold slowly finds its way through the layers of my riding gear. My head and neck are warm, well protected by my full face helmet. I congratulate myself for getting the Corazzo Underhoody. Somehow it seals the gap between my collar and helmet. My legs and feet are warm and comfortable in my lined motorcycle pants and heavy hiking boots. My gauntlets seal my cuffs, but the assault of the fast-moving cold air still succeeds at chilling my fingers. I fantasize on and off about heated gloves or heated hand grips. The wide windshield that extends in front of the handgrips helps to ward off the cold air, but cold air is cold air, and the laws of thermodynamics are immutable.

Soon the commute ends as I hang a right onto my street and swoop left into the driveway. I pull off my right glove, reach into the pocket of my armored jacket and activate the garage door remote. The door rises and light spills onto the driveway, beckoning.

View route in a larger map
31.520 kilometers, or 19.586 miles, in just over 56 minutes.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A thread in the fabric of time

I exchanged the following e-mail correspondence with Ms. Atmo Zakes of Senneville, concerning The Senneville Time Warp.  This thread tells an interesting story that is an epilogue to that original post.


October 18, 2011

Hello Mr. Zakes,

Please forgive this brief intrusion.

I stumbled upon Hilary Hedges' book at the Senneville Memorial to the Battle of the Lake of Two Mountains.

An account of this encounter is on my blog.

I drove by the memorial on Sunday afternoon hoping to find the book and borrow it for a few hours to read the story, but someone else had beaten me to it, the book was gone.

I noticed that you assisted Ms. Hedges with the illustrations for the book.

Perhaps you might be able to pass this message along to Ms. Hedges.  My curiosity is tweaked.

If there is an online text of the book I'd love to read it.

No worries.  If I don't hear from you that's fine.  I won't pester you with this.


David Masse


Hello David Masse,

First things first, I am a woman...

This being said I am not feeling intruded upon ... on the contrary... in all the years we (my husband Jim and I) have been doing "this" (explanation later), it is the first time ever we have been contacted by someone (how did you get to me??) and we are thrilled... tickled pink really.

I read your account on the blog, and if I were a little more into blogging (which I am not at all), I would post  this note there... as it is, I need to rely on you to take it from here.

I am going to answer as many as I can of your questions, and tell you the story of this book.

Let me start at the beginning.

The book was written and published in collaboration with Hilary (the writer), Jim (the editor) and I (the illustrator).

Hilary Hedges, a British born lady, was working for one of our neighbours and that is how I know her.

She reacted to the text on the  memorial plaque you tried to visit and that is how the story was born.

Several neighbours, adults and children, were involved for staging the photographs and I also did some drawing for the maps and the other illustrations, including the cover.

It was good fun and we published the book ourselves in a small edition and sold some of them around here.

Shortly after the publication, Hilary returned to England (she didn't leave us her UK address or contact information) and we were left with way too many books.

So Jim came up with the idea to leave some at the memorial for people to find and read.

And that is what he is still doing and that is how you found the book there. This has been going on for years and that is why I am so thrilled to get some feedback!

You can tell me how to get in touch with you and you can get your own copy of the book.

Now to the memorial plaque and your speculations on what happened.

Here is what we know.

Over the last 20 years this plaque has disappeared three times already.

One time, Jim actually witnessed some bikers taking it down and was pretty sure that they came from Oka, and were doing this to protest against the so obvious discrimination on it. They apparently dumped it into the lake.This happened right around the time when there was unrest in Oka and lots of protests.

After a few months it was replaced by an identical plaque and, as before, that one went missing again after some time and was replaced once more.

That one did not last very long either and seems to have been stolen for the simple reason that it is valuable bronze.

It has been over two years since the last theft and it has not been replaced.

Maybe someone in the department that takes care of these historical sites, has clicked on to the fact, that it is really a slap in the face to the first nations people and should be worded quite differently, to say the least, and not be celebrated like this at all if we took this matter to heart a little!

 Or it could be celebrated in the way the book does it.... (I must preserve the mystery, I am not giving away the plot!).

As there is no online version of the book, let me know how to get it to you and you could even pick it up.

Feel free to ask more questions. I will be glad to answer you.


Atmo Zakes and Jim Katz


October 19, 2011

Hello Ms. Zakes,

I should have taken more care and researched your given name. I would then have addressed you correctly.

Thank you so much for your reply.

I found your e-mail address by Googling your name.

The first thing I would like to do is to post your account on my blog.  I will e-mail it to you first so that you can make comments. I will only post it with your permission. It could take me a week or so to write it up.

Secondly, I would be pleased to purchase two copies of the book. One to keep, and one to donate to the Beaconsfield public library. Once I have had the pleasure of reading the book I may post a better review of it on my blog.

I will be in touch to see how I can purchase the books. I will be out of town this weekend and a good part of next week.

If you can think of any information concerning Ms. Hedges that might be used to contact her, that would be appreciated.

Please tell Jim what a wonderful idea it was to leave books at the memorial. He should consider releasing the books as suggested by the book crossing project that one of my readers pointed out in a comment they posted.  Here is the web address for the Book Crossing Project:

I will be in touch.

Thanks once more.

David Masse


October 20, 2011

Hello David Masse,

I think originally the idea to leave the books like that came from the Book Crossing people....

I have forwarded your message to Jim and know he is as thrilled as I am to hear from you.

It would have been clearer to do it the Book Crossing way and you would have known right away that you could keep the book.

He just simplified the procedure and lost some clarity in the process.

Sorry... but without that, you might never have written to us!!

I love your idea to give one of the books to the library and will gladly donate it for them....

I did not know that it was that easy to find me and am happy you did.

I did try to find Hilary online but was not successful either.

You do have my permission to post my account on the blog and also make the language corrections that might be needed (I am not a native English speaker since I grew up in Berlin, Germany) and it will be fun to get to read it first too.

I just noticed that you have already included your street address... so why don't I pass by there and leave you the books simply in the mail box. That leaves you free to read it and deliver the copy to the library at your convenience.

You can even remind me of this should I forget.... ( I am getting on in age and sometimes my brain does not work as efficiently as it used to).

I will go get the books for you and be in touch.

Take care and bon Voyage!



October 23, 2011

Hello Atmo,

Can you tell me when the book was written?




October 23, 2011

Hello David,

It was written over the winter of 1994 and illustrated in the spring of 1995 (you can find the info on the last page of the book).

There is an article with pictures I have from The Chronicle on the West Island Spotlight page that appeared on July 5th 1995 that gives a resumé of the book and invites people to the book launching party at our place.

You are welcome to come and read the article.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Faster, and Fastest!

Commuting to work on a Vespa is not about speed in the absolute macro sense of speed that we normally think of when we talk about the speed of things.

Speed certainly plays a very important role in the pure joy of commuting on a Vespa, but it's much more about speed at a micro level, as in a body in motion in space and time, and not so much about how fast you get to where you're going.  It's the force of gravity acting on the bike, the centrifugal and centripetal forces that you feel and work with in sweeping turns.  That kind of speed.

It's also about becoming accomplished in low speed sharp turns that you execute turning right from a full stop onto an intersecting street, when, through a mix of experience and skill, you first initiate, then control, then counteract, and ultimately throttle out of, the act of what I think of as letting the bike fall into the turn.  It's hard for me to express, as you can see.  For me it's closely related to the feeling you get in a canoe when you shoot rapids and you drop down into that first trough, or when you ski, and you crest a rise, in that first moment when you dip into the slope again.

Many of these pleasures are best savoured when you're not in a rush to get to your destination and can afford the luxury of the twisty by-ways.

Then again, as your skills increase, eventually you find your way onto expressways (assuming that your bike, like mine, is expressway-legal).  Expressways offer a far different experience.

If commuting on the by-ways is more akin to performing aerobatics in a slow-moving bi-plane, getting anywhere on an expressway is more of an exercise in raw speed at the far edge of your Vespa's capacity, like flying that by-plane in a race.

On the expressway, attention to detail and your surroundings has to be especially sharp, the path you travel has to be carefully planned.  At a mile-a-minute, the scene unfolds before you quickly.  Changing lanes with a wide-open-throttle is a very graceful, powerful arc, with gentle pressure exerted on the bars determining your trajectory.  It means consciously using the brake lever to flash your brake light, though the engine compression is actually doing all the braking you need.  It means dividing your attention between what's happening in front of you, and what's going on behind.

Having that Admore Lighting LED brake and turn indicator unit that I installed under the rear lip of my topcase is comforting on the expressway.

Living where I do, I'm very fortunate to have a nice range of commuting options.  Slow leisurely routes that twist and meander along the lakeshore; a fast, direct expressway route that gets me from home to office, or office to home in the quickest time, and a fast-ish hybrid route that offers a mix both expressway stretches and shortcuts on city streets where I can filter and lane-split with ease to shave 10 minutes or so off the leisurely commute.  The variety is refreshing.

Here, for instance, is the faster hybrid route that I took yesterday morning on the way into the office:

View this route map in a larger map
31.256 kilometers, or 19.422 miles, in just over 50 minutes.

And here was my route home on the most direct, and fastest route:

View this route map in a larger map
28.256 kilometers, or 17.557 miles, in just over 28 minutes.

In a future post I'll show you my bread-and-butter leisurely route.  Not necessarily better, just slower paced, longer in time and distance, but packed chock-a-block full of wonderful scenery.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Drawing to a close...

This morning's weather was bordering on dismal.

Don't get me wrong, between now and Christmas morning, there will be truly dismal, dreary, cold, blustery, drizzly, sleet-ish, yucky days completely without redeeming qualities that, by comparison, will make this morning look pretty good.

There was a stiff wind straight off the lake making the Canadian flag at the Forest and Stream Club stand at a crisp right angle to the staff, bold and defiant, as if signaling to Canadians to buck up, get out the long-johns and down jackets, and march proudly and resolutely into the coming winter wonderland.

All of which means that scooter commuting will soon draw to a seasonal close for me and my trusty Vespa LX150.

Shows you what stuff I'm made of.

Down in equally cold and possibly even more snowy Pennsylvania, Steve Williams is rubbing his hands together with confident determination, looking forward to the start of his preferred Vespa riding season: winter.

Shows you what stern stuff Steve is made of.

Quietly, my mind is shifting, from planning rides, to indoor scooter pursuits.

Definitely a new windscreen in an attempt to arrive, finally, at windshield nirvana; a good detailed wash and wax;  putting all my gear through the wash cycle;  sewing a Modern Vespa 2010 patch on my BMW Airflow2 summer riding jacket; repairing the uncooperative Velcro closures on my Corazzo 5.0 jacket, maybe adding some snaps to the cuffs for even more secure closure at the wrists; cruising the used online Vespa GTS and MP3 ads for my next bike;  checking out the market value of my Vespa LX150; daydreaming about a June-ish or July-ish scooter ride to Ogunquit, Maine; spending more time hanging out on the Modern Vespa forum and increasing my posting rate, and maybe, just maybe, if I'm really resourceful, earning another karma rondell;  planning a late spring trip to Vancouver and meeting up with Bobskoot, and, if I'm really on the ball, renting a decent scoot for a ride;  finding out more about The Senneville Time Warp and the missing Battle of the Lake of Two Mountains monument; hours sitting at the kitchen table, scissors, scalpel, glue and tweezers at hand, striving to complete my way-too-detailed paper vintage Vespa replica.

More will surely come to mind as the season narrows to a full stop.

I'll be ready.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Senneville Time Warp

That's the title of a book by Hilary Hedges that I came across in the most unusual way.

Thanksgiving weekend was nothing short of phenomenal.  Our sons joined us, traveling from Vancouver and Toronto, and we had not one, but two turkey dinners with all the trimmings, one at home as a family with dear friends, and a second at my sister's with our two extended families.

That would have been enough to make for a fantastic long weekend.

But the weather, the weather, what can be said about the weather?  It was summer!  Not a late fall reprieve from the chill, but full-on, wipe your brow, squint your eyes, summer.  Temperature in the high 20's (high seventies for those where Fahrenheit rules), blue skies, warm breezy days, all the way from Saturday through Monday.  Never do I remember a Thanksgiving weekend like this.

On Monday afternoon, our out of town guests began to hit the road headed for home.  After cleaning up the brunch dishes, I jumped on my Vespa for a joy ride out to Senneville.

The warm breezy afternoon; the lovely winding road out to Senneville along the lake shore; the company of motorcycles; other scooters (including a man on a Vespa GTS and a woman on an LX; I followed them for a quarter mile or so before they turned down a side road); vintage sports cars; once I got to Senneville, the sunshine-dappled country road; maple trees breaking into their fall colours providing a multi-coloured canopy; all combined to make the ride dreamy.  This is the kind of experience that sells Vespas.

Was there anything that could have made this day better?  Yes there was! But there was no way I could have imagined it.

My casual objective for my ride to Senneville was to check up on a historic monument that has gone missing.  How does a historic monument go missing?  I wish I knew.  Vandals are the obvious culprits.  But you would expect vandals to resort to spray paint, to deface the monument, not carry it off.

The monument in question is a bronze plaque measuring about two by three feet, mounted on a concrete slab framed by cast iron girders.  It is off by the side of the road, surrounded by a wrought iron fence.

I came upon it many, many years ago.  At the time I had a Solex moped.  I had just written my last exam in my last year of undergrad.  I had set off on a very long ride solo, with the objective of going around the western tip of the island.  I had never done this before.  It was the first time I had been to Senneville, the westernmost suburb on the Island of Montreal.  That was how I stumbled upon the monument.

The plaque commemorated a skirmish between the colonists of New France and the Iroquois tribe of the native people.  The engagement was the first counterattack by the colonists following the horrific Lachine massacre in August of 1689.

Billed as the Battle of the Lake of Two Mountains, the engagement was by a small force of 28 soldiers from the Montreal garrison against 22 Iroquois.  The monument marks the place where the battle took place.

Having once stopped to read the plaque all those years ago, I have stopped by from time to time to visit that spot.  It's kind of special to me because it was a surprise to find it in the first place, and that serendipitous find blended with its isolation on the Montreal shore of the Lake of Two Mountains lends a kind of magic to it, at least in my mind.

To add to the allure of the monument, at some time in the recent past, the bronze plaque has disappeared.  The wrought iron fence marking the place is intact, as is the concrete wall where the plaque was mounted, but the plaque itself is nowhere to be seen.

It was bronze, so it couldn't have needed repair or restoration.  Was it taken down because historians discredited the story it told?  Given activism on the part of the native peoples in the recent past, did they make off with the plaque because the plaque commemorates a vicious act of war against native peoples?  Did a history buff make off with it and is now hoarding it in his basement?  Did aliens take it for further study or to place in a museum on their home planet?

Did I imagine the plaque to begin with?  When something just disappears, you can begin to question your memory.

Riding a Vespa makes it easy to stop to investigate things.  The road is very narrow by the monument and there is nowhere to park a car.
But there is plenty of room for a Vespa.  So I pulled over right in front of the monument to take a closer look.
And that's when I found it.

Resting at the foot of the monument was a document in a zip lock polyethylene bag.
I switched off the motor, pulled off my helmet and gloves, plucked out my earplugs, put the Vespa up on its centre stand, and picked up the bag.

Inside the bag was Ms. Hedges' book, Senneville Time Warp.  There was no time to sit and read the book.  That might be the subject of another ride.  I did snap some photos of this remarkable piece of ephemera though.   I love ephemera.  Surely that book in that bag will disappear, maybe even find its way to where the plaque is.  Who knows?

The book is a fictional account of the battle, seen by the eyes of time-traveling kids, with the Iroquois as protagonists, I think.  It's hard to tell when you only take five minutes or so to examine a book.
The particularly wonderful thing, is that there is a picture of the missing plaque in the book!  How cool is that?  Here is a photo, of the photo of the plaque, in the book:
So I wasn't imagining this all along.

I also took a close up of the picture in the book, hoping that when I got home I'd be able to read the inscription.  As luck would have it, I was able to read it.  It says (said?  It may no longer exist, after all):

"The Battle of the Lake of Two Mountains

Following the Lachine massacre in August of 1689, the Iroquois continued to terrorize the Montreal area.  In October, Governor Denonville sent out a scouting party of 28 under the Sieurs Dulhut and d’Ailleboust de Manthet which came upon a party of 22 Iroquois in the Lake of Two Mountains.  In the mêlée that followed this surprise encounter, 18 Iroquois were killed, three taken prisoner while one swam to safety.  This victory did much to restore the shaken confidence of the inhabitants.

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada."

I carefully returned the book to the zip lock bag, took care to re-seal it, and placed it back at the foot of the monument exactly as I found it.

As soon as I got home I dove into Google.  What more could I learn about the battle, the missing plaque, and Hilary Hedges and her book?

Well the monument has a web site.  So that's a start.

And then, even more curiously, the only reference I could find to Senneville Time Warp was an entry on a Swedish web site (how weird is that?) where the title is misspelled.

Of course, as you might expect, there is no shortage of MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn pages for Hilary Hedges (or Hillary Hedges, but I'm guessing she didn't get her own first name wrong on the cover of her book).  I'm sparing you those links.  I don't have time in my busy life to figure out if any of them belong to the real Hilary Hedges of Senneville Time Warp fame, and you shouldn't either.  If I'm wrong and you have taken the time to figure it out, please put up a post here and share your find.

Hilary Hedges, if you come across this page, please, please, please, post a comment to fill in the rest of this story.

Pretty cool for a Thanksgiving weekend, no?

Maybe one day I'll tell the tale of another disappearing monument from my college days: the modern granite monument to Dollard des Ormeaux in Carillon Quebec recreating the fateful stockade on the Long Sault along the Ottawa river where Dollard and his small band met their demise at the hands of the Iroquois during the same war between the French colonists and the native people of Canada.  It's kind of Canada's Alamo story.  At least that's the way it was told to us in grade school.  Dollard supposedly lit a fuse in a powder keg, tried to heave it over the stockade wall at the attacking Iroquois, snagged a branch overhead, dropped the keg inside the stockade, and BOOOOM! That was supposedly the sorry end of Dollard and his men.  The truth?  Who knows what the truth was.

Unfortunately the native people were ill-matched not only in numbers and weaponry, but also in spin-doctoring.  So all these accounts are mostly one-sided.

 That's all for now.

Epilogue: There is more to this story.  Interested? Check out the History Lessons page.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I couldn't resist

As soon as I opened my Financial Post this morning my dragon red Vespa LX jumped off the page at me.  The article citing Apple designs as among the most iconic the world has known is one of several tributes to Steve Jobs in today's edition of the Financial Post.  In my humble opinion, they could have added my mid-life-crisis-red Miata to the top of the list as well.

But who am I to quibble?  The Vespa LX topping the list made my day.

A peak behind the curtain

Some of you have had problems posting comments.

I have tweaked the comment settings in the hope that the changes will make things easier. For instance, you shouldn't have to fuss with that Turing word-test thing designed to tell if you're a human and not a machine.

If many machines start commenting, particularly if they are complaining about the difficulty they're having figuring out how to ride a scooter they bought on Ebay, I may have to turn the word verification back on. [EDIT: there was indeed too much spam, so I turned the word verification back on.]

If you are experiencing any issues on the technical side of things, and you're not a machine, drop me a line, and I'll see what I can do to twiddle the levers behind the curtain to make the problem go away for you.

Going back behind the curtain now...
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.