Sunday, November 11, 2012

Black arts

I enjoy learning how things work.

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

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

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

Parking, for instance.

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

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

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

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

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

Jerry Seinfeld is a really good observer.

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

So it goes with parking.  Costanza parking.

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

Costanza parking is rare, unless you ride a Vespa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have shared this before, grasshopper.

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

Pay attention, grasshopper. Observe.

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

Bazinga! You're welcome!

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cold weather is here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 2, 2012

And now for a change of pace

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

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

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

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

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

I feel more virtuous already.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Hiatus

Sandy was mostly a non-event here in southern Quebec.

Some strong gusts rumbling on the house.  A few heavy but short bursts of rainfall.  Some lingering bands of dark clouds, like strands of a distant angry sky littering an otherwise clear blue ceiling.  Mere echoes of the mayhem visited on Manhattan and Atlantic City.

And yet it was enough to keep me off my bike for the Monday and Tuesday commutes.

Better safe than sorry.  I think my wife and daughter appreciated my cautious approach.

Our dear friend in Fort Lee still has no power.  That sucks.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I made it.

There you have it.

It happened yesterday evening, on the Autoroute 40 service road, on my way to meet Susan and Lauren for Chinese food in Dollard.

When I started out I never imagined that I would go this far, this fast.

Yet here I am.

You can tell a story. You can make it interesting, funny, moving, informative. Yet without measurements, it lacks dimension.

Here are the dimensions of my life on two wheels and my scoot commute.

Three years on two wheels.  Fifteen thousand miles.  One long distance ride. Two group rides. Three provinces. Four stickers on my scooter (two MV stickers and two Corazzo stickers).  One MV sticker on my helmet.  Many new friendships. Assorted cosmetic scooter blemishes, scrapes and abrasions from one evening slide.  Three scooter mugs. One helmet lock.  Three new tires.  Nine Vespa gifts (two model Vespas, two Vespa keychains, one of which Lauren bought me in Rome, one cap, one T-shirt, one lanyard, one shoulder bag, one mug). Two hundred and twenty-six blog posts. Ten or more stone chips.  One new helmet visor.  Three sets of RAM mounts.  Thirty-seven thousand one hundred and seventy-one page views.  One rain suit. Seven modifications to my Vespa (one air horn, one extra bag hook, one turn signal beeper, one auxiliary brake and turn signal unit, one battery tender connection, one set of heated grips, and one electronic heat control). Three Modern Vespa forum patches.  One impromptu dismount and slide in the rain.  Two drive belts.  Nine hundred and eighty two posts on the Modern Vespa forum and two-and-a-half rondels of good karma.  One GoPro Hero HD camera plus assorted accessories.  Six hundred and seventy-six blog comments. One Griplock.  More than five hundred commutes. Lots of armor (three helmets, two pairs of gloves, two jackets, one pair of pants, and one pair of boots). And more lessons, memories and experiences to enrich my life than I can possibly hope to count.

And that's my unique perspective on commuting to work daily on a Vespa motor scooter.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Help ! I'm trapped in David's Spam Cellar

I don't know how I got here but David won't let me out.   It's dark and cold but I am lucky that he gave me a dish of gruel earlier today so I'm not that hungry.   He told me that if I was a good boy and typed out some words and posted a few photos, that HE would let me out  . . .   It feels like a dungeon down here and it echos.   Oh Oh, I hear footsteps and some rattling keys,   I'd better get started.

It's a lucky thing that I have a box of old photos here with me

Brand new 2003 Yamaha BWS 49cc    Mrs Skoot         May, 2003

I really wanted to buy a motorcycle as I used to ride and I used the idea of buying a scooter so I could proceed with my plan.   We went everywhere looking at scooters that would be suitable and this is what we ended up with.

Mrs Skoot & Yamaha BWS         May, 2003

This was supposed to be HER scooter, so here she is taking a familiarization ride to get used to it.   That is my trusty mountain bike in the background.

Long story, shortened.  The Yamaha BWS was too tall for her so she wanted something a bit smaller and lower that she felt more comfortable with so we scoured the local paper for a used scooter and came up with this one which was brand new but never licensed.   The previous owner bought it for his girlfriend but she was too afraid to ride it in traffic so there it sat, until we came along.   He delivered it all the way from Abbotsford one Sunday afternoon

   Mrs Skoot and her Yamaha Vino        July 2003

On Sundays we would ride around town together.  Here we are in Stanley Park, Prospect point taking a rest break

Mrs Skoot & her Vino  (BWS behind)

So the Yamaha BWS ended up to be my bike and she had the Vino to ride.

  Bobskoot & Mrs Skoot       Prospect Point, Stanley Park            July 2003

Even then I carried my tripod and had a self timer so I could take self photos.   See, shorts, sandals and scooters are a good mix, of course now I always wear riding boots

Third Beach, Stanley Park              July 2003

It was great to have scooters.   They were easy to find a place to park and it was easy to stop for photos

  Canada Day, July 1, 2003   Canada Place,  Vancouver

We wanted to go down to Canada Place on Canada Day so we used our scooters and managed to squeeze into the non-parking spot where we could see the live entertainment/celebrations

One Sunday we decided to take our scooters over to Bowen Island, so here we are waiting for the Ferry.  It is only a 20 minute crossing but it feels like you are going on a cruise to somewhere exotic

 Horseshoe Bay Terminal           July 2003

The Horseshoe Bay terminal back then wasn't built yet so we had to wait outside.  Now you enter the lower level of the new terminal and get to be undercover when it rains

                Horseshoe Bay Terminal       portrait view          July  2003

We finally get loaded aboard the ferry and enjoy the cool ocean breeze

BC Ferries    Yamaha BWS & Yamaha Vino

Scooters and motorcycles get to load first, and then they are first off at the other end

Bowen Island Ferry      July 2003

Here's another view of our scooters, photogenic . . .  eh ?

Bowen Island            July  2003

and here's what it looks like on the other side.   We did a bit of exploring when we were there and there are several good restaurants where you can have a meal.   It was a good day to be out on our scoots

I've run out of words and I hope David opens the dungeon and lets me out.  I'm getting hungry

Now you know how our scooting adventures began . . .

thank you for reading,     bobskoot

End of season ritual

The end of the riding season is a let down.  It's not depressing by any means, but it's an unwelcome shift in my habits.

Rituals help to navigate transitions.

It was one of those end of season rituals that took me to the Jean Talon Market at lunchtime today.  I parked in my usual spot.  A Vespa at an outdoor market in Little Italy is a welcome addition to the scenery. 
The market, so swarmed during the summer and early fall, is marking its own end of season rituals.  There is construction going on that I imagine is only possible when activity at the market turns down.

The market never really closes, but it does go into quasi hibernation when commerce is only possible in heated premises behind closed doors.  The market is not there yet, but it's on its way, there's no denying it.

I sat down and enjoyed a long espresso and a croissant.
The stall owners, sporting layer upon layer selected for warmth and comfort rather than fashion, served the few hardy customers picking over the late fall produce.  There was a relaxed feel to the market.  There was none of the summer urgency.  Gone was the throng of patrons eagerly jostling before mountains of fresh local produce, vying for the attention of the harried stall attendants.

Today the shoppers were strolling, chatting, taking their time.  The stall attendants were patiently waiting for the slow selection process to reach its casual conclusion.  Overall it was subdued, almost indolent.  A nice counterpoint to the feverish activity in my professional life over the past few months.

I had what I was after.  A bite to eat.  A moment to pause and take in a restful scene.  A purchase of Fuente Baena olive oil to be tucked away in the pantry and enjoyed over the coming winter.
I feel better now.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Another milestone looms

It's late October.

Susan and I got a reprieve from fall weather last weekend: Thursday through Sunday in the Big Apple.  Compared to Montreal it was balmy.  70F on a few occasions.

I did a semi-unscientific survey while we were there.

%  %  %  %  %  %  %  %  %  %
Vespas as a percentage of all PTWs in NYC:   a significant majority, maybe two thirds
%  %  %  %  %  %  %  %  %  %
Times we spotted Jerry Seinfeld having breakfast at the Brooklyn Diner on West 57th: one
%  %  %  %  %  %  %  %  %  %

Meanwhile, back in Montreal, the scoot commute continues, but the season's end is definitely counted in days, not weeks.  Though time is running out, the miles on the odometer roll along, and that means another milestone looms:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Million Mile Monday

I am used to seeing ride-related challenges on moto blogs.

Million Mile Monday is a ride challenge for October 8, 2012 that was recently posted on the Modern Vespa forum.

I enthusiastically signed on for the effort and started planning a timelapse video of my commute to work.

Then it dawned on me.  It's Thanksgiving and Monday, October 8, 2012 is day three of a long weekend.

Instead of my weekday commute, I would have to post my much shorter weekend jaunt.

Barely a weekend goes by that I don't take this little ride.

I head west along the lakeshore at a leisurely pace and enjoy the ride.

Today I stopped here and there to snap some pictures to share.

I stopped along Old Lakeshore but my iPhone was misbehaving and the pictures I took without noticing the little time lag I was having ruined those shots.

I stopped at the Baie d'Urfée city hall.  It's a pretty little jewel of a building sitting by itself on the lakeshore.
Just past the town hall, there is a beautiful section of Lakeshore Road that winds around the bay that gives the municipality its name.
The next stop was the Baie d'Urfée yacht club where the Canadian flag was begging to be photographed.
The next stop was Ste-Anne de Bellevue.

The main street is home to restaurants, small shops, and Daoust, a nineteenth century department store that it still going strong.  The blue awning belongs to the department store.
When I have a little time on my hands, I keep going past Ste-Anne de Bellevue and head out to Senneville.  The further you follow the water, the more rural the surroundings.
I made it out to L'anse à l'orme, then made a bee-line for home on a straight diagonal country road that eventually meets up with Autoroute 40.

I hopped on the highway and got off at the next exit and made my way home.

I had traveled in a circle.  17.2 miles of happiness on a beautiful sunny and cool fall day.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fall colors

Fall colors are here, and that means that the end of another wonderful season commuting to work on my dragon-red Vespa motor scooter is slowly drawing to a close.

The foliage in all its splendor is not nearly enough to compensate for the winter blahs to come.

My inspiration for this morning's post is two-fold.

First the weather: I had my Corazzo hoody on under my riding jacket but it wasn't really needed.  I got away with summer gloves, and I had a little extra time to follow the lake shore for a bit and snap these pictures.

Second: Sonja asked for fall foliage.
So there you have it.  That's what commuting to work on a Vespa looks like on the last work day before Thanksgiving here in the great (soon to be) white north.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Too @#%^# busy to post...

... but not too busy to read.

That means I've been following current events on the Modern Vespa Forum and putting my two cents in from time to time.

There is one subject that really needs a post here, but I'm just not ready for it.

In the meantime, I continue to commute daily, though with time always an issue, what with 12 and more hours spent in the office, most of my commuting has been on the highway, bombing along as fast as my 150cc's will carry me.

What's happening on MV you ask?  Well you could follow along there, as I know some of you do from time to time.  You may not be so inclined, but even if crash reports and trouble shooting and bull shooting aren't your thing, there is still fascinating reading there.

I know there are a bunch of you screaming eagles and Beemer Boomers out there who are hard core tourists... make that tourers, and you folks may be interested in following the latest trans-continental adventures of the MV resident known as Lostboater.

Having done the last Scooter Cannonball in the spring from Savannah to San Diego, and then tacked on a couple of more thousand miles on top of that treck to do a northern loop on his way back to Florida, he's at it again, but this time in Africa (yes Africa!).

Lostboater (Ken Wilson) has entered the cross-Egypt rally.  2,400 kilometers from Cairo, across the desert, down and around to Luxor.  He stopped by South Africa on his way to meet up with a trio of Afrikanners and another Floridian and who plan to ride from Capetown to Dublin in 2013.  They'll be riding sponsored LNLs (we know them as Stellas) and raising money for worthy causes along the way.

Meanwhile, Ken's Cross Egypt adventure promises to be very much worth following.

As I did for his other adventures, I've linked to it here, and on the right side below.  I know that I'll be following right along.  I won't be able to resist.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It only takes a few minutes

I can't help it.

Early morning light plays with the lake and the sky in ways that compel me to stop and take pictures.
No harm done, since it barely takes any time at all.

Here I made a U-turn, rode up a sidewalk access ramp, onto a green space path, put the bike on the stand, took in the scene, snapped some pictures, and went on my way.
Five minutes, tops.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Alternatives: not all black and white

Alternative. Is that not one of the nice words in the English language? Or in any language for that matter?

Having alternatives means that you have a choice.  And it's not just black and white.  It means more than that.

An alternative is generally a better choice.  The least that can be said is that an alternative is an equally good choice.

Riding a motor scooter to work is an alternative commuting solution.  For those who have never tried it, it is difficult to describe just how much better this alternative is.

Take this morning's commute for instance.

Traffic has been brutal for the past little while.  All clogged up and crawling.

This morning the slow route was the weapon of choice.

Predictably, when traffic is at its worst, even my slow route along the lake and the Lachine Canal gets its share of congestion.  Making matters worse is that for a good section of St-Patrick street along the south side of the canal, the powers that be dedicated the right lane in each direction as a reserved lane for buses and taxis.  That means that there is just no way for me to filter without running the risk of a ticket for using the bus lane.

This morning my Vespa allowed me to bend the rules another way, and avoid 95% of the problem.

You see, just about where the traffic backs up on St-Patrick, there is a pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the canal.
All I needed to do was to take the Vespa on a little off-roading jaunt up a little grassy hill, across the south side bike path, across more grass, over the bridge, over to St-Ambroise street on the north side of the canal, and presto! Empty streets through the now-trendy side streets of lofts and condos west of the Atwater Market, and a congestion-free zip along George Vanier boulevard, through a delightful winding tunnel, right into the heart of downtown.

That left me with a self-satisfied smug grin, and time to spare to pick up my morning java.

And that's why my life is not by any means black and white.  Commuting on a Vespa means that there are many alternatives.  Even though it means you have to indulge your inner bad-ass scooter commuter.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Too late for Martha... too early for Martha

Martha posted a blog challenge.

It's an easy one, but one I can't seem to get right.

Martha wanted a picture of my neck of the woods at 7:00 a.m.

I got 8:00 a.m.
and I got 6:00 a.m.
but 7:00 a.m. has so far eluded me.

Sorry Martha.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Windshield - Take three

September is here.

 It's still summer, and I'm still riding wearing my mesh jacket and summer gloves

The liner for my riding pants is... (actually, I'm not sure where it is).

Before I left for Vancouver a few weeks ago, I dropped off my windshield at the local glass and mirror shop for a second round of surgery.  I have struggled to get the windshield formula right.  My earlier experiments are documented here.

I'd been determined to do it for some time.

I knew I wanted it done before the fall chill came to visit.

Yesterday I picked it up and promptly installed it.
As you can see it's now cut down as low as it can be. My daughter who thought it was embarassingly dorky at its original height (you can see a photo by clicking here, man was it huge), and found it only borderline acceptable at mid height, now thinks it looks pretty good. I think so too.

Here is a video I shot when I cut the screen to mid height.

But that's not why I cut it down to fly screen height.

It got chopped because, at mid height, as esthetically pleasing as it may have been, it directed the air flow to my neck. This made riding uncomfortable, but not for the obvious reasons you might think.

It wasn't the pressure or force of the wind hitting my neck or helmet and causing a strain in my neck. Not at all. That is most noticeable riding without the screen at highway speeds. At mid height the screen still did a good job of eliminating upper body strain from the wind.

And it wasn't because the airblast of cold air was chilling me in colder weather. Not one bit. My cold weather gear prevents that effect.

The really serious culprit was noise.

The screen caused turbulence just below my helmet that was shocking the first time I experienced it. If you don't understand what I mean, try this (depending on the car you drive): get up to highway speed and open one rear window. That loud deep bass throbbing sound you get? That's what the mid height screen did for me, allbeit at a smaller scale.

It sent me straight to the hardware department at Sears to buy earplugs. Now earplugs are a topic for another post all by themselves, and, having gotten used to them, I never commute without them anymore,  windscreen or no windscreen.

No sooner than I installed the shorty windscreen, I just had to take a test run.  I wouldn't say I was dreading it, because anything would be an improvement. I was just really curious. You see it's at fly screen height now, and I never got what flyscreens were about. What's the point of having a ridiculously tiny windshield?

Here are my first impressions. 

Still no airblast on my hands.

Fantastic! After all, that's why I got the large Cuppini screen to begin with.

The screen now directs the air to the middle of my chest. Gone is the noisy turbulence. Now there is a faint whistling that I actually find interesting. The screen does a good job of smoothing the airflow and eliminating the tiring blast of air you get on the highway riding without a screen.

It's early still, but I'm now quite pleased. Let's see how it handles as fall chill settles in. The timing for this experiment couldn't be better. The forecast is for 30C early this week. So there's still summer weather to test in.

I'll let you know how it works out.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.