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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Closeout (updates on various things)

I caught a glimpse of her in the mirror today.  We were on our way to breakfast at IHOP and Sue was tucked in behind me.  I could not make out her face in her new helmet but I could feel her hands around me and the press of her body on my back.  She was buying breakfast and I could not have been in a better mood.

I knew I was in trouble when she mentioned her wanting to buy some sort of communication device so she could talk to me when riding.  How Christmas was coming up, and my birthday a few short months after that.  In other words, I should expect a communications headset.

Sometimes I catch a look at myself in my gear and it's odd to think about everything that is now in my closet that is biking related.  We now have four helmets, four sets of gloves, three sets of jackets, two pairs of boots, two sets of rain gear and a partridge in a pear tree.  We have come a long, long way from a canary yellow pullover and a shiny half helmet  Well it may not be the best gear it does serve a purpose, and hopefully we will never have to test our gear.

Now that fall is coming, we should be riding more as a couple.  It was incredibly hot and humid this summer, we didn't ride nearly as much as we could have.  The heat also effected my participation in the Equinox to Equinox rally.  I finished a very respectable 13th at of 202 participants and met my goal of a top 25 finish.  I managed a total of 291 points.  If I had continued to play I have no doubt I could have finished in the top ten, maybe even the top five.  You can see my various photo's here:  I was # 096.  Well I enjoyed it, I have to admit that I am not if I would participate again.  It just seemed it to long.  While the guys at the Pace Podcast do a great job, I just feel they just bit off more then they could chew.  It would have been nice to have had updates, either on the podcast or the website, regularly.  We will see what they have planned for next year.

Finally, I love a love a good adventure story.  I love travel stories and - at the risk of being called a "wimp" or worse - romance stories.  So when I came across this story on Scooterfile I had to follow up on it.  It seems that a young man fell in love with an idea.  To ride from Canada to Peru on a 150cc Lambretta.   Now that would be crazy today...but in the late 50's?  Perfectly insane.

Thanks to the Kickstarter website
One hitch in his plan. He met the woman he would marry three weeks before hand.  He still goes on the trip, and then, showing what must of been a sure sign that he was crazy in love.  He asks her to marry him and come on the journey with him.  You can't make these stories in Hollywood.  Unless you throw in an alien invasion or Zombies.

His son is trying to put together the money to tell his parents story.  From what I understand it's just a question of getting the money for the printing.  You can read more about the Bowman's adventure on their Kickstarter page.  The official website is at The Scooter Diaries and goes into much more detail about the project. Of course, their is a Facebook page as well.   It's an interesting story and worth looking into.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Catching up on my reading.

Without going into to much detail, I started to feel ill the last day of my mini-vacation.  By Tuesday, a day when I traditionally run one of my routes, it turned into a full blown flu.  When I called off from my normal job on Wednesday, my supervisor did not recognize my voice.   It is only today, Saturday, that I am starting to feel more like my old self.

Needless to say my riding experience this week was confined to reading blogs and the wonderfully written "The Ghost of Scootertrash Past"  by Mark Tiger Edmonds (originally published in March of 2003).   Mr Edmonds is actually an English professor at nearby St Leo University.  Which means that at one time or another I've probably waved at him on my scoot.  I got the feeling from reading "Scoottrash" that he's not the type to wave back.  Not because my choice of ride is a Kymco scooter, it's just because Edmonds comes off as a bit of a curmudgeon.  He's got damn more important things to do than to wave back at some damn fool.

I learned about this book from the In The Desert Scootin blog and frankly picked up this book when I saw it at my local library.  You can read his review of the book here.   I was not that far into it when the following quote hit me like a ton of proverbial bricks; "You ain't got to decide but two things, Boy. You got to decide what's important. And you got to decide what it's worth. And then you're done deciding, and you can get up off your ass and get to it."   Rough, ready and to the point.  I think I'm going to like this guy.

The problem is that as I continued to read the book his writing style started to grate on me a bit.  He be waxing poetic about the Oregon inlets one moment then off on a tangent about Waitresses.  Then a line or two of pure brilliance....then I have to wait for something, anything to catch my attention again.  I know I may not be fair here, reading while I was sick an all.

A book should grab you, force you to not want to put it down.  Sadly with Scootertrash, I had to force myself to pick it up at times.  The book does have some fun moments.  One of my personal favorites is where he and a friend are riding through south Florida in the heat of summer when suddenly "[A] chipmunk broke from the cover on one side of the road and ran across it.  We both came to an abrupt halt right there in middle of the remote thoroughfare.  To begin with, chipmunks are not native to this part of Florida.  Secondly, this on was about three feet tall and scampered on its two hind legs.  And it was wearing what appeared to be smaller chipmunks on its feet."  He describes seeing a skunk follow the chipmunk and the unmistakable sound of Disney like cartoon music with someone screaming "You are all HAPPY animals."

"I feared," Edmonds writes, "this was the dreaded flashback we heard about."

It's a weird, wonderful and completely unexpected moment that a rider might actually come across. It's moments like this, when he writes about what he sees and experiences; be it a shooting star or a moon lit rainbow that Edmonds is at his best.  The people, the places - be it a cheap motel room or a dive bar out in the middle of the sticks don't really stick out.  These things are just secondary and at times annoyances to him.

At times the prose does demand to be said aloud, Edmonds is a well known poet, and parts of the book will send a chill down your spine with the beauty of the open road and this thing called America.  I agree 110 percent with the Desert blog on one point.  One passage of this book is more like a spoken word poem as he and a young lady discuss their views of the this case Edmonds playing the bad guy.  “She giggled and asked about the sunshine and unfrozen rivers and flowers and birds and butterflies in the air. She asked about alligators and the Southern Cross and the Spanish moss. And she wanted to know about manatees.
But I told her about the heat and the cold, about just getting' old, and about thousand mile days. I tried to tell her about border towns and local citizens' frowns and about how the highway will wear you down out there between the Mohawk Valley and Tampa Bay.” (Seriously - read that last bit aloud).

By the end I was not disappointed.  I was not that satisfied either.  The book didn't really make me want to go on a "long ride."  Maybe because I seek out what he seeks out.  An experience, a chance to see something new...something unexpected and wonderful.  I think that is what most "serious riders" want - and yes, I'm including myself in that group (that's another post for some later date).  

In the end it's a good travel book, but you really don't need to be on a motorcycle to enjoy the sun rise over a desert.  The smell of wildflowers in the morning air, the touch of your lovers hand watching the sun settle into the sea...what you do need is to be open to the experience.  Edmonds certainly is and more often than not he excels in bringing that moment to life.  I just wish I didn't have to slog through so much....hold on!

On second thought  and this just occurred to me, his book is a lot like riding a motorcycle.  You have to go through the boredom, the heat, the bugs, the pedestrian to get to that magical moment.  

Well I'll be damned.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Bahama's - A little jaunt with memories that last a lifetime.

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” ― G.K. Chesterton

I was trying to pay attention to the road, trying to keep my eye on my girlfriends daughter who, while having riding bikes and small motorbikes, had never ridden a scooter this far, this fast before.  I was riding behind her in front of the tail-gunner and trying to keep an eye on the rear view mirror of my little Yamaha for the jeep that my Susan and her mother had rented to follow along.  I didn't have much to worry about.  Steph handled the scooter very well, she scared me twice (once where she took a turn to quick and stuck out her foot) and another where she was looking at the lovely countryside and not paying attention to the road and nearly missed a turn.

My little island steed
My ride was a little cramped Yamaha 100 to 125 cc, it was more than a little hot but the traffic keeps moving in the Bahama's thanks to only a few stop lights but what seems like 101 traffic circles on the island.  It kept the air moving.  I had learned about the trip through the Shiftless Scooter Club and the Palm Beach Scooter Club.  As I sit here safely back in the states I find myself wishing that I could have spent more time there.  The people of the Bahama's are amazingly friendly and helpful, not asking for a dime when we required assistance (more on that in a bit).  The roads were in very good shape and there were enough twists to keep it interesting, but not particularly challenging.

I went to ride somewhere new, to visit another country and see things that I may new see again.  To explore history, to meet the people.  For the community and joy of riding with other scooter lovers.  I went to dip my feet in the bluest water, to buy things for family and friends...just to get away from the daily stress of life.  To drink.

The guy that lead the trip I've ridden with once before in a group setting.  He's and excellent leader, finding a pace that fits all the riders and keeps the group together in a tight formation for the most part.   I admit I probably drove the tail-gunner (a guy named Jack) a little crazy as I often fell back a little bit to take in the Bahama's scenery and to give Steph more than ample room to steer.  Again it struck me that I was more of a solo rider than anything.

The group stopped at a stony beach with some of the bluest water on the planet and more than one person dismounted to dip their feet in the water or look for shells and coral.  My lovely Susan and her mother had volunteered their services to transport these treasures in their rented jeep beforehand.  Sadly 5 or 10 minutes later we were again on the road.

We passed lovely old cemeteries, beaches, churches - one of which looked as if the hand of God itself and twisted the metal (I will link the ride video here once posted).  I can understand why a lot of bikers get interested in want to remember these things.  Riding alone I'm able to stop and explore and read the signs, talk to the locals.  Groups just keep on moving.

When traveling in a foreign land I am always struck how the people live, what is important to them.  Well many of the homes we passed would be considered "shacks" by US standards, I was impressed that for the most parts the yards were clean and neat, I saw a few gardens about.  The people were friendly, beeping thanks as I waved a few by.  When Sue got lost in a roundabout and drove some 15 miles out of the way, a very nice woman insisted on showing her the way back...not taking a dime for her troubles.  "Your a guest in our country" is all she said.  One could just sense the pride the Bahamian people had in their country.

We had lunch in a little local restaurant where a story was told that the owner of the scooter place received $1 for everyone that ate there on his recommendation.   The food was good but frankly to Americanized.  I would not have minded a little bit of the native food, a little taste of the islands.  Instead I settled for a Sands beer.

I knew I would have to head back to this island.  The Bahama's had impressed me in many ways, and I know I would return next year...only this time I would spend more than a day.  I would spend time on the beach, time shopping, time getting to know the islands and the islanders.  I would spend time riding.

Thank you people of the Bahama's.  You made the trip wonderful.

As we headed back home to Tampa I showed off a local free attraction called "Spook Hill"  to Sue's mother and daughter.  They were not that impressed.

The blogger and his "daughter" listening to last minute instructions.

Various riders enjoying lunch.

More pictures can be found on my Facebook page.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Least we forget

It was not that long ago, a blink of the eye actually that our world changed.  It's changed in ways drastic and subtle and not always for the better.  The subtle is what bothers me the most.  Those are the ways that you don't notice but effect your day to day life.  It becomes the New Normal...but it's not.

Like anyone of a certain age I remember clearly what I was doing.  I was at home, working on the computer - an old dial up modem driven HP - and as such was unreachable.  It literally took an instant message from a friend in Ireland (ROB, TURN ON YOUR TV NOW!!!) to get me to pay attention.  I turned on the TV about five minutes before the second plane hit the towers.

It's odd, the images that stay with you.  When one of the towers fell (funny but I don't remember which one) and the dust settled the camera panned over the street.  A figure got slowly up, and I didn't even know he was there.  That man was literately buried in dust.

I remember getting on the bus, talking to two older black cleaning ladies....the birds singing.  Standing in an empty city listening to the birds. How odd to be in a city that is deserted.  I rode the bus back home. I mowed my lawn.   Normalcy.  I need something to be normal.  My wife at the time still does not understand my motives or why I turned off the TV.

Sometimes we are so caught up in our day to day lives that we forget history.  Even the most recent of history.  We must understand it, grow from it, and learn from it...of course we must also never forget it because it will repeat itself if we do.  History will always make us remember.

It was about two years later when I found myself traveling the back roads of my native Pennsylvania,  I rounded a bend and realized that I was at the final resting place of Flight 93.   At that time there were plans for a memorial, but nothing had been finalized or built yet. A chain link fence to keep out the morbid or the stupid.  Bears, flowers, notes, pictures covered the ground in a make shift memorial.  Somehow I remember wishing they would just leave the seemed to be hallow ground and should never be disturbed.

I will be leaving for the Bahama's on Friday.  Teaching my "Daughter-in-law" for lack of a better term how to ride.  Hoping to whatever God is above that I do a good enough job so she does not break her neck if she should crash.   So the next post will be a little more upbeat, a little less heavy.  I was hoping to post this the other day...but I could not find the words.  I'm still not sure if I did.  We, my generation, is still trying to understand this...but  we can never forget that fateful day.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Because some dreams need to be supported.

I have to be honest, I'm not sure why I like this young girl.  I've not met her and most likely never will.  Maybe it's her dream, maybe it stirs something in this old man.  Maybe it's because she is doing it on a scooter and part of the goal of Scooter Revolution is to promote the use of scooters in our daily lives.

Maybe because youth is full of hope.

Jesspa has a simple goal.  To ride her Vespa from Birmingham, Al out west to Sedona, Az.  I wish her the best of luck with it and I know I'll be following her adventures from afar.  You can help support this dream and her efforts by clicking on this sentence..  Their is even a little video.  In under a month she'll be making her trip.  Help her out.

Because some dreams need to be supported.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Balance and counter balance

In a little under two weeks I will be on a cruise to the Bahama's.  My third cruise overall.  I'm going for one reason and one reason scoot.  Due to the relative low price of the trip my "mother-in-law" and Susan's lovely daughter will be traveling along.

I am very much in need of this week's vacation.  Work has been hectic with lots of mandatory overtime, on top of the usual hectic work I do on the side.  Lately however I've been thinking of passing that work onto others, I'm at that point where I would like to concentrate on other things.  Plus I recently applied for a new position in my company where I would work days and no weekends even though it would extend my commute by only 15 miles.  The problem is that part of it is on the highway and since it's daylight, I would be dealing with rush hour traffic.  But lets get the job first before even thinking about that mess!

Stephanie, my long time girlfriend's daughter, wants to go riding with me while we are in the Bahama's on her own scooter.  This is her first time on a scooter.  I'm not really worried about her to much, because she knows how to drive 4 wheeler's and has been riding bicycles for years.  It's getting over that initial fear of doing something new.  She wants to learn to ride, and guess whose shoulders it falls on to teach her "just the basics."  If she enjoys it and does not kill herself I can see a bike in her future.  She's a tomboy and the adventuresome sort.  A dual sport would be perfect for her.  I think her mother would agree with me however, she will go to a certified Motorcycle training course before getting her bike.  Plus the scooters on the islands are "relatively small" meaning they are in the 100 to 125 cc range.  Enough power to get you where you need to go but not enough to be overpowering.

I am trying to think back to when I first got on my little Yamaha Zuma 125.  I had not taken the MSF class yet and must have rode for 100 miles in parking lots before taking it out into traffic.  I simply got used to the bike below me.  How it turned, braked, felt under me.  The first time I turned into traffic I hit a loose patch of gravel and down I went.  I cursed, picked up the bike and got it off the street asap.  I wasn't hurt but my pride certainly was.  It also taught me important lessons.  One of which become my mantra..."Cocky will get you killed."  I don't like the idea of throwing her on a bike like this.

Because of her inexperience we will take it slow, sticking to the beach areas and away from the twisties.  I would love to get into the interior of the islands to see the "real Bahama's", try some island food and maybe find some Cashew Wine again!  I want to get out of the tourist areas.  We will go as far as she feels comfortable going.

Personally I'm looking forward to this trip, I need a vacation.  I need to meet some people in the scooting community, I need to make some friends.  I need balance.