Saturday, 25 July 2015

Rock, Drop and Roll - Kelowna to home

After I bought the shiny new BMW scoot, I had to leave it! My wife and I still had a fair bit of our holiday left and my better half didn't really want to spend the next five or so days driving by herself in the car. I made arrangements with my brother-in-law to truck it out to Kelowna and I would ride home from there.

I finally arrived in Kelowna, desperately excited to take the scooter, but it wasn't there yet! Unfortunately for me, it was arriving the next day so I had to wait..................

The BMW C600 Sport arrived just before dinner time. We first had to figure out how to get it off the truck without destroying my new baby. We backed it of the truck into my other brother-in-law's house, and then used the ramp to take it down the stairs. It worked flawlessly!

About ten minutes letter, I had suited up, grabbed my 'Go Bag' of a few clothes, iPad, and my shaving kit, and off I went!

First stop was to get it insured. Luckily there was no need to inspect the bike but the small, pregnant woman who I dealt with had to hunch down low to the ground to read the VIN off the front forks. She was less than impressed!She did get me a good deal on my optional insurance, though. My ICBC insurance was almost $1300 (gulp!) but I had no choice on that. For optional coverage, ICBC would have charged another whopping $900 but with a private insurance company the bill was a more reasonable $200.

Then it was on the road!

I carefully made it from Kelowna to the turn off to the connector. I could tell I was a little nervous because my hands were a bit sore from holding on so tight. However, once I hit the connector, with its 120 km/h speed limit, I opened up the Beemer and started to relax.

Riding my Vespa in no way prepared me for the amount of power and the absolute rush that I feel on the BMW. I felt that I was on a rocket ship as I blasted up the highway. It was quite windy and I had to stay focussed as the wind tried to push me around. Every so often, when the wind really started to kick, I would look down at my speedo and find that I had cranked up to 140 km/h! I tried to keep it around 110 because of the wind. It was almost a magical moment on the scooter.

I took a couple breaks on the way to Merritt and then stopped at the tourist info rest stop for a very quick break as they were closing up the rest stop. Then it was onto the Coquihalla.

The Coquihalla is a very nice cruising highway. The curves are nicely banked and the wildlife is fenced off the road. As I approached the summit, I felt a bit of a chill in the air so I turned on my heated gloves and seat! Wonderful1 Again, I couldn't believe how good it felt to ride on the road with my BMW. I was amazing!

I arrived in Hope around dusk and filled the tank for the first time. It took me a little while to figure out the fine points of how to insert the pump but I did, eventually, work it out.

Then, dear readers, a terrible thing happened.

I rode down the road to the McDonald's for a burger. I shut off the scoot.

Unlike the previous ten times where I put the kick stand down to stop the engine, this time I just turned off the key.

Then I hopped off the bike, not realizing that 500 plus pounds is a lot more to manage than a 250 pound Vespa. As I felt the scooter shift heavily towards me, I tried valiantly to steady the bike but to no avail. In fact, I realized that I had better get out of the way and I did.


The scooter landed on the ground.

Now what? I didn't know if I could right it again.

I put ALL of my energy into it and slowly the scooter lifted up. I quickly put on the kick stand and inspected the damage. A script on the front of the cowling, a scrape on the rear fender and the top knobby bit of the left brake lever was gone.

After that, I had my tasteless burger and got back on the scoot and finished the ride to Maple Ridge without incidence. The machine had performed very well - the only weak link was my poor dismount!

To end this blog entry, take a look at this website - 101 Ways to Drop Your Bike. It included some well needed laughs to help salve my wounded ego!

Next excitement? Headed out to do the Cascade Loop on Monday with a stop in Omak and a stop in Seattle.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Lure of the Beemer

All right, so here's the story...

At the beginning of summer, my wife and I like to do a little camping, a little hoteling and a little visiting to start things off. After all, we are teachers, and doing a good job next years depends on making sure we completely reset our brains before we start with the next class of little angels...

We stayed with our eldest daughter in Kelowna for a few days, camped in the Rockies in Jasper for three nights in our lovely Insta-Tent, and then headed off to Calgary.

My wife's sister lives there and I hadn't actually been to the Stampede since I was four so I thought it was time.

We began by having a Stampeded breakfast. During Stampede, all over Calgary, there are free breakfasts that are open to anyone! There's pancakes, coffee, juice, sausage, entertainment - the whole shebang! The one we went to on the first day was at a car dealership. After having a great breakfast and soaking in the entertainment, my brother-in-law, Randy, suggested that we go next door to Deerfoot Motorsports to look at the bikes.

I begrudgingly agreed to tag along.

Randy has a BMW motorcycle  -  a 1200 or 1300. It's a beautiful bike. So he suggested that we take a look at the BMW scooters. Secretly, I had been perusing the maxi scooter market over the past few weeks so I was keen to at least see the offerings in real life rather than on the net. We headed upstairs in this giant dealership until we found the BMW section.

There we found the BMW scooters. There were three - two of them were new 2015 scoots - beautiful machines - for around $12,000. Ha, I thought, can't afford that. Then Randy said, "Hey, Dave, take a look at this one!"

It was a 2013 BMW C600 - a Corporate demo - with 1200 kms on it. The price? $7000! 

Apparently they had received a few of them from BMW and had 2 or 3 left. Sitting on the comfortable seat, I thought - hmmm, this might actually be possible.

I did look at the Vespa section as well and, though I thought they were great, too, there was something about that BMW that was a bit special.  

We then headed to the Stampede but all I could think of was that scooter. How could we manage it? Well, if I sold the Vespa..... Finally, after discussions with my banker (aka my wife), I decided, what the heck, I'm gonna buy that thing! 

When we organized the actual test drive that afternoon, it was on one of the other BMW scooters - a silver one. Once I saw that, I liked it even more! I followed the test drive guy from the dealership and was really quite impressed by the performance of the scooter. It's heavier and wider than my Vespa 250 but has gobs more power! Very nice ride! It's got a host of features that I have never seen on my Vespa - heated seats and grips, tire pressure sensor, trip computer, oil sensor, the list goes on. It really seems that a lot of thought has gone into this machine.

There really wasn't much room to quibble but I ended up with a discount on a new helmet (a Schulberth - expensive but comfortable) and some gloves (and no provincial sales tax) and Randy came with his trusty pick-up and we loaded her up!

I left it in Calgary with Randy as he was going to meet us, with the scooter, back in Kelowna in a week's time. The plan was for me to ride it home from there.

More on that, next blog!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Where, or where, has the Big Guy been?

Well, it's been a while.

My apologies for basically abandoning the blog over the last two years.

So.... I guess I have not had any wildly out of the ordinary experiences lately. I did post in 2013 about the great ride I had to Mount St. Helen's but nary a whisper since then.

Yes, I have been riding my Vespa 250 and enjoying it immensely. Yes, I've been riding it regularly - and loving it - over the past two years. But, no, I haven't gone on a single big road trip in that time.

Last summer, I had great plans. However, my Vespa was due for it's 20, 000 km servicing. Between getting parts, waiting for appointments and a new tire, it took all summer for the servicing to actually get completed. It was close to $1000 when all was finished -sort of broke the summer fund, especially since we were on strike for about five weeks. Then, finally,  it was back to school and that was it!

Early this year I also had to replace the battery - for the second time.

Then, one day, when I started out for school in the spring, I didn't get far - the tire (brand new rear tire) had become completely flat! That was a real adventure. I tried everything - bike pump, air compressor - but nothing would get the tire to bead up onto the rim. Finally, a friend came with his truck to my apartment building and parked on the ramp leading down to the parkade. Then I rolled the Vespa up the hill (grunting a fair bit) and then rolled it precariously onto the truck bed. We took it too a tire shop and they managed to fill up the tire after removing the valve. Then it was off to another  steep hill as we somehow managed to back the Vespa off the truck! It was a real nail biter! Of course, the tire has been fine since then...

I've had the Vespa 250 GTS for 4 years now. As I look towards a summer ride, I find myself wondering - is this the right scooter for me still? Over the last few months, I have found myself looking at the Vespa 300, the Piaggio 350, the Burgman, even the Honda and BMW scooters. What seemed as almost sacrilegious a few months ago is beginning to seem like a natural progression. I would love to be able to go to the Okanagan or on Highway 1 in Vancouver sometimes, but do not feel that I can do this on my 250 - or on any Vespa, for that matter.

At least, those were my thoughts over the last couple of weeks.

Then, something happened.

More, next blog!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Very Cool Vespa Video

This is cool......

VESPALOGY from Nomoon on Vimeo.

Thanks to Steve Williams on Scooter in the Sticks....

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Hot Lava Scooter Tour 2013 - Part 4 - Seattle to Home - July 8

I got up after a very restful sleep in the Red Lion Inn. In the morning, Iwent for a walk to Pike Street and a (homeless?) guy accosted me. His approach? i
" know you might be scared of black guys…"
 - and then he had me. Nobody tells me that I am racist or stereotyping or, well, you get it.  A few minutes later after being entertained by his beatboxing,, I was a couple dollars lighter and he assured me that the money would not be spent responsibly but, instead, on some of Washington's newly legal pot. You've got to admire honesty!

After, I had a fancy breakfast at a bagel place and then killed time wandering around until Beechers opened. I bought a Piroshki while I waited - I had need had one before and, later, when I had it for a snack, realized that this was an awesome snack food.  Finally, Beecher's opened and I entered cheese heaven. The store has a bunch of employees and they make the cheese right in the store while you watch. There aren't tons of varieties but certainly enough to make things interesting. I was able to try some different types and eventually settled on a Beecher's signature sandwich (for lunch) and a wedge of Jamaican spiced cheese.

Happy with my purchases, I strolled back to the hotel, packed my stuff, and went down to the lobby.

I had parked in the underground of the Red Lion and, upon checkout, had dutifully paid my $32 parking fee.  I was told to keep my room card and use that to trigger the exit gate when I left. When I got to the automated gate , however, the card refused to work- nor did it work the ensuing 40 times. I finally gave up and slipped out the gap between the gate and the wall.  Hmmm, I could have saved myself $32!!! :-) Luckily, no police chase or legal suit ensued as a result of my sneaky exit.

I eventually found my way back onto highway 99 and headed towards Mukilteo. It seemed to take forever to get to the turn off for the Mukilteo Speedway but  no time at all once I was headed towards the ferry. While waiting to get on the ferry I met a guy from Australia that was travelling up and down the West Coast on a big BMW bike that he bought from a CHIPS officer in San Diego. We had a very nice chat. I noticed he had an Aussie and a US flag sticker on his back and pointed out that he was missing the Canadian flag. Fortunately, he was headed for Victoria and could complete the set there!

The ferry ride was pleasant and quite short. I had my snack (piroshki)  and was basically looking for a garbage can when the ferry started to dock. I then sped north up Whidbey Island, past the air force base, all the way to Deception Pass, a very scenic venue. I stopped my scoot, wandered down to a scenic bench, and had my sandwich while I looked out to the scenery and the people wandering around the area. I had taken many photos last summer when I was there so did not feel the urge to take any more.

I was in familiar areas once I got back on the scooter, and worked my way over to Chuckanut Drive, a very pretty ride that goes to Bellingham. It has some twists and lots of variation in light so I quite enjoyed it. Once I got into Bellingham, I worked my way to Bellis Fair Mall, having to take the I-5 for part of it. Happily, the I-5 near Bellingham is only two lanes each way and much less intense than around Seattle. There, I purchased some vodka and cheese in Target and then headed for the border.

I had planned to take the Pacific Highway and then Portal Way but then thought, what the heck, I'll jus take the I-5. That worked out fairly well although for the first part  from Bellingham to past Ferndale, the right lane of the highway had regular little divots out of the concrete, two on the left side and two on the ride. It's like some sort of machine had come along and scraped indentations at a regular pace all along the highway but just on the right lane. I ended up riding in the middle, which I hate (grease and oil - yuck) but otherwise the scoot wobbled whenever I went over one.

I finally got to the border and was able to drive right up to the border guard! I love re-entering Canada because 9 times out of 10, the border guards are actually friendly! He was more interested in my scooter than if I had anything to declare!

Once I was back in Canada, I made the ride back home without issue. It was a great ride, but I was ready to get off the Vespa, at least for a couple of days.

Total mileage for the trip - 1176 km   (731 miles)
Gas used - 39.6 litres (10.47 US Gallons)
Mileage  -  3.36 L/100 km (70 MPG)

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Video Clip - From Whidbey Island to Chuckanut Drive

From Day 3 of my scooter trip.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Hot Lava Scooter Tour 2013 - Part 3 - Mt. St. Helen's to Seattle - July 7

I pointed the scoot north and headed towards Seattle. I wasn't really interested in the I-5 today so I took minor highways, some I had taken the day before, as I worked my way north.  I stopped at a very decrepit Shell station in Ethel and noticed a disturbing trend. This was the second gas station I had come across that had no building facilities for a bathroom - there were only port-a-potties. I found that rather disturbing.

On my way down from Mt. St. Helen's, I had noticed a nice roadhouse restaurant but it looked really busy so I decided to go to the next place. Well, the next place and the place after that (and so on) were all pretty grungy looking and did not tempt me. I finally got to Mossyrock and there were a couple of restaurants there so I thought I'd try my luck.

The first restaurant looked a bit scary but the second, called the Pantry, was clean and had customers in it. I ordered a pantry special sandwich with soup and a coffee. The coffee was Ok at first but really grew on me. The sandwich, however, was amazing! Thick pieces of bacon, fresh tomatoes, good bread - and good soup, too! One of my favourite meals of the trip.

I continued on, stopping at Eatonville, and then got a bit lost trying to take the 99 through Seattle. I first ended up in Tacoma - downtown Tacoma, which I discovered was separated by a bunch of water from the rest of the metro area. Then, I ended up going through Dash Point, a very nice area of Seattle, but it was a meandering, slow road which seemed to take forever! I finally hooked up to highway 99 and scooted towards the downtown.

Of course, I missed my exit so I was too far north of the downtown. Then I got lost trying to find 5th Avenue as it disappeared. On it once again, I practically jumped out of my seat when the monorail noisily made its way above my head! Finally, I pulled into the Red Lion 5th Avenue. Arrived in Seattle just after 6. - well probably 30 or 40 minutes before that but I had a heckuva time finding the hotel.. I REALLY would like my cell phone plan to include data in the Us!!

For only $10 more than the mediocre hotel in Longview, I had booked, through Priceline, a very nice room located centrally in Seattle. I was very pleased! I quickly went up to my room, showered, and headed out to the Pike Street Market. At the market most things were closed or closing when I got there but I managed to grab a bite at Lowell's Restaurant - I believe that's where I stopped last time I was in Seattle - I had fish tacos that were awesome as well as two pints of Manny's Pale Ale.

After, I walked back to the hotel, getting lost, of course, in the meantime. The streets had definitely changed from lots of tourists and some residents to lots of homeless people and/or panhandlers as well as lots of people just hanging around. Guess that's normal for big cities.

I had some popcorn and this cool "just add ice" Mango martini while I watched a show on my iPad. I slept very well that night, in a very comfy bed. Spoiled!

Total distance - 425 km for the day, 920 km since the start of the trip.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Hot Lava Scooter Tour 2013 - Part 2 - Longview WA to Mt. St. Helen's - July 7

OK  - one thing I want to make absolutely clear. Last blog, I detailed the rather long ride from Maple Ridge to Longview, WA. I want to reemphasize that the Vespa 250 GTS was an awesome way to get there. It purred, or buzzed, without issue for the whole ride. My Vespa does occasionally act up in rush hour, bumper to bumper traffic but never has an issue on the highway.

Enough said.

After a fairly restless night (thanks to the thin walls and banging doors of the 'quality' inn) I got up and headed down for breakfast. I must have missed something growing up because the places we stayed at when I was a kid never had a waffle maker. Truth be told, I don't even particularly like waffles but I love the little waffle machines that are in so many American motels. So, I had myself a waffle and felt happy that I had constructed it myself!

After checking out, I headed out of Longview and towards Mt. St. Helens. I was not feeling very positive about going up to the observatory - it was cloudy and cool and I figured that the top of the road would be shrouded in thick clouds. I even thought of going south across the Columbia River just to say I'd been to Oregon. However, I decided to give it a shot and headed up the highway.

My first stop was the Mt St. Helen's Silver Lake Visitor Center. I was a bit early so I hung around with the other early birds until it opened. There were some displays and an excellent film that gave good background on Mt. St. Helen's. For a charge of $5, I think it was worth it to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the whole event. Interestingly, I asked the ranger-girl if the gas station at Kid Valley was open but she didn't know (not great) but she did say that the sun was shining at the top (really great). 

I was terribly worried about having enough gas so I made sure that I filled up at Toutle - Kid Valley was not much farther along so I drove past. I then headed up the highway towards Mt. St. Helens.

I continued on the road until the next park stop, Hofstadt Bluffs. There were some interesting views here and I felt like a coffee. I asked the ranger-barista if the coffee was good and she replied that she didn't know. I then ordered a latté which turned out to be pretty awful (although at Starbuck's prices!). I also received a few texts from Canada at this time so I guess I wasn't that far away from things. 
I continued up through the mists, GoPro camera humming away. I did, in fact, get my camera the night before I left (something that I had resigned myself to not happening) and I thought this road would provide good footage. I was amazed that I could actually set up the camera by using my iPhone to preview the image and make changes to the camera settings. 

The next stop should have been the free Forest Learning Center but there were so many clouds that I thought that I wouldn't be able to see anything. 


I stopped several times on the way up as I began to encounter scenic viewpoints. Happily, as I continued my ascent, the weather slowly cleared and I was able to see some great views of Mt. St. Helens. 

At the top is Johnson Observatory. To access the observatory and the trails, there is an $8 charge - but I was pressed for time so I thought I'd just go to the viewpoint and soak in the view there. As I was standing at the front of the viewpoint, I realized that a ranger was giving a talk and people were freely moving in and out of the observatory. I further realized that I was supposed to pay the $8 even to access the outdoor viewpoint! 

I slowly and nonchalantly stepped back from the viewpoint, noticing, for the first time, the big "Stop" signs that insisted on paying before accessing the viewpoint. Oops! Luckily, I didn't get caught - and I saved myself the $8! 

I wandered back to the parking lot and began my exciting descent down the mountain - and it was a lot of fun! I zoomed by a number of bicycles which were a bit close on the road but there were no collisions. Moving from sun to cloud, I thoroughly enjoyed the twisties on the way down. I sped past numerous cyclists and was passed by some motorcycles. 

All in all, both the views and the riding were excellent and I was glad that I had made the effort to go up to the observatory. 

I stopped at Kid Valley and gassed up. I had gone 170km since the morning. 

Friday, 12 July 2013

RIde up Mt. St. Helen's .... and back down.

A short video of my St. Helen's ride while I work on the blog entry...

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Hot Lava Scooter Tour 2013 - Part 1 - Maple Ridge to Longview, WA - July 6

So you have to understand, one of the common threads in the last couple of big trips is the rock connection. I didn't choose Aberdeen WA last year because of a Scottish connection and I certainly didn't choose Longview because there's another Longview in Alberta. Aberdeen was chosen because Nirvana was from there and Longview was chosen this year because of Green Day's song. 

And... Mt. St. Helen's is close as well....

I started off a little after 7 in the morning. The weather was great as I drove to Abbotsford. The odometer was 26, 980 km and I had a full tank of gas.

There was a bit of a line going through the border at Sumas  but nothing terrible - 20 minutes or so.

After that, I blasted down Highway 9 - a road I had taken before a few times - towards Sedro Wooley. As I rode, I tried to look around and notice things, an important part of every ride. I noticed that there were a lot - and I mean a lot - of American flags almost everywhere. What was causing this massive upswing in national pride and patriotism, I wondered. Then I realized, oh yeah, July 4th was two days ago. Good observation! 

Another thing that did draw my attention was the number of rosette things - they look like this. 

I wondered - why don't we have these in Canada? Is this some terrible US conspiracy? Then I realized that our flag colours are red and white and if one was made for Canadian colours, it would look at lot like half of a Target sign!

My first stop was for gas at Arlington after 155km and a pretty big fill (1.6 gallons). 

A half hour later, I stopped for a coffee break at Lake Stevens. I was amazed by how hard everyone was working  - at most Starbucks, people work well but there's a chilled out atmosphere that goes along with the whole Starbucks style. This particular shop, though, felt more like a busy McDonalds with a couple of obvious housewives hustling and bustling and running to get orders filled. 

The Vespa proved to be a wonder, once again, on the highway. No problems at all keeping up with traffic and pretty comfortable to ride!

Next stop was lunch at the Arby's in Auburn where I gassed up again after 284km. I chose Arby's because there aren't a lot of them in Canada and I also saw an ad for pecan chicken which seemed like a relatively healthy choice. Unfortunately, when the girl behind the counter asked if I wanted it on a wrap, I said "Yes" which caused the restaurant to almost self destruct as the whole team tried to figure out how to put that through the cash register. The wrap was, in the end, rather forgettable, and it's too bad that they went to all the bother.

So my plan was to take highway 99 all the way through Seattle, thus avoiding any massive interstates with 12 lanes and 75 mph traffic. North of Seattle, however, I came upon a 
Road Closed Ahead" sign and telling my to take I-5! I was not relishing this but finally took the plunge. I found the interstate speed to be a bit fast (70 - 75 mph) but, worse than that, the road surface, which is concrete, feels different to ride on and was a bit chewed up in spots. Also, there is a lot off traffic with 6 lanes going in one direction so I was very tight gripped while riding. I stayed in the right lane and, after a few minutes managed to exit, heading downtown. 

After a quick stop to power up my new GoPro camera, I proceeded to video the ride through Seattle, Here is a couple of minutes of that ride.

I was feeling pretty smug about making it through a stretch of I-5 when, all of a sudden, the section of highway 99 disappeared without warning and I was on the far left lane of, you guessed it, I-5!! Tight gripped, I made my way south, first staying in the lane, then slowly changing lanes until I was in a comfortable place. After 20 minutes or so, I finally found an exit I recognized and was off the interstate!

I took secondary highways, some single lane, meandering, twisty roads while others were four lane straight speedy sections. Nothing seemed to bother me after being on I-5 so that was a good thing!

I took this picture somewhere along a viewpoint on I - 12 . This interstate was nothing like I-5 and I felt very confident as I drove along it. I filled up on the way, hitting 427km.

The final road into Longview was Highway 411. It varied in size and speed along the way. At one point, a tree had fallen on some wires so there was a police car and the policeman directing traffic around it. 

Finally, around 5:30pm, I rolled into Longview. I checked into the Quality in ($89 - Trip Advisors #1 pick in Longview) and it was - well, Ok. Certainly nothing special and quite clean but just not that appealing a place to stay in. The toilet plugged the first time I used it, the furniture was kind of ugly and the room wasn't terribly big. The service was pretty good although when the door burst open while I was plugging the toilet, I thought that they were being just a bit too attentive....

For dinner, I was told that Ocean Beach Road had great restaurants and was expecting something out of LA or San Diego but I couldn't see the beach from the road and I was too bagged, anyways, so I grabbed a salad, wine, and sushi at Safeway, headed back to the room, and watched Netflix until I nodded off to sleep.

Total Distance - 495km!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Back in Action....

"Blogger interface?"
"All systems go - and start blogging..... now!"

It seems that this is my regular blogging behaviour nowadays - blogging around whatever adventures I have during the summer and then nothing for the rest of the year. I will try to change that but there are no guarantees....

Today's post is divided into three parts - past, present and future (sounds like my Grade 10 French class).

During the last year, I have ridden my wonderful Vespa GTS 250 a lot. We have moved from two cars to one so the Vespa is currently my main mode of transportation. Many trips have been taken to Vancouver or points East or down to White Rock. Through it all, my Vespa has run very well - no problems with the engine or performance on the road.

The one minor problem was my battery which took a bit of figuring. The problem was my Vespa was becoming hard to start - not typical at all. I ended up having to give it some gas while starting it up - not cool! Finally, I killed the battery trying to get it to start and had to walk it home, humiliated, from school.

I charged up the battery with a charger bought from Canadian Tire and took it to Vespa Metro and the mechanic was very helpful. It turns out that the low battery affected the performance of the fuel pump which made it hard to start. After installing the new battery, the Vespa started like a dream and I haven't had a problem since.

Interestingly, when I questioned the mechanic if I should get another oil change, he responded that I should stick with the maintenance schedule and not bother changing the oil too frequently. Surprised!

I have ordered a GoPro camera and a Ram Mount. I want to try some footage both on the scooter and on my bicycle. I just wish it would hurry up and get here from Mississauga, Ontario!

Planning my long distance trip. I'm looking at going to Longview, WA for my first leg - 7 hours or so which is similar to my ride to Aberdeen last year. It would mean a really early departure but would be a good long ride. Additionally, once I get there, I can sing the Green Day song as I wander the streets.

During day two, I plan to go to Mt. St. Helen's and see the volcano. It's still smoking and gasping, so I won't be that close but should make for some nice pics. After that, I will head to Seattle.

My final day, day three, I will head north from Seattle through Whidbey Island on a route that I took the other way on the LX50 a few years ago. I will make sure that I stop by and pick up some duty free on the way home.....

I was hoping that my GoPro camera would be here in time, but it looks like the expected date is next Tuesday and I want to head out this weekend. The weather is nice and my wife is visiting her sister so I will have to go Pro-less this weekend.

I have to say, as always when I am planning a trip like this, I'm a little bit excited!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Give It A Chance

For the past month, I had been having problems with my Vespa. It was getting harder to start.

First, I had to crank if for a while, just to get it to start. Then, I had to give it a little gas. Then a bit more. Last week, I was giving gas before I started it and then a bunch of gas to get it to cough and cough and then go. Finally, the battery died.

I couldn't very well phone Vespa Vancouver as they are now closed. I know that there have been a number of people who have not been happy with Vespa Metro but I thought, what choice do I have? I phoned them up and made an appointment. After charging up my battery with my new battery charger ($29.99 at Canadian Tire!) the Vespa started fine and I rode her out to Vespa Metro.

It was interesting at first - I brought it around back and their whole warehouse was filled with bikes - Vespas, other scooters and motorcycles - and I mean filled! They were storing some bikes for a motorcycle shop in the same block and they also had old stock and new stock coming in. "I'll take a dozen!" I thought.

Lorenzo, the mechanic, was very knowledgable, in my estimation. He thought that the problems were caused by the battery - the lack of power was making it so the fuel pump was not delivering the gas to start it up. I left the scoot there for further investigation.

He called up after looking at it a day or two later. On his advice, I ordered a new battery. I picked up the Vespa, rode home, and then returned yesterday for the new battery.

First, the battery was only $92, taxes in. My LX50 battery replacement cost around $150!

Second, he only charged my for the battery - no charge for diagnosing the problem, no charge for installation.

Third, he told me that I actually didn't need to do an oil change - that I can go much longer between oil changes than I had previously been doing.


So far the new battery has made a big difference - the scoot starts up instantly and the starter is a lot more energetic. Lorenzo's also given me some tips, appreciated (charge the battery every week during the winter) and not so much (How to Park Your Scoot 101).

It's important to listen to what other people say when forming an opinion - the comments that are made can be valuable. But it's also important to make your own impressions. So far, Vespa Metro has been good with me. Also, the reality is, if I want to ride my Vespa (and I do!) then I have to take it somewhere that knows Vespas (as I have no desire to become a scooter mechanic).  I guess I'll stick with Vespa Metro for the next while and see what happens.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Some Clarification - Bob Speaks!

Well, not actually, but he does write!

I was looking on the net to see if I could find out where Will Brydon lives - or works. He is the awesome mechanic at the soon to be closed Urban Wasp in Vancouver. My GTS 250 is a bit hard to start right now and, as I've always said, I want to ride it, not fix it, so should probably get this dealt with pretty soon. I've heard nasty things about Vespa Metro's service, although I have absolutely no experience with them myself, and would prefer to see if I can track down Will. But only if I can do so easily and he wants to start some sort of side business....

Back to Bob....

Here's the post he recently made to Good luck in the new year, Bob!

Hi everyone!!

Just to clear up a few things. Why are we closing? For the last 4 years we have to deal with product being dumped on the market. We had Vespa Surrey who for 2 years dumped all their Vespas at margins that makes selling jeans more profitable. They finally closed, then we had Metro do the same. Some of the quotes we would get from that dealership didn't make sense on paper. With regards to the number of Piaggio scoots that are sold in Vancouver, that number has not risen since there was only one dealer(us). The number has stayed the same, but now it's just split between two dealers. We always sold more scooters then Metro, that wasn't the issue. The problem came down to margins we were making on those scooters that we were selling. 

We were told earlier this year that we would be the only dealer in Vancouver when our contracts are up for renewal. We thought our renewal was coming up at the end of December because that is when we sat down with Piaggio three years ago, but we forgot it took them 4 months to draft up Canadian contracts so are renewal wasn't actually up till April. We gave a call to our rep to ask him about this, and he decided when the contracts come up for renewal, it would all stay the same. We told him if it remains the same, then we can't see us going forward with Vespa. His response was "if you decide to close it down, I'll miss chatting with you". We gave them 2 weeks to think about it, and got the same answer back. I still find it unreal, considering our rep lives in Bellingham that he didn't drive up and sit down with us to discuss our concerns or options. For those that work in sales, I don't know anyone that would lose a million dollar customer without trying to work it out or putting up a fight. As I said to Piaggio, I work harder selling a $5 part then he does, but the only thing he'll miss "is chatting with us". 

Saying all of this, all of you have been great, I thank-you all for your support, but I really need you to come in and buy stuff. We need to clear out before the end of December, and there is lots to clear out. Everything from equipment to license plate bolts. The discounts are huge! Join Robert also on Saturday, he's losing his coffee bar very soon, and I would love to see more then 3 people support Robert trying to raise some money. He's been a member of our Vespa family here for the past 6 years and I'll miss his Saturday coffee meet-ups.

For myself, it's all good, I'll start pounding the pavement looking for work in the new year, but first have to close off this chapter before I can scoot forward.

Bob, still lost in paradise...

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Sad day for Vespas and Vancouver...

Vespa Vancouver - Urban Wasp - is closing! That really sucks!

I won't go on about it myself but will, instead, share information from the awesome mechanic at Urban Wasp. Not sure if Vespa Metro is going to be a great place to take my Vespa.

Anyway, really sorry to see them go........

A VERY BAD DAY for scootering in Vancouver.
I received this email today.
"To all of my customers,

I am attaching an e-mail I sent this morning to Kris O'hare, Piaggio's rep for western Canada. I thought you may like to know what is likely coming down the line. I don't know if you want to make this information available to the Vespa/Scootering community here or not. I think it is something that should be raised to their awareness, and I thought you may be one of the better people to do it. If not, I apologize for my incorrect assumption. Anyway, If you or anyone you choose to share this with would like to contact Piaggio, please contact customer care at the following e-mail address: customercare@piaggiogroupamericas. My fear is that it may be too late for anything to actually change, but my hope is that it is not.

I want you all to know that Ron's decision to split with Piaggio should they continue to operate with Vespa Metro (Metros contract is currently up for renewal and, in my opinion based on how they operate should not be renewed) is based on an inability to run a dealership where the service department supports the whole business, and the sales department functions in an environment where they only way to sell a bike is by being willing to lose more money on its sale than Metro are. Running a sales department which functions as a break even department has gone on too long for Ron. I must say I agree. While we are not here to over charge and rip people off, nor do we lie (see Vespa Metro) or abuse our customers. I agree with competition, but losing sales and getting all the service work is demoralizing and Ron has had enough.

A few additional bits of information, which may be of interest:
Piaggios dealer agreement states that no dealer is to be within 30 miles of another dealer. This is to allow a dealership enough territory to be competitive and if managed properly, profitable.
Vespa Metro and Urban Wasp are 6km apart.
Lorenzo's (Vespa Metro's, for lack of better words "mechanic") own sister is a customer of mine, as she does not trust him to work on her Vespa (LX50 if you were wondering)

I hope you will contact Piaggio and express your position on this subject should it be positive, negative or otherwise. Please also know that it is my opinion that Piaggio is a good company who make fantastic products, though unfortunately in this case have chosen not to support one of it's dealers and as a result it's customers. An unfortunate decision, but hopefully one which you can sway.

I want everyone to know that, should this end here and Urban Wasp closes its doors, I appreciate all of your patronage; and to have had the opportunity to get to know all of you and work with you over these last years. I do not care if word of this gets to Ali or Lorenzo. I do, however want the message to be known that it is not Vespa Metro that has won, rather Piaggio and you, its customers who have lost. Lastly; if nothing happens and I or another competent technician no longer exist as an option for service and support, sell your bikes now, before there is only Vespa Metro to choose from for service and parts in Vancouver (just my opinion on the situation which approaches).


Will Brydon
Urban Wasp

From: William Brydon
Sent: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 10:10 AM
To: kohare@********************.com
Subject: Urban Wasp


Ron spoke with me yesterday, and my understanding is that you have decided not to take any action to have Piaggio sever ties with Vespa Metro. This is of course the opposite of what I understood was the planned course of action of Piaggio. That said, everything I was told and lead to believe was based on very informal discussion.

I would, however ask you to reconsider your position. As a result of Piaggio continuing its relationship with Vespa Metro, my understanding is that Ron Hillman will be forced to sever ties with Piaggio at this time. If that happens, please consider that for the last several years, My service shop has been a fielding ground for endless complaints with regards to the business practices at Vespa Metro. The complaints are primarily to do with there service department, though they span well beyond that into sales practices, racially charged remarks to customers, parts complaints and many others. I have in this last year started to direct more customer complaints to Piaggio. Perhaps I made this decision too late in the game, but do know that once Urban Wasp is no longer an option, Piaggio will receive all of the complaints.

The complaints and issues I have encountered include them having submitted for a recall which they had not done, damage done to customers units while the customer was present, loss of customers property (keys - with immobilizer, helmets) racist remarks to customers, among others. I pride myself on the service department for which I am responsible. It is a shop which has the necessary tools and equipment (tire machine and balancer, hoists, diagnostic tools - P.A.D.S.,) and staff capable of using it to diagnose, repair, customize and accessorize customers vehicles as requested. Having a shop like this takes time and commitment to develop. While metro has had plenty of time, they have never had any noticeable commitment to building up a quality service department to take care of customers and their vehicles. This includes tasks such as valve clearance inspection, which I know Vespa Metro do not and can not do; a task which is called for as regular scheduled maintenance. I have many loyal customers. Several who have followed me from before my time with Piaggio's range of products. My service department is often quoted when customers are selling their vehicles as it has a well earned reputation for top quality work. Customer satisfaction, and customer confidence in the product (which includes customer retention when they are looking for their next vehicle) are all points which my service department has excelled at. Considering this statement, please consider that one of my current customers who only last year purchased a Vespa GTS300 Super(from Urban Wasp) first came to me with a question about an oil leak on his then only 4 month old LX150. His question was: "do all Vespas really leak oil if a side stand is equipped?" as he was told this was the case by the selling dealer (Vespa Metro) I replied with the truth which was, of course, "no!" and promptly replaced the leaking sump cover gasket on his bike as a warranty repair. Had I not taken the time to do this and instead opted to lie to him to save myself a 40 minute repair job (which I was paid for by warranty) This customer would not have purchased the 300 he did last year. Were Ron to close this shop, it will be some time before Piaggio will have a shop in Vancouver capable of dealing with their customers needs in a professional manner. Know that it is my feeling that many owners of Piaggio and Vespa scooters will simply sell their bikes rather than deal with the situation this will create (I know several customers who will not go back to Metro ever) If the market is flooded with people selling their Piaggio products because parts and service has become as frustrating as I know it will, there will be less incentive for new customers to buy new products as there will be entirely too much used product to choose from. Of course dissatisfied customers will spread word of their issues and that will of course drive customer confidence in the product down as well.

The above case with the customers LX150 is one of many I can quote and also back up with photographs and other documentation of what occurred. Please consider that in the absence of Urban Wasp, customer retention would likely be non existent were Vespa Metro the only dealer and were they to continue in the same manner in which they have up to this point. Please also consider the volume of customer complaints which would be directed to yourself and Piaggio were Urban Wasp not to continue.

Consider the opposite; what loss could you claim other than a number of dealers on Piaggios dealer network (the same loss would exist should Urban Wasp sever ties) should Vespa Metro lose their dealership status.

I understand that there are several steps to closing a dealership. That said, there is no distributor for motorcycles which I know who would knowingly allow a dealer continue to operate in the manner Vespa Metro has for as long as they have with out taking action.

I am more than happy to elaborate further on this subject should you wish to discuss this matter further with me.


Will Brydon
Urban Wasp

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Mille Bornes - The Olympic Peninsula Ride Part 3

Wet start to the road home
So why "Mille Bornes"? There was this card game I used to play when I was a kid - and the point of it was to go 1000 milestones or 1000 km or before your opponents - so I guess it was a race. This trip almost ended up being 1000 km so I thought it fit.

Last time, I was at the Olympic hotel in Aberdeen, Washington. This is a hotel that would be good for the Lobsters - that group of guys I cycle and hike with - or my fishing buddy Craig.  However, I would not suggest it for a family or even a spouse.

It was clean but smelled like a rehabbed smoking room - I did ask for non-smoking - meaning that it had recently been changed to non-smoking but the curtains, carpets, and, indeed, walls, still retained a nicotine and smoke aroma. It was clean but shabby. The furniture was comfortable but old and well worn. The shower was a bit grungy but clean enough. The room was certainly roomy but you didn't really want to look to closely at the carpet. The sheets were clean but the bedspread looked a bit grungy. You get the picture.

I had a surprisingly good continental breakfast where they had a waffle maker and batter - and I've only seen that once before. The coffee was good and the milk was real - not some crappy oil product - and I settled into a nice breakfast. The other guy in the room, another guest, was watching the news and then piped up about how the public sector unions just didn't get it because they weren't willing to take cuts. Everyone else was so the public sector was full of idiots. As a teacher who just grudgingly settled for a 0% increase contract after losing 3 days to a strike, I thought of starting an argument but, in all honestly, the situation may be quite different in the US than in Canada. Still, anytime people take a pay cut, their standard of living goes down - heck, that even happens when you get a zero increase - inflation ensures that you can do less with the same amount of money....

Leave Aberdeen - 8am - 537 km

I left Aberdeen just as the rains came. It wasn't a torrential rain but light which made things a bit cool and wet. I slowed down my driving a bit but everything seemed to perform fine on the road. Although the weather wasn't that great, I  thought the scenery was better here on the south coast than on the west coast of the peninsula. I continued on until I needed a quick break at the Elma (Elmo's sister?) rest stop. It was a good stop - clean toilets and large area - and there was a sort of concession stand at the stop. Operated by a vet, it was coffee by donation. He was nice guy and we had a bit of a chat while I drank my coffee.

Elma Rest Stop
Interestingly, the rest stop had a sign posted declaring that there was a 9 hour time limit at the rest stop - usually this would seem laughable to me, but thinking of the homeless people I had seen at other American rest stops on the way down to California last summer, it was actually a bit sad.

Betwixt and between good and bad weather
Half way along the south part of the road, I came upon some sunshine. In fact, I stopped, and it seemed as if there was an actual dividing line between the crappy weather I had come from and the sunny weather where I was going.

A pretty spot along Highway 12
I really enjoyed this part of the ride along Highway 12. The weather was nice, the scenery was beautiful, and the traffic was very light. I stopped a few time to take pictures on the way. I eventually connected up with Highway 101 and headed up towards Port Townsend.

Grey view from the Port Townsend ferry
Port Townsend - 11pm - 735 km
Finally, I arrived in Port Townsend. I gassed up and then made my way to the ferry. Again, I lucked out, arriving just a few minutes before the ferry left. By this time the weather had changed back to cloudy and grey, as can be seen by the photos I included. This time, the snack bar on the ferry was open and I realized that I had a bit of a chill. I grabbed a hot coffee and a wonderfully warmed pretzel for a snack.

When I got off the ferry, I took the wrong turn and ended up on the mile long U-turn route for getting on the ferry. I pulled an illegal U-turn and prepared to blast off when I saw something wonderful - a fawn wondering in front of me, out onto the road. I slowly rode back, making sure that people knew about the deer and wouldn't hit her. Sometimes taking a wrong turn is the best way to go.....

Deception Pass - 783 km

Parked near Deception Pass bridge
With the Olympic peninsula behind me, I felt I could take more time. This time, after I crossed the bridges that go over Deception Pass, I stopped and took a look around, taking a few photos wheel I was at it.

Deception Pass Bridge from the East 
I think it's a pretty marvellous bridge - construction dates back to 1935 and the bridge looks great today. Lots of other people were stopped as well. I thought of wandering down the steep path but decided to move on.

La Conner - 806 km

Pretty La Conner - near the Olive Shoppe
The next stop was La Conner. I've heard of the place for years - the town, or places in the town, used to run TV ads when I was younger but I hadn't heard a lot about it lately. I thought it was time to finally check it out. I took a slight detour to get there and was glad that I did. It was a pretty waterfront area with a variety of stores selling many different things. I went into one store called the Olive Shoppe which had a huge variety of olives including my favourite, hard-to-find olives, picholines.

View from Pier 7
There were also a nice variety of restaurants and my stomach was telling me it was time for lunch. I ended up at the Pier 7 Restaurant. They had a great patio overlooking the water. I went for my favourite guilty pleasure, the rarely eaten fish and chips, and they were superb! The batter was nicely seasoned and not greasy. The fish itself inside the batter was tasty so I was able to leave about half the batter behind. This was accompanied by one of my favourite American brews, a Fat Tire.

Fish and Chips and a Fat Tire Beer - Tasty!
Back on the road again, I worked my way past Burlington and this time took the more easterly route until Sedro Woolley until I reached Highway 9. Once on 9, I had this distinct feeling of deja vu as I had taken this route before on my LX50. Once again, it felt so nice to nimbly scoot along the curves, stretches and twists rather than slog along, always aware that some truck or SUV would be up my butt, hurrying me along.

Acme dilapidated but awesome house
I made a quick stop at the Whatcom Lake Railway but, unfortunately, it was closed. Could have been fun. I then came to Acme and had to stop and take a couple photos. It seemed that Acme is an old town and the buildings are old - not wrecked or broken but not well maintained either. I loved the way the houses looked.

Van Zandt - 880 km

For some reason I stopped at Van Zandt and recorded my mileage. Not sure why as I didn't take any photos and can't find anything about the town. Hmmmm.

I continued north along the highway and then cut across to Lynden and then to Guide Meridian. I went north until I hit the Edaleen Dairy. I often stop there to pick up cheese on the way back to Canada. Their prices are so cheap compared to Canada that I always want to pick up the biggest hunk of cheese I can find. They also serve fancy coffees so I ordered a shot of espresso to keep me alert for the final stretch. The girl behind the counter was amazed that I actually ordered just an espresso - and told me just that!

At the border, I was asked a couple of questions of where I'd been, showed my passport, and then sped off.

Back in the land of kilometres, outrageous gas prices, and socialized medicine, I zipped along north until I returned home.

Time was around 4pm

Total km - 954 km - not quite Mille Bornes, but close enough!

Some thoughts on the trip 
- the scooter performed really well - especially day one where it ran for 10 hours!
- I liked the ride except that from Port Townsend to Aberdeen on the 101 is just too long. A better plan would be to stay on Port Townsend 2 nights and do a loop of the peninsula for day two and return from Port Townsend for day three.
- Aberdeen wasn't the best place to stay. Ocean Shores would have been nicer - ya, it costs more but you sure get what you pay for
- I'm not nearly as interested now in stopping at casinos
- the seat if my GTS is actually quite comfortable
- not having a windshield was great when it was hot but, because of the wind on the peninsula, my neck hurt, just from holding my head up
- Port Townsend and La Conner must be two of the prettiest towns in Washington state.
- maybe next year I'll have to go two night!