Wednesday 28 March 2007

Scooters are becoming more popular

So, Spring Break is over - and I’m back to school.

Of course, the relentless rains of Spring Break are now over and every day I am at school, the sun beats down on the playground.

On the bright side, I have been able to take either by bicycle or my Vespa to school every day. The only thing is, what with marking, planning for the new term, etc., I haven’t had much time for just riding.

One thing I did find, though, was this article in the Province Newspaper (from Vancouver).

It is basically telling what most scooter riders already know - scooters are becoming more and more popular. Comparing a 50cc scoot (like mine) to a motorcycle, the author acknowledged that there is a bigger thrill to a big motorcycle but that a Vespa scooter is, well, fun! And no temptation to race (no kidding!).

In Canada, there has been an almost 30 percent increase in the sales of scooters in each of the last three years - that’s a lot of scooters.

Bob from Vespa Vancouver is quoted in the article - and I must say once again that even though I didn’t buy my scooter there, he is a very personable and friendly guy - it is certainly a different feeling talking to Bob about scooters and being invited to take one for a nice long ride compared to the swarming of suited, slick salesmen that often accompanies looking at new cars.

What surprised me is that 50cc scooters are 80 percent of the market. I don’t feel so lonely anymore!

Just for interest’s sake, if you are a 50cc scooter rider, or know someone who is, please leave me a comment. Of course, all comments are read, appreciated and, hopefully, responded to...

Friday 23 March 2007

Spring Break Part 2

It’s been a very rainy week. The Scots have a word for it - dreich - sounds like you are saying ‘dree’ and then starting to cough up something. It’s a word that means a constant, heavy rain - that wet,dreary, socked-in feeling that you can get anytime of year in this part of the world. The Inuit are supposed to have 27 words for snow - I’m surprised that people who live in the upper west coast of North America don’t have 27 words for rain (actually, the 27 words for snow is apparently a myth). By the way, Americans just south of here refer to the area as the Pacific Northwest while we also call it the Lower Mainland or, on the weather report, the South Coast. I like South Coast better because it sounds warmer - sort of tropical - even if it is wet and cool a lot of the time.

Last weekend, the rains did lessen for awhile (4 or 5 hours?) and I visited my friend, Stew, who lives in Vancouver. Since the local mountains were rainy, we shelved our skiing plans and decided to ride our bicycles around downtown Vancouver.

Now, I enjoy cycling a lot - but riding around Maple Ridge isn’t particularly challenging. Riding around Vancouver, however, is quite a thrill. Call it Urban Cycling. I followed Stew pretty closely as we weaved through traffic, up and down sidewalks, between buses on tiny, narrow bike lanes, gasped up big hills and screamed down even bigger slopes. The excitement was compounded by the fact that I was riding his partner’s bike. Jade is taller than Stew but she isn’t as tall or as big as me. I felt like I was already halfway over the handlebars, just sitting on the bike!

Stew is a safe cyclist - we didn’t do anything that every other cyclist is doing - I’m just not used to that level of excitement when I ride.

The picture at the beginning of the blog shows Stew outside his office building at Environment Canada. He works for the department that tracks shellfish openings and closures. The picture below is me by the Terry Fox monument in Vancouver. I look much more relaxed than I actually felt at the time!

The rest of the week was pretty uneventful, in terms of being on two wheels. A few short soggy trips on the Vespa was about it. The new Mazda just seems a whole lot more enticing during the current monsoon season. I did notice a few Vespa related things on the net, however...

First, in Vancouver, there is a Vespa club - part of the Vespa Club of Canada. It recently changed its name to the Worst Scooter Club Ever (WSCE). Not sure if I understand the point of that but I’m only a member of the forum so the people in charge of the club are welcome to call it whatever they want. The name change coincided with a change in the executive, as far as I can tell. There was lots of political discussion on the forum over a few weeks.

As a result of differences in the members, or maybe to give people an option, another club, the Greater Vancouver Vespa Riders (GVVR), has been formed with some members of the old club, although it seems that there are quite a few that are members of both clubs. Hopefully, this area can sustain two scooter clubs, although the WSCE is social as well as riding while the GVVR is strictly a riding club. Heck, I don’t even know if I’d want to go on a ride with either club because I go slower on my LX50! I enjoy both the forums (and not just because of the drama) because there is lots of good information and some interesting links as well. Which leads me to...

Second, there is a nifty Vespa pillow available from a variety of places. Apparently it is available here at Home Sense but can also be found online for $10 US on ebay. No, pink is not my colour (and it only comes in pink), but maybe for my wife’s birthday? Then again...

Finally, I started this blog because I simply couldn’t find anyone else who has a blog on the Vespa LX50. Now there is someone else! His blog is called Tagebuch eines Vespafahrers (Diary of a Vespa Driver) and looks very interesting - unfortunately, for me, it is in German (Vas is das?) but there are some interesting pictures and movies on it. I find it particularly good because he seems quite happy to rip his scoot apart and put new pieces on his LX 50 while I am quite happy to just ride mine.

And it’s back to school next week!

Thursday 15 March 2007

Spring Break Part 1

Ahhh, Spring Break...

Well it’s been quite a week..

On Monday, I went to the doctor to have my stitches removed - and when I asked him how much longer I had to wait until I could wear a helmet, he said, “Ten minutes.”

So, Tuesday, I hopped on the Vespa after what seemed an eternity and scooted into Vancouver.

The forecast was for cloudy skies turning to showers in the afternoon. When I left Maple Ridge, it was cloudy but behind me was a ridge of sunshine under the clouds. Twenty minutes later, when I went over the Pitt River Bridge, monsoon-like rains washed over me. The rain continued to fall but varied as I went along my favourite route into Vancouver.

Going to Vancouver is a bit of a challenge for me on a 50cc scooter. It’s about 50 km (around 30 miles) taking Route 1, which is the freeway, but my scooter is too slow and is not allowed to go on the freeway. There are some other choices, but my preferred route is to take the Barnet Highway. It’s usually pretty quiet and is quite scenic - it goes along the southern shore of Burrard Inlet which is like a fjord that is the northern border of Vancouver. It goes by some industrial sections and shipping areas. In the picture at the beginning of today’s entry, you can see some piles of yellow stuff behind the trees. Those are sulphur piles and the colour of those on a bright sunny day are like powdered sunshine.

There are a number of different places along the Barnet including a gun club (gee, do Canadians actually do that sort of thing?), a marina, and a velodrome for bicycle racing. Eventually, the Barnet changes into Hastings Street as it goes through the city of Burnaby. The road goes through a nice area called The Heights which has a number of different ethnic stores and restaurants. When I’m really cold, I sometimes stop here for a bite at Quiznos or have a latté at one of the authentic Italian coffee shops.

When going along Hastings into Vancouver, the street takes a turn for the worse. This area is the downtown east side - the poorest postal code in Canada. I don’t have to ride through this part of town, but I tend to do it to remind me that there are a lot of people who need help in this world. Then, I turn up Main Street and on to wherever in Vancouver I want to get to.

Although it was raining for most of the day, I kept dry. At one point, I wore paddling gloves under my lobster mitts and my hands stayed dry and warm. It felt good to be out riding again.

Wednesday was car buying day. I finally got rid of the Ford Taurus wagon that is falling apart and bought (leased, actually) a Mazda 3 Sport. It’s shiny and smells very nice!

Today, I had an appointment back in New Westminster. A couple of trucks honked at me while I was on the Mary Hill Bypass but that was OK. What really bugged me today was when I got to my appointment. There was a parking space that was too small for a car but plenty of room for my Vespa. As I was sorting out my pet carrier, an elderly man got out of his car and asked me, “Are you going to leave that thing there?”

He had a full metre behind his care and he didn’t sound particularly angry, so I smiled and said, “Yep.”

Then he said, “I don’t know if there’s enough room for me to back out. If there isn’t I’ll just flatten that thing.” And then he went back into his car.

At the time, I didn’t think he was serious but, as thought about it, I began to get a little worried. As it turned out, his car was still there when I left but it made me pause and think about the incident. Usually, when parking or getting stuff out of my Vespa, people who talk to me are friendly or just asking questions. This is the first time where someone was actually angry or upset about the Vespa.

Oh well, I’ve got another week to relax and think about what happened.

Ahhh, Spring Break...

Friday 9 March 2007

Bike Patrol!

Another week.

One more week and I can put my helmet on.

And then I can ride again.

I walk into the garage a couple times a day at least and just look at my Vespa. We have had some sunny days (and some rainy days) this week and it would have been so nice to ride. The temperature is warming up ( it got up to 16°C. on Wednesday) and it seems that spring is on its way.

Another two wheeled endeavour that I am involved with is the Maple Ridge Volunteer Bike Patrol. This is a volunteer group that is sponsored by ICBC, our provincial insurance agent (everyone in BC has to get their basic auto insurance from ICBC) but is a volunteer group under the umbrella of the RCMP.

No, I don’t carry a gun on a bike or give out speeding tickets. The bike patrol’s motto is “eyes and ears”. We ride around on our bicycles, mostly in the downtown core, checking plates of suspicious vehicles against a database of stolen cars, and talking to people around town whether they are elderly folks, teenagers wandering around on a Friday night, or homeless people eager for a quick word. We also try to get involved in doing some good things for the community.

The people I patrol with are all from different walks of life. There are, like me, a couple of teachers. Some of the other members that I know of are: paramedic, university student, electrician, city engineer, accountant, security guard, and doctor. Some use the bike patrol as a stepping stone to get into the RCMP and many others are like me, they want to give back to the community they live in. We can’t expect the police to take care of a community all by themselves - it’s just too big a job and too little funding. So, instead of just complaining about negative things in the community, I have been able to find out first hand what the problems are and try to make a difference by contributing my time.

It’s great to get out on my bike, feel that I am doing something worthwhile, and get some exercise at the same time. Only another week and I’ll be able to get on my bike as well!

Monday 5 March 2007

No Scooter - want to try the Red Lobster?


On Friday I had this lump thing, called a sebaceous cyst, removed from the back of my head. I’d had it for a few years but lately, whenever I wore by bike helmet, it rubbed and got sore. My doctor said it was time to get rid of the thing so I had it cut out. The outpatient surgery was fine - the thing was almost as big as an egg, though! - but the problem is, I can’t wear a helmet for two weeks.


I’ve alluded to the fact that I ride a bike as well as a scooter. In today’s post, since I am scooterless for the next little while, I thought I’d write a bit about something relating to my other passion, riding bicycles, Today’s post is about the Lobsters....

During the summer time, I often go cycling with a group of mostly teachers. The group is called the Red Lobster Outdoor Club and has a long history of outdoor pursuits including mountain climbing, hiking and cycling. I started teaching with one of the Lobsters about 10 or so years ago and became interested in the cycling portion (I hate heights so mountain climbing was definitely out).

We usually do multi-day trips in the Rocky Mountains - 4 to 10 days - with distances from 60 km to over 100 km each day. I find these trips to be physically demanding, not because we are going particularly fast, but because we are covering what is, for me, a lot of distance. Last year, we rode in the Canadian Rockies around Fernie, Banff and Cranbrook, other years have seen us do the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Lake Louise, the Going to the Sun Highway in Montana, and the Golden Triangle, also in the Rockies.

My good friend, fellow teacher and Red Lobster, Keith Rajala, has a site called the Red Lobster Journals. It has lots of stories about what the group has done over the years. My part has taken place during the 90s and this decade.

As I sit here, looking through the web site, I think back fondly to my last scooter ride - riding home from Keith’s house last Thursday night after a school function - and I check off the calendar, counting off the days left to when I can wear a helmet and get back on two wheels!