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!

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Mille Bornes - The Olympic Peninsula Ride Part 2

View from Port Townsend Ferry
The Coupeville - Port Townsend ferry is a nice ferry - not too small, not too long, not too expensive - in fact it was only $5.50 for me and my scoot. On board there were plenty of maps and brochures, comfortable seating, and a small cafeteria, although it was closed by the time I got there. I wandered around the boat, checking out all of the different levels and went outside a few times. The crossing was a bit more than half an hour and the weather was nice as we made our way into Port Townsend.

The Great Big Sea

After I arrived in Port Townsend, I drove around the main area by the water, looking for a place to eat. I was impressed by the town - it has a nice feel to it - a bit touristy but still friendly - and is very pleasing to the eye.

Water Street, Port Townsend
After parking (in a motorcycle specific spot, no less) I wandered around, looking for a place for lunch. I ended up stopping at the Water Street Creêerie, hoping to find a nice savoury crepe. I was not disappointed. I ordered the California crêpe which had turkey, cheese, avocado and lots of vegetables. After the friendly waiter delivered my meal, I sat outside, in the sun, and marvelled at the finished product. It was a massive thing, and I was a bit intimidated by its size but managed to finish it all off!

A tasty California  crêpe - but very big!
Left Port Townsend - 1pm 195 km

Troll Haven Castle
After my meal, I gassed up and headed out along the northern part of the Olympic Peninsula. After the last bit of SR20, I hit highway 101 which was nice to ride as it went by both trees and sea. My first stop was Troll Haven in Gardiner, A little off the road, it is a group of rental homes but the one that is interesting is the castle at the entrance.

Next stop was my first - and as it turned out, my last - casino. For quite a while, I used to stop at every casino I was, dropped $5 in a slot machine, and stay until I either doubled my money or lost the $5. I thought I would reinstate the practice but it didn't turn out that well. For starters, I didn't have a $5 so I ended up putting $10 in the machine. I got ahead about $2 at the beginning and then started the slow spiral down to nothingness.

Fancy scooter in the casino
It was a lot like being in Vegas because you could smoke in the casino. I was also offered a drink by a cute waitress but declined as I still had a long ride ahead. On the way out, I noticed the non-smoking slots of which there were four or five huddled around the entrance in the lobby. Also on the way out I saw this beautiful motorcycle (not sure about the details, just know it looks nice) and then headed out on highway 101.

They were both nice stops to make and I would have made more similar stops if I didn't have such a large amount of distance to cover. It had taken me almost 5 hours to go 195 km. Little did I realize that I when I left Port Townsend, that I had about 250 km still to go!

I was able to get some pictures near the water as I continued on. The weather, unfortunately turned form sunny and warm to misty and cool. The top half of the peninsula was fairly good, weather wise, but things started to decline as soon as I headed south. By the time I got to Forks, with its turn off for Rialto Beach, I was in no mood to take a half an hour side trip. Bah, I told myself, I've seen enough virgin beaches to last me a lifetime! Bah!

Forks - 4:15pm   - 365 km

The last two hours were moist and cool. Luckily, I had brought a long sleeved shirt as it was cooler than I thought it would be. It wasn't exactly raining but you could feel water permeate everything. I even zipped up my side zippers on my Corazzo jacket.

A little comic relief was offered as I passed the teeny place called Humptulips.  According to Wikipedia:
The name Humptulips may have come from a local Native American language, meaning 'hard to pole', referring to the difficulty local Native Americans had poling their canoes along the Humptulips River.According to other sources the word means 'chilly region' Another possibility is that Humptulips was the name of a band of the Chehalis tribe.

I finally made it into Aberdeen at 6:15pm. I hate to be negative but the fact that Kurt Cobain was born here and started 'grunge music' became very clear as the town seemed rather, well, grungy. Maybe that's just because my hotel was cheap and I only saw along the highway. I hope so.

I checked into the Olympic Hotel ($60) and, after a nice hot shower, went to Safeway and picked up some Chinese food and a bottle of wine. I stuffed myself on the tasty food ($4.99 for two types of dished, rice and an egg roll that tasted like fish) and had two glasses of wine before I staggered to bed (from exhaustion, mind you, not the two glasses of wine).

I made it!

Aberdeen    6:15pm (10 hours riding)   537 km

Thursday 19 July 2012

Mille Bornes - The Olympic Peninsula Ride Part 1

A pretty part of Bellingham called Fairhaven - note the shiny red scooter in the shadows...
It's always a bit disconcerting when someone knows more than you do. Especially if you're a teacher.

Actually, as a teacher,   I encourage my students to show me up if they can - but outside the classroom?

You see, Bobskoot commented the other day that my impending trip to the Olympic Peninsula would be nothing but asphalt because there was so much ground to cover.

Bah - I thought - I'll have lots of time to see things.

Well, did I? Please read on for the next couple of entries - and judge for yourself!

Tuesday - 7am  - 0  km

 I got up early - strike that - super early, especially for summer. 6:20am. I had a light breakfast, made sure I had all my stuff, kissed the dog and patted the wife good-bye (it was early, after all) and headed out at 7am.

It was a bright sunny day but, being cautious, I wore my very safe outfit - armoured motorcycle jacket, jeans and hiking boots. I had an uneventful ride to the border and, as is my typical experience of late, the border guard made me feel that I was bloody lucky that he let the likes of me in the US of A. It's really too bad because I absolutely love going into the US - generally the people are really friendly and there's enough differences to make things interesting.\\

After slipping through the crossing, I headed down Portal Way and the old Pacific Highway until I reached Bellingham. I tried to turn off just the data and phone service on my iPhone so I could use an app that only required the GPS as I had downloaded all the maps between home and Aberdeen. Try as I might, I could not shut off the cell service unless I went into airplane mode. I finally gave up on the GPS and did exactly that - luckily I had printed up my Google Maps route earlier and shoved the 7 pages of maps and directions in my top case.

Incidentally, some of the roads I took were the same roads I had taken before on my LX50. It was great to compare the ride, and, although the pace was much quicker, I really enjoyed being able to keep up with traffic effortlessly and not spend a lot of time stressing about where I was going to pull off next or, worse, riding along on the shoulder, hoping it wouldn't disappear.

Birch Bay Square 44 km

Fairhaven area of Bellingham

9:15am - Fairhaven

I rode through Bellingham and ended up in the Fairhaven district, where I made my first stop. This area of Bellingham is very nice with old buildings that look to be old stores, warehouses and the like, that have been renewed and look great. I went to a coffee shop called Colophon which made a great latté and sat outside in the sun as I sipped. My only beef is the girl behind the counter asked if I was staying or wanted it to go and I replied 'To go' and then I disappeared to find the bathroom (oops, they say restroom in the US - funny since I neither can have a bath or a rest in a public toilet!). When I returned, I was given my latté in a paper cup. Oh least is was tasty.

Colophon Cafe

I continued on by taking Chuckanut Drive. Last time I was on this, I was riding my LX50 - now, on my Vespa GTS 250, the ride was a different story! Instead of a meandering peaceful ride with lots of nature (and a line up of people waiting for me) I had an exciting ride with lots of twisties and enjoyable curves. I never felt I was going too slow and still had time to pull over and take the occasional picture. Things did zoom by a bit quickly, however.

View from Chuckanut Drive

Sometime after Chuckanut drive, I ended up in Burlington where I had to make my connection to SR20 which would take me to Whidbey Island. I found the Tourist Info and the woman behind the desk happily gave me an assortment of maps to assist me. I was pretty pleased as they were all free - I'm sure the maps in Canada would have cost me $5. I carefully studied the map and, after a couple of false starts, ended up on the road that went to SR20. Funnily enough, it was the same road that I had just turned off of to go to the Tourist Info! Egads!

Pass Lake
 I went along SR20 for the next while and encountered a nice park just off the road. I went over to this lake - called Pass Lake - and took a photo before continuing on.

Pass Lake - 144 km

Bridge over Deception Pass
I then crossed this great big bridge that went over Deception Pass. It is truly an engineering marvel and is one of those things that is fine when you're on it but looks very intimidating before and after. I was then on Whidbey Island. This was still ground that I had covered before on the LX50 but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. The highway was pretty busy and there were even 2 lanes each way at some points and I had no difficulty zooming along. I went by Whidbey AFB which has 2 very cool fighter jets at the entrance, angled towards the sky as if in flight. I also went by Oak Harbour which seemed a nice place.

Deception Pass
I continued on, past Coupeville, until I approached the ferry. The ferry was on the left side so I thought I had to turn left. Nope. I had to continue on the road for another mile and THEN do a U-Turn and come back to the ticket booth. I would have turned earlier but I was worried that there was some sort of checkpoint that made it so you had to go there. Nope - just a turn around! I got to the ticket booth and the nicest old guy sold me my ticket ($5.50) and said that I'd just made it! I zipped over to the ferry and got on - last. Two minutes later, we pulled out from the dock headed to Port Townsend and the Olympic Peninsula.

Port Townsend Ferry
Departed from ferry 11:45am - 195 km

 To be continued.....

Wednesday 11 July 2012 you are...


I really look forward to my summer scoot. There is certainly something to be said about a group ride - the friendship, camaraderie, and company - but I don't mind a solo trip either.

This summer, I want to go a little farther afield then in previous years but would still like it just to be an overnight trip.

I remember my first big trip to the US - 7 and a half hours on an LX50 to Seattle - and it was, well, a lot of fun!

This year, I'm thinking of scooting down to the Olympic Peninsula. I'd get to Bellingham, take Chuckanut drive through to Anacortes then along Whidbey Island with a ferry over to Port Townsend and then either North around the peninsula or South to Aberdeen to stay the night. Incidentally, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic from Nirvana were both from Aberdeen.  This entry from Wikipedia certainly intrigues me, as well!

By 1900, Aberdeen was considered one of the grittiest towns on the West Coast, with many saloons,whorehouses, and gambling establishments populating the area. Aberdeen was nicknamed "The Hellhole of the Pacific", or "The Port of Missing Men", because of its high murder rate. One notable resident was Billy Gohl, known locally as Billy "Ghoul",[3] who was rumored to have killed at least 140 men.

Google maps gives a time between 6 and 7 hours - so if I leave at 7 in the morning, I'll have lots of time to stop for a nice brekky, lunch, and take photos.Aberdeen has some good, cheap accommodations and is home to a winery!

I've got a bit of time before I figure on going so I'll think about this ride for the next couple days. Any ideas or comments would be appreciated!

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Rain Test

I know people call the part of the country where I live the Wet Coast rather than the West Coast, but, come on! It's July! The rains have been here, off and on, for weeks.

When I scheduled my latest appointment for my GTS, I booked about 3 weeks ago thinking it would be a nice sunny day and that I could wander around Kits (Kitsilano a nice part of Vancouver, near the beach) while the Vespa got services.

Imagine my disgust when I got up and it was absolutely pouring! Well, I thought, time to test out just how good my rain gear truly is.

I wore my MEC hiking boots, MEC rain pants and Corazzo jacket. It should be no problem arriving dry and warm,  I thought. Boy was I wrong!

To be fair, it was absolutely pouring most of the way, and about 12° C. I got through Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows and even into Coquitlam feeling pretty confident. By the time I hit Port Moody, though, I felt a strip of water right down the front of my shirt. My feet, however, were still nice and warm and I thought my lower half was dry.

A few minutes later, as I approached Vancovuer, I felt definite dampness in my shirt but the outside weather had warmed to 14.5°C. so it wasn't so bad. My feet were still dry but I had the feeling that perhaps my pants weren't quite as dry as I thought....

I continued riding through Vancouver, realizing now that my shirt was soaked. I was early for my appointment so I stopped at Mark's Work Wearhouse and bought a clearance T-shirt for 10 bucks. It was at this time that I realized that my pants were definitely wet - I just didn't know the extent.

I then road to the Urban Wasp and parked my scoot. I started to take off my rain pants when I realized that they had leaked right at the crotch - it looked like I had peed myself! Great! I put my rain pants back on and headed into the store.

After setting up my appointment, I went into the washroom and changed shirts. That solved one problem. Interestingly, my Corazzo Tempeste jacket is advertised as being waterproof - and I guess it is - but the zipper is definitely not! I was not happy about that.

My MEC pants, however, were a more pressing problem. Have you ever wandered around in a wet bathing suit for several hours? That's what this felt like. I couldn't take the rain pants off or it would look like I had had a very big accident and leaving them on gave the moisture no opportunity to evaporate. The pants have taped seams but are about 6 or 7 years old so maybe they have outdone their usefulness - or maybe they aren't good for higher speed water....

I spent the next 4 hours sloshing around Kits in my wet pants but, on the bright side, there were no major issues with my Vespa. I had asked for an oil change and to look at the transmission because of the shuddering problem. There was no mention of metal in the oil and the shudder, although not gone, is much better. It is hardly noticeable most of the time now but, on the way home, through rush hour traffic, I still heard some loud noises at time when doing a lot of stops and starts. But definitely better than before.

I finally made it home, and feeling like a 10 year old who had spent the day at the lake, I took a long shower, had a nice big glass of wine, and felt much better, and much drier.

Sunday 10 June 2012

The Great Blogger Ride - Part 4 - To Horseshoe Bay and Back

David and Sonja recovering after wild ride to Horseshoe Bay

Following is always easier- it's just a matter of keeping up - but leading is trickier because you have to set the pace. Luckily for me, there was traffic as I began my leading time on Marine Drive.

Marine Drive to Horseshoe Bay is a really nice ride. I had done it once on my LX50 but it is a lot faster - and scarier -and more fun - on a 250! There were lots of twisties and fantastic scenery and a sports car in front of me to help set my pace. It was lovely! The ride went by pretty fast and I think I did a good job of pacing. It's the same as when I lead in a bicycle tour - I want to go fast enough that I'm not holding anyone back but not so fast that I'm unsafe or leaving others behind. 

The scenery is drop dead gorgeous along Marine Drive. When I was on the LX50, I happily gawked and looked as I putted along. Leading a group of crazed bloggers, I, unfortunately, was focussed on the road, trying to anticipate the next curve, shifting my body properly, making sure I was looking down the road, and generally trying not to make some huge gaffe that would result in an accident, or worse, humiliation!

Luckily, despite the scenery being ignored, I was successful in leading the group to Horseshoe Bay.

David and Roland looking towards mountains, trying to find their happy place after my leading debut.
Once there, we parked our scoots and stretched our legs. During this time, I spoke to a couple of the bloggers about safety. If you've read this blog for a while, you know that I struggle between being comfortable and being safe. For this ride, I was wearing jeans, running shoes, and my Corazzo jacket. For me, this is level 3 of 4 for what I wear in safety, level 4 being the same except for hiking shoes instead of running shoes. 

Everyone else was much safer. Much, much safer. 

But you have to realize that what I wear now (most of the time) is a huge improvement over what I wore just a year ago - so I guess I'm slowly getting there....

We went to a pub beside Trolls restaurant and sat outside in an unusual sunny May day. A truck dog barked its way through lunch as we chatted, raising our voices above the deep woofing. We talked of many things, although I spent a lot of the time listening and solidifying my impressions of this fine group of people. The lunch itself was so-so but the conversation and the company was excellent!

After quite a bit of time surprisingly slipped away, we headed down to the water for some photos. Bobskoot has got some brilliant shots that you just have to see. 

Bobskoot taking another one of his brilliant photos.

We then headed back down Marine Drive towards David's hotel in Vancouver. The Lions' Gate Bridge was backed up so we had a lot of stop and start driving. My shudder that happens when I start up in traffic slowly turned into a loud scraping sound, much like a shovel scraping pavement when shovelling snow. It did this once before when I was in a traffic jam in White Rock. This continued sporadically all the way to the hotel in Vancouver which caused me a lot of stress. No one commented on this but maybe they were just being polite - and maybe not a crazed group after all1

So why, you may ask, haven't you taken it to Urban Wasp to get fixed? Well, he responds, sheepishly, the problem goes away once there's some speed and then it's fine again. I'm too busy with school. I'm too reliant on it right now and I don't have time. 

I don't want to have to be without my Vespa for another big chunk of time!

Sonja and Roland viewing and amazing array of badass machines
I arrived at David's hotel on my shovel grinder and we all exchanged good-byes.We then went our separate ways and headed off. 

 It was a brilliant idea of David's and it has introduced me to truly enjoyable group riding. An excellent time was had by all!

The amazing array of badass machines outside of David's hotel -
note the whitewall tire on the slightly beat up Vespa in front. 

Thanks, bloggers!

Here are some links to the other bloggers' view on the ride. You should definitely take a look because it is SO COOL to see how the same event is viewed from different perspectives. Also, the other bloggers aren't using their crappy iPhone camera that's just about to die to take photos....



Bobskoot - Riding the Wet Coast

David takes a final photo before heading back to Montreal
- note,AFAIK,  David has not been involved in the student rioting...

Tuesday 5 June 2012

The Great Blogger Ride - Part 3 - To West Vancouver

OK, I know that making people wait builds excitement but this is ridiculous! Time for Part 3!

I felt pretty confident as we left Buntzen Lake. As we went back downhill, the twisties were a little more fun and a little less scary. Our little group rode on and snaked our way to Belcarra Park for another stop and a scenic stop.

Unfortunately, I neglected to take any photos at this spot. My iPhone had inadvertently stayed on since the restaurant and, even though it was 75% when I left home, was down to 7% at this time. I kept shutting it down (something I rarely do) and restarting whenever I wanted to take a photo. Not exactly spontaneous....

It was at this point, I believe, that we had the big discussion. We had originally planned to go to the Tomahawk restaurant in North Vancouver and then, possibly, to Horseshoe Bay. Well, it was just too late so we decided to skip the Tomahawk and head straight to Horseshoe Bay. So off we went...

We rode out one of my favorite routes- the Barnet Highway. It was a great day for it - sunny and warm - and I'm sure David enjoyed the scenery of the inlet. From there, we headed along Hastings through some traffic, taking some alternate routes parallel to Hastings when it was just too busy. Eventually, we made it to Vancouver and headed onto the number 1.

I've only been on the the Freeway once - when I was coming back from Abbotsford and ended up on the number 1 by mistake. That was an intense time because I was going at the upper level of my comfort range - and the blacktop looked particularly hard. This time, I knew it was coming - luckily the traffic was going quite a bit slower, and I felt security traveling with my bloggin' crew!

We sped along, crossing the Second Narrow Bridge (AKA Ironworkers' Memorial) and then took the Main Street exit, heading through industrial sections of North Vancouver until we finally got to Marine Drive in West Vancouver. Gas stop.

I was trying to be a conscientious group member so after I put my $3 of gas in the Vespa, I rode away from the pumps and parked a bit away from the group. The rest sort of gathered around the pumps and filled up while I waited patiently. They were discussing who was going to lead the next section - and Bob approached me.

"We had a vote - you get to lead next."


Wednesday 30 May 2012

The Great Blogger Ride - Part 2 - To Buntzen Lake

Gearing up before the ride

After a tasty White Spot Breakfast, the five of us headed out from the restaurant and approached our bikes. Sonja, Roland and I started up our Vespa GTS 250s, Bobskoot his big V-Strom, and David a 200cc scoot (maybe an Aprilla?). After a discussion about places to go to, we decided to head off for Buntzen Lake.

We did talk a bit about safety before starting off. Since I was riding with new people, I thought I would be mostly safe - proper jacket with armour, jeans, good gloves. I was, however, wearing running shoes instead of my über safe hiking shoes. On the other hand, the shorts I had stowed in the pet carrier was, in fact, in the pet carrier and not on me. Thanks goodness I was cautious as, first, it makes sense to have a reasonable amount of protection for the ride we ended up doing and, second, I would have looked rather silly in shorts and a t-shirt with this well equipped group. I still felt kind of unsafe, though, as everyone else wore armoured pants and riding boots. I'm safer than I used to be but if I plan to do more of these group rides (and I sure do!) then I am going to need to get some safer gear. Even if it is smoking' hot.....

Now, as I said before, I hadn't been on a group ride since motorcycle school so I was a bit cautious, not wanting to make a huge faux pas that would, in turn, be blogged about by all the members of the group! Bobskoot gave me some group riding advice and the group seemed pretty supportive so, with growing confidence, I started up my Vespa and started off.

Roland was the leader - and he did an excellent job. He did not go too fast or slow and made sure that the group stayed together. Second was David, then Sonja, me, and sweeping, Bobskoot. We slowly made our way through parking lots and side streets until we ended up on the Lougheed Highway. Riding in our staggered formation seemed pretty easy and I was working hard to not creep up on Sonja nor to go too slow.

I was careful to ride following all the rules and laws of the ride, like I'd been taught in motorcycle school. I don't want to be a rat, but I did notice the some of the group took the law into their own hands, slowing down for stop signs but didn't exactly, well, stop! I certainly don't want to embarrass anyone by identifying them but I must say that she did it quite a few times!

On the way up to Buntzen Lake, we encountered 'twisties'.  If you don't know what twisties are, they basically consist of lots of curves on the road that make you twist and turn. They are extremely appealing to me because they are both fun and dangerous. They are fun because I love the feeling of turning at a speed that I never could have done on the LX50; they are dangerous because there's the need to really focus on what you are doing, to look where you are going, and to lean properly while you turn. Come to think of it, that's all kind of fun as well!

After lots of twisties, although not seriously curvy, we arrived at our first destination, Buntzen Lake. I had scooter there before about three years ago on my LX50 and chronicled my ride here. This ride had a different feel because I had spent it with people who shared a passion for riding.

At Bunzten Lake

We stopped in a 5 minute zone and had a quick break and then proceeded to the lake to take some photos. Bobskoot guided us through a number of great photos and his sense of humour showed through as he had us try different poses.

As we were ready to leave, a park employee came over to us and told us we should have parked in another area 20 metres away from where we were parked because the area was 'reserved for motorcycles.' We looked over there and read the sign by where she was pointing. The sign said, "Emergency Vehicles Only'.  Go figure!

Enjoying the sun at the lake

Sunday 27 May 2012

The Great Blogger RIde - Part One - The Meeting

A few weeks ago, I got a message from David Masse, the blogger who writes Life on Two Wheels, The Scoot Commute, asking if I wanted to join him and a few other bloggers for breakfast when he was visiting in Vancouver. I responded that I thought it was a great idea and wouldn't it be nice if we could all get together for a ride as well as I hadn't been on a group ride since motorcycle school.

Last week, a bunch of us exchanged emails about what we were doing and we finally set up something this past weekend. Rather than tell you the whole story, I thought I'd spread this over a few entries to try and build a little excitement. Mind you, if you're really interested, each person has blogged about this themselves, no doubt!

Our meeting place was at the White Spot in Coquitlam. Not wanting to make a bad impression, I arrived 25 minutes early so I decided to whip out my iPhone and play with the apps. It was tricky as the day was wonderful with warm temperatures and brilliant sunshine that reflected glaringly off the iPhone screen.

A few minutes before our appointed meeting time of 8:45 am, a woman and man rode up, both on Vespa GTS 250s. That was great except for the man, whose Vespa was the same as mine, including the colour, except he had the audacity to have a shiny, beautiful well maintained GTS while mine is scratched, has some mis-matched paint and is generally a bit rough looking. Luckily the woman's Vespa looked a bit more used, although not as rough as mine.

The Heart
The woman, of course, was Sonja, blogger of Find Me on the Road, and her husband, Roland. So, what were they like?

Sonja was marvellous. She carried the conversation when there was just the three of us in the restaurant - the coffee hadn't kicked in yet - and we all chatted of a variety of topics, including several that had nothing to do with scooters! Hmmn! She's a genuinely friendly person and has a lot of heart. I'll be honest, I was a bit nervous about this whole endeavour but Sonja really helped make me feel at home with the group. She also let me know when I was riding well which I really liked.

The Strong Silent Guy
Roland, her husband, and the only non-blogger (as far as I can tell) is more the strong, silent type. Well, not silent but a bit quieter than most of the others. I found him very interesting to talk to and the only barrier was, as mentioned before, that his Vespa looked so darned good! I really was happy to have him along as he has only been riding his Vespa for about a year so his riding skill, although better than mine, was still within reach. As you can see by his photo, he is a friendly guy.

Just a few minutes after our scheduled breakfast time, Bob and David showed up. Our full complement had arrived. Unfortunately Dar from Princess Scooterpie and Orin from Scootin Old School couldn't make the ride - sorry, but you missed an awesome day!

The Organizer, the Photographer and the Comedian
Next up was Bobskoot, blogger of Riding the West Coast. He was the only person that I had actually met before. A few years ago, while I was paying my bill at Urban Wasp, he walked up to me and said, "Big Guy, Small Scooter!" He then took some photos of me and we had a little chat. At that time, he mentioned going on some group rides but I had my LX50 then and I never did go, worried that I just couldn't keep up on a 50, being a big guy on a small scooter...

Bobskoot is a very personable guy. He has got a great sense of humour and was sort of like the host for the whole ride. He did a great job in organizing everything and is a very good photographer to boot. Like the others, he was very encouraging about my riding and I appreciated it very much. He had lots of quips and anecdotes that he shared with us throughout the day - and a wonderful day it was!

The Guest and the Storyteller
David, the guest of honour, lives in Montreal and came out here for business reasons and also to scoot with us! My introduction to him was that he walked into the restaurant and promptly gave presents to everyone, including yours truly. He gave me two LED lights from MEC, good to carry around for emergencies. Not only did this generous man give us all prezzies, he paid for breakfast! I swear I'm gonna read his blog every day!

David is a great storyteller. He weaved story after story about a variety of topics and I found myself hanging on every word. He's had a very interesting life as he shared in  a couple stories of when he was a kid and had some outright hilarious yarns as well. He was so positive and almost giddy with pleasure as he loved getting together to talk and to scoot. Thanks to David, our ride happened and I was very happy to meet him.

So, if Sonja was the Heart, Roland, the Strong, Silent guy, Bobskoot the Organizer, the Photographer, and Comedian and David the Guest and the Storyteller - what was my role? This time, it was the Rookie. Up until this ride, I had only gone for relatively short rides with groups and on motorcycles. This time, most of us were on scooters and we were on our way for a great day. I hoped to learn a lot and not get myself in trouble with this fine group of people. Face it, I didn't want to embarrass myself!

White Spot Parking just before the ride
We finished our breakfasts. strode purposefully out of the White Spot, and, after a few photos in the parking lot, headed out for a ride....