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.