Friday 31 July 2015

Cascade Loop Scooter Ride - Day 1 - Part 2

After I left the beauty of Diablo Lake, the scenery just kept on coming! I was really enjoying the ride and I was only a half a day into it!

Next stop was the Washington Pass Overlook. There was a short road that took you off the highway to a stop. Now, I am usually pretty good at figuring out things but, after I parked my scoot, I scratched my head, and tried to figure out which way to go. I first went towards some picnic tables but, that was it - picnic tables. Then I walked down the hill towards what looked like an abandoned tourist information centre but, again, no luck. Finally, another motorcyclist came up to me and pointed my in the right direction. Thanks, guy!

There were very nice views as well as an excellent poem! And, no, I didn't use a giant, invisible selfie stick, I got someone to actually take my photo!

After Washington Pass, there really wasn't a lot until my lunch break at Winthrop.

Lunch may not have been the best name for the meal because I didn't arrive in Winthrop until close to 2pm. And I was pretty hungry.

Winthrop is very picturesque because of its old Western themed look. All of the businesses - even chain ones - have got on board with the old West theme. I spent a bit of time wandering the streets, soaking up the atmosphere and trying to find just the right place to eat.

So, where did I end up? At the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, of course, where else would a teacher go?

The lunch was very tasty - I had the Beer Brat which came with herbed fries (they were very tasty) and I also had a schooner of Uncle Bigs Brown Ale - not a pint, mind you, because I was trying to be good. The photo has a bite missing from the brat!

The only time I find touring by myself a little awkward is when I eat out. Most places don't expect to see just one person and have to confirm - "Just one today?" or  "Expecting anyone else?" or  "By yourself, Loser?" - well, maybe not the last one but that's the awkward part...

I demonstrated that I forgot that I wasn't in Canada when it was time to pay - I asked if he could bring the machine. You see, in Canada, we have chips on our credit cards and restaurants bring a machine, you stuff the chip end of the credit card in the machine, and then pay for your meal using your special code. You can figure out the tip on the machine and decide whether or not you want a receipt. Sometimes you can choose to have the receipt emailed to you.

In the US, however, the waiter takes away your card to use the magnetic strip, and then they print up the paper and you have to actually sign the paper and take a copy. So 2010!

After Winthrop, it was the final leg of my trip into Omak. Everything from this point looked a heckuva lot like the Okanagan in BC (although Americans spell this area the Okanogan). In fact, it seemed that I was in this alternate universe Okanagan where things were just slightly different than BC. I stopped on the way to stretch but nothing really grabbed me to want to take any photos.

I arrived in Omak and the odometer had hit about 410 kms.

I stayed at the Rodeway Inn because, well, it was supposed to be cheap and clean. It did not fail on either requirement. There was a comfy bed, plenty of fluffy pillows, a clean bathroom and shower, and was located in town. The girl on the front desk was friendly (summer job?)  and suggested a Mexican restaurant for dinner.

After an hour walk around town to stretch my legs, I headed to the Rancho Chico restaurant for dinner. The waiter started off by calling me, "my friend" so I felt good about the place right away (even though he called everyone, "my friend").  I was served a generous portion of warm tortilla chips, salsa and pico de gallo as a complimentary appetizer. On the recommendation of the front desk girl, I ordered a margarita - and it was delicious!

Then came the main event - a house burrito - big, tasty and covered with cheese and sauce. It was a challenge to get through the burrito because it was so filling but I managed, helped along with a second, and much stronger, margarita.

Feeling satisfied and just a bit tipsy, I motioned to the waiter. Instead of my bill, he brought me a complimentary dessert (sweet tortilla shell with whipped cream) and a complimentary shot of tequila!


After paying my $27 bill, I staggered back to the motel, reflected on my excellent ride, and happily watched some TV before falling into a deep sleep.

Thursday 30 July 2015

Cascade Loop Scooter Ride - Day 1 - Part 1

 It was finally time to go on a multi-day ride on my new BMW scoot. My rack for my Givi top case did not arrive in time so I crammed what clothes I could under the seat and had an extra bag that I bungied to the rear hand hold. I made sure that I had a water bottle, my passport and some road food and headed off.

I have written, on several occasions, about how unfriendly border guards can be, particularly American ones. Well, I take it back.

This border guard was an Asian-American and he was extremely excited about my scoot! He asked me questions about its top speed, how much I paid, how much I enjoyed it, and many other questions.  He did couch a few border type questions in amongst the scooter questions but it was not super obtrusive. He was pretty much the nicest border guard I've ever dealt with!

I took the I-5 to Bellingham and was pleased how easily the BMW C600 handles the highway speeds. OK, more than pleased, I felt like I was on a rocket ship flying through space!

Once I got to Bellingham, I took one of my favourite routes, Chuckanut Drive, to Sedro Wooley. I stopped several times to take some photos of the ocean - it was a perfect day for it!

I then started the actual Cascade Loop in earnest. I had asked for the guidebook to be sent to me at the beginning of July but, unfortunately, it hadn't arrived yet so I had to make do with an electronic version on my iPad mini. According to the guide, it is best to take the loop counter clockwise but I wanted to spent night two in Seattle so I did it clockwise.

After filling my tank at Burlington, my first stop on the actual Cascade Loop was the heavy-sounding town of Concrete. I absolutely loved the giant concrete towers outside of town! The town is just a little place and when I turned right onto the main street, I only found a coffee shop that was for sale. Luckily, I back tracked and found a coffee shop on the other end of the main drag. I stopped in for a stimulating and tasty latte at the 5b Bakery (not sure what the name has to do with concrete) and friendly proprietors. The only tricky part was I had to park on gravel and I was a bit paranoid of the whole thing tipping over but, after several yanks and pulls, the scoot seemed solid.

After I left Concrete (with a heavy heart?), I continued on Highway 20. This was cruising on my scoot! There wasn't a lot of traffic, the road was far from boring, and there were lots of us people on two wheels! I was now comfortable enough on the scoot to do the motorcycle wave thing without worrying about hurling myself over the side.

I filled again in Marblemount - even thought I had 3/4 of a tank - just because of the concerns of running out of gas that I had read about. As it turned out, that was not that much of a problem but it was probably good to be safe. There were a few stops on the way including this one pictured above which had an awesome giant tree.

My next major stop was at the North Cascades National Park Visitor Center. The best part was I was wearing my Maui Spock T-Shirt and one of the two young women rangers commented on the coolness of my shirt! She was a Star Trek geek as well - they are everywhere! I also took this boardwalk trail that led to a very nice view of the forest.

Next stop was Gorge Lake which included a big dam.

The final place for today's blog entry was Diablo Lake. It was right next to Gorge Lake - in fact I think the dam is between the two - and the views were absolutely amazing! Some great painting potential, that's for sure!

I finally took a selfie (something I tend to do a lot of now - but no selfie stick, thanks) in front of Diablo Lake but, more importantly, I got a great photo of my new Beemer in the parking lot of the Diablo Lake Overlook.

Absolutely spectacular views and a very nice highway to ride!

And we're not even at lunch yet!

More to come....

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!