Friday, March 31, 2017

The Future of Scootering

My cardiologist smiled and shook my hand as I sidled up to the counter at McDonald's yesterday seeing as how I was ensuring that he'd be able to put in that pool before summer's end.  Okay, that's not true at all, but I thought it was a funny start.  

I had a gawdawful craving for a Big Mac that started sometime yesterday morning and wouldn't quit even after I tried to assuage it by going through the leftovers in the fridge in hopes of finding something that would let me stay in the scuzzy clothes I slept in and not have to get dressed and go out.  It was raining, as it is today, that non-stop kind of yucky rain that makes one want to hibernate until it's over, so the call of the Mac battled with my laziness until it won out and I found myself hobbling to the car burning with shame over losing a war with a potential burger.  One of the things I'd done between waking up and sinking my teeth into that hunk of greasy beef and extruding special sauce out the sides of the bun and into my mustache was to have read an article that suggested that kids get a high from playing on their electronic devices that's similar in its effect on the brain as using cocaine.


Life's simple pleasures are, indeed, the best, and the joyful distinction of having been customer #286 buoyed my spirit as I munched happily on my wonderful selection hardly even bothered by dining alone which I always think screams, "Friendless Loser!" when I'm not the one by himself in a fast food booth.  I looked around at nothing in particular, having deliberately chosen to sit in an area as far away as possible from a bunch of elementary school kids who were apparently on a field trip of some kind and who carrying on to beat the band.  I was reminded through my own grin as I filled my drink cup of a friend of a friend, a Harvard educated Ph.D. in Education who always greets a host or hostess at a restaurant with a plea to be seated as far away as he can be from any children.  Where I was chomping away I couldn't even hear the little buzzards at all which added to the sense of nearly complete fulfillment that the food itself was providing.  


At some point I glanced outdoors and actually noticed that what had once been one of those ubiquitous McPlaygrounds had been converted into what resembled an outdoor picnic table area at a state penitentiary.  Before I figured out that it was probably having gotten into legal troubles over injuries sustained in them by lawsuit hungry ne'er-do-wells, my brain went right back to the article I'd read earlier about kids pretty much making electronic devices extensions of their own palms.  What a shame, I thought, that kids don't really use playgrounds as they once did because all they want to do is play video games, use shapchat, etc.  And then it occurred to me that I don't see many kids riding bikes anymore either.  Typically the only persons I see on bicycles these days are rail thin jackasses with no shirts whose pants are halfway down their thighs sporting sissy kinds of facial hair and with their baseball caps on backwards.



It was then that I gulped on a bite of the ol' Big Mac and wondered what that might suggest for the future of scooter riding, and hence scooter manufacturing.  If kids aren't learning to ride regular old bicycles because they're at best playing video games in which they're riding virtual bikes, what are the chances that they're going to grow up to be manly or womanly scooter riders?  How sad it will be if the art of scootering dies out because of those little couch potatoes not even bothering to venture outdoors, never mind riding bikes!  It makes me wonder about, when I'm in my 80s and maybe looking to upgrade to a Silver Wing or a Burgman, whether or not they'll even be available!  But then again, if those Big Mac cravings keep calling to me like electronic devices do to the kids, I'm thinking I might not have to worry about that at all.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Trouble with Spring

If there's one season that we can count on to throw the most static (i.e. undesired and unwanted stuff) at us scooter riders, it has to be Spring!  Two weeks ago today, technically it was still Winter, but it didn't much matter how close we were to its end because we got the blizzard of blizzards since the dawn of the 21st century only days before Spring arrived.  When the snow was done falling, I was convinced that it would be May before the last of the snowpack would be completely melted.  Surprise!  Here's my shadow surveying the North Forty (my backyard) and the snow is gone!



Now, it would seem that that's a grand thing, and, indeed, it is.  On the one hand.  Yes, I was able to get the bike to the street and around a few blocks, and while I was riding there were at least a few seconds during which I'm sure I didn't look totally like a grumpy old man.  I'd ridden on colder days if one relies on the thermometer alone to gauge the comfort potential of a ride, but that damned wind is a significant factor that should never be underestimated.  A ride in the 50s or even the 60s with anything stronger than a gentle breeze can be a force that makes what one thinks ought to be a totally pleasant ride into something entirely different.  My mom used to say all the time, "The sun is hot, but the air is cool," and I used to hate hearing it as she made me wear a jacket as I went outdoors.  I'm sure this isn't the first time here that I've admitted that she was right.  Today's temperature was in the mid 50s, but in spite of my having dressed in a few layers I was cold before I'd gotten to the end of the street and onto the next block.

Another thing that makes riding in the early Spring a hazard is gravel!  After a snowpack melts, left in its wake are all the pieces of rock and debris that the plows picked up and moved along with the snow.  In places the buildup of these gravel trails can be significant and can impact a safe stop on a bike.  When a foot comes down on a bunch of little rock pieces, a rider's purchase on the terra firma is tenuous at best.  Gravel piles tend to form at intersections where plows often slow down to leave a bunch of snow at the roadside, and it's precisely at intersections that we often make the most stops.  It hasn't happened yet, but when the spring rains hit, flowing water is going to carry many of the pieces of scattered about gravel and redeposit them wherever shallow depressions or other factors slow the water down as it crosses the road.  When crossing these bands of gravel one often feels a bit hesitant to keep on the throttle, yet slowing is the last thing one would want to do.

Lots of gravel was left as the snowpack melted along the curb.

And let's not forget the potholes for which Pennsylvania is famous.  Throughout the city are significant craters that could easily topple a scooter, especially a small one with a smaller wheel base.  If you look at the picture above this paragraph, on the right you can see a dark patch which was a deep pothole until the city's DPW came around with some cold patch to fill it in.

Most of all, though, today's ride was cut short by my oil light flickering again, especially as I came to stops at intersections.  I checked the oil some time ago and the level was fine.  I added a little then anyway and the problem disappeared only for a little while.  It's long overdue for an oil change and I'm sure it needs the filter replaced as well.  And I need a new back tire.  And I need a new set of transmission rollers.  And soon enough I'm going to need a new exhaust pipe.  And, worst of all, the authorized Piaggio dealer and shop in the area is no more.  While I found a cycle shop that says they can service the scooter, it remains to be seen what kind of job they'll do. 

If I'm lucky, maybe by the time it's finally warm enough to ride with hardly a care about temperature I'll have all the necessary work behind me.  I'll let you know!



Friday, March 17, 2017

The Blizzard

I'd be remiss if I didn't visit here with at least a few words about the March blizzard of 2017 that hit us three days ago mostly, on Tuesday, March 14 with significant snowfall overnight from the 13th into the 14th.

I'd been out on the scooter for my birthday not even a week before on the 8th and then again for a quick run to the bank on the 9th, and I was as comfortable as could be, slightly bundled for the 50 some degree weather then.  When the forecasters started prognosticating for a major nor'easter early this week I thought for certain that it had to be an early April Fool's prank.  With talk of exceeding all records in terms of snowfall, it just didn't seem possible.  I'd been having my coffee out on the deck for most of last week.

This was the view from my front door as the snow started tapering off on Tuesday.  That's my Impala behind the blue car.  It's been dug out.  The street's been plowed.  A lot of snow remains in huge heaps, but the roads are traversable depending on where one lives and whom one believes on Facebook.  I haven't left the house for four days now so I'm relying entirely on heresay.



As for the scooter, I fear it may be a good while, probably a number of weeks, before it'll enjoy rolling about again.  Here's the alley that leads from where its parked under the deck to the street.  There's no way that its width could fit through that channel cleared by the snow blower.  At its worst the snow between my house and the neighbor's was higher than the business part of the blower.  It was a struggle by the inch to get it to the front of the house where it was most needed.


Atop the deck under which the scooter rests when I'm not on it, this was the view with the yardstick buried to the 18 inch mark on the table.

 

While the amount of snow around the Piaggio's tires under the deck isn't that bad, there's a patch of ice in front of the lead tire that isn't going to thaw any time soon as what's in the alley way melts by day and drains down the sidewalk to refreeze at night.

 
The good news is that my scooter's been serving a useful purpose since the snow began falling.  It would appear that at least one of the friendly neighborhood feral cats took shelter under it, as well as a bird or a few.  Thankfully I saw no feathers, fur, or blood lying about to indicate that any became a meal for some of the others.


Here's hoping for some long stretches of above freezing weather in the next couple of weeks to reduce the snow mounds to only ice cube sizes, and for a successful outcome to an ordeal I'm facing next month that will determine if I'll have the funding to get some much needed work done on the bike to keep it running smoothly for another 10 years or so.