Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I Should Really Know Better

My mom drove me crazy when I was growing up with what I call "stupidisms" - folklore, old wives tales, superstition, all woven together into a huge tapestry of gobbledegook.  Though I'd never have smacked the old girl, I must admit that there were times when I was tempted when a choice adage would come rolling out of her mouth and get splattered all over me as if I'd been standing in front of a feces flinging simian's cage at the zoo.  It stuck and it stunk so bad that I could hardly breathe.

"You can't go swimming for at least an hour after you eat."

Um, Ma...

We had a 1 foot deep wading pool.  Nobody was going to go swimming no matter how hard he tried.

"You can't go in the water until St. John 'blesses it.'"

This one meant that there was to be no swimming (nor 1 foot deep wading) before June 24, the day on which the Catholic church celebrates the birth of John the Baptist.

There were countless others.  About how to peel potatoes the only correct way.  About whether baths or showers were more water efficient (though we had no water meters back then.), about whether a flush of the old toilet was warranted just for a small pee.  Of course, poor Mom didn't have Snopes nor Google with which to verify the dumb things she shared and insisted upon - only that time honored tradition of believing whatever one heard, I guess from somebody older, as if Jesus had dictated it to Saul when he fell to the ground on his way to Damascus, and as if old Paul (whose name was changed right then and there) was transcribing the discourse verbatim.

There's one particular of these sayings of my Mom that burned me up perhaps faster and hotter than any other, though it comes close to the ones that claimed that if a breeze from an open car window hit you in the neck you'd get a "cold in your neck."

And, it is this:

"The sun is hot, but the air is cool."

That was Mom's inarguable way of saying, "You're wearing a sweater outside today even if all the other boys in the neighborhood are naked and call you names." 

I didn't much care about that cool air.  It was the hot sun with which I had the problem, and still do, till this very day, when I'm the one in the room turning down the air conditioner's thermostat while the poor blue-lipped others reach for blankets.

Well, I did it again this afternoon.  Looked at the read-out on the indoor/outdoor thermometer beside my desk and saw that it was 82 degrees Fahrenheit which would be perfect for tee shirt and shorts scooter riding.  Or, it should have been.  I live on the kind of ONE-WAY street that, once I get to the STOP sign at the end, does not make the thought of returning to the house to change clothes particularly inviting.  So, knowing full well that the sun was hot, but the air was cool, I hung the left at the corner and gave any thoughts of returning for a change of wardrobe the full boot.

For the record, I do keep a full rain suit (And not just the thin as a grocery store bag kind.) under the scooter's seat, but it's so cumbersome to put on, and like a parachute to refold, that I'd never pull it out unless I was in a deluge and needed to get somewhere.  So, on I went, suffering more with each passing mile.

Oh, I didn't get the blue lips or anything like that, but still I'd wished that I'd checked the temperature at the airport (Where George Carlin reminded us that nobody lives.) rather than just here by my own desk.  I did enjoy the ride, but admittedly a bit less than I would have had I realized that "the sun was hot, but the air was cool."

Pictures that don't necessarily accompany this post, but which I'd like to include anyway...

I was pleased to discover yesterday that two cases of beer cans fit easily into the scooter's crate!

And I'm not the only kid on the block who has a scooter.  This one is a neighbor's.

These are the kinds of vistas that I can't seem to get enough of when I take the scooter on a moderate ride.  Within a few miles it seems as if Pennsylvania is more farmland than anything else.

I'll keep hoping for these blue skies, and perhaps more days when the air is as hot as it seems to be.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Up on Blocks

My current "ride" - the love seat on the deck as I wait
for the scooter to come back from the shop.

I'm back for at least a moment to express my disgust with my scooter dealer/shop.

Near the beginning of May I noticed a seeming wet spot on the concrete on which I park the scooter when I'm at the house.  I thought it was just an errant drip from the deck above and didn't give it much heed until maybe a week or so later when I was grilling something for dinner and, on a lark, went over and ran a finger through the spot.  It was oil.  Upon running my finger under the left tine of the fork that was positioned right above the spot it became apparent that there was a leak, probably from the shock absorber.

I called the shop - the dealership from which I bought the scooter.  I told them about this problem and also that I wanted to get the oil changed because it had been a while since I'd had it done.  They told me to bring it in on Wednesday the 13th which I did.  When I got there I told them about another problem - one that I've had since I bought the bike from them.  It comes in two parts...

1)  Whenever I ride for a few hours on a hot day, the bike eventually begins to sputter and stutter, and  it wants to stall.  At that point I have to give it a little throttle even when I come to a stop sign or it will cut out completely and then not want to start again.

2) Also manifesting itself when I ride similarly on a hot day and come back before the coughing and stalling might begin, is a problem of the engine not wanting to restart if I go to take it out later in the day.

I told the guy at the shop that I was tired of them not taking this problem seriously; that it's been going on since I bought the scooter in spite of my having told them about this numerous times whenever I brought the bike in for an oil change or routine maintenance, and that I'd like it to be fixed.

Well, that, apparently was a huge mistake.

After over a week of waiting to hear from them I called.  The shop manager told me that they hadn't been expecting me.  Apparently whoever took my call didn't make note of having told me to bring it in on May 13th.  Then she said that they were trying to duplicate the problem - by idling the bike on hot days and waiting to see if it would stall.  I argued that they weren't going to duplicate the problem that way - that only after my riding it for a few good hours on a really hot day would it cut out on me.  See, what I'd assumed was that any decent mechanic who works on bikes all day, every day, for years, for a living, would have some good idea of what would need to be done to clear up these simple sounding  symptoms.  It just sounded like vapor lock by everything I'd read online.  (My model year was the last in which the BV250 was built with a carburetor rather than fuel injection.)

I called again on Monday of this week and explained that they've had the scooter there for three good weekends and that its stay was coming up on THREE WEEKS of me being without it.  The shop manager asked if I wanted them to go ahead and do the oil change and address the dripping shock even though they hadn't yet done anything about the engine problems.  I nearly spit out a few teeth stressing to her that I had no intention of just leaving it there till they thought they might, maybe, possibly, sort of get around to thinking about FIXING IT.  That's when she told me that she'd have to research what kind of shock it needs because Piaggio has three different styles and they'd need to get the right one for my make and model.  That was the last straw!  Why the hell hadn't they ordered that part while farting around and not really doing anything about the stalling issue?

I told her to do the oil change and replace the shock and that I wanted the bike back. Imagine my surprise when the next day she called back and told me that there were three parts that might be the likely culprits of the stalling issue and to see if I wanted them to replace them.  Whey couldn't they have done this within the first few days of my scooter being there?

Tomorrow will begin the FOURTH consecutive weekend that I've been without it.

It's time to look for a new shop around here that can and will service a Piaggio scooter.  I regret that because I like the family that runs the scooter dealership, but they really did me wrong and I don't intend to give them the opportunity to disappoint me again.  As soon as I can remember how to do it, I'm removing my endorsement  for their business from the bar at the right of this post.

UPDATE:  The shop called on Wednesday, June 10, exactly FOUR WEEKS from when I dropped it off.  $378 or so later I was on my way home.  I parked it under the deck and went for supper.  Thursday was spent on shopping and visiting my aunt in the nursing home.  I figured today, Friday, June 12th would be the perfect day to put it through some paces to see if they'd even touched the stalling problem.  No sooner did I get to the bottom of the stairs and see the scooter than I noticed that the oil dripping was worse than it was before I took it in, in the first place.  It's back at the shop now.  I'll be away till next Wednesday.  Let's see if they have it fixed by then, which will be FIVE WEEKS from when I took it in.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Country Ride

I took a moderately long ride today in what I call "the country."  It's only about 15 miles from where I sit when I'm typically typing something here, but it might as well be 100 miles away for its isolation from convenient sources of bread and milk.  Yes, that "bread and milk" thing is important to me, having always lived within walking distance of both, even now when what I consider to be a reasonable walking distance is much shorter than it was even ten years ago.

To be sure, I love the country, but in the same way that I love dogs.  I love other people's dogs.  I love other people's homes in the country.  I don't want a dog that lives in my home, and I don't want a home in the country, though the latter I might keep if one fell into my lap figuratively, while I most assuredly would not want the former to stick around for more than just a visit if a representative example leaped into my lap quite literally.

As is sometimes the case, there was no particular issue, thought, or problem running through my head as I rode along today; rather, the thoughts flowed from what I was seeing as I came around the next curve or topped the next rise.  My "captions" for the pictures here will be extensions of those thoughts that I remember having in the moments in which the pictures were snapped.

When I choose to visit the particular area in which I rode today, it's a simple left turn off a main thoroughfare that takes me quickly from tightly packed neighborhoods into places where there is sometimes little to see but nature itself for miles at a clip.  These boxcars provide a bit of visual relief from roadway and greenery.  The railroad right of way dates back to within a few years of the end of the Civil War and was built by the Lehigh Valley Railroad as a hub from which to distribute its main commodity, coal, from right here where it was mined in the Wyoming Valley and surrounding regions.

No matter where I go, the mountains are never far out of sight.  I remember riding home from my Uncle Joe's house after an occasional Sunday or holiday evening visit with my family and being amazed at how the moon seemed to follow the car all the way home.  So it seems the mountains follow us here in the valley, though it is we who are following them southwest to northeast not only through here, but all across Pennsylvania.

Today, as my favorite poet once wrote about, I took a road less traveled by, in this case the tired and worn one you see here beside an old church and graveyard.  Were I to retain some degree of sight and sentience beyond my interment, I'd not mind a view such as this which seems to kiss heaven itself in the distance.

This photo has potential to become one of my all time favorites.  I shot it through the window of the old church and it is somewhat ethereal with the reflection of me juxtaposed with the vastness of the sky, the linear regularity of the pews, and the windows that almost seem to provide glimpses into other worlds.

It would seem that the passage of time affects what is below and what is above in similar fashion.  Nothing is forever, least of all we who seek to be remembered long past our mortal existences.

Right outside the churchyard a left turn brings the living world back into a view that seems to go on for miles.
It is a fitting end to the time spent among the markers of those who have gone on before us.

I think I'd not mind visiting a museum that has nothing in it but pictures of simple, pastoral scenes such as this one.  Now and then I do find a spot that would quickly make that bread and milk thing seem not important at all.  If I could build a home right here on the spot from which I snapped this photo, I might.  Perhaps I could have a cow or two of my own for milk, and learn to bake a perfect loaf of bread.

There were no children to watch as I rode into Milwaukee, though at the outset of my ride, before I left the city, I heard a child on a porch cry out, "Motorcycle!" as I rode by which made me chuckle.  Of Algonquin origin, "Milwaukee" suggests a place of beauty, and pleasant land.  Indeed, this village is aptly named.

There was precisely one place of business on its Main Street, the Old Milwaukee Cafe and Bakery.  Were I a more patient sort, and not afraid of a little rain like one of my blogging heroes, Steve Williams of "Scooter in the Sticks," I'd have purchased something to eat right here in the front window and taken the time to record the treat itself for you to partake in vicariously.  I was in a little bit of a hurry at this point, though, in having remembered that the hourly forecast when I had seen it this morning showed some possible precipitation for around 1 p.m. and it was about 12:30.  I selected a thick slab of blueberry cobbler to take with me and got back on the road.

But, not before getting this shot of the quaint exterior with my trusty Piaggio posed out front.  Had I been there with the car, I might have lingered just a bit longer to soak up the sight of this place and its ambient charm.  I'll return.  It's that kind of place.

I cannot imagine, except in the same "romantic" way that I imagine the working life of a railroad engineer to be, working a farm to earn a living.  That getting up early, being one's own boss, living off the land all sounds wonderful to me on paper, but I doubt that I'd survive a single day as a working farmer.    God bless the men and women who raise our food, especially the many small farmers here in Pennsylvania who are struggling to keep their farms going for another generation.

And, God bless the internal combustion engine and all those folks who understand how such things work and keep them going for the rest of us who know little more than "turn the key, give it some gas, and go!"

A swing through McDade Park in Scranton provides this pleasant view.  The U.S. Bureau of Economic Research recently named the greater Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area among its least happy places in the country.  Happiness is what you make it, though.  As long as I can find joy in the sight of something as simple as this fountain, I don't have much to complain about in living here.

And rounding out today's trip is this final picture of the scooter posed in front of St. George's Orthodox Greek Catholic Church around the corner from Scranton in Taylor, Pa.  Though I've never been inside I find this to be one of the most beautiful churches in the area.  Its blue roof suggests that it is an extension of the sky and the Celestial Abode itself which, I suppose, is what a church of any kind should be.

My stop in front of the church was, indeed, a fitting ending to today's ride in which I was treated to so much of the visual goodness that has been put into the world for our enjoyment.  May we never lose sight of all that!