Sunday, August 31, 2008

Around the Corner

If you've ever heard of CBXMAN, they're only about three miles from here and I might have gotten a scooter from them if they'd been open on the Monday when I went shopping. You snooze, you lose. They didn't have Monday hours in their showroom and I wasn't about to wait another day because I had the go ahead from the Mrs. and I was ready to buy. I saw this full page ad for Cbxman in the local paper a few days ago and I think I'm glad they were closed that day when the good folks at Team Effort were ready, willing, and able to set me up with a bike.


These machines aren't exactly the name brands I see often on the scooter forums and I'm thinking they're better suited for guys who know what to do when they're up to their elbows in oil and grease than for guys like me who don't know how to do much more than twist and go. I've said it before, and I'll say it over and over again - a cycle is only as good as the available service one can get for it.

Now I don't know if Cbxman services the scooters they sell locally, but it's a moot point for me. They didn't get my business because when I was ready to shell out the dough they were busy doing nothing. Who closes down shop on Mondays except for barbers and bakers?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Would You Eat This?

Would you try eating this?

Being on two wheels for over a year must have made me more adventurous overall because there was a time when I'd never have tried to eat something that grew spontaneously from near the mulch bin in the backyard, especially when that something looked all warty. The plant that produces these fruits not only started to grow down past the tomatoes, but it quickly climbed and took over the fence separating our yard from the next. The fruits are plentiful so there was no way that I was going to let them go to waste if I could help it.

I researched gourds online and found them to be described as inedible not because of being poisonous or unhealthy, but simply because they're said to be bitter and unpleasant tasting. I cut one of these things open and sampled the pumpkin like flesh and it wasn't bad at all. We added a little bit of one of the fruits to our summer zucchini soup recipe and when we all lived to talk about how good the soup was we made another entire batch with just these yellow guys and it was equally delicious.

I still don't know what they are, exactly, but as long as they taste pretty good, we'll keep taking advantage of the bountiful supply of them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Road Calls

I went to a wedding reception in Bedford, Pennsylvania this past weekend as the date of a friend and because I went straight from home to the reception I got to the hall well ahead of everybody who was coming from the church in Berlin. I sat in the car looking at this scene while I waited for my friend and the others to arrive.

In front of the church in the picture is a road, and as I sat there many motorcyclists rode through the scene. There seemed to be an inordinate number of them compared to the number of cycles you think you'd see on a typical road on a usual day.

I don't know what it was about the road itself, but as I watched the cyclists riding past while I sat there in the old cage I felt as if the road was calling to me to ride it. There was just something about it that made it seem like riding it would be better than riding most other roads. It was an odd feeling. I know that given the right circumstances - like being on my scooter and not in a full suit and tie I'd have been out there myself running up and down this peaceful little stretch of western Pennsylvania and experiencing something that I knew would be sublime.

Although I'd love to post something here daily, I know that once school's in full swing next week that's going to be nearly impossible. I'll give it my best shot to post as regularly as I can even when the weather has me "grounded" and writing about any old thing that rides through my head.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Smell of Grass and Other Things Olfactory

One of my greatest simple pleasures while out riding is simply smelling fresh, (Not "freshly" - that unfortunate, often misused adverb.) cut grass.

I've mowed the lawn many times since my teens, and the smell of my own cut grass at home didn't particularly thrill me any of those times.  It seems it has to be the scent of somebody else's cut grass that puts a smile on my face.  I wonder why that is?

Food too!  The smell of food cooking - boiling, baking, roasting, stewing, braising, broiling, grilling...  Wow!  How enticing it all smells when I'm riding by another family's fare, even if it's simpler than whatever I had on my own dish earlier. 

I did a lot of bicycle riding as a kid, and I don't remember smells being as wonderful as they are now when I scoot past their sources.  Maybe it's something that comes in middle age, along with a keen sense of appreciation for many things taken for granted during one's prime.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

On the Road

I spied this pair which I assumed to be husband and wife on the road yesterday near Altoona, PA. She was on a Majesty. He was on something that I think had the word "wing" somewhere in the name, but I'm not sure of what it read and none of the pictures showed the name clearly.

I like this shot in particular, of the Mr. with the Mrs. in my rear view mirror. Another lucky shot; I was trying to get him going past me, and just happened to get her in the mirror too.

The Mrs...

Their helmets reminded me of the kind of headpiece you might see on a suit of armor. I've seen full face helmets with narrow chin bridges, but never something with such a substantial piece there. I think I'd feel claustrophobic in a hat like that.

They were both riding along at as close to 65 mph as I was myself and seemed to be cruising quite effortlessly. They made it look a lot easier than my own excursions onto the interstate have been. Though I can go 65+ comfortably on single lane roads out in the boondocks, a passing lane and tractor trailers put me right out of my comfort zone.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

State of the Union

Are there any amateur demographers out there who'd like to take an educated guess as to why the large white section of the country is conspicuously absent when I check the logs to see from which states the visitors here come?  Except for the strays in the east, there's that big empty chunk in the Midwest.  Maybe if John Deere manufactured scooters?

When I happen to get a pretty picture, it's sheer luck.  I snapped this one last evening when I noticed that the sun was low in the sky.  I could have looked for a better setting without so many telephone poles, but I'm lazy.  The shot came out close enough to how I'd hoped it would.

I'm "sounding" blah here 'cause it's how I'm feeling.  The girls are away now and school starts for me on Monday with our first faculty meeting.  The kids arrive on Tuesday.  By the second week of September I'll be thrilled to be in my element again, but it's always hard to head back after being off for so long and enjoying the freedom that a life of total leisure might offer.

I'm hoping to do the commute on the scooter every day when the weather and its residual effects are suitable.  I think I'll manage the temperatures; it's ice and snow that I fear.  Hopefully they're a long way off, though the doom sayers around here are already suggesting a brutal winter.

Friday, August 22, 2008


If I headed to a bar on bike night on a scooter dressed like this do you think anybody would buy me a beer?

Unfortunately, I won't be doing that today. What I will be doing is taking my baby off to college and then spending the evening moping around and maybe crying a little. Her sister left yesterday to start an internship a few hours away. This is it. The empty nest. For as much as I said I looked forward to it through the years, now that it's here - I've changed my mind.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What I Carry

There was a question on one of the scooter forums a while back asking what one typically takes along for a ride. I'd have taken up way more than a reasonable amount of space if I'd tried to answer that question there.

I knew even before I got the Fly that I wouldn't just want to ride a scooter for fun, but that I'd want to take it to work and to run errands. I'd considered one of those top trunk type boxes for the back, but they seem terribly limited as to what could fit inside. The Fly had no storage space at all behind the passenger portion of the seat, and while the BV had some it was limited to a very small area. I got the BV in October of last year and I decided that I'd put any efforts toward making a sturdy bracket off till the spring. When the temperatures got warm enough to work outdoors comfortably I enlisted the help my my dad to make this...

The square aluminum pipes are bolted together with deliberate overkill. I didn't want to have to worry about hearing things falling apart behind me while riding over a bump somewhere. The upward portion of four "tongues" came from some sort of shelf meant to attach to a pegboard.

Usually this whole thing is occupied by a travel bag, my tripod, a small backpack that also doubles as a drink holder when attached to the ring up front, and a Penguins hat to show support for the local hockey farm team that my wife, sister, and daughter follow religiously.

But, all of that can be removed in under a minute to be replaced by this...

The travel bag holds a first aid kit, a notepad and pen, screwdrivers, a small wrench, a multipurpose tool, and a jumper wire which I rigged up after having had a problem in starting the Fly because the contacts in the brake handles caused trouble with starting it on occasion.

The storage area under the seat is entirely full. I carry a reflective vest, a poncho, a full autumn thickness jacket, a flannel shirt, a good sized umbrella (when opened), bungee type cords and other tie downs, a towel, a medium sized backpack, multiple screwdrivers sets (straight, philips, and stars), a smaller tripod, a flashlight, spare fuses, and maybe a few other things I've forgotten about since I put them in there.

I might be over packed by a long shot, but I have the strange notion that as soon as I take one of these things out or off it'll be on the day when I'll just happen to find myself in need of it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Random Thoughts

Yesterday after eating dinner and visiting my aunt at the rehab facility (Hip surgery. Not booze.) I headed out to gas up the scooter and joy ride a little. I ended up in the K-Mart parking lot, across the river, and suddenly remembered that it was the place where I first left the Fly in a parking lot while I shopped.

I remembered the very strange emotion I felt when I raised it onto its stand and walked away from it. It felt as if I was abandoning a child as I looked over my shoulder at it and made my way toward the store entrance.

The poor little thing - all alone in a parking lot!

I don't remember what I was shopping for, or if I found what I was looking for, but I know I cut the time I might have spent there short for fear of something happening to my new little scooter which I'd left all alone in the big parking lot. I felt guilty leaving it there!

On the way back home, taking one of many long ways, I realized that I do something with the car that annoys my wife and kids, but that I don't do with the scooter. With the car I tend to race toward a red traffic light and lay on the brake at the last minute leaving them feeling queasy. With the scooter I ease back on the throttle long before I get to a red light and coast slower and slower in hopes that I won't have to stop and put a foot down before the light turns green. I'm sure that I occasionally annoy the guy behind me, especially if he's driving like I usually do on four wheels, and even more so when, after following me at 7 MPH for a while, I zip away from the pack when the light turns green and leave him in my dust. He might catch up and pass me, but only after he gets the inertia working and momentum up that I don't have to worry about.

I still do things that annoy myself when I'm riding, like sometimes cocking the wheel too hard when I'm making a slow turn around a parking space and feeling that worrisome moment of instability, or pulling too far to the right when stopping at a corner. Roads often slope at the edges and my last fall was the result of putting my right foot down and not finding anything to stop me from going over. And, now and then, I still let that hurried cager behind me get to me and cause me to speed up to accommodate his apparent urgency when I really want to slow down even more and let him stew. Have you noticed that a tractor-trailer or dump truck driver can go as darned slow as he wants and nobody thinks to ride his bumper to try to make him speed up? A scooter going the same speed though, is fair game? Grrrrr!

I'm really starting to hate Blogger. During editing it keeps messing with the spaces I'm putting between paragraphs and sections, seeming to add or subtract them mysteriously and with no rhyme nor reason. Anybody know a way around that?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Once Upon an Amusement Park

I rode yesterday evening to another place that had once been magical to me - the site of the former Rocky Glen Park, a few towns away in Moosic. There were a number of amusement parks in and around the valley when I was growing up, and while mom and dad didn't spoil my sister and me with visits to them, the times we had at each of them were larger than life.

Like many parks of its day, Rocky Glen's existence was tied up with a local passenger rail line. Back in its day, a scooter ride wouldn't have gotten one to the park because the only access to the park, by design, was the railroad according to the article linked to the park's name up above. It was common in the early 1900s for rail lines to create parks outside the suburban setting to generate revenue on the weekends.

All that remains on the site of the former park is the historical sign pictured here, and this...

No flashing lights. No whirligigs. All that welcomed us there was a simple hand painted sign, but what a welcome it was!

It hurts to see things of my childhood torn down. Why have we made the things that served us so well as kids into things that aren't good enough for our own kids? We'll travel by plane to give the big mouse yet more money while grass grows up in the lots right here in our own backyards where our dads parked their own cars a long time ago in making our childhoods special.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Stupid Camera Tricks (with a Scooter)

If you're able to cross your eyes so that the two images in this picture overlap to form a center image, you'll see my BV250 in 3D. Clicking the pic will enlarge it and maybe make it easier to do. If you can't do it, there's nothing I can do to help, but I can chastise you for believing the adults who told you when you were little that crossing your eyes would result in them staying that way.

Another view from a different angle - also clickable for a better view.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Video Play

Just a little clip to toy with Blogger's video capabilities...

I'm not sure why I'm kind of anti-video on blogs though I suspect it's because overall I prefer a good book to a decent movie. I believe a blog is all about expression and in my case, at least, I know I can better communicate what's inside me by typing words or by showing a still image which defines a minute slice of my life through my own eyes. I think videos are greatly over used online, and when they're not original I feel cheated. I don't really want to visit somebody's personal site or blog to find mainly compilations of links to other peoples' dinky little movies. I want a blog to be like reading somebody's diary rather than being entertained by a D.J. or projectionist.

But, then again, they're just my two cents. Hold the butter on the popcorn please!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Road Not Taken

My favorite piece of poetry in existence is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" which begins and ends thus...

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both...

... I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Until I started to ride, that poem moved me because it called to me to challenge the sense of familiarity and comfort that kept me driving on the same roads all my life while wondering where their various forks might take me. I was that way literally while out driving, but inside myself too where I always took the safe route no matter how lackluster it might have become in being repeatedly traveled. I sat back since college, half a lifetime ago, thinking about what it might be like to take Frost's less traveled road, but without the courage or gumption to turn my figurative wheels in its direction to learn for myself if indeed it would make all the difference.

The bike has taught me that I can make excursions down the less traveled byways and taste the freedom they offer until invariably I loop back to the main course of reality. I wonder, though, at times, what might be if I just keep on riding without seeking to turn left or right before it's too late to find a road that I've known all my life I can follow home. All the difference. I find myself longing for it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Red Hat Mamas

Wouldn't it be awesome if the Red Hat Ladies rode scooters to their outings? I'm thinking they could form a scooter group called Red Hat Mamas, perhaps.

I share admiration and disdain for the Red Hats. On the one hand, it takes guts to go out in public dressed a bit like a pack of clowns escaped from the circus. On the other hand, if a table full of 14 year old girls at a Red Lobster made as much noise as a gaggle of raucous, laughing Red Hats, they'd be admonished to shut up or asked to leave.

I have to admire a bunch of grannies who look as goofy as I do on my scooter - or maybe I'm just envious of their moxie.

A Halloween costume from a few years ago

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Lassie Feeling

My sister's friend at work gave the name "The Lassie Feeling" to a gut feeling that can't be described adequately, but you know it when you read about it or hear it explained if you've ever felt it.

Time warp back to the 60's when Lassie, the series, was on TV on Sunday evenings. If you were a kid, like I was then at a time when getting into trouble at school wasn't a laughing matter and was something that most parents took seriously, you might remember that particular feeling of dread that hit you in the stomach every Sunday evening when you realized that the following morning you'd be back in your classroom. The more you thought about it (during the commercials during Lassie) the more you were certain that you were forgetting some assignment, maybe even a huge project, that would be due the next morning when you'd get to school. It might be just your standard Spelling homework or something of immense magnitude like a fort you were supposed to build out of toothpicks or that crown you were supposed to make for the statue of the Virgin Mary because it was your turn to make and place the crown on her head on Monday. And the more certain you became that you were forgetting something important, the worse that panic in your intestines would grip you as you frantically sought to remember something - anything that would clue you in as to what it was that you were forgetting that would incur the disappointment or worse of your teacher. It must have been akin to what somebody feels on the night before his scheduled execution. Reaching for the phone and calling a classmate wasn't really an option. We didn't use the phone back then. The adults did, and usually in whispered tones. Anyway, if you're sitting there reading this paragraph and thinking, "Oh my! I know exactly what he's writing about!" congratulations. You now know the name of that peculiar emotional phenomenon. It's The Lassie Feeling!

Enjoying the last of Summer's delicious freedom.

And now, for what Paul Harvey would call, "The rest of the story..." Teachers get The Lassie Feeling too just as certainly and just as strongly as their students do. It's not the same feeling, necessarily, of forgetting something important. It seems to be a throwback, almost like a survival mechanism from childhood, that nails those of us who occupy the other side of the big desk with that same "Whoomp!" to the gut when we're heading back to the classroom on any Monday morning, after a holiday break, and especially now, as the beginning of a new school year approaches.

When one looks at the new school calendar and realizes all that must be accomplished in the next 40 weeks, the tasks seem nearly overwhelmingly impossible. One-hundred eighty days. Six class periods per day. Over 1,000 separate lessons to plan, to teach, to evaluate. An average of 25 pupils per class. Ten or more tests per quarter, per subject. Over 6,000 numbers to crunch before June rolls around again. Yes, that Lassie Feeling grips us all when we think ahead, and in academia, on either side of the big desk, nobody succeeds without thinking ahead, planning responsibly, and taking seriously one's obligations.

It helps that I love my job - that after 25 years of being in front of the classroom I still get there each morning whistling, humming, or singing in my eagerness to start another day. I suppose I should worry if The Lassie Feeling ever disappears, for if it does it'll be time for me to move on, to retire, to find something else to do because if I lose it, it will mean that I don't care any more, and that...

That would be far worse than remembering on Monday morning that I forgot all about that big Civil War diorama project that was supposed to be made out of Marshmallow Peeps.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Other Ways of Getting There

I had a most wonderful weekend visiting a college friend in Somerset, PA. I saw these beauties parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot out there.

A Honda Silver Wing. It looks like a very substantial bike.

This one had no obvious make or model on it. Some idiot who shall remain nameless apparently had the camera strap dangling in front of the lens when the shot was snapped.

Both of the scooters were being piloted by middle aged guys like myself. Are we 50 somethings becoming the scooter generation?

And gliding over the house today, this...

The highest I've ever been off the terra firma has been in a tethered balloon basket at the Philadelphia Zoo. I've never had occasion to fly, but if I could I think I'd love a ride in a blimp. Though its size doesn't complete the comparison, compared to other means of air travel a relatively slow moving blimp ride would seem most akin to a relaxing jaunt on a small scooter.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Weather, or Not?

This might sound stupid, but I hate the weather. Okay, maybe not so much the weather itself as much as its unpredictability. Why sometimes does a dark looking, ominous sky not produce a single drop of rain while at other times a mostly sunny sky with one, stray dark cloud gives us a cloudburst? I don't pretend to understand it in the least and it drives me batty.

There isn't a thing I've done regularly in my whole life that depends on the weather like scootering does. While I've ridden in a spring shower and enjoyed the sense of freedom it afforded me, I've also ridden in a raging storm and felt endangered with limited visibility, the slick road surface, and the speed demon riding my tail.

What's the difference between isolated and scattered thunderstorms? Oh, I know. I can Google it, but for all intents and practical scootering purposes, will it make any real difference? A 30% chance of rain is still a chance and getting caught in it if it's a hard and fast one isn't any safer nor easier because its percentage was low.

I stayed at home the morning I snapped this picture earlier this week. I wasted the morning because not a drop of rain fell. If only there were an easier way to know if it's going to precipitate. I really don't think enough of our tax dollars go toward weather control!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Environment Schmenvironment

I'll be the very last person ever accused by those persons who know me of having gotten a scooter to save gasoline. Sure I'm saving some money when I'm riding the scooter instead of taking the car to somewhere I have to go, but that's a perk. For every gas saving measure out there, there's a price, and the price of convenience or amusement to me is sometimes worth more than the cost involved or keeping the air nice and fresh. Would I want an electric car that can only go a few hours at a substandard speed before it would need to be recharged? I wouldn't take one if they were giving them away no more than I'd want to wipe my butt with newspaper instead of the stuff they sell specifically to do the job. And where's the logic of using electricity to power our rides when much electricity is still generated by burning fossil fuels?

Ours is the first generation in the history of the U.S.A., I think, which isn't doing better than our parents did in terms of purchasing power and being able to live as "rich" even if within our means. Frankly, I'm tired of being told that we're the ones who have to give up things that generations before us took for granted be it fossil fuel, benefits at the workplace, adequate police protection, butter applied liberally to everything edible, or the right to fill the air with whatever we want to fill it with. I don't mind protecting the environment and saving things or money if it's to my distinct advantage, but there are some trade-offs I'm not willing to make for the sake of the environment or future generations.

Most of my scootering is plain and simple joy riding. I take the scooter now and then for a quick run to the grocery store, but 95% of my being out and about on it is for the fun of it. I'm actually using MORE gas than I would be if I just stayed at home in the evenings instead of cruising up and down various lengths of the valley. Let everybody think I'm being conscious of the environment and brimming with civic responsibility. I'm having fun and apologizing to no one for using the gas or polluting the air. I pay for what I use. I'm going to use it until doing so is illegal rather than merely frowned upon by tree kissers, animal huggers, and Democrats who have some use for wilderness for its own sake.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Frivolous and Stupid


I happened to be behind this party animal while out riding a few days ago...

I have to say that FUN 437 beat the heck out of the 101 class. Maybe it was the lab portion that made it so fulfilling. In any event, I had a blast in college and so did my elder daughter who will be finishing up her bachelor's after a fall internship. Our baby starts college in a few short weeks and half of me wants her to keep up the seriousness with which she earned valedictory status in high school while the other half would love to see her lighten up a little and make sure that she has fun too.


My only real prejudice is against the stupid. I don't mean folks who aren't blessed with a heaping helping of natural smarts. I mean incompetence in any form. I ride past this billboard often enough in my travels and every time I see it my blood boils...

That "It's" drives me crazy. It should read "its," without the apostrophe because as it stands it means, " it is finest." I called the place one day and asked to speak to the owner. I told him that a huge injustice had been done him by the billboard company because there was a misspelling on the board which sits atop his pizza joint. I told him about the, "It's" and he said, "I don't know. I'll have to go out and look." That was that. I hope he bakes a better pizza than he writes copy for his advertising if he's the one who came up with the slogan complete with misspelling. On the other hand, I think it was the responsibility of the billboard owner or the menu service which is also advertised on the same board to have proofread the copy and alerted the pizza guy to the error. Regardless of who's at fault I think it's pathetic that such a glaring mistake welcomes travelers into the valley along a busy road. I think in part it makes all of us who live here look like idiots.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Getting the Willies

I had been in somewhat of a philosophical mood this morning and was going to start this entry with something like...

Nobody (except a suicide in the works) wakes up in the morning and thinks, Today's the last day of my life. Somebody in a car is going to turn in front of my cycle and kill me.

The point I was going to make is that no matter how unaware we might be of making them, our choices ultimately put us where we are at critical junctures in our lives. How many times to hit the snooze alarm. How long to brush one's teeth. What to have for breakfast and whether or not to dawdle over the morning paper while eating it. All of the seemingly insignificant choices one makes throughout the course of day determine where he will be at any given subsequent moment. Two more strokes of the toothbrush over a molar can, later in the day, be a life or death decision that might have been made or not.

Anyway... That's how I was thinking of starting the day's post while I rode to The Home Depot to get some new filters for the Shop Vac. I won't be posting that entry today, though, because of what I saw when I parked behind a hearse in the parking lot. Read what it asks under the license plate! (Click on the picture if you need to enlarge it.)