Thursday, April 30, 2009

Seen in My Travels

I was in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania two weekends ago and saw this little fellow outside an antique place.

It's an honest to goodness moped, complete with pedals, and just look at that stylish crate on the back end! What surprised me was seeing the license plate on the back end. I didn't think a moped needed to be licensed here.

On a back porch next to another antique mall kind of place, I found this Piaggio MP3.

With their two front wheels they remind me of freaky insects of some sort. I wouldn't mind taking one for a spin just to see how it handles and what the added stability feels like.

CBXMAN's showroom is only about a half mile from where I work and they're having a scooter show this Saturday featuring stunt riders, test rides, giveaways, and food and drink. I'm not in the market for anything in particular, but I figure I'll check out their little scooter carnival if the weather's nice enough. I might have bought my first scooter from them, but it was a Monday, I was ready to buy, and they were closed on Mondays back then. I'm glad it worked out that way because they don't sell many bikes whose name brands are familiar to me and I loved the Fly50 as much as I do the BV and the great service provided by the great Schuler family at Team Effort.

Our baby got home from her first year of college today, took one look at the bike, and said in a cutesy voice, "There seems to be an ugly old crate in MY place." She got a huge smile out of me when I assured her that it detaches in an instant and that her place is totally safe and sacred. I fear that the summer's going to fly right by. I hope it doesn't!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Free Chicken!

Today was the day when KFC was giving a free piece of their new grilled chicken to anybody who walked in the door.  Because there's a KFC more or less just around the corner from the school I scooted right over when I got out of work to try a piece.  Though the ads said it was the manager's choice as to what kind of piece one would walk away with, they offered a choice and being a dark meat guy I opted for a drumstick.

It was quite good, but reminded me a lot of my own baked chicken on which I sprinkle garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and pepper before shoving it into the oven.  Somehow, though, free food or food cooked by somebody else always tastes better.  All in all, KFC's original recipe will always be my favorite.  It has to be those secret herbs and spices, just like Coke's secret formula always makes it better than generic colas!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Meanderings

After lunch with the temperatures blazing just as they were yesterday I decided to ride the couch for a while rather than the scooter. I'd grilled our lunch in the backyard and the heat drained the energy right out of me. I got up around 3:30 and was sufficiently cool and awake, enough to head out for a moderate ride. I rolled southwest toward Nanticoke, about seven miles away and the home of Luzerne County Community College or "LCC" as the not too bright who can't count the number of C's call it. I'd stopped to get a liter of Diet Pepsi at a mini-mart and parked next to a gazebo on campus so I could enjoy a few sips in the shade.

There was a motorcycle safety course being conducted in one of the college's parking lots. I could see some of the riders through the trees from the gazebo and was content to watch them go through their paces from the shade, and didn't want to get any closer lest I distract one of the riders. Though I completed the advanced riders' course on the scooter to get the motorcycle endorsement on my license, at some point I plan to enroll in the basic riders' course to learn to operate a motorcycle.

I talk on the phone quite a bit when I'm out riding and when I can I usually pull over to gab. Many of the roads out here, of the type that I prefer to travel on, have nothing but gravel on the two foot wide shoulders and they don't make for a comfortable stop and sit. I don't like riding over gravel at all and avoid stopping on it at all costs. When I was expecting a call this afternoon I was able to find a nice shady spot beside a supermarket loading dock and during my stop I noticed that I could see one of the mirrors on the scooter in the other. Of course this called for a picture...

I like being in my own photos, but more often than not whether you see me in one of the pictures here depends on if there's some free standing structure on which I can plop the camera so as to aim it at myself and the cycle. I carry a tripod on the back of the the scooter, but unless I see a shot that I absolutely have to have I don't typically bother to set it up. As I chatted away (using the wired headset) I set the camera on the concrete base of a light pole to get this shot.

Yes, I've become one of those pathetic looking middle aged guys who rides a scooter with a plastic crate on the back. I took the crate on the road for a few days and after running various errands around town I decided that it's just too handy not to keep. If I want to ride somebody behind me it detaches easily and quickly and it flips up just as effortlessly when I need to get under the seat. I took accordion lessons for seven years, played the tuba in the high school band, and I always carry an umbrella when it rains. I don't think a crate on the rear end of my scooter is going to spoil my image.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Highs in the Eighties!

I'd been eyeballing today's forecast for the past week using the Weather Channel's extended forecast feature fearing that as the days marched on the promised sunshine and highs in the eighties would be replaced by something a bit cloudier and wetter. When I got up this morning around 6:30 the typical morning chill of that time of day wasn't there and the sun was just peeking up over the houses that I can see from the deck. It promised to be a beautiful day for a ride! I moved at a pace of leisure getting myself ready, sipping my coffee, showering, and reading the paper, and didn't actually hit the street rolling until a little after nine. Today's destination, Carbondale - a city 30 miles away which despite its relative proximity hadn't been graced by my presence till today.

I stopped in Dickson City to use the potty at Panera Bread. Though I'd debated between the cinnamon roll and the chocolate pastry when I checked out the goodies, I was expecting a call as I drooled by the showcase and instead of ordering just then I went outside to talk. As I yakked away I decided to skip the baked goods entirely and to wait till I was hungry enough to have lunch on the road instead.

This scene above overlooks the greater Scranton area from the parking lot in the back of Panera. It's not a great shot but it shows my elevation relative to the area. Here in northeast Pennsylvania it seems you're either up on one of the flanking mountains or down in the middle no matter where you go. Most of my trips run Southwest or Northeast along the length of the valley as you can see from this track map of my ride today.

I decided to take the smallest main roads so I could scoot past the locally famous Archbald Pothole, another place of note to which I'd not yet traveled. When I got there I was confused as to which depression was the actual pothole because there was one on either side of the road down into the sports field at the bottom. I thought this one looked more like something that would be called a pothole than the other which was surrounded by grass and had a wetland look about it.

Imagine my personal chagrin when I got back here, Googled for Archbald Pothole images and discovered that I'd not seen the darned thing after all! The entrance for the actual pothole must have been on the other side of the park - on the bigger road that I'd avoided. On to Carbondale...

The place has a very charming small town feel to it though the signs say it's an actual city. By the historical marker next to the municipal building we're told that the city was founded by the same brothers who started the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company which would eventually evolve into the railroad on whose tracks Norfolk Southern now runs freights behind my house.

Somehow pictures of a place always look better with a scooter posed in them, don't they?

I loved the Woolworth five and dime sign and had to double back to get the shot and then wait for a kid and his girl to finish doing whatever they were putzing with at the car before I could make the shot without them in it. Bonus points for the Pepto Bismol colored car I did get!

One of the last pictures I took of the Fly on the road was right here next to this church. I took it on the Saturday when my plan was to take and pass the motorcycle knowledge test and then go buy the BV. To my horror I flunked the test and getting the BV would have to wait till the following Tuesday because the testing center wasn't open on Mondays. I ran the Fly that Saturday on a final, long ride to say goodbye and to savor the slower speeds that I knew would be a thing of the past. Just as I was coming upon the church a friend called to see how the test went; I remember pulling over to tell her the sad news.

There were 87 miles on the track log when I downloaded it, and by then it felt like I'd crawled every one of them. The hot temperatures were tiring and with the symptoms of a head cold bogging me down I could barely wait to take a nap. I really can't imagine how Paul at Scootin' Fool managed to ride his scooter from south of me in Pennsylvania all the way up to Massachusetts last week! I don't know if I'll ever attempt as grand a ride as that or if I'll forever flounder in day trips that lead right back to this chair when the sun sets. Let's see where tomorrow leads. It's supposed to be just as nice as today!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Just for the heck of it I checked to see when the annual Ride to Work Day would be this year only to find that it's on the first official day of my summer vacation - the Monday following our last school day. I wonder why they designate such a day annually. Don't most folks with bikes ride to work when they can? Okay, if it's a long commute on a road that's outside of somebody's comfort zone I'd understand taking the car rather than the cycle, but do the vast majority of motorcyclists not ride their bikes to work? Why not?

Admittedly, I take my car when I deem it too cold or if there's precipitation falling or in the forecast, but other than on those days I ride the scooter to work. It fits right next to Katie's car in the lot, in a space that's not even a space, and it's closer than my designated spot is to the door. (I find it curious that every time I don't use my regular space some visitor or another always manages to occupy it.)

I'm hoping that it won't be until I retire and I'm that old man welcoming you to Walmart that I'll be able to ride the BV to work on Ride to Work Day because if I do it before then it'll likely mean that we had a horrible winter that added days to the end of the academic year. In the mean time I'll be sure to be out and about riding on the third Monday in June just to exchange the wave with all the guys and gals who are on their ways to work on two wheels.

And can anybody explain the point of Twitter? I created an account there yesterday only to play with it for two minutes and think, "Huh?" Why would anybody want to report to the whole world what they're doing at every point in time? Even the persons I love the most don't expect a running account of what I'm doing so why would anybody else?

"I'm going to the bathroom at McDonald's.
It's a number two. I'll be a while."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Precious Pillion

Our baby was home from college for Easter and on Saturday evening she asked if we could go riding somewhere after church on Sunday.  I was thrilled beyond the ability to express it that she wanted to go out with me just for the sake of spending the time together doing something we both enjoy. When I look back on her childhood I can't think of a single thing I did to deserve this kid.  Her love is the perfect gift - not something you earn, or work for, or struggle to achieve - it's simply given freely.  I guess that's what makes it love, and it's what makes love the best, most perfect gift of all.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


There would be nothing quite like this to ruin a good scoot...

...if the officer didn't happen to be one of the kids you taught in your rookie year as a teacher who posed his squad car complete with flashing lights just so you could get the "pulled over" shot for your blog.

I'm really proud of this young man who's now 15 years older than I was when I taught him, and 26 years older than he was then, and I breathe a little easier knowing that he's out there keeping us out of harm's way. He never misses an opportunity to pull over just to say hello to me and I'm honored that he does. Anybody who chooses to teach for the right reasons hopes to make a positive difference in the lives that he touches. This man reminds me often enough that I did to him.

I met up with this rather talkative bird this afternoon while taking a long ride around a mountain that I'd taken only once before, in the dark and in the opposite direction.

I'd meant to retrace that jaunt in the daylight sometime, and today was the day. With tomorrow and Saturday looking dismal with those darned April showers headed our way, today was a good day to get some pleasant miles in.

I'd never been into a Kohl's store before Monday and I had no intention of ever setting foot into one, (because they don't usually have any cool stuff - just clothes mostly) but the Mrs. had a 30% off coupon for everything in the store and I was sorely in need of some new sneakers. She handed me their latest advertising circular in the car and told me to see if anything else looked good. I thumbed through it and my eyes landed on a GPS unit that, with the 30% off, would be a very good deal. Since I have the old Garmin V in my Neon I suggested that she get the one at Kohl's for her car. She did.

After we played with it for a while, we discovered that it was excellent for the price and I have to admit that I was a little envious. Though it can't interface with the computer as interactively as the Garmin, as is typical with the newer budget priced GPS receivers, it's quite capable of navigating effectively and intelligently. The next day, with the coupon still good, we decided to get one for our daughter who's away at school, and when I mentioned that if the store might have two I just might ask for one for Father's Day, I was told to see if the store had two more. It didn't. It didn't even have one. We called the Stroudsburg Kohl's which is about an hour away. They had one, but only one. We asked them to hold it for us.

Off we went to celebrate my mom and dad's 53rd wedding anniversary at the restaurant where we always celebrated it when my sister and I were kids. We told my sister about the GPS and she said that it's about time that she got one too. I Googled the Kohl's store in Easton from my cell phone to get their phone number. They said they had two. I asked them to hold them for us. With dinner in our guts we headed to Stroudsburg and then to Easton with my sister and my dad along for the ride, and a few hours later we were back with three more of the same GPS units that we'd gotten on Monday.

The old Garmin is shaped like a triangular prism and there was no way that I could rig up an easy, practical mount for the scooter that would hold it secure, enough that I wouldn't worry about losing it on a trip. The new one, though... My gears were turning before I even asked for it because mounting it seemed quite likely. That was my other reason for wanting to take a decently long ride today - to test out the mount that I put together while the sun was still warming things up.

The plastic inset that the unit came in, some stiff wire, four rubber bands, and a bungee cord later and I was in business. The whole thing hangs on the mirror mounts and comes off in seconds, but is comfortably secure even over bumps and bounces. It covers the cycle's speedometer, but its own speedometer function is much more accurate and reveals that the BV's meter does the usual scooter thing of reading about five miles per hour higher than the actual speed.

Although I can't manage my waypoints on it with the computer as I can with the Garmin, I can record tracks and then view them in Map Source or Google Earth and I like looking at my tracks more than anything else I can do with a GPS. I like revisiting them and the pictures I take, especially on rainy days, to remember the places I've gone and the things that I've seen.

Every good day of riding comes to its eventual close and today's did with long shadows as the sun was going down. I borrowed the side of this building that I was rolling past to get the shot of my doppelganger and his bike.

Tomorrow, even if the rain doesn't fall, I'll stay close to the house. It's Good Friday and the afternoon church service is a must. I'll miss the way it was when I was growing up, especially hearing St. John's Passion chanted in Slovak with my dad singing the deep bass part of Jesus Himself, but even in simple spoken English the sacrifice on Calvary will hit home. It will be a time for deep introspection - way deeper than the kind that being on the bike usually affords me.

For now... Good night.

Monday, April 6, 2009

We Need a New Name

I wish things like my BV had a different name than scooter because of these things that go by the same moniker...

At times I find the contrast amusing, but still, when the school kids ask, "Oh, you ride a scooter?" sometimes I think they're thinking of the thing grandma drives from the living room to the toilet.

Then again, you know what they say: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!


Sunday, April 5, 2009

But the GPS Called It a Highway!

Last weekend when I took off on the bike to try to revisit a road I'd taken in the past but ended up running a different road to its terminus before heading back, I was intrigued by a dirt road turning quickly out of sight and running parallel to both the Susquehanna River and a set of railroad tracks. I checked Map Source, the map software that came with my Garmin unit when I got back here to the desk, and confirmed my suspicions. Somehow that little patch of dirt road should lead to "Highway 3005" which runs alongside the river and leads all the way north to a bridge that crosses the Susquehanna to Route 92 with which I'm quite familiar. I'm wary of running the BV on gravel so the next day I took off in the car to see how far I'd need to run over the dirt road before I could connect with the highway. I figured I'd do the trailblazing with the Neon and then come back with the scooter when I knew where I'd be going.

By this view from Google Maps, there's Highway 3005 to the right of the river.

I arrived back at the mouth of the dirt road once more, scratching my head and wondering why the municipal powers that be wouldn't have bothered to make the access road to the highway a little more pleasant to travel. I suspected it was one of those squabbles between the town council and the state in which neither wanted to claim the responsibility of maintaining a small stretch for whatever reason. I got onto the dirt road and bounced around the bend to discover this sight before me...

Surely the highway would have to start just beyond that next turn I believed. After all, the dirt road itself wouldn't be labeled as a highway on a reputable map, right? Besides, it was too late to turn around now, even if I was starting to get a little suspicious, because there was nowhere to turn the car around and neither was there enough room for another car if one should come at me from the opposite direction.

A mile later and I was still looking at a bumpy, single lane, dirt road but by then I started getting the willies imagining a pickup truck coming at me from the opposite direction complete with shotguns in the rack behind the driver's head and a passenger as frightening looking as the driver. I could see myself coming nose to nose with said pickup, getting out of the car with both good old boys getting out of the truck, and in the back of my mind I could almost hear the banjo starting up. "Well, where do you think you're going?" would be all one of them would have to say before I'd scramble back to the car, lock the door, and then discover that I have no cell service. I kept driving, about 17 mph by the GPS record fearing that I'd break an axle on one of the ruts if I went any faster.

The road widened a little, but not before the whole scene got nightmarishly surreal with tires perched on old telegraph poles not unlike some big, black carrion feeders that might go for one's eyes first without waiting for one to be respectably deceased. Either somebody hauled a ladder down there to create the disturbing view or the tires were tossed up there repeatedly before coming to rest on their respective crossbeams. Either way, I don't think I'd want to have met up with whomever did the decorating.

Although it had felt like I'd spent about an hour and traveled 20 miles along that dirt path referred to as "Highway 3005," by the GPS track the gravely, bumpy, rutted part was only three miles long before pavement began with no rhyme nor reason accounting for why, from that point on, it was a maintained road.

I don't suppose I'll be making any hard and fast travel plans with the scooter over roads not traveled with the car first. If I do, I'll be sure to leave an electronic trail of crumbs, at least, so I can sheepishly arrive back where I started by retracing my route.