Sunday, May 31, 2009

Expect Delays

Road construction season is upon us, and I don't know what it's like where you live, but here in northeastern Pennsylvania it's a bit ridiculous. We took a trip yesterday up I-81 to Johnson City and we must have encountered at least ten separate construction areas reduced to one moving lane. Understandably, repairs need to be made, but it's as if every road project is planned and executed with no regard for the overall picture and what it means to the average guy who needs to use the highway in terms of getting to where he's going on time.

I'd like to know who the genius is who decides and authorizes that ten miles of good road need to be shut down to accommodate workers in a small area where work is actually being done. Who gets to decide that? Is it just some random supervisor on a work crew or is there an engineering manual somewhere that specifies the degree of inconvenience deemed reasonable for the sake of a project? Seriously, if anybody knows the definitive answer to this, please drop me a line and spare my blood pressure the rise in imagining that there's no real method to the madness in shutting down long stretches where work isn't actually being done. There's no real argument in suggesting that they're shutting down many miles because the work zone will get there eventually. They can just add another barrel when they get there instead of making us move over weeks in advance.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Another rite of passage ran its course in my life yesterday when I ran upstairs for only two minutes to see how the bathroom painting was coming along and returned to find Vicki carrying her water bucket into the living room, but with her back legs dragging behind her. Before I'd gone up she had been lying on the recliner. Obviously her hindquarters had been working then to launch her into the comfortable chair and the wife and daughter who'd both taken the day off to hang out together said she'd had a very good day with them, doing all of her regular doggie things.

A boy and his dog saying good night.

Vicki came home with us from the SPCA the week before Christmas in 1998. She was one of my Christmas presents. I grew up in a home where animals served only one purpose - to be eaten. My mom disliked and still dislikes animals so having a pet was categorically out of the question. Our apartment was very small when we first married so the Mrs. and I got a cat. But I wanted a dog. I'd always wanted a dog, maybe in part simply because I'd never been allowed to have one. My in-laws were told by the town at one point that if they got another dog they'd have to get a kennel license and part of the reason I liked visiting them in New York was because we were surrounded by good sized dogs the whole time. As time passed and we moved to bigger digs we expanded our collection of cats and it wasn't until we bought the house and established ourselves that Vicki came to join us.

I have to say that Vicki was everything I'd hoped a dog of my own would be. Faithful, loyal, and loving to a fault. When old cats left us and new kittens came home, she was a mother to every one of them. Though she would greet adult visitors by nearly knocking them over inside the front door in her eagerness to say hello, with kids she was ever the mom - gentle and patient even when they'd climb all over her.

Time passed. The girls grew up. The gray started taking over Vicki's muzzle about the same time that it came creeping into my beard. Vicki was healthy though maybe just a little slower to leap out of her favorite chair to meet somebody at the door or to race into the kitchen at the sound of her dinner bowl being filled. Sometime last year we encountered our first health problem with her when she started becoming incontinent, but with a diagnosis of diabetes insipidus and the appropriate meds she was almost as good as new though an occasional accident still reminded us that she was getting older than we wanted her to be.

I confess, somewhere along the line I grew tired of having a dog. Vicki wasn't the kind of dog you could trust to go down the back stairs, do her thing, and come back in. Every single time she needed to go out, one of us had to take her in the snow, sleet, hail, and gloom of night. When, during thunderstorm season she'd quake and tremble pathetically and try to climb under things that any dog with reasonable math skills would know she couldn't fit under, my patience ran a little thin. At times when we'd try to contain her while we went out, we'd come home to find that she'd chewed and clawed her way through more than one hollow door. But, no matter what she did, one look from those big, brown eyes was usually sufficient to earn instant forgiveness.

A few weeks ago Vicki had a bout of diarrhea. We took her to the vet and the meds he prescribed after running a battery of tests worked within a few days. It was a wake up call for all of us, though. We finally sat back and admitted to ourselves that she was quite old for a dog her size, and that her battery was overdue to run down.

When I found Vicki dragging herself across the kitchen yesterday afternoon I yelled for the others, and as we sat there petting her and encouraging her to try to stand up, we knew something terrible had happened to her. In the weeks between her last trip to the vet and yesterday I think we'd all steeled ourselves to face the inevitable goodbye. We took her to the emergency veterinary clinic, each of us alone in our own thoughts and sorrow, knowing that she wouldn't be coming home with us again.

Not a boy any more, saying goodbye.

I'd never been there before when one of our pets had to be put down. I hope I never have to do that again. I love life and I believe that every one of God's creatures loves his life just as much as I love mine. Watching the vial of drugs going into the small tube that they'd already outfitted Vicki with, and seeing the life drain from her within seconds while the three of us petted her and talked to her was almost more than I could take. I wept shamelessly when she put down her head and breathed her last.

I imagine myself years from now finding a stray Vicki hair tucked into a corner somewhere and crying like I did yesterday. I don't want another dog. I had the one I wanted all my life.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Main Street on Memorial Day

Being in a river valley the roads here are defined by the path of the Susquehanna and the mountain walls which flank us on the northwest and southeast. When I'm in the mood for a moderate ride my choices are limited by the more or less parallel streets that run northeast to southwest. I spend a lot of time on the ubiquitous Main Street - a lot of Main Streets, in fact, of the kind where my front tire might be rolling over the southernmost point of South Main Street in one town while my rear tire is still on the northern terminus of North Main Street in the next. I'm not complaining. I like the Main Streets I often travel. They offer some small town charm here between the larger cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, though one must be alert for the traffic lights still mounted on poles at the curb in some places.

I've rolled past the colorful Cwikla's Bakery and surrounding store fronts in Avoca many times, but not as slowly as I did today when I managed to take notice of the opportunity to pose the BV for a picture out front. A sucker for a good, fresh loaf of rye, I might have stopped in to sample their wares if they hadn't been closed for the holiday.

Onto the next Main Street, in Moosic where I managed to find this load of plastic pipes that I thought would make a cool shot.

I explored a shopping center in Scranton to which I'd never been before. A stopped train at the far end caught my attention so I had to check it out. The scooter poised as it is beside the curved, graded spur makes me imagine it thinking, "I think I can!" like the little engine that could. I wish the "Rails to Trails" efforts included long stretches where one might open up the throttle of a scooter rather than just walk or bicycle.

I'm not one to wear patriotism on my sleeve most of the time, but I love the American Flag and had had one on the Fly a long time ago. When I outfitted the BV I'd lost track of where the little flag had ended up. I was cruising past a dollar store that happened to be open this morning and figured they'd have some kind of flag that would fit the scooter nicely. I was right!

On the way back to the house I saw a bumper sticker about the troops and veterans that seems to sum up Memorial Day nicely: "If you don't stand behind them, stand in front of them!" A blessed Memorial Day to all!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Post From the Road

It's Sunday morning before church and I'm trying to get some miles in because thunderstorms are on tap for this afternoon.

It's peaceful down by the lake, and there are some nice twisties on the road that brings me here. Both the ride and being here are just what I needed this morning to clear a head that's too often fuzzy. Through I grumbled at first because I prefer to attend the early Mass, I'm glad the later one was suggested for today.

I remember being in this spot half a lifetime ago, when the girls were still in elementary school. I took a picture of them right here by the boats. Sigh!

Too soon it will be time to head back and hit the shower in time for church, yet I want to linger here, maybe until I get Alzheimer's so I can believe that they're still my little girls and that we still have many more years to frolic at places like this.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pfffft! The Flat of the Tire - The Fizz of the Cola

On my way home from work yesterday the scooter was making a funny noise from somewhere behind me. I supposed that something was wrong with the exhaust system because it sounded like a big cruiser farting as I went along doing anything over about 20 mph. By the time I got home the sound seemed to have disappeared. I parked. I had dinner. I went back out on the bike to see if the sound would come back and I was hardly at the end of the street when I heard the same telltale sound of something wrong.

I decided that I'd head to the parking lot of the supermarket that's not more than a mile away so I could give the scooter a thorough eyeball figuring I'd see maybe a loose connection to the muffler, but when I swept around a wide turn and leaned, the rear end of the BV did a shimmy. "Tire!" went off in my noggin like one of those big light bulbs going off over some cartoon character's head. When I got to the parking lot and pulled over I set the bike on the kickstand rather than on the center stand to keep the weight on the rear tire. Sure enough. It was as flat as a pancake! There's a gas station two doors down from the market so I filled the tire and hurried my baby home. I'm quite surprised that except for that single slight skid going around the corner to the supermarket I couldn't tell that the tire was flat, and equally amazed that the bike ran with the flat almost as well as it does with the usual PSI.

Not your Mr. Fixit type I refilled the tire when I got home from work today and ran the bike down to Team Effort. They'll have a new tire on it and change the oil by the time I get out of work tomorrow so I won't have to spend the holiday weekend on four wheels.

Because I don't have any new road photos, consider this a shameless plug for Pepsi Throwback - the kind of Pepsi you folks who are as old or older than I am remember from when we were kids. It's made with real sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup, and the difference is remarkable. I've complained for years that today's big name colas don't taste as good as they did back then because of the sweetener swap and I'd give anything to have a Coca Cola made with sugar again. It had a certain "bite" to it back in the good old days, and a few swigs out of a glass bottle after setting the bowling pins in a semi-automatic alley for a few hours straight were all I needed to be totally refreshed. Seriously, if you miss the old Pepsi, treat yourself to a can of this Throwback stuff. As with many of the best things in life, (like McDonald's McRib sandwiches), it'll be available for a limited time only.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How Far Is Too Far?

Every now and then I get a hankering to take a ride of epic proportions. Okay, with "epic" being hugely relative.

There have been days when I was out on the scooter for five or six hours, spending most of the time actually in the saddle. Those trips, however, haven't usually taken me all that far from the house because the longest have been more or less circuitous and much of the actual time was spent moving through urban traffic patterns.

What I keep thinking about is taking a day and traveling away from the valley for a few hours. There are places fitting that description of time and associated distance to which I could ride and amuse myself sufficiently upon my arrival. What I don't know, though, that's keeping me from doing it, is if after making the ride there and spending some time seeing the sights, I'll have the energy and requisite alertness to make the ride back.

There have been times in the car on long trips when I've felt myself nearly dozing and moving off course a little while snapping myself back to attention. On a bike the possibility of "error" would be of much more consequence. In the car, a nap at a rest area is doable. On the cycle that wouldn't quite work. Nor could I call anybody and ask him to help me stay awake for a while, reach for snacks and sips of soda, listen to the radio or CB, nor engage in other small distractions to maintain my overall focus. I don't want to end up in a town a few hours away only to realize that I don't feel up to making the ride back.

So, how far is far enough and how far is too far? Maybe I'll discover that sometime this summer after school's out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Welcome Jim!

Welcome Jim, to the wonderful world of scooter blogging! I checked his profile on Blogger a number of times since he started commenting here in hopes that someday I'd see that he started a blog of his own. Today he dropped a comment to let us know that he has.

Check him out!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Out Riding

A fun day in Somerset, PA.


I'm sure the astute reader figured out that the little post above this text was also sent here from my phone. Joe P., if you think you know why I'm wearing the look of utter joy that I am and that it has little to do with the fact that I'm hovering over a 4 year old's bicycle, you're probably right. It was a wonderful day, and weekend!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Multimedia message (Posted by Phone)

6000 miles!


The picture and "6000 miles!" was posted from my cell phone yesterday evening as I turned the odometer over. I don't know what made me look down to see the approach at 5,999 because half the time I run with a turn signal on for miles before I glance at the panel at all. Whatever the reason, there I was on my way to nowhere in particular when I noticed the milestone number about to flip and fortuitously had a place to stop so I could take the picture. With these 6,000 and the 2,000 on the Fly I'm sure I'll have over 10,000 cycle miles in by summer's end. I know that won't be a lot compared to guys who've been riding for years, but for me? I'm happy to measure my success in nickels and dimes. They add up!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Two Years of Riding - 100th Post

In this past week I celebrated two years of being a scooter rider and one year of having the motorcycle endorsement on my license.  And with these words I pen my 100th post here. To be honest, when I started writing "Scootin' da Valley" I didn't know if I'd have anything much to say beyond that hello to the world in my inaugural post.  I still don't know if there's a genuine purpose to my writing this blog but I enjoy writing and sharing my pictures from the road, and I appreciate having you folks stopping by from time to time to see what I'm doing.

 Bringing the Fly50 home - May 7, 2007

When I started here I saw myself as some humble, inexperienced hobbit to Steve's ("Scooter in the Sticks") Gandalf.  Luckily for me, not long after my start, Paul ("Scootin' Fool") was here too - my trusted companion hobbit from a nearby village.  This hobbit I'll remain, plodding along and hoping from one day to the next to do something to earn at least my meals on the journey.  It's an unassuming road I scoot down.  My thoughts and my sights are familiar ones, at least in form, to most of yours.  To jump to another storybook, I guess what I do here is a lot like Piglet hollering, "Me too!"  I'm just yelling to the world that I like my life, and that rolling around on my two little wheels is part of what I like about it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Only in the Valley

I got this photo and text from my daughter's phone this afternoon: "Only in the valley would we consider this a method of 'fixing' things."

I love the valley. It's been my home all my life. I do get weary of its simplicity, though. I'm tired of hearing, "You should of went," and, "I seen it," from the great, great grandchildren of the coal miners who settled here, but who had at least the excuse of not having had the opportunity to learn correct English. I'm sick of being asked, "Can I get yuz (Plural of "you.") started wit [sic] some drinks?" when I go out to eat.

It's sad that my kid who's majoring in actuarial science still thinks of home as a place full of dunderheads who will never climb out of that coal mine. When I listen to the yard full of kids playing basketball in the neighbor's yard next door, though, I can't blame her. I think they're all going to grow up to be hydrant decorators too and unless somebody makes that pursuit into a reality TV show I don't think it's going to be all that lucrative in the long run. On the bright side, I do believe they have the full vocabulary for it already. They must be fast learners. Gifted, even! And to think, not one of them ever gets off the school bus with any books!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

This Had Better Be My Last Cell Phone Post

I'm not feeling terribly guilty about posting off topic because the weather's been crappy since the weekend and promises to be the same for some days to come.

I woke up yesterday with an indescribable feeling of dread. I guessed that I'd been dreaming about something unspeakable right before I awoke - so horrible that my conscious brain wouldn't allow me to remember it though my subconscious wouldn't let go of the associated horror. I walked around all day looking over my shoulder and feeling agitated and somewhat fearful for no reason that I could put a finger on at all except for believing that it had to have come from a dream. By the time I got out of work I knew I needed to do something positive to shake the awful mood - like get a new cell phone.

The rugged phone I looked at a while back when the wife and girls were upgrading theirs was the Samsung Rugby. It was on the market before the Motorola Tundra premiered and it looked like a good, substantial phone. The only things that turned me off to it originally were its proprietary charger/data/headset interface, and the fact that Samsung's keys wouldn't be as similar to the Motorola V365 that I was so accustomed to using. That and the less than nine hours of talk time to a charge, but no other phone in the world seemed to be able to outdo the V365 on that. And so, on Monday after work, I got myself a Rugby. For a few dollars less than I'd paid for the Tundra alone I got the Rugby, a bluetooth headset, a car charger, a 4 Gig expansion card, and a case, and I'll be getting two hefty rebates from AT&T.

I used it last night and all day today and I'm 80% used to it already. I was able to find a headset adapter that allows me to use all of my old wired headsets and a USB data cable at great prices. For now, I'm more than satisfied, and if I get as much quality out of this as I did from the V365 I'll be totally happy.

It was a decided bonus that the Rugby has a sturdy metal loop on the back. I was able to keep the string and bead that I had on the V365 to make it easier to remove it from its holster. The Tundra had no point of attachment for a strap of any kind, and that was another disappointment. I wanted to keep the string from the old Motorola as a reminder of the great times we'd had together. Yeah, I'm an old softie like that.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Back to the Brick

After wasting so many words on yesterday's post, the Tundra went back to the AT&T store this afternoon. Sigh! I'm gravely disappointed in the unit and in Motorola. So much for my brand loyalty getting me somewhere good.

On Friday evening the Tundra rebooted itself spontaneously once. I thought it was a fluke and kept on going, putting in hours of work with personalizing it and generally taking ownership. I like things just so and until I had everything the way I wanted it, there'd be no rest. Yesterday morning even as I was expecting a call I caught the screen going white out of the corner of my eye and saw that it was doing it again. I hunted online to see if there were any known issues and while the inexplicable rebooting wasn't listed, there was a big issue with Tundras hanging during the shut down sequence and freezing with GOODBYE on the screen. I hoped against all odds that the reboots were going to go away. They didn't, and this morning after it happened again, I figured I'd reboot the phone manually myself. You guessed it. It hung at GOODBYE and that was all it took to realize that it was time for me to say goodbye to it too. Subsequent online research revealed that one guy was on his fourth Tundra and it was buggy too. I'm sure I made the right move in returning it.

Nothing's ever easy, of course. My old V365 is apparently out of production and the local store couldn't get one if it wanted to. The AT&T website says it's available for me to upgrade (horizontally) to it, but they're "Temporarily out of stock," and I'm guessing that the condition isn't temporary. Worst of all, the manager at the store admitted to me that there isn't a phone that they stock that can boast a decent talk time between recharges. It seems that my girls and their generation have redefined the cell phone and made it into something that's good for texting, for playing music and games, but not for talking, and so the manufacturers have catered to them in creating the current line of cell phones that aren't really designed to be used as telephones, i.e, for talking much.


And so I'm back to using "The Brick" as it was affectionately called online by others who loved it too. I have my daughter's old V365 that she upgraded from some months ago. It might be ancient by today's standards, but it's like the old brown shoe. It's a comfortable fit. I had the presence of mind when she bequeathed it to me as a backup to copy all of my contacts, ringtones, and pictures over, and I charged it every week. It was good to go as soon as I decided that the Tundra was going back.

If you're going to recommend a phone, I want something with a long talk time between charges (5+ hours), a 2.5 mm headset jack, and a mini USB charge port, and I don't want to buy it on Ebay from some guy in the UK named Shanuib.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Unwelcome Change

I'm a creature of great habit. At best, I view change suspiciously when there's a choice involved in a change. At worst, I go kicking and screaming into change of the unavoidable sort. That might seem contradictory because I never motored on two wheels until two years ago and that was by choice, but I assure you that that was a noteworthy exception to what's mostly a rule. (Okay, Joe P., I know what you're thinking, but really - I'm set in my ways for the most part.) Thus, when the speaker in my trusted and beloved cell phone of the past two years stopped working yesterday morning, I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut because I knew that a significant change was inevitable.

I loved my Motorola V365 and when I was eligible for an upgrade last August I didn't even consider swapping it. It had all the features I wanted in a phone, and then some, and it had an unheard of talk time of nine hours on a single charge. I looked at what AT&T was offering every now and then, figuring that some day the V365 would conk out. Knowing that I'd be brand loyal when the time came, I studied the Motorolas, but none of them did anything for me - until the Tundra became available not long ago. I might have jumped on it, but I really wasn't ready to part with the old one which had served me very well. Besides, there was a huge and significant difference - the Tundra didn't have a 2.5mm headset jack and I'd grown accustomed to doing most of my talking with a headset. On the other hand, the Tundra's a man's phone. It's a substantial handful and I like that. It was the only phone I considered as a worthy replacement for the phone on which I'd spent 62 days' worth of talk time over the course of the past nearly two years.

After a full day of playing with it, there are some features I'm going to miss terribly that it doesn't have. The V365 was chock full of more options than the average bear would ever consider even trying. I probably tried every one of them and even on Friday when I had to part with it there were things I'd probably have changed again by way of totally personalizing it to suit me perfectly. On the bright side, I was able to find a variety of wired headsets designed to interface with the Tundra's mini USB port so the biggest change that I'd dreaded isn't a problem. It's going to take some getting used to, but I think I'll come to love it.

Oh! It takes a decent picture, too, for a cell phone. Here I am, through its eye, with the camera that's usually glued to my hip and with which I take about 98% of the pictures that make their way here.


I was incensed when I came out of Wal-Mart this afternoon and saw this...

Not only was the handicap scooter parked behind the motorcycle and blocking it into the small space, but even as I sat there firing up the BV I watched a guy put the shopping cart right in front of the bike. (If he hadn't been much larger than I, I'd have said something nasty to him.) I'm really sick and tired of seeing too many of what I'd call "Welfare Mamas" who don't appear to be truly handicapped riding those things through Wal-Mart with their dirty little offspring running through the aisles throwing things around and acting generally uncivilized. While I'm on Wal-Mart have you noticed that they don't really care at all about customer service any more? They have 20 register stations and about four of them open on a shift regardless of the wait times. And, does there always have to be some kids' sports group huckstering its wares at the main entrance?

On the brighter side of things, I happened to roll into Sheetz for gas just as the big truck was filling the tanks. I like those colorful trucks of theirs. For some reason seeing one always puts a big smile on my face.

And even better than that? Getting to Krispy Kreme while the HOT DONUTS sign was lit and watching the little guys being made!

I suppose it's the ups and downs of life that make it interesting, but I do prefer those ups!