Monday, September 28, 2009


By now I really ought to know better and dress in one layer more than I think I'm going to need when I go out riding in the evening at this time of year.  It's my third Autumn on two wheels and I should remember that it gets colder than I think it's going to when the sun starts setting, but I don't.

I left the house after supper in a flannel shirt with the temperature in the mid 60s.  A few miles out I had to stop to button the sleeves and by the time I decided I needed to turn around and start making my way back I knew I should have brought a jacket along.  I kept my fluorescent yellow/green one under the seat until the last repair run and never put it back in there after the bike came back.  Guess now with the smell of wood fires in the air I'll think twice about my invincibility to the temperature.  Or maybe I won't and continue to pretend that Summer's still with us at least in spirit while chattering my teeth along the way.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More About Being

My rides of late have become more about being places than going places. I think I've finally realized that until I decide to do some serious expansion on my self imposed mental limit of what constitutes a reasonable distance to travel on the scooter I'm pretty much bound to riding "in the box" so to speak. I rarely venture more than about 20 miles from the house these days. I'd not say that I'm having any less fun riding the scooter, yet when I need to go out somewhere I find myself heading toward the car more often than before.

Yesterday promised to be dry at least till around noon, so having the day all to myself because of the daughter's bridal shower being hosted by her future mother-in-law, out of town, I knew I needed to take advantage of the opportunity to ride before the showers of the wet variety hit. Having nowhere in particular that I needed to go I decided to take the long way along a country road to a local orchard to get a jug of their fresh cider though I could have gotten one of their half gallons at the supermarket around the corner.

It was the evening of October 29th in my sophomore year of high school when I played the accordion at a senior citizens' center for their Halloween party. I'd had a glass or two of cider while I entertained the cute old folks who'd dressed up in their odd assortment of costumes. That night I awoke sometime between midnight and morning with an agonizing pain. Noon the next day I was undergoing emergency surgery. From that night on I couldn't so much as look at a cup of cider because I'd somehow associated it with the pain and the resulting operation. It wasn't until last year when I took a sip of the stuff right from the orchard's cider press that I regained my taste for it.

I wrote about my scooter dream here a few posts back. I remember only vaguely another one that I had last night or the night before. I'd put the scooter down at a familiar and often traveled intersection. Somehow I managed, while the machine tumbled onto its side, to scramble out of the saddle so that when it had hit the pavement I was standing beside it on my feet. There's a dream that I hope won't be coming true!

I'm afraid that short sleeved riding will be a thing of the past in a week or so. It felt good today, even down by the river, but I could tell that my days are numbered.

I've had this final picture on my drive for over a month now. When I snapped it, I was sure there was something I wanted to say about it. Now? I'll be darned if I can remember what it might have been that I'd thought so post worthy at the time.

I believe it might have had something to do with how all of us, as little boys, had such an attraction to big trucks, especially fire trucks with their screaming sirens, blasting air horns, and the general excitement one felt when one of them thundered by. There's still a temptation in me when I see a dinosaur like this one to get behind the wheel, check over my shoulders to make sure there isn't another soul in sight, and give it my best "Vrrrroooooom! Vrrrroooooom!" sound while racing to some imaginary fire.

Well, there you have it - the best I've been able to crank out lately. I've been wanting to write, but when I sit down here to put the pen to paper - the fingers to the keys - I realize that there isn't anything upstairs for my brain to deliver to my hands. It's not like I'm going to stop trying, though!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Western Weekend

It was another weekend out west - western Pennsylvania, that is - my first since school started and I had a grand time as usual, some of it just doing plenty of nothing all over the place. How I wish I could ride around out there on a scooter. Many of the local roads seem to be made for two wheeled riding with lots of twisties and gorgeous scenery everywhere the eye can see!

We stopped by at an auction where I saw these little guys. They didn't appear to be street legal with their tiny little headlights and lack of mirrors but they sure were cute.

Photo by Susan

Not far from there we met up with another pair of cuties. I approached their enclosure with camera in hand, about 20 feet away from them, and they both came trotting down to where I was standing, smiling and snorting like a couple of excited puppies might have done. I wanted to pet them but the electrified fence kept my hands outside.

Photo by Susan

When I'm out there I hear trains often enough as they roll through the downtown with their horns blowing. This time when we heard one we had nothing else to do than hop into the car and chase it. We caught up with the tail end as it was leaving town and with the GPS in hand I was able to follow the map of the rails to a crossing a few miles away. We beat the train by a few minutes and I was able to get this shot as it came blazing through.

When the train passed these bikers came through the crossing. I'm not typically one to admire patriotism worn all over somebody's sleeve, but the sight of the large American flag on the back of the bike stirred me.

On the way to the crossing we'd seen a sign indicating that there was a covered bridge to be visited down a small side road. We took the turn on the way back. The covered bridge was a nice one, but the sight of this beauty outside a V.F.W. hall was much more impressive.

I'll be heading back out there in three weeks or so and by then most of the leaves will probably be wearing their spectacular fall colors. Meanwhile I'll do as much riding as I can get in before it's time to plug the BV into the battery tender, cover her up, and wait for the spring thaw.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Swing Ride

I wish all the time that I could go back in time to grab pictures from my life that I wish had been taken. I have these scenarios in my head - some of them memories, and others simply vignettes of life as I wish it had played itself out. One such photo that I'd loved to hold in my hand to pore over time and time again would be one of my grandma and me on her back porch swing, she cutting a ripe peach into slices for us both. Actually, it's not so much desiring the photo itself that I long for, but to go back to that moment as I remember it frozen in time - a summer afternoon like any other except for my memory of her and me swinging back and forth slowly and eating that peach one patient slice at a time as if life would last forever and there was nowhere we needed to be but right then and there to create that memory that would last me a lifetime.

It was a ride on a similar swing last evening that brought back the crystal clear memory of that moment from my childhood - no doubt from when I was even too young to be in school. I never ride in a wooden slat swing on chains without remembering Grandma and that peach and wishing that she and I could do it all over again. The older I get the more and more I wish I could go back to such simple times and places as those in which I grew up. As I find so often, the scenes I want to revisit aren't by any objective standard special. They're plain. Simple. Nobody except myself would understand what about them remains so precious years and years later, and sometimes, like right now, even I couldn't explain why they stand out as they do in my heart.

I was my grandma's favorite. I was her first grandchild. She never took me anywhere fantastic nor did I share with her even a single moment that anybody on the outside looking in might think of as something that would stand out as significant. Yet, my memories of the times I spent with her, doing the simplest of things, are among the best I have of growing up and becoming who I grew up to be.

I don't remember the email that ends with the end of somebody's life in which he exclaims right before checking out, "That was one hell of a ride," but I'd like to think that Grandma left us thinking just that. I hope she loved her life as much as she loved me and that the first thing she said to our God when she met Him face to face was, "Thank You," for having created her and given her the life she shared with all of us. If I were to clutch my chest at the end of this sentence and find myself on the other side of life, that's the first thing I'd say to Him for having blessed me with the life I've had - a life in which the memory of eating a single peach with somebody who loved me could stand out as something almost sacred.

For now, I'll keep riding for as long as He allows - on swings, on wheels, on life itself, and I'll keep making memories of being loved in the most simple of life's places and times. And at the end I'll want to make a photo album if He'll let me, on the other side. One that I can take to Him, sit on His lap and point to each of the pictures, and say, "Thank You for that, and that, and that!" If I'm really lucky, He'll slice us a peach, and grandma will be there too, and we'll all be on the neatest back porch swing ever made.

The last picture taken of grandma and me. Three months later she left us.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Scooter Dream

I'd deny dreaming often except for the body of documented research that says that we all dream every night but simply don't remember most of our dreams. I suppose in my case that forgetting is a good thing because I can remember in lurid, horrifying detail some of the nightmares I had before I was even old enough to go to school. It's rare that I can awaken on any particular morning with any recollection of even a wisp of a dream, but this morning I came awake remembering quite a bit about a dream in which I was riding a scooter.

Now, remember, this is a dream so what I was riding wasn't just any scooter. It was an awesome one! It was the City of Wilkes-Barre's street cleaning scooter! The city, during waking hours, actually has those big white monstrosities that most municipalities have with the huge brushes (that seem to move street dirt around without actually picking it up) and operator's controls on both sides of the cab. At night, however, in scooter riders' dreams, the city brings out the cherry red monster scooters with single brushes beneath them, and last night it was my turn to clean the streets.

The scooter itself was enormous. Thank God I hadn't had to slow enough to had to have to put my feet down because I'd have gone over in a heartbeat. For scale purposes I doctored this image of my old Fly50 to show you the approximate size of the street cleaning scooter compared to the diminutive stance of its operator.

I distinctly recall someone in the dream calling out to me, "How did you learn to ride that?" as well as my response: "I started on a much smaller scooter, learned on that, and then worked my way up!" I remember riding for a while over the tree lawn near the river before making my way onto the street. At that point I woke up which was good because if I had looked for the switch to have started up that big brush under the scooter, well - I can't imagine that my balance would have been maintained much longer. One of my big clod hoppers would have had to have come down and disaster would have been right on its heels.

I rolled over and went back to sleep. Sometime between then and when my alarm went off I dropped by my deceased father-in-law's house for a beer at lunchtime on a work day. He waved to me as I made my way to his refrigerator for a cold one. He looked remarkably good for having been departed for five years.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Little Rain Didn't Stop Me

I woke up to rain this morning. The forecast on Yahoo and the Doppler radar image from the local TV station promised more of it. I went riding anyway! After not having had the BV for a week it would have taken a deluge to have kept me in the house. Okay, so I only rode for an hour because there were groceries to get and put away, a tux to rent, two pans of lasagna to start, and a pot of chicken soup to get made, but ride I did! For the record, I usually stay off the bike when it's raining not because I'm wary of riding in it. I just don't like to be cold and wet.

As in the winter when there's a break from the snow and other slippery stuff and I can sneak out for a ride, today's excursion was extra good because of the involuntary hiatus while the bike was in the shop. I didn't go far nor to anywhere particularly exciting, but it felt darned good to be out and about on two wheels again!

There was a decided seasonable chill in the air and I enjoyed it. Though the leaves aren't quite changing en masse yet there were a few patches of early changers that delighted me. Strangely, the sight of the empty parking lot at one of the municipal parks that I frequently haunt in the summer filled me with a certain glee as it sunk in that Fall is surely just around the corner.

Tomorrow is part of family weekend at the college and the trip out to see the kid will take up most of the day so there won't be much riding. During the week, if I'm lucky, the weather will allow me to ride to school and back most days. Next weekend, I'll be on the road out west again. The weekend after, though, ought to be a good one for a longer trip - maybe my last one before the drear of pre-winter starts to visit. For not having gotten on a cycle till my late 40's I'll always feel like I have so much time to make up for. I'll take what I can get when I can!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Let's Try Again

I wasn't a happy camper this morning when I sat in a lawn chair right where the BV should have been parked, sipping my morning coffee and yakking on the phone. It had been six days ago (Okay, counting the weekend and holiday, so it had only really been three working days.) when I dropped it off at the shop and having endured day after day of "Sorry, nothing yet," my patience had run so thin that it only had one side. I wasn't really mad at the folks at the garage. I was more angry with the bike itself for giving me grief and then refusing to duplicate the problem when it was in the right place to be fixed.

When I had spoken to Jennifer yesterday, she was as frustrated as I was. They'd had it out a number of times and had put a few good miles on it hoping for it to stall as it had for me, but try as they might they couldn't get it to do the rough idling and stalling at all. All Jennifer and I could come up with is that maybe I'd managed to get a bad tank of gas so I asked her to have the guys drain the tank, clean out the carburetor and refill it with fresh gas. When I talked to her at lunch time today, she told me to come and get it which I did after school in spite of the slow but steady rain that was falling.

I was wet when I got back to the house, but it was a good wet because my baby was back. and she had purred all the way back from the shop. It took about three hours on the road last week after picking it up before the trouble had started again so I'm still not sure that I'm out of the woods, but when I get the chance and it stops raining I'll put it through the paces and see what's up. Meanwhile I'm happy enough just knowing it's out there under the deck where it belongs.

Who was it in the comments who had suggested bad gas? I don't remember, but I'll have to think of a suitable prize for that road scholar.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Summer's End

I heard one of the local meteorologists remind us last week that with August's passing came the end of meteorological summer. I read an article on CNN a few days ago suggesting that this year's summer that wasn't was the result of a number of interconnected factors, among them cooler than typical temperatures, the state of the economy, and our having been bombarded with the deaths of a number of big names all within the space of a few weeks. Then there was my return to school for the 45th time in my 51 years - a sure herald of summer's demise. We might get a week or two of Indian Summer before jacket weather comes around for good, but it's Labor Day, and for all intents and purposes the summer of 2009 is over.

I commented today that by the callouses on my hands it seems like I didn't ride as much this year as I did last. That was confirmed when I was reminded that I caught hell a lot last year for spending as much as I had on gas. It seemed like I rode as much, especially in the spring when I took the bike out at every opportunity, but the evidence says I didn't. I know some of it was the fear that stuck with me long after I locked the front brake coming down an expressway ramp too fast and fell over unceremoniously. The rest, though? I'm not sure. I suppose part of it is simply being weary of riding the same roads all the time and not having enough of a desire to go farther just for the sake of doing it, and I'd guess that another part of the puzzle is not having had somebody behind me as much as I did last year. Riding solo seems a little sad at times. It's one of those things that's so much fun to do that it's best done when the thrill can be shared.

Still No Bike

The BV went back to the shop on Saturday morning and at best I hope it'll be done tomorrow with a definitive fix to the stalling that plagued me for the past week. I have two evening events at the school this week and I'd much prefer to take the cycle on which I can arrive at the last minute without having to worry about finding a parking space than to have to get there extra early in the car just to find somewhere to put it.

Ever have a memory of a place that seemed a lot richer than the reality? All summer I'd been meaning to get back to a spot about 30 miles out so I could get a picture of the BV in front of an old storefront that I'd remembered as looking as if it had served its last 7-UP right about when Jan Brady was the girl I wanted to marry. When I rolled past it on Sunday in the car, though, I was terribly disappointed. Not only was it on the wrong side of the road according to my memory, but it was much more covered over with greenery than to lend itself to a nice picture. I guess I'm glad I never made the trip back there on the bike to take the picture I'd hoped to get, but now I'm disappointed that I'll never get that shot as I saw it in my mind's eye.

And, by the way, after this year's cool summer I don't want to hear another tree hugger crying about global warming. Greenhouse gases? Bring on the baked beans! They'll be perfect for a picnic! Sigh... Next summer.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Not Quite

I dropped the bike off to get serviced yesterday and to my great surprise it was ready today at 1 PM. They said it was the spark plug that had been causing the rough idle and stalling. I rode around for hours, pretty much from when I picked it up around 1:30 until a little while ago when I came back to the house to grab supper, and it purred like a kitten the whole time - until about a block before I got here at which point it once again died in mid stride. After that it stalled about four more times before I parked it in the yard. Now I'll probably have to wait till after the holiday weekend to take it back. So much for it just being the spark plug, but at least the inspection and oil change are done.

I changed into the right shirt after work. I'll be needing the Psych Ward if I have to keep taking the BV back and forth to the shop!

Riding behind this Voyager today, I was puzzled.

I intend no disrespect to the guy's dead mom and dad, but what exactly is in memory of his parents? The vehicle itself? Somehow it's supposed to be a testimony to their former corporeal existence while he drives around? His motoring about is supposed to honor them in some way? I don't get it! I could understand if he donated a car to charity in their memory and posted a little plaque on it, but to slap "IN MEMORY OF MY PARENTS" on his own back window doesn't seem to memorialize them at all. Does it? Am I missing something obvious here?

I'll bet that if I had caught up with him and asked, "What's in memory of your parents?" he'd have looked at me and uttered a single, very confused, "Huh?" At that point, we'd have been even.

I saw this Ferris wheel this afternoon and was instantly transported back in time a month. There I was in the last week of July at the tippy top of a Ferris wheel miles and miles away from here, feeling like I was on top of the world.

I'm happy being back at school, but distinct, crystal clear memories like this one of summer make my heart ache to have just a little more of that free time that I'd taken for granted. I fear that in spite of being a good one, it's going to be a very long year. I'll do better if I don't see too many more Ferris wheels or other summery things for a while. Well, except for a scooter that works reliably!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Putt Putt

I've been grounded. I took the BV to work on Monday and it stalled three times on the way there. I'd hoped it was just the cooler morning temperature somehow affecting things, but I stalled coming back to the house in the warm afternoon sun too. It seems that the idle is either too low or choppy or both and I don't know anything at all about internal combustion engines so I can't even hazard a guess as to what it might need. I'll hobble it down to Team Effort next week, after payday. You can suggest things if you're cycle savvy, but I'm not digging in under the plastic myself. It figures - conditions for riding this week are picture perfect, but here I am with a bike that I'm afraid to ride for fear of getting stranded if it should stall and then not want to start back up.

After all the moaning I did about going back to school, I've been glad to be back. Okay, it's only been three days so far with 177 more to go, but I like it!