Saturday, September 10, 2011

Nature Comes Calling

I was away on August 23rd when an earthquake struck in Virginia.  When I got a call to ask me if I'd felt it, I had to admit that I hadn't because I'd been in the car for much of the day, but it had been felt here in the valley as well as in the western county where I was staying.

Five days later, Hurricane Irene hit Jersey, one state to the east.  We caught the edge of it and it came with some mighty winds and rain in biblical proportions.  Trees fell.  Big things got blown around.  Some folks were left without power for a week or longer as electric companies worked around the clock to restore service as fast as they claimed they could.  I was stuck taking the car to work instead of the scooter.

Roots and all came right up as Hurricane Irene's caboose rolled through.
Advance the clock a week and in came Tropical Storm Lee to further drench an already saturated northeastern Pennsylvania and cause catastrophic flooding throughout the valley and within feet of my own house.  With just about every other school district around for miles closed down tight for two days, mine stayed open.

Thank God for the arrival of the fall beers, just in time, at the local distributor!

My house is four doors away from here, but we didn't flood
in the" big one of '72" so the neighbors and I stayed put.
I generally mark the official arrival of winter by the closing of the gates at the county sports complex near the Forty Fort airport, and likewise I celebrate the arrival of spring, regardless of what the calendar says, by the opening of those same gates.  Today, on my approach to said portal, I was stopped in my tracks by this stretch of flooding.

Although a county pick-up truck went through the water on the roadway and made it to dry land further down, I wasn't going to risk trying to take the BV through it only to have it stall with me in the middle.  I don't know enough about internal combustion engines to know how deep water has to be before a scooter's engine might fail.

Here's hoping that nature will take her mischief to somewhere else for a while.  A week or so of pure sunshine would be much appreciated.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Happy New Year?

Last month, I believe, was my longest, official dry spell here.  

This was not the summer I had looked forward to as the dark, short days of the past winter began growing longer and lighter.  Not at all.  I did not measure it in scooter rides as I did the past few summers since I started riding on two wheels.  I measured too much of it in personal heartache and self-pity.

I had planned, as the freedom of summer vacation drew nigh, for three delicious weeks away, free from all concerns, cares, and worries.  It was in the middle of the first of those vacation weeks, only days after school let out, when I received the news that I was being reassigned to a different school.  It was the biggest kick in the gut of my career and within seconds of hearing of my being moved everything changed in an instant.  It was as if the opposite of rose colored glasses fell onto the bridge of my nose.  After four years, the school in which I had been serving had finally come to feel like home to me, but now, I was going to be a stranger in a strange land.  I sank deep as the words of my new assignment hit me, in spite of being surrounded by as much love in which I could completely immerse myself.

I thought of the work that would lie ahead of me.  Thousands of pounds of things would need to pass through my hands, one at a time, as I'd pack up my old classroom and discard things I'd accumulated that I'd decide not to take with me.  Boxes and boxes would need to be hand trucked down three floors (Thank God for the elevator!) and down a final flight of stairs to the parking lot where they'd be packed into my daughter's Jeep and then my car.  They'd need to be driven miles to the new place, and taken into the building to be unpacked, again, one item at a time.  My heart and my head reeled especially during those first days after learning my unwelcome fate.  Worst of all, I'd have to tear myself from the love and support in which I was basking, to come back here and begin the move.

You might recall if you pop in here from time to time that I wrote about this move before.  I had, though, the whole summer more or less to try to come to terms with it all, and as the time grew closer for me to start up anew I had neither the energy nor the spirit with which to do it.  I crawled through the muck of my heavy heart in setting up a new room and trying to draw from within myself the ambition to keep moving.  I took scooter rides, but they did little to raise my spirit, never mind inspire me to write anything good about them.  I spent my other two weeks away, plus a bonus one of a four days right before going back to school, and during them I did my best to try to stay upbeat.  Luckily, when I failed miserably, I was supported and nurtured and given as much good and love that I could possibly hope to feel.

It was when returning to the valley after my third week away that I prayed much of the way that the Neon would make it, without leaving me stranded somewhere along the 240 mile drive.  Days later I would part with my beloved Neon, the first car which had ever been wholly and entirely mine, and despite the excitement of picking out its replacement, I dealt with the compounded sadness I was feeling overall.

I replaced the Neon with an Impala.  I had test driven a Cobalt the day before learning of the Impala's availability, and while it rode nicely and had more seeming power going uphill than the Neon, I looked down at one point to see the knobs of the window cranks and knew that I didn't want it.  It would be little more than another Neon with the manual windows and door locks.  I wanted something better.  And for all the crap I was dealing with in my pathetic heart, I felt I needed it to pick me up.  I had the pleasure of taking my last little vacation trip of the summer in it and rejoiced because if I had looked to get the Neon fixed instead of replacing it, I might not have been able to make the trip at all.

When I got back to the valley, our opening faculty meeting was the next day.  I was greatly relieved when I saw the wonderful relationship my new colleagues have with each other.  I knew it was a great school and expected that everybody would be a proud member of the team.  Nevertheless, to have it confirmed was very good.

After the meeting I paid a final visit to the old school, to see what the new teacher might have done to my old room.  My jaw had almost hit the floor when I had discovered two weeks before that it had been totally emptied so that it could be painted.  If I had not been moved, I'd have not been able to make that last trip I took, because, with the painting, that's the week I'd have had to spend in getting my old classroom ready to start the new year.  There!  A silver lining!  And, believe me; I needed one.

One of the highlights of the new place?  Look at where my scooter's parked.  Right outside my classroom!  And I have my own outside door right there at the end of the stack of books.  I've spent the past week with my new kids, and we all seem to be quite happy together.  The commute is a little longer than in the past, but with the scooter it's fun ride up the side of a  mountain with cool twisties.  I'll be hoping for a good number of scooter days before the roads start to get iffy with the kind of weather that winter here usually deals us.

So, no, it was not the summer I had wanted as April turned into May and then May into June.  There was not a single, truly liberating scooter ride of the sorts that I'd enjoyed for the past few summer vacations, because every one of them brought me right back to the angst and the hard work of moving.  As we head into September I'm hoping that the feeling of being overwhelmed by new ways of doing things will fade and that I'll soon feel a comfortable familiarity as I go from day to day toward a June that I need more than ever.  I will admit that I'm already longing for that last day of the school year to arrive.  I am starving and parched for the summer I had hoped to have with more long trips to where I feel more at home than I do in my own skin most days.  Meanwhile, I hope to make the year for my young charges an unforgettably great one!

Oh!  They think I'm awesome because I come to school on a motorcycle. Shhhhhh!  Scooter?  What's that?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Vehicular Anthropomorphism - A Farewell

It was ironic that in my last post, before I left town for the last of my long, summer get-aways, I mentioned the fear of breaking down with the scooter because before it was time for me to make my way back East to the valley I had misgivings as to whether or not my Neon was going to make the return trip.  Its little transmission had been sputtering to some degree since school got out in mid June, but when it started groaning whenever the gas pedal was applied, that old blinking light in the back of the brain started flashing.  I could probably sink a few hundreds or better into it to fix the tranny and manifold, but I had it for nine of its 13 years and it served me very well.  Perhaps it was time to let it retire.

Here I am the day I pulled the Neon up to the curb for the very first time when I brought it home in April of 2002.  It was the only car I'd owned in my entire life that didn't have somebody else's name on the title too.

Tomorrow at around 9 AM I'll trade in the Neon and pick up an Impala.  I know there will be some tears shed before I crank over the engine in the Neon for the last time.  I emptied it out this afternoon and it felt like I was deserting an old friend.  I went to many special places in this car, and to many memorable events. I transported those most dear to me in it time and time again.  It felt like an extension of my own self when I got behind the wheel, and on those occasions when somebody else needed to run it, I held my breath most times until it was back, safe in its usual parking spot on the street.

I'm sure there will be some rejoicing when I get behind the wheel of the Impala and point it in this direction tomorrow morning.  I'll feel like a kid with a new toy the whole way back to the house.  But, I know just as certainly that when I'm leaving the car lot with it, I'll be looking behind for one last glance at my beloved Neon as I leave it behind.

I'll hope somebody will buy it and fix it and run it for a few good years, but if that won't be the case I'd rather not know that it made its last good run ever on Sunday.

Nine years later, and I think the car looks less worn from the ride than I do.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gone Fishin'

Okay, for starters, I'm not going fishing.  I only did that a few times in my life and never seriously.  I remember catching a few sunnies once, but it was total luck because my attention was positively riveted on my girlfriend in her yellow bikini and it was surprising that the sound of my heart beating didn't scare all the fish away.  Gee, I love when memories like these pop up, even if they distract me a bit.

I will be gone, though, for the coming week, taking what will be my last "week off" before I have to start thinking about and planning for the upcoming school year in earnest.  Tomorrow's the first of August and in exactly four weeks from today I'll be lamenting that it's the last day of summer vacation.  My closest friend reminded me even before I leave that I need to concentrate on enjoying my time away instead of acting as if the first day of school is tomorrow.  He knows me so well with my tendency to start getting ready for a funeral before there's even a corpse.  I plan to take his advice to the best of my ability.

I had, in the months that made last winter so dreary, day dreamed about taking the scooter on my trip this time, a trip that's 240 miles one way.  I know that some of the die hard scooterists out there would think nothing of making a trip of this magnitude on a scooter, but as the time to think about it hard and fast came around, I found myself balking once more.  With the amount of stuff I take with me, and a lot of it in the form of rather expensive electronics, I need the space the car provides.  Well, at least that's one of my better excuses.  Closer to the truth is, I'm just afraid of breaking down somewhere.  It's not like the average tow truck operator is going to know where to take a Piaggio scooter for servicing if they pick it up.  And, it's not like I'd be able to get to and from a motel if I needed to spend a night somewhere because the scooter's in the shop.  Then there's my all time scootering nemesis - rain.  It pops up anytime it feels like, even when the National Weather Service and the other weather forecasters are predicting plenty o' sunshine.

Yes, it's obviously an older picture.

If I have a chance to putz with the netbook while I'm away I might pop in to say hello, or at least you might see a new picture down there to the right as the "Latest Webcam Image."  If not, I'll be back next weekend with maybe a picture or two that are worth sharing.  In the mean time, take care of yourselves, and I'll see you soon!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Pumpkin Road

After years of bottles and diapers, and then many more of tooth pulling, middle of the night fevers, school projects, birthday sleep-overs, whole bunches of school functions, college searches, moving into dorms, and the like, I could never understand the persons who get to be around my age and have grandchildren on the brain.  With a married daughter, I am the proud grandpa of a beautiful orange grand kitty, and that's enough for me right now.  She doesn't have to sleep over here when mom and dad need an evening to themselves.  I don't have to take her to the park and push her on the swings.  I don't have to go shopping when her birthday is coming up, nor for Christmas in her regard.  Why would I, or anyone, want to take on the duties and responsibilities of tending to somebody else's kid, whether or not it's blessed with a bit of one's own DNA?

The understanding all came to me in a flash a few days ago when I came upon this place and paused to take this picture.  I had intended simply to e-mail it to my girls to see if they would remember it, but as I sat there with the Piaggio's engine idling there was enough time, unfortunately, for me to feel a tug at my heartstrings in the realization that my important time as a daddy is in the past.  Oh, to be sure, my daughters and I continue to have some great times together, but there was a kind of magic that was put to bed somewhere through the years that makes me think of and feel the impact behind Thomas Wolfe's immortal, "You can't go home again."  The magic of places like this one, I imagine, is why some folks my age are hell-bent on getting their mitts on a few grandkids - to relive some of the times they enjoyed the most in raising their own children.

This was where, every year, a few weeks before Halloween, we bought our pumpkins for carving.  Then it was a farmer's stand where a kindly old woman with weathered, leathery skin and a soft voice sold late harvest veggies along with gourds, cornstalks, and, of course, the all important Halloween pumpkins.  Now, it's just a vacant shack sitting there on Eighth Street.  I don't know if either of my girls knows the actual name of the road.  To them it was just, "The pumpkin road," and if I referred to it even today as that I'm sure that each of them would know exactly where I mean.

They were special times back then, but they have passed.  Even if I had a few wee grandkids climbing up my legs in eager anticipation of being taken somewhere fun, there are some memories of my own that I could never re-create with them because the places where those memories were made are long gone or shadows of their former selves.  I could try with all my might to pretend that I am 30 years younger, but the illusion would not last very long.  What was, was.  What will be, will be, but without the pretense that I could somehow relive a portion of my life by trying to make tomorrow into what belongs to yesterday.

When I was a young schoolboy my own beloved grandfather carved some awesomely wicked pumpkins with apple cores for eyeballs and green beans for the brows, a long red pepper for a nose, two halves of a green bell pepper for ears, steel wool for hair, and I don't remember what for a mouth.  He made one for my kindergarten class and I felt like I was the king for a day in that classroom the day he brought it in.  But, never did I try to duplicate grandpa's annual creations because I knew that in doing so I would be trying to bring him back, and that ultimately I would be disappointed when he would fail to materialize. 

Maybe someday I will have those grandchildren and take them to places that will feel magical to them, and if I'm really lucky perhaps to me as well.  I will remember to love them for who they are rather then just as little cast members in some shadowbox performance in which I try to pretend that I am 30 years younger than my gray beard would prove me to be.  I will hope to create for them memories that they will cling to all their lives, maybe in passing by a familiar place on occasion and remembering, Grandpa used to bring us here, with smiles on their faces and maybe a little bit of that heaviness of heart that reminds one that life is good when we are loved and have memories that are worth keeping.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Order in the Court

I left the house yesterday, intending to ride for about an hour because later I'd need to pick my daughter up for her grand homecoming from California and wanted to rest a bit before having to head up I-81 to the airport.  As usual, I pulled onto the street having no idea whatsoever of where I'd go.  I made my way to where I'd cross the  Susquehanna River, figuring along the way that I'd take the frequent, relaxing ride up and down the rather flat main stretch of the west side of the valley, and put myself into the rightmost lane which would allow me to go straight across the bridge when I got the green light.  After a full traffic light cycle it occurred to me that the roadway sensors weren't picking up the BV because while the traffic coming east obviously got the green, I never did.  

While I had been idling there waiting for the light, I spied a bench next to the Luzerne County courthouse and thought about making my way to it so I could make a phone call, but getting there would necessitate a left turn and I was two lanes away and on a hill; I couldn't back up and switch lanes because of the decline.  Thus, when it dawned on me that I wasn't going to get the green unless a car came up behind me to trip the sensor, I made the right turn on red and then a U-turn to get to where I might gain access to the bench.  I found a cut in the curb just past the courthouse and assumed it was a driveway that would get me around the building to where I wanted to park the scooter and sit for a while to gab, but as I made the turn and rode across the south face of the courthouse itself I realized that what I'd ridden through was the cut for wheelchairs at the pedestrian crossing.  To my great delight, though, I found a beautiful flower garden on the south lawn of the courthouse.  Just a mile from where I hang my hat, and I never knew that this garden existed! If anybody else had been there afoot I'd have immediately left the area rather than to park the bike, but with the area being deserted except for me I could make my call and get some pretty pictures too.  

There has been a lot of corruption in this courthouse over the past few years.  To our shame, the county has been in the national news because of the heinous criminal actions of a few our our judges and other local, public officials.  The beauty of the edifice (even with the ongoing construction project) and its surroundings, nonetheless, shined through on this particular Sunday afternoon.

I suppose I will never understand the love that some people have for politics because it was never a part of anything when I was growing up.  My dad voted, but there was never any family discussion of issues or candidates, or anything of the sort.  I poked fun at a schoolmate in college because on every election day we all knew he'd be one of those jerks at the polls who tries to stuff his little piece of cardboard in your hand to tell you for whom to vote (because, God forbid, you came to vote with some clear idea of whom YOU would like to have in office), and find myself now, some 30 years later, earning about half of what he makes in a job that he readily admits he got by being part of the political machine in the early 80s.  In retrospect, though, I don't know that I'd have changed a thing.  I got my job honestly, and I've loved it for most of my 29 years.  But, as usual I digress...

I don't know a darned thing about plants nor flowers, but I like that they're kind of miraculous when you think about them.  A lowly seed, which appears to be a dead thing, somehow springs into life and grows into something amazing to look at - and those of us with Faith know that that "somehow" means "by the hand of God."  Now if only the ACLU and other like-minded groups and individuals would allow God's hand beyond its garden and into the courthouse itself.

Justice?  Is there truly such a thing with plea bargains and juries who see insurance companies as just so many deep pockets to be dug into even when people are the victims of their own stupidity?  When lawyers keep for themselves ridiculous portions of the settlements for which they do little more than write some threatening letters?  When those who are most in need can't find help anywhere but the local criminal element can take what they do of the public dole with impunity?  Even when elected officials aren't corrupt, it's hard to have faith in our justice system.  In spite of it, though, I can't think of a better one, so we settle for the necessary evil we have, and use it to our advantage when there are pretty pictures to be gotten.

Lest I start to sound too much like the politicos down my nose at whom I look, I'll leave the diatribe behind and try to stick with "pretty" thoughts.  The time I spent on the sound side of the courthouse was very pleasant.  The tremendous heat wave had let up to a small degree and I was quite merrily savoring the respite.

And not another soul came around the whole time I spent there.  I tend to be a solitary person, especially when I'm surrounded by things which inspire the kind of feeling that's reservedly expressed when you're a 53 year old man and "expected" to act or not act in certain ways.  I was able to drink in deeply of the amazing beauty of the scene before me without feeling hampered by the presence of others.  No, I wasn't moved to tears or anything like that, but nonetheless what I was feeling would have been ruined if anyone else had come along.

I posed beside the memorial where the bell and anchors from the U. S. S. Wilkes-Barre are reposed. I read on the accompanying plaque the story of the ship and its participation in battle, but don't remember enough of it to recount here. It was credited with saving an aircraft carrier in some skirmish; that much I do recall. There's more than I care to read about it on Wikipedia. There is a Korean War Memorial nearby, along with a statue of a deer, and some monstrosity of a sculpture that I should have paid more attention to but didn't because the light was in a terrible place to get any good pictures of it. I'm sure there's a sweet, little, old lady somewhere in a nearby historical society who would be happy to bend and ear or a dozen to talk all about the various things on display there, but I'm much less ambitious than to find such a person and less so to listen to her lecture.

The experience downtown made me wonder about what other treasures hidden right here in my own basic neighborhood I might be missing.  I remind myself that I'm a visual creature - happy to see things that inspire emotions of varying kinds, but not so hot on doing any kind of research to learn about them unless they particularly interest me.  Don't get me wrong; I love education or I'd not be so happy in it as a career.  But, when I want to learn, I learn, and when I want to look at shiny things, (as my younger daughter would call things that demand one's visual attention in a good way), I don't want anybody infringing on my pleasure by seeking to educate me.

So if you happen to come upon me by chance someday to find me toeing the dirt around my scooter and taking pictures, please say, "Hello," but then shut up and go away.  Unless you happen to be on a scooter too.  Then, we'll talk!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Giant's Despair

An acquaintance from high school who is now a Facebook friend read something that I had posted on Facebook last week and suggested that I take the scooter for a ride up the mountain road that we call Giant's Despair.  it sounded like a good idea but I did not have the opportunity to make the ride until today.  When I set out this morning I almost turned back to the house because it was already in the 80s when I got up at six o'clock and even hotter when I rode the bike up from the yard to the street.  I realized, however, that it would get cooler once I got out of the city proper and kept on rolling.

It took me a few miles to get to the base of the mountain.  This is the view that greeted me as I paused to take a picture.  The southbound side of Interstate 81 is the overpass in the foreground.

The ride up the mountain was pleasant with lots of curves to make it interesting and fun.  There was nobody on my tail so I was able to ride at a comfortable speed and enjoy the scenery as well as the illusion of coolness as the air moved over me and through my helmet.  To be sure, it was hot, but I had been right in my assumption that I would feel a lot cooler once I got moving outside of the city.

When I got to the top I needed to decide which fork in the road to take.  Each one would take me to a familiar but different place.  I paused atop the overpass under which runs a set of railroad tracks while I thought about which way to go.  (Yes, trains also go up that mountain though along a much longer and twisted path so as to make the grade possible for them to climb.)  I opted for the left turn which would take me to route 115 at which point I would again need to decide if I wanted to go left and back down into the valley or right to face more decisions.  When I reached 115 I decided to go right and to head toward Penn Lake.

Again I traversed a rather pleasant portion of my ride enjoying the light traffic and the breeze.  The road leading to the lake also features a number of fun twisties and since I learned to lean this summer so as not to be hitting the brakes every time I approach a curve I had a lot more fun than I used to on roads like these.

Penn Lake brought back many wonderful memories though diaphanous ones rather than any that were specific.  The parents of one of my best friends from high school owned a cabin at the lake and our little gang of girls and guys who were inseparable then whiled away many a good summer day right there in the water.  I rode around the lake with a big smile on my face in remembering those times and those friends of mine who I still see on occasion from time to time.

Leaving the lake forced me once again to decide where to go.  I turned to the right from the access road to the lake and headed toward White Haven where yet another crossroads would greet me.  On rides like this one I have a general sense of about how far away places are because I've traveled these roads before well enough to know where I'm going but without knowing exactly when I will get to where I'm heading.  When the skies are blue and there isn't the slightest threat of a raindrop in sight, I kind of like not having to think about a timeline at all because the ride itself is what it's all about, and not the destination.  It took a while to get to White Haven, but that was just fine on a day like this one.

Because of my affection for all things railroad I had to pause to get this picture of the Piaggio in front of this retired Union Pacific caboose. 

It was a relaxing stop.  I chugged quite a bit of my cherry drink from the Bubba Keg I took with me, made an enjoyable phone call, and, strangely, I didn't mind soaking up the searing heat for just a little bit.  When I had to use the porta potty, though, I was very glad that I only needed to make number one because the heat inside the small plastic room was tremendous.  I think it was the very first time that I had ever used one of these outdoor contrivances on the day that it had been serviced.  It was amazingly clean inside, including the view down the pit, and the sticker on the inside wall indicated that it had been serviced just this morning.  I'll take whatever little bit of luck comes my way whenever it does!

I chose to leave White Haven via a route that would lead me back toward Route 115.  My plan was to meet up with 115 at Blakeslee where a left turn would lead me north and back down into the valley.  When I got to the turn for Francis E. Walter Dam, though, on impulse I hooked the left to travel the stretch of road that would take me up to the dam and then back to the road that had led me to Penn Lake from which I would pick up 115 again though closer to town.  The view at the dam is always a nice one and with nobody else seeming to be around for miles I was able to enjoy a leisurely stop to grab another picture.

I had been out for a few hours at that point and my belly was beckoning me to start thinking about having lunch so I made a beeline back to the house but not without enjoying the rest of the ride at a leisurely pace.  I remember thinking distinctly that riding is even better than sitting around in the air conditioning and I stopped right there in the middle of the road to get this picture by which to remember that moment.

About a quarter of a mile from the house I swung around a curve and was delighted to see a train rolling across the tracks that run behind my backyard.  While I watched the tankers and boxcars roll by I savored the feeling of having spent a most delicious morning out on the scooter.  These are some of the moments I will miss the most in a few weeks when I am back in school, and the simple kinds that I look forward to spending when the day to retire comes along.  That will not be for a while though, so my summer rides will have to keep the smile of leisure on my face until then.

Just a reminder that I am now dictating rather than typing my entries here, along with my plea for the indulgence of your patience regarding any errors that I do not catch in my proofreading.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Master of Indecision

I think I became an indecisive person in 1962 when I was four years old.  Planter's Peanuts was headquartered right here and one of my dad's friends from the church choir worked for them.  It was he who gave my dad a collection of little Mr. Peanut figurines, each cast in a very rich hue of the primary and secondary colors as well as white, black, and brown.  (Back then, I think we kids had more common sense than kids seem to be born with these days because I was allowed to play with the little guys with nobody fearing that I was going to try to ingest one of them or shove one up my nose.)  Each one and a half inch tall Mr. Peanut was posed with his hand on his hip so that his tiny plastic hand was fused to his torso.  The triangular space inside the crook of each one's elbow allowed me to pass a string from one to the next and then tie off the loop of string to keep them all together.  There was something that positively thrilled me about seeing all of the colors together and I knew that if I had to choose only one to keep, trying to make the decision of which one to hold onto would have given me the four-year old version of a nervous breakdown.  That early realization that I would not have been able to cope with that hypothetical choice, I believe, helped to make me into a person who goes into a tizzy when trying to decide on which leftover to have for lunch.

Major portions of my summer days demand that I make decisions for the sake of not dying from sheer boredom.  Thus, when I found myself awake this morning at 4:30 and unable to fall back to sleep, I just knew it was going to be a banner day because I would have even more time on my hands with which to decide what I wanted to do.  I decided initially that I would begin working on a modification for the scooter that I had been planning, but after about 15 minutes, even in the shade, the heat of the day was becoming nearly unbearable.  It was then that I put away the tools, hopped on the scooter, and drove it from the yard up to the street only to face that huge decision I have to make every time I want to ride but have nowhere in particular to go:  Where shall I go?

I decided that since my main objective was simply to cool off I would head up to one of the larger strip malls, make my usual morning phone call from one of the benches outside a department store, see if I could find something worth taking a picture of, and just roll around the parking lot to get the air moving through my sleeves and under my helmet.  As is often the case when I am looking for something photo worthy, I find little.  The nearly empty parking lot itself, though, almost begged to be photographed in its quiet calm before the shopping storm.

In realizing that the shopping center was populated at that hour only by employees arriving early to the various stores at which they are employed, it dawned on me that I could get a shot of myself that I had wanted to get for some time but had not yet gotten for fear of getting strange looks from bunches of people.  Outside Target are what appear to be two, red concrete balls.  I needed a picture of myself perched on one of them, though I know not why.  I took advantage of the opportunity.  Okay, perhaps my bucket list is an odd one, but score me another check mark for this shot!  The constipated look was merely a function of the morning sun shining brightly in my eyes.

Upon leaving the parking lot I noticed the yellow glow on the dashboard telling me that the scooter was rather low on gas.  In my four years of scootering I had seen the desperately-needs-fuel light maybe twice before because I am generally good at keeping an eye on the display and filling up when I get to under the halfway point on the fuel gauge.  Although there were a number of gas stations between where I was and my usual filling station I rode the extra distance to my regular place where I have yet to get any bad gas.  I had made the mistake twice before of getting gas elsewhere only to have to drain the tank and refill it with the "good stuff."

Back to being indecisive...  Yesterday I found myself in the Lehigh Valley at one of the major photography shops on the East Coast and perhaps in the entire country if you don't count all the dot-coms.  After drooling for a while over various cameras, none of which I thought I would be getting when I left the house, I decided on a new Fuji.  Here's my old buddy W. T. Duck, showing it off.  I am not yet sure where this camera will fit into the digital arsenal.  It's too good just to carry in the omnipresent pouch on my hip for daily use, but not quite as serious as the DSLR.  Perhaps it will become my camera of choice when I am traveling, for those quick shots that I want to be good when I'm too lazy to get the big Olympus out of the bag and ready to fire.

Somewhere in between starting and finishing this post I had two Yocco's* hot dogs for breakfast, set up a grease and oil change for one of the cars, made an important phone call, and picked up a printer that was gifted to me.  Now, comes the serious indecision.  There is nothing compelling to do for the rest of the day and it would be too hot to do it even if there were.  Maybe something on Netflix will transition nicely into a late morning nap.  Perhaps another scooter ride to God-knows-where will be in order.  We shall see...

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*If you went to the Yocco's link, I assure you that their little "mascot" is not a turd king on his throne. It's supposed to be a hot dog. At least, I think so.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Be Careful! My Family's With Me!

I've never been a fan of simpy crap.  Like those "Baby on Board" signs the yuppie parents hung in their car windows half a generation ago.  Like these stupid things we see everywhere now...

My driving isn't going to be any different because your precious baby is strapped into its car seat, or because you have wifey-poo, the kids, and Meow Meow in your SUV.

Frankly, if you have one of these things in your back window, I'll bet those kids of yours are tempted to chew off their own arms to get out of your car now, and to move across the country as soon as they can!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's Not a Gang! It's a Club!

I couldn't wait to get to Mass this morning so I could tell Father Mike that I had been to my first scooter rally yesterday.  I knew he'd chuckle and bust my butt a little.  Father Mike is a biker and it amuses him to my own delight that he gets a kick out of seeing big, ol' me coming to church on Sunday mornings on the BV, so I knew that the news of my having been to a scooter rally would score me a playful ribbing.

Now, to be honest, according to the organizers, by definition it wasn't a rally because the official name of the event was, "THE NOT A RALLY, RALLY." Being a purist when it comes to semantics, I had to dig... According to, one of the definitions of "rally" is "a large gathering of people for a common purpose."  Technically, I suppose I can't argue with "not a rally, rally," because we weren't a large gathering by any stretch of the imagination, though we were "rally-like" in having been gathered for a common purpose.

The name of the scooter group is DIS - Disorganized Individual Scooterists.  The title of this post comes from an episode of Saturday Night Live in the 70s, back when SNL was still funny.  I won't pretend to remember the gist of the skit, but the members of a street gang were being harassed for being a gang, to which they kept reiterating, "It's not a gang.  It's a club!"  Well, DIS is definitely not a gang, and I know this for a fact because I felt right at home though I just met the other members yesterday morning for the first time.  And I don't know that Carl, the de facto leader of DIS would even call it a club being that we're "individual" scooterists.  Whatever DIS isn't, I know it was a lot of fun being part of the gang, er, I mean club, um, I mean associating with other disorganized, individual scooterists.

My elder daughter was visiting for the weekend and asked if she could accompany me to the not a rally, rally though she has no love of scooters.  She was the one who nearly ran from the scooter crying when I took her for a single spin around the parking lot of a nearby supermarket on the FLY50 a few years ago.  I graciously allowed her to follow me in her car to Moyer's Grove in Wapwallopen fully laden with her veritable arsenal of photo gear.  

The plan was, originally, that we'd drive out to the grove and hang out with the DIS crew until they were to leave on a ride to an amusement park.  I'd make the acquaintance of the other scooterists, and she would fart around taking nature shots in and around the campground.  While she did putz around a lot with the camera, it wasn't long before she was talking it up with others just as much as I was, and when it came time for the group to leave for the ride to the park she talked me into riding with them while she'd follow us all with her car.  All in all, I was glad she came with me 'cause she talked me into having a lot more fun than I'd have had if I hadn't taken the ride to Elysburg to Knoebel's Amusement Resort.

It felt awfully good not being the oldest guy there which I'd thought I'd be.  Now I'm not going to guess ages, but I think at least two of the other guys might have had a few years on me.

I was amazed that one of the gentlemen rode out to join us from Ohio!  Another was heading home to Harrisburg  to work, but would be returning afterwards, around midnight.  And I thought I was putting a lot of miles on the BV just coming up from the valley.  Sheesh!

I enjoyed seeing all the scooters lined up just like the bigger bikes had been in Johnstown a few weeks ago.  As I thought it would be, my BV250 was somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of size and power.

The real excitement began when we all mounted up and started our engines for the ride to Knoebel's.  I'd never ridden in a pack (Oh, my!  Dare I use that word?) before but was looking forward to it since my daughter talked me into doing it.  Oh, yeah...  My shirt doesn't match the others because the biggest of the official DIS shirts would have made me look like the proverbial ten pounds of manure in a five pound bag, but I digress.  We waited for the last official announcement from Carl's awesome, electronic megaphone, and we were off!

I've written much in the past about how being in the saddle of the scooter in motion makes me deliriously introspective.  On the group ride, I wasn't all that sufficiently carefree so as to do my usual mental gymnastics - at least not as we were starting out.  I was concerned when Carl announced that we were going to ride in staggered formation.  Although he explained that we wouldn't be side by side, to me it still meant that I was going to be limited to half a lane, and after being accustomed to having a whole lane to myself to play around with the centrifugal and centripetal forces involved in swinging two wheels through a curve, I was a bit apprehensive about making a fool out of myself, or worse, infringing dangerously on somebody else's space.  I was very tense for the first few miles, but then grew more relaxed as we continued to ride though I never did get to the point where I'd start to dig into my own brain to ponder the vicissitudes of being.

By the time we got to the park I was wishing that the ride itself would go on longer in spite of my being a little sore in the saddle.  I can't explain the feeling that riding with others provided, but it was uniquely good.  Even though we couldn't talk to each other on the ride, and our actual interactions short of pacing ourselves with the others was minimal, there was a feeling of being connected with the other riders that was totally neat.

Admittedly, it was more of a thrill than it should have been to park the BV next to the big dogs in the motorcycle only parking area!  Once again I was reminded of the rows of bikes at Thunder in the Valley, except this time my own bike was right there in the bunch!  Surprisingly, it didn't look all that puny next to the other cycles.

My daughter and I had to be back in the valley to join my aunt for her birthday dinner so we grabbed a quick lunch at the park and left before the rest of the DIS group headed back to the campground.  I had had a great time, though, and met some wonderful people who I sure hope to see again.  My thanks to Carl and the rest of the "gang" for making me feel so welcome.

A special thanks to the sponsors of our first not a rally, rally:
Team Effort Cycle, Classic Pizza, Gino's Shoe Store
Octagon Family Restaurant, Marsh Motors, DMC Graphics

Most photos in this post were taken by my daughter, Angela.