Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Buzz in the Valley - 2013

Having had the pleasure of attending Johnstown, PA's annual "Thunder in the Valley" motorcycle rally twice, I was absolutely delighted when I read a few weeks ago on Facebook that a scooter group local to the area was to host a scooter rally there with the dubious moniker, "Buzz in the Valley."  I read about it, and forgot about it, until this past weekend when I was about 20 miles out of Johnstown and saw on Facebook that THAT was the weekend of the "Buzz."  I quickly sent a message to two of my scooter buddies, Carl and Megan who were married the past June at our local group's rally and who were in Johnstown enjoying what their group had to offer.  They told me that the group was out on a ride, but that they were at the campground, so I rushed over to say hello and to see where the Johnstownians host their rally.

I hadn't realized that it was Johnstown's second scooter rally until I saw their banner when I got to the campground and found Carl and Megan, along with Michael and Trish who I'd met for the first time at C&M's wedding.  They didn't go on the group ride because the weather looked miserable, and, indeed, while we were there with them it was raining lightly.  Their loss was our gain, though, because if it had been sunny and warm we'd have missed seeing them entirely.  I'm sure that the other scooterists, Carl's parents included, would have been fun to hang out with too, but we were happy enough getting together for a little while with folks we knew and whose company we were certain we enjoyed.

 Now, it must be noted, with some degree of chagrin, that this was the second scooter rally at which I showed up in a car.  Booooo!  Hisssss!  Because of previously mentioned fears of breaking down or hitting bad weather I'd never venture as far as western Pennsylvania on the Piaggio, but neither would I miss seeing the folks at a rally because of what would be a sense of misplaced pride that alone might have kept me from showing up on four wheels.

I enjoyed the spirit and the sights of the Johnstown "Buzz."  Scooter balloons!

 A Sacred Heart of Jesus sticker on a blue Vespa...

 And a scooter the likes of which I'd never seen.  I'd love one of these for cold commutes!

On Saturday evening I enjoyed one of the primary reasons I'd gone to Somerset County in the first place last weekend - the twenty-fifth anniversary banquet of the Somerset County Community Band with which I played the tuba for the first time in nearly 40 years last summer.  The sounds of a live big band which were provided at the celebration had been sorely missed by yours truly who last had the opportunity to hear real big band jazz many years ago when the local musicians' union of which I was then a part hosted the Count Basie Band for the union's 50th anniversary dinner.

A relaxing Sunday at our host's place where we celebrated his birthday brought the visit out west to a close and it was time to head back to start another work week.

I caught this photo on the way back east.  Oh, to be able to retire someday and travel like this from coast to coast at least once!

When we got back, there was water already boiling on the stove and six live lobsters waiting for me to cook them for supper.  Our friend, Mike, and my sister joined us for a scrumptious seafood feast!  I might have thought to get some pictures of the lobsters, but I was too busy cooking, then eating them.

Not a bad way to spend a weekend at all!

Oh, and as for "buzz."  I've always wondered what it sounds like when I drive past somebody on the scooter.  To me the BV sounds like a full grown motorcycle without all of that obnoxious throttling with the clutch disengaged at a red light, but is it really...

...Just a buzz?

[Update - a week later...  Just found out while reading an article online about stinging insects that VESPA is the genus name for hornets.  BUZZ, indeed!]

Sunday, September 8, 2013

On Top of Things

I wrote yesterday about being in the valley and hardly noticing the mountains that flank the towns and cities along the Susquehanna River because I'm so used to them being there, and today, on a random ride, I ended up atop one of those very peaks near Scranton, able to see clear across the valley to the mountain on the other side.

Though the sky looked ominous after church, I had the riding bug and I headed out on the scooter anyway, as usual not knowing where I was heading till I got to the turn that would determine the general area for the rest of the ride.  Once I found myself pointed in that particular direction I had a number of further choices to make that would dictate what would be the overall length of the ride, and I opted for a medium course.

 It was a ride a lot like life itself.  I had some idea of where I was going and knew where I wanted to end up, but I didn't know for certain if all of my turns were the right ones to get me there.   I did encounter about a mile's worth of sprinkles, but kept on going and hoped for the best.  The alternative would have been to pull over and pop up the umbrella I always carry just in case, but in six years I haven't had to do that yet.  Although I didn't necessarily take the most efficient roads to put me where I'd hoped to stop for a while, I did get to my destination at about the time I thought I'd arrive.

I'd commented yesterday that my days were numbered for being out and about on the bike wearing shorts and a tee shirt, and today, already, the proof was in the air.  I opted for long pants today, and a jacket that I took off for the pictures but wore while I was moving.  It was a little warm inside the jacket, but I knew that if I were to have taken it off I'd have been more cold than I was warm, so on it stayed.

On my way into Mass this morning, Father Mike asked me how school was going.  I told him that I wasn't going to answer that question because there was no readily available wood upon which to knock, but I did say that I was going to keep my fingers crossed, and my hands folded, and that he could figure it out from there.  I already have two weeks crossed off on the calendar which I keep behind my desk that shows all of the months till June.  Those two purple bars of Sharpie ink don't look like much, but I'm happy with them being there because I'm officially beyond crying that summer's over and heading full tilt into the rest of the year.  I have a number of great weekends to look forward to between now and Halloween, and as soon as I finish crossing those stepping stones, the first term will be over!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fall Creeps in Insidiously

Sometimes, like today, I go out on the scooter and the whole time I'm riding I keep thinking that somewhere in the back of my mind is something profound just simmering under the surface - something that I'll write here when I get back to the house which will make me smile with a smug satisfaction when I hit the PUBLISH icon and imagine the stellar reactions I'll get for my perspicacious insight and utter brilliance.  To be sure, I enjoy with crystal clarity the illusion of all that even as I try to deny to myself that it isn't going to happen and continue on in my folly, but eventually the time comes to put my fingertips to the keys and admit once again that today wasn't the day.

When I pick my head up and pay attention to what's
around me, it's difficult to miss the mountains that
define the sides of the Wyoming Valley.  Much of
the time, though, I don't really see the mountains
or feel like I  live out most of my life between
their gigantic walls.

The biggest thought to pass through my head as the rest of me passed most delightfully through the almost, but not quite too chilly air, was that those of us who live in old valleys, cut by rivers and broadened by glaciation, often don't see the mountains that define our topography.  I've lived here all my life, literally not more than one-quarter mile from where I sit right now, and for much of the time I spent in growing up I remember wondering why they called this a valley since it didn't look at all what I remembered a valley looking like in my third or fourth grade geography book.

(It was in one of those grades that we used a geography book in which I saw an illustration of the most beautiful pastoral scene that's yet to be surpassed in image or in reality for me.  If I ever come upon that place, if it even exists, I'll sell everything I own and then beg, borrow, and steal to purchase the land which provides that remembered vista.  If there's no money left to build a little house on that spot, I'll pitch a tent there and live out the rest of my days in bliss nonetheless.)

Even on the valley floor the mountains loom in
 the distance, but really seeing them takes more
than the two standard eyes with which each
of us comes equipped.

When I pay attention to where I am and where I'm going around here, however, the mountains are omnipresent and sometimes seem to loom over my entire life - pinning me down not only in physical location, but as fall and then winter approach, in spirit as well.

And that was the end of my "profundity" for the day.  The rest of the time I simply rolled around happy to be out on a beautiful day with temperatures still generously warm enough not to have had to suit up to ride.

It occurred to me as I scootered about, that my days are definitely numbered for riding like this.  Soon enough the jackets will begin to make their appearances and then stick around for the long haul through the middle of next spring.

Half of me cries inside because summer's over and the bleakness of the darker seasons begins to erase along the edges the best of summer's sweet memories, and yet some other part of me finds joy in seeing a number of maple leaves already taking on their autumn hues.  Anyone who's read what I've written here for a number of years has to have noticed that I tend to be most productive in writing when I'm on a roller coaster of emotion, and then both on the uphill and downhill sides of that first big drop.  I suppose, that's what makes life most interesting because I'll take those emotional highs and even the lows any day over a flat affect that would keep one's scooter on only the straightest and most perfectly maintained roads.  Sometimes it's not knowing what's beyond that next curve that makes all the difference, and sometimes it's best just to stay inside and let the scooter sit idle in its parking space.  The wisdom, I suppose, is in knowing when to ride and when to sit.  I seem to be making the right choice more often these days.  That's progress!