Wednesday, May 24, 2017

In the Lap of Luxury

The Chinese buffet I visited last week was different in that you select your fortune cookie from a big box near the exit.  Since no Chinese meal is complete without seeing one’s “fortune” spelled out on that small wisp of paper at the end, my hand dipped into the box to grab a cookie on my way out the door, and I tore open the plastic wrapper on my way to the car and didn’t crack open the crisp cookie until I was already seat belted in and nearly ready to roll.  There it was!  My “fortune!”  

 Well my first thought was, Yeah.  Right!, when I saw, “You will be surrounded by luxury," right there, blue on white.  With nowhere else to put it I dropped the paper into the small well on the car door that’s there for you to put your fingers in when you’re closing the door and without thinking exchanged it for one of the plastic toothpicks I keep handy there for picking, among other things, the remnants of large clams from my front teeth after a visit to the Chinese buffet.

When I got home I grabbed the small paper from the door handle well and brought it into the house, and as per my usual custom I laid it here on the computer desk.  To be certain, I have no idea why I do that with those little fortune slips, but I’ve been doing it since I can’t remember when.  They’ll sit here collecting dust with my eyes falling on them dozens of times before each one eventually gets tossed into the trash without ceremony.  I pay them no heed, never pretending that they have the least bit of magic, but now and then I do get one that gives me some cause to pause and take stock.

You will be surrounded by luxury.

I don’t know how many times I glanced at this one and scoffed, but it sat here collecting my derision like a dandelion collecting dewdrops in the morning haze for at least a week before I photographed it and tossed it away.  I suspect that in taking a picture of it I knew somewhere in the back of my mind I wasn’t quite done processing it yet, but no thoughts had coalesced before I got tired of looking at it.  It wasn’t until this morning that I gave the words any thought, and when I did I realized that they were at the very least some food for thought and blog post fodder.

My maternal grandfather is often my measuring stick in life.  He was my first hero and hardly a day goes by since I lost him to cancer when I was 11 that I don’t think of him in some way, usually with a large smile or a broad grin.  He was a “character” long before the USA Network touted the inclusivity of such folks with their, “Characters welcome,” slogan.  He had a sly and wry sense of humor, and I believe it was he who taught me by example the simple joy of embracing life and wringing from it every last bit of happiness and mirth that could be gotten from it.

I think of him in light of, “You will be surrounded by luxury,” and I find it hard to grasp that many of the luxuries I enjoy on a daily basis, my dear grandfather never knew.  The only style of telephone he ever knew was the old black bakelite rotary standard.  He never even dreamed of something coming like the computer.  And, although they existed at the time, my dear Gramps never rode a scooter.  He was the kind of guy who went to work in a dress shirt and tie and didn’t take them off till he went to bed.  How I’d love to be able to go back and get him on the back of the Piaggio to let his always perfectly combed hair fly in the breeze.  I think it would repay him at least in some small part for all the magic he gave to me in his simple lessons about life that weren’t lessons at all, but just the simple love of a man for his grandchild made manifest each day with the simple luxuries of the times that he had available to him.

I suppose, when we consider the past, we’re all surrounded by luxury.  Although sometimes I lament that I’ll be gone from this earth before even cooler and more amazing things come down the pike, all I really need to do to appreciate how far we’ve come is to look at my cell phone and imagine what my grandpop would have thought to see such a thing back when luxury to me meant a sip of his beer and a nibble of cheese while watching Lawrence Welk on a Saturday night and smelling the chicken soup simmering in the kitchen for the appetizer before Sunday dinner.

Surrounded by luxury?  I've always been.  I am.  No mansion, no yacht, but appreciative of all I have, which is the best luxury of all.

Monday, May 22, 2017

...And Into the Fire

“...And Into the Fire,” is this post’s title because the last was the terribly presumptuous, “Out of the Shop,” which was decidedly short lived.

To be certain, the troubles aren’t the fault of Mike at the shop.  When I picked the scooter up last week it seemed that everything was hunky dory, but before I got home I realized that things were neither hunky nor dory because the bike was running hot which was not one of the problems it had when I took it in.  Like THIS hot...

What neither of us realized, also, was that the radiator fan wasn’t coming on when the needle went into the red zone.  And, after it was parked under the deck for a while, the coolant leak was back with a vengeance in spite of having been as dry as a popcorn fart when I got it home.  Mike thought what he’d done might only be a temporary fix, and unfortunately, he was right. 

 I took it back up last Thursday evening and hung around the shop for a few hours with Mike, the owner, and his cronies, Ed, Phil, and Pat while they worked on various bikes and busted each others’ asses unmercifully to my general amusement.  What we decided to keep it simple was that Mike would put on a temporary bypass fan switch that I could toggle externally when needed.  It worked!  But, the fan didn’t do a thing running constantly once the needle went past the end of the red zone again  on my way home.

 Tomorrow I’ll run it back up to the shop early in the morning while it’s still cool out to try to keep the engine cool while I get there.  After that God knows how long it’s going to be till the parts come in and Mike gets a chance to work on it.

It’s my usual luck.  When I first took the scooter into the shop four weeks ago, I told Mike about my horror story from last year when my old dealership’s shop kept it for five weeks during May into June.  Mike thought he’d have me done in a few days.  Here I am now looking at another shortened scootering season because it’ll likely be longer than those five weeks this year until it’s back and humming along.

Not quite the Look at how much fun I’m having on my scooter! kind of post that I’d hoped to have been sharing here at all.  I’ll try to stay upbeat and not let the aggravation get to me totally.  And I’ll try to put some things here for my two followers to read that maybe, kind of, perhaps I can relate even a little to the general scooter theme.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Out of the Shop

I finally got the BV back from the shop this afternoon!  New rear tire and left rear turn signal.  Oil change with new oil filter.  New belt and transmission rollers.  Coolant leak fixed.  And all for only slightly more than my old shop would have charged to replace the rollers alone!  All the years I remained loyal to the dealership where I bought the scooter by taking it there for servicing, only to find out when they closed up shop that they’d been sticking it to me for years with inflated parts prices and a hefty labor charge.  Live and learn.  A big thanks to Mike at Cycle Playground for taking care of me nicely!

And, to boot, I got to bring the bike home in short sleeves!  Today was the first day that really would have been hot enough to wear just a tee shirt so I had to take advantage of the opportunity.

 I’ll need to run back up to Cycle Playground tomorrow because on the way home the heat needle pegged into the red zone without the fan coming on, NOT something I’d noticed when I took the scooter in, but then again I’d not been riding much because the oil light kept blinking for months and for most of April and till last week in May my left hip felt like I had broken glass in the joint or something.  Mike hopes it’ll be a quick fix without me having to leave the bike there again, so we’ll stay hopeful till he has a chance to take a look at it. 

Hopefully after that I’ll be back here to yak away about my summer rides.  We’ll see.  There’s still a monstrous piece of the overall puzzle of my life that I’m praying will fall into place the way we want it to.  Time will tell.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Waiting for the Thunder

“That’s just God and St. Peter bowling!” Grandpa chuckled as I cringed in horror on the front porch during a massive thunderstorm over 50 years ago.  I tried out a tentative chuckle of my own the next time a thunderclap felt like it was right on top of us, and after a few half-hearted attempts at pretending that the thunder was somehow of Divine origin, it wasn’t so bad.  That was only one of the ways that Gramps taught me a good number of things through the years, my favorite being when he got me to eat coffee grounds which I abhorred, but that’ll be for another time when I can’t think of a strictly scooter related post to write.

My paternal grandfather, ever the trickster,
got me to enjoy thunderstorms with some
clever fibbing.

I enjoy a good thunderstorm all these years later, the only horror being if it somehow affects my electricity and the internet cuts out.  Thus it was that I went to bed last evening thoroughly disappointed once again by the National Weather Service and the other forecasting agencies that promised all even long with crawls at the bottom of the TV screen a line of thunderstorms that were to have come through the area with even the possibility of a tornado or two.  At most I heard a small rumble of thunder in the distance and some gently falling rain.  We rarely get thunderstorms of the kind that seemed to come every evening when I was a kid.  Must be another manifestation of “climate change.”

In spite of skies that seemed to promise
a glorious show of nature's power,
we got a gentle rain at best.

Yes, the use of quotation marks in that last sentence is supposed to be derisive.  While I don’t not believe in climate change, I just don’t give a crap about it.  I enjoy using fossil fuels too much, and no, I wouldn’t want an electric scooter that I’d have to wait for a half an hour to charge if I felt like riding it.

The storm was a moot factor, though, when it might have come to whether or not I’d have done any scootering last evening because, finally (Praise and Halleluia!) it’s in the shop getting a good bit of work done so it’ll be ready for me to hop on it and ride off into the sunset if I so choose.  It’s getting a new rear tire, left rear turn signal, an oil change, and a new belt and transmission rollers, all of which were long overdue.  It should be ready any day now, but my usual luck typically stretches such promises into a few days longer than they should be.

The down side of this great news (Seems like there’s always an Eyeore kind of cloud over these things.) is that I “did something” to my back which has me in pain of a whole ‘nother variety than any I’d to now experienced.  To be certain, I have no idea what it was that I might have done to bring this on.  I simply got up from this computer chair a few weeks ago and found myself in agony.  It’ like sciatica which I’d had at times in the past, but this time the pain is mostly concentrated in my upper thigh.  It sure does feel like that same kind of nerve pain that sciatica delivers.  I have an appointment scheduled with my family doctor for a week from today, but I’m nearly certain that it’ll be the kind of pain about which he and his medical confreres won’t be able to do anything.

 Where the scooter should be parked is
nothing but its cargo crate
waiting for its return.

 I’m hoping that I’ll be able to enjoy some serious scootering in spite of the pain when I finally get the bike back.  Well, that is if I can manage to ride it back from the mechanic’s.  If not, I’ll have to ride the recliner on the front porch during some fun summer thunderstorms, if they ever arrive.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Future of Scootering

My cardiologist smiled and shook my hand as I sidled up to the counter at McDonald's yesterday seeing as how I was ensuring that he'd be able to put in that pool before summer's end.  Okay, that's not true at all, but I thought it was a funny start.  

I had a gawdawful craving for a Big Mac that started sometime yesterday morning and wouldn't quit even after I tried to assuage it by going through the leftovers in the fridge in hopes of finding something that would let me stay in the scuzzy clothes I slept in and not have to get dressed and go out.  It was raining, as it is today, that non-stop kind of yucky rain that makes one want to hibernate until it's over, so the call of the Mac battled with my laziness until it won out and I found myself hobbling to the car burning with shame over losing a war with a potential burger.  One of the things I'd done between waking up and sinking my teeth into that hunk of greasy beef and extruding special sauce out the sides of the bun and into my mustache was to have read an article that suggested that kids get a high from playing on their electronic devices that's similar in its effect on the brain as using cocaine.

Life's simple pleasures are, indeed, the best, and the joyful distinction of having been customer #286 buoyed my spirit as I munched happily on my wonderful selection hardly even bothered by dining alone which I always think screams, "Friendless Loser!" when I'm not the one by himself in a fast food booth.  I looked around at nothing in particular, having deliberately chosen to sit in an area as far away as possible from a bunch of elementary school kids who were apparently on a field trip of some kind and who carrying on to beat the band.  I was reminded through my own grin as I filled my drink cup of a friend of a friend, a Harvard educated Ph.D. in Education who always greets a host or hostess at a restaurant with a plea to be seated as far away as he can be from any children.  Where I was chomping away I couldn't even hear the little buzzards at all which added to the sense of nearly complete fulfillment that the food itself was providing.  

At some point I glanced outdoors and actually noticed that what had once been one of those ubiquitous McPlaygrounds had been converted into what resembled an outdoor picnic table area at a state penitentiary.  Before I figured out that it was probably having gotten into legal troubles over injuries sustained in them by lawsuit hungry ne'er-do-wells, my brain went right back to the article I'd read earlier about kids pretty much making electronic devices extensions of their own palms.  What a shame, I thought, that kids don't really use playgrounds as they once did because all they want to do is play video games, use shapchat, etc.  And then it occurred to me that I don't see many kids riding bikes anymore either.  Typically the only persons I see on bicycles these days are rail thin jackasses with no shirts whose pants are halfway down their thighs sporting sissy kinds of facial hair and with their baseball caps on backwards.

It was then that I gulped on a bite of the ol' Big Mac and wondered what that might suggest for the future of scooter riding, and hence scooter manufacturing.  If kids aren't learning to ride regular old bicycles because they're at best playing video games in which they're riding virtual bikes, what are the chances that they're going to grow up to be manly or womanly scooter riders?  How sad it will be if the art of scootering dies out because of those little couch potatoes not even bothering to venture outdoors, never mind riding bikes!  It makes me wonder about, when I'm in my 80s and maybe looking to upgrade to a Silver Wing or a Burgman, whether or not they'll even be available!  But then again, if those Big Mac cravings keep calling to me like electronic devices do to the kids, I'm thinking I might not have to worry about that at all.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Trouble with Spring

If there's one season that we can count on to throw the most static (i.e. undesired and unwanted stuff) at us scooter riders, it has to be Spring!  Two weeks ago today, technically it was still Winter, but it didn't much matter how close we were to its end because we got the blizzard of blizzards since the dawn of the 21st century only days before Spring arrived.  When the snow was done falling, I was convinced that it would be May before the last of the snowpack would be completely melted.  Surprise!  Here's my shadow surveying the North Forty (my backyard) and the snow is gone!

Now, it would seem that that's a grand thing, and, indeed, it is.  On the one hand.  Yes, I was able to get the bike to the street and around a few blocks, and while I was riding there were at least a few seconds during which I'm sure I didn't look totally like a grumpy old man.  I'd ridden on colder days if one relies on the thermometer alone to gauge the comfort potential of a ride, but that damned wind is a significant factor that should never be underestimated.  A ride in the 50s or even the 60s with anything stronger than a gentle breeze can be a force that makes what one thinks ought to be a totally pleasant ride into something entirely different.  My mom used to say all the time, "The sun is hot, but the air is cool," and I used to hate hearing it as she made me wear a jacket as I went outdoors.  I'm sure this isn't the first time here that I've admitted that she was right.  Today's temperature was in the mid 50s, but in spite of my having dressed in a few layers I was cold before I'd gotten to the end of the street and onto the next block.

Another thing that makes riding in the early Spring a hazard is gravel!  After a snowpack melts, left in its wake are all the pieces of rock and debris that the plows picked up and moved along with the snow.  In places the buildup of these gravel trails can be significant and can impact a safe stop on a bike.  When a foot comes down on a bunch of little rock pieces, a rider's purchase on the terra firma is tenuous at best.  Gravel piles tend to form at intersections where plows often slow down to leave a bunch of snow at the roadside, and it's precisely at intersections that we often make the most stops.  It hasn't happened yet, but when the spring rains hit, flowing water is going to carry many of the pieces of scattered about gravel and redeposit them wherever shallow depressions or other factors slow the water down as it crosses the road.  When crossing these bands of gravel one often feels a bit hesitant to keep on the throttle, yet slowing is the last thing one would want to do.

Lots of gravel was left as the snowpack melted along the curb.

And let's not forget the potholes for which Pennsylvania is famous.  Throughout the city are significant craters that could easily topple a scooter, especially a small one with a smaller wheel base.  If you look at the picture above this paragraph, on the right you can see a dark patch which was a deep pothole until the city's DPW came around with some cold patch to fill it in.

Most of all, though, today's ride was cut short by my oil light flickering again, especially as I came to stops at intersections.  I checked the oil some time ago and the level was fine.  I added a little then anyway and the problem disappeared only for a little while.  It's long overdue for an oil change and I'm sure it needs the filter replaced as well.  And I need a new back tire.  And I need a new set of transmission rollers.  And soon enough I'm going to need a new exhaust pipe.  And, worst of all, the authorized Piaggio dealer and shop in the area is no more.  While I found a cycle shop that says they can service the scooter, it remains to be seen what kind of job they'll do. 

If I'm lucky, maybe by the time it's finally warm enough to ride with hardly a care about temperature I'll have all the necessary work behind me.  I'll let you know!

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Blizzard

I'd be remiss if I didn't visit here with at least a few words about the March blizzard of 2017 that hit us three days ago mostly, on Tuesday, March 14 with significant snowfall overnight from the 13th into the 14th.

I'd been out on the scooter for my birthday not even a week before on the 8th and then again for a quick run to the bank on the 9th, and I was as comfortable as could be, slightly bundled for the 50 some degree weather then.  When the forecasters started prognosticating for a major nor'easter early this week I thought for certain that it had to be an early April Fool's prank.  With talk of exceeding all records in terms of snowfall, it just didn't seem possible.  I'd been having my coffee out on the deck for most of last week.

This was the view from my front door as the snow started tapering off on Tuesday.  That's my Impala behind the blue car.  It's been dug out.  The street's been plowed.  A lot of snow remains in huge heaps, but the roads are traversable depending on where one lives and whom one believes on Facebook.  I haven't left the house for four days now so I'm relying entirely on heresay.

As for the scooter, I fear it may be a good while, probably a number of weeks, before it'll enjoy rolling about again.  Here's the alley that leads from where its parked under the deck to the street.  There's no way that its width could fit through that channel cleared by the snow blower.  At its worst the snow between my house and the neighbor's was higher than the business part of the blower.  It was a struggle by the inch to get it to the front of the house where it was most needed.

Atop the deck under which the scooter rests when I'm not on it, this was the view with the yardstick buried to the 18 inch mark on the table.


While the amount of snow around the Piaggio's tires under the deck isn't that bad, there's a patch of ice in front of the lead tire that isn't going to thaw any time soon as what's in the alley way melts by day and drains down the sidewalk to refreeze at night.

The good news is that my scooter's been serving a useful purpose since the snow began falling.  It would appear that at least one of the friendly neighborhood feral cats took shelter under it, as well as a bird or a few.  Thankfully I saw no feathers, fur, or blood lying about to indicate that any became a meal for some of the others.

Here's hoping for some long stretches of above freezing weather in the next couple of weeks to reduce the snow mounds to only ice cube sizes, and for a successful outcome to an ordeal I'm facing next month that will determine if I'll have the funding to get some much needed work done on the bike to keep it running smoothly for another 10 years or so.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

In Flux

I have not given up on riding, nor on writing.  I got this comment on my last post from Steve Williams who writes, "Scooter in the Sticks," which to me is the Gospel of scooter blogs:

OK. Just because you reach a mileage milestone it doesn't mean you quite writing and posting. Seems like that scooter has at least another thirty thousand miles in it. That translates into at least a few more posts... 

I felt guilty when I read it.  I put it aside for a while, as I have this entire blog for nearly the past three years during which my life has been on hold in a limbo of sorts. The end of the tunnel is in sight and it's terrifying to me.  The entire course of the rest of my life is going to be decided sometime in April and I'm scared to near death.  No, it's nothing like I might go to jail or anything horrible like that.  I haven't been THAT bad yet.

Now I hate on Facebook when somebody posts, "Oh no!  I can't believe it!" leaving the reader wondering what the hell happened.  Good?  Bad?  How big?  But for now I have to do that.  Still I felt the need to reply to Steve's note in some manner and here I am, simply saying that before summer I'm going to be back in riding and writing mode, or perhaps not getting to do much of either of them again to any great degree.

If you're a person of prayer, I'd appreciate your offering a few or many intercessions on my behalf for a favorable outcome of the ordeal I'm facing.  If not, perhaps cross your fingers for me now and then and send me some hopes and wishes that all will be well.  Thanks!