Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Happier than Anything in The Golden Hour

“The Golden Hour” any photographer will tell you is that unique time of day that happens about an hour before sunrise and before sunset in which the sun’s color appears to be emotionally warmer than at other times of the day.  Photos taken during those times tend to be somewhat golden in tone, softer looking, and somehow evoke, at least in me, an emotional response that is most pleasant. When I’m on the scooter during a golden hour the sun’s in a position that makes shadows stretch longer than they do at other times of the day as well.  I never fail to take great delight in seeing my shadow on the scooter going ahead of me on the road, always staying that little bit in the lead to ensure that I’ll never catch up with it.

I’m a child at heart, and pray that I always will be.  Christmas morning, I believe is still far more magical for me as an adult than it is for most grown-ups.  Likewise on my birthday when I wake up full of childlike glee in knowing that my special day has come ‘round again.  I’ve been known to blow soap bubbles from time to time though my hair is gray and my knees ache, to walk barefoot through the grass and sometimes through the snow on the deck.  I look forward to good things on the horizon with more pizazz than most of my contemporaries and I still like taking things apart to see what makes them tick.  Having and riding a scooter is all a very big part of that kid inside me who never wants to have to grow up.

 I was fortunate to spend my working years among a few generations of kids who helped to keep me feeling young at heart.  Though I had to play the adult and couldn’t join in their games nor shenanigans, just being around them in their times of delight and glee was enough to make my own heart sing with some of the qualities of life long forgotten by most people my age.  Though some cynicism and a touch of becoming jaded hit me at times when things in the news couldn’t help but to make us shudder, I managed to go to sleep most days waiting eagerly for the morning and another day at school to greet me.  Now that I’ve finally “graduated” and put down my pointer, I still look for the best of what’s to come in the foreseeable future and look forward to its arrival as I scooter about town with what passes for a big smile on my face.

There it is.  Resting grump face.  I was having a ball when I snapped this, but you'd never know it by the look on my face.

In spite of trying to smile broadly when I’m being photographed, even by myself, I’m usually disappointed to see upon review that I don’t look happy at all, but somewhat grumpy.  Young ladies call a certain type of visage, “resting bitch face,” which means that someone who wears that particular look appears to be nasty at heart even at times of being emotionally neutral.  I seem to have “resting grump face” that makes me look like a grumpy old man even when I’m feeling happy.  Okay, to be honest, sometimes I act like a grumpy old man too, but I’m not always like that when it would appear that I am.

When I do manage a smile I have to bear down like I'm trying to poop and get myself to the verge of silly laughter to make it show up on the camera.  The smile, that is.  Not the poop.

So, if you see me motoring about on two wheels sometime during the golden hour and I look like an old sourpuss on a much smaller bike than his frame might suggest he ought to be riding, rest assured that there’s about a 99% chance that I’m inside myself feeling like I’m a kid on some amusement park ride, having the time of my life.  But without the need for waiting in line with an itchy wristband or a handful to tickets to get on the ride!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Musings on a Four Skunk Day

I’m taking baby steps now that the scooter is back.  Okay, baby rides, to be honest.  It’s going to take me a little while to get my confidence back and to trust it to make a round trip without worrying me.  And, my riding skills have gotten a tad bit rusty during the hiatus when it was in the shop, so I’m trying to stay on high alert all the time, not that I shouldn’t always ride in that mode, but I prefer to relax a little when there isn’t anybody on my tail or waiting on a perpendicular street to dash out in front of me or somebody coming from the opposite direction ready to turn as I’m approaching an intersection.

I went out this morning just for the hell of it, before the rain that’s promised for this afternoon comes along and ruins the fun.  As I rode north on Main St. (The kind of Main Street that stays Main Street in name through a bunch of municipalities.) I realized that I needed to make a particular stop to visit the colorful gazebo where I often went to inaugurate a summer vacation and then to put it to bed before going back to school.  It’s in a park full of swings and other kiddie things so I hesitate going there with a camera in my hand lest I be thought a major creep, but I was lucky this morning to find it deserted so I could get my gazebo shot.  I could have cheated and just included one from a past visit, but I wanted it to be fresh.

 In this gazebo at a nearby park I often heralded the start of a summer vacation from school, and just as often revisited it before another academic year was set to begin.  I like my little traditions that have some kind of ineffable meaning to me.

 As I rode along after that, I was most pleased to feel the introspective mood that I often felt while scootering in the past coming back to me.  Various thoughts passed through my noggin as I scootered about, some of them about future blog posts I might write.  Unfortunately when I think about things like that the thoughts tend to evaporate before I can make note of them in some form or another.  On the bright side, though, it’s sufficiently pleasant to just have them in the first place. 

 Not far from the gazebo I feel like I'm sitting on top of the world with a view of the hollow below in the distance.

 Being able to entertain myself with my own thoughts (and subesquent questionable actions) has always been an ability I’ve treasured for most of my life.  I remember being of preschool age with a bucket of water, a handful of wooden clothespins, a number of pebbles and as many ants as I could find, and delighting in playing “war at sea” with ants floating on clothespin ships and going overboard as pebble bombs fell from overhead.  Yep, I was very good at keeping myself amused as the scar on my left index finger bears silent witness to from the time I gashed it while playing with my uncle’s rusty fishing knife and hitting my finger so hard with the blade when it slipped from carving the notch into an arrow I was trying to make from a long splinter of wood that I remember seeing my bone on the inside of the deep cut.  Lucky for me, I remembered being taken for stitches and a horrible tetanus shot some years before after I’d fallen down the stairs and cut my forehead beside my eye, so I gauzed up the awful cut and kept my hand in my pocket for the next week lest the adults find out what I’d done and take me for another of those bothersome needles.  But, as usual, I digress.

 Although I'm smiling here with that bandage beside my eye, the day before I was a screaming writhing mess while not only getting stitches but a big juicy tetanus shot for extra measure.

 Part of the reason that having my scooter in the shop for three months was so frightening was that I’d reached a point where I’d visited the garage a number of times to see it apart in what appeared to be hundreds of scattered pieces and I began to believe that the mechanic wasn’t putting it back together because he couldn’t.  Now that I’m riding again, I’m more amazed with every jaunt that it’s not only running, but running beautifully for the first time in a long time.  When he’d talked about boring the cylinder I was genuinely scared that it would never run again, and when I saw with my very own eyes my precious Piaggio eviscerated on the floor of the shop, I was even more convinced that eventually I was going to get the call to tell me that there was nothing that could be done to salvage it.  For now, I’m back in a good place, and hope and pray I’ll be able to stay here for a very long time to come.

Oh, as for the title of this post...  I passed four dead skunks on the road today in different places and in various stages of decomposition. It definitely wasn’t a good day for skunks to be trying to cross roads!

 Sorry, no skunk pictures.  If I'd thought I'd be safe stopping to get one, I would have.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Piaggio Homecoming

After 106 days in the shop, I have my scooter back!  It’s missing a small piece or two I think because of its being kind of flopped around in the shop as poor Mike tried to make it work while working on other bikes that didn’t need anything quite so complicated done to them, but for now it’s running, and so far I haven’t noticed anything dripping underneath it.  (I’m assured that said parts will be replaced as they come in.)  Although it was aggravating to miss much of the summer riding season, if it’s going to last me another ten years and 20,000 miles, I’ll be forever grateful.  And, besides, Mike only charged me a small fraction for labor considering how much time I know he put in on it.  Apparently the anatomy of a scooter is radically different from a typical motorcycle, so there was a learning curve involved as well as a pile of research that needed to be done.


Before I left for Florida last week, this was what I saw of the scooter when I paid Mike a visit at the garage.

 I brought it home only yesterday, so I’m holding off on celebrating quite yet.  It’s going to take me some time and a whole bunch of riding to feel the familiar confidence I usually felt when I took it out, relatively certain that it would bring me home again afterwards.  I am, though, blissfully hopeful that both time and distance will return me to the state of Zen I usually experienced on longer rides that took me out of the streets of the valley and into the back roads and byways all around.

At dinner last evening, I was happy knowing that the bike was back home, but wishing I could have been out riding it.


I’m often shocked after somebody takes a picture of me to find that I look grumpy in the photo when I thought I was smiling from ear to ear when the shutter snapped.  There’s no mistaking the smile in this photo, though, from the short ride I took this morning not long after I woke up, just to make sure that nothing happened overnight that would require a trip back to the shop.

 When I got hungry around lunch time, I ran down to the Farmers’ Market on the Public Square in Wilkes-Barre to grab an order of grape leaves.  How great it felt once again to be able to sneak the scooter into a space too small to fit a car, get what I wanted, and then hurry out.  For getting around the city the Piaggio can’t be beat for its zip and maneuverability, and those qualities were exactly what I was missing while the bike was tied up at the garage. To be certain, I was missing those longer rides too, but perhaps I’ll get one or two of them in tomorrow or over the weekend.  We just got back from Florida on Monday and there’s laundry to get done.  Well, that and a few naps to take too!

Still to come, sometime soon, to take the scooter out to the middle of nowhere and practice the ukulele just for the hell of it.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Done Marking Time

For the past two years, as I’ve hinted at here a few times during the wait, I’ve been in a limbo of sorts, not knowing what my future would be looking like.  There were questions that needed to be answered, forms that needed to be completed, things that had to be said, and not least of all simply enduring the daily anxiety of not knowing how my chips would fall.

I found out today that they fell, and just the way I’d hoped and prayed that they would.  I can breathe again, and smile, and sing!  I can’t dance, but I was never able to do that with my two left feet, so there’s no loss there.  All I need to complete the picture of happiness is my scooter back from the shop.  Meanwhile, here I am in a celebratory mood channeling the spirit of Tiny Tim and just generally breathing a sigh of relief that’s likely to make the whole east coast a few degrees warmer.

To those of you who might’ve prayed for me during the time that my life was essentially on hold, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for remembering me to the Almighty.  God is good!  Life is good! 

My ukulele playing is decidedly okay for now.  Although I purchased the little thing on impulse when I was in high school I never really tried to learn it, though I’d played the guitar on and off since elementary school (and the accordion, and the tuba).  There’s an upcoming “Island Party” in the Fall to which I’ve been invited, and never one to just sit back and enjoy the show without being a part of it, I decided that a bit of entertainment would be in order.  I’m having a lot of fun in learning to play the little thing.

I can see it now in the not too distant future...  My scooter on its kickstand in a public place somewhere with this goofy looking guy playing a ukulele nearby.  I won’t expect much change to be thrown my way; the uke’s gig bag is quite small.  Thank heaven my spirit of mirth will be a lot larger.  There are good days ahead, thank God!

Friday, July 21, 2017

How Long is Reasonable?

The scooter has been in the shop now for 88 days and I've almost lost all hope of ever getting it back.  The mechanic just seems to play with it now and then while working on bunches of other bikes at the same time, and I honestly don't know what to think.  That doesn't seem like a reasonable business model, but he seems to believe that it is and I guess it works for him.  Maybe he's saving me money on labor this way by putzing with the scooter a little at a time, but I'm frustrated almost to the limit of my patience.  I'm not angry at the guy because he's terribly likable.  But I'm awfully disappointed, and that might be worse than being mad.
When the dealership where I bought it ten years ago folded last year I was worried about finding somebody who'd be able to service the Piaggio, and then in turn I was thrilled when I took it to this guy who said it wouldn’t be a problem.  At that point it needed a new rear tire, a new drive belt and transmission rollers, a lube job, and something done to stop a small leak of coolant.  Three weeks later when I got it back I couldn't ride it after I brought it home.  The small leak was now a gusher and the thermostat wasn’t doing whatever it needed to do to cool the engine after it got hot.  I managed to get it back to the shop and it's been there now for the past 60 days, during some of the best riding weather of a typical year.

I've visited the scooter and the mechanic at least six times since I took it back and each time he encouraged me by suggesting that it should only take a little more time until it’s fixed.  But then another week or so passes, and little if anything gets done.

The problem is I really like the guy, but at this point I wish I'd never trusted him to fix my bike.  I explained when I first dropped it off that the old dealership took five weeks last year to play around with it, and added that I hoped it wouldn't be a similar time issue with him.  He assured me that it wouldn't be and I left it with him confident that it wouldn’t take too long, but here I am without my scooter for three months during prime riding season.

If you ask me for the name of the shop I’m not going to publish it here, nor tell you in a private message.  I am, though, going to direct the mechanic’s attention to this post and hope he’ll realize that he’s taken way longer than seems reasonable to have finished with my scooter and go at it until it’s done without keeping on putting it to the side for a few more days after every adjustment.

I just want to ride!  I think I’ve waited way long enough with the utmost of patience.  Please!  Get it done before we're at 100 days with me still riding  nothing more than a wish and a prayer.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Different Thinking

I was in the car this afternoon when I discovered that I think differently without the scooter.  With its being in the shop for nine weeks now, my summer just hasn’t been the same and it’s not only because I’m not out and about on two wheels, but because everything looks and feels different than it typically would this time of year when I’d usually be running all over the place on the bike and doing some of my best thinking.

There are places I go to regularly on the Piaggio that it wouldn’t even cross my mind to visit in the car.  The county park.  A favorite boat launch along the Susquehanna.  The various back roads and byways I love to ride because of the curves, or the scenery, or the smell of fresh cut clover and cow manure.  The out of the way bakeries, pizza joints, and bistro type places where it just feels so good to plant the kickstand and grab a bite of something delicious.  The little secluded spots with picnic tables where I can write e-mails or Facebook posts or blog entries.  They just wouldn’t be worth going to on four wheels because they’d feel like alien landscapes rather than my hallowed scooter haunts.

I’ve been missing out on a lot of the kind of introspection that comes when I’m alone in the middle of nowhere with the sun on my shoulders and the wind in my face, experiencing a lot of the things that make the summer special for me.   It’s mostly the thoughts that I miss, though.  The questions that I often ask myself with the hum of the scooter’s engine the only sound around for miles in places where a passing car is less likely to be seen than a barn somewhere struggling to hold itself together and some stray horses idly doing their horsey kinds of things in their fields.   And even worse than not being able to ask the questions is the inability to answer them and to make any progress with heading my life in a particular direction now.

The last time I saw my scooter, it looked like this.  It feels like my spirit is likewise apart and waiting to be reassembled.  I really need my bike back!

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 my mechanic.  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.  My mechanic 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 the owner, and a few of his friendly cronies while they worked on various bikes and busted each others’ asses unmercifully to my general amusement.  What we decided in order to keep it simple was that he'd  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 he 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 the mechanic about my horror story from last year when my old dealership’s shop kept it for five weeks during May into June.  He 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. 

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 the shop 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.  My mechanic 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!