Search This Blog

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas - the gearing up saga continues....

The first time I ever rode my Burgie home I knew that the helmet I had was not going to cut it, so I bought myself a full face helmet.  Gloves were something I needed and after a bit of debate, managed to get two different pairs.

A pair of over the ankle, waterproof, oil resistant soled leather boots completed the ensemble.   What I was lacking was a good armored motorcycle jacket.  What I had been using was a high visibility yellow jacket that I used to go hiking around the woods in when I lived in the wilds of Western Pennsylvania.   There was no way I was going to be mistaken for a deer in that!  For riding however, other than the visibility it offered little in protection.

Never mind the date in the corner  :)
For the holiday's then my lovely parents bought me a motorcycle jacket from the good folks over at  It's a Vulcan NF-7003 Armored Waterproof Textile jacket with mesh Panels.

It fit perfectly at my waist and didn't bunch up as I rode in it.  It does have some reflective piping but it's black, so my high visibility orange work vest will be around for a bit longer particularly when I ride home from work at 1 in the morning.

The inner mesh is removable so come the hot sticky days of summer I will not be sweating that badly...I hope.  The armor can be removed as well, I suppose to clean the jacket, but I'm a little weary of that.  The armor is CE certified.

I know perfectly well the physics of an accident.  I'm going to get hurt.  Exactly how hurt is a combination of things.  My speed at the time of the accident, the road surface, how I hit the surface, am I going to hit something else first?  The distance between me and the ground.  I'm not looking for an accident, I sure in hell do not wish to be in one...but lets be honest.  Any biker that says they have never been in an accident of some sort is either a liar or the most lucky fool on the planet.  Ask them to buy a lottery ticket for you.

My hope is having an armored jacket is to protect the body.  Just like wearing a helmet is to protect the brain.  Well I certainly understand the "freedom" argument for not wearing a helmet, my melon is my melon and I'm wearing a helmet.  My desire for a jacket fell along those same line.  A jacket may not save my life, but I'm feeling a little safer wearing one.

I've worn it out a few times now including in a fog filled rainy night.  It has kept me warm and dry and I'm getting used to its weight and feel.  It even folds nicely into my under seat storage.

Thanks Mom and Dad.  I love you,

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holiday's

From the staff here at Scooter Revolution! - OK just me - here is hoping every one has a happy and safe Holiday Season.  I am looking forward to the coming year and the adventures that it will bring.  Be Safe.  Be well and be happy.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

5 places challenge

Princess Scooterpie threw down the gauntlet about a week ago.  Her challenge was simple; yet for a guy like would be something I would totally over think.   I am still a new rider so I'm defining local as something that I might actually be capable of doing today with my skill level.

Her challenge was:

  1.  "to list at least 5 places in YOUR own country that you want to visit."
  2.  "if you could go anywhere in the world on your motorcycle or scooter where would it be?"
America is a big place.  I would love to see the Grand Canyon, have lunch at the Little A'Le'Inn cafe, or try to unravel the mysteries of the Worlds largest ball of yarn.  Well...maybe not the last thing.  

It be very easy to list some things...problem is, am I capable of doing them today?  

So I changed her rules slightly and defined local as "places that I would likely ride to with my current level of experience and ability."  My top five then narrowed quite a bit, and are in somewhat of an order.

St. Augustine - Not only is this one of the oldest cities in America, but getting there is a combination of different riding experiences, from the modern four lane super highway to the two lane blacktop through one of central Florida's many swamps and the Historic US-1. Roughly 158 miles in a little bit over 3 hours its completely doable in a one day trip.  
St. Augustine is over 500 years old and for a history buff like me to be so close it seems like a shame not to visit.  Plus I love to body surf, and the Atlantic side of Florida gets much better body surfing waves than the Gulf of Mexico side where I live currently.
Key West - I was in Key West nearly two years ago and would love to get back.  I was on a cruise and didn't feel there was enough time to explore this remarkable city.  I toured the Hemingway house, had a overpriced drink in Margaritaville and went into their lighthouse, then back to the boat.  I have wanted to get back since to explore some more.
There is ferry service to the Keys from Tampa which would leave more time for exploring the island but at this time, I don't believe you can take the bike on the ferry.  Either way it's a trip worth making.  I would take a week's vacation if I were to do this and enjoy the ride.  
Unlike the above however, this is not an easy trip to make.  There really is no direct route to the Keys from where I live.  It's about eight hours and 395 miles away.  It's through some of the most beautiful countryside in central and southern Florida as you cruise past Lake Okeechobee and through the Everglades National Park.  US-1 stretches out over the open water and invites you to rest your tired bones in the warm waters of the Gulf.  The island itself is famed for its scooter friendly streets, sunsets, beaches and laid back attitude.  It's been a destination for bikers for years.  

Weeki Wachee, Florida - The city of mermaids.   Okay, I admit watching women do a synchronized dance number under water in a natural spring is a bit silly.  But it's that "old time Florida" experience I seek by going there.  They also have a State park, a amusement and water park with water ski shows and other "old time family entertainment."  In the world of HDTV, Smart phones and in a state ruled by a giant rodent, there is something to be said for the simplicity of a girl in a fish outfit.    
Part of the charm of going there for me is the quickness of the trip.  From my home it would take about an hour and would be under 100 miles round trip.  Plus there are a variety of routes, each of them on back country roads.  

The last two trips are a bit harder for me to define.  They don't really meet my definition of local.  Nor do I believe I'm capable of such a trip right now.    

New Orleans is of course, the Big Easy.  Famed city of vice and virtue, of jazz and food, of history and mystery.  As a "foodie", a self described music geek and history nerd this seems like a no brainier.  A little over 600 miles or 10 hours away it would be a weeks vacation by bike.   Much like Key West I feel it's possible for me to do, just not very likely.
Rainbow Row

Finally, the last "local" trip is again not at all local.  Unlike every other trip mentioned so far this one is all highway but the destination means a lot to me.  Roughly eight hours and 415 miles away lies Charleston, SC.  I am not sure if there is such a thing as destiny or reincarnation, but Charleston has always felt like home to me.  There is a spirit in the air there that just makes me want to relax on the veranda with a mint julep and call everyone "Honey."

The final part of the challenge is not really that hard for me either.   I love Asia.  I was in Central Asia several years ago and my first wife (who by the way I still have nothing nice to say about even after all these years) was originally from that part of the world.  To ride my bike on the Great Wall?  On the Silk road?  Oh yea, I am so there.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gary B

At 45 years old I am both surprised and saddened by the amount of people I have known that have died.

I was just starting to get to know Gary.  He seemed friendly enough, generous - he gave me a pair of motorcycle gloves and was willing to share his knowledge of the Burgmen's inner workings with me.  Helping me out with my first oil change and checking out the transmission for me.

When he and another friend were out one day, an animal run in front of the other guys bike and he went down on the side of the road.   Not only did Gary take care of his friend, but also the bike...getting it to a safe location.  He had character, something I feel is missing in this world. 

We went out on a few rides.  Over the hills of central Florida...I even had a private nickname for him that I never shared with him; "Mr McTwisty".  The funny thing is he sent me a map of the route a few days before.  I plan on making a memorial ride over that route in a few days in his honor.

His death on Saturday of a sudden heart attack is leaving me feel a little numb, and I can't imagine what his wife and kids must be feeling.  My thoughts and prayers go out to them.

Some say that once something is put on the net it's there forever.  That nothing can truly be deleted or disappear.  While my friendship with Gary was all to brief  the effect that he had on peoples lives will never disappear.

The family has established an account to benefit their three children. For details on how to contribute, please contact Autumn York at

Ride well buddy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Learning curve's

Every time I go out, I learn something new about the bike and myself.  On Saturday I thought I go get gas, then take the bike out for a nice spin on a lovely day.

I misjudged exactly how far I would get on the gas I had.  In fact, 1.5 miles up the road I'm calling the lovely, beautiful, smart and incredible girlfriend to pick me up.  Did I mention how wonderful she was?

The girlfriend let me know she was not happy about picking me up and getting gas for me, in fact I'm still suffering from this experience.  Lesson learned...About 210 miles is as far as I go go on a tank of gas, after that find a station quickly.

When I left in the morning the temperature was in the low 80's, a wonderful warm and sunny morning, within the hour the sky darkened, the clouds moved in and every time I looked down at my ambient air gauge...the temperature seemed to drop another 3 or 4 degrees.  I had packed a sweater under the seat and tossed that on, but not rain gear.  A friend had got caught out a few days before, and I should have learned from his experience.  The rain however held off and my little 50 miles sprint on the bike was all good.
An old bridge found on the ride.

David Masse, who writes the wonderful Life on Two wheels blog, once mentioned that he carried a crushed beer can with him to stabilize the bike when he pulled into soft shoulders to take a few photo's or so.  "Good idea" I think to myself, and promptly don't do that.   Then I pull off the side of the road to get a couple of pics of an old decaying bridge, which sadly my photographic skills do not do it justice.  I start to put the camera back into the bag and "OH SHIT!" the bike did not tip.  I was able to catch it in time...but lesson learned.  The camera landed softly on the grass and I was glad I dropped it, and not the Burgie.

There is a lot of learning involved.  How to do the basic maintenance, how to look for certain things, how to protect yourself, how to drive in X condition and how that differs from Y condition.

Is it worth it?  Oh sure there are gas savings, my full tank ran me a total of $12 dollars and I know I can go a MAXIMUM of 210 miles before needing to fill up again.  Does it save the environment?  Am I making friends in a larger community?
Along with the tangibles are a whole bunch of intangibles.

Ah Florida!
Of course finding something as strange and wonderful as this on the road does make it worthwhile, and being able to pull over quickly to take advantage of the camera is certainly a plus.

I'm still learning, the curves of the road and the lessons that the bike has to teach me.  What other joys does the road hold?  What other horrors and surprises?

To know that, I have to simply ride.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What the future holds....a scooter revolution? Part 1

December is a time when you supposed to look back, think about the mistakes you've made and the injuries you may have caused to those you love and ask for forgiveness. You promise yourself your going to do better.  To be a better person and move on with your life.

Problem is I don't feel like looking back.

I am looking forward.  Forward to the future of me on the Burgie.  Forward to where the girlfriend feels confident enough to climb onto the back, wrap her arms about me and whisper into my ear..."Lets go."

I am looking forward to longer trips, out to the shore to get some shots of the ocean and sunsets.  Out to the other coast of Florida where a old friend of mine will be moving.  Perhaps even an overnight ride up to Charleston, SC where I have several old friends I've not seen in years.

Looking forward to seeing even more scooters and bikes on the road.   I'm not a futurist.  I can not point to any research and say "This will happen."  I can only point to what I know, to what I see happening.  Their will be a "Scooter Revolution" in this country eventually.


Partially because of the costs involved.  Gas is continuing to raise, and although it has seemed to stabilized for will go up again.  I know enough about economics to know that the job market is not going to bounce back anytime soon, we are looking at high unemployment and other issues for at least the next 10 years.

This is going to force people to look for alternative methods of transportation.   We are seeing it already as scooter sales were up 50% in the first quarter of 2011.  Although I think most people didn't think it through and only bought scooters based on fuel economy and did not consider things like speed, safety and the distance they needed to travel back and forth to work (which are all reasons I upgraded from 125cc to 400cc).

Scooter sales dropped a bit as the year went on but even in the 3rd quarter of last year they were overall positive.

Motorcycle sales however dropped.   Perhaps due to the fact that Americans don't like standard shifts, I drive a standard shift normally in my car...and found switching to the motorcycle to be a bit confusing.  Also limiting I think was the power involved.   When I started looking about the smallest engine I found was 650cc.  While I was okay with that, I wondered why a lot of cycles were in the higher cc range.   I know that speed brings stability, but did we need 1200cc to do that?

So the marketer and researcher in me looks for answers, solutions...and wonders what does the future hold.

  1. Increased gas prices are a given.
  2. Increased urbanization.
  3. People living with their parents longer, or if they do move will be close to work (see two).  Money will be tight due to a lack of work.
  4. Increased use of public and alternative transportation.
So what does this mean.   It means that the 2 wheeled market is set to expand.  If the companies involved play their cards right.   I think BMW actually is thinking about this.   Their new Concept C scooter offers a lot in a little package, and is designed to really appeal to lots of people.

Here you have an automatic transmission, a powerhouse capable of highway speeds, a damn sexy almost sport bike look, and although I've not seen any specs for storage and other things...I'm sure it's there as well.  The crappy windshield however will need to go.

I have to be honest, I want this bike.

Automatics may make a dent in the marketplace if American cycle culture is willing to accept some harsh reality.  Smaller engines, better suspensions, more storage is the wave of the future.  The so called Maxi-scooters are leading the way.

Ridley had a nice run for several years but may have entered the market to early, they have stopped production and it will be interesting to see if they reenter the market in the near future.

Honda has a few things up it's sleeve and introduced a automatic transmission in 2009, however the bike was priced at 15K and in a down economy did not sell well.  Even the mighty Harley Davidson has toyed with the idea in the past.  I see this idea being explored more in the future.

For now though we will put these idea's aside, and explore them more in part 2 of this series.  Hopefully in a few days.

Monday, December 5, 2011

For our 4 legged friends

A friend of mine at work asked me to pass this on.  I know what it's like to have an animal in pain and not be able to help them due to money.

I owned a cat named Breezewood for years, he suffered unduly because I didn't have the money to get him the care he needed or to end his suffering.  So even if you can give just a dollar, it will help someone else not regret giving their animal what they needed.

That's Breeze there, not a greet pic but one of the few I have in the PC.  Great memories however of him purring away.   Towards the end he couldn't even move.   If a dollar helps someone else's pet not suffer, then I'll do what I can to help them out.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fear of Twisty's???

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I had four days off, then worked a day and had an additional two days off.   Lots of time to get the Burgie out and do some riding, but it didn't work out that way as family obligations and other duties kept me off the bike till a glorious day just ripe for riding.   Warm and sunny the road called out...."Twisty's Robert....Twisty's".

Gary B and I headed out, him in the lead.   He in the lead through orange groves and country roads, for 110 miles we road a circle north and south, east and west.   Something happened somewhere in the route, I started to feel a bit more confident taking some turns.

I felt a little bad as Gary had to keep slowing down for me, going through the curves with practiced ease, but I needed to do this at my pace.  I felt that I was lacking experience taking the curves I knew Gary had planned.  Gary has about 10 years if not more of riding experience on me, and he knows the roads we were riding well.

I took my time, feeling better and more confident with each curve of the road.  Each time letting the road and the bike tell me how to move.  Leaning, slowing down, powering through each curve.

A little explanation is in order.  Since buying my bike,  I've been a commuter traveling the same tired roads day in and day out on my Burgman.  While my route to work offers a little variation; I can ride to work a few different ways...taking the highway briefly or the twisted back road....a straightaway country road...the truth is it's pretty much the same ride day in and out.  So I was feeling a little tentative then  as we started the ride.  I just don't get to do twists and turns often enough to feel comfortable with them.

Thanks to anonymous1310 on DA.
Towards the end of the ride I was feeling more and more secure.  The smile started to return to my face.

On Sunday, I went out again.  Driving into a blinding setting sun I had left early enough to hit some winding side roads I know of near work.  Again I went to get used to the twists and turns of an unfamiliar road.  In and out and powering through.

It sounds silly as I write this, that I should have a fear of twisty's.  It's not really a fear, it's more of a respect.  I have not had much chance to ride them. To practice, to simply ride the roads.   Florida is full of straight roads or a road that slightly curves, easy turns to make.   Some sharp curves are here and there and those are the roads that I want to ride, to practice on.   You don't become a better rider by riding the straight ride the twisted roads.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fuel Mileage

OK....stop reading if you don't like math.

Still here?

Good.  Because this weeks little article involves math.  In particular, fuel milage.  Don't worry, it's not that bad.  A bit of simple basic adding and subtracting.  Multiplying and dividing, the stuff you should have learned in school if you were paying attention.

I wanted to conduct a little experiment.  I was curious about how much money it would cost me to go about 1000 miles, how much fuel it would take and a few other things.   One Thousand miles was just a nice round figure to use.

Now to be honest, this test was not conducted under strict scientific standards.  I was using the bike's odometer and not a much more accurate GPS device.  I should have filled up the tank with the same amount of and same type of gas each time as well.   I didn't do that.

In the end I went over my 1000 mile test limit as well, mostly because I was on fumes with about 30 miles to go on my test (and about 20 miles till I got home at 1 AM in the morning) and decided that it was worth extending the my test some 230.8 miles - the distance my last fill up took me - instead of the possibility of pushing the bike home.

So in the end, my experiment took 1,209.1 miles.  It cost me a total of $63.82.  My average price per gallon was $3.54 and I filled up a total of 6 times.  Again that works out to be 201.5 miles per fill up on average.  A fill up on the Burgie is 3.1 gallons.

On average then I'm getting about 65 miles per gallon of gas.  Not great mileage, but certainly better than my car, which gets an average of 30 miles per gallon.  Even being an economy model it takes anywhere between $40 - 50 dollars to fill up  and I'm not going to get anywhere close to 1000 miles on one tank.  (edited: recent experience shows me that I should be in the 70 - 75 mpg range)

If I used my bike for nothing but commuting back and forth to work 5 days a week I would put roughly 1400 miles on the bike each month.  So for another $10 - 12 dollars I have my monthly gas budget.  Let's call it $100 just to be safe.

My old Zuma 125 used to have even better gas mileage and was in the 75 to 90 mile range per gallon.  Of course it was lighter and had a smaller engine as well.  It was great for when I lived in the city, not so good for living out in the middle of no where and needing to commute 35 miles one way each day.     The smaller 50cc bikes are capable of getting 100 plus miles per gallon.  But in return for the higher mpg your sacrificing speed, and frankly in my mind at least, safety as well.  That choice however is yours to make.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Solomon's Castle

It raises out of the South Central swampland in the middle of no where.  A castle, a home, a workshop, a place of dreams and, sadly the last refuge of lovers of puns.  It literally shines in the afternoon light, covered as it is by aluminum printing plates discarded by a local newspaper publisher.  In fact, nearly everything in and about the castle started out as something different, mundane and dull.   The artist, Howard Solomon - who actually lives, owns and works on the grounds -simply sees the world in different ways.  Where are we might see a pile of wire coat hangers, he sees the beginning of a magical creature.  Were we see old baskets he sees a motorcycle.   His love of art and history are displayed everywhere as various reproductions of old Saturday Evening Post covers by Norman Rockwell.  In his highly detailed collages I see the influence of Romare Bearden although it's a completely different style.  Maybe it's there maybe it's not.

The captain charting his course.
In fact, I don't think there is much Solomon can't do.  Some of the stained glass work throughout the castle and the attached boat - which also serves as a cafe - and the lighthouse (after all how would the boat find it's way home from sea without a lighthouse) is glorious.  Look closely and you see the little details...the cannons on the ship for example.    Or that there are wasps, turtles, gators and other little animals made out of "junk" that you have to look for, but in doing so your rewarded with a pleasant surprise.  

The ride takes you through back roads and small towns, through endless orange groves and strawberry fields.  It's pretty much a straight ride, no twist's for those that might like a winding road except for one wicked "S" bend which sneaks up on you.  It took me about an hour and a half from my home to get there - your trip will vary of course.

It's a cheap attraction, parking is free and ample.  The cost to get the tour is only $10 a person although I got the feeling you could wander about for free.   In doing so you get to avoid many of the groan worthy puns the tour guide has in store for you.    Of course, that is part of the charm of this little place.

I didn't try the food at the "Boat in the Moat", which seems reasonably priced and diverse enough for even the most fickle eater to enjoy, but that just gives me an excuse to go back.  I'm not sure how often the art changes, but I got a feeling this man can't stop creating art...and the idea of spending a night in the new Bed in Breakfast or the "Blue Room" does have some appeal.

 If your curious the castle does have a website and a Facebook page.  The Facebook page has some additional pictures of the various art work and the artist himself.  Some additional photo's can  be found on my Facebook page.

So yea...ride out and enjoy your day.  Motorcycles and other bikes are welcome and in the cooler weather it's not unusual to find car clubs and musical acts at the castle.

Update:  Found this link on the Weird Florida site and had to share.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Okay....gearing up. Time to be serious.

You have to be mentally tough to ride any sort of powered two wheeled machine.

Your exposed to the elements, you know that the concrete will not give not if...but when, you go down.  I've been thinking about this a lot lately.   A close encounter with a deer the other night is why, it froze in my headlights, a quick serve to the left and I went around him...but the heart didn't stop pounding for 20 minutes.

Okay...cute but not acceptable!
In Florida, the only thing that the law requires you to wear when riding is eye protection.  I've seen riders in shorts, flip flops, shirtless, without helmets and yes, more than a few with no eye protection.   Where as I seem to be going the other way and wearing more and more protection.

I have always worn a helmet when riding.   Even a short jaunt to the local market gets a helmet (although I will admit to wearing the shorts and tee-shirt - not any more however).   My body will recover hopefully if I go down.  The brain might not so I invested in a full face helmet.

I've a bright yellow jacket I wear.  It's not really a motorcycle jacket but it's visible and warm.  At night I through a reflective work style vest over it to make me even a bit more visible.  When I first started to ride I didn't always wear the jacket, enjoying the cool air blowing around me.   Now even if I'm just running to the store a half a mile away it goes on.  I am actively looking for a good motorcycle jacket, one with the armor to protect the elbows and back, and I am to poor not to have quality.

My job requires dress shoes but I've been wearing my waterproof and oil resistant sole boots when I ride now.  I've not always done that in the past.  I can't do much about the dress pants I have to wear.

Yep, me in gear - a big canary.
My attitude is changing.   I'm becoming a bigger and bigger fan of the ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) philosophy.  Not that safety was always important to me, but I find myself becoming more and more serious about it.  I'm seeing morons text, talk on the phone, slam on the brakes, cut in front of cars and such without a look.

Frankly it scares the hell out of me at times.

I then have a choice.  To not ride or to ride.   I enjoy riding, I love the physicality of riding...feeling the sun on my face and the wind across my body as I ride.  My fear is manageable.  I watch, I try to make myself as visible as possible.  The best way to avoid an accident is to be ready for it.  Keeping it upright is better than going down any day of the week.

Every mile under my belt is another mile of experience.

Music and Motorcycles

My plans for Saturday were simple, sleep in a bit then go down to visit Solomon's Castle.  Sue and I were planning on spending the day, it's about a 90 minute ride south 1 way, and then come back.  Maybe check out the Zephyrhills Music and Motorcycle event afterword.

As it so happened life got in the way of Solomon's Castle (next weekend for sure!) but we did spend a little time at the event.  Some photo's if your interested follow.

3 or 4 different streets just loaded with bikes.

I was surprised there were not more motorcycle merchants or dealers at the event.  I know Z-hills is a small little town and the event was not really organized well.  I live there and didn't learn about the event till a week beforehand, and the only reason I did was because my mom gave me her Sunday paper.

Z-hills, as the local call it, has a lovely park which the bikes were allowed to drive through.  Music was provided by the Dive Bar Stalkers right off of main street itself.   The band lived up to it's name.

What I enjoyed was the diversity of the bikes and the creativity on many of the paint jobs.  One guy was doing pin stripping, and yes, I considered it for the Burgie but with some damaged plastics it be a waste of time and money.

Nice to see I'm not the only Burgie rider there!
This damage is not something I'm happy about and needs to be fixed.  This is my next project.  I'm going to work on making my bike look less beat up.  I'm planning on keeping it for years, so it needs to be cleaned up.  I would like to have my bike shining again.

Which brings me to the next photo.   While walking about I came across a restored with all original parts 1974 Triumph Bonneville 750.  It only had 6600 miles on it.  The same amount of mile that were on my Burgie originally.  What impressed me was the amount of time and love that went into that bike...and the story that bike must have.  Out of all the various bikes there, only two really brought a smile to my face....the Bonneville was one.  A true classic.

The other thing that caught my eye was truly a sight to behold.  

You gotta admit...that is pretty cool.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Random thoughts at night

I just worked a 11.5 hour day so forgive me if this is not of up to the usual level of incoherence.  First though a serious moment, the other night a buddy of mine and a friend of his, named Mark, went riding.  Mark had something jump in front of him and down he went.   At this time I'm not sure how badly hurt he is but I know it was serious enough to require a paramedic.

Here's hoping Mark recovers quickly and can return to riding soon no worse for wear.

Guess where the finger goes!
1)  I enjoy riding at night.  I often work till 12:30 or 1 AM so coming home the roads are empty, it's just me and the bike and the stars above.  It's peaceful, calming and relaxing listening to the white noise of wind across my helmet.  The deer looking up from the side of the road as they feed.  The moon bright and welcoming.

2)  It's also a little scary at night.  I fear two things.  One is that those peaceful deer will decide to jump in front of me to give me a bear hug and the other is that the roads are so empty and so devoid of civilization that the guy in the photo there will give me more to worry about than numb butt!

Special thanks to Donald Yatomi
3)  I really need a digital camera.  The more I ride the more I want to document some of the weird and wonderful things I've seen.  Hopefully we won't document any procedures given to us by the guys in the photo there.  Be kind of neat if they converted the Burgie into a hover cycle.  That be really cool.  All joking aside however there are stories behind some of the things I've seen...either true or waiting to be told.  It's those stories that interest me when I ride.  "How did that lone large tree end up in the middle of lake?"  or "Who placed this monolith in the middle of no where and for what purpose?"  These are stories to be told.

3.5)  I tend to notice things a bit more now when I ride than I think I did before.  Maybe it's because I am exposed on a very small piece of metal and plastic as compared to the cars around me.  Perhaps.  I think however that it is something more.   I am closer to the road, I feel the physics working on me through a turn, the cry of birds in the air.  The smell of a BBQ fire as I pass a rib joint.  I ride to enjoy the ride...being aware of my surroundings is part of that, and maybe a bit more.

4)  I would think sneezing while wearing a full face helmet would be a bad thing.

5)  At work their are at least two other people that ride.  Yet I seem to be the only one that shows up in all type of weather on my bike.  I'm rather proud of that fact and others have noticed as well.  It's a badge of honor for me.

6)  Who ever designed the Burgi was small.  I am 6 foot tall, and have seen many of bug fly up and over the windshield...only to smack me directly me in the middle of full face shield.

7) cold weather it's the way to go, although I still can't wrap my mind around the lower 50's being cold.  I know my blood will thin out in a year or two and the mid 70's will seem cold.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spook Hill and Bok Tower Gardens - a adventure to be had

I can think of no better day than today to post about my adventures in the "other realm".  Not the realm of spooks and ghosties but the realm of the automobile.  OH SCARY!

We, my long time girlfriend and I, had not been out on a date night for a while and with a rare Saturday off, we decided to go on an adventure.  Spook Hill and Bok Tower Gardens are about an hour away, and I thought it might be an interesting adventure on the bike.  Sadly my lovely GF does not want to ride 2-up with me yet, fearing that I don't have the experience to handle it.  I fear that she may be right, so we made a picnic lunch and off we went in our jeep!

I got to be honest, I was not expecting much out of Spook Hill and frankly I was surprised by the effect.  It left me grinning like a idiot.  Florida is a state full of optical illusions, going down the road it's common to see mirages that disappear as quickly as it appears due to the heat and curves of the land.  The below photo gives you an idea of what the hill actually looks like.

I pulled up to the line and put the car in neutral.  I was expecting to sit for a bit and then feel the car move slowly at first.  It didn't happen that way.  We started to roll. Quickly. Uphill! The girl friend and I looked at each other and smiled.  Just to give you an idea of how quickly there is a video here.  The hill is much steeper than you would think as well.

When traveling somewhere however you should always double check on things.  Sadly we were turned around from Bok Tower due to a private event.  I was disappointed but not to much as we learned that the town of Lake Wales was having its Pioneer Days.

A free event featuring displays, a parade, reenactors and the lot.  We spent the day dancing to country music, wandering from craft table to craft table and eating the usual fair food that has no redeemable qualities. Bluegrass and country music filling the air as a bright sun shone down.

While I would have preferred to have ridden the Burgi over, it was obvious that Spook Hill is best experienced in a car.  With the holidays coming up the lovely Susan and I may yet ride over to Bok Tower and see the sites.  Maybe by December she will trust my experiences enough to climb on back.  Or maybe I'll invest in a sidecar....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Here's to you Jack Kerouac

Yesterday I had some personal business to do in Clearwater and St Petersburg, Florida.  My plan was to originally take the Bergi down, get some good shots of it framed against the deep blue of the Gulf of Mexico waters and then have dinner at the Flamingo, the bar where Jack Kerouac supposedly had his last drink.

As it so happened I ended up having to take my car down since I had no way to properly strap the GPS to the Bergi (Note to self:  get a GPS mount) so no pictures of the bike on the Bay.

October 21, 1969 was the day that Jack Kerouac died at the age of 47, and American Literature lost a unique and original voice.   Kerouac, for those of you that may not know, wrote the seminal novel On the Road.  Although personally I don't consider this to be his best work, preferring his next work - The Dharma Bums, to be the height of his work as a writer..

I read On the Road years ago, I was influenced by it like thousands of others before me, not so much to leave home and travel about the it did for a few people I know...but to go ahead and experience different things and sensations.  To break out of my explore and fall in love with life.

On the wall of the Flamingo
As a young and hopeful writer at the time I fell in love with his "spontaneous prose" which at times seemed sporadic and musical, crazed and insane and oh so wonderful.

I read more of his work, and that opened me up to other writers and ideas and ways to live.  Where as Jack's work influenced me to live with a sense of adventure and wanderlust, in the end his work has always struck me as sad and lacking.  He was always traveling, looking, searching for something that always seemed just out of reach.

Sitting at the bar, a bottle of beer in front of me, I reflected on all of this.  The journey that lead me to sit alone in a bar on a Tuesday night, perhaps on the very seat one of my icons sat on forty years ago.  I paid for the beer, walking out of the bar feeling a little down...knowing that a great talent died way to young.

I looked up, two people on a cruiser pulled up her arms wrapped around his and they smiled...then pulled away and went off on their next adventure somewhere down the road.

I smiled, looked up at the sky and gave a silent "thank you" and went home.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The return of the shade tree mechanic

Growing up in the 70's and early to mid 80's when my Dad had a problem with his car he took it down the road to a guy named Dan.  Dan worked out of a barn in the back of his house, or on a warm spring or summer day, under a big old oak tree my brother and I loved to climb.  He was literally a shade tree mechanic right down to the ever present bottle of beer.

I am not mechanically inclined.  It's not that I don't understand the principles of it, the weird thing is that in my life I've been a lab rat.  I worked for years as a civil engineering tech and now work for a GPS company.   I understand tech.  I speak tech.

Just don't ask me to actually fix or repair anything.  I find humor in the fact that I know more about how the road under my wheels is constructed than the machine I'm riding on it.

When I bought my scooter I knew that had to change.  I've done minor repairs in the car, "How difficult could it be to change the oil?" I thought.    Well truthfully in the Burgman, not hard at all.   Although I did quickly learn that some things I would have to do in the future were going to require more than a Phillips head screwdriver and a wrench.

The oil change itself was pretty simple and my thanks go out to Gary for walking me through it the first time, although after watching him do it I think I could have handled it.

He also pulled apart the CVT which started me thinking how little about the machine I decided to ride.  If there is a squeal I know I can sit and think about it and identify where it's coming from...even be pretty sure what's causing it.   Fixing it...not so sure and mechanics love to see a rube like me coming!

I understand the physics of it...the principles of my bike.  I know that if I take the time and invest the energy I'll be able to fix the minor problems, change the oil and even seek shade under that old tree.  If I invest the time and energy.

OK, maybe not the shade tree mechanic I had in mind
What modern car dealers don't want to tell you is that, Dan - remember him - does not actually exist.  Things today are all electronic do dads and whatit's.  The mechanic today is more of a computer diagnostics person than the proverbial grease monkey.  Watching people work on their bikes harks back to a simpler time.

Their is an amazing community of "gearheads" out there.  When a strange black streak appeared on my variator the first thing that popped into my mind was that the belt was not seated properly and rubbing against the metal.   That could either result in a broken belt or replacing the variator itself.

As it so happened that mark appears to be a normal thing, as Gary posted the pics and question to the Burgman USA forums and had an answer within a few hours.  So I feel pretty confidant moving forward that if I have a issue or question I can get the answer.  I feel that I can work on this bike, or at least ask the right questions if I do take it to a mechanic.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Feeling homesick this time of year. Riding in the fall.

I always have mixed feelings with the arrival of fall.  Living previously in Western Pennsylvania I was blessed with remarkable colors, cooler nights, football (both the European game and my beloved Steelers), sharp apple cider - either spiked or not, warmed or not.  Egg Nog - again spiked or not and either served with or without chocolate favored whipped toppings.

It was also depressing as the nights grew longer and the days hinted of winter just around the corner.  Where I have always enjoyed working in my yard, raking leaves is a never ending task...perhaps better suited to the horrors of Hades.  I've often wondered if Sisyphus was given the choice of pushing the rock up the hill or raking leaves.  I'm sure he chose the rock.  I will not mention the four letter word starting with an "S" that always replaces the raking of leaves with another back breaking labor.

Now that I live in Central Florida there is a much subtler autumn.  Marked by the migratory arrival of the grey and blue tufted snowbirds, the drop in the Gulf's water temperature from "warm bathwater" to "bathwater" and the cooler days and nights designed for riding.  Although the other day when I rode to work the ambient temperature gauge on my Bergie said "93".   That is "Freaking Hot" for the understanding of my international readers.  When I left work at midnight the temperature was a much more manageable 73 degrees.

When I ride home at night, I normally just throw a sweat shirt on under my bright yellow riding jacket and that is the extent of my winter gear.  I certainly cannot imagine such things as heated pants and gloves and other equipment that many of my northern friends either have or are considering to extend their riding season.  Some I am sure have already started to put their bikes away.

I can picture what it must be like right now in my home state of Pennsylvania, the leaves blazing with color.  Riding at a leisurely pace along the back roads just living in the moment, pulling over in some small road side cafe', where the locals bring their own coffee mugs that hang proudly displayed behind the freshly made pumpkin pie.  I can just imagine what it would be like to put my 400cc Burgie into the twists and turns of my home.

It's not that adventures and twisties can't be found here in Florida.  A simple trip to get gas lead to my going out of my way some 60 odd miles just to ride on a clear and sunny morning, where I passed someone on a 1980's era Honda Elite that looked ecstatic to see another scooter rider.  It's these moments I am starting to realize, is why people ride.   I also begin to feel that the scooter is well suited for me at this stage in my life...where I am more interested in enjoying the journey than rushing from point A to point B.

If this is what growing older is...I can live with it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Orlando's Snowbird Classic and other rides and rally's

As the French might say "Le Sigh!"

I had heard about the Snowbird Classic Scooter rally earlier and had planned on going this weekend.  However I ended up having to work late Friday night (I normally work till 12:30 - 1 AM at my job but got stuck working till 2...then had to commute an hour home).

The original plan was to drive down to Tampa first and meet up with my new buddy Gary and another rider or two, then go over to the Rally which is just north of Orlando.    I had the camera ready, a full tank of gas and my heart set on going.  

Two problems though.   Riding on only 3 to 4 hours of sleep is stupid and I would have to turn around to be back at work by 4 PM today.

Next year for sure.

The next rally I know of for sure is in nearby St Pete's and is the weekend of Nov. 11 - 13.  Again it's something I really want to go to but with my schedule being what it is....I can't really commit to something.  

I may just ride out to the local Wine and Food Festival on Nov 12 at Rosa Fiorelli Winery if I can't go to the rally.  Some great people and wonderful wines.

Anyone need to fill a position on daylight shift?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rain Gear - the Gearing Up Saga continues in this week's exciting episode!

When we last left our intrepid hero he was standing in the parking lot in front of a homeless shelter getting trained on a little Honda Rebel in the pouring rain...we join him now.

The evil motorcycle instructor speaks first:  "What you guys may want to do for tomorrow is stop at a Target or Wal - mart and pick up some camping rain gear. It's about $30 bucks and in this economy we all got to save a little green."

Which is exactly what I did.  Picking up a green colored rain suit from Coleman.  The next day the weather radar didn't even give a chance of rain...opting for the much more easier to understand "RAIN!"  I have to admit that the suit kept me about 98% dry throughout the day, of course we were doing low speed maneuver's in a closed parking lot and there is no way to tell how well the suit would put up with normal driving speeds with cars passing you in either direction.

Coleman rain suits
I never really thought about something like this before, opting instead to eventually buy the more traditional motorcycle rain gear.  This suit however had Velcro adjustable cuffs and snaps on the arms and legs.  The pants leg was designed to go over my boot without issue and snap shut, keeping water out of the boot.

Currently I've two pair of gloves, a lighter "summer" pair that I wrote about already, and a pair given to me as a gift that I can tuck the jacket that I'm wearing under and then Velcro down so the jacket does not ride up.  Neither really works well with this jacket and I 'm starting to see way serious riders might have 3 - 5 if not more pairs of gloves.

The zipper was protected by a storm flap with snaps.  Well the 20mm PVC plastic may not be the served my purpose well on the course.

Still though you can't help but wonder how it will perform on the road in a real world circumstance.  I have to wait and see though.  I returned it because the size I had was to large, although I do think getting a size larger - at least for the jacket is the way to go.  I want to be able to dress in layers if I'm going to be out on a nasty day and need to keep that in mind.

Green is also not my best color.  My scooter is invisible to begin with, and in the rain a little more visibility never hurts!  I'm currently seeking a yellow one and am actually considering something like a picture from Frog Toggs.   Of course, for the price of the pants and jacket I may be better off getting actual "motorcycle rain gear" which will not only keep me dry but protect me in case of a fall.

Like everything in life however it's a I get something I know I will need and use for a lower price sacrificing quality (and possible safety) because I can afford it now, or put it off till I can afford it later.  If I do that I know that if I'm caught out in the rain (and I live in Florida...I will be caught out in the rain) that I will not only get wet, but be less visible and possibly suffer from hypothermia as a result?

For now I try to avoid riding in the rain whenever possible.  But right now I'm leaning towards spending the $50 dollars or so and getting something like the Frog Togg's above.  I would rather have something to keep me dry and safe for now...I will buy the better suit later although I'm seeing sales on various discontinued items.  While buying online might be cheaper, I still feel that putting on the gear and reviewing it up close and personal might be the way to go...I can always go back and find a better price online.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Getting it legal....

When I was just a wee lad growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania I didn't know anyone that rode.  In fact, it wouldn't be till I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina right out of University that I even knew anyone that owned a bike.

As I grew older my circle of friends grew to include bikers, many of whom were serious about their Harley's, BMW's and one guy I knew even collected Indian's.  Hell, even my ex wife rode!  Yet I still did not understand what the big deal was.

My reasons for getting the scooter I did were more economical than anything but I know understand why they would take off for a weekend and just ride with no particular destination in mind.  In a way I'm sorry I didn't "get it" before.  So when I decided to upgrade from a little 125cc to the bigger 400cc Burgman I knew I would get my endorsement.

In Florida you can either get your motorcycle  endorsement on a 150cc scooters or on a 250cc  motorcycle licence.  The licence will allow you to ride either.   I decided to take the class on the motorcycle, after all you never know when you might move up right?  For someone like me who has never really ridden before it was an eye opener of sorts.  Where I thought the scooter was challenging enough learning how to work the controls of a motorcycle were a whole new challenge.

We also had to learn it in the pouring rain and howling wind over a short two day period, not the ideal condition's but I was looking at it this way; if I did well now...I know I could it in better conditions.  A opinion that seemed to be shared by my fellow trainees.

So after a few mistakes and a few realizations that "Yes, I've been doing this wrong!" I worked hard on correcting those mistakes.  Breaking habits that I somehow picked up - like covering the front brake handle with my hand.  While I'm not happy with my final score (I am my own worst critic) I can say that I did OK.

So I have the insurance, the licence, the experience will come with every mile under my wheel.  I'm part of the brotherhood now, for better or worse.  I took the class through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and highly recommend it to anyone thinking about riding, or who has ridden illegally for a while.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A nice Saturday ride

It's only been a few days after my longest ride yet, easily over 150 miles including my commute to and from work that day.  I'm sure that a better writer could describe it in detail without the sickening use of so many adjectives.

This past weekend I got the chance to go over hill and dale, through valleys deep and wide and twist and turns at speed that challenged and scared me...while at the same time putting a grin on my face and a ringing laughter in my helmet that only I could hear.

Not the church in question but similar.
I lost track of the miles as my riding partner Gary choose a route through the orange groves and forgotten little towns of rural Florida.  We rode hard and faster than I would have liked at times due to a late start and the fact that I had to work late in the afternoon.  We rode for a solid two to three hours passing a small local winery...which frankly I hope to find again on another journey.  Past an old Spanish Church straight out of the American southwest which called for exploration but learning it's story will have to be put off for another day.

We rode on down tracts where farm equipment roamed free and threatened to push us off into the saw grass, past trees loaded with oranges and kumquats.  Turn after turn to the right, to the left until I was unsure if I knew how to get home if I should lose Gary around a corner.  Truthfully it would not of mattered, every road leads somewhere and once you're somewhere you can always figure out a way home.  A brief stop for gas to feed a hungry beast and his smile was as big as mine.  We were children on Christmas day again; all brought about by a few twists and turns in the road.

Just an old funky building found on another ride.
While the ride did encourage me to ride longer and harder, proving to me that I can indeed go more than 50 miles in any one direction - without numb ass too - it also got me thinking about one of the reasons I wanted to ride in the first place.  To discover the hidden parts of America you don't see from the Freeway.  That old Spanish church, a small winery, an old graveyard, some weird little building that has a story to us, if we are willing to listen.

I can also see the attraction of rallies and poker runs.  Making and sharing stories with new friends over endless cups of coffee at the local diner and then chewing up the asphalt.  I may have bought scooter with the intention of simply going back and forth to work with it, but damned if I don't want to do more with it now.  That sense of adventure...of hard to explain.  I've had friends that have been bikers all their lives and who would try to explain it to me.  I don't think I ever "got it" till now.

You go into a twisty and you feel your body see that butterfly at the edge of the road...Your connected to the world around you in a much different way when your riding.  Suddenly "taking the long way around" doesn't seem like it's that bad of an idea.  So yea, I hope to go riding with Gary or others again.  Hopefully we will have more than two and a half hours to spend on the road.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Scooters and the environment - oops! Sorry mother nature!

2011 Victory King from another show.
I was watching Mythbusters the other night and watched with interest as they did a show on the environmental impact of motorcycles.

We all know that scooters and motorcycles are lighter than cars and have smaller engines.  Having less weight does increase the fuel mileage, which is why my 405 pound (dry weight)  Burgman is averaging around 65 miles per gallon.  Where as my 2002 Hyundia Elentra (dry weight of 2522 pounds) is about 25 mpg.  It therefore stands to logic as well that my Burgman puts out less CO2.  The results on the show reflected that as well.

What the Mythbusters did was to test representative cars and motorcycles from the past 30 years for fuel efficiency, CO2 emissions and the so called "smog producing" gasses.   While motorcycles beat out the cars in fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions, they failed horribly in the smog producing category.  What the show sadly did not take into consideration is that cars simply produce less "smog" than a bike is because of the various filters and other devices that are placed onto a car's engine.  These regulators can not be placed on a bike without increasing it's weight and reducing it's fuel efficiency.   It's a trade off that we will have to correct in the future by making a better bike with lower emissions, especially in Asia and Latin America where the scooter and motorcycle are one of the primary means of transportation.

Downtown Tampa
I worry about these results because I consider myself a "environmentalist" of sorts.  One of the reasons, if not the main reason, I bought my Bergie was to save money on gas.  I did consider the lower environmental impact as well when switching to two wheels instead of four.  

Living in Tampa, Florida is wonderful, I've seen so much wildlife and exotic flora here.  Having lived in one of the most cloudiest places in America for years, I hope I never take a truly sunny day for granted.  I plan on living out my days here.

Tampa however is in trouble.  Recent studies have show are air quality to be lower than cities that have a denser population.  There could be many reasons for this, a horrid lack of public transportation; the urban sprawl that affects most southern cities resulting in having to use your car more.  We live in a very warm climate as well and air conditioning is needed to keep mold down and make life bearable.  This also adds to the lower air quality.  Realizing that by riding my bike I was directly affecting the air quality in a negative way came as a bit of shock.

Somehow, as a community and as indivuals, we will have to decide what is best for us.  I am eventually going to replace my car with my scooter.  Saving money and reducing my carbon footprint.  In doing so I'm going to increase the amount of smog producing gasses into the air.  It's not an easy or fair choice but in the end it's a compromise I can hopefully live with.  At this stage in my life and with the economy the way it is...I've little choice.  I need to save money.

The next scooter or motorcycle I buy however will be much more environmentally friendly, knowing what to look for...the more data you gather, only helps make a conscious decision on the best way for you to live your life.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

That fine line...defining what you are.

As I was writing this it occurred to me this may be the only time in the world when Audrey Hepburn and Hell's Angels are mentioned in the same article.  Admit it, your curious now.

The other day I was asked to move my scooter.  I almost said something about it's how it's not a's a bike.  Well technically it is a scooter but it feels more like a bike to me.  When you start getting into the upper engine displacement ranges the line between "bike" and "scooter" start to fade in my mind.  I can easily do 70 - 80 mph all day (the bike is capable of more but I'm not sure I am).  I can easily pass cars and other motorcycles.  So it's more than a "scooter" but in most people's minds, less than a motorcycle.

Does it really matter what it's called?  Piaggio, I understand, is either currently producing a 850cc scooter in Europe or has been working on the plans for one for some time.

It appears to be pretty slick and blurs the line between "Scooter" and "Bike" even more.  Some motorcycles now are automatic transmission as well, which used to be part of what defined a scooter.

I consider myself to be a "rider" not a "scooterist."  The term "Scooter" to me at least has connotations of the classic "Roman Holiday."  That is probably what most people think of when they hear the word "Scooter" - a small little two stroke Vespa which was probably capable of maybe 40 mph.

And two stars are born
When I decided to upgrade to a maxi scooter I was surprised how many of the little 50cc models from various manufacturer's were being made and sold.  I'm still in shock when I see people going 2 up on them.  Thank you Audrey Hepburn!

Mention the word "Biker" to people and they probably picture something straight out of the Hell's Angels catalog.  Which I am most definitively not, I do however have the scraggly beard.

So what the hell am I?  Does it really matter?  Why am I so obsessed with trying to define it?  What I do know is that I enjoy getting out on my Burgie and just riding, even if it's just going to work or up to the mall.  It's fun for me.

If I manage to save some gas, some money, help the Earth by lowering my Carbon Footprint all while smiling like some idiot well doing it, then more power to me.  I just wish more people would forget about what something is and just get out and ride, be it on a scooter, maxi scooter, or motorcycle.

Speaking of which...I think I'm going for a ride.  Till next time!