Sunday, January 15, 2017

Oyster Tour 2017, Number One

After paying for the cost to support me and Vanessa on the 2016 Scooter Cannonball Run, and reinstating my member-in-good-standing, Ken let me know that there was another Oyster Tour in the works.  This one would not necessarily include oysters, but I was interested anyway.

It would include staying two nights at the Stephen Foster State Park near White Springs, Florida.  From there Ken suggested we ride 90 miles up to Douglas, Georgia to check on the progress of the XP 82 airplane undergoing restoration (mostly reconstruction) in a hangar at the Douglas airport.  We had seen it last year and were curious.

I worked at my usual job most of the day, leaving my office at around 3:30, went home and packed, and was off just after 4:00.  Because the sun was setting, I chose the fast route.  Interstate Highway 10.  I arrived at 5:15 and found Ken, Jim and Gary in the cabin.  We hung out for a few minutes, lamenting lack of preparations, mostly beer for me, before heading out to dinner at a "New Seafood Restaurant" in Lake City.

The "New Seafood Restaurant" turned out to be a Cedar River Seafood restaurant, part of a chain that has been in the North Florida area for forty years.  Luckily it was good.  And I was thoughtful enough to get something with oysters in it, oyster stew, that was quite tasty.

After dinner we stopped at Publix for provisions, mostly beer, coffee and snacks.

When we got back into the car, heading back to the park, Gary asked the driver, Jim, if we could stop at a convenience store to get some CocaCola.  We all thought that Publix probably had that and it would have been more "convenient" to have gotten it there.

I got the top bunk as usual and had a good night's sleep.

I got up early to finish a book I had been reading.  Lassoing the Sun by Mark Woods.  Mark is a columnist with the Florida Times Union who had taken off a year to write about the state of the National Parks.  But during the year his mother was diagnosed with cancer and quickly passed away from the disease.  The combination of parks and death made for a fine read.  Highly recommended.  I am going to see if Mark might be interested in writing the book about the experience of Rocket and Me in the 2014 Scooter Cannonball Run.  That book will probably be called, believe it or not, Rocket and Me, the adventures of a man and his scooter.

We then ate some of the cheese danish I had purchased at the convenient Publix along with strong coffee that Ken and I prefer.  It turned out to be decaf, but I never noticed.

We picked up Jim and headed north to see the airplane, stopping for fuel within a mile of the park entrance.  Ken struck up a friendship, as he often does, with one of the station attendants.  She was all smiles as we took their photo together.  Then we got another mile or so when Gary decided he needed coffee.  So Ken found a fine coffee shop in Jasper, where we all casually drank down some nice joe while discussing the local crime scene with a young police officer, who happened to drop in while we were there.

We finally were able to get in some miles and headed north with a mission.  Only two more stops.  One when Ken spotted a memorial to Martin Luther King, and the other when the coffee caught up with me so we stopped for a quick pee into a drainage ditch.

Upon arriving in Douglas, we were hungry and visited our now usual restaurant.  It is the one with the crashed plane in the parking lot.  Cute.

Then we traveled to the airport where we rode on the taxiways to the hangar where the XP 82 was last year.  It wasn't there but we did get to see several other restored planes inside.  Then we rode towards the airport office building to see where they were hiding the restoration project when we couldn't help but notice a shiny airplane inside an open hangar door.  We found it!

Ken knows everybody, and his, and our, friendly interest seems to make everyone want to show us the work on the plane.  There were four people working on sheet metal when we arrived.  They pretty much stopped everything for a half hour to show us the progress.  It is impressive.  The plane is nearing completion with the first flight coming as soon as April.

We rode back to the cabin in the park on a different route, 441 this time, and got back in time to have a beer before leaving in Jim's Subaru for Lake City's finest Italian restaurant.  Of course, after two weeks in Italy this fall, this one fell a little short of that experience, but the food did the trick and we were fulfilled.

I didn't sleep well and woke up with a visit from my old friend Lucy Bowel.  Took care of that and felt well enough to have lunch with Ken and Gary at Fat Boys BBQ in White Springs before heading home.

That ride wan enhanced when Ken decided to ride some of the way with me.  He had just bought a nearly new Vespa GTS 300 and wanted to check the top speed.  We got onto I-10 and quickly gained speed.  I was in the lead and found that he was mostly able to keep up, but when I wanted to, I could pull away.  That shouldn't happen because I was on Razzo, a 2005 Vespa GT with 198 cc, where he has 278cc.  He also has fuel injection, so something was up.  I think we can get the speed up with a few minor adjustments.

It was a very nice way to spend a few days.  I am looking forward to the next one when David Masse will be joining us for a ride to Apalachicola and Cedar Key.

Ken making friends, like he does so easily.

The "Gucci Coffee Shop" in Jasper.

Our fearless leader

Sun dappled road with trees.

A rare curve in the road in North Florida.

Ken stopped to memorialize our crossing into Georgia.

The Martin Luther King memorial.

Four scooters, three riders and a wrecked airplane.

While looking for the XP 82, we found several other restorations, including this Stearman.

Me and Ken and our scooters (Jim's too, but he took the photo)

Guys working on the plane

The plane

A shot to show the two fuselages.

The plane peeking out of the Hangar, with the wild bunch of scooters outside.

The guys there are so nice.  They even showed us some of the metalworking techniques.

Details of the restoration of the XP 82

Along 441.  It was into the sun and wind, so not as nice as the ride up.

Gary needed a drink, so we stopped at a Dairy Queen along the way back to the park.  
I was going to get a shake but they posted calorie counts.  Decided to abstain.

The three red scooters as we dropped Jim off at the park.

Ken behind me on I-10.  I laid off the gas so he could catch up.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Rides

Sam is home again for Christmas.  I have not been good getting photos or posting here since Italy, the reason may be another post, but I did get a few shots yesterday and today.

Yesterday I decided to work a bit and was designing a first floor plan for a new riverfront house (well Julington Creek is a big creek) when my friend Drew called to see if Sam and I would like to ride to Fernandina Beach to eat lunch at Tasty's, one of our favorite destination restaurants.  I had also planned to go to see La La Land with the family at 4:20, but thought we could squeeze in a ride.

I called Sam, who was at the beach after spending the night with friends.  He would head back and meet us at my house.  He was late.  Sarah got upset and decided that we would never make it for the movie so we abandoned that.  But the ride was great, if a bit different with afternoon fog along the coast.

I busted out the camera to take photos, but the lens wouldn't open so I assumed the battery was dead.  Instead, I found that I had left it in photo view mode, but missed some photos.

I did get a couple at Tasty's.

Drew, Tommy and Sam

Drew on his adventure R90S, Tommy getting on Drew's F800GS and Sam at my Honda NC700X

This morning Sam had offered to buy me breakfast at Everybody's in Baldwin.  That is a 18 mile ride west.  We usually take US 90, but it has been under construction for the past several months.  The workers do not know how to set up and operate a one lane detour, so we abandoned that road for the superhighway, I-10.

Sam backing out of the parking spot at Everybody's

I like riding so much that it wasn't a bother for me.

Over-the-shoulder shot of Sam on I-10


And yet, another

Sam in the lead on the busy superhighway

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Beautiful Razzo

You may notice that Rocket and Vanessa have gotten all stickered up.

But Razzo remains clean.

That is because it is so beautiful, looking not much different than when it was on the showroom floor 12 years ago.

It only had 6147 miles on it when I purchased it in late February, 2015.  Now the odometer is showing 20,200.

It has been sitting since July when it wouldn't start after I returned from competing the Scooter Cannonball Run.  I did that with Vanessa, when I had told Razzo that it would be the machine of choice.  Maybe sour grapes on its part.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to get it started and had it towed to ACE Vintage Motorcycle Repair, a local shop getting all of the scooter repair work since Boris moved.

Chris and Alex got it started, but when I got it home, it stopped running before I could turn it off.  I was a bit dumbfounded, but looked at the engine and found the lead wire had detached from the coil.  I hooked it up and took it for a ride and it did it again.  Then the spark plug cap detached from the spark plug.  Then I fixed this,installed a new plug and took a ride and had it stop along the way, starving for fuel at higher speeds.  There was very little fuel inside the fuel filter.  I thought that was strange.

I got it home that day, finding that it would keep running if I ran slower than usual.

So I rode it to ACE two weeks ago and left it with the boys, along with a new coil, newer carburetor, fuel pump and petcock.

They got it all put back together, but it came home very difficult to keep running when cold and hesitating at steady speeds.  I rode it to their shop on Saturday for their generous Christmas party, and found the exhaust gasket leaking.  So I changed that when I got home.

Today, I decided that it needed an Italian Tune-Up.  That is running it full throttle for a reasonable distance, in this case ten miles down I-10 and the return ten miles.  Then I adjusted the idle speed.  All of a sudden, most of the symptoms went away, leaving a well running scooter.

Tomorrow will tell me more, as it will involve a cold start after sitting all night.  Fingers crossed.

But it sure is pretty.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


This past Sunday, while returning from a 7 Bridges Scooter Club ride to Micanopy, Rocket reached 75,000 miles.  That is a run much farther than I ever would have imagined when I bought it 11 years ago, and more miles than almost any other Granturismo.

While riding home, the Garmin was telling me that I had more than a mile further to get home than to reach the milestone.  I decided to get off of Roosevelt Boulevard (US17) so I could stop in an interesting place for the photo.  As I approached the Grand Avenue draw bridge, I was only .2 miles away and hoped I could reach Stinson Park.  One oddity of the adventure is that this was the park I was trying to reach when Rocket hit 50,000, but I miscalculated and settled on Bettes Circle.  This time I hit the mark exactly.

I am hoping to reach 100,000 in the next few years.  Because Rocket is running well now, I think we can make it.

Make it to the park.  This side of the road is actually called Baker Point Park.

They were all good.

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Thanksgiving ride with Sam

Sam came home from his home in Chicago for Thanksgiving.  I is always great to have him home, and one of my highlights is to be able to go on a ride while he is here.

This year I was limited on scooters as Vanessa is in Seattle and Razzo is in the shop, getting fueling issues resolved.  But we had Rocket and the Honda.

The only opportunity we had was to ride up the smaller roads to visit his friend Russell at his family farm along the St. Mary's River that divides Florida from Georgia.

Sam had been visiting my parents before we headed out, so I told him to meet me at a gas station at the beginning of the better roads.  But when I got onto I-10 going that way, he was passing.  The timing was perfect.  We rode together at Rocket's top speed, but after turning off, still stopped for gas, even though he had 60 miles left.  There are few stations in that part of the state.

The ride was in cool weather along some of the best roads in the area.  To get to the farm, we turned off the paved road onto a sandy, dirt road.  We were not sure of the exact destination and we got lost along the way, but a resident pulled up to offer directions.

The sand was soft and it turned out that Rocket was better in these conditions than the adventure bike want-to-be Honda.

I left him to shoot guns with Russell and his brother in law, heading home alone.  Along the way, the sun was setting for a few glamour shots of Rocket.

Sam and Rocket on the dirt road

Rocket heading out along the Magnolia lined entry road to the property.

Rocket at dusk with a pretty fall farm setting.

A little more drama looking into the sun.

And another stop in higher growth.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Aventura Toscana: Elba

After gathering with all of the riders in Pontedera, the entire group headed out to Elba to begin our adventure.

It started with a visit to the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera, where we checked out the displays of vintage Vespas.  Then the ride began.

It was nearly 100 miles for the day with a run to the ferry in Piombino.

Al and Doug, the leader a assistant, use a group riding technique that they got from Jim, a usual participant who opted out this year.  The technique uses a "Marker" at every turn in the route.  The marker is the second in line.  The leader points to a position in the turn for the marker to stop and direct the other riders to the direction of the pack. The marker waits for the last rider, where they rejoin in the next to last position.  Then gradually move up to the number two and mark again.  It is a very efficient system that allows the pack to keep moving even when broken up by traffic or lights. Everyone arrives at the destination, maybe 15 minutes from first to last.

We rode through some terrific Tuscan scenery before a big lunch along the way.  Then made the ferry for the one hour passage to Portoferraio.  We arrived safely and everyone enjoyed some rest before dinner.  Sarah and I ate at the hotel with Ken, Vicki, Walt and Hellen.

The morning saw us gather again for breakfast at the hotel, then Ken, Walt, Sarah and I headed out to see Elba.  It is a beautiful island with mountains and rocky coastlines.  There wasn't a straight road for more than a half a kilometer on the entire place.  I like that.  Ken took us up some very narrow, twisty roads, one where the pavement stopped to become dirt only.  Fortunately we turned back there, as riding a big Tmax with Sarah on the back limited our mobility.

We stopped a lot to enjoy the views and had lunch at a beachfront restaurant.  The place caters to German tourists.  The menu was in Italian and German.

We rode some more and ended up at Napoleon's villa, where he was exiled for a year in 1814.  It was an interesting house with a huge lower gathering area and a tiny house on top.

Then Sarah and I rode into Portoferraio to see the historic town.  We walked around the port and had a drink.

We ended the day with dinner with Mark at the Tennis Club.  I had crab pasta that was tasty, but the crabs were very difficult to remove from the shell.  I ultimately gave up.

The Piaggio Museum in Pontedera

The one I would love to own.  Talk about a rocket.

A photo of the riders passing while we were the marker.

Riding through Tuscany is not bad at all.

A view from the ride.

Group lunch.

Lostboater (Ken) on his little LX 125

We made it to the ferry with minutes to spare.

Being on the ferry is always a good excuse to have a drink.  Walt here.

Portoferriao from the ferry

Scooters gathered at the hotel.

A view of the crystal clear water surrounding Elba.

One of our many stops to admire the views.

Walt where the pavement stopped.  We smartly turned back.

Walt, Ken and Sarah

The view of the beach at our lunch restaurant.

A view from one of the high spots.

And in one of the towns.

Our three scooters.  Sarah and I were on the sporty Tmax.

Napoleon's Villa

Inside the grand gathering space.

The little house on top.

The marina at Portoferraio