Tuesday, April 25, 2017

That First Ride

Recently, someone posted in Modern Vespa that she had purchased a Vespa GT, then crashed on her first ride.  I wrote a comment that included, "that first ride is the most dangerous"

I know of three incidents of first time riders wrecking during that ride.

One was close to me when I put a first timer on Vanessa, before I owned her, and poor Vanessa got ridden out of the driveway into a parked Land Rover.  I ended up paying over $800. to repair the Land Rover, then bought Vanessa (a purchase that has proved to be a good one).

My friend Ken told me of a time he let someone ride one of his scooters.  They left the driveway, rode straight across the street and crashed into a pile of leaves.

The another, my friend Rob, let another friend ride his GTS.  The scooter lurched when he improperly applied the throttle.  He panicked, jumped off and they both watched the scooter crash to the ground.

All three bad decisions by the owners of the scooters as well as the riders.

That first time is sometimes simply too much for a new rider.

I was reminded of that last week when I let a friend ride Rocket to lunch.  He had been wanting to buy Vanessa when she was around.  I said no but he still wanted to ride one.

We headed down Herschel Street to eat a mile away.  He made it fine.  On the way back I kept thinking that I have ridden down that road at least a thousand times.  I am aware of the potential danger from cars crossing.  I kept thinking, wouldn't it be a shame if someone didn't stop and rode into Rocket and Carlos.  As I was contemplating the possibilities, a car didn't notice Carlos and crossed very closely in front of him.  Closer than one has been to me in all of those rides.  But it missed him and we made it back to the office.  He could ride well but didn't have the experience to be watching for the possible dangers involved in riding.

Vanessa's damage

No fender


Monday, March 27, 2017

7 Bridges Ride, Sunday

After the fine day Saturday, I was concerned that Sunday might not be as good.  And the weather report was giving signs of possible bad weather.  Man, was I and the weather forecasters wrong.  Sunday was a great day for the club and riders.

I left home early, watching the sun come up on a top speed run down from the span of the Buckman Bridge.  Razzo hit 79 on the GPS, a little slower than I was hoping for, but I was not in a draft on that calm morning.  The river was like glass.

We all gathered at the Hardees on State Road 13.  There were at least 45 scooters and bikes.  It was the best turnout ever, probably due to holding it in balmy March instead of cold, rainy January.

Russ gathered all for instructions and thoughts.  He took the vintage group out early for a head start.  We gave them ten minutes...well...maybe eight and the remainder of us, in four groups, headed after them.

The return over the Buckman Bridge started the adventure.  I led out group at around 70 mph, and made it to the west bank of the river safely.

US 17 isn't so nice, so my route had us getting off on Ortega Boulevard, past the multi million dollar riverfront houses where many of Jacksonville's leaders call home.  Many have been projects of mine over the years.

We crossed the Grand Avenue draw bridge over the Cedar River, then into Avondale for the curves and a visit through the historic neighborhoods.  I was pleased that many of the riders commented that they enjoyed seeing this part of the city.

We went through Five Points, then over the Fuller Warren Bridge (I-95 where it crosses the river).  I stopped us at Friendship Fountain two bridges early and found the vintage crowd still there.  Everyone else came shortly after that, so we hung out for a few minutes, some visiting the fountain and others just gathering.

Because we missed two bridges, we left early to cross those, the Acosta and Main Street Bridge (official name, Alsop Bridge) before the hairiest part of the trip, crossing three lanes of a busy I-95 in a quarter mile to get to Atlantic Boulevard..  The road work will be completed by this time next year, but if it isn't, we are going street roads through north San Marco instead.

The next stop was at a gas station before crossing the Hart Bridge. Maybe too many stops for me, but it does encourage getting to know each other.

The Hart Bridge crossing was quickly followed by the Mathews bridge, then a long expressway run to the Dames Point Bridge (officially Napoleon Bonaparte Broward Bridge) where one car tried to take out two riders.  Luckily good riding prevailed and all arrived safely.

We pulled into the Gate station for the next rest (it had been almost 20 miles since the last one)  There we waited for two who had stayed behind to help another rider who had a minor incident leaving Hardees.  Once they arrived, we rode down Heckscher Drive to the Mayport Ferry, where we were hoping that they could accommodate all of us.

It was a fine gathering on the ferry.  The car drivers all got a kick out of seeing so many of us.

The return to 7 Bridges Restaurant for lunch went well and we dined on fine food, presented Russ with a gift certificate, took a group photo and headed home.

It is a fine event.  Should one only want to ride the bridges, simply show up, join in and ride.  It takes no commitment other than a few hours.  There is no fee, no tee shirt and no pressure.  Simply fun.  That makes it special to all.

Early morning solo crossing of the Buckman Bridge

Scooters gathered at Hardees

The Buckman again as the first bridge of the ride.

Ortega Boulevard

Grand Avenue near the draw bridge

A stop at Friendship Fountain

Downtown from the Acosta Bridge

Heading onto the Main Street Bridge

The Main Street, um,  John T. Alsop, Jr, Bridge

Hart Bridge

Mathews Bridge

Climbing the Dames Point Bridge

Coming down from the span

Nice to bring kids along


Heckscher Drive


In a side car waiting for the ferry

Scooters at the Ferry

Loading the Ferry

45 scooters on the Ferry

Mayport Road following a Ural with sidecar.

Tom giving Russ his gift card in appreciation for all he does for us.

The Riders

7 Bridges Ride, Saturday ride to Fernandina Beach

The 7 Bridges Scooter Club has one big event every year.  It is the Bridges Ride where we ride over the 7 Bridges that cross the St. Johns River in Jacksonville.  Those are the Buckman, Fuller Warren, Acosta, Main Street, Hart, Mathews and Dames Point bridges.We alternate one more crossing each year between the Mayport Ferry and the Shands Bridge in Green Cove Springs.  This year it was the Ferry.

The run has always been in January, but bad weather the last three years forced us to move it to March.  Weather reports were showing possible bad weather for the weekend but it turned out to be perfect for the rides.

Our fearless leader, Russ Dixon, organizes everything and added rides to Fernandina Beach (a historic town on Amelia Island north of Jacksonville) and St. Augustine (the oldest continuously occupied town in America, south of town).

I led the Fernandina Beach ride, as I like the route, running along the north bank of the St. Johns River on Hecksher Drive, then A1A through the Talbot Islands to Amelia Island.

At the request of one of the riders, we lengthened the route a little by skipping the Dames Point Bridge, going nearer town, over the Hart Bridge to Main Street, then to Hecksher to Amelia.

It was around fifteen riders going north.

We were to eat at Sandy Bottoms, an oceanfront restaurant on the north end of Amelia Island, but they were closed for renovations, so we went to Sliders and all had nice lunches.  Two riders went for a walk on the beach, coming back to let me know that a tortoise was making its way to the beach, slowly, so I went out to take some photos.

After that we rode into the historic town, riding down Centre Street to park near the river so the remaining riders could shop and see the town.

One rider, Dennis, came from St. Louis, just for the ride.  He and I wandered around, ending up at the Palace Saloon.

The ride back to Jacksonville found us in a warm sunny afternoon, making for a nearly perfect ride for the eight remaining scooters heading home.

There was a pre-Bridges Ride dinner at Bono's BBQ restaurant, attended by 39 riders.

After that several of us headed to the Cancer Survivor's Park downtown.   It is a park of the Jacksonville bridges in miniature for people to enjoy.

I had a very nice time meeting new riders and seeing the sights.


Kevin on Rocket in Five Points.

Russ giving instructions to the riders.

The Fernandina riders going over the Hart Bridge.


Riding along Amelia Island Parkway, one of my favorite roads in the area.

Ella and her tortoise.

Centre Street, Fernandina Beach

The ride home.

One big table for dinner.

Gathering after dinner for the ride to the park.

The little bridges at Cancer Survivor's Park


The Dames Point Bridge at the park.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ride Fast, Take Chances Tour

This week marked yet another Oyster Tour, Number Three of 2017, after Ken called to see if I wanted to meet him in Perry for another big ride.

I was on Rocket, just one day after getting it back with the fresher engine.  I thought that this would make a good shake down cruise for the renovated scooter.

I started by leaving home at 8:30.  It was supposed to be 8:00, but the temperatures were below 40 degrees so I took a little longer to wait for it to warm up.

The ride to Perry was cold but nice as the sun was shining and spring was in the air with new growth on many of the trees.

Ken was waiting at the Holiday Inn Express in Perry.  That is where he told me about a fellow biker he saw in the hotel.  That biker gave him this advice, "Ride Hard, Take Chances", so that became the theme of this Tour.

We headed to Carrabelle, taking a detour to see the St. Marks Lighthouse, located within a beautiful estuary near St. Marks, Florida.  We stopped a few times to take in the view, then walked around the old lighthouse.

Then we checked into the hotel in Carrabelle and headed to Eastpoint to meet Gary at Lynn's Quality Oysters, where we ate two dozen of the saltiest oysters I have ever eaten.  Maybe a touch too salty for me, but they were still very good.

We made our way back to the hotel where we had Ritz crackers, pretzel bites, plastic cheese and drinks on the balcony overlooking the marina before dinner at the Fisherman's Wife restaurant.

Saturday had us eating a quick breakfast at the hotel where we had a nice discussion with an English Couple.  They led an interesting discussion as they were in attendance at the Paris theater bombing in 2015.  The husband had helped patrons escape and was heroic in his efforts.  You meet the most interesting people on these trips.

After breakfast we said goodbye to Gary and headed to Newberry to spend the night in the wooded trailer of Ken's friend Larry.

On the way, we turned to go to the end of Alligator Point, finding it to be a bit disappointing after St. Marks the day before.

We ate lunch in a Bistro in downtown Perry, then the long ride to Newberry, where the dirt road to Larry's place added some fun to the day.

We dined at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Newberry, watched some NCAA basketball and turned in for the night.  The Gators won!

Sunday morning we watched sports center until heading to our respective homes.  It was another fine Oyster Tour and I look forward to the next one.

And the new Rocket was perfect.  Hitting 79 mph in good conditions on I-10 heading out and coming home. It started easily every time and didn't leak a drop overnight both nights.

A new mural at the Bank of America on Edgewood Avenue near home.
I had to stop to get a pnoto.

My usual Oyster Tour shot at the north end of 238 heading to Lake Butler.
The New Rocket in all of its glory.

Along the pretty 238

Picking up Ken at the hotel in Perry.


The estuary at St. Marks.

We stopped for a photo shoot with the lighthouse in the distance.

Ken closer to the lighthouse

Scoots at the lighthouse

This guy had just caught a few crabs.
You can starve to death eating those things, but they sure are good

St. Marks

We will be back for the big festival.  Or not/

We were wondering where the OFFICE might be.

Gary dining on salty oysters.

Ken and Gary at Lynn's.

Following Gary and his trailer on 98 heading back to Carrabelle.

Afternoon sun from our balcony in Carrabelle.

Saying goodbye to Gary

Ken stopped to get a photo of the big baseball on 98 near Carrabelle.

The end of the road on Alligator Point.  It should be a nice park, but the gate was locked.

The west end of the washed out road on Alligator Point.

The east end of the washed out road.

Spring in North Florida

Perry for lunch

Trees and Ken on 27.

The dirt road to Larry's place.  Ken was fast.

Larry's dog Ginger.  She was a sweet one.

Larry's wooded trailer home.  Ken slept in Dave's trailer home inside the pole barn.

An old farmhouse, barn and water tower near Larry's place.