Monday, March 31, 2014

Southern Soul BBQ Ride

Yesterday the club had a ride to St. Simons Island, Georgia to have lunch at the Southern Soul BBQ.  We had 12 start the ride, then we passed a nice fellow, Gary on his Aprilia Scarabeo 500 in Yulee.  He joined us, making it 13.  The food, at least mint, was terrific.  I didn't remember it being great before, but I had a Soul Bowl with collard greens, hop n john and pulled pork on top.  I could eat that every day. 

The ride was all quite uneventful for me.  We apparently left Aldo at a gas station near Brunswick.  My fault as it was a busy place and I didn't count before leaving.  But it got worse.

After I split off to ride I-95 the last 30 miles home, my brother David was trailing behind and his one year old BMW C650GT stopped running.  He had it towed and it will end up at the dealership when they open on Tuesday.  But worse, Russ, on his 2005 GT200, had his stop on US17 near Yulee.  He thought it was a belt so he took the cover off to find it in perfect condition. Then he thought maybe the coil.  He called his friend John who arrived with a trailer and hauled it back to the warehouse where Boris waited.  They removed the spark plug to find it smashed.  It looks like the second dropped valve in a GT in the past two months.  His has 36,000 miles on it.  Mine has 56,500 now and has me worried a bit about its ability to get through the Cannonball.

I do have Leslie's Vanessa as an extra GT for a while.  Russ can use her on some upcoming rides until he determines what to do.


Good BBQ

The gang at Southern Soul BBQ

On the bridge to Brunswick

Russ' GT on trailer.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Me

I guess it is time for the "Me" part. 

I was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1955 and have lived there ever since, except for the six years at the University of Florida and three years in Bermuda.  It is a good city with wonderful historic neighborhoods.

I married Sarah in 1985 and we have two great children, Sam and Kylie.  Sam graduated from Florida State two years ago and now works for Dana in Chicago.  He is an engineer.  Kylie is a junior at the University of Florida, studying graphic design.

I was raised in a nice neighborhood in Arlington, a suburb of Jacksonville.  But after getting married, Sarah and I bought a cute house in Avondale, my favorite neighborhood.  It is part of the enormous Riverside Avondale Historic District, an area of homes, shops, restaurants and churches built between 1900 and 1935. 

I am an architect, learning from my father in the early years, then working in my own firm since the late 1980's.  The office is now just me, my brother, Scott and a part time architect, Shelly.  We design houses mostly with some additions and renovations.  The houses are good ones, usually on the best property in the area, riverfront and oceanfront.  They are usually in the Jacksonville area but we have done projects as far away as Bermuda, Canada, South Carolina and Georgia.

I hope to be able to retire one of these days so I can devote my time to scooting.


Me at the Beartooth Pass in Wyoming

Kylie, Sam and Sarah, my cool family
This is where you will find me on Sundays.  Leading the club ride.

Newport cottage in Jacksonville, 2007

Muskoka, Ontario, Canada island house, 2007

Jacksonville shingle house, 1997

Friday, March 28, 2014

7 Bridges Scooter Club

Finding the 7 Bridges Scooter Club was the one thing that really started me riding a lot.  It is a very eclectic group of men and women who have one common interest, riding scooters.  That is all.  The club includes anyone, almost, and finds a way to keep everyone reasonably happy and wanting to ride more.  

There is no real organization or club rules.  There are no dues, no officers, no Robert's Rules. We simply meet every Tuesday for a local dinner ride and Sunday morning for long rides. There is one leader who makes sure that everyone is notified and is the one member who will do anything for any member.  He is the one who always stays behind if anyone needs help and will give you the shirt off his back, he did that literally for me a week ago when i needed another layer.  That guy is Russ.  We never have a problem many clubs have, that of finding a ride leader, because I enjoy leading and everyone seems to enjoy following me, so I lead most of the rides.  If not me, it is Russ.  If we both can't ride, there is no ride.  

And we ride.  Russ has kept track and if I recall correctly, we have ridden between 12,000 and 15,000 miles per year since 2009.

On top of the local rides, we rode to North Carolina in 2011 and 2013.  We rode the Natchez Trace Parkway in 2012.  Then a group rode to Key West late in 2012 and we had another shorter ride to Charleston and Savannah late in 2013.  This year the long ride is to New Orleans for Amerivespa.  I will be approaching with the Cannonball group from the north.

Tuesday dinner rides can be anywhere from three to 20 riders.  We used to pick out cheap restaurants within 20 miles of the warehouse where we meet up and ride as a group to eat.  Now we go to better restaurants.  After eating we head home, usually separately but those who live close to each other often ride together.

Sundays also have 3 to 20 riders and the rides are usually from 125 to 300 miles.  My favorite rides are to the Gulf of Mexico.  Destinations are Cedar Key, Horseshoe Beach, Suwannee and Steinhatchee.  The rides are all similar, through the secondary roads between Gainesville and Lake City.  There are some good ones.  Not mountain good but good for Florida.

Parking in Cedar Key

Great lunch of seafood in Cedar Key

Scooters ready to ride on a Sunday

The gang eating wings on a Tuesday

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My other hobby

I have two hobbies these days, and work isn't one of them.  My favorite is riding any of my three two wheelers, approximately 15,000 miles per year over the past four, almost 20,000 last year. 

The other is running my 1999 Mazda Miata in local AutoCross events.  I have been the Buccaneer Region Jacksonville Chapter C Stock champion from 2007 through 2011.  Not sure about 2012 as I missed several events, and I had second last year as I missed half the runs.

A month ago, we ran at the Gainesville Raceway's road course, where I finished second in a class of 6, and seventh out of 93 overall in the handicapped scoring.  Excellent day for me.  This past Sunday, we tried a new location, the Amelia Island Airport, where the track surface was sketchy and the coned, course set up very tightly.  This should have been good for me, but I couldn't go fast without hitting cones (2 second penalty each).  So I finished third in a class of four, tenth overall out of 53. 

AutoCross is the simplest form of auto racing, everyone runs separately and the runs are timed to allow us to compete.  The competition is in classes and overall.  The overall winner is determined using the PAX scoring, with a multiplier based on a history of times of each class.  I am now running what they call E Street, with a PAX of .814.  

In two weeks we are back at Gainesville.  I have to choose to race or ride with the club to Valdosta, Georgia.  I wish I could do both.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

7 Bridges Scooter Club Tuesday Ride

Tonight is our weekly Tuesday night scooter ride with the club.  Historically, anyone wanting to ride would meet at 6:30 at Boris' warehouse in Riverside, we would collectively select a restaurant and head out at 7:00.

That was the way we did it for the past four years I have been participating.

But after a few hurt feelings and unhappy scooterists, Russ, our defacto leader, decided to start naming the restaurant a few days before and posting it on our Facebook page.  It has worked smoothly since, so I am quite sure that we will continue with the new system.

Tonight is Smash Burger, a upper end chain in Atlantic Beach.  It will be a 20 mile ride there, maybe more if we choose to go the scenic route.  We have five coming and four maybes so far. This usually means we will have around ten or twelve.  I used to lead almost all of the rides, but have handed Tuesdays off to Russ recently.  I will gladly lead if he wants to take it easy.  I will post photos of the warehouse and destination in the morning.

At Smashburger

Boys being boys, checking out the latest purchase

Rush hour ride to the beach

Cannonball Route

So those looking in, wondering where this Scooter Cannonball actually runs:

June 3:    Hyder, Alaska:  Start
June 3:    Vanderhoof, BC.  375 miles
June 4:    Jasper, Alberta:  322 miles
June 5:    Fernie, BC.  363 miles
June 6:    Helena, Montana:  356 miles
June 7:    Pinedale, Wyoming:  355 miles
June 8:    Silverthorne, Colorado:  380 miles    Sarah's Birthday
June 9:    Ulysses, Kansas:  368 miles
June 10:  Norman, Oklahoma:  336 miles    Brother Duane's Birthday
June 11:  El Dorado, Arkansas:  361 miles    Parent's 66th Wedding Anniversary
June 12:  New Orleans, Lousiana:  345 miles

Approximately 3,560 total.

Then I ride home to Jacksonville:  540 miles

I will miss some family events, but they understand.


Cannonball Preparations

With the Scooter Cannonball Run beginning in less than ten weeks, it is time to get serious about preparing Rocket for the ride.

So far I have purchased the following items:

  • New Tires:  Michelin Power Pure 140/70/12 for the rear.  A little bigger than standard to try to improve the gearing for long fast runs.  Michelin City Grip 120/70/12 for the front.  I chose this because it has more sipes in the tread.  This, plus my friend Russ uses them and has nothing but good to say about them.
  • New Belt:  I bought a Piaggio belt several months ago and am waiting until a month before packing Rocket for the trailer ride.  I am doing it a little early so I can test it out and make sure everything works well.
  • Tie straps:  I got these, including a cool handlebar strap.
  • New GPS:  Garmin Nuvi 3490 that I programmed with the route.
  • New Carburetor:  Rocket was acting up over the past year and it was attributed to a bad carburetor.  Boris installed a new one a few months ago and the scooter is running like new.

Now to complete the readiness, I will get the best oil I can find, new filter, rollers and exhaust gaskets.  I will also carry a spare wheel and tire just in case we either wear out the back tire or have a puncture.

As for me, I am going with the following:
  • New TCX riding boots
  • New Alpinestars vented jacket.
  • A few turtleneck shirts for the colder climate areas.
  • A few sweatshirts too.
  • Three pairs of jeans, to last the duration.
  • Two pairs of gloves, one vented, one not.
  • Lots of socks and underwear.
  • My old, trusty HJC IS-2 helmet that I like for comfort and the retracting shield.
One of the fellow riders in our group, George, has a scooter parts supply business and he is riding the same GT 200L as me.  He intends to bring a large supply of spare parts, just in case.

I am a little concerned that Rocket, with 56,000 miles on it, can give me trouble on the ride.  But not to worry, we have covered those miles and made it home after every ride.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rocket

Rocket is my 2006 Vespa GT 200L.  I bought it the day before my 50th birthday as a gift to myself.  I had a Malaguti Ciak 50 that I was riding 2000 miles per year, but found that I really liked taking it out into the country.  But I was frustrated that it couldn't keep up with traffic.

I rode it around 6000 miles the first year, then bought a Miata that I was autocrossing, and had a health issue that slowed me down for the next two years.

But then, in 2009, I found 7 Bridges Scooter Club.  This fine group provided the friendship and rides I needed to get started again.  It didn't take long to see that we were going to have a lot of fun.  I rode a few of the Sunday rides like they had ridden for years.  Then I took a ride on my own to Orlando to visit friends.  Over 300 miles when I had never ridden more than 125 before. It opened the entire state for me.  

Shortly after that, two other club members and I started long rides of our own, usually 150 to 300 miles.  One was to Ozello, on the Gulf coast.  It didn't take long for the others in the club to want to come along with us so the number of riders escalated.  I wasn't crazy about this because some were not comfortable with the distances or speed.  So we made two rules:  Keep up and don't complain.  It didn't work, but everyone got up to speed after a while...except one.  To this day, she is the only person asked not to ride with us.  It might have saved at least one life.

I have ridden with Rocket to North Carolina two times.  We had a friend trailer it to Denver in 2012 and rode 760 miles in six days in the mountains around Denver.  Fantastic trip, that one.

It has not been trouble free.  Last year Rocket needed a new camshaft and rocker arm after making uncomfortable noises.  This year, a new carburetor was needed.  It has been through many tires, belts and the poorly designed exhaust gaskets.

But through it all, we are fast friends.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Bikes

I started riding scooters while working in Bermuda at the end of 1990.  I bought a Suzuki FB100, a small motorcycle rather than a real scooter.  It had large, spoked wheels, a three speed manual transmission with automatic clutch.  The rear brake was activated with my right foot, like a typical motorcycle.  I bought it for $850. and sold it after three years for $450., so a nice, economical bike for sure.

My wife and kids bought me a scooter for me for Christmas, 2002.  It was a Malaguti Ciak 50, a large wheel, two stroke, automatic scooter that I still own.  It tops out at maybe 40 mph but is a great neighborhood scooter.  I started looking for country roads where I could ride without being run over by the cars and found some cool routes that would take me to Georgia.  I had several 100 mile rides on a 50.  

But these rides made me want something faster, so, on the day before my 50th birthday, I went to the local Vespa dealer and bought a brand new GT.  That was over 8 years ago.  We have become good friends.  I call it Rocket, short for Saturn Five Rocket Ship, the one that blasted all of the Apollo missions to the moon.  I named it that because it is the polar opposite to those machines, but fast enough to be fun.  We have ridden all over North Florida and South Georgia. Also two rides to North Carolina and a friend carried it by trailer to Denver so we could ride in the mountains.  Fantastic ride that one.

I then bought a 2005 GT from my brother in 2012.  This one was to use as a backup in case Rocket had problems.  I used it for a 2000 mile ride to Franklin Tennessee to ride down the Natchez Trace Parkway with our local club, 7 Bridges Scooter Club.  It was a very nice ride except I dropped it on a very narrow road at a very steep grade.  Scraped the side and broke the rear brake lever.  The last 1500 miles of that ride were with front brake only.  I also used it for an Iron Butt Saddle Sore 1000 ride last June.  1000 miles in 18 hours.  Smooth and comfortable the entire way.  I sort of called it Lightning.

After renting a BMW GS for a 2700 mile ride from Denver to Glacier and back last July, I bought a Honda NC700X in September.  It is a fine bike that I rode to Detroit, Chicago and back in October.  2500 miles in 8 days, averaging around 65 mpg the entire way, mostly at 75 mph on interstate highways.  It is not nearly as much fun as the Vespa GT, but has its place.

And two weeks ago, a friend who is moving to Italy asked me to hold her newer Vespa GT for her for the three years that she will be gone.  Her name is Vanessa and she only has 3800 miles on her.  I will use her enough to keep her healthy, but I did try her out last weekend and found her to be a great scooter.  Smooth, quiet and fast.
Rocket and the now sold Lightning


My Honda NC 700X
All three with the Malaguti, my first, up front

A little early?

I have been communicating with a very friendly person in Prince George.  She says that June 3 is very early to attempt such a ride in the area.  She has seen blizzards in mid June and ice and snow, including the deadly black ice can be on the roads, especially at altitudes.  I sure wish it was starting in mid July instead.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Missed a ride

I woke up with a bad cold on Sunday and felt a need to miss the ride to Micanopy.  My first miss when I could have ridden in a long time.  It is one of my favorite rides so that made it even worse.  Now, Monday and Tuesday have been nothing but rain so no rides for a while.  It is looking better for tonight so I will be riding to dinner with the club.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Weekend Ride

This weekend the 7 Bridges Scooter Club ride will be to Micanopy, Florida to have lunch at the Blue Highway Pizza Restaurant.  Hopefully good weather and a nice ride.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Introduction

This is my first blog.  I decided to create one because I truly enjoy my Vespa GT and felt a need to write about my adventures.

The biggest adventure is beginning on June 3, 2014.  It is the Scooter Cannonball Run, that goes from Hyder, Alaska to New Orleans in ten days of great riding.

I will post my preparations and rides between now and then.  During the ride, I intend to post daily to let everyone know how the day went and my position in the pack.

I am hoping for a top ten finish among the 45 riders.