Thursday, October 4, 2018

Yamaha Xmax owner

I called my friend Don Passell this week.  He owns the Yamaha dealership in Palatka and also the BMW Ducati dealership in Orange Park.

I wanted to buy a new Yamaha Xmax.

He told me that he was selling the Palatka store next week but would see if he could get one from the guy who is buying the store.

He had one and sent it to Don's BMW dealership today.

I stopped by on my way back from measuring a house south of Orange Park (I have to earn money to pay for these things) and it had just arrived.

The other dealership did nothing to set it up, so Don's guys were doing that today.

I should pick it up tomorrow afternoon.

7 BSC has a ride to Keystone Heights tomorrow, so it will get broken in soon.

It is not a beauty like the Vespa scooters, but it is fast with tons of underseat storage.  
I should be able to carry a small suitcase in there.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Viva Catalonia: Gerona

The group gathered in the parking garage to head out to Gerona.

We made this a group ride, at least to the first stop.  Traffic was light in Barcelona as it was a holiday.  But that holiday caused road closures along the way so we went around in circles at times. 

At the first stop, Ken offered to lead the small group with Walt and the two of us.  We stopped at the first small town where they were having a celebration.  The Catalonians want to separate from Spain and a small choir was singing the separation song.  It was sweet.  We watched until they finished, then got coffee.

We then rode witha  few stops stops until we came into Gerona, where we enjoyed a modern hotel where we snacked on tapas and drank beer and wine before heading to dinner in the Placa de la Independencia.  The place where we wanted to eat was closed for the holiday, so we settled on a tourist place with tapas and pinchos.

The next morning Sarah wanted to visit the Dali Museum.  Walt and his wife Hellen wanted to see it as well.  Because Hellen didn't have a scooter or helmet, we decided to take the train to Figueres.  Walt and Hellen were very interested in seeing it as it compares to the Dali Museum in their hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida. 

We spent a couple of hours enjoying the displays, then had lunch in town.  There was a Dali jewelry display that we checked out before walking back to the train station.

Gerona has an Old Town section of the city that is walking friendly with many restaurants.  We walked there from the hotel and looked at many restaurants before settling on Mimolet, a very different place from the usual touristy fare.  It was a little pricey but worth it.  Walt found a very fine bottle of wine to cap it off.

The next morning had us riding with Ken and Walt to lunch in Cadaques, a seaside town near the border with France.

On the way there we stopped at Gala's Castle, the home of Dali's wife Gala.  It was a small museum but a fine place to spend some time.

We had a few more stops as well.  One in a small town where we rode through tiny streets to a public square.  Another to see a field of sunflowers.

Lunch was in a beachfront restaurant where we had beer and the usual Spanish food. 

The ride back was through the mountain range separating the sea from Gerona, then fields and forest.

When we got back we dined at the hotel where they had a very good restaurant.  The favorite dish was tortellini with gorgonzola and pair.  I had scallops that were great as well.  Nice town.


The gang gathered to head to Gerona

Not much traffic on the holiday morning in Barcelona

First stop.  We then broke off to ride with Ken and Walt.

The singing of the Catalonian separation song.

Our little group hanging out at a hilltop fort

Placa de la Independencia for dinner

Sarah, Hellen and Walt ready to board the train

Dali sculpture near the Dali Museum

Dali

The museum entrance

Riu Ter in Gerona

Dinner at Mimolet

Vicki, Sarah, Walt and Hellen.  Ken was sleeping at the hotel.

Off to Cadaques

Every ride has a story

Along the way

Small streets in some of the towns

Ken, Sarah and Walt in the thinning pose

Gala's house

Gala's car

Sarah on the mountains heading into Cadaques

Lunch on the beach

The ride back to Gerona

Monday, October 1, 2018

Viva Catalonia: Barcelona

After the troubled ending to the Switzerland part of the trip, Sarah and I flew Swiss Air to Barcelona.

It started with her luggage not showing up on the belt after the flight.  She asked me to stand in a long line at the lost luggage counter while she checked the other belts in the baggage retrieval area.  It was a happy moment when she showed up rolling her small bag.

We shared our taxi into town with a young Australian woman who was in Spain for a wedding.  Talkative, that girl was.

We arrived at our hotel, the Tryp Apolo, just a few blocks south of the Gothic Quarter. 

Wanting to use the rest of the day properly, we headed up to the Placa Reial for something to eat.  We ran into Roland and Penny who recommended a restaurant that we ended up visiting.  The food was very good except the fried anchovies.  These are a Mediterranean favorite, but not for us.  They are whole, tiny fish battered and fried.  They taste ok but are full of bones.  I had a the feeling of a bone stuck in my throat all that night.  When the server saw that we only ate a few, he took them off the bill. 

We just hung out that night, resting for the upcoming adventure.

The next morning we had to be down in the lobby to pick up a bus to take us to the scooter rental shop. We waited and waited, then Warren decided that they weren't coming so we took the subway.

The shop had our paperwork prepared in advance, thank you Maria, so the wait wasn't long. 

We had the option of taking insurance or not on the scooters.  I originally said no but changed my mind and paid 240 Euro for the coverage that I never used.  It gave me peace of mind that was probably worth the cost.

We rode it back to the hotel, then set out on the subway to see the world famous La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's cathedral.  It is impressive, but an architectural mess.  Gaudi's vision and his work so unique and charming, but the subsequent work is so different that I do not understand.  Still worth seeing even if we didn't go inside.

From there Sarah decided that we would walk to Gaudi's Parc Guell.  Little did we realize that the mile and a half walk was from the flat area of town to what appeared to be the top of a mountain.  It was uphill the entire way, getting steeper as we got closer.  But it was worth it as the work of Gaudi and the views from the top were wonderful.

We chose a taxi to get us back to town, having the driver drop us off at Placa Reial again for a late lunch at another restaurant.  We picked this one because it had a line while we were dining at the other.  The reason was that the prices were lower.  The food was ok and the beer appreciated.

We got back to the hotel in time to cool off and prepare our gift bags for the kick off dinner with everyone.  Our bag included candy from Sweet Pete's, a Jacksonville candy maker's store.  We also threw in chocolate from Lindt that we purchased in the Lindt factory chocolate shop in Kilchberg, just a few kilometers from Loogarten.  The bag also included a small rocket sticker and one from Jacksonville.

It was great to see everyone again.  This year included two new riders, Suellen and Penny.  I knew Suellen from the 2014 Scooter Cannonball Run.  I had found her to be one of the coolest people I have ever known, always smiling and responding to any situation with a clever, sweet solution.  It was nice to see her again.  She and Sarah hit it off immediately.

Tuesday found us heading to Gerona.  That will be the next post.

Placa Reial

Waiting for the bus that never came

  Mileage on the scooter at the rental shop, in kilometers.

Kymco Grand Dink.  Who names these things?

La Sagrada Familia.  The good side.

Steep climb to Parc Guell
In the park
Beautiful rough stone work

Sarah in the park

Looking down to the cathedral

The raised terrace at Parc Guell.  Famous mosaics by Gaudi. 



Yamaha Xmax vs Vespa GTS 300

Since it came out last year I have been tempted by the Yamaha Xmax.


It’s engine is only 300 CC, but typical of Yamaha, it’s performance is much better than its modest engine specifications would lead you to believe.

The reason to get a new scooter is that my three Vespa GT’s are old with questionable reliability.

Vanessa expired recently and the other two could fail anytime.

But Vespa scooters are so cool that I started to consider a new 300 GTS.

7 Bridges Scooter Club had the longest Sunday ride in a while today.

We had a new rider on a new, vintage red Vespa GTS 300 Touring. What a beautiful machine.


Dave, the new rider rode back to Jacksonville from Jasper with me.  I led.  The route included 20 miles of I-10, where I ran between 72 and 78 mph on Rocket, a 2006 Vespa GT with 88,000 miles.

I stopped as we got into Jacksonville to thank Dave for coming, inviting him to ride with us again.

While talking, he said that he had to run wide open to keep up.  I mostly had throttle to spare on my old scooter.

That was all I needed to hear to make my decision.

For long rides, the Yamaha is at least ten mph faster and has much more underseat storage.

It gives up a lot in style, but I am keeping at least one Vespa for many rides. I will still have a stylish scooter.

The Xmax is bigger, less expensive, more fuel efficient but not too pretty.  But it should be great for cross country jaunts.

I hope the seat is comfortable.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

We lost Marianne

As I mentioned in the Switzerland post, Marianne Keller-Kolliker was an important part of the Florida Leutholds for the past 39 years.

My parents found Marianne and her husband Heini in 1979.  They became fast friends, traveling back and forth from Florida to Switzerland many times to visit.

I visited with her in 1981 with my friend Mike, 1987 with Sarah, 2007 with Sam and Sarah, 2016 with Kylie and with Sarah this year.

This visit was perfect, right up until the last night.

We spent the first three nights with Marianne in the wonderful lakefront house, Loogarten.  Then Sarah and I drove to Thun to spend two nights with Ruedi and Regula (Marianne's niece).  There we spent one day seeing Thun and Bern, the next on their boat in Lake Thun.

On Saturday, we drove back to Oberrieden talking about what a perfect visit we had, seeing Marianne, Cristof (Marianne's nephew) and his wife Justin.  That day we spent much time with their son Valentin, visiting Chaserrugg, a mountaintop nearby.  The time with Ruedi, Regula and three of their four grown children was very special.

When we arrived at Loogarten, ringing the doorbell got no response.  Sarah and I looked around the yard and the adjacent garden.  No Marianne.  Sarah noticed the doors were open on the second floor balcony.  I told her that we should find a ladder and she said one was on the side of the house.  We got it and I climbed up and let myself in.  After looking around I found her unresponsive on her bed.  We called the Swiss equivalent of 911 and the emergency crew arrived within minutes. 

They took her to University Hospital in Zurich.  I followed thirty minutes later but was told in the emergency room that I couldn't see her, offer advice or be told anything.  That was reserved for close family. 

Sarah later heard from a neighbor from Marianne's house in Muttenz that she had a cerebral hemorrhage and her chances of survival were very low.  She passed on Tuesday morning.

Needless to say, it was a shock to us and everyone.  We considered staying, delaying the ride in Spain, but because we couldn't contribute much, chose to move on. 

Marianne was the perfect host.  She opened her house to everyone in the family over the years.  We all visited around 2016, Scott, Lisa and the girls, David, Dee, Liz and the boys.  We heard stories from Marianne of those visits.  She so enjoyed seeing everyone.

While there she would prepare breakfast and dinner every day.  We usually traveled in our rental car during the day and would pick up lunch on the road.

She was Switzerland to me, and Switzerland is such a special place.  She was such a close part of the family that it hurts even more.

That was so evident when Sarah and I awakened Sunday morning and she wasn't there.  The warmth of Loogarten had vanished.  It was just a house that morning. 

My life will never be the same.

At the last dinner we had with Marianne.  
She prepared everything, as usual, and invited Cristof and Justine to eat with us.


Marianne and Heini.  Probably on the first visit my parents had with them in 1979

Probably 1979, Marianne, Dad and Mom on a mountain hike

Marianne and Sam at the cemetery 

Sam, Sarah and Marianne

At a regular visit to the Lindt factory, just five kilometers from Loogarten.

Marianne and Sam at the cemetery in back of the church in Oberrieden.

With Sam on a mountain top.

Marianne prepared lunch and invited many of the relatives
to visit while we were there with Sam in 2007.

We all ate in the back yard at Loogarten.


With me at the overlook during the visit with Sam.

With Sam in 2007.

With her brother Armen at his vinyard.

Talking in the kitchen at Loogarten.

At the Rheinfall with Cristof and Justine.

With Regula at their mountain house.

Marianne would come everywhere with us.  She was a trooper.

Kylie and Marianne at Rigi.

At the overlook in Oberrieden.
We would go to this place on every visit.

In the sunroom at Loogarten, where we would have drinks and snacks before dinner.

Sarah and Marianne in the kitchen at Loogarten.

She picked out a route to take us over the Klausenstrasse.
We had lunch at a mountain hotel.

Sarah and Marianne on the porch.

With Valentin on the porch at Loogarten.

The last photo I have of Marianne.
The sun was down and the light low.
I saw a photo and took the blurry shot.
Little did I know it would be the end