Friday, April 20, 2018

Lostboater Heads West

April 19 marked the unofficial beginning of the 2018 Scooter Cannonball Run for my team, Squadra Lumaca.

It began when Ken, Lostboater, left his home in St. Petersburg, Florida, heading to California.

I couldn't let him leave without some support, so I rode to Perry to meet up with him, then ride to Port St. Joe for his first overnight.

I started by leaving my new camera at my office.  I realized it ten miles into the ride but couldn't turn back as I had timed it close to meet Ken.

So I used my five year old iPhone for the few photos.

He wasn't at McDonalds, the meeting place when I arrived.  It turned out he had arrived quite a bit early and  used the time to go shopping.  He made it back a few minutes after I got there.

We decided to wait until Eastpoint to eat Lynn's, our favorite.  But as we passed Posey's in Panacea, Ken circled back for us to dine there.  I had the fried shrimp lunch special, Ken had a grouper salad.  Both were very good.

We then continued to Port St. Joe, where we booked a room at the Port Inn, an old but remodeled place downtown.  We had drinks in their bar, then walked downtown for dinner, where we selected the Indian Pass Raw Bar for oysters and wings.

We walked around the town in the morning, had breakfast in the hotel, then off he went heading 3000 miles west as I turned east for the 270 mile ride home.

I will see him again on May 24th in Morro Bay.

It begins.

Refueling in Apalachicola

Sun setting on our after dinner walk around Port St. Joe.

Getting ready for the ride out.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Life is Good!

Two weeks ago I finally bought a truck.  Not a new one, it is a 2004 Toyota Tacoma, but one in good condition and in a configuration I had been seeking.

It is an XtraCab with the four cylinder engine and a five speed manual transmission.

The windows go up and down by turning the crank by hand.

The interior was well cared for, looking almost new.

And the owner kept all of her service records in the 13 years of ownership.

So far I have driven it over 700 miles and like it a lot.

Last Saturday, I used it for what I bought it for, transporting a scooter.  This was to retrieve my 1965 Lambretta Li125 from my friend Boris in Sanford, Florida.

His house is 120 miles south so I took I-95 down but after seeing a crawling northbound traffic, came home on US17.

He had repaired the scooter, so I tested it on the road for a few miles.  The clutch finally works properly, fully releasing tension when pulled.  I can now get it into first gear while stopped.

But it wants to jump out of second and third gear.

I will take it to ACE for fine tuning in the coming months.

We loaded it into the truck and I headed home.

Once back in Jacksonville, I offloaded in the driveway.  Almost a disaster.  Boris gave me two wooden ramps that he had as replacement for two I gave him years ago.  These are shorter and the caps do not hold onto the tailgate very well.  I began pushing it off, intending to use the front brake to slow the movement.  I sat on it to get better balanced, then placed the rear wheel on the ramp.  Gravity took it from there and the front brake did nothing to control the descent.  We came very close to crashing onto the driveway.  When down, I looked at the ramp and only maybe a half inch was still on the tailgate, so it could have collapsed while on it too.  But we made it and I rode around the neighborhood in a light rain.

At one intersection, where I had the right of way, a truck pulled to his stop sign, missed seeing me, and decided to head into my path.  I hit the brakes and found that the rear brake works well, locking the rear wheel.  But I controlled it well and he stopped before causing a mess.

I now have a truck and the Lambretta back.  Life is indeed good again!

Boris, truck and Lambretta at his compound in Sanford.

Back in the garage with it's cousin Rocket.

Also, after getting a new top on the Miata last year, I finally got all of the mechanical demons repaired in the last couple of months.  It had been leaking loads of oil onto the office garage floor, and smelling of oil after every ride.  I took it to my friend Pablo's garage.  He diagnosed that it needed oil seals replaced, but also a new water pump and timing belt.

The shifter in the formerly slick six speed manual transmission had become a loose device, moving more than an inch in any of the gears.  I had him look at this too and it needed new bushings and boots.  So Pablo installed all of this, along with new spark plugs, oil, etc.

It is now running better than ever.  I can't wait to run an autocross in it, seeing if I still can keep up with the youngsters running now.  And Fast Phil too.

Time for an edit with so many things finally going well.  For the past several weeks, I have been looking for my Spot, a device for locating me while out on a cross country scooter trip.  It is very handy in using Dave Bednarski's Followride, a program that keeps track of all the participants in the Scooter Cannonball Run.  Friends back home followed me and others last time, making it fun for them.  I found it earlier this week!

I have also been looking for the master keys for Rocket and Razzo.  They were nowhere to be found.  I looked in the house, office and garage.  Nowhere.  But today I was thinking, the last place I remember seeing them was in the bedside table that was next to the bed when we lived in the duplex.  so I was about to ask for the key to the duplex when I spotted the table in the middle bedroom in the new house.  I pulled open the drawer and there they were!

The last worry that was resolved last week was permitting for a riverfront house I designed since the owner's old house flooded in Hurricane Irma.  I finished the plans a several weeks ago.  The contractor was finalizing pricing and got the plans into the building department a week ago.  He got them back with comments that must be resolved before the permit is issued.  I feared that I may have gotten the required setbacks wrong, or that the very complicated flood resistant foundation system may have been designed incorrectly.  But the only questions were administrative and a demand that we add an electrical receptacle near the mechanical equipment outside.  Now I can sleep better.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Peace River Canoe Trip

Ken let me know a month ago that he wanted to take another canoe trip, this time on the Peace River near Arcadia, Florida.

We have been on two similar outings in the last two years, Fisheating Creek, near Lake Okeechobee in 2016, then the Santa Fe River near Hi Springs, Florida last year.  Both were such fun that we were all excited about doing it again.

This trip included Jim for the first time, Dave in his third paddle, Larry coming for the first time and Celeste, also coming for ride one.  I hadn't met Celeste but she turned out to be a nice addition.

I worked until 9:00 on Wednesday, then headed south to find much traffic on US-17 through Orange Park and Green Cove Springs.  Traffic cleared as I got past the packed 16 turn and was clear to Palatka, where I picked up 19 through the Ocala National Forest.  This led through Umatilla, Eustis and Tavares.  In Groveland I picked up 33 that had north bound traffic backed up for miles.  Luckily I was going south.

I finally got onto the boring 27 into Avon Park to the Jacaranda Hotel, Ken's favorite and one of mine too.

There we met up with Jim and had dinner at 18 East, a restaurant across the street from the hotel.  18 East is a pleasant place, good food and service, the owner always comes around to say hello to Ken.  But this time they had inserted music.  The two man band was not good and, to make up for it, they were loud.  We dined and attempted conversation, enjoying the good food while wondering what the owner was thinking with the band.

As usual, in bed by 9:30.

Thursday we were up early and had breakfast at a small restaurant on the next block, then Jim and I followed Ken on a two lane ride to the Canoe Outpost to meet up with Celeste, Dave and Larry. After paying for the canoes and getting prepared, we loaded onto an old school bus for the ride to the park where we pushed off after the staff put the canoes into the river.

I had a kayak on the last two paddles, and after a few minutes I could see that I preferred those light, one-man boats to the long, cumbersome canoes.  My canoeing partner was Celeste, a skilled canoeist who helped keep us away from the shallow spots.

We faced a big headwind between turns on some of the straight parts of the river.  These made paddling a bit more difficult than usual, but going downstream made up for it.

The main activity for paddling the Peace River is to collect shark's teeth.  I don't know how they got there, there certainly aren't any sharks on the river anymore, but people were finding lots of them.  One young girl let us know that she had collected more than fifty.

It was all great until we decided to stop for a break.  The chosen beach was rather steep with the water a few feet deep just ten feet from the shore.  Because we didn't have enough shoreline to come in parallel with the beach. we tried straight in.  Celeste got out easily but when they pulled me up, the canoe tilted and my awkward, clumsy body went straight into the river.  With my Canon G9X camera.  It was a very cool camera for the two and a half years I had it.  It is now a short circuited mess, never to work again.

But that is life and we paddled further to the Outpost where we got on the scooters and went to lunch at the Oak Street Deli in Arcadia.  That was followed with ice cream from a shop across the street.  Arcadia is a bustling town compared to Avon Park, but it still struggles a bit.  The downtown hotel there was damaged by Hurricane Irma.  The ice cream shop was for sale, along with many of the other buildings, including a cool pink and white Victorian block.

I was chosen to lead the 46 mile ride back to Avon Park.  We all prefer two lane roads so I had Garmin help me pick one.  It had us riding 10 miles north on 17, then turning off onto Fish Branch Road.  As the road became more remote as we rode east, it suddenly became a dirt road filled with lots of turns.  I offered to turn back, but everyone was OK with pushing forward.  It was only maybe three or four miles of dirt, but I and the others enjoyed something different.  We got back onto the paved roads and were riding along when Ken blew past me.  Of course my racing instincts kicked in and I took off in pursuit.  We ran nearly wide open until we came to the first place where the other two would get lost, so we waited.  Ken gave me a hard time, called me a bad leader, leaving Jim and Celeste.  But I said that they wouldn't get lost because we didn't pass any places where they would have to make a decision.  They soon pulled up and off we went.

Back at the hotel, I was sitting by myself on the front entry to the Jacaranda when a Vespa 300GTS Super Sport pulled up.  I spoke with the rider, a nice fellow named Brian for a while.  Then Jim came down and I went to take a shower.  When I came down Brian was still there with Jim and Ken.  We went over to 18 East for a drink.  The band this time was jazz, with two guys playing instruments with no singing.  Much better.  Then we gathered Celeste for a Mexican dinner at the nearest Taqueria.  It included tacos, tamales and a shared quart of beer.

The ride home was quick as a storm was approaching.  I beat the rain and made it home at 11:30 after a four and a half hour ride.

All said, except for breaking my favorite camera, it was a very nice adventure.

One of our favorite hotels, the Jacaranda in Avon Park.

Traffic turning from 17 onto 16, south of Green Cove Springs

15 through the Ocala National Forest

North of Altoona on 19

Lake Eustis 

Gas and lunch at a Race Trac in Groveland

Northbound traffic on 33.  Luckily I was heading south.

Traffic backed up on 27

At the Jacaranda, looking at Avon Park from the balcony.

Facing west.  Deadest town anywhere, but we like it. 


Heading west from Avon Park.  I liked the clouds and to the left is 
someone flying a powered parachute

The Peace River from the Canoe Outpost

On the bus heading to the start.

Canoes being off loaded, by the staff.

Boarding the canoes.

Celeste leading the way. She is a skilled canoeist.

A group searching for shark's teeth.

One of the five or so alligators along the way.

Ken and Jim

Ken and Jim

Sand beach along the way.

The Canon G9X's last photo.  It was a great camera, but I got
 thousands of great photos.  Time for a new one
The Victorian block in Arcadia, taken with my phone.

And the Arcadia Opera House.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

2018 7 Bridges Ride

This was the Big Weekend for the 7 Bridges Scooter Club.

It was the weekend of our annual 7 Bridges Ride, where we ride across the 7 bridges that cross the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida.

These bridges include three on Interstate Highways and four on major local roads, five very close to downtown.

The weekend begins with Saturday rides.  I led the group to Fernandina Beach for the second year.  Tom Rogerson led a larger group to Palatka, riding south along State Road 13, a fine riding road on the east side of the St. Johns River.

Our group had spectacular weather with a ride over the Dames Point Bridge to Heckscher Drive, then up A1A to the historic town of Fernandina Beach.

We dined at Brett's Waterway Cafe, a few explored the town while others helped one rider who's scooter battery failed.  We jump started the scooter, but it quit again on the way home so we took it out of her scooter and I rode to O'Reilly's (It was St. Patrick's Day) for a new one.  Purchased and installed it and the scooter was good again.

The evening was topped out with a group dinner at Bono's BBQ in Neptune Beach.

Sunday began early.  I had to be at Hardees on Mayport Road, 20 miles from home, at 7:30.

When I arrived almost everyone was already there, including my brother David and Conchscooter, one of my favorite scooter bloggers with his Key West Diaries. 

I will discuss him in another post, but to sum it up, I liked him.  Very fine follow, that Conchscooter.

We left at 8:30 with a short jaunt to the Mayport Ferry, where we waited fifteen minutes for it to return.  I led the boarding party and we all got on and traversed the St. Johns River easily. 

Once on the other side, we headed west on Heckscher Drive to I-295, the Dames Point Bridge, a large cable-stayed bridge built in 1989.  I had a friend who knew the contractor and was allowed to tour the bridge while it was under construction.  Quite a sight, standing on the unfinished bridge back then.

Wind was brisk as we crossed the Intracoastal Waterway, so I turned left onto the ramp to the bridge with some trepidation, but it turned out to be just fine.

From there we too expressways to the Mathews Bridge, a red, steel truss bridge built in 1952. 

We then rode past Everbank Field to the Hart Bridge, a green cantilever truss bridge built in 1967.  I watched it being constructed from my neighborhood as a kid.

We stopped for a break at a gas station, then headed downtown to the Main Street Bridge, also somewhat known as the John T. Alsop, Jr. Bridge.  It is a blue lift span truss bridge built in 1941. 

We then rode through downtown to the Acosta Bridge, a new concrete bridge built in 1991 as a replacement for the oldest bridge crossing the river.  The original bridge was a lift span steel bridge with a railroad bridge, that remains, alongside.

Next was the Fuller Warren Bridge, a multi-lane Interstate Highway bridge that replaced a drawbridge in 2002.  As is the case in Jacksonville these days, it is currently under construction to add lanes and a pedestrian walkway. 

It was time for another stop and we did this after riding down Riverside Avenue to Memorial Park.  The centerpiece of the park is a large statue, Life, sculpted by Charles Adrian Pillars in 1924.  I went to school with Mr. Pillars granddaughter, so there has always been a small connection for me.

We hustled out of there and rode through Riverside, Avondale and Ortega before getting on US-17 for the ride to I-295 again, this time to ride over the Buckman Bridge. This is the longest bridge at 3.2 miles, but quite nondescript.  It was built in 1970 and had 2 more lanes added each way in 1997. 

We finished the ride by heading through North Mandarin and Beauclerc, then Baymeadows Road to Southside Boulevard to the 7 Bridges Restaurant for lunch.

It was a great weekend with over 40 riders and nice weather.

The only down side was that our leader, Russ, had to do the tour in a car.  He will be back in the saddle soon.

 Scooters gathered for the Saturday ride.

On the Dames Point Bridge

 Crossing the Intracoastal Waterway

 Crossing onto Amelia Island

Big Talbot Island on A1A 

 Canopy road on Amelia Island, this one Amelia Island Parkway

 We created our own parking area.  No problem.

 Awaiting a table on the porch at Brett's

 Getting scooters arranged for a jump start for a bad battery.

Another canopy road on Amelia Island. 

The marshes at Heckscher Drive. 

Part of the dinner crowd at Bono's BBQ.  They no longer have baby back ribs, replaced with fried catfish.  We got a kick out of that.  Who would want catfish when they wanted ribs? 


At the start, scooters all arranged. 

More marshes at Mayport Road, heading to the Mayport Ferry.

 Scooters lined up to load onto the ferry.

I was first on.

 We took up half the deck.

 The Dames Point Bridge again

 Mathews Bridge

 Everbank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, from the Hart Bridge ramp.

 On the span of the Hart Bridge.

Conchscooter at the break.

 The ramp heading to the Main Street Bridge with downtown Jacksonville beyond.

 Grating on the lift span of the Main Street Bridge

 The Acosta Bridge with Conchscooter following.

The sign said no parking on the tracks, so I parked between them.  These are very active tracks.

 All smiles waiting for the light to change so we could cross the Fuller Warren Bridge.

 On the Fuller Warren Bridge with the Southbank of downtown Jacksonville in the background.

Life at Memorial Park.

 Group Photo at the park.  Most were looking at Russ.

St. Johns Avenue in Avondale, my neighborhood.

Approaching the drawbridge between Avondale and Ortega.

Coming off the drawbridge.  This one crosses the Ortega River, also known as McGirts Creek and Cedar River.

Curves in Ortega 

 Buckman Bridge

 Buckman Bridge

 Back at the 7 Bridges Restaurant.

We dine outside.