Monday, June 30, 2014

The Great American Race

Saturday night a group of cars, made before 1972, came through Jacksonville on a long rally from Maine to The Villages, south of Ocala.  They were taking around a week to complete the ride. 

I missed Saturday but was up early Sunday and saw in the paper that they would be leaving downtown at around 7:00.  So I hopped on Rocket and headed down at around 6:45.  I found them a little spread out but mostly around the Hyatt downtown.  

I spoke at length with one participant who said he knew almost nothing about it before entering.  He found that the hardest part was the navigating with the directions given.  They had many turns with the directions not the easiest to follow.  GPS not allowed.  But he also said some teams were spot on the designated time.

The cars were cool and the participants appeared to be having fun.

It was a beautiful morning

Old Thunderbird

Fueling on the street

An old racer


All descriptions

VW Beetle.  The first car I ever drove was a 1960 Beetle


Hagerty and Hemmings must have been sponsors

Even a Hot Rod

Variator Failure

I am now certain that I know the cause of the belt failure.  I am quite sure that the belt would have lasted through the event if the variator hadn't failed.  The variator failed at the bushing around the shaft.  The hole that wraps around the bushing enlarged irregularly creating a wobble and shake.  This created vibration and heat that I could feel.  When we cobbled together pieces to fix it, we reinstalled the bad variator that shredded the belt after less than 30 miles on day 10. 

I had intended to bring a new variator on the ride but waited too long, and decided that this one, with less than 10,000 miles on it would be OK.  I also shouldn't have put Dr. Pulley sliders in it before the run.  I have had two failures in variators, both times with Dr. Pulley sliders inside.

Next time I will come better prepared to make repairs.  Tools, spares and the ability to do my own work on any potential problem are in the works.  I am buying parts now, including a gear puller and other specialty tools.  And I am getting comfortable with the work itself.  Boris has agreed to help teach me, so I will be ready.

Speculation Fallout

After posting about the speculation about the speed of Rocket, I decided to post the same message on Modern Vespa.  

My reason was that I am actually making a small effort to create a small buzz about Rocket, as I am considering the possibility of writing a book, or at least short story about the Cannonball and our relationship on the ride.  

The posting got positive reviews until one of the fellow Cannonball runners decided that they didn't appreciate that someone who did not finish, and ended up ninth on the final point totals, would write about the event.  Another poster initially liked the concept of the message, but turned to point out negatives as well.  Posts stated that Rocket wasn't really that fast and that I wasn't much of a rider.  It ended up with a few private messages and emails letting me know that I overstepped the initial intent and was accusing others of accusing me of cheating.  

They never accused me of anything and were simply checking out my scooter.  In hindsight, I should have left it alone and not posted at all.  I am just hoping it didn't damage relationships that I value greatly.

My opinion is that Rocket, being a 200cc scooter, had a big advantage, 7%, over the usually faster 250cc scooters of several of the serious riders.  I passed a few of these fast scooters along the way.  Being fast, while riding fast and efficiently, few navigation mistakes and fast stops, led be to be in first place after 8 days.  It was a good lead that I believe was stretched further after the first three legs of day 9.  The reality is that it broke and I didn't have the proper part to make the replacement.  I had a belt and rollers and the variator and clutch holder, but didn't have the variator or an 18mm socket for the variator. Ed stopped to help and we ended up stripping one of the bolts that must be removed to access the transmission.  At the hotel, we found that the heat had seized the variator and back plate to the shaft, requiring a puller.  Mark had one and did the removal for us.  At that point, if I had a new variator, we could have made the repair and only lost that one last leg of Day 9.  A reasonable run on Day 10 would have ended with a slim possibility of a win, but more likely third place.  And I would have completed the entire run.

It was still a very fun two weeks.  It was emotional too with highs and lows that will stay with me for a long time.  The others on the ride, some of whom didn't appreciate my post, became nice friends and I am hoping to reinforce that with future rides and gatherings.

Intuition Ale Works

My two nephews, Alex and Riley, work at Intuition Ale Works, a local craft brewery owned by the son of one of my clients from years ago.  I designed a garage for Ben's father to house his Ferrari collection in the early 80's.

The brewery has a tap room where the family gathered last Friday night.  This included my wife Sarah and daughter Kylie, my mother and father, Alex and Riley and Swiss visitors, Justine and her son Valentin.  Riley offered a tour of the brewery so we all wandered around there until we left for dinner at Primi Piatti, a nearby old style Italian restaurant.

Dad and Kylie

Alex and Riley

Mom, Dad and Riley

Monday, June 23, 2014


I just read the last part of my friend, Dave Bednarski's (Feb31st) blog and noticed some speculation that my trusty mechanic, good friend Boris Loose, may have had something up his sleeve to make Rocket a little faster than the usual GT.  I love it, that my old scooter was being scrutinized by the others because of it's speed.

"Bill and his bike bike could really put up points and the rumors were he had a pretty competent mechanic prepping his scoot at home so maybe there was more to it."

And that speed was very good.  During the first transit day, between Prince George and Smithers, I got it up to 85 mph on a big downhill while passing a large truck.  I hit 84 the next day.  On the eighth day, once we turned downwind towards Ulysses, Kansas, I had a flat stretch with a 40 mph tailwind where I ran the entire distance at 75 to 80 mph, running all alone.  I won the most points on three of the legs.  Never fastest raw time as I had no auxiliary tank, so I had to refuel at least two times each leg.  And some of the 250's were outright faster, with talented riders too.  Others also went much faster through towns, but I wasn't interested in meeting the local police along the side of the road.  

I am very focused when riding and found a way to make every minute count.  Good navigation and, frankly, skilled riding, led me to a nice lead when it all went away.

Here is the truth about the rocket ship.

The 2006 Vespa GT was purchased new by me on November 19, 2005, the day before my 50th birthday.  The only maintenance work has been regular oil changes, belts, rollers, tires, etc.

It has the original engine with the original piston and valves. 

The camshaft developed a scrape on it at around 40,000 miles.  The telltale sign was a screeching, tapping noise coming from the bowels of the engine.  We looked everywhere for the cause, water pump, variator, etc. until I finally had him go into the engine where the damage was found.  Boris changed it out along with the associated rocker arm that also had a gouge mark on it.  He offered to use a different profile for added performance, but I chose to stay with stock specifications.  While open, we also changed the piston rings.

Last year, at around 55,000 miles, after having trouble with the carburetor, it would run at 55 mph with my hand off the throttle, we changed that out for an original equipment matching Keihin.  This gave me much more power than the old one, but the old one was in very bad shape by the time it was changed.

The only non stock items on the entire scooter are a UNI air filter and Dr. Pulley sliders (that I will never use again).  I had a larger rear tire, Michelin Power Pure 140/70/12, using the added size to help the gearing for top speed.

Yes, it is fast.  I don't know why.  It may be the old outer half variator drive pulley with 61,000 miles on it has the grooves working to gain a little speed.  But my guess is simply that it was well prepared for the run.  I know how to get speed out of it and it complied happily.

So, while I don't appreciate any thoughts that there was some cheating going on, I do like the fact that it created a buzz and that fellow riders were interested in the speed of my gallant steed.  

I told Boris of the tale and he laughed. 

It is just Rocket and me, we make a good team.

This was the morning of Day 3 before resetting.  
Having no rev limiter helps on the downhill stretches.

First 7 Bridges Scooter Club Ride in a while

Sunday we had a club ride.  My first in around a month.  

My friend Adam sent me a message saying he wanted to ride too, so he rode up from Gainesville.  I chose to meet him in Orange Park to ride together to Bojangles on Southside Boulevard, one of our usual meet up places.

We met just south of I-295 and the Buckman Bridge, a 3.2 mile eight lane bridge crossing the St. Johns River.  We had a tail wind, but riding in front of Adam, Rocket buried the speedometer at 90+ mph.  I didn't have the GPS, but that was at least 82 mph.  Rocket remains very fast for a GT.

We then ran up I-95 to meet the others.

We had around eight riders and headed north over the Dames Point Bridge.  Because it only takes one hour to our destination of Fernandina Beach, and we were going for lunch and Tasty's probably doesn't open until around 11:00, I decided to take a detour to Shark Road, adding 45 minutes to the ride.  

The ride was good.  A1A was busy but we managed.  Tasty's had its usual fine burgers.

The ride home was similar with Adam, David and I breaking away from the group on the ride through Big Talbot Island.  David headed off at the Dames Point Bridge and Adam and I went down I-95 for the fun, fast part of the ride.

The good ship, Rocket.

Stuck at drawbridge

At the end of Shark Road.  We were one mile from a bridge that was 30 miles away by road.

Rocket is Back Home

After a week's rest in the warehouse, I got Rocket home on Saturday.  I changed the oil there and rode it around and all seems fine.

Just as important was getting my big yellow bag home.  It had almost all of my underwear and other daily wear clothes inside.  I washed all of these and can now start to settle down.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Back Home

I have been home for three nights now and still feel like I am on the road.  

Part of the reason is that we are selling our house.  In doing so, we painted and refinished floors, so we are staying in our backyard guesthouse with the dogs to keep the house looking great.

Rocket and the bulk of my clothes were brought back on a trailer on Sunday and left in Boris' warehouse.  I have no access to it and, because we celebrated my father's 90th birthday at the same time as the Tuesday scooter ride that would have given me access, I remain without much of my stuff.

So I continue to live out of a suitcase.

Last night I dreamed that I was on another adventure and wasn't sure where I was or where I was going.  It makes for a restless night. 

The house has shown very well so, hopefully, we will be under contract soon and can move back in until the closing.  

Then we need to find another house.   Or build one on the lot in the back yard.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Frank Tabor

It seems that every day I passed Frank Tabor along the road.  I always hoped it would be on a downhill stretch so I could be going at least 75 mph to display Rocket's speed.  When safe I would take a photo.  Here is my collection.

There was a collection taken by Old as Dirt at the initial riders meeting in Stewart.  Everyone placed their bet on when Frank's Stella would be disabled.  He finished and won the pot.

Breakfast in Prince George

Arriving at the start

Day five approaching

Day five, just missed him

Day six

Day nine approaching


Caught him again

And proof he made it to NOLA

The Scooters

There was a fine collection of scooters in the Cannonball 2014.  Here are some of them.

The Rocketship

This used to be a Helix

Rocket in Hyder

At the hotel in Stewart

Monkeybutt's vintage

At the start

The 50cc Aprilia and the sidecar Helix

The only MP3

Aprilia lasted 68 miles.  

Big Red after off

We saw ice

My favorite, next to Rocket