Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Brumos Porsche Museum Visit

I had a private message through Modern Vespa from my friend Ken (Lostboater) last week, saying that he was in town and wanted to get together for breakfast.  We arranged a place and spent three hours eating and talking.  Sometimes you meet someone who instantly becomes a best friend.  Ken is one of those.  We met earlier in the year when he came to Jacksonville to drop off his spare parts and tools for me to take to Doug (Old as Dirt) and Will (TNSooner) for the Scooter Cannonball.  Once I arrived in Stewart, BC for the start in Hyder, Alaska, we got together again for a ride and dinner.  He and I had dinner many of the Cannonball nights.

During breakfast we discussed visiting the Brumos Porsche Museum.  He is very good friends with Don, the chief mechanic for the Brumos Racing Team.  He also runs the museum.  Don was happy to oblige and we got a tour that afternoon.  And what a tour it was.  Just the three of us, until a new employee brought some friends in to see the cars.

The cars are a collection of Dano Davis, the majority owner of the local Brumos dealerships that include Porsche, Mercedes Benz and Lexus.  The cars include several of the Brumos Porsche racing cars over the years including the amazing 917-10 Turbo that dominated CanAm for a few years.  It included several of Peter Gregg's racing cars that I saw race in the 60's and 70's at local events and Daytona.  It also includes some of the best Millers in the country.  These are old Indy racers from the 1920's.  They even have a Jaguar F1 car on the wall.

There were street cars as well.  One of these is the very famous and valuable Porsche 550 Spyder.  This model is famous because it is what James Dean was driving when he was killed in an accident in California.  Don let me sit in it, quite a difficult chore getting in when wearing motorcycle boots and trying to keep from damaging the car.  I finally got in, but when getting out, he said the easiest way is to just stand on the seat and step out.  It worked.  The value of the car might be represented in the sale price of the last one that came up for auction.  It went for $3,600,000.

We spent two hours visiting and admiring the fabulous collection.  It was a real treat to have such a cool, inside look at the wonderful museum.

Don and Ken in front of a racing Porsche 914.

Me inside the 550 Spyder with Don looking on.

"Just stand on the seat" Don says.  ("it is a three million dollar car", I think to myself)

Ken and Me.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Owning Old, Modern Scooters

Through the last 12 years I have owned four scooters and I am currently holding another for three years.  As they age, they start to deteriorate.  Here is what I have experienced.

  • 2002 Malaguti Ciak 50:  This one has been ok since new.  It has occasionally been hard to start, but mostly because of little use and a clogged carburetor.  I believe I fixed that by using non-ethanol fuel exclusively for the past year or so.  But after a 15 mile ride on Saturday, I went into the garage to find a strong smell of gasoline.  I looked around until I spotted a large fuel spill under the Malaguti.  I am not sure why it took so long, but the fuel line must have finally given in to the earlier ethanol fuel.  So it is currently not usable, a shame because I just had Boris change the belt and it runs like new.

  • 2006 Vespa GT (Rocket):  Rocket has been a fantastic scooter since purchased nine years ago.  It had normal maintenance for the first five or so, but has been costing me at least $100. per month to keep it going for the past four years.  The changed parts include camshaft, rocker arm, carburetor, fuel line, starter, bendix, three variators, shock absorbers, etc.  It has been through probably 8 or 9 rear tires, 4 or 5 front tires and at least 12 exhaust gaskets.  The oil has been changed probably 14 times.  That is difficult as the original dealer did the first services.  On their last one, they overtightened the drain plug, stripping the threads.  All oil is sucked out the filler plug since.  The most recent issue is the engine mounts have deteriorated and it is in the warehouse awaiting parts.

  • 2005 Vespa GT:  This one I bought from my brother a couple of years ago.  I used it for several rides, a 2000 mile ride from Jacksonville to Franklin, Tennessee, down the Natchez Trace Parkway to Natchez, Mississippi, to Biloxi, Mississippi to home.  It was also my Iron Butt ride.  I replaced bearings and other wear items while owning it, but after selling it to Zoltan, he had a total engine meltdown at around 30,000 miles.  A valve dropped into the combustion chamber causing enormous damage.  He and Boris scrabbled together parts from various sources and rebuilt the engine.  It ran well for a while but is back in the warehouse again.

  • 2007 Vespa GT:  I am holding this one for my friend Leslie while she works in Naples, Italy for three years.  She had an accident on this one on her first ride with the club.  We turned in to a gas station and she ran into Tom and both went down.  Boris repaired the scooter and it looks great but she has had various issues since, mostly easy like fuel lines and exhaust gaskets.  Now it is leaking coolant.  So I limit my rides on this one until it is repaired.  Another slight issue with this one is that I changed the rear tire a few months ago.  The new Michelin City Grip is out-of-round causing a slight bounce at certain speeds.  
  • 2013 Honda NC700X:  This is the newest and it is a Honda.  I lube the chain every now and then and change the oil per plan.  That is it.

Owning scooters is an expensive hobby.  It feels like at least one is broken at any time.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Buccaneer Region SCCA Solo Results

I purchased my 1999 Mazda Miata 10th Anniversary Edition in March of 2007.  It was so my son Sam and I could participate in local Autocross events.  He and I both enjoyed it very much until he headed off to college.  I liked it so much that I have continued to enter events through the years.  

This year has turned out to be my best year ever.  The SCCA changed the class for the NB Miata from C Stock to E Street.  The Street designation is due to a major change to ban racing tires from stock classes.  The result of this is that I have a better handicap (PAX) than in the past (actually the same as last year running street tires)

It started out a little slow with half worn tires, Dunlop Direzza II extreme summer tires.  The early results were good but I kept getting beaten by either Larry or Fast Phil, depending on venue.  At Gainesville, a true road course, I could beat Larry but Phil got me.  At the Fernandina Beach Airport, I had all kinds of problems getting comfortable with the grip and courses and Larry smoked me.  

I bought new tires before the ninth event at Roebling Road in Savannah.  They proved to be very helpful as I did well there, then very well in the last two events, 7th out of 88 at Gainesville, 2nd out of 41 at Fernandina Beach.  In the last event, I was faster than Fast Phil for the second time ever, first when we both had good tires.  Larry was third in class, fourth overall that day.  

I ended up second overall for the year, first in ES.  I had lobbied to allow two race drops for the championship as it is hard for most drivers to make every event.  Of those who missed two events, Nelson was the best.  He won outright six of the events.  So, if they had allowed two drops, I would have finished third, where I feel I should have finished.

It was very rewarding because Larry competed in every event.  I missed one because I was returning from the Scooter Cannonball that day.  So Larry could drop his worst performance while I had to count all of mine.  It was close, but I was faster than him at every Gainesville event, one by almost three seconds, so I was able to catch and pass him in the last couple of rounds.  The finale was my best event ever.  Second in PAX, 5th in raw time and beating Phil's time, even by just .01 second and Larry finally at Fernandina, was great.  The scooter club even came by to get in on the fun.

The Miata in action at Gainesville

On the grid in Gainesville

 Fast Phil's MR2

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Rocket Engine Mounts

Rocket started right up last Tuesday and I rode it a little.  Then it started last weekend and I rode it again, when the looseness I have been feeling made itself apparent.

I accelerated from the warehouse and felt the rear end move sideways.  It did it a every time.  I asked Boris to ride it too and he felt the same thing immediately.

We looked at the engine and could see a rubber bushing on one of the engine mounts.  It looked damaged and loose.

Boris went to his GT manual and noted that there are four of these at the mounting points.

He ordered them and received two this week.  The other two were on back order.

The engine is coming out and hopefully put back with the proper mounts.

He is also going to put in a new HT coil.  

All of these troubles are dampening our relationship some, but I am certain that all will be good soon.

Rocket's home for a while...Scooter warehouse.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Yamaha Smax

With Rocket getting old and now broken almost all of the time, I think it is a good time to look for a new scooter to take its place.  Not that I would ever get rid of Rocket, but its long distance rides may be fewer and shorter.

I have been intrigued by the new Yamaha Smax.  It is a small, 155 cc scooter that has just come out in the US.  Several reviews have said that they are seeing speeds over 80 mph indicated during the test rides.  They are also getting over 80 mpg.  If these are correct, combined with Yamaha dependability, it could be a perfect Cannonball scooter.

So, today I rode the Honda down for a test ride.  The dealership, St. Johns Powersport in Palatka, is owned by a good friend.  He had told the staff that I was coming and they prepared the scooter for the test ride.  It was a blue one that had 12 miles on it.  

In sitting on it I immediately could tell that the space alotted for the rider was minimal.  Yamaha wanted to have a flat floor for the feet, but with the frame down there, they had to make it quite high in relation to the seat.  This placed my knees very close to my hands.  They were also close to the leg shield.  The seat bolster contributed to this as it forces the rear end forward, pushing the knees into the leg shield.

I took the prescribed test route plus a little more on US17 so I could give it one quick top speed run. Acceleration was good and the ride smooth and stable.  It was nice to have a tachometer, not really necessary with the CVT transmission, but cool to see the engine speed.  The speedometer is digital and I found it to read almost 10% optimistic.  I hit an indicated 71 mph, that read 65 on the GPS that I brought along to check the speedometer.  That was wide open into the wind on a very short stretch.  I am certain that with ideal conditions and a broken in scooter, it would go faster.  The suspension was very compliant and brakes strong.

It is a fine machine, but I am not certain that it will work for me as it might be uncomfortable after 100 miles or so.  I will not rule it out, but my friend Mike's 2005 Vespa GT with less than 5000 miles might be a better choice.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

10,000 Page Views

I have been doing Rocket and Me since March and just noticed that it passed 10,000 page views.

It was most popular leading up to and during the Scooter Cannonball, understandably as it was the most excitement related to my scooting life.

But viewership has been steady, if very light since.

I notice that someone will find it and want to read almost every page to see if they can find anything interesting.  I hope it is at least something that sparks some interest in scooting.

I know that many more people see what I post on Facebook or Modern Vespa, but this is a place where I can keep my memories and share them with others in a more organized form.

Thank you all, especially David, for following.

Bill and Rocket

Rocket and me at the start of our big adventure.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Another Busy Weekend

This past weekend had Sarah and me invited to three parties on Saturday with an Autocross for me on Sunday.  Busy indeed.

It started with us heading to Amelia Island, 40 miles north of Jacksonville with a terrific ride up the coast through the marshes and forests of Little and Big Talbot Islands along with Fort George Island and Amelia Island.  It is among the nicest rides in our area.  This was a drive in the Miata for an open house given by the owners in thanks for all of the people involved in the construction of their new house in their compound, called Possum Point.  

The compound is unique in the area in that the owners recently purchased three additional lots to go along with their existing house in the Amelia Island Plantation development.  These lots are among the finest parcels of land I have seen in the area with views to the western marshes and the Intracoastal Waterway.

I designed a new house with a clubhouse and garage, all connected by a trail and trellis system.  The new house is larger than the existing house but they didn't want it to dominate, so we kept it simple with materials and details similar to the existing house.  The houses are separated by landscaping, so they don't compete at all.

The attendees included everyone who worked on the project including plumbers, electricians, landscapers, painters, cabinet makers, etc. and included barbeque and a bluegrass band.  The house looked great and everyone enjoyed seeing the finished product.

Party two was at a house that Sarah and her real estate partner Linda had found for the owners.  It is on the Cedar River in Jacksonville, a large creek that winds its way through neighborhoods to the St. Johns River.

The evening had us attending the annual Christmas party given by Sarah's yoga friend John and his partner, Ken.  They have the most Christmas trees of any house I can imagine, with at least 7.  They put on a great party with nice food and several friends that I don't see enough.  One of these is Tom, who it turns out was instrumental in a program called Rushmore at Harley Davidson.  Through the program, Harley Davidson made some major changes in their products and marketing.  I got to talk to Tom at length about that and my recent long rides.  We are going to schedule a weekend ride to take after the new year.

Sunday saw me getting up early to head back to Amelia Island for the SCCA Autocross at the Fernandina Beach Airport.  I had really been looking forward to this one as I had found myself in second place overall in the year long standings.  I could not catch first place but third was taken by my friend Larry in my class.  He has always beaten me at this track but I had been gaining at Roebling Road and Gainesville recently and had overtaken him for second.  The other part I was looking forward to was that Fast Phil, a former professional driver was attending.  I had only beaten Phil once, and that was when he was racing on old worn tires.  

We were first to run in the small turnout of 41 drivers.  I ran first among me, Larry and Phil and found that cold tires on cold asphalt made for some serious sliding and a slow time of over 49 seconds.  Larry and Phil easily beat that on their first runs.  On my second I had a passenger and pushed hard, getting down under 45 seconds.  Game on.  My fastest run was on my fifth and ended up beating Phil by .01 seconds and Larry by .18 seconds.   It made for a very cool day.

The second run group had some fast drivers and Nelson ended up faster than me by enough that he finished first overall in the handicapped PAX scoring system by around .4 seconds over me in second.  Phil and Larry were third and fourth overall out of the 41 competitors.  It was my best finish in the eight years I have been doing this.

Then, to relate it all back to Rocket, I had left it at Boris' warehouse all last week.  On Saturday it started and Boris asked me to ride it long enough to warm it up and see if it would start.  I had ridden the Malaguti to the warehouse with a new belt and rollers for him to install while I had Rocket.  I rode home and it started, so the coil diagnosis may be off.  But when riding it the rear end felt loose.  I asked Boris to try it and he noticed as well.  So we looked and found a rubber bushing at an engine mount to be falling apart.  This left the connection loose so the entire engine and transmission unit was loose from the chassis.  Not really dangerous to ride home, but in need of repairs.  He ordered parts so we will hopefully have that repaired next weekend.  Just in time for Sam's return home for Christmas.  I always look forward to riding with him when he is home.

I got an extra 8 mph with the new belt on the Malaguti, but it feels like the transmission is stuck on the highest gear ratio.  Acceleration is bad but once it gets to around 30 mph it slides right up to an indicated 47.  Big improvement.

Inside the new house

Looking out the window to the clubhouse

The south end of the new house with the screened porch with the Sky Room over.

Bluegrass on the porch

The Cedar River from the dock.

The race car at the gate

Driver's meeting

I forgot my numbers and had to resort to painter's tape.

Nelson's hot hatch.  I kid him, calling it an econobox.
But it is very fast, especially with him behind the wheel

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rocket Troubles

On Saturday, I decided to test Rocket again with a ride to one of my favorite restaurants in Baldwin, 20 miles west of Jacksonville.  I decided to stay on I-10 the entire way, not running WOT but a steady 77 to 80 indicated (actual 70 to 73)

Rocket handled this beautifully so I began to gain confidence in its ability to handle long rides.

On the return, I decided to go by Kohls for some much needed socks.  It made it there fine as well.  But upon leaving, it took a while to fire up.  Then on a 35 mph section, it stumbled a couple of times.  At the first red light it stalled.  Then it continued to run rough the remainder of the ride.

Fuel levels were very low and I thought I might have gotten bad gas a while ago so I went to a Gate station where they have non ethanol fuel.  I filled the tank with this, almost 2.4 gallons, and it wouldn't start in many attempts.  I checked the spark plug and the cap felt loose.  I pulled it off and found the plug to be in tight so I put the cap back on.

I called Boris who sent our friend Shaw to pick me up in the truck.

Rocket is now waiting in the warehouse emergency room for attention.  Boris will figure it out.

Dave (feb31st) suggested a bad spark plug.  Others thought the carburetor needs cleaning.

We will know next weekend.

We had a nice ride to Micanopy on Sunday.  I intended to take Rocket but took the reliable Honda NC700X instead.  It rode well, it is a very capable, but uninteresting, bike.

The route was one of my favorite loops.  We started in Orange Park, heading down 17 to 315 to west on 16 to south on 21.  This was to get us to the good parts.  Because at 315c we headed south to Interlachen on one of the best rides in North Florida.  Then continued south to Citra.  From there we went north a couple of miles to turn west on 325 past Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' house in Cross Creek.  Then 346 to 441 to one of our favorite restaurants, Blue Highway Pizza.  The return trip was similar, riding through Rochelle, Windsor and Melrose.  All nice country roads.

Hit some light rain on the last ten miles but it was worth it.
Rocket on the Truck.  Not a pretty site.

Heading out on Sunday morning on the Honda.

Penney Farms

Country Road

Rest Stop just north of Interlachen.

More of North Florida's finest roads.

Blue Highway

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ormond Beach Ride

This week's 7 Bridges Scooter Club Sunday ride was to ride down A1A to Ormond Beach to have lunch at the Pig Stand restaurant.  The restaurant is part of what I call Harley World, a large motorcycle destination made for the two big Bike Weeks in Daytona.  It's centerpiece is Bruce Rossmeyer's Daytona Harley Davidson, supposedly the largest Harley dealer in the country.  We didn't go there.  It also has an J&P Cycles store that we checked out.  

It was a smooth ride highlighted by what is commonly known as the Ormond Beach Loop, a ride through three state parks around the marshes and lakes between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach.  It is a beautiful ride along the marshes and into the coastal forest.

Lunch was some of the best BBQ around and the ride home was fast and easy.  I broke away from the group in Bunnell as they stopped for fuel and I didn't need any.  I rode quickly to I-295, then on that across the river to Orange Park to home.  I had thought that Rocket's high speed problems had been solved by using a better oil in the last change.  It ran great, and fast on US 1, hitting as high as 77 at times.  But on I-295, while running in the upper 70's in traffic for a couple of miles, it lost power and had the temperatures increase again.  I decided to continue across the Buckman Bridge, 3.2 miles over the St. Johns River.  It has a span that requites going up hill for a quarter mile or so.  On that part, speed dropped to 59 maximum.  Then downhill I got back to 70 but that is all it had.  When I stopped at a light after getting off the highway onto US 17, the oil light came on and stayed on for probably 10 seconds.  It is a mystery to me.  After a second stop at a light, the temperatures returned to normal and it rode well the remainder of the way home.  

It is trying to tell me something.....

On the road.

Waiting for the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine.

At Matanzas Inlet

Flagler Beach

High Bridge Road, entering the park.

Along the creek and marsh

In the coastal forest

At the lunch stop