Saturday, February 28, 2015

The New Addition to the Fleet

My friend Mike called me last night.  I had been talking to him about buying his 2005 GT for the past six months or so, and got serious about it a couple of weeks ago.  I  had been looking at options for getting to North Carolina to pick it up, considered riding up with my friend Greg in his new to him Jeep Comanche Pick-up truck, or going with Sarah for a couple of nights at the Grove Park Inn, or riding one of Mike's scooters from here to NC, picking up the new one and riding it home.

But in this call, he said he had hooked a trailer up to his car and brought it to Jacksonville for me to collect.  I was thrilled.  Could hardly sleep last night.  

The reason is that it is literally perfect, looking like it just came off the showroom floor.  It comes with a Vespa top box, Faco mid sized windshield, side stand and the controversial rubber floor mat.

So I called him at 7:30 this morning and retrieved it at 8:00.

The intent is for this one to be my reliable, long ride scooter for a while.  This will include the 2016 Scooter Cannonball Run and rides to Virginia and North Carolina this spring.

It is my fifth scooter/motorcycle that I own, and with Leslie's Vanessa, the third GT in the garage.  

Almost exactly 60,000 miles behind Rocket.

It came perfect and equipped.

Bad lighting but it is so shiny, with not a scratch on it.

In the garage next to Rocket, currently my around town hot rod.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Scooter Friends

I have to say that my scooter friends have become among my best friends.  We spend more time together than my other friends and we always get along.  Maybe it is because we are riding separately most of the time, but we sit together at meals and have, usually, nice discussions.  And we have had many multiple day rides to the mountains of North Carolina and the Natchez Trace Parkway.  I must say that never a cross word is spoken.

This past Sunday illustrated the closeness of the group.  I couldn't ride because I was entered in the local SCCA's Autocross event at the Fernandina Beach Airport.  A ride had been set up to come visit but I thought it would be two or three.  During the driver's meeting someone among the drivers yelled out to me to look at what was arriving.  It turned out that 10 or 12 were riding and came to watch me race my little Miata.  They hung around for several runs, then continued to lunch.  I had the biggest group of supporters among all of the drivers.

It made my day.

The scooters

And some of the group.

Larry beat me by 0.2 seconds in E Street, but we were 5th and 7th out of 73 on the day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Weather Reporting

Yesterday, after we have had a week of cold weather, I decided to ride the Honda to a meeting across town.  I did this after checking the Weather Channel to make sure that the weather was good.  It showed 0% chance of rain all afternoon.

So, while meeting with nice clients in their dining room, the skies darkened until it started pouring down rain.  Luckily, we were not finished and by the time we were it was only sprinkling.  But the bike was soaked when I got on it and rode through a medium shower to the next meeting.

The ride home was ok as the rain had stopped.

But still, when they say 0%, I certainly should feel safe to ride.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rocket's Replacement

I shouldn't call it a replacement because Rocket isn't going anywhere.  It is simply not reliable to take on the long club rides and next year's Cannonball.  Nothing worse than stopping the entire ride so I can repair the variator or messed up engine.  Well, yes, there is something worse, not having the parts and tools to make the repair.

So my friend Mike and I have been talking about me buying his pristine GT.  I believe it is a 2006 like Rocket but it might be a 2005.  It doesn't matter to me.

But it is perfect with around 5000 miles on it (Rocket is currently over 66,000)  It might be too pretty for a Cannonball bike, but I am going to use it anyway.  The GT has a significant handicap advantage on the 250 GTS, and with a tour tank, might be able to run near the front.

Rocket is turning into my around town hot rod.  With the Leo Vince exhaust and fly screen, it likes to be seen and heard wherever it goes.  But I would rather keep it within "Sarah, please come to pick me up" territory for now. Maybe a new engine will go into it one day or we can find a cure for the ills of this one.  

A little sad, but we move on.

Mike riding the new (soon to me) GT in North Carolina in September.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Since this is supposed to be a blog about Rocket, my 2006 Vespa GT, I should get back to the fine scooter today.  Rocket continues to have problems.  Just when I gain confidence that it is getting better, something goes wrong and we start over again.

Over the past year, it has developed some issues.  The Scooter Cannonball Run might have done it in. It all started with the variator failure in the Cannonball.  After running so well for 8 3/4 days plus the 400+ miles from Prince George, BC to Hyder, it came to an end quickly with variator and belt failure.  The problem was the variator as a new belt failed in 30 miles the next day.

I had a new variator installed by the dealer in New Orleans, then had Rocket hauled home on a trailer. Shortly after getting home, an old problem arose again.  When riding fast on the highways, and fast means nearly wide open throttle, or for Rocket, 75 mph (GPS),  the temperature of the engine would rise and suddenly the power would drop to where I couldn't maintain 70 mph.  If I tried to ride far in this condition the cooling fan would start up and when coming to a stop, the oil light would come on for a few seconds.  None of this is good.

But in spite of this, because it was fine in all other riding situations, I decided to ride it while leading the scooter club on the annual ride to North Carolina this year.  In Washington, Georgia, I felt a slip in the drive.  We rode on to a gas station and I pulled the transmission cover off to find that the variator nut had come loose, damaging the outer drive pulley.  Through a few phone calls and overnight UPS delivery, I was back on the road the next morning and it rode fine the remainder of the trip.  

A month or so ago I was riding and it was hard to start and began riding roughly.  It stalled several times.  Fuel levels were very low so I thought it might be some trash in the fuel system.  I stopped at a gas station and filled the tank.  After doing so it wouldn't start at all.  I called Boris and he had Shaw bring me the truck to take it to the warehouse.  After it sat in the warehouse for a day, it started easily and ran well.  There he changed the coil just to make sure to eliminate one possibility.

It ran well for a while after this.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to ride it to Gainesville to see my daughter.  That is approximately 70 miles each way and I had a fantastic ride down.  On the return though the variator nut came loose again.  This time I rode a couple of miles again and by the time I stopped, the heat had melted everything plastic in the area.  I had the part this time, installed everything and made it home.

Then I was riding last week to Fleming Island, 20 miles each way.  On the way there it was fine but the return trip started by having a hard time getting Rocket started in the parking lot.  It finally started but ran very roughly the entire way home, actually stalling several times.  I was pleased to make it home.

Boris has no answers.  I am going to disconnect the evap system from the fuel side of the engine as I think that it might be the cause of the fueling issues.  I am beginning to think that the transmission problems are due to some looseness in the crankshaft bearing, causing slight vibration allowing the nut to loosen.  

Luckily, I have Vanessa, the Malaguti and Honda to get me around.  But Rocket is special and needs care to get back to normal


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lambretta Fixes

On Saturday, I had Boris pick up the 1965 Lambretta Li125 and take it to he shop to begin repairs.  It wasn't running after sitting in a garage for more than 30 years and I had hoped that it would start after some minor cleaning and repairs.

He had his brother Eric remove the carburetor for cleaning.  They checked out the fuel tank to find some small holes in the top.  Then checked for spark and found none.  So he cleaned the points and stator, getting a strong spark.  They found that the fuel controller was completely clogged and not repairable.  So a new one was to be ordered.  Then they sprayed carburetor cleaner into the cylinder to see if they could get it to fire.  Unfortunately they could get no fire.

Boris thought it might be a clogged exhaust, so that was removed.

Still no fire.

I had to leave, but after some consideration, Boris decided that the crankshaft seal was bad, allowing too much air into the engine.  So that part is ordered for replacement. Unfortunately that involves removal of the engine and much expense.  But we will do it anyway.

I had hoped to be riding by now, but will just have to wait.

Eric working on the air filter.

Lambretta opened for repairs.  The large tank on top is the fuel tank.  It has holes in the top.

Eric and Boris

All apart waiting for parts.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Flagler Beach Ride

This Sunday Ride was to a restaurant called High Jackers, at the Flagler Beach Airport.  Flagler Beach is around 75 miles south of Jacksonville but we took a scenic route.  Heading down we took State Road 13.  It heads south from Mandarin, a large suburban community in the south of Jacksonville.  This road is on many motorcycle ride books as one of the best in Florida.  It runs along the east side of the St. Johns River, coming quite close to the river is several areas.  The views are great and the road has enough trees and curves to be entertaining.

The meal was fine.  It was early February, but we had very nice weather and ate outside, looking over the airplanes parked on tarmac.  The covered booths were mounted on wheels so we could rock if we wanted.  It got old after a while.

I decided we would return via A1A, the legendary Florida highway that runs along the Atlantic coast. We started in Flagler Beach and headed north.  Traffic was a bit more than I prefer but we handled it well.  St. Augustine is the major town along the way and there was a backup leading onto the Bridge of Lions into the historic town center.  I navigated through a neighborhood and avoided much of the bumper to bumper stuff. 

We continued north of St. Augustine to Ponte Vedra Beach on A1A and I made it back to the neighborhood to see a rally for a friend of mine, Bill Bishop, who is running for Mayor of Jacksonville.  Wish him luck.  He will need it with an incumbent mayor and the other major candidate getting all of the support from the party and big business.  We need some intelligent, unconnected leadership to make Jacksonville the great city it could be.
The start at Bojangles.  Nine riders rode down.

Along State Road 13

Rest stop in Hastings.

Flagler Beach Airport

Traffic on the Bridge of Lions heading into St. Augustine.

Bill Bishop for Mayor.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Rocket Photographs

I heard recently from my friend Helen that her photographer friend, Jensen Hande, was taking photos of various bikes for an upcoming show at Jacksonville University.  I offered Rocket as a subject, enriching the story about the machine with its experiences this year, especially riding in the Scooter Cannonball Run.  He accepted the offer, so I rode it to his studio today for the photos.  I hope that the show is a success and Rocket is a contributor.

Jensen doing his handiwork

Rocket in all it's glory.  
Jensen wanted the gas tank and he and his assistant liked the red shock.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

My New, Old Lambretta

Today I finally took delivery of a 1965 Lambretta Li125.  I wrote about it before, but it has belonged to a friend who has kept it in her garage for the past 30 years.  She wanted to give it to her daughter but that never happened, so one day when I was talking scooters to another friend, she overheard the conversation and let me know that she had it.  I jumped on the opportunity but, because of the negotiated deal for the purchase, I have put off picking it up until I had time to fulfill my end of the bargain, that being to design a new porch on back of her house in exchange for the scooter.  I still don't have time but I will get started this week by measuring the existing house and doing a preliminary design.

The Lambretta doesn't run but looks like it will be easy to get it going as everything turns over and works except the front brake.  The plan is to take it to the warehouse as soon as possible to let Boris look it over to see what needs to be done.  I am optimistic in thinking that it will be easy to get it running.  We will have to give it some time and effort, but getting it back to good condition will be a fun adventure.

Taking delivery from the previous owner.  Luckily she lives only four blocks from my house

We inflated the tires, found neutral and it was an easy push home.

Home at last.

I really like the split seats.  They are in good condition too.

Current license plate...1975

The other side

1965 Lambretta Li125

Its new home in the garage.  Luckily Vanessa was in the office garage.  I will have to do some rearranging to allow all of them to fit.