Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Five Days In Virginia

I intend to write something every day but good weather and bad WiFi did me in.  

I say good weather, but the two day ride from Jacksonville to Virginia had its bad moments. 

On the first day, we ran into two kinds of trouble.  We saw rain coming and headed to a gas station about half way into Georgia.  When we arrived, we were missing several riders. Through phone calls and messages, we found out that Tom had his BV 200 stop on a bridge a few miles before we stopped.  It turns out that his belt shredded and with that the splines on the crankshaft went too.  He ended up having to have it trailered home, abandoning his ride.  The remainder of the riders, about 15 that day huddled inside the gas station where the attendant didn't mind us keeping the scooters under the cover of the pump stations.  We stayed around an hour before checking the weather and heading out into clearing skies.

At Bojangles in Jacksonville

Caught in the rain in Georgia

We stayed in Newberry S.C. at the worst hotel in history, a run down Econolodge that should be shuttered.  It was disgusting, but the only place with rooms available for our large group.

Day two looked promising with reasonable weather in the forecast.  But we hit cold, rain and thick fog heading into Blowing Rock, N.C. so we stopped at a fine restaurant for lunch.  It was clearing as we headed out, but it was a long day before getting to our cabins at the Hungry Mother State Park, just north of Marion, Va.

Quick stop in the cold in North Carolina.

Above the fog on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC.

Day three was clear but cold.  I had ice on the seat of Razzo in the morning.  But most of us donned our cold weather gear and headed out.  We ran a 130 mile loop, part of what they call the Claw of the Dragon up here.  Our part was the western end called the Woolly Mammoth.  We had some great roads on this route and almost everyone had a great ride.

Razzo outside of our cabin.

Meeting up for the Woolly Mammoth ride

Scooters at a stop in Virginia

We all had dinner in Russ' cabin. Sue prepared Spaghetti and everyone chipped in bringing salads and beer.

                                         Sue preparing Spaghetti for the masses

Day four had us breaking into smaller groups for rides.  Our group was me, David, Jim, Mark and Theresa.  We got aggressive and took a long route, 210 miles, into West Virginia and Kentucky.  It had us riding north over the Back of the Dragon, just north of where we are staying, then some rural roads in VIrginia.  The moment we crossed into West Virginia, the first thing we saw was a huge coal mine.  Then the houses of the workers lined the road the entire time we were there.  It is a stark change from the beauty of Virginia.  We stopped for lunch after we got back into Virginia, then decided to head to Kentucky, where the ride got good again.  We went through the Breaks, a park on the VIrginia / Kentucky border that was a real beauty.  Then, on the way back to the cabins, we found route 80, that crosses a mountain north of Saltville,  It was the curviest, hilliest road ever.

Group of six in West Virginia

At The Breaks State Park

From the overlook at the north end of Hungry Mother State Park

Day five had everyone heading into different directions.  David and I rode separately, up the Back of the Dragon again, then to Saltville so we could try 80 again.  It turns out that, for me, my favorite roads are those that run through the valleys.  We had lunch at a little diner, Ward's Drive-In, a perfect road trip place to eat.
Brother David at Ward's

I have better photos, but can't get them off my Canon camera.  These were all from my iPhone.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Into the Storm

The club ride to Virginia begins at 8:00 this morning. We are aiming for Newberry, SC. for the night. Normally, we would get there by 4:00, but a large storm will be passing as we make our way north. "Heavy Thunderstorms" the Weather Channel says for the after in along the route. We will just have to hope that we find enough openings in the clouds to allow safe passage. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

23 Riders to Virginia

There are lots of scooter clubs out there.  Not many ride like the 7 Bridges Scooter Club.

The ride to Virginia beginning Saturday will have as many as 23 riders involved at one time or another.  That is for a ride of 550 miles getting there and another 550 returning, plus as many as 500 miles riding around the area in the three full days we will have there.

Several are meeting us in Hoboken, Georgia, 2 more in North Carolina and some will ride up independently and meet us at the Hungry Mother State Park, where we are taking cabins for the four nights.

We will have 18 in the group ride most of the time, riding the Woodpecker Trail to Augusta, then more scenic roads to Newberry S.C.  Day two is going to be largely 18 through the mountains of western North Carolina to Virginia.  I will lead, as is the usual case, and have planned the route.  

We all are looking forward to the ride and hope for good weather and a good time.

The club logo.
We have ridden at least 50,000 miles of group rides over the past 6 years.

Flyer for the "Claw of the Dragon"

Possible loop ride

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Virginia Bound

Over the past month I have been preparing for the annual 7 Bridges Scooter Club ride to the mountains.  This year we chose western Virginia, near Marion at the Hungry Mother State Park.  It was chosen because there are several motorcycle rides that have gained some fame over the years.  They are called the Claw of the Dragon.  We'll see if they hold up over the next week.

Rocket can't be trusted at the moment so I bought Razzo for these long rides.  It was in nearly perfect when purchased, but it had an old front tire and not so good back tire.  The belt was original, so I had some work to do.  I changed both tires recently with the help of a mechanic Mike.  I took the wheels off for Mike to change the tires and while the rear tire was off, I changed the exhaust gasket.  The belt was changed by me at home.  I used a new Malossi belt from George at Scooter Parts Co. and have two spares either for the other two scooters or to carry on trips.  For now, they are coming with me to Virginia.  

The last part was an oil and filter change.  I did this at the warehouse with some help from Boris.  It is an easy task, but I like to have someone hold the scooter upright instead of on the center stand when the drain plug is pulled.  The design puts all of the oil on the stand if it is used for this so I needed assistance.  Boris also helped get the filter off.  The new tool and slot design is terrible.

But it is all done and tested, so we are ready to go.

We leave this Saturday morning for a 330 mile ride to Newberry S.C. for the first night.  Then Sunday complete the ride to the state park, another 220 miles.

We ride on the famous roads in the area, going into West Virginia and possibly Kentucky on these rides.  The return trip is similar, but we will stop in Augusta, Ga. to leave a shorter ride home on Friday.  

I plan to blog about our progress each night so the handful of you can follow.  

Belt change went well

Monday, April 20, 2015

Lostboater, Treehouse and Autocross Weekend

I had a busy time over the just passed weekend.  It started with a message from Ken, Lostboater, saying that he was in town to ship a painting to a friend. He asked if we could meet somewhere for breakfast or lunch, then to find someone who could box and ship the painting.  I have a good friend who was my roommate while I was in graduate school at UF.  He has owned a small mailing store for the past ten years or so, so I suggested that to Ken.

So we met at my house so he could see the new Lambretta and bless Rocket.  Then we walked to the Fox for breakfast where we were early enough to get a window table.  Then I drove him to the shop where we dropped off the painting and chatted with Brian for a while.  We then drove back home the long way and I showed him some of the house projects I have worked on over the past several years.  It was as drive through two of the best neighborhoods in town so it made for a better ride.

After that, I took Razzo to the warehouse where Boris and I changed the oil and filter as the final preparation for the big ride to Virginia.

I have several very good clients, of which one called on Friday to ask me if I could design a platform, stair and rope ladder to mount a family heirloom treehouse hut onto at the property of a new house I designed for them last year.  So I rode Razzo up to Amelia Island and attempted to measure an area in a beautiful live oak.  It was a bit unnerving being as old and feeble as I am while up in the tree.  But I managed.  Then I wanted to see progress on a new oceanfront house that Scott and I designed a few miles north of this property.  Steve wanted to see it too, so he drove me up there to take a look.  Not much progress, but the contractor, Keith Lane, had put up a sign with my name on it.  I never do that myself, preferring to not bring attention to myself, but it was cool to see.  He had the pilings marked for installation, probably early this week.

The Tree

My measuring devices

View from the future treehouse

We then wanted to measure the hut part of the old treehouse.  It was at Steve's sister-in-law's house thirty miles away, but on the way home.  So he dropped me off and I followed him on Razzo to the house.  There, we were met with a warm greeting and Corona beer, that hit the spot.  I measured, then rode home, partially  in a downpour.  The highlight was passing Steve on I-95 at 75 mph.  He just waved. 

Sunday was Autocross day!  I got up early and headed to Gainesville Raceway in the Miata.  It was looking like a fun day because I am usually competitive there and we had Fast Phil, Larry, Brandon and DJ along with three more in my class.  Phil usually beats us and did again this day.  Larry still has to set his car up for Gainesville.  He has been beating me regularly at Amelia, but I usually am faster than him at Gainesville and Roebling Road.  

On this day, I was in the lead after three runs, but Phil got two fast times on his last two runs.  Then Brandon had a good one and beat me by 7/100 of a second for second place in class.  We finished fourth, ninth and eleventh out of 94 in the handicapped PAX system so we were competitive.  I was 37th in raw time, but running a stock car has its disadvantages against the modified cars.

Getting ready to run.  My Miata behind Fast Phil's MR2

A close up of my Miata

There were a dozen BRZ/FRS drivers at the meet.  They were fast.

Monday, April 13, 2015


On Saturday, I was going to eat lunch at my favorite neighborhood restaurant, but passed it as it looked very busy, so I rode the twenty miles to my favorite ride-for-lunch destination.  That is Everybody's Restaurant in Baldwin.  

Rocket got me there easily.  I even got off on Chaffee Road because I didn't want to push it down I-10 all the way.  I had a nice lunch, even better than usual with a pork chop, pinto beans, cabbage and fried okra.  Washed it down with a very large iced tea.

When I got back on to head home it started right up.  Then I turned onto US-90 and it stumbled a little.  I knew the feeling because it has done that a couple of times before.  So then, as speed increased it stumbled more and more, often coming to a complete stop before refiring.  That continued for a few miles, then stopped.  So I thought I was fine all the way home.  But I wasn't.  I stayed on US-90, Beaver Street in Jacksonville, to Edgewood Avenue.  Edgewood splits into Edgewood and Cassat Avenue and I turned onto Edgewood and came to a red traffic light.  As I slowed, Rocket back fired several times and stopped running.  Then it wouldn't start.

So I was left with a dilemma.  I could call a friend with a truck and take an hour to get home.  Or I could push it home and take the same hour.  If it didn't kill me, it would make me stronger.  So off I started pushing the dead machine home.  Luckily it rolls easily.  A few blocks in, a nice man with a pick-up truck saw me, circled back and offered to help.  But he had no ramps or straps and it wouldn't work.  I hoped he had a rope and could pull me home but he didn't have that either.  After looking at Rocket, I couldn't see where we could attach tow ropes anyway, so it was for the best.  His plan was for the two of us to lift Rocket up to the truck bed, then lay it down for the ride home.  Never would that work.

I stopped several times to see if Rocket would start.  I got nothing.  Once the bendix stuck on something and wouldn't turn.  That was scary as it could have meant a stuck engine, but it was temporary.

My neighbor was passing and stopped to help about halfway home.  But I was making good time and continued.

The last mile was easier as it was through the neighborhood.  I stayed on the sidewalks and stopped every couple of blocks to rest.

I was thrilled to get home.  

                                                      Home, Sweet Home

After intermittently sleeping while watching the Masters for a couple of hours, I ventured to the garage, put the key in Rocket and it started right up.  Bastard!

I have always said that these things have a personality.  I can best compare it to my Mother-In_Law's dog.  When she goes off and leaves the dog in the spare bedroom, the dog gets mad and poops all over the room.  I think Rocket feels the same about the other scooters and is showing its displeasure by acting up.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lambretta Update

I have been trying to get the Lambretta working properly since Boris and Eric got it running after over thirty years of sitting.  They replaced all the gaskets and seals along with clutch plates, etc.  

But the first ride showed the transmission to be very balky, not wanting to get into first gear or neutral at times.  I can pull on it with both hands and it is not willing to move.

So I had Boris replace the cables that actuate the gears and clutch, along with the front brake cable.  I was hoping that this would make a big difference.  But it didn't, improving things only slightly.  Then Boris made some adjustments that helped a little more and gave me some advice, mostly to only shift when moving.  So I now get downshifted into first before coming to a stop.  

I have ridden it maybe twenty miles since and am getting used to it.  It is still like an old VW Beetle compared to Rocket's sporty Cadillac presence.  But it has some charm, so I will keep using it in hopes that it loosens up over the miles.

Its performance is very similar to the Malaguti Ciak 50, but the Ciak is much easier to ride.  The fastest I have had the Lammy is maybe 45 mph, the same as the Ciak..  It does that as easily in third gear as fourth as there is a huge drop in engine speed when shifting into high gear.  I am quite certain that fourth is only faster going downhill with a tailwind, but much more relaxed.

Headset opened up to connect cables to the levers

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Razzo = Fast

Since buying Razzo six weeks ago I have done some minor changes and freshening.  First was I had to replace the front tire, so I took the 6000 mile Michelin City Grip off Rocket and put it onto Razzo.  Then, Mike, who sold me Razzo, had bought a new front tire that he gave me as part of the sale.  That one went onto Rocket for now.  

A bigger change was to put a Michelin Power Pure tire on the rear.  I have found that I get a little more speed in good conditions using a 140 tire instead of the standard 130 width.  The bigger tire gives a little more circumference and better gearing.  

Then, two weekends ago I installed a new belt and rollers.  The acceleration had been great before so I used the rollers that came with the new OEM variator instead of some 12g Dr. Pulley rollers that I have in my spare parts stash.

Early last night I decided to ride to Everybody's Restaurant in Baldwin for dinner.  Sarah is in Orlando tending to her mother for the next couple of days so I was on my own.  To get to Everybody's I can take either US 90 or I-10 or a combination of both.  Going out, with a mild tailwind, I decided to stay on I-10 to 301, then loop back to the restaurant.  

In two stretches, slight downhill running with a group of cars and trucks, without even running wide open, it ran right up to an indicated 90 mph.  This is approximately 82 in real speed but I didn't have the GPS this time.  

It ran over 80 mph on the GPS coming home from Waycross last week too.  And it does it with such smoothness and ease that I know that I have found my Scooter Cannonball scooter for 2016.  In addition to being as fast as a perfect Rocket, being a 2005 model, it gets an advantage in the SCR handicap as well.  This one is a 113 where Rocket, a 2006, is 114.  Same scooter but it gets several additional minutes to complete each day.  That is approximately three points per day or 30 for a ten day Cannonball.  Binh only won over Dave by less than 10 points in 2014, so it will be a real help in finishing well.