Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Russ Dixon, Man of the Scooter

Every club has one, or definitely should.  He is "that guy" who organizes everything, helps everyone and is a wonderful all around guy.  In the case of 7 Bridges Scooter Club, he is the unofficial president of the club.  Only unofficial because we have no officers, no rules, just riders.

Russ joined the club many years ago, back when it was called Boris and the Funky Bunch, long before I started in 2008.  He plans the destinations of the Tuesday rides.  He plans the destination, sometimes asking my thoughts, for the Sunday rides.  He usually picks the route, that I sometimes gently change, for both.

Whenever anyone has issues with their scooter, Russ will help.  If there is a breakdown on a ride, he is the one who stays behind until it is fixed or, at least, resolved positively.

When my drive pulley went out in Washington, Georgia, he was the one on the ground getting dirty assisting me in getting it fixed.  He thought to call George at Scooter Parts Co. to get the parts sent quickly.

Always there to offer a hand.

Russ has four scooters.  A beautiful Vespa 200P that he restored ten years ago.  A Stella and two moderns, a 2005 GT and a 2014 GTS Super.  They are all kept in top shape and he rides them according to the planned route.  He is a true man of the scooter.

He is currently semi retired, a position that allows much more time for scooting.  That can't be bad.

Our fearless leader, checking on the flock.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Two Near Misses

I have had an interesting week since returning from Wisconsin.

There were two incidents that were potentially dangerous, but I realized the mistake quickly, made corrections and continued on.

She first was after meeting with new clients.  The couple have a hunting lodge on the fringe of town, a fifteen mile ride from my office. They want to add to the master bathroom and closet. On the way back to work, I was speeding down I-10. No car passed me for the entire way but I did notice a white VW Passat gaining on me as I approached a car to pass. Going 75 mph, I checked my mirrors and began the lane change when I noticed this car exactly where I was going. We got close. It surprised me but I got back in my lane easily. I looked at the entire lane when passing on the remainder of the ride.

The second was this morning. I went over to our new duplex to mow and clean up the yard. I needed to go to Home Depot for some things and got Rocket out of the garage for the trip. We have an old wood gate separating the back yard, where the garage is located, from the front. I have rigged a bungee strap to hold the two gate leaves closed.  On this passing, I bumped Rocket's front tire against the operable gate leaf to push it open, then rode quickly through to get past before it closed. When doing this, the hook on the free end of the bungee caught on the left mirror. It stretched greatly and would have brought us down, but I sensed the danger and hit the brakes. The bungee was stretched to the max, but we escaped unscathed.

Counting my blessings today.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Returning to Madison

Sam had to be back in Chicago Sunday night for work on Monday.  I had to return the fine GTS to the Sullivans too, so we headed out from Sparta on our own Sunday morning.  Sam selected the route that kept us off highways entirely while running on mostly state roads.  We did go through the Wildcat Mountain Park again and took advantage of those twisty treats.

Wildcat Mountain.
I took this photo, then quickly realized that the corner was coming up fast and quite sharp.
I braked hard and made it easily, but then put the camera down until we were back on the flat roads.

Darth Sam

One of the small towns we passed through

More beautiful Wisconsin farmland

New Glarus, 17 miles

We headed to New Glarus, a town founded by Swiss immigrants in the mid 1800's, just like my great grandfather Hans Heinrich Leuthold.  Sam wanted to go there for other reasons, namely the New Glarus Brewery, his current favorite.  We did a sampler of three beers each, then he bought a six pack to take home.  We then went into town for a lunch of bratwurst at a Swiss restaurant.  From there I sent him on his way home.  He texted me five hours later saying that the three hour ride took longer due to huge traffic of Chicago residents returning home from the weekend.

Sam at the New Glarus Brewery.  Nice shirt.

Sam in New Glarus

The Swiss Historical Village in New Glarus.  We didn't go in

The approach to the brewery.

Downtown New Glarus

I started for Taliesin again but abandoned and decided to find a hotel to relax, then take the Sullivans to dinner at the restaurant of their choice, a nice Japanese restaurant just north of downtown Madison.  We had the fine dinner, then they dropped me off at the hotel and Robert rode the scooter home as Nora drove the car.  It was wonderful of them to loan me the scooter for the time I was there. It was perfect for me and the rides planned.

On my ride back to Madison after sending Sam off to Chicago

More Wisconsin farmland.  The greenest place I have ever seen.

Comfort Inn Madison

On the way to dinner I shot this from the back seat of the Sullivan's car.

Wisconscoot Saturday

I had planned to take a ride with Sam from Sparta west into Minnesota and then south along the Mississippi River into Iowa, to Lansing. Then cross the river and make our way back to Sparta via the beautiful county roads of western Wisconsin.  We were considering a time and thought we would take the planned Wisconscoot ride, then our ride after that one was finished.  But after the Friday ride took about twice as long as anticipated, we chose to do our ride at the same time as the planned ride, then meet the group for the planned lunch in Cashton.

So Sam and I headed out I-90 to LaCrosse.  It was a good opportunity to test the speed of the Sullivan's GTS vs my usual GT rides.  I found it fine for acceleration, similar to Razzo, the faster of my two.  As for top speed, it ran right up into the 70's with the rev limiter cutting the ignition at exactly 76 mph on the GPS.  It is as fast an my GT's on level ground, but mine run well over 80 in the perfect conditions of downhill, downwind with any other help possible.  I would say that there is no Cannonball advantage having the GTS other than speed potential at high altitudes and climbing hills.  With the handicap advantage of a GT over a GTS (113 to 114 for a GT, 122 to 123 for a GTS) a GT has up to a 30 minute advantage on a 6 hour ride.  No contest in my opinion.

Bob Copeland, one of the participants in Wisconscoot from Minnesota suggested we go west of the Mississippi river and pick up some better country roads, including the Iowa River Road that ran in the Iowa River valley.  Very nice roads.  Then we headed to Lansing, where we got some fuel and reprogrammed the GPS for the ride to Cashton, with Sam picking the route.  He selected some very nice roads.


Sam in Minnesota

Entering Iowa from Minnesota

Along the Iowa River Road

Iowa River Road

Iowa River Road

Iowa River Road

Crossing the Mississippi River in Lansing, Iowa on the world's worst bridge.  All grating with steep legs up and down with the transition to the flat with no softening radius.

Where Garmin said in Lansing that we would arrive in Cashton at 12:45, we actually made it at 12:15, thirty minutes faster.  It was a fun, fast ride.  If I was leading and could see that the roads were getting twisty, I would signal for Sam to go ahead on his motorcycle and I would do my best to keep up.  A few times he would have to slow down considerable or even stop to wait for me to catch up, but usually I would be close enough that a top speed blast on the straights would get me back up to him.  We settled in the chosen restaurant and ordered food, waiting on the others.  We took our time, but they never came.

Badger Crossing in Cashton

So we rode back to Sparta, then took another 30 mile loop north to see some more interesting roads.

Back on the county roads of Wisconsin

Our trusty steeds.  Mine was more comfortable, Sam's faster.

When we returned to the hotel, the others had arrived and told us that they were so far behind schedule that they decided to eat at an earlier planned stop.

We then gathered for dinner at a local pizza restaurant and turned in for the night.

The Langholff's at the pizza restaurant

Scooters at the restaurant

Monday, July 20, 2015

Wisconscoot Friday

On Friday, Sam had arrived late Thursday night after battling the storms between Chicago and Madison.  We met the Sullivans at out hotel for the ride over to Sparta.

The ride started on fast four lane highways but developed into a nice trip after turning off of 12 onto 33.  It was especially fun through Wildcat Mountain Park.

Sam and the Sullivans at Wildcat Mountain

We met up with the others at the Best Western outside of Sparta for a meet and greet.  Then headed to a restaurant downtown to get to know each other better.

The Sullivans, who were so nice to let me borrow the Vespa GTS.
It had 4734 miles on it when I started, 5442 at the end of my rides.

From there we had a ride, the Mendoro Cut loop that started awkwardly as a vital bridge was closed.  So we headed further out on the highway to pick up the good roads.  The roads up to the cut were good and the cut interesting.  It used to be a tunnel until that was changed many years ago.


Barns everywhere.

Hay bales.

Mindoro Cut

Ssme of the guys.

From there we had a great stop at the Top Dawgs Pub in the tiny town of Mindoro.

Mendoro town center.  The bar is in the middle.

Very inexpensive place to get a drink.

Then we covered some more good roads, visiting a park filled with primative glass art work.

Beautiful scenery, as long as you like hills, meadows and farms.
I found it to be terrific

Green farms on the flats, beautiful hills beyond.

Dave is quite tall

Landlocked boat

Looks just like my wedding cake from 30 years ago.

The glass flag

The artist's wife.  The graves were from the 1930's.

Then we found ourselves on a washed out gravel road that had one scooter go down.  Sam enjoyed the dirt and I was fine with it, even coasting down the steep downgrades with the engine off as it got quite hot heading up.

We knew we were in for a treat when the surface changed.

Didn't quite expect this though.

My favorite sign

But we all made it back to the hotel and headed to dinner in town.

Sparta is the bicycle capitol of Wisconsin.