Thursday, June 30, 2016

Cannonball Daily Guides

Mark, the main organizer this year, asked me if I could help by making the daily guides.  That is a little booklet of each day including an overall map of the day, photos and a detailed satellite map of each checkpoint and the finish and an elevation graph.

The cover gives each rider a place to put their time of day at each of the checkpoints and the finish.

I couldn't figure out what app to use to create them, but settled on Microsoft Word.

Mark had to assist in getting the turn by turn description to me.  Then I took it and modified it to fit the format.

I am pleased but I am sure that we will find some errors along the way.

The printing company does all of my "blueprints" as they used to be called.  They did a fine job running them, but I wish I had asked them to sort them with package having all 11 day instead of each package having each day.  We can bust them up to hand them out on Monday.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

All Stickered Up

Because Vanessa is my chosen scooter, I thought last night that it was time to get her totally ready. That included attaching numbers and stickers, most of which I have had for years.

So I washed her and began applying the little pieces of my own traveling history.

Good ones here, Rocket that Kylie made, Team Hawaii from Liana, Snoopy MV from carrying Snoopy during his time seeing the world, thanks to Bob.  Frank Lloyd Wright from my visit during Wisconscoot, Unrally from the best rally ever by Jami.  Yellowstone because I liked it and the other Rocket because we are remembering those not going. 

Maizy checking it out while Cooper rolls in the new backyard grass

Blue Ridge Parkway because it is one of my favorite roads, Driehause Museum because Sarah and I visited there last time we were in Chicago.  Great house museum.  Froggieposition for my friend Amy.

Always a rocketship somewhere.  I will be getting this year's Team Hawaii sticker soon.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Two Garmins

I have had my new Garmin Zump 660 for a couple of months now.  At first it wouldn't charge the battery, but my friend Ralph said to rub the connections with paper and a pencil eraser.  It worked.

Then I noticed that it had no way to run it on a RAM mount without hardwiring it to the scooter.

I had been told to use Posi-Taps but couldn't find them anywhere.  Then I went to West Marine and found something similar, but watched a video that said to wire it directly to the battery.

I was starting to do this when I decided to see if I could wire it to the 12v outlet that I have been using for years.  It had two wires and the GPS had the same, plus a way to test it on the exposed connections.  I touched the wires and the GPS came on.  Success!

So I used the connectors and they worked perfectly.  I re-assembled the scooter and took it for a test ride and all was good.

So I should never get lost again.....

I will be running both on the Scooter Cannonball Run

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Cannonball Prep: The Routes

Part of the preparations for the Scooter Cannonball Run are selecting the daily routes.  The organizers made route maps taking into consideration the terrain and scooter speeds.  These routes are not necessarily the fastest, so if one wants to be competitive, the route selection becomes very important.  I went into Google and bought up the official routes, then asked Google for its fastest route.

Because the Google fastest route usually includes interstate highways, where my scooters can barely break the speed limit, I looked at other routes that take into consideration the speed I can make in relation to the speed limit and chose accordingly.

I might change my mind after each day, but my routes will be the "Actual route I will take" or "Fastest according to Google"

Day 1  Fastest according to Google  Actual route I will take  Map based on descriptions
Day 2  Fastest according to Google  Actual route I will take
Day 3  Fastest according to Google  Actual route I will take
Day 4    Fastest according to Google  Actual route I will take
Day 5  Fastest according to Google  Actual route I will take
Day 6   Fastest according to Google
Day 7  Fastest according to Google
Day 8  Fastest according to Google  Mark’s Map  (Same route)
Day 9  Fastest according to Google
Day 10  Fastest according to Google
Day 11  Fastest according to Google

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Vanessa is Cannonball Ready

This morning I decided to do all the outstanding work to get Vanessa ready for the Cannonball.

I started with the belt.  I have three new belts and felt it best to start with a new one.  With 4000 miles on the old one, it was the prudent thing to do.

So I got the cover off the transmission and then the clutch, variator and belt came out.

The belt was showing its age so it was a good decision to get it changed.

I also have a new variator to put in, but since this one has only 10,000 miles on it, and it looked so good I decided to keep it in.  But the rollers were looking worn with some flat spots so they
were changed along with the u-shaped glides.

The bendix has been inconsistent lately so I installed the new one I had recently purchased as well.

It all went back together easily until the last screw in the air box, but I got that in as well.

I then took it for a short ride that let me know that the installation worked well.

Then breakfast at The Fox with Sarah and Kylie.

When we got home I noticed that Mike McNeil had called to say I could pick up the newly mounted back tire.  So I got it and proceeded to get it installed.

Getting the old tire off went well until the swing arm would not move when pulled from the axle.  I tried and tried, even with a pry bar, but no luck.  I got out my pullers but couldn't get them to fit the irregular shape of the swing arm.  I sprayed it with WD40 and kept trying until I finally got a slight movement.  From there it came off.

The new wheel went on easily, including anti-seize on the axle at the swing arm, and I replaced the almost new exhaust gasket so I could start with a new one.  A test ride showed it to be good, so we are ready for the start.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cannonball Scooter

I have been struggling to decide on the scooter to use for the Cannonball.  Of my three, I think any could finish well. But Rocket, now at 71,000 miles, is so old that I am concerned that it has a good chance of breaking.  I have been enjoying riding it around town, even on a 150 mile ride to Gainesville with Ken a month ago, but I feel it best to leave it home this year.

Razzo has been the presumed scooter to take.  It has been almost perfect since I bought it from Mike Justiss a year and a half ago.  In that time we have ridden together almost 14,000 miles, including trips to Virginia, North Carolina, Pensacola, Apalachicola several times and even an Iron Butt loop around Florida.  Never a problem on any of the rides.  But recently the carburetor was running strangely, so I changed it.  It is now running well but not quite as well as.....

Vanessa, my 2007 GT, came to me by accident.  Literally.  She has been an expensive problem since I bought her from Leslie and Maria around a year ago.  Her issues are documented on this blog, including repairing the damaged leg shield, overheating twice when a coolant hose came loose.  New fuel filter and water pump.  She leaked coolant a couple of times after long rides, but that has stopped recently.  I have been checking coolant levels and they have remained at the max line for the past 1000 miles.  No drips on the garage floor these days.  Maybe it had too much coolant in the system.

Today, I took Vanessa on a long test ride.  I decided that running the first leg of Cannonball Day 1 would be a good way to see if she was the one,  I also wanted to test the route on both my old GPS and the new Garmin Zumo.  And I wanted to test the 2.2 gallon spare tank, using it to fill the tank like I will be doing on the Cannonball.

Ready to go

Everything worked very well.  The GPS's were perfect, the tank refilling was done in 4 minutes.  Sam had sent me some Roc Straps for Father's Day that I used for carrying the spare gas can, and they mostly worked except on a rough railroad crossing where I felt a weight shift and found no gas tank on the rack,  I turned around, looking for it laying in the road, but found it was hanging from the rack by the straps. They work but I must find a better way to attach them.  Maybe a new rack.

I stopped by the new house project on the way.

Approaching Check Point 1.  This is how I verify the locations, using the GPS.  Then I photograph the actual site while flying by.  I wouldn't mind if they required stopping, but I am fine shooting photos while moving.

Vanessa at CP1, Byrd Road.

Some adjustments needed for strapping the spare gas tank onto the duckbill rack.

The ride ran from home to Fernandina Beach where the Cannonball will begin.  I have been looking at route options to Check Point 1, 19 miles north of Blackshear, Ga.  I got there quickly on my selected route, averaging right at 60 mph..  The return was on the fastest route offered by Google Maps, including several miles on I-95.  I am probably now going to take this one as well, as it goes through fewer towns and is barely longer than my route.  It includes 17 miles of I-95, where greater speed is available.  My scooters all run faster on the crowded interstate highways as the traffic creates a draft that adds significantly to the top speed.  Where I had trouble maintaining 75 mph on this windy day on the country roads, I was able to hit 80 mph on the highway. That will help the overall time in day 1.

At the Check Point

At home with much more interstate travel.

I then took Razzo out on the same stretch of I-95.  It was able to run there at the same speeds as Vanessa.  But I am feeling that Vanessa is just a little fresher with only 10,000 miles vs 20,000 on Razzo.  I am leaning to taking the girl.  Another reason is that with the way I ended up owning her, it feels that it was meant to be.  A partnership of destiny.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Side Bets

My buddy Ken posted this on the Scooter Cannonball Run website earlier today.  Since I am mentioned, I felt it best to answer in the private (very few readers) confines of Rocket & Me.

Some proposed bets:

1. Will Team Scooter Trash support vehicle make the round trip without a breakdown.

  • I have seen photos of the camper.......not sure but it probably will make it

2. Will Bill finish

  • I sure hope so.  I have prepared all three scooters and each can probably make it to the finish.  Leaning to Razzo but rode Vanessa today.  She is so sweet.  Regardless of the scooter, my mechanical skills with these have improved enormously.  (I could fix the belt and variator failure from last time in one hour on the side of the road).  Of course something different might come up this time but I will do my best to make it to Mukilteo.

3. Will Bill beat George

  • George has a scooter that is probably 10 mph faster than whichever I take.  But it is modified heavily and George gets lost sometimes.  I have a better handicap and George can't use that extra speed everywhere.  He really wants to win, to promote his fine business along with personal reasons.  I will ride my usual ride and hope for the best.  Finishing behind George would not bother me at all.  A top five would be great.  But if I can ride my scooter to the finishing line I will truly be a happy fellow.

4. Of the modified scooters, what number will finish i.e. cross the finish line with the two wheels and a motor that works.

  • All of them.  The riders of these know how to fix them.

5. Will the rider on the brand new out of the box Vespa Sprint finish in the top 5

  • That is Dave (feb31st) and he is a very skilled rider and navigator.  He will finish in the top five.  Had he chosen a Yamaha Smax, he would be in a very tight battle with George for the win.

Kylie's design won the logo competition.  Proud dad I am.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Razzo Getting up to Speed

I finished the last loose ends on Razzo's carburetor installation this morning.  Had to remove the air cleaner box to re-attach the big air hose to it so it could be connected to the carburetor.  Then clamp everything down and reconnect a coolant hose.  After that we went for a short, slow ride around the neighborhood.  No leaks or issues at all.

Then came time for a speed test.  I took it out to I-10 and ran from Edgewood Avenue to Chaffee Road.  Then returned.  No real wind today and no hills on that stretch, so it was running on its own mostly, with a little help from drafting some cars.

We hit 80 mph going out and 81 coming back.  All GPS.

I am quite certain that I have found my Cannonball scooter.

We will start with a new carburetor and rear tire..  The oil, variator, belt and rollers were changed a couple of months ago but only have 1500 miles of running on them.  They should be fine. I will be bringing spares of everything, and plan to change the belt and oil in Nebraska.

Not bad speed for a 2005 Vespa GT.
I am sure that it can go faster in better conditions.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Carburetor Transplant

I have already written most of my reasons for replacing the carburetor on Razzo.  It is because I fear that it will drop a part and ruin the engine while running the Scooter Cannonball Run.  It had been showing signs similar to what Rocket did before changing it's carburetor at 50,000 miles, that being running fast when restarting and taking a while to return to idle after riding.

So today I thought I would give it a shot in my garage during the relative cool of the morning.  I got it ready and prepared lighting for the operation.  The new carburetor came out of the box and I went into the engine compartment to begin the work.  First thing was disconnecting the hoses and throttle.  Then the air box and connection to the intake manifold.  This was easy.

I removed the old one and compared it to the new one.  One area had a cover on the old one with a spring and brass plug inside.  The new one did not have anything here.  I called Boris who said that it was probably a connection to something that my scooter didn't have and the manufacturer changed the casting to eliminate it.

Then I began installing the new carburetor.  What a chore.  There is a small rubber bellows near the throttle that came loose after connecting two hoses.  There was no way to get it reattached in the engine bay so I took everything out and got it connected.

Then back again and the bellows came free again.

Out, fix and back again.  I finally got most of the hoses connected but the fat hose going to the air box wouldn't fit.  I took the screws out of the air box so I could manipulate it some but still no connection.  I was exhausted after working on it all morning so I packed up and called it a day.

It did fire up so most of what I did worked well.

Blurry photo of the engine bay with the carburetor mostly disconnected.

The two carburetors

The blank where the old one had a cover and parts inside

And the little bellows that gave me so much trouble.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Sore Butt

I was riding Rocket today to deliver plans to a nice client.  While riding, I was reminded of the extraordinarily bad ride my butt had two weeks ago.

Because the Vespa seats are so good, I have always thought that riders who complained about sore butts were just lazy and wanting to stop a lot.  I had gone on two 1000 mile in a day rides along with four or five more over 500 miles and probably at least 50 300+ mile days.  Never a problem.

But my Honda NC700X was a problem.  The original seat caused me real discomfort on a long ride to Detroit and Chicago in late 2013.  On a 830 mile day from Jacksonville to Columbus Ohio, I was fine into North Carolina but found myself needing to stop every 75 miles or so to get off the seat.

I sort of got used to it on the 600 and 500 mile days home from Chicago but it left a mark.  I didn't want to take that one on long rides anymore.

So recently my friend, Drew, asked me if he could use it for his son Sean to ride from Denver to Banff and back this month.  I agreed but told him of the seat woes.  He wanted to do something to help the bike because he was borrowing it for a long ride but I refused the tires and chain that it needed.  I also refused the new seat but he insisted and showed up at my office with a new seat a few weeks ago.  It is a real beauty, but...

It is 630 miles from Jacksonville to Douthat State Park in Virginia.  I was fine into North Carolina again but beginning to feel the pain when I arrived to meet up with Adrian for the last 230 miles to the park.  By the time we got back on the bikes and had ridden 50 miles the pain started.  I squirmed and wiggled to try to find a comfortable spot to no avail.

Adrian let me borrow his Air Hawk for the last 15 miles but it was not long enough to see if it helped.
We rode for 7 or 8 hours on the next day too, all in pain for me.

So the next day I used a thick towel folded to make my Towel Hawk for a three hour ride.  It worked well, so for the ride home I bought a beach towel.  It didn't work and my total ride home was very uncomfortable.  So much so that I still feel it sitting at my office two weeks later.  I hope it is better for the Cannonball.

I called the seat company and they said to bring it in for adjustment and maybe reshaping and new padding to make it work.  I am quite sure that an Air Hawk would work, but the new seat should work too.  I don't like the idea of having a loose seat cushion on this beautiful seat.  We'll see how it turns out in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, the Vespa seats continue to be the best.

Beautiful, but painful, seat spoiled by an Air Hawk.  I hope the seat company can fix it.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Cannonball Preparations: Variator

The straw that broke the camel's back during the ninth day of the 2014 Cannonball was a broken belt, caused by a broken variator.

Rocket stopped near Camden, Arkansas.  I felt it vibrating while riding through Hope and knew that I would have to deal with it at the stop.  But around 50 miles short of the hotel in El Dorado,

I had tools and a belt so I began removing the transmission cover when Ed, a fellow rider, stopped and busted out his tools.  He was very helpful and knowledgeable, but one of the cover screws stripped, so we were stuck.  I called Will, who came and picked me up for the ride in.

I had hoped to repair it on the side of the road, so I could continue, but I was woefully short on skill and tools as I was to find out at the hotel.

Once there, Ken got on me to quit moping and get it fixed.  I ended up buying a bolt remover tool recommended by my mechanic, Boris, that did the job getting the case open.

Then, with help from Doug, removed the outer drive pulley and most of the variator.  But the back plate was stuck to the shaft and couldn't be removed.  So Mark jumped in with his magic puller and pulled the plate off, but in doing so, it got bent.  Unusable.  So I was done until Bagel came up and offered a variator from his spare parts.  I chose to only use the back plate and Doug did most of the work and we put it all back together.

I rode it around a little and it worked but was still not right.  But at least it was running.

In the morning I took off for New Orleans and could feel a shake.  Within ten miles I felt the belt coming apart and it finally shredded in northern Louisiana.

It got replaced by the dealer in New Orleans.  We looked at the old one and could clearly see that the bushing had gotten out-of-round, causing the shake.

After that I had the variator nut come loose twice, destroying the outer drive pulley both times.  That was Rocket, and is one reason not to ride that scooter in this Cannonball.

Since then, I have accumulated a few more tools and have done the belt and variator change many times.  So this Cannonball, I will have the part ready.  Hopefully, since I am beginning with a much fresher scooter and almost new variator, I doubt it will be an issue, but I will have the part regardless.