Monday, November 28, 2016

A Thanksgiving ride with Sam

Sam came home from his home in Chicago for Thanksgiving.  I is always great to have him home, and one of my highlights is to be able to go on a ride while he is here.

This year I was limited on scooters as Vanessa is in Seattle and Razzo is in the shop, getting fueling issues resolved.  But we had Rocket and the Honda.

The only opportunity we had was to ride up the smaller roads to visit his friend Russell at his family farm along the St. Mary's River that divides Florida from Georgia.

Sam had been visiting my parents before we headed out, so I told him to meet me at a gas station at the beginning of the better roads.  But when I got onto I-10 going that way, he was passing.  The timing was perfect.  We rode together at Rocket's top speed, but after turning off, still stopped for gas, even though he had 60 miles left.  There are few stations in that part of the state.

The ride was in cool weather along some of the best roads in the area.  To get to the farm, we turned off the paved road onto a sandy, dirt road.  We were not sure of the exact destination and we got lost along the way, but a resident pulled up to offer directions.

The sand was soft and it turned out that Rocket was better in these conditions than the adventure bike want-to-be Honda.

I left him to shoot guns with Russell and his brother in law, heading home alone.  Along the way, the sun was setting for a few glamour shots of Rocket.

Sam and Rocket on the dirt road

Rocket heading out along the Magnolia lined entry road to the property.

Rocket at dusk with a pretty fall farm setting.

A little more drama looking into the sun.

And another stop in higher growth.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Aventura Toscana: Elba

After gathering with all of the riders in Pontedera, the entire group headed out to Elba to begin our adventure.

It started with a visit to the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera, where we checked out the displays of vintage Vespas.  Then the ride began.

It was nearly 100 miles for the day with a run to the ferry in Piombino.

Al and Doug, the leader a assistant, use a group riding technique that they got from Jim, a usual participant who opted out this year.  The technique uses a "Marker" at every turn in the route.  The marker is the second in line.  The leader points to a position in the turn for the marker to stop and direct the other riders to the direction of the pack. The marker waits for the last rider, where they rejoin in the next to last position.  Then gradually move up to the number two and mark again.  It is a very efficient system that allows the pack to keep moving even when broken up by traffic or lights. Everyone arrives at the destination, maybe 15 minutes from first to last.

We rode through some terrific Tuscan scenery before a big lunch along the way.  Then made the ferry for the one hour passage to Portoferraio.  We arrived safely and everyone enjoyed some rest before dinner.  Sarah and I ate at the hotel with Ken, Vicki, Walt and Hellen.

The morning saw us gather again for breakfast at the hotel, then Ken, Walt, Sarah and I headed out to see Elba.  It is a beautiful island with mountains and rocky coastlines.  There wasn't a straight road for more than a half a kilometer on the entire place.  I like that.  Ken took us up some very narrow, twisty roads, one where the pavement stopped to become dirt only.  Fortunately we turned back there, as riding a big Tmax with Sarah on the back limited our mobility.

We stopped a lot to enjoy the views and had lunch at a beachfront restaurant.  The place caters to German tourists.  The menu was in Italian and German.

We rode some more and ended up at Napoleon's villa, where he was exiled for a year in 1814.  It was an interesting house with a huge lower gathering area and a tiny house on top.

Then Sarah and I rode into Portoferraio to see the historic town.  We walked around the port and had a drink.

We ended the day with dinner with Mark at the Tennis Club.  I had crab pasta that was tasty, but the crabs were very difficult to remove from the shell.  I ultimately gave up.

The Piaggio Museum in Pontedera

The one I would love to own.  Talk about a rocket.

A photo of the riders passing while we were the marker.

Riding through Tuscany is not bad at all.

A view from the ride.

Group lunch.

Lostboater (Ken) on his little LX 125

We made it to the ferry with minutes to spare.

Being on the ferry is always a good excuse to have a drink.  Walt here.

Portoferriao from the ferry

Scooters gathered at the hotel.

A view of the crystal clear water surrounding Elba.

One of our many stops to admire the views.

Walt where the pavement stopped.  We smartly turned back.

Walt, Ken and Sarah

The view of the beach at our lunch restaurant.

A view from one of the high spots.

And in one of the towns.

Our three scooters.  Sarah and I were on the sporty Tmax.

Napoleon's Villa

Inside the grand gathering space.

The little house on top.

The marina at Portoferraio

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Aventura Toscana: Pontedera and Pisa

It has been more than a month now since Sarah and I joined the Vespa Club del Mediterraneo for the Bella Italia Scooter Rally.  I had intended to post something every day, but there was simply too much going on and the ability to upload photos was limited everywhere.  So I put it off, then got caught dealing with work issues.

But today, I decided to get it started.

We joined the group in Pontedera.  Sarah and I rode the train over from Florence, then walked to the hotel from the train station.  There we met Al and Ardy, along with several other participants.  All were very pleasant, looking forward to the adventure.

We had to deal with some issues during the afternoon, then walked to dinner with most of the riders, heading to pizza at a local pizzeria.

The next morning was the day to pick up scooters.

The rental shop was in a small building on one of the larger roads in town, about a kilometer from the hotel.  We got there and were immediately told by Al that we would be getting a Yamaha Tmax that was sitting out front.  Because we were riding two up, we had requested a 250cc scooter.  I was expecting a Vespa, but we got this one, 500cc of nearly sport bike looks.  I was a little disappointed, but it turned out to be a good choice.

At the shop, running out of scooters.

I took photos of the damages on the Yamaha.  There were plenty, but it ran well.  The biggest issue was that the seat lock was balky and I couldn't open the fuel tank filler panel.  They addressed both and it ended up working well

After signing the paperwork, Sarah and I immediately headed to Pisa to see the tower that leans.  That is when I realized that two mistakes had been made.  I couldn't use my phone because we had opted to not get a European package from AT&T.  That meant that the maps would not regenerate and routes would be lost.  I also had not brought a GPS.

Pisa was only 30 km from Pontedera, but with no preparation or good map, I just looked for signs to Pisa.  Of course, that put us on the largest, busiest roads, but we made it easily.  Once in town. we were not sure how to find the tower, so we parked and I asked a group of police officers for directions.  They were very helpful and pointed us in the right direction.  Luckily, we also found that our phones on airplane mode were able to use the GPS to locate us on our rough maps.

We parked the scooter near the the Cathedral complex and walked a block to bring it into view.  The place was crawling with tourists, but that is to be expected.  We walked around, took the usual photos and decided to go to the top.  That required a ticket and a wait, so we got our ticket and went to the shopping area for lunch.  Once in the long line, we made our way inside, climbed the stairs to the top and enjoyed a wonderful view of the town and surrounding countryside.

We used the sketchy phone maps to take a more scenic ride back to Pontedera where we joined the group for the Welcome Dinner.

It is sinking

A look at the detail of the beautiful tower  Most people only notice that it leans.

This photo shows the extent of the lean.  It is hard to believe that it has not fallen yet.  They assured us that fixes have stopped the leaning and it is good for 200 years now.

About to go into the tower.

Inside, taking the stairs.

Me at the top

It is actually a campanile, or bell tower.  So here are some of the bells.

Nice views from the top

It was a clear day, casting a big shadow on the lawn.

Welcome dinner

Welcome dinner, another table.  That is Jess from MV on the right.  DougL on the left.

And more of the group