Thursday, April 19, 2007

Two Sides of the Same Coin, Vespa's the Edge

Tails (part one)

Like the distance the east is from the west, the only separation lies in the perspective of the individual staring at the sky. Its only the human element, standing on terra firma, who can look to the horizons and say one direction is east and one direction is west. Then it can only be what we ourselves call something which determines its value.

Plans that had gone awry as they sometimes do, gave me a reason to become creative with the use of my time. The LX has a small issue which could potentially become a large one. I've been thinking about when I would be able to get the bike down to Motoprimo to have it looked at and evaluated. I thought about riding to the twin cities from the sleepy little town I live in.

The direct route is I94. An hour and a half by car. I wasn't going by car, I was taking the bike. Mapquest for a start, then on to the good old fashioned Atlas of Enormous Size. This thing equates in size to an adult the way laying the family Bible on the lap of a two year old for that oh so cute photo to go in the family album. Huge.

I found a circuitous route and told my wife my plans. I hugged and kissed the family and headed out. A chilly morning but bright and inviting. It felt good to know I'd be riding some distance for a change.

I crossed a few small towns along the way. The freeway always beside me, never straying from view for very long. Finally the path bent south. Highway 101 at last. A long stretch but from what I'd remembered, a higher speed loping along kind of road.

Not so this time. 101 was under construction. Miles and miles of switchback arrow signs. More traffic than I ever remembered. To top it off, twenty to thirty mph winds were from the east and they were raising this country main thoroughfare higher than the rest of the landscape. The speed limit signs said 50 mph and were summarily disregarded by everyone. Mack trucks hauled stuff and the wind whipped some of it over everyone behind them. This leg of the trip couldn't be over soon enough.

A left on highway 81 made things much better. About a fifth of the mount of road construction here and very little traffic. Here again they seemed to be raising the roadway on places for some reason.

In Robbinsdale I found a little solace. I lived in north Minneapolis not that long ago. The Vespa followed the parkway to the little home I had on 44Th and Morgan. The area looks the same. Quieter than the reputation this side of town carries. Briefly onto Lyndale, a swoop over the River and the freeway, through the industrial area and into the city proper. I caught another parkway to the heart of Minneapolis and dodged my way south and east until I hit my destination.

I love the folks at Motoprimo. They'll remember you even if you've only been there once. And they'll do what they can to take care of you. The guys took pics of the transmission (CVT belt) cover and told me they'd do their best. I know they will.

I made one more stop at an old friend's store. He just laughed when he saw how I'd come down from St. Cloud. I turned Kythera toward home.

I've lived in or on the edge of metropolitan areas all my life but the street pattern of the twin cities befuddles me. I grew up riding Milwaukee and a bit of south Chicago (Calumet Park area). These are no small towns but I could navigate them even with a few wrong turns and still get back with a smile on my face. I have never been able to relax on Minneapolis streets.

The way out of town was nothing but stop and go traffic. I caught rush hour. More traffic, more people jockeying for lane position and more of everything that gets on the nerves of every commuter. By the time I made it out to 101, the five o'clock surge was pressing everyone even tighter together. Two lanes in both directions stuffed to the gills with people racing to get anywhere but here.

I was tense. Not that the actual riding conditions presented any issues, but I'm not fond of riding in so much blessed traffic.

I hit 39 and things eased a little. Once I was back on 75, things were almost quiet again. The tension released a little but not enough. I had to finish this ride in order to refresh my senses. A cooling down period.

When you don't do it often, riding through a city the size of Minneapolis and its western suburbs during rush hour can feel like some demented autobahn wannabe blitzkrieg. You would think by watching the cars that everyone hits the gas and brakes with the same voracity.

I would have been a wreck had I been in a car for that trip. For as much of a nerve wracking ride the return became, I was glad to be riding that Vespa. The coin may flip tails, but you still have to play the game to win.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Just a quick note to anyone in the twin cities area. I'll be heading from here in Sartell to Motoprimo in Minneapolis in just a few minutes. I don't really have a clear route in mind but I'll get there. I have a little "issue" with a crack which has developed at an unusual place on the tranny cover. No, not from kick starting but further back. The bike is still under warrantee so...

I'll get back and reply to stuff and check all the new inspiring blogs when I return. This could be a short distance all day-er.

Be well, ride hard and ride happy.

If I could get the Vespa on the Harley this trip could be done alot quicker haha.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Three Quarters to Happy (addendum at bottom and noted)

Things have been busy around here. Opportunities to ride have been few. I spend a lot of time thinking about the rides. Places to go, my neighbor's new Moto Guzzi Grizo (sp?). On a whim my wife bought me one of those ultra cheap tire changers from Harbor Freight or something. The Vespa needs a new rear skin.

Following Vanslam's excellent video I got the tire off the bike and off the rim. Half the job right there. I even managed to use the tool to get one side of the new tire under the rim again. Now we're at three quarters. But bless it, I cannot for the life of me get the last bead inside the rim.

OK, its Sunday so I should be able to play with it, right?

My wife's birthday is tax day. That's right, today is her birthday. I have the time to write this because she's at the hospital and won't be here until sometime around noon. That's the plan anyway.

So here I sit. Vespa resting on its front tire waiting for the rear. I suppose I could take the Harley out but I really don't feel like riding that one today. Annette enjoys hanging out behind me but I really was hoping to take a spin with both of us on separate machines.

I have to say I got further than I thought I would with that tire changer from the catalogue. But I didn't finish the job and that really bugs me. I may try again this evening. If I can't get it by tomorrow morning I'll take it to a local shop.

Tube tires were much easier.


I took a nap yesterday afternoon. The in laws came over and they all went for a little stroll in the neighborhood. My wife woke me to tell me my father in law had seen where I was on the tire and decided to help. He got the thing on pretty much the way I was working it but the guy is easily twice my size. Suffice it to be said Al won that battle haha.

Annette and I celebrated her birthday with a little trip to the mall and then to a restaurant called the Stone House tavern and eatery in a little town named St. Joseph. The waitress handed us a card which read... Scooter Wednesdays along with the dates 6/13, 7/11, 8/8 and 9/12.

I know what you're thinking. Could there be so many scooterists in the St. Cloud Minnesota area that a restaurant would hold a night of discount food and live music for them? Some of you already know the answer. Naturally its for motorcyclists but I've had good reception with the bikers met on the road in that area. And I do own a Harley if I really felt the need. Still, its a prospect which deserves further inquest.

After the good food we caught the film Wild Hogs (or is it Hog Wild?). This is a truly funny movie. It does a fine job defining what real enthusiasts are looking for and the words come from the cameo appearance by the biker's film godfather himself, Peter Fonda. It made me laugh for the truisms that define a part of our riding culture. There's a satisfaction in how the movie wraps up. Hard not to like this picture.

Home fairly late I decided to wait until this morning to finish up. The tire was inflated at the local Shell station and reassembly was completed about thirty minutes ago. I am very happy with how things turned out. Although I'm the kind of guy whose first attempts warrant concern because I usually manage to botch something, I think I did pretty well.

But the best part came just after discovering my father in law had helped me out. That made my day. Just as incredible was the phone call not minutes later. It was our own Gary Charpentier calling to see where I was at and if I needed help.

What's so amazing is that Gary was ready to come up to my place all the way from St Paul! Just to help a fellow rider see his way to getting back on the road. How incredible is that! Scooterists and riding enthusiasts in general seem to have their own code. We will do what we can to help each other out. This time it was my turn to receive and I did, in a very big way. From the unexpected help from Al all the way to Gary's offer. From a call just a bit ago from our local scooter club's own Chauncy. From Combat Scoot John and some good ideas from my dear old dad.

I owe you all thanks and you have my gratitude. Let's all hope I jiggled this thing together right haha.