Thursday, September 18, 2008

Catch 70

Over the last few days I've been working on getting the rollers in the variator of my LX150 replaced. I live too far to have the time to drag it to the twin cities. So I ordered the parts and waited.

The job itself is not too difficult. What you spend the most time doing is getting other parts out of the way of the casting which is the transmission cover. Then on to the variator. The work would have stymied me but for the gracious help that people share on the Modern Vespa forum. In this case I simply googled the information and found a comprehesive thread explaining how to go about it. With pictures to boot.

This morning I had the chance to ride. My wife reminded me I had clothes to return to the outlet mall in Albertville. The perfect opportunity to see how things turned out. If I made it more than a couple miles on highway 10 I could feel rest assured that the forty odd mile trip down ought to be trouble free. Highway 10 is posted for speeds up to 65 mph. With a strong headwind today I could hardly break 60 mph according to the speedometer. The optimistic speedometer which is known to be off roughly five miles per. Still, a good clip in light traffic.

Highway 10 is a very straight road. Think of it as a back up to I94. The expressway and 10 run pretty close to parallel from St Cloud to the twin cities where 10 turns south. I was fighting strong headwinds the whole way down. Plus I think I had some bad gas from an earlier fill-up at a station I don't often use. The bike worked hard to maintain 60 mph on the first tank.

Near Albertville I jogged off 10 and explored a few north-south offshoots. Highway 14 turns out to be a fun road. Long bends, clean lines of sight. Light traffic for the early part of the day but I imagine much changes after 5:00 pm. Other roads were just as good. Places I want to see more of, hopefully before the snows come.

I decided I really didn't have all day to do this. I needed to get there and return those jeans. After which, who knows? So I darted back up 10 and caught the north side of Monticello. Without much effort I found myself on the south side of town. I passed the property of some friends and kept on with I94 now on my left. Back in open farm land. Now passing a lake, but not just any lake. One which is so huge its part swamp, part lake. Snowmobilers go there to drag race in the winter. Beautiful country to ride in and a nice stretch too. Before long I would see the freeway to my left until I got to Albertville.

Albertville. Its an outlet mall spanning more acreage than I could even calculate. Imagine the Mall of America on a budget and no more than two stories high no matter where you go. That's the Albertville outlet mall. Specialty stores, endless parking lots and people paying attention to everything but their driving. One other thing I noticed; These types of places are the flattest on earth yet probably hold the highest concentrations of SUV's at any given moment. Until 9:00pm that is.

I snuck out of there like a mouse among overfed cats. Sometimes following the perimeter of lots like the baseboards of the brownstones in the cities. Sometimes darting across the open areas before before the felines took notice. Never really sure if I was acknowleged or even seen. Just picking my way through the barrage of curbs and light poles to get to the doorway, the final exit out of the giant car lots.

Quite quickly the traffic subsided. I chose to make the first leg of my return the same as my last upon arrival. This time the wind was at my back. But an aged couple in a Buick was ahead of me. They were driving along well under the speed limit so I had to wait. But the scenerey was too nice on this warm end-of-summer day not to appreciate. They dawdled, I dawdled. Hey, I'm in no hurry.

They turned and I opened her up. Climbing a steep hill I watched my speedometer tickle 65 mph. I ducked behind my windscreen at the crest. No use. For whatever reason the Vespa would not have any more of it. I eased off the throttle and oddly, she held 65 again. More twist, no go? Hmm I'll need to investigate that one. I used to be able to pull 74 mph on the downhills. Not bad for a scooter. Was the cause the new larger windscreen?

The bedroom community of Monticello came and went. I chose county road 75 instead of hitting the desert straight highway 10 again. The bike seemed to stretch itself a little. I would back off the throttle every now and then and wind her up a little. She would inch ever closer to 70. After a fresh tank of fuel, even better still. But not quite there. And well, its illegal to go that fast on the frontage roads so I stayed off it for a while. No other traffic around me for nearly the entire ride right into St Cloud. But every now and then I would open her up just a little more... just to see.

The ride home was as good as always. Me, the bike and a smile under my helmet. Some guy in a convertible Jaguar ahead of me kept eyeing the scooter in his rearviews. I have one of those helmets with the internal sun shade. What you see when its down is the greenish blue reflection of you, looking at me. He only glanced at me once or twice. The rest of the time he kept an eye on the Vespa. This went on for a mile or more of city streets. Then I was home.

Parking the bike, I realized how much I needed today's ride. How it settled me. How the roads and "the wave" from various other riders really put the frosting on the cake today. Everyone seemed welcoming. Even in the outlet mall's Twilight Zone parking skein. If people were in their own worlds, at least they weren't in aggressive moods. You can tell the difference, you know what I mean.

If someone were to ask me what it is about riding that I love so much, any mere description would not do justice to what you and I know. But if they could smile at the reading of posts like this one, somehow I know they would get it.



irondad said...

"A mouse among overfed cats". What a neat metaphor.

Would it have been worth travelling that far to return jeans in a car?

American Scooterist Blog said...

Thanks Irondad.

And no... haha


chewy from St.Paul said...

Nice descriptive writing. I just discovered your place. Keep it up.

American Scooterist Blog said...

Thanks Chewy! I appreciate that. Btw, what are you riding?