Monday, June 29, 2009

An Odd Feeling

Last Friday afternoon my wife and I got in the car and went to pick up our son who had just returned to town from a week long conference in Dallas. We decided to take him out to dinner and catch up on the weeks activities with him. I was having a strange feeling as I got into the car. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something felt different. We rode for a few blocks with my wife driving, and me trying to figure out why I was having these strange feelings. It suddenly dawned on me as we rode, that I could not remember, with certainty, the last time I had ridden in a car. I knew I hadn't ridden in a car earlier that day. Nor the day before. I took the scooter to work both days. In fact I took the scooter every day to work last week, so If I had ridden in a car last week, it had to have been at lunchtime or in the evening. I knew we had stayed at home last weekend because we were doing some remodeling on our back porch and we had worked on it for a major portion of the weekend. I did ride the scooter a few times over the weekend, but not the car. I was pretty sure of that. Finally, after some careful thought, I finally determined that it was Thursday, at lunchtime, the week before last, when I had last ridden in a car. Over a week ago! Not just driven a car, but ridden in a car. I am not complaining! But It did seem a little odd to realize that I had not ridden in a car for more than a week. I think the last time something like this may have happened was when we went to Montreal a few years back for a convention. We spent close to a week there and didn't need a car because of the transit system. We had just taken a cab to and from the airport. I don't drive a car as much anymore. Until just now I didn't realize that I didn't even ride in a car as much as I used to. It is hard for me to explain to people that the purchase of a scooter has been a life changing experience for me. I didn't buy a scooter for a toy. I did it to replace a car.
It has done so very effectively.
The car I used to own was fairly efficient in terms of fuel usage.
My scooter gets 3 times the miles per gallon.
I used to enjoy driving my car when I had it.
I enjoy riding the scooter even more.
Does this make me some kind of hardcore scooter fanatic now? Not that I consider this a problem. Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Hot Solo Ride

A ride with no particular goal other than the ride itself. Something I don't do often enough. No pictures today. I was having too much fun riding. Father's Day My wife had made a wonderful breakfast of eggs, pancakes, and hash browns. The kids came over to eat about 10:30 am. There were no big plans for Father's Day other than the big breakfast. My son had to leave town that afternoon to go to Dallas for a conference. My daughter and her boyfriend were going to have lunch with his father. By noon the kitchen had been cleaned up and the kids were gone. My wife, who had worked hard on breakfast decided she wanted to take it easy a bit, read the newspaper, listen to NPR and maybe take a nap. Catching the opportunity, I went for a ride. The temperature was in the 90's. A steady, but not too strong breeze from the south. Barely a cloud in the skies, which was a welcome break from the rainy weather we have had lately. We had 4 inches of rain starting Friday night and on into Saturday night. The worst part was that the humidity was very high. I put on my gear, sunglasses and helmet and took off. I loaded my camera into the top case thinking that I might try and take some pictures. I had a couple of ideas working in my mind for future posts that needed some new pictures. I had a little bit less than half a tank of gas. But I really just wanted to get out and ride. I took off for one of the places that I wanted to take some pictures, but some of the opportunities that I wanted weren't panning out, so I just continued to ride around town a bit. It was nice to just take off with no set purpose and just let the scooter and my mind work together and take me somewhere. I really didn't care where. I eventually realized that I would need some more gas and stopped to fill up. It took $3.73 @ $2.59 per gallon to fill it up. You Gotta love them scooters! People have mentioned to me that they worry about me getting hot in my gear when I ride, especially when it is this warm. But I find that as long as I keep moving, I don't really notice the heat that much. My gear is mesh and does a fairly good job of keeping me relatively cool. I certainly don't notice that many other motor cyclists or scooterists wearing armor this time of year. It seems that most have gravitated to t-shirts, many with no helmets. But somehow I feel safer with it on. I did violate my own ATGATT rule this weekend for a short trip to the hardware store, about a half mile away, but almost always I wear my gear. The scooter club we started recently had planned a trip out to one of the local lakes for a picnic. We did the picnic, but didn't go to the lake we had originally planned on going to. As I rode I felt sort of drawn to the original lake we were to go to. I hadn't been out there in a few years. It is straight west of town about 30 miles away. I took a route that I normally wouldn't have taken, but someone had mentioned that it was a nice way to go with little traffic. As I headed west and got further out into the county, I started to notice many things. The wheat in the fields was ripe and looked ready for harvest. The harvest has barely begun in the county just south of us and cutting may begin around here later this week. Watching the stalks move around in the wind is beautiful. The rain needs to hold off a bit for the fields to dry out a bit, but it looks like it could be a decent wheat crop this year. Other crops look pretty good also, but around here, wheat is the main crop. As I rode west I had to fight the steady south wind a bit. It wasn't a vicious cross wind, but was very noticeable. It was especially interesting when I would be out in the open land as compared to bring in an area where there were trees along the side of the road. Sometimes it would catch me off guard a bit when I transitioned from one area to the other. I noticed the farmhouses also. Some were newer than others. Some in better shape than others. Most looked like there was a working farm connected to the home. Being mostly a city boy myself, I sometimes imagine what it would be like to live on a farm like that. Farmers are very hard working and resilient people and I respect them a great deal. This turned out also to be one of only a few rides I have taken where there was the opportunity to reach a higher speed than I normally travel in the city, for an extended period of time. I was mostly on county roads, but they we're in good shape and there was not that much traffic. In town I rarely get above 45 mph, but out here in the county, I got it up to 70 mph a bit, with a lot of the trip above 60 mph. That may not seem real fast for many of you that might read this blog, but to me it was significant. I enjoyed it immensely! I had visions of taking longer tours through country I have never seen before. Ideas for new rides sprang into my mind. Maybe I'll do some of those someday. The camera remained in the top case, literally because I was having too much fun riding. Harv at American Scooterist Blog had mentioned awhile back about taking a ride and getting " a little bit lost". Well, I didn't exactly get lost, but saw many things I had never seen before and took routes I had never taken before. It was nice to get away and let the road take me somewhere. Total trip was just shy of 100 miles. I have got to do this more often! Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lightning; Outguessing the weather?

We have had some interesting weather here in Kansas recently. Of course it's the time of year for spring storms. I am always amazed at the power of nature and what it can do. There is much beauty in a spring thunderstorm on the plains. At times though they can be quite scary. Not even going to mention the possibility of tornadoes. A few nights ago we had 3 storms go through the area. One about 6:00 pm, another around 9:00 pm and finally another about 11:30 pm. Each storm lasted for an hour or so. All had high winds, torrential rain, and some small hail. We ended up with 4 inches of rain here. Not a time that you would want to be out on a motorcycle or scooter. In the springtime I tend to think of the season as a clash of titans, the northerly winds get beaten up by the southerly winds and some amazing battles result from the battles between the two air masses. By summertime, the southerly winds have won, and it gets hot and stays hot for a few months. In the fall the situation gets reversed and the northerly winds tend to win the battles. It's a never ending cycle.
I ride everyday I can to work. Its not that I have to ride, its because I want to ride. I enjoy it so much that I get grouchy when I don't get to ride to work. Rain does not bother me much. You have to be more careful, but with proper gear, I haven't found it to be a huge problem.
Over the course of the last winter, there were some days that I did not ride because of snow or ice. On those days I either rode with my wife in our car or I took the city bus. The temperature did not affect the decision to ride. The coldest day I rode was about 12 degrees. But I decided early on that snow and ice were not to be messed with. There were some days that the decision to ride was difficult to make because of the uncertainty in the weather forecast. For instance, would you ride If there was a 30% chance of snow? A 10% chance? A 50% chance? Where do you draw the line? There are those days that the forecast looks good for snow, and then it doesn't do anything. Then there are the days that the weather looks great for riding, and then it snows or drizzles all day long. I know, winter seems like a long time ago.

A few nights ago, one storm just sort of parked itself over the Winfield, Kansas area, about 40 miles southeast of Wichita. Most storms pass through in an hour or so in an easternly direction. This one decided not to go anywhere for about 5 hours. Rained like cats and dogs the entire time. Lots of hail and some tornado warnings. Wasn't a huge storm, but did some damage with the high winds (80-90 mph).

As spring approached, the concern shifted from cold weather conditions to avoid to another type of weather to avoid:


A motorcycle rider from the northeast part of Kansas was recently killed by lightning. The really unfortunate part of the story was that the person was taking part in a charity event. That's not fair at all.
Here's a link to a story about the incident. The story also has suggestions about safeguarding yourself in threatening weather.
Until the last couple of weeks or so I have enjoyed riding to work everyday and have not really missed a day since February. We have had some rain storms but generally they have been at night. But more recently the storms have been in the daytime and have gotten more unpredictable.
Take last Friday for instance. It began raining at 7:00 in the morning and there was lots of thunder and lightning. I considered my options. I could take the bus to work. I eventually decided to wait the storm out. (Remember REO Speedwagon's "Ridin' the Storm Out"?)
By 8:45 I was on my way. The sky cleared and it was beautiful. I checked the radar before I left and there were some more storms west of us but they were about 175 miles away and it would be many hours before they could get here. I thought I was good for the day to ride as I pleased.
I had a meeting to ride to over the lunch hour on the east side of town. As I was getting ready to suit up for the ride to the meeting, I looked outside and noticed that it had begun to rain again. I thought to myself, where did this storm come from? I pulled up the radar on the computer and sure enough, it looked like I was going to get wet, and there was a good chance of lightning and thunder as well. A situation I would rather avoid. But I really needed to be at that meeting.
(How about the Doors, "Riders on the Storm?)
At this time of year we get what we sometimes refer to as popcorn storms. They are not generally huge, but can produce hail, heavy rain, and lightning. We call them popcorn storms because they can look like popcorn, but also because they can pop up quickly, rain and thunder for awhile, then die out, only to be replaced by another storm someplace else.
These little popcorn storms were what I experienced last Friday.
I actually rode home and had my wife take me to the meeting in the car. She then later picked me up. It turned out that I would have been fine to ride to the meeting except for a little rain. The remainder of the day was beautiful.
I guess I have always known it, but last Friday was a reminder that you cannot always outguess mother nature. And many times it really is not worth it to even try.
There is just enough daredevil in me to want to try and push the envelope a bit. There is another part of me that knows that other people in the world would like to see me remain in the world, and I decide that the risk is not worth it.
In summary, I guess because you cannot always predict the weather with certainty, I try and err somewhere more on the side of caution and safety.
There will always be other days to ride.
Others might make these decisions in a more daring manner. Some less daring.
No matter how you reach these decisions, I know you sure hate to miss a day of riding.
For this one, wished I had the other camera with me. Just grabbed it with my cell phone on the way home one night last fall. If you look close and imagine just a bit, you'll see that there are 2 rainbows.
Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

Monday, June 15, 2009

June Scooter Club Rally & Our First Brush With The Law!

You gotta crawl before you walk. But we are starting to scoot along very nicely. We started a local Scooter club here in Wichita. We had our first get-together in May and had 14 riders. We rode around town a bit and then met up at a local coffee house for socializing. We had a good time and agreed to meet up again for another "rally" on June 7. We asked for a volunteer to maybe help set up a web site and Gary said he would do it for us. He did a wonderful job and if you care to see, here'e the link: As June 7th approached, lots of people had entered ideas about where to go, what to do, etc. We finally decided to go out to a local lake and have a "pot luck" picnic. The weather forecast was for HOT and sunny weather. Our gathering place is centrally located in town at the parking lot of the local baseball stadium. We parked the scooters in the shade and socialized a bit before heading out. The website designer is Gary, on the right in this picture.
Another gathering picture. We had 14 riders show up again, and 2 more met us out at the lake later. Had some new faces, too which was nice.
We have an interesting combination of scooters, some small, others pretty good size.
After a brief meeting we headed out in two groups. The plan was to go out west and hit some back roads and stay off the highways. Speeds mostly in the 40's.
Here's Kansas in June. The wheat is beginning to ripen. A lot of us are not very experienced in group riding. The people were very careful however, and there were no incidents. We even met up with a guy and his girlfriend on a KYMCO at a stop light and they rode with us for awhile. Didn't take a lot of pictures on the way out. Was having too much fun riding.
It is about 25 miles to the lake, not a long ride, but was nice.
We arrive at the lake. That's Max loaded down with a cooler in front of the topcase and other provisions hanging from the purse hook.
We were told by a phone call earlier in the week that even though this was a State Park, since we were just going out for a picnic, maybe a couple of hours or so, that we didn't need a permit for our vehicles.
Arriving at the picnic area
More arrivals. It was 94 degrees and sunny.
Then it was time to get down to the business of eating. People generally brought their own drinks and were asked to bring something else for the group. We had plenty of good food.
Eating and socializing
Scooters at the lake
Ah Yes, filling out the dreaded membership form. One thing we all agree on is No Dues and No Rules! The membership form is for contact information only.
Some clouds showed up, but was sort of a welcome relief. At least the sun wasn't beating down on us for part of the time.
Some people on the lake
A very nice Genuine Buddy Italia
This lady brought an Aprilla Mojito. It's about 5 years old, but she was able to get it with less than 1,000 miles on it. A very nice Scoot.
A Yamaha Morpheus
A Honda Reflex
A SYM RV 250
We had some pretty good size scooters on display.
We had some smaller ones also.
A Genuine Stella
Another Genuine Stella. These have a clutch and gears
A SYM HD 200. Just like mine except for color.
And a Vespa GTS (very nice) Now for the trouble with the authorities. I wasn't paying much attention when the Park Ranger showed up in his pickup truck. He, of course was looking for our permits ($3 per vehicle). We told him that we had called earlier in the week and was told that the permit would not be required if we were only to be there a very short time. He thought otherwise.
So two of our people booked it over to the park office and purchased permits for everybody. Not even sure who paid for them, but some good samaritan did.
Here's Lloyd displaying the new permits for us. And here's mine proudly displayed on my handlebar. It flew off on the way home.
We survived our brush with the authorities.
I decided to ride home by myself later that afternoon. Most of my riding is by myself, but sure have enjoyed the ability to ride with other people as well. We have an interesting group of people in the scooter club and there is much interest and ideas for future rides. We will probably start meeting for some weekly rides also.
For a scooter club that is only about 30 days old, we have come a very long way in a short period of time.
The ride home, even though it was solo, was very enjoyable also. We rode out at a pace of 35-45 mph most of the way, mainly to keep the group together. But on the ride home I was able to crank up the speed a bit and did well over 60 mph in a few spots. It was fun. My wife was going to call me on my cell phone if she saw that threatening weather might be headed our way. My blackberry can get to radar weather sites on the web, but I wasn't sure if I could get a good connection to the internet from the lake. Turned out it was no problem. As I rode home going east, I didn't notice an approaching storm behind me and by the time I got home, the clouds in the west were looking a bit ominous. As I pulled into the driveway, my cell phone rang. It was my wife warning me that I better get home. I was already there.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Update on the BlackBerry Fiasco

Just this afternoon I had a telephone conversation with a very nice woman named Faith that has renewed my faith in Customer Service. Here's the recent events. You may or may not recall that I have had some trouble with the trackball on my phone. (If you care to go back a couple of posts ago, you can read about my attempted minor surgery on my phone. It's entitled "The Bane of the Blackberry") I eventually got the phone repaired at my Sprint store to my satisfaction. But, a few days after my phone was repaired, I got an email from (where I had ordered a replacement trackball) asking for feedback on my recent purchase. Now if you know me just a little bit, you know that I am always going to respond to this type of inquiry either positively or negatively. In this case it was negative, but I was nice. I just commented on the fact that the trackball I had purchased didn't fit very well in the phone and that a small piece of it was slightly bent. I really said nothing else. A couple of days later Faith called me and had received the feedback information and wanted to know how they could make it right for me. She first offered to send me another trackball, but since I had already had it repaired, she agreed to a full refund of the price including the shipping. Whoopee!! I was somewhat surprised, but also elated that they would do that. We are not talking about a lot of money, just $11.00 or so, but I am even happier now. Just wanted to post this to let you know 2 things. 1) It's okay to complain about things sometimes 2) There is some justice in the world That is all!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Names for Machines

My wife and I like listening to National Public Radio on weekend mornings when we get a chance. One of my favorite shows is Click and Clack. You probably know it as the car repair guys. People call in with questions about car repairs and symptoms and the two brothers try and answer their questions and maybe harass the callers a bit, just for fun. One of my favorite parts of the show is when the guys ask the caller to try and imitate the noises their cars are making to try and diagnose the problem. Often leads to some hilarious sounds and discussions. One week on this show a lady had called in and in the course of their conversation she mentioned that she had a name for her car. (Just like it was a person) She called the car by name on the show (sorry, but don't remember the name) and the repair guys started in on her and teased her for naming an inanimate object. This bothered me a bit because my wife and I have always had names for our vehicles, even bicycles. Refer to the top of the page and see that my scooter is named "Max". I have noticed in my blog reading that many of you name your vehicles. Names such as Elvira, FireBalls, Brigitta (or was it Gina Lollabrigida) and others that I cannot remember off the top of my head have appeared on these blog posts So today, I just wanted to pose a couple of questions. 1) What are the names of your vehicles, if you care to share, and is there any particular story or anecdote as to how you arrived at those names? 2) What is the funniest name you have ever heard of? Comments could be fun and interesting. This has probably been done before, but I do not care. Here's some examples from my life:
Wife's Cannondale bicycle
Candy Cannondale
My old Cannondale bicycle
Red or Big Red
Specialized Hybrid Bicycle
Specialized Mountain Bicycle
Trek Bicycle
The Raptor
Past Automobiles:
'84 Ford F-150
'66 Ford Mustang (my wife's first car)
(green with a red fender)
'72 VW Bus
Goldbug (the color)
'80 Mazda 626
Topaz (again the color)
'84 BMW 633 csi
Da Beemer
(renowned German engineeering)
(ridiculously expensive parts)
'87 Subaru GL Wagon
Tonya Lou Subaru
'93 Subaru Legacy Wagon
Bethie Boo Subaru
'99 Subaru Legacy Sedan
Sandy (the color again)
'06 Subaru Baja (sold after bought scooter)
Quintessentiallius Maximus Subarulius (Max)
'05 Honda CRV
The Black Pearl
'93 Ford T-Bird
Gertrude (but not Trudy)
'99 Honda civic
UKI (cuz of the license plate)
'92 Mazda Mini Van
Vinnie Van Go
Our current vehicles:
'02 Subaru Outback Sport
Red Roamin' Lou
'09 Honda Fit
Swarley aka Swarhelie aka Swarlos
'02 Subaru Forester
'02 Subaru WRX
Optimus Prime aka Larry
'08 SYM HD 200
Max aka MaxSym
'07 Vespa ET 150
You may notice the preponderance of Subarus. We have really enjoyed these cars over the years. Some we have literally driven the crap out of and they keep running and running. End of commercial. I cannot take credit for all of the names, just a few of them. But isn't it interesting how we (at least some of us) assign names to these things?

Friday, June 5, 2009

The route to work

My route to the office downtown each day can vary a bit. Sometimes it is due to road construction. Sometimes it is because schools are in session and I want to avoid the schools. Sometimes I just want some different scenery. No matter which route I take I am generally going from newer parts of town to the older parts as I get nearer to downtown. As I was riding to work last Friday my thoughts turned to the fact that I have been down some of these roads many times and passed by the same sights each time. Some of the sights have become a bit ordinary to me in my mind just because I have been by there so many times. It is easy to forget that there are really some interesting sights, either historically, or visually, along the way. So, let me take you on a very short tour. As I leave my house I head south about 1/2 mile to Central Ave. I can take this street west all the way downtown if I want to. And many times I do, but the traffic is heavier, the scenery is a bit less interesting and I prefer other routes. Just look at all of those cages. My preferred route to work is 2nd Street which is One Way to downtown. It goes through a couple of interesting neighborhoods and is slower, less traffic, and prettier with lots of trees. 2nd street is just a couple of blocks south of Central, so it is easy to cut over to 2nd street and I do this often, but at times I do not take 2nd street. There are 2 schools along the way on 2nd street and at 8:00 in the morning there is a lot of traffic as people are dropping kids off at school. But in the summertime, there is no schools in session and it's a beautiful way to go. The first interesting neighborhood we get to is Crown Heights. A lot of these homes were built in the 1930's and 1940's. Some are very stately and expensive, others a bit more modest, but a nice neighborhood. I love the trees on this route, nice shade in the morning. We once looked at purchasing a home in this area, but it needed updating badly, had a poor roof and we passed on it. Then I get into another neighborhood known as College Hill. It's really not that hilly, but resides along a ridge of small hills that run north and south about 3 miles east of the Arkansas river where the downtown area is. This area is a little older and there are some very nice older homes. Many wealthier people in the city have lived in this area from the 1910's to today. A very stately mansion. A less stately home, but very nice and the owners have kept it up nicely. One very beautiful and unusual home in this area is a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is right on this route. You can tour the home by appointment, though I never have. The Frank LLoyd Wright house looking northwest Those are some bad ass planters, don't you think? Looking Southwest You then enter even a bit older area where the homes are sometimes a bit run down and smaller than the College Hill homes. The dude on the porch nextdoor eyed me carefully as I took this picture. Then we go under a Super Slab locally known as the "Canal Route" that disects the city north and south. A drainage canal/creek runs along and underneath the highway, hence the name. I have sometimes been pelted with dust and sand that gets thrown off the elevated roadway as I pass underneath. I do not ride much on the slabs around town. Lots of traffic and I am not comfortable at those speeds on my scooter even though I have a top speed of supposedly 75 mph. A little while later we get into an old warehouse district now known as Old Town. This area has had much redevelopment in recent years with a new theater, a hotel, restaurants and apartments. A lot of local events occur here. Fountains in the Old Town Square. Then I pass by the original Coleman lantern factory. It is now largely abandoned and vacant, but the Coleman company was founded here in Wichita. The company was sold a long time ago to a much larger corporation. The rewards of entrepreneurship. This is a great place to buy camping supplies. A few blocks later I get to the building where I park my scooter. Mt little parking space is in the basement and is very secure and also very protected from the outside weather. The infamous parking space #43. Safe and Sound Mt route home is very similar through much of the same areas but on a One Way street going east. When I was learning to drive a car, my father once told me that you need to be careful in areas that you frequent or travel through often. The reason was that you can become complacent by traveling through areas where nothing unusual has happened to you in the past. You can become a little less attentive to a potential unexpected event. I try and maintain my alertness even though I have passed down this route many times. Composing this blog post has also reminded me that there are some relatively interesting sights to see along the way that over time I have come to take for granted. Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed