Friday, September 22, 2006

Day 21 - Coney Island, then Home

About the pictures: The flowers were somewhere in Idaho. Stan Obal in the center "won" the Cannonball.
This buffalo was in Wyoming (and probably still is), posted just a little late.

Today we rode our victory lap to the ocean: from Scooters Originali in Orange, NJ through Manhattan to Brooklyn and to Coney Island. Then I rode home to Ellicott City, Maryland. Too much of the day was eventful.

We got a late start. If you don't know what "scooter time" is, be glad. We were to leave for Coney Island at 10, but it was more like 11:30. Patrick's wife Heather needed a lift because his scooter wasn't set up for two, so she hopped on back with me. We took the slow city streets for the scooters that could not go on the freeway, went through the Holland Tunnel, and stopped at Battery Park. I was starving, and I remembered the Amish Market there, so I dashed in for a quick bite of tuna salad and pickled beets. I hated beets as a kid, but I love them now.

From there we rode over the Brooklyn Bridge to the Heights, and then on to the Brooklynbretta scooter shop. It drizzled a little, but that was all for the rain. We finally got to Coney Island about 4 p.m. We went to the original Nathan's. I had a chili and cheese dog. I can't imagine what a visit to the original McDonald's would be like, but there was nothing special about this Nathan's. I never got heartburn from the dog, though.

Patrick and I were in a hurry, so we mapped our own route for the 28 miles back to the scooter shop across the Belt Parkway, through the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel, up the Westside Highway, back through the Holland Tunnel, and then out to Orange. It was almost 5 o'clock, and I was astonished that we did not get in any serious traffic jams. However, I had another brush with the law. Somehow, due to poorly marked lanes, I ended up in an E-ZPass only lane for the tunnel. I cut between some orange cones to get back to a cash lane, and when I got to the toll booth, a transit cop asked for my license. But he could see that I was a clueless tourist and he let me go.

I left the scooter shop for home just before 6 p.m. I had a nice route of back roads planned based on leaving Coney Island about 1, but Plan B was in order now because I was still 220 miles from home. Yes indeed, I do mean the New Jersey Turnpike and I-95. I was really late. I had told Loriann that I would be home about 6. Big mistake. Even though I left a message that I would be later, her 8 pm message on my cell phone (cleaned up a little) was "will you f-in call me!!!"

The exhaust leak gradually got louder. I limped home the last 70 miles with a very loud exhaust and no rear brake. As the gasket blew out, the exhaust heat melted the brake line! But I-95 was not busy tonight, and I made it home about 10 p.m. without needing to brake suddenly.

It feels so good to be home and to see the family. I'll take the scooter in to Vespa Washington for service, and I know Wellesley and Greg will take good care of it. But I'm not in a hurry. If I don't ride a scooter tomorrow, it will be no big deal ...

There will be another Cannonball in 2008. If I do that, I think it will be on a vintage scooter this time.

Miles today - 290
Miles total - 8246
Best Hotel - Renaissance Cleveland - thank you, Priceline!
Worst Motel - Stagecoach in Dubois, Wyoming - no working internet, no breakfast, bad coffee, but it was a cool town
Best Meal (tie) - Meatloaf lunch special at the Red Rose Diner in Towanda, PA; also Dungeness crab omelet at Genie's in Portland
Worst Meal - gruel at the Original Taco House in Portland, and even worse, we had a real Texan with us for that disaster

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Day 20 - Warren, PA to New York Metro

It was a ragged day but we made it! Most of us (except for the "racers" who were counting points), took a couple of short-cuts to shorten the route by a little, and to eliminate some traffic lights. The ride went across northern Pennsylvania, through the Pocono mountains, briefly into New York, and then south into northwestern New Jersey.

John and I woke up late. We leave at 7 every morning and when we woke up it was 6:52. Libby was not happy with the delay, because John's scooter is not fast. She had the last-support truck duty today so she had to stay behind the last scooter. But in the end, John rode pretty fast. I finished at about 6:45 p.m. and John came in an hour later. The last people and the truck showed up at about 10. Andrea at Scooters Originali was so kind to host us with some burgers and beer, but most people were too tired to really whoop it up.

The scooter shop is in a rough neighborhood in Orange, NJ, and most of us had trouble finding it. Our twenty-something friend from home, Stacy, who works in NYC now, met us at the party with some friends, but they soon left. Sorry, Stacy, for not turning out lots of hot young scooter boys. It was still good to see you.

The highlight of the day was stopping for lunch in an old diner. Lunch was good, but that's not the good part. The owner, Gordon, took me around back and showed me the two old Cushman scooters that he has. He's had one of them for 50 years since he was a boy!

In the morning, most of us will ride to Coney Island. It will be sad to say goodbye to the old and new friends from this bunch of 30 of us, and the support team. There is already talk of another Cannonball in 2 years. Of course, everyone has (conflicting) ideas of how to do it better.

There was still no rain today, but it is closing in on us. I might get wet as I ride home to Maryland tomorrow. I am excited to stop by my charity, Canine Partners For Life, on the way. It's in Cochranville, PA, west of Philadelphia. I am exhilarated and exhausted at the same time. I am so eager to see my family, and also eager to see clients again. Thanks for reading, everyone, and for supporting my ride and Canine Partners For Life.

Miles today - 382
Total Miles - 7956
Number of short-cuts on the route today - 3
Number of lanes on I-80 in NJ - 12 - yikes!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Day 19 - Cleveland to Warren, PA

Today we had a short ride of 157 miles, yet the hundreds of traffic lights on US 20 east of Cleveland made it seem like forever.

But first, it felt great to sleep in, because we did not start until 1 p.m. The schedule was set up to allow people to fix their scooters. In a stroke of accidental good planning, John and I got our Cleveland hotel room on Priceline a month ago. We got soft beds at the Renaissance near the scooter shop. Everyone else was at a nasty Days Inn far away -- for the same price. I got a good workout in at the hotel gym, and John and I had fluffy omelets at a nearby restaurant.

Until today, I have been touring. I smell the roses while some of the others think they are racing. They take it so seriously that today we had a big discussion and a vote about how to penalize the people who went off the route and took shortcuts. Who cares! They finally decided on a 30-minute penalty. Apparently tempers flared over the whole issue yesterday.

Today was the first day that I started with everyone else, and rode to see how fast the scooter will go. I was right up near the front until I was low on gas with 17 miles to go, so I had to pull over for fuel. As a result I finished 7th out of 25 riders, about 7 minutes behind Stan.

It's probably not a coincidence that as I pushed the scooter hard today, the exhaust started to sound louder. I think the gasket is coming loose again. I am hoping to be able to tighten it up in the morning. If not, I'll have to limp in to the finish line tomorrow evening. We have a long day, with about 380 miles through hills. It should be just as challenging as 500 miles through the midwest.

Miles today - 159
Miles total - 7574

Day 18 - Merrillville, IN to Cleveland, OH

We are on the home stretch now, baby!

Today we rode from the southern Chicago area to downtown Cleveland. Once again, we had beautiful weather. I was down to no clean clothes, so I did laundry and worked out. I left about 9:30, which was more than 2 hours after the pack, so I rode solo most of the day. I expected to catch Kieran and John on their slow scooters after lunch, but I never saw them. It remains a mystery how they arrived 2 hours after I did, yet I never saw them. The support truck, which stays behind the last scooter, also passed them without seeing them.

I saw so much brown corn and yellow soybeans. The town of Milan, OH, near Cleveland, is where Thomas Edison was born, and it was very pretty. Sorry, I did not get a picture of it.

The last 25 miles of the route led us past 200 or so traffic lights! I arrived at Pride of Cleveland Scooters around 7 pm, well before dusk. Most people already had their scooters taken apart for maintenance. We had a really good dinner of Cambodian food down the street.

I really appreciate the owner, Phil Waters, for opening his shop up to us on a Saturday night (and I mean ALL night for some of us), and then on Sunday morning. He's just one of so many who have made this trip unforgettable. And I am so glad that Loriann is recovering well from her surgery at home; the family and friends have been wonderful. Thanks to all of you who have posted comments, keep them coming!

Miles today - 330
Miles total - 7215
Traffic lights today - 342
(No, I did not count how many of them were green.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Day 17 - Ames, IA to Merrillville, IN

I had a good ride today through mostly flat Iowa and Illinois countryside. The high point was finding Ash's scooter patch jacket by the side of the road. He'd lost it a few hours earlier as he flew down the road in a strong crosswind. Alas, he did not realize it until later, so he put out an all points bulletin for it. It has all of his embroidered patches from 5 years of scooter rallies. I knew how important it was to him, so finding it was a great thrill. I thought about quietly showing up at the motel tonight and modeling my new jacket, but that would have meant his wife and everyone else looking for it all day, so I nixed that prank. He and his wife Devon were very appreciative.

We knew we were in Chicagoland near the end of the ride today when the gas station attendant was behind bulletproof glass. This is routine at home on the east coast, but after being in the western land of easy living for days, it hit hard to be back in the world of bulletproof security.

As usual, I left the motel in the morning well after most others. I caught up with the slower scooters in the first few hours. In the afternoon I rode with Noe and Heather. My roommate, John, was with us for a while but his scooter could not keep up with us. This was a shame because he got lost, went through a rough part of Joliet after dark, and made it to the motel hours after everyone else. Our biggest mistake was arriving in Joliet, Illinois at Friday evening rush hour. It took more than an hour to get through town.

Ashrat crashed today on a bad patch of road, but she's OK. So far the roads in Iowa and Illinois have been maintained much less well than the roads farther west.

Tomorrow it's on to Cleveland. We are still expecting good weather.

I haven't posted a link to the main Scooter Cannonball page, so here it is: It is mainly info about the people who are racing, which I am not doing.

I am still trying to get pictures posted. I took a lot of them in Wyoming 2 days ago, and fewer since then. There are only so many grain elevators, cows and cornstalks to snap before the picture starts to look the same ...

Miles today - 358
Miles total - 6885

Day 16 - Valentine, NE to Ames, IA

Yesterday's tailwind shifted to today's headwind. My gas mileage plummetted from 85 to 65 miles per gallon. Still, it was nice riding today, except for the toll bridge across the river from Nebraska to Iowa. The bridge deck was 100% metal grating, which is a nightmare for every bicyclist and motorcyclist.

The best part of the ride was a detour into town for gas. Usually we get gas right on the route, but this time I came to a tiny town with no gas on the main road, and I had doubts about making it to the next town. The town was charming; it is undiscovered because it is off the main road.

Most of the riders have rigged auxiliary tanks or carry gas cans. I have none of those. My 2.2 gallon tank will usually take me about 120 miles or so.

Most of the ride today was solo, but I caught up with Sara with about 80 miles to go.

I had very little sleep after pulling in to Valentine at 1:30 a.m. I was sad to say goodbye in Valentine to Mike H. and Rob D, who are both pulling out of the ride and driving home after breaking down repeatedly and failing to get their scooters running again. Mike is one of the best scooter mechanics I know. He also "won" the last Cannonball ride 2 years ago. Rob is one of the main organizers of the Cannonball. I will really miss them.

Miles today - 405
Miles total - 6527

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Day 15 - Dubois, WY to Valentine, NE

What a brutal day. We descended from the Wyoming mountains to Nebraska flatland, but 537 miles on a scooter in a day is just ... a long day. I rode with some of the slower vintage scooters, and we finally finished at 1:30 a.m.

We had a nice tailwind for most of today, and I rode at about 50 mph with the slower scooters. As a result, I got almost 90 mpg today!

As I expected, personality issues are starting to flare as some scooters break down, the support wagons are full of scooters and people, and everyone is getting tired. Unfortunately some of my good friends from the Washington-Baltimore area are the ones whose scooters are un-fixable, so they are having to figure out how to get the scooters and themselves home early.

I took a lot of pictures yesterday, but am having trouble posting them. Check back later.

The weather is still beautiful, and it looks good for tomorrow, too. The next day will have to take care of itself.

Miles today - 537
Miles total - 6122
High temperature - 93 degrees
Low temperature - 51 degrees

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Day 14 - Hailey, ID to Dubois, WY

We made it to the finish, just barely at dusk! I talked my way out of a ticket, saw beautiful Jackson Hole and Grand Teton, lots of buffalo, etc. More later with pictures!

Miles today 320
Miles total 5585

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Day 13 - John Day, OR to Hailey, ID

Today we made it across Oregon and through the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho, through Sun Valley and Ketchum. Many people broke down by the time we got to the 8200 foot mountain pass. I am really excited to see Grand Teton and Jackson Hole tomorrow.

I rode slow and steady with one of the slower vintage scooters today, and finished the route about 8 pm. Also I am so happy that Loriann's surgery back home went well.

I have to go now. Stay tuned for more about today, with pictures.

Miles today - 376
Miles total - 5265

Day 12 - Pacific City, OR to John Day, OR

Thirty of us and our support crew gathered at the coast where the bonfire had been last night, for the ceremonial start of the Cannonball Run to New York. There was really no ceremony. We did not leave exactly at 7 am as planned, but I rode out at 7:05 and 29 others followed within seconds.

Today was a beautiful day for riding. I rode in small groups, but mostly with Noe. The scenery was stunning. First we has the coastal mountains, then the central Oregon farmland, and finally over the Cascades, through a lava field, and into the high desert with rocky outcrops. Noe and I rode fairly slowly compared to some others. We had a nice lunch stop in Sisters. With 70 miles left to go, I found Jim broken down by the side of the rode. Libby pulled up soon with the support truck. It had room for his scooter, but no for him. So I rode the last 70 miles with Jim
on the back of my scooter.

I was one of the last to finish the ride. I got to the motel about 7 pm. I am not "racing" but some people are. There was a bit of discussion about how to penalize the people who missed some turns and shortened the route. It was a confusing route today.

John Day is a nice town. It even has a 24-hour gym. It's not locked at night. You just walk in and leave them five bucks if they are not there.

The weather forecast is looking good, for the next 3 days at least.

Miles Today 386
Miles Total 4879
Low Temperature Today - 39
High Temperature Today - 89
Number of Road Construction Delays - 1

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Arrived in Portland

Hi, folks, it's Saturday morning and we are gathering in Portland for the 3-hour ride to the coast at Pacific City. Some people are straggling in to Portland but it still looks like all 30 of us will start.

I got in yesterday afternoon with fears that the scooter exhaust might not have been fixed. I actually pulled an all-nighter and stood by for the 6 am flight from Baltimore so I would get here at lunch time to be able to take the scooter for a test ride. No worries, Rob V. here had picked the scooter up earlier and taken it for a 100 mile test ride. It is running like a top!

For the next 10 days of our ride, it will be hard to top the breakfast at Genie's that I just had with Earl, John and Noe! I had an egg white omelet with dungeness crab, onions and tomatoes and hollandaise sauce, accompanied by beautiful Oregon peaches and blueberries. Yum! Pictures will follow. It makes up for the horrid food last night at the Original Taco House. If you're ever in Portland, just don't go there.

More later! Thanks again to all the sponsors and supporters of Canine Partners For Life! I had a blast on the flight writing some thank you postcards and I think I am caught up on them, but I want to have to write a LOT more! I met my fellow rider Noe from south Texas last night for the first time, and he has raised more than $80,000 for his local library! What an inspiration.

Later update: we had an uneventful group ride to the coast, and then a party on the beach with a bonfire and bowling balls shot from a cannon! It was Scott's 40th birthday so we had a little party for him in his room.

Miles today - 104

Monday, August 14, 2006

Another Interlude

I'm home until September 6th or so, recharging the batteries and the bank account, and resting my butt. Then I return to Portland to reclaim the scooter for the rest of the trip. See for details of this adventure.

Looking back at my blog entries, I suggest reading them from Day 1 up, rather than last to first the way they appear. They start with trepidation, move to the amused traveler mode, then to just plain tired, and finally, thank God I made it by the end. There are lots of things I remember, but didn't say in the blog. Perhaps I was either tired, rushed, or spaced out when I posted. It's tempting to go back and edit, but that's just not authentic so I won't do it, except a few songs stick in my mind from certain days, so they get added.

I am working hard back at the office, trying to catch up from being away, and trying to get ahead before the Cannonball Run. Also I am trying to let the kids enjoy the end of summer. Our house has become teenager party central this summer. Hours: midnight to dawn. I remember those good old days and am trying to let the kids have good, clean fun. On a different note, we are at about $3,000 raised for Canine Partners For Life from individuals. I am way behind on seeking corporate sponsors. I need some help with that.

We had a beautiful day here on Sunday. Before our family birthday cookout, I went for a ride with a dozen others from Annapolis to North Beach on the slow green ET2. My scooter couldn't keep up with the faster scooters. It overheated. I had to let it cool off for about 10 minutes and then I kept the speed down to 40 mph. I love the green scooter; it's my first one, but I miss the speed of the big red GTS in Portland.

My oldest child, Hank, goes off to college in a week! He's bouncing off the walls with excitement and nervous tension. Come to think of it, he's a little like I was before I started the big ride.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Day 11: Roseburg to Portland (and Seattle)

I made it to Portland at 10:45 a.m. I went directly to Vespa Portland to drop the scooter off for servicing. It has almost 5,000 miles on it since it left Miami! The muffler is loud and needs the same gasket that was not available before. Sean, the mechanic, was incredibly nice. I fear that some parts may be hard to get in the 4 weeks before the Cannonball Run.

My friends Shakti and Joe drove us to Seattle to meet up with others to see the Seattle Mariners baseball game. I know these people from the website, but that's a story of its own ... It was a beautiful evening for baseball. In the morning I'll drive back to Portland and fly home before returning to Portland in 4 weeks for the west-to-east Cannonball Run. All this riding has finally caught up to me; I am really tired.

[The uneventful flights home the next day don't warrant an entry. On the way home, I did write and send a slew of thank-you postcards to donors to Canine Partners For Life. It felt really good to say thank you. There are so many people who helped with this first half of my ride; if I tried to list them I'd leave someone out. On September 8th I'll fly back to Portland for the west-to-east part of the ride. See for information about that group ride.]

Miles today: 186.
Miles Total: 4389
Total Times I Got Wet: 3 (and for a grand total of about 10 minutes coast-to-coast)
Song for Today: Girl From The North Country, by Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, just because I am listening to it as I type

Day 10: Sonoma Coast to Roseburg, Oregon

I got a late start because the 8-year-old girl in the pickup truck parked next to the scooter in the motel lot kept showing me amazing seaweed and other objects she had dragged up from the beach. It was cold, so when I hit the "large" town of Ft. Bragg, I stopped at a Starbucks to warm up. A retired guy and his wife saw my scooter and started the usual barrage of questions. This was different, though. When I told them about Canine Partners For Life, he unfolded the emergency check in his wallet, and made a very generous contribution on the spot - in fact, it's our largest gift yet!

Remember ... I dropped my helmet yesterday, and the plastic fastener for the flip-up face shield snapped off. Rich gave me some tape, but it did not hold well. In Napa I had stopped at a Safeway and upgraded it to duct tape, which held better. I love duct tape! It's legendary for good reason. Even my iPod Nano is encased in duct tape. But today I decided to look for a motorcycle shop. Coastal riding was cold, and any excuse for a stop was good. But the one in Ft. Bragg was a small Harley shop, and the conversation went like this:

Me (seeing only a couple of Harley skullcap helmets): "I broke my face shield. Do you have a helmet like this one?"

Lovely Harley Racer Girl: "Sorry, our customers don't wear helmets like yours. This is all we have. You'll have to try in Eureka."

In Eureka (the biggest city on the route) I found a real motorcycle shop and replaced it with a different brand, which was less expensive and more comfortable than the broken one. I love unexpectedly finding something different and better out of necessity!

Near Crescent City at the top of California, the scooter got loud, like it was in Oklahoma. A Vespa is just not supposed to sound like a Harley. But eventually I made it to Roseburg, 175 miles south of Portland. It was a little chilly because most of the day was along the coast in the 60s. I have to say it was the most beautiful whole day of riding. The coast was spectacular, the redwoods were majestic, and the scenery on US 199 from Crescent City into Oregon to Grant's Pass was also stunning. I was too worried about the scooter running loud and dusk approaching to fully appreciate that late-day scenery, though. I rolled through Crescent City about 5:30, which was 30 minutes after all the shops closed, so no one was able to look at my exhaust.

Once I got on I-5 heading north at Grant's Pass, I have to admit it was the scariest ride of the journey. It was mountainous, dark, cold, and truck-infested. In the South, they have double-wide trailers, but not on the highway. Out West, they have triple-length trailers on the road everywhere. I was exhausted, and worried about the scooter.

After 45 miles or so, I stopped at Roseburg and found the first hotel. I was supposed to stay with Rob in Portland, but for the first time in my adventure, I was going to have to cut my riding day short. I had not realized that my route called for 610 miles in one day, which was just too much, especially after a late start and many stops to warm up.

Rosedale was very welcoming. At the front desk of the Holiday Inn Express, another guest had just gotten Chinese food. He offered to share it. As we sat down to eat, my friend Shakti in Portland called.

Shakti: "Oh, you're in Roseburg? The people are really nice there!"

Me: "Yeah, I know they're nice, a stranger named Steve is already sharing his Chinese food with me! See you tomorrow morning at Vespa Portland..."

The hotel's internet did not work for me, and the exercise bike was broken, but at least the people were nice in Roseburg, I thought, as I drifted off to sleep... hoping that I'd make the last 180 miles without incident in the morning.

Miles today: 436
Miles Total: 4203
Song for Today: Talk to Me of Mendocino, by Kate & Anna McGarrigle, because the Mendocino County coast was so beautiful

Day 9: Carson City to the Sonoma Coast

I made it from Carson City, Nevada to the Somoma Coast on Wednesday, August 2.

The day started with the group setting out from Carson City. We zipped through Tahoe because Rolf seemed to be on a mission to get home. Even my brief stop to snap the Welcome to California sign was too long. So Rolf and Peter said goodbye as I dropped my helmet and the face shield mount broke on one side. Rich gave me some tape, and Rich and I descended to Sacramento together. There Rich headed south, and I continued west.

As I descended near Folsom a few minutes later, I heard a buzzing noise. Oh, no, the scooter exhaust is coming apart again, I thought. Then I saw a Yamaha sign right before the Folsom exit. I pulled off to have the dealer look at it. Well, the dealer had closed recently, but I found a Mexican restaurant with delicious chicken taquitos next door. I realized the buzzing was just the tape vibrating in the wind!

A few minutes later just past Davis, I got lost looking for Route 128 , and wouldn't you know it, this was the one day that the battery had run down on my GPS, so it was no help. I used my best pathetic Spanish to ask a farm worker to get to Route 128 toward Napa, and it actually worked.

Wow, this was the best riding yet! I thought route 128 between Davis and Napa was the perfect twisty, hilly scooter road. Until, that is, I rode the even more amazing last 35 miles to the coast on an unnumbered road between Geyserville and the coast. Two motorcyclists in full gear snapped my picture as I went by. I turned around and told them of the journey; they were stunned, and took more pictures. I made it to the coast at Stewart's Bay just before dusk. It got chilly fast as I crested the last hill and descended to the coast. A few miles earlier, I'd passed a camp run by the YMCA, another of my favorite organizations. It was 57 degrees on the coast. I was not well dressed for that weather, and it was getting dark and the Sonoma Coast was sparsely populated. Then I saw a roadside deer, which is every cyclist's second-worst nightmare (a dumb deer is still better than a careless driver turning left in front of you), so I got a motel room at the next town. I had a not-so-memorable seafood casserole dinner at a nearby restaurant.I then went on the internet for a few minutes, but I was exhausted and went to sleep right at the keyboard.

I had used the gym at the Carson City casino hotel, bit I was still feeling sluggish from too many days without exercise. Earlier, near the restaurant, I found a gym that opens at 6 am, and I planned to get up early and use it.

Miles Today: 343
Miles Total: 3767
Song for Today: by Get Together, by Jesse Colin Young - because it's so California

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Day 8: On to Carson City, Nevada

We made it to Carson City, Nevada near Lake Tahoe tonight. That stretch of Route 50 is known as "The Loneliest Road." We had a couple of breakdowns, but it really pays to ride with the guy who trained all of the new Vespa mechanics in the USA!

All four of our scooters are the same model, but the hills proved that my scooter was slower than the others by a little bit. Peter could pass me with no effort. I was also getting about 15% less mileage on a tank. Rich and Rolf suspected that I had a dirty air filter, but it was not easy to check.

Around lunch time, we stopped for gas in a cute Nevada town, and Peter noticed a nail in his rear tire. So Rolf got out his flat repair kit and went to work. In 20 minutes, the tire rode like new.

We were on the road again ... or so we thought. Riding out of town, I was really lost in the groove of riding. It seemed like I had only been riding for a moment when Rolf passed me and motioned for me to pull over. Oil was coming from everywhere on Peter's scooter. We sensed a catastrophic breakdown. On closer inspection, the oil dipstick cap had been loose when we used oil to lubricate the tire plug. It was now lost. Rolf sent me back to town to get oil ... and to look for the cap. It was 12 miles back to town, and I knew there was no realistic chance to find the tiny dipstick cap in the scruffy desert. I pulled into a truck repair shop outside of town, figuring they'd have oil, and they might be able to figure out how to cap the oil fill tube in some jury-rigged way.

Rich was our savior. As I dismounted at the truck repair shop, he pulled up with a big grin and the dipstick cap. He'd been behind Peter. He saw the cap come off and went looking for it. Though he knew exactly where it flew off, it was hard to find in the roadside sand. When we found them and presented the cap, Rolf took a few minutes to clean Peter's scooter off and to make sure there was no apparent engine damage from the loss of oil. In the process I learned how to check the air filter, which was good. One has to take a lot of pieces off to get to the air filter.

We rode off, and had no more scooter misbehavior. We made it to Carson City by dark. We stayed at a hotel with a casino but we were too tired to gamble. What Nevada hotel doesn't have a casino, I wonder?

The pix up top are of the "shoe tree" on US 50 in Nevada (I'd never heard of it, but it was magnificent with several thousand pairs of shoes dangling like leaves), and Rolf fixing the flat tire. No rain today!

Miles Total: 3424
Miles today: 489
Song for the Day: Heat Wave (Linda Ronstadt version)

Day 7: Denver to Delta, UT

The scruffy badlands around Moab, Utah are like Marilyn Monroe: beautiful, but not my type. Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, by contrast, is 13 magnificent miles of twisting river, canyon, and lush trees. Today's ride was the most beautiful yet, but I had to keep up with the group so I took few roadside pictures.

Today Rolf, Peter, Rich and I got up early and rode 525 miles from Denver to Delta, Utah. I gave up a chance to ride solo through Jackson Hole, Grand Teton and Yellowstone in return for the safety of a small group ride to California, and a ride up the Pacific Coast from San Francisco. We had a lot of altitude and temperature changes today: up and down, and cold to hot to wet and back to hot.

My old high school friend Seth in Telluride called me back, but it was too late for me to divert through there. Tomorrow we'll ride down Route 50 all day to Lake Tahoe on the Nevada-California border. Maybe I'll post more later, but I gotta get some sleep, 'cause we're doing it all over again at 5 am. Ciao!

The score:
Today's temperatures while riding: high 98, low 55.
Miles today: 525.
Miles total: 2935.
Got wet: twice today, 4 times total.
Got high on scenery: don't know, I lost count fast today!

Monday, July 31, 2006

AmeriVespa in Denver; Westward Ho

This weekend we had about 500 scooterists convene in Denver for the annual AmeriVespa and Lambretta Jamboree. (Lambretta is the Avis to Vespa's Hertz of Italian scooters, except that the Lambretta manufacturer is long out of business.) It was a blast, and it got front-page coverage in the Denver newspaper today. More about that later, but first about the ride.

In the morning I am going to ride west through Colorado and Utah and Nevada with Rolf, Peter and Rich. They rode their scooters here from Northern California. Rolf is a legend in the US scooter world, and his brother Peter started the Vespa Club in Hamburg, Germany 40 years ago! It was tempting to mosey through the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming on my own, and to ride through Jackson Hole, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone. But I was really lucky riding solo for the first six days and I don't want to push it. There is safety in numbers, and we are all riding the same kind of scooter, so we should be able to keep a nice pace. We'll take I-70 until US 50 breaks off from it in Utah, and then take that all the way to Sacramento. We won't go through any big cities, but we'll skirt Lake Tahoe.

I don't know whether we'll have internet access tomorrow night from Utah, but I'll post again as soon as possible.

Of course, seeing as how I rode here from Miami, I did win the prize for riding the farthest to get to the rally. It is a big flat tile, and it barely fits on the scooter, but if I ship it home it might break.

I saw a lot of old friends and made some new ones at the rally. As expected based on my earlier journey, the folks I met from Portland and Seattle offered to roll out the red carpet for me on my journey. Last night I found out how lucky I was when I broke down in Oklahoma City. Someone else was riding the same model scooter as mine from Connecticut, and it had the same part fail in Indiana. Well, that scooter is still stuck in Indiana as I write this. The one person I forgot to thank last night at the banquet was Chad, the mechanic at Vespa Oklahoma who got me back on the road.

Checks for Canine Partners For Life continue to come sporadically, and I got a few cash contributions here in Denver. I got to talk about CPL for a couple of minutes at the rally awards banquet last night. As you may be able to tell from the picture above [once I get pictures uploaded; the software is balking tonight], the banquet was held at Wings Over the Rockies, an Air Force flight museum.

Sorry, I have to get some sleep. I can't set my schedule any more because I'm with a group now, and we are leaving at 5 am. Even making allowances for "scooter time" it will be early.

Song for AmeriVespa: The World, by Brad Paisley.

Friday, July 28, 2006


It's back to Denver in the morning after a few days at the office, and before that a few days with the family in Colorado and Wyoming. At Cheyenne Frontier Days, we saw the rodeo, a parade, Keith Urban and Martina McBride. We went whitewater rafting and horseback riding. Tonight I am going to try to get some sleep (a little at least) instead of pulling an all-nighter , which I did before Day 1.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Day 6: Oklahoma to Denver

Folks, I rode 657 miles since leaving Oklahoma City at 11 pm last night. I made it to Denver safe and sound tonight! Thank you for your support!

I lost my main cell phone somewhere in Oklahoma City last night. It fell out of my riding jacket. I have a backup phone on a different carrier, but all my numbers were on that phone. I couldn't even call Earl, my Denver host, to let him know of my progress.

Between the breakdown and the lost phone, I had a lot of bad luck in Oklahoma, but the people there were fantastic! Vespa Club of America President JD Merryweather graciously suffered through many unplanned extra hours with me. At Vespa Oklahoma, Michael the manager and Chad the mechanic bent over backwards to get me back on the road. They pulled a brand new exhaust system from a new scooter in the showroom to fix mine. Also I have to give credit to Piaggio USA (the national distributor), which sometimes deservedly gets darts for poor and slow customer service. They gave the local dealer permission to strip the new scooter with a promise to replace the part.

As I gained altitude through the Texas Panhandle and then northeast New Mexico today, the air got cooler and drier. The ride became a delightful change from the oppressive heat since Miami. I had to laugh because when Earl met me to lead me to his house, we were in a blinding hail storm. I had never even donned my rain gear on the whole trip, and had managed to not get wet since a brief shower in the Florida Everglades on Friday. We met at the exit for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, which is ground zero for fundamentalist Christianity in the USA. The hail storm was there and only there. I have to wonder if there is a message in that somewhere?

What happened to my scooter in Oklahoma? As far as we can tell, the metallic gasket between the two parts of the exhaust system blew out. We don't know why the oil was low, but we'll be watching it closely and I'll carry some oil. That's something I can monitor without being a mechanic. It's even simpler to check the scooter dipstick than one in a car -- there's no hood to open.

Earl's daughter Kristin from the Denver chapter of the Scarab Scooter Club had a delicious dinner waiting for us. And I finally got to meet her husband Randy and their adorable son, Hudson. We viewed a slide show of my pictures and they gave me feedback about which ones to post. Thank you so much.

Tomorrow I need to replace the cell phone, and also the Canine Partners For Life magnets which fell off the scooter in the rain. I want to give the cause as much visibility as possible. Also most of my family arrives in Denver tomorrow for a few days vacation, so these days will be all about them. And, we'll have to settle for riding in a car ... long sigh.

By the way, I am still going to flesh out the blog with some pictures from the road. So please check back tomorrow. And thanks again for your support!

The score:
Cost of my delicious cheeseburger in the rural Texas panhandle: $1.19.
Number of stops by highway construction crews in New Mexico: 8.
Miles today: 508.
Miles total: 2407 (time for new scooter tires!).
Times I got wet: 1 today, 2 total.
Times I got stoned (by hail): 1.
Today's Song: Amarillo By Morning, by George Strait

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Day 5: On the Road Again

OK, it's Tuesday evening. Thanks to everyone for your support and concern. My scooter was fixed about 7:30 pm, and it seems to be running well. Thank you so much to Chad the mechanic and to the owners at Vespa Oklahoma, and to JD for putting me up! I had a nice sushi dinner with JD and his wife Erin so I'm on the road again to take advantage of the coolness of the evening. I hope to make Amarillo, Texas tonight, but I'll stop when I get tired. I'll add more later, but, honestly, it was probably a good thing that I got a partial day of rest.

[Added later: I only made it to the Oklahoma-Texas border (100 miles short of Amarillo), but that still saved me 3 hours of riding in the hot sun of the day and let me roll into Denver at a reasonable hour.]

The score:
Miles today: 147.
Miles total: 1899.