Sunday, July 29, 2007

God Save the Queen

It was strange to come across the story of Brian May's academic achievement recently. I knew of course, about his pursuits in Astronomy, including his recent co-authoring of the book Bang! No, the strange thing about this news, was that we've been listening to a lot of Queen in the Dragon's Lair lately. I mean A LOT of Queen.
Music is not something that Jes and I agree on very often. She likes acoustic, melodic folk with layered harmonies, and I like, well, I just like to Rock out. I'm generalizing of course, I can appreciate most of her folk favorites, as she can my outlaw country, but I still can't get her to fully recognize the genius of say the Ramones.

But one band we can agree on, is Queen. And not just a grudging acceptance, but we both share a genuine admiration and affection for the band and their music. Of course, we frequently disagree on what their best songs are...

Just the other night we were talking about Queen in general, and Freddie Mercury in particular. And the topic of Mercury's contribution to Gay Rights came up. Now I never really heard of Mercury marching in a Pride parade, or organizing fund-raisers for PFLAG. From what I've read, he liked to keep his private life, well, private. But his sexuality was basically an open secret.

Queen was probably the first band I was ever a fan of. Another One Bites the Dust, and the Flash Gordon soundtrack came out when I was third grade, and had me hooked. A year or so later, the "Rock is Satanic" madness hit the church I was in. While many absurd arguements were brought forth about backwards masking, and hidden meanings in lyrics, these well-intentioned but small-minded folks didn't really have to make any paranoid leaps of logic to indict Queen. I mean, really...

Charges of moral degeneracy against the Stones, the Beatles, ELO, Led Zepplin, and a host of others sounded plausible to my naive and brainwashed young ears. But the slander against Queen, that fell on deaf ears. To be honest, I didn't really understand at the age of ten or so, what homosexuality was, or why some folks thought it was so bad. My reaction was basically, "So What?" I couldn't wrap my head around how music that so fed my soul, was life-affirming, and gave me a tool for building self-esteem could be evil.

In that existential hell which is Middle School, a few years later, where homophobia seemed rule every part of a boy's life, somehow Queen was exempt from the insecure witchhunt of queerness. And mind you, this was in a small bedroom community near a large Army base in Texas. Oh, I remember the urban myth that "We Are the Champions" was the anthem for some national gay organization. Somehow this didn't stick. Even in this most repressed and homophobic environment, where stars like Wham!, and Elton John were highly disdained, Queen was somehow still cool.

I can't really explain it. Even now, I feel some shame for the hate, fear, and ignorance I was at best complacent to, at worst participated in, back in those days. Yet, their were seeds of tolerance planted by Queen, and I have to wonder how many other kids my age shared in that. And perhaps more importantly, how many gay teens were not only given those seeds, but also a lifeline through the outrageous showmanship of Mercury.

Listening to Queen still gives me hope, confidence, and love for myself and humanity. Songs like "All God's People" from Innuendo and "Heaven for Everyone" from Made in Heaven inspire and move me in ways that I think religious services are supposed to, but haven't for sometime.

So congratulations to the soon to be Dr. May.
Thank you to Roger Taylor and John Deacon, whose talents and contributions to the band sometimes seem to get overshadowed.
And Freddie, wherever you are, keep on rockin'.
Everybody else... well, "Get on your bikes and ride!"
For those interested YouTube user Oberon1969 has an awesome collection of Queen documentaries and videos. Check 'em out.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Whew... OK, yeah I been in full-blown scooter-obsession for a few weeks now, and there's more to come... but here's a nice little bit of miscellania as a diversion.

A new Cohen brothers movie! As John Brownlee at Ectoplasmosis says:

When a new Coen Brothers movie comes out, something happens to me: my entire spinal column begins to quiver, from neck to coccyx. The sensation has not paled even after a couple of notably inferior Coen Brothers films: their mediocre remake of the The Ladykillers and the enjoyable but decidedly un-Coen-esque Intolerable Cruelty.
But good lord, this trailer for their upcoming version of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men is stunning. It’s a return to the darker side of the Coens, a throwback to their earlier films like Blood Simple and Fargo. And just from the trailer, Javier Bardem as Chigurh — a violent sociopath obsessed with chance and carrying a cattle gun — looks like he could just be one of the darkest and most frightening villains in Hollywood history.

Watch the trailer... This does look really promising. Amazing cast, and better yet that amazing synthesis of Noir in a gritty American heart-land setting, that the Coen's can do so well.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Tao of South Park

This little video isn't earth-shattering or anything... but it's kinda entertaining... I mean Parker and Stone animating a short reading by Alan Watts in their trademark South Park Style? (Sans fart jokes...)

via Neatorama

Friday, July 20, 2007

More AmeriVespa Wrap Up

The jaw-droppingly glorious scooter above is a 1954 Hoffman Vespa "Koenigin"or "Queen". This was a fantastic piece of scooter-history that was totally new to me. Henrik Harms won "Best Widebody Vespa" for this stunning scoot. You can find a little history about the German branch of Vespa genealogy here. With old-school widebodies, bike-style handlebars, and headlights on the fender and headset, not too mention that crazy standard chrome on the front of the cowls, this ride was really something else. Orin over at Scootin' Old Skool has a picture of this bike with the Pav trailer fully installed... (Excuse me one moment, as I clean the drool off of my keyboard.)

Here is Henrik's compadre Christian's Hoffman. Looking a little more lived-in than the gilded beauty above, it is still a wonderfully functioning piece of history. Did I say functioning? You bet your sweet saddle I did, these guys also won furthest traveled to the rally. They shipped their bikes from Europe to the East Coast (I heard Boston, and I heard NY... so I'm not sure) and rode to Seattle. What's more, they were planning to hit Canada, Mexico, and Cuba on their anachronistic wanderjahr. They have a website, America-by-Vespa, but sadly it is in Deutsch.

Here is another sweet old Wasp that was on display. Man, I dig these old fenderlights!

Great Ceasar's ghost! Is that 60 year old original paint?

And look at those lines! This baby is almost obscene!

There is beauty in pragmatic functionalism as well. This P200E caught my eye, as I strolled the parking lot. Not a shiny show-off scoot, but a hardy daily-runner, just the kind of bike I hope Quell grows up to be. The owner of this bike, Rob, put some miles in himself getting to Seattle. He rode this P from Eureka, in two days. He was obviously proud of the solidity of his little steed, and we talked for sometime about these workhorses of the manual scooter world. I learned a lot in my chat with Rob. When I was discussing my earlier problems with the fuel pipe in my carb, he insisted on opening up his carb, so I could show him exactly what I was talking about. (I noticed he had a hoseclamp holding that connection.) While the outside of this scoot might look a little "ridden hard and put-up wet," everything under that engine side cowl was pristine. The engine looked mint!
Rob also recommended that I try Blue Marble oil. He said he's used this two-stroke oil for years, and it's the cleanest thing he's come across. It burns clean, with little to no smoke, and leaves no deposits or residue in the engine. Not only does it significantly reduce his emissions, but it is also supposedly bio-degradable. Rob really couldn't say enough good about this product. He convinced me to at least look into the oil, which is generally marketed to snow-mobilers. I did some digging on the internet, and did find some independent tests with some promising results. I'll be ordering some here soon... and will of course share my personal experiences.

Speaking of down-and-dirty P-series rats, this bike the "Thunderturd," just really tickled me. Heh, heh, "Thunderturd," brilliant.

I love how the legshield is reminiscent of an old jousting shield, with an area cut out for couching a lance. Plus I'm a sucker for those light protecting grills... I'd really like to find some for Quell.

edit: 07/23/07
Reader Vespabelle writes:
The Thunderturd is owned by my husband Dave McCabe. It's a "fanciful recreation of a Acma Troupes Aéro Portées (TAP) Vespa which was used by the French military in Algeria and Vietnam. There's a nice write up of this bike in Collin Shattuck's book Scooters: Red Eyes, Whitewalls & Blue Smoke.

She is of course refering to this:

an image that shows up all over the scooter web from time to time. Heck, I posted it some time ago...
Still, I think I like Thunderturd better than it's inspiration...

An Other Perspective on AmeriVespa

While I'm still plugging away at finishing up my AmeriVespa coverage, Orin over at Scootin' Old Skool has posted a bunch of cool posts on the the rally....
you should really check them out...
fer-instance he had this video up:

which might give you some idea how many scoots were involved in some of these froup rides... And that's not even taking into account the lone wolves like myself, who showed up, but balked for one reason or another at the group rides.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

AmeriVespa 2007: More Concours and Random Pics

Here's the winner for "Best Custom Modern Manual Vespa", "La Lone Sirena Vaquera"or the Cowgirl Mermaid Diva Scooter. Hmmm... Cattle wranglers and mythological creatures and scooters... and brass even... the universe is definitely strange.

Ooooh, Pretty!

and a closer look at that cowl art. Congratulations, Dawn Brocks, that is definitely one beaut of a scoot!

While there were a few scooters that are heavily mechanically modded and intensely custom painted, many of the entrants leaned towards emphasis on one or the other. Take for instance the Franken-Scoot pictured above. I have to admit, I almost overlooked this radical custom job, due to a newbie's fascination with the superficial aspects of the scooters. However, I was fortunate enough to meet Dave Pettet the owner/creator of this monstrosity. And I do mean monster!
This beast started life as a meek little ET2, 49cc automatic 2-stroke which Vespa discontinued a couple years back. The engine apparently died, so Dave got the deliciously mad-scientist-like idea of transplanting a 172cc Gilera Runner into the chassis. This required a lot of modification to both body and engine... such as installing a radiator into the legshield, and cutting ventilation holes in the legshield. Dave said this was a process he approached with much trepidation, as he needed to maintain the structural integrity of the legshield. I got to talk to Dave at length about his scoot, which he has been working on for two years, and level of mechanical engineering he has put into it is staggering, and obviously a lot of it was over my head.
Eventually he hopes to take the scoot to Booneville to test it's ultimate landspeed. The engine has not been fully broken in, and Dave has yet to have it at full throttle, but he's had it up to 70 mph at somewhere between half and three-quarter throttle! Sheer madness!

Speaking of odd scooters, here is the ride which won "Best Oddity":

This awesomely dieselpunk gem is a 1957 Peugot. I can not describe how sweet it was to see this rare piece of scooter history in person.

Very reminiscent of the Heinkel... see:

OK, this stout German beauty, wasn't in the Concours... it was just out in the general scooter parking... as was this one:

here's another peek at that:

Speaking of Germans, there will be more about the German Invasion of AmeriVespa next time....

AmeriVespa 2007: Concours d'Elegance Pics and More

These pictures and comments are really in no particular order.
There is some slightly more organized coverage available at The Scooter Scoop

One of several severely performance modded Lambrettas. While there were all sorts of crazy modded scoots, it seemed like the Lambretta is really into this kind of thing. There were many really impressive Lammys, a lot of them hailing from just North of border. Indeed, Canadians walked off with many of the trophies this year.

Another beautiful Lambretta. I didn't have a great view of the screen for the slide show during the awards banquet, so I'm not positive, in many cases of who won what. Anyway, here are a few more shots of this 'bretta:

A beautifully restored Sprint.

Same Sprint from the back...

And from the front.

I'm pretty sure this veteran from the Cannon Ball won an award, but I forget which category.

Best Rat bike went to this chopped and duct-taped Vespa

This Blue Angels themed P200 took the Best of Show trophy. A really brilliantly executed custom job.


Custom seat really sets the whole thing off.

But those fins, and that tail-light? Freaking amazing! Just an awesome scoot.

The "Country Sedan". I believe this scoot was entered last year as the "Country Squire." Beautiful Woody Vespa.

This scoot got Honorable Mention last year for "Best Automatic Vespa." There should have been a category this year for "Best Presentation." This looked like the display from some alternate universe scooter showroom. This photo also shows off what a great location for the Concours this was, right by Seattle's Center for Wooden Boats.

I believe this outstanding black customized Lambretta won something, but I can't remember which category.

And here of course is the humble Quell. Which despite the whirl-wind of activity on Saturday, I'm pretty sure won "Honorable Mention" in "Best Custom Modern Manual Vespa." At least that's what the ribbon says...

Coming up next even more pics, both from the Concours and the parking lot in general. Including several of "La Lone Sirena Vaquera", the fantastically custom painted P125 which most deservedly won "Best Custom Modern Manual."
Stay tuned.
(Oh and please let me know, if you know about awards, details on scoots, etc., which I have missed!)

Quell's Maiden Voyage: AmeriVespa At Last!

Are you familiar with the classic Chuck Berry tune, "Promised Land"?

Swing low sweet chariot, come down easy
Taxi to the terminal zone;
Cut your engines, cool your wings,
And let me make it to the telephone.

Los Angeles give me Norfolk Virginia,
Tidewater four ten O nine
Tell the folks back home this is the promised land callin'
And the poor boy's on the line.

Well folks, the particulars are all wrong, but the feeling was the same... and I couldn't get that song outta my head for the first ten minutes I was on site at AmeriVespa.
Gorgeous, magnificient scooters were everywhich way a fella turned his head. It was like scooterist heaven.

I was kinda in a daze, when I pulled in. I asked someone under an awning where one would go to register, and was told not only that info, but also that I should enter Quell in the Concours d' Elegance. Of course, I'd been debating whether or not to do this, since I'd rushed the detailing on Quell, just trying to get on the road. The rails on the floorboard were in desperate need of attention, as was the fendercrest, the wax job I'd done was defintely sub-par (I'd never waxed a vehicle before), he was still leaking oil, and in muscling him in and out of a pickup truck the day before a bolt had broken on the rear-rack, and another on the top-case had lost a nut.
However, I was giddy about having got there under my own steam (so-to-speak), and this friendly recommendation certainly increased my confidence.

At the convention hall, I registered, received my rally pack, and got the details on entering the Concours. I puttered Quell over to the Concours area, and filled out the entry sheet. In my newbie confusion, I think I even filled it out wrong and entered the wrong category. I know I didn't see "Custom Modern Manual" as category on the form.

I heard announcements for various group rides starting, but at this point I just wanted to soak in the scene, and let Quell get stared at, as well as checking out the other scoots myself.

Coming up next, further observations from Saturday at AmeriVespa, pictures of the Concours d' Elegance, and more.

Quell's Maiden Voyage: Day 3

or Getting to AmeriVespa.

I woke up early Saturday, picked up a #6 hose clamp at an auto parts store near Mage and Gretchens' and hopped a bus downtown. The bus ride was a restless, anxious experience, as the closer we came to downtown Seattle, the more pretty scoots I saw...
Finally, I hopped off the bus about a block away from where I'd left Quell, near Pioneer Square. I immediately popped off the right cowl, and dove into the carb. Hose clamp installed on the problematic fuel pipe/tube connection, I kicked over the engine... and he still wanted to die in first.
Realizing that I would most likely miss the SQREAM breakfast, I grabbed a breakfast sandwich and stocked up on water, while looking over the owner's and service manuals for the P.
When I returned to the scoot, I wheeled him over to a nice shady spot in a nearby alley, and paid for 2 hours parking there. Things had been outta whack with the carb, and I'd installed the after-market exhaust without tweaking the jets, so I figured the time had come to really dial in the idle adjustment screw, and air/fuel mixture screw. So I spent more time than I'd care to admit fiddling with adjusters. Eventually, I got it dialed in to where Quell would idle on his own.
Finally, I got on the road to South Lake Union. Downtown Seattle traffic on a Saturday was much more leisurely than I'd feared, and my directions were spotless.
I reached the AmeriVespa event site without any problems, a grin as wide as my mustache, splattered across my face.
I mean, just look at this parking lot!

Coming up next: Tales from AmeriVespa, and lots of pics!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Quell's Maiden Voyage: Day 2

or, Fun with Fuel Systems.

Day 2 of the journey began with attacking the flooding problem which sidetracked me the day before. This involved much more trouble-shooting than I'd anticipated. The night before I'd had the suspicion that the steady oil leak on Quell was limiting the oil that actually got mixed with the gas. If this was the case, maybe I was close to a soft-seize.
Though this assessment was off-base, I did realize that I should start fueling Quell like a pre-mix until I could replace the gasket in the oil reservoir. Some folks actually recommend this for the first hundred or so miles on a new or freshly rebuilt engine. Since Quell's engine was still not fully broken in and had sat, drained of fluids, for at least a year, I figured it couldn't hurt.
So I topped off the tank and added a few ounces of dino oil. I also checked the plug. Still wet, still flooding. Still not shifting into gear without dieing.
The last recommendation in the Vespa service manual for hard starts was check the carb, possibly clean and rebuild. I'd been dreading the prospect of doing my first carburettor rebuild in the parking lot of a gas station. Nevertheless, it was obvious that I had to start poking around in there. I was hoping it would as simple as cleaning the air filter.

Well, the air filter was pretty beat-up looking, and there were some small leaves or dried petals stuck to parts of it. I took it and some spray carb-cleaner down to the air/water machine, and alternated spraying it with carb-cleaner and air, until my time ran out.
Otherwise, the rest of the carb was clean... aside from the pool of flooded fuel mixture, really clean, sparkling clean. I'm not sure if this is because of the low mileage of the scoot, or if the second owner rebuilt it as part of his restoration endeavors.
Reinstalling the air filter, I noticed another significant thing in the carburettor. The metal pipe that connects the carb to the rubber tube that connects to the engine wasn't connected. There was a thin wire circular clip on the rubber tube, which was obviously intended to clamp this connection. The rubber tube was wedged under the pipe ... I guess it had been catching most of the flow, or perhaps it had just been shaken loose?
I connected all of this up, and tightened the circular wire clamp with 2 pliers.
Quell started right up.

Though it took way too long to come to the solution, I felt pretty good about my growth as a Vespa mechanic at this point. Somehow I feel more comfortable wrenching on Quell in public, than any other bike I've had. He just sorta looks like he's meant to be worked on wherever, whenever. Other bikes I've had, when they broke down, I felt kinda helpless and disheartened. I felt like everyone was looking at me like a clueless loser. With Quell I feel like some mad mechanic who's just making some adjustments.

Anyway, at this point I called Mage and let him know when to expect me, as I should be getting just as he's getting out of work, and he works downtown. I then strapped into my gear, and was off to Bremerton.

Belfair to Bremerton was even windier than the ride to Belfair the previous day. The winds on this leg were intense and hair-raising. I was never really tossed around on the lane or anything, but it felt like I could have been at any moment. There was also more traffic than on the previous legs of the trip. I was going just under the posted speed limit, still being gentle on that engine and cautious on new routes with a new bike. There were a lot of cars behind me, most of the road was no passing, and there were few places for me to pull over and let folks pass me. So that was a stressful ride.
Regardless, I was joyous to reach to the Bremerton Ferry Terminal with an hour to spare. I made a few calls to let folks know how things are going, and worked on this report.

Quell, queued at the Bremerton Ferry Terminal.

On the ride to Seattle, I was parked next to a pretty black Triumph Bonneville, and near some bicyclists, one of whom was on a really cool recumbent. I chatted with those nice folks for a while about bikes. The Triumph owner said he once had a Bajaj that he loved.

Quell on the ferry.

Ferry pulling into Seattle.

When the time came to disembark, I flooded the Vespa. I had to walk him off the ramp. I turned the fuel off, pulled the throttle all the way open, and he kicked right to life, and engulfed us in a white cloud of 2-stroke smoke.
We puttered out of the Seattle Ferry Terminal, ecstatic to have made it to Seattle. I puttered right into the nearest parking space. On the ride over, I'd noticed my center stand wasn't square. When Quell is up on the stand he leans to one side or the other, and because of this and the wicked wind whipping through the auto part of the ferry, I spent the whole ferry-ride sitting on top of him. After all that I wanted a cigarette, and to call someone and let them know I'd semi-triumphantly arrived in Seattle.
After this little rest stop, I made it about two blocks before I hit one of those massive downtown Seattle hills. Worse yet, I had a red light at the base of the hill. I tried to charge up it once the light changed, but I missed second and popped it into neutral. Wildly trying to get the bike in gear, I killed the bike. Suddenly I was stuck halfway up a 40 degree one-way street, with a 200+ lb. bike.
I managed to wrestle Quell to the sidewalk where I was able to put him up on his center stand on a conveniently level step. We rested here for a minute, and I took off my heavy Corazzo jacket for the umpteenth time of the trip, to cool down and think for a minute. Eventually, I decided to coast him down the sidewalk to the other street ( a 2-way, whew!) and uh, try to circumnavigate that blasted hill.
Once we were there, I nosed Quell towards traffic, and kicked him alive...
He insisted on dieing when I popped him into first. I pulled him up off of the street onto the sidewalk, and took a look into the carb. Of course, it was full of fuel, and the fuel tube had once again come lose of the pipe.
About this time a beat cop asked me if I was out of fuel. I, of course, told him no, and proceeded to tell him the story of the bike in general, and this particular carb problem. All while I was fixing said problem. Once I'd gotten it fixed, I had a smoke and chatted with the cop about AmeriVespa and a Honda Spree he'd had as a teenager. I finished my smoke, and took Quell out to the street, where he kicked to life...
And you guessed it, sputtered to death, when I tried to pop him into first.
I rolled him back to the sidewalk, and asked the cop, who was still perched over a short brick wall, where I could find good cheap overnight parking nearby.
Fortunately, there was a lot less than block away (down hill all the way!)
At this point it was about 4:30 pm, I was overheated, supposed to meet Mage at his house in less than an hour. I just wanted to get there. I figured again, it would be better to get the bike secured, and come deal with it from a fresher perspective. Besides doing so would eliminate 2 trips over the Fremont bridge, whose steel grating surface, I was not looking forward to crossing.
Gretchen met me at the lot, took a long gander at the paint job, and then we hopped a bus to Ballard. She had to get off before I did, too go do some work at the theater she volunteers at, as opposed to the theatre she'd been at earlier in the day, where she is employed.
When I arrived at their house, Mage greeted me with a shot of Jameson's and a beer. After two days, I'd touched ground in Seattle.

Later, over beers, whilst pub-crawling Ballard, Gretchen suggests I get a tiny hose-clamp to secure the fuel tube to the metal pipe. The simple brilliance of this idea convinced me once and for all, that the Good Lord brought scooters into my life to teach me humility.

Quell's Maiden Voyage: Day 1

or, In Defense of Rednecks

This first report was written in a motel in Belfair, Washington, Thursday, July 12.

I spent the night in a motel, after a routine stop to make sure my tires were maintaining the proper air pressure ended with me flooding Quell. All the usual starting tricks for a flooded 2-stroke were of no avail. Oh, he'd start up for a bit, but would die as I warmed him up, or when I tried to put him into gear and get underway.
It had been a long day, and not only had I missed the ferry that would get me into Seattle in time for the Kymco cruise, I'd also missed any ferry that would get me there before my harried hosts, Mage and Gretchen, retired for the night. I'd be better equipped to tackle the situation with a good night's sleep and a full belly.
Day 1 of the maiden voyage ended with me watching Willie, Waylon, and Kris Kristoffersen in a Western on the Hallmark Channel, in an air-conditioned motel, stuffed with Chinese food.

Did I say it was a long day?
It started with the expected hurried preparations and packing. Tightened up some nuts and bolts, loaded up the top case, and I was off at around 10:30 am. I took Madrona Beach (always a lovely drive) to the Steamboat island turnoff. Topped off the tank, and got my tire pressure dead-on to the specs. Chugged a bottle of water, and pulled onto Highway 101. The highway wasn't as bad as I expected. It was a bright sunshiny day, with little wind at this point. Quell happily cruised at 50 mph in 4th gear. Since he only started the day with 513 miles on his engine, he still wasn't broken in, so I was trying to follow Piaggio's run-in recommendations.

Made another stop at the gas station by Little Creek Casino, for reservation priced smokes, and continued on to finish the 101 leg of the trip.

Turned off 101 onto 3, and faced Quell's first city traffic. OK, so Shelton is certainly not big-city rushhour traffic, but Quell handled all the stoplights, sudden gear changes, and lane changes admirably. It was a few miles the otherside of Shelton, when my troubles began.

A couple of miles before the turnoff to Sky's farmhouse, Quell's rear tire started feeling squirrely. I pulled over onto the shoulder. Sure enough, the back tire had lost half of it's pressure. The valve stem seemed a little weird, and I figured it just didn't reextend properly after being topped off back at Steamboat.

Sky was home, but his car was having issues. So I secured the scene and started trapsing back down to a Chevron I'd passed a couple miles back. My spirit was unfazed by this set back. It was a gorgeous day, and the situation was nothing I couldn't handle. My mindset was buzzing with adventure, this independent road trip being the first in many years. I was in such an adventurous state of mind, I even tried hitch-hiking.

Now, I haven't hitch-hiked since my early twenties, when I was prone to the occasional continent-crossing wanderjahr. But if there's anything to get you feeling young, it's a larger displacement Vespa, and the open road. I tried to thumb down the first few groups of vehicles that flew by with no luck. No big deal. My karma's alright, I pick up hitchers in Oly sometimes, where they are usually harmlessly eccentric Greeners or hipster kids. But I suppose I can understand why no one out in the boonies wanted to pick up a guy with "V for Vendetta" facial hair. So there's a tip for you would be hitching steampunk gentlemen, a Snidely Whiplash 'stache is probably not so good.
Anyway, only a few minutes after I give up thumbin', a big extended cab, extended bed, six-wheeled pickup pulls over in front of me. "Was that your bike back there?" asks a cheerful older redneck from the cab. It wasn't the last time that day, that I silently thanked the Universe for friendly country-folks.
The driver had to go into Shelton for some plumbing parts, and so apologized for not being able to give a lift back to the bike. "No sweat," I tell him, "I'll get a big bottle of cold water with my fix-a-flat, and the walk shouldn't be too bad."
I did, and it wasn't.
At least until about two-thirds of the way back to Quell. There I hit a hill that was no big deal on a 200cc scoot, but weren't too much fun on foot, in the sun, with an already finished bottle of water. Luckily, at about this point, another, different white Ford pick-'em-up pulled over. "Need a ride?"
This driver was named Mike, and he younger and more chatty than the first guy. When we got to Quell he offered to haul it back to his shop when he came back this way in a few minutes. I told him "sure," if I was still struggling, but I figured the fix-a-flat should solve it.
Mike informed me that you aren't supposed to use fix-a-flat on cycle tires. Hmmm...
Once Mike pulled away, I got out the fix-a-flat... Yep, it says right on it "not for use in Motorcycle tires." Well, I thought, the P's tires are different from normal motorcycle tires... plus I just needed to able to limp it up to the Book Farm, where I could air up the spare and put it on. (Note to self: from now on check pressure in, and air up spare, when checking other tires.)
The can of fix-a-flat was really a booger to get connected. While I was fumbling with it, another white truck pulled up, this time it was a State Trooper, who politely asked if I needed assistance. I chatted with him for a bit about Quell, and let him know I had the situation under control. He then took his leave of me.
Mike returned right as I had finally gotten the fix-a-flat connected. I explained to him that I just needed to get to my buddies house, and if I'd ruined the tire, it just gave me an excuse to get some whitewalls. We chatted for awhile about the paint job on the scoot, and he asked about getting some smoke painted on his rear window. The tire filled up and I was on my way. I turned off of 3, and started down Pickering to the Farmhouse.

I made it maybe another 3 miles before I got a sinking feeling in my gut. Quell's posterior was getting wobbly again. I pulled over to the side of the road, and put him up on his center stand...
At least I tried to... The shoulder here was gravel, not an extension of the asphalt like on 3. Gravel and sloped...
Thus did Quell get dropped for the first time. I had a hold of him, so the drop wasn't too bad. But I was on gravel too, and had a hard time getting sure footing to hold him up.
As quickly as was possible, I got him righted and securely propped up on a section of the shoulder that was level and solid. Inspection proved the drop wasn't too severe. There were light scratches on the right cowl, but the barely penetrated the wax, and certainly did penetrate the many coats of clear. The rubber guard on the legshield trim served it's purpose. There were a few deeper scratches to the paint of windshield, but they fit with paint. Now it looks like scratched wood, doesn't mar the finish, so much as help reinforce the illusion of the paint.
At this point I congratulated my self prematurely on not being a total moron. This was just how I'd hoped the paint job would function.

Clever boy that I am, I'd gotten 2 bottles of fix-a-flat. So, I hunkered down once again to the rear tire to hook up the last one. I was so close to Sky's at this point, I just wanted to limp there, and deal with all this in the shade.
This time the fix-a-flat just would not connect to the valve stem. Upon closer examination, the valve stem looked like it had a chunk bitten out of it... Hmmm... Maybe it was too long? I messed around with this for awhile, refusing to accept the obvious, and dreading the idea of pushing Quell all the way to the Book Farm.

Then the fourth truck of the day pulled up. This time it was brownish yellow pickup piloted by a bright-eyed, stubbly faced Bubba who couldn't have been even 21, named Dewayne. He graciously offered to haul Quell and I to Sky's. The road was sloped up enough on that side, that Dewayne was able to pull off the road and back up perpendicular to the shoulder, his open tailgate almost level with the shoulder. We were thus able to roll the Vespa onto the truckbed, with only tiniest amount of lifting. Brilliant.
A short ride, and we unloaded Quell in the shade of Sky's garage without incident. I said goodbye to Dewayne, and reiterated my gratitude. Then I went into the Farmhouse and found one Sky Cosby in his natural habitat, ensconced behind a wall of books.

Sky and I both needed breaks at this point. I have a beer with Sky, as I was sure that between changing the tire, and cooling down both physically and mentally, it would be at least 2 hours before I'd be back on the road. Brews in hand, we went to peek at the tire.
After a brief look, Sky proposed that rather than the valve stem being long, it was probably facing the wrong way...
Did I say I'm not a complete idiot?

Sky consoled me with a quote along the lines of "an expert is someone who has made all the possible mistakes in a given field of knowledge." So at least I know I'm working towards something...
We had a nice chat about attention, mental focus, the boneheaded mistakes you make when attention wavers, and about how Buddhism is really less a religion, than a set of cognitive tools for maintaining mental focus. We checked out Sky's small but beautifully landscaped garden.
Eventually, I headed back to Quell, where I got the spare inflated and installed in a jiffy. It went very smoothly, and the tire got put on the correct way this time.
Changing tires is really easy on old Vespas, fortunately. Why, I was bragging about that to Jes, just the other day, right after ***ahem*** I put the tire on the wrong way.

Anyway... I got the tire squared away, updated Gretchen and Mage as to my progress, and got back on the road. Just as I was leaving Sky's I noticed how much the wind had increased.
But, aside from some buffeting from wind, the next few miles go by uneventfully. I wasn't very comfortable on this stretch of the trip. Two lane rural highway, lots of hills and twisties, but I was unfamiliar with it, and on a bike that was new to me, and which I wanted to break in gently. So I wanted to take it slow, but there were few places for cagers to pass.
I stopped in Belfair for a break as much as to check air pressure. Which brings us back to where this story started.

The picture above was taken Thurs. evening at the gas station in Belfair, where Quell spent the night. Sorry, this was about the only photo I took that day, since I was preoccupied by technical issues. You can see the web gallery of my Seattle AmeriVespa 2007 photos here, though. And of course, I'll be posting a lot more as the story of the Dragon's AmeriVespa Adventure continues...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Video from AmeriVespa 2007

It looks like it may take a bit longer for me to get my full reporting of AmeriVespa 2007, and Quell's maiden voyage posted. Originally I was planning on leaving today, but at last count there are three real (i.e. stocking parts for manual 2 strokes)scooter shops in Seattle. While I've gotten the P running better than when I left, I've got a few questions that I'd like to pose face to face to a professional scooter expert. Plus, I've never set foot in an actual old school scooter shop, and since I've got the time, it would somehow seem wrong not to.
In any case here is some YouTube footage of some of the scoots that swarmed the Emerald City this past weekend.

Some other great reports from AmeriVespa 2007 are showing up on the web. Orin O'Neill, who did a great job helping to organize the rally as a volunteer from the Vespa Club of Seattle, has a slew of posts on his blog, Scootin' Old Skool. Orin, it was a pleasure meeting you Saturday night, many thanks to you and all your Seattle scootering crew who made the event such a blast.

Though Steve Guzman was not able to attend, (***sigh*** I was really hoping to see his T5 in person) he did have a man on the scene, Lawrence Hsu, who gave The Scooter Scoop some first rate dispatches (with photos!)
The Scooter Scoop also has a link to some photos of Dawn Brooks stunning cowgirl mermaid diva themed P, named La Lone Sirena. Though these pics are from an earlier rally, they'll give you a nice look at the scoot that beat out Quell for Best Custom Modern Manual Vespa. Believe me, this is a gorgeous ride, and it's an honor to have been runner up to her.

Well that's it for right now. The Dragon's own indepth travel log and perspective on the rally should be up by Wednesday.

AmeriVespa: a Brief Report

Howdy Y'all,
The Dragon is still in Seattle following AmeriVespa, crashing at Mage and Gretchens'. I'm working on much more indepth reporting from AmeriVespa, but just wanted to let those who could not attend know a few things. Though I didn't get to participate in the rally nearly as much as I would have liked, I had an AMAZING time! I can not describe my unbridled joy at diving headfirst into a sea of cool scooters and more importantly, cool scooter loving people. It seems that somehow scooterists are a group of folks who have their heads in clouds, and their feet firmly on the ground.

I can not describe the feeling I had when I puttered Quell into the event site at South Lake Union yesterday. I felt like the mellow stoner kid at his first Dead show. I think it took at least two hours before I was able to wipe the feces consuming grin off of my face.

Almost as striking a natural high was when at the awards banquet they announced that Quell, the Steampunk Vespa, was runner up, Honorable Mention, for Customized Modern Manual Vespa. Not too shabby for my first custom paint job, on my first Vespa, at my first rally, after my first ride on the scoot.

In true award winner style, I have to thank my sweetie, Jes, for all of her support and inspiration through the life of this project.

Anyhow, stay tuned to the Dragon, for a lot more stories (and pics!) from AmeriVespa.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ballad of the Steampunk Vespa: Part 3 Airbrush Breathes Life Into Scooter

Here again, is Quell, the Steampunk Scooter. In this pic, you can see the engine side cowl, where a convenient cog-shaped portal allows a clear view of the boiler's flames. I'm not sure how or when I decided on doing wood graining. I would have loved to hasve wood-grained the legshield... heck, I may yet, if I ever get access to a shop.
See, I think the wood works really well with the 80's angularity of the cowls. Softens it somehow.
Here we have the left handcowl, which allows the operator a clear (and perfectly safe) view of the workings of patented Tesla coil electro ignition system. Beneath this cover are the battery and spare tyre. If you click on the picture you will see a larger version, where the keen of vision will notice the aforementioned etherally scripted "Quell." You may also notice this brass scollwork protects one from gears within, whilst still allowing a view of their clock-like movement. I have to apologize for the quality of these pictures. They were all taken at night... as daylight hours have been spent on the final efforts of making the scoot road-worthy.
The beautiful and ample trunk. Transforming this vintage fiberglass topcase (donated from Jes's Sprint) into a small wooden steamer-trunk was one of the most enjoyable parts of this whole process. In the future, I'd like to give it a couple leather straps around the circumference, to finish off the steamer-trunk vibe.
Another angle on the Vespa's left posterior.

The top of the trunk.

This is my favorite picture of the trunk, so far. The flash gives some idea of how some of the layers of irridescent and metallic paint reflect and glow.It really gives the wood warmth which helps soften the angularity of 80's design.

Here's a close-up of the boiler. Though I really wanted to paint the flames with airbrush, I drop the airbrush right before this stage, so most of the flames were done with a regular brush. I think they turned out pretty good, regardless. To do them properly with an airbrush (because they are so small, like 3' by 4")I'd need an Iwata Micron...sigh... someday.

And last but not least, here is the front of the Steampunk Vespa. Simple, but I like it. This was stencil from a Dover book on Victorian embelishments. A similar but different design is on both sides of the fender as well. I like the shield design, it seems American without being too wrapped in the flag.

You can't really see it in these shots, but I coated the floorboards with truck bedliner and a no-slip coating. I also put a black rubber guard around the edge of the legshield.

Well Yikes! It's late. I've got a lot more to say about the Steampunk Vespa, and better pictures will be available shortly.So stay tuned for those, meditations on "why a steampunk scooter?", and goodies from Amerivespa. By the by, I'll be away at AmeriVespa for the next few days, so there will likely be a lapse in posting, and a delay in comments getting published. Don't worry, there'll be a lot cool weirdness next week. So be as strange as you wanna be, just don't be a stranger.