Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kelowna: Feed A Bear: T-shirt Patch

When you attend most scooter rallys they usually have rally packs available for purchase. These "packs" contain all the information you require, as well as sponsor advertising and discount coupons, buttons, pins, "junk", CD's, other useful scooter stuff and most likely, a T-shirt with the Rally's theme printed on the T-shirt, which changes from year to year. The costs to produce these packs exceeds the purchase price which is usually offset by sponsor "donations". This year the T-shirt was Black, like this:


The Images on this yellow patch changes each year as well as the colour of the T-shirt. (last year the shirt was Brown, and the year before it was Green)

There are not many who know, but this year this image has a special significance for me, personally. And I shudder every time I see it. I mean, how would anyone know to make a patch with a scooter lying on its side. I am even a little hesitant to wear it for fear that the image will come true.

I posted this picture (on a previous post):

It was during our LONG ride from Vespa Kelowna up through Vernon then down WestSide Road heading southbound. We had a large group of scooters, both vintage and modern TnG's. There were a few breakdowns and a couple of us were travelling with a couple of scoots that appeared to be overheating. When this happens they lost nearly all of their power. If you have ever ridden on Westside Road then you know that there are lot of twisty sections and there are lots of steeper than normal hills, but the view is spectacular as it follows Lake Okanagan all the way down to Westbank. When these little scoots lost their power, inevitably it would be on a hill, and this particular one was steeper than normal. During the previous "stops" we usually waited 15 mins or so. This time we stopped on a particularly steep section with barely any shoulder on the cliff side and I thought since we were stopping anyway, that I would take the opportunity to "not waste time" and take some pictures with the Lake in the background.
I pulled the scoot close to the edge and found that the kickstand was on a very little patch of gravel. This was not good. I backed it down a little and moved it more onto the asphalt. I thought that it was secure. I got my camera out, took some pictures and chatted with Todd for a while. I looked over at the scoot and it appeared to be on a different angle than I remembered, so I decided it was time to move it back to the correct side of the road.
BUT, it was too Late . . .

Just as I got to the left rear of the scoot and only a second or two from grabbing the handlebars, it happened so fast, that it was like "slow motion" . The scoot was tipping over, and if my leg had not been there to brace its fall, it would have tumbled over the cliff (end over end). The picture looks deceiving, it is quite steep and you cannot get a firm footing because of the dirt. There I was with the scooter on top of me with the wheels pointing in the air. It was below horizontal.
Todd came running over to my rescue. He grabbed the handlebars and I tried to pull up on the rear grab rails, but there was no way I could get the scoot off my leg. The scooter has a dry weight of approx 480 lbs, plus gas, etc and other stuff, like cameras, chargers, top case, stuff under the seat, like tools etc. So I would imagine that there was over 550 lbs of dead weight that we could not lift. We gave it an extra "tug" and I got my leg out, but there was no way to get the scooter upright.
Lucky me, just at that exact moment, as we were pondering what to do, 3 sport bike riders came around the corner. I waved and now we had the 5 of us pulling and pushing and between all of us, we got the scoot upright on the asphalt. I crossed my fingers that it would start, because there was no way I could push all this weight uphill to the other side of the road. Whew, it started just like normal, and the adventure was over. No damage what-so-ever, 'cept a rub mark from the saddlebags, and some marks on the left mirror.
I am usually so very careful but just remember, a picture is not worth losing a scooter over. My brand new Xciting 500Ri was almost toast.

Monday, July 28, 2008

SOB: Hamster Run 3 - July 2008

SOB: never thought that I would want to be an SOB, that's Scooters of Bellingham if you didn't know. Last weekend was their Hamster Run 3 Scooter Rally. It's the third year that they have organized a rally and it keeps getting bigger and better. Rumour was that this year was the largest rally ever, I heard someone counted 82 scoots. Of course not everyone could go on the group ride as some SOB's had to go to the BBQ site to get the food ready for dinner after our long ride to LaConner, WA . Bellingham is a mere 60 miles from Vancouver, BC but border waits have become a huge headache due to security measures and the last time we crossed we had to wait over 3 hours, but now we are prescreened and are perceived to be less of a risk for now we are Nexus registered. We have allocated a special lane for Nexus users and while he regular line was probably over an hour, we only had to wait for the one car ahead. I remember the last time I crossed in the Nexus lane they (Homeland Security Agents) asked a multitude of questions and even questioned whether my scooter was legal to travel on the freeway (I-5). This time I was nearly waved on through without so much as a 'wink'
We had arranged to meet on the US side at the BK parking lot in Blaine,WA, but as I have a sensitive stomach I needed to get some breakfast at the "Golden Arches" while en-route, and I was joined by Brian on his Vespa 150. It is always better to travel in a small group so as to take advantage of photo OPS.
Before you ask, NO we are NOT LOST. That dead end is along the waterfront and leads to an Old Pier.
That marina on the "other" side is part of the Semiahmoo luxury resort just north of Birch Bay. As Brian is on his PX150 we had previously planned to take the backroads into Bellingham. We zig zagged our way over farmlands and rural roads, (got lost once, don't tell anyone) and we eventually reached our destination
The major sponsor for the Hamster Run 3 rally is Chispa (basically VespaFairhaven). Chispa is hosting the Breakfast starting at 9am
We arrived just past 9am and already there were dozens of scooters there. Breakfast was in full swing. Juice, coffee supplied by Tony's, and an assortment of Breakfast burritos, donuts, fruit plate, more than enough to get your human batteries recharged.


I also had the pleasure to meet "Safety ED" (you can read about him on Orin's Blog

Around Noon we leave on our group ride. We take Chuckanut drive south and our route takes us through farmland and about and hour and a half later we arrive at LaConner and have some time to explore the gift stores and have an ice cream. Many restaurants have their sundecks overhanging the water. This is a view of the Rainbow Bridge.

At a parking lot down in Bow-Edison we have the pleasure of meeting the SOS's, short for Scooters of Skagit, although I heard that perhaps they should have been called Seniors of Skagit. The SOS's are a sister scooter club to the SOB's


Here we are waiting for the light
It's a lucky thing we have "blockers" to make it easier for our WHOLE group to stay together, as otherwise our group would be segmented by all the red lights.
As you attend more scooter rallys you will notice more familiar faces. It gives you a chance to stay in touch and rekindle/renew friendships. It was a great day to be a scooterist.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ride Report: Feed a Bear Scooter Rally, Kelowna, BC

Due to high gas prices it seems that everyone is talking about fuel economy and Miles/Gallon (MPG). I bought my scooter for the enjoyment of riding, but I must say that good MPG’s are a welcomed bonus. Like a lot of you I used to ride Motorcycles for many years (actually since the mid ‘60s). I have had large bikes and have for many years kept a motorcycle in the background. Even when I got into scooters a few years ago. I believed that each machine, whether scooter or motorcycle had its intended purpose, but as time when on it was the scooter that got most of the use.
I am trying to scale back on my insurance expenses and decided that perhaps a maxi-scoot would fill the bill. So I ordered my Kymco Xciting 500Ri last January, and finally received delivery around mid May, 2008 . It was a much heavier machine than my Bet&Win 250 (BW250). It is harder to roll around the garage/carport, but surprisingly it feels more agile while under its own power. The weight is low and it balances easily. There was a short learning curve to control it on slow speed maneuvers - you had to be more aware of weight shifting and counter steering. Initially, I was a little intimidated with its weight, but I have now gotten used to it and it feels perfect. I feel that it is the perfect combination of power, size and economy.
My original intention was to see if the X500Ri would be able to replace my motorcycle (Suzuki SV650nK4), thus I would be able to reduce my stable with one less bike (and Insurance expense). With this in mind I decided that I would take each of these machines away for a weekend and form an opinion.
Last weekend I took my X500Ri to Kelowna for the Feed a Bear Rally. I rode a combination of highways and secondary roads and can also make a comparison between my BW250 (which I took to Kelowna last year). I originally thought that I should have kept my BW250 (for city and urban use), and use the SV650n for out of town and highway travel. Hope I am not confusing the issue between these 3 bikes, but I thought you would like to have my opinion on the BW250 as a general commuter and sometimes highway vehicle.

Kymco Bet&Win 250:
I purchased this new last March, 2007. It was my commuter vehicle. I found that I could travel on most highways without problem. It was nimble in city traffic and had the power for the occasional highway spurts. There were no problems in using the BW250 around the lower mainland area of Vancouver, BC and even short bursts to White Rock and Langley using major highways and cruising at speeds around 60-65 mpg (~100-115 kph) . Due to its small size and weight I just never felt comfortable enduring these speeds on the highway for more than an hour or so. The engine was buzzing at high RPMs , I am sure over 7k rpms. On long flat stretches I could get it up to 125 kph indicated on the speedo, but I did not have a GPS back then so do not know the true speed, but I would guess that it was at least 10% optimistic.
Then last year I went to Bellingham to attend the Hamster Run 2 rally. On our return to Vancouver that night we took I-5 to the border, then Hwy 99 back to Vancouver. All the while we were travelling at 115 kms indicated. Sure it would go a little more but we were already doing over 7K rpms and the engine felt buzzy. While there was a “little” more throttle left the engine would make a pulsing sound as you tried to go faster. In retrospect it probably needed a valve adjustment/inspection, which my dealer did not do on my initial inspections.
Then last year I rode the BW250 to Kelowna for the scooter rally. We took Hwy 1 to Hope, then Hwy 3 to Princeton, Hwy 5A to the Coquihalla connector, and followed Hwy 97c eventually into Kelowna. From Hwy 1 to Hope we were travelling around 115 kms (all speeds are as indicated on the speedometer- not GPS corrected). It felt as if the scooter was running at capacity with not much more power in reserve. The highway was more or less flat with slight gradiants so you could easily maintain your speeds. It was different past Hope, BC as Hwy 3 is more mountainous. The BW250 just struggled on the hills. 115 kms quickly reduced to 95 and the engine felt very labour intensive. As the BW250 is carbureted gas mileage suffered badly. As you decrease your speeds on these long hills you tend to hold the throttle wide open as if to coax the engine to gain more speed on its uphill climb, all the while as you are slowing down. My riding partner was on a Vespa GTS250ie, which was fuel injected. The two machines are very comparable as to power but the difference was in the gas usage. At every gas stop (while through the mountains) the GTS just sipped fuel while the BW250 was spilling excess unburnt gas out the exhaust. These numbers that I am giving you will give you the idea of what I am trying to convey. We both filled up our tanks at Hope, BC and travelled in each others footsteps. At Princeton, BC , the GST took approx 5+ liters of fuel, while the BW250 used over 7+ liters. It was the same at every gas stop along the way. Every time the GTS required less gas and the BW250 consumed more. We took Hwy 5a to the Coquihalla connector (Hwy 97C) and continued Eastward over the mountains. The Coquihalla highway is a mountain highway. Steep and long grades. All the hills are killer hills and just don’t stop. You seem to be climbing for hours. Our speeds for most of the uphill portions were around 95 km, you just could not maintain anything faster, the engine was just struggling just to maintain momentum. Also remember that these are indicated, actual would probably be under 90 kms due to speedo error. The Coquihalla has a posted speed of 110 kms so all the traffic approach very fast from behind so it is a very stressful hour and a half before we can descent into Westbank and into the Okanagan Valley for a more leisurely ride into Kelowna. I decided on that trip last year that while any 250cc scooter would be fine for urban use, but not for highway or mountain travel, at least not for long distances. Perhaps on the flatlands of the Prairies, Arizona or Montana, but not in the mountains of British Columbia.

Kymco Xciting 500Ri:
I’ve had this for nearly 4K kms so now I have formed an opinion as to its performance and gas usage. While it is primarily my commuter vehicle going to and from work is 50 kms/day. Plus I use it most of the time while my car remains parked. Remember that these are real world numbers and Vancouver has NO infrastructure for moving traffic. All freeways and highways stop at the city limit. In an effort to reduce speed, or as they call it “traffic calming” there are signal lights every few blocks (it seems), and none of these lights are “synchronized” . It is a deliberate plan to make you wait at every light and idle your precious gas away and encourage you to take public transit. Stop and Go city driving usually nets 20 km/liter, which works out to around 47 mpg US (or 57 mpg Cdn Gallon).
As previously mentioned I took the X500Ri to Kelowna this past weekend. I logged over 1,100 kms over 3 days on a variety of mixed roads, which included 150 km of slow 20 km speeds on a group scooter ride with 49cc Piaggio Flys which certainly reduced the MPG. Also not to mention that while refueling at an unfamiliar brand name gas station I was not paying attention and the fuel shut off did not work and I spilled a “pool” of gas on the ground (so I left there in a hurry before they saw that it was me). The nozzle was in the fuel filler neck and spilling a torrent of gas out the “overflow” (onto the ground).

From my records, here are the numbers:

Total distance travelled: 1,125 kms
Liters used: 47.05
Total cost (Cdn $$) $68.16
Ave kms/liter 23.898

All of this computes to:
MPG, US gallon (3.785 ltrs) 56.535
MPG, Cdn gallon (4.54 ltrs) 67.812

We had a group of 6 scooters travel the slower route on the way to Kelowna, which included a Vespa GT200. It was decided to by-pass the Coquihalla Highway in order to maintain a slower speed with less stress (with shorter hills). The X500Ri got the best MPG on this section (of 60 MPG, US gal) as we rarely went over 90 kms, perhaps except on the downhill stretches where we gained a little more momentum.
On the return I decided to take the Coquihalla Highway so as to get back to Vancouver on the most direct/faster route. It is nearly 100 kms longer to go the slow way. Remember that you have to climb never ending hills on the way “up the mountain”. Unlike the BW250 from last year, the X500Ri could easily maintain the 110 km/h speed limit and could actually accelerate up the steepest slopes. For those who have never travelled on this Highway it is a limited access speedway. It is fenced all the way with few exits/entrances, and NO services, basically through wilderness with fast changing weather conditions. It could be sunny one moment and hailing the next and last week was no exception, high wind gusts. Imagine, just a short 3 or so weeks ago they had a major snowfall and it’s July ! I wanted to see what the X500Ri could do so I twisted the throttle a bit and that accounted for higher fuel consumption on this return leg of the trip. I think with relative flat roads, at constant speed with gradual acceleration, this maxi-scoot should be able to maintain around 60 mpg (US gal)
As a comparison, on my BW250 last year on this same highway I got the worst gas mileage. I only got approx 18.5 km/liter with the BW250 (approx 44 mpg, US gal). Did I say it was just struggling to maintain 95 km/h. Needless to say that the X500Ri got a much better fuel mileage than the BW250 under the same conditions at a much safer speed. Was around 22 km/ltr (~ 52 mpg, US gal). The larger engine wins, more fuel efficient at highway speeds through the mountains. The X500Ri feels very stable at higher speeds due to heavier weight. The wind turbulence from other vehicles (trucks) do not affect is as much. I am also sure that the larger diameter wheels also contributed to a safer ride. The engine is very quiet, hardly any noise at all, only the sound of the wind. All in all I like the X500Ri very much. It does the job effortlessly.

Ride Report, in pictures:

We left Vancouver about mid morning, refueled in Hope, BC then continued on our way. Not far from Hope on Hwy 3, at the top of the hill you arrive at the Hope Slide viewpoint.
Imagine one rainy night a long time ago half the mountain collapsed and buried the valley with rock and debris at places up to 200 ft deep. The highway had to be diverted to the west side of the lake.

Eventually we arrive at the Manning Park Lodge . We decided that if the weather co-operated, then we would drive the 8km up the switchbacks to enjoy the views at the Cascade Lookout:


Looking downward you can see the Manning Park Lodge and their facilities.
It's a good place to stop for a washroom/refreshment break and have a meal at the restaurant if you are hungry.


Kelowna is in the middle of our Wine Country, and there are many vineyards with excellent views of Okanagan Lake.

Would you just love to have a home here:

Westside Road is a popular destination for local bikers. Lots of twisties and excellent views of the Lake.

On the way back I took the Coquihalla Highway to Merritt, BC. As a measure to attract more tourists into the area the city of Merritt hosts the: Merritt Mountain Festival and part of the beautification plan was to commission artists to paint the images of famous country artists on the walls of buildings.



Last year there was a special ceremony to unveil this likeness of Elvis. It was attended by the Premier of British Columbia, Hon Gordon Campbell
It is the only likeness of Elvis, authorized by EPE (Elvis Presley Enterprises), in another country outside of the USA.

Hope you enjoyed tagging along

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Departure of my old friend

Well, the Feed a Bear Rally 2 in Kelowna is nearly upon us. I have been making preparations and getting the Scooters ready for our ride to Kelowna, BC on Friday, 2 days from now. Now we did a more or less long distance dry run to Hope last weekend and put on 395 kms which is very similar to the one way distance to Kelowna. I know that I am ready, and my scoot is ready. All systems GO . I also brought my new scoot in for its first service a couple of weeks ago and to check over everything. What was supposed to be a routine ride to Kelowna with a few friends has turned into a challenge to also bring my vintage Lambretta GP200, or should I say, my previous vintage Lambretta
You see I have sold my Lambretta SIL GP200 to a friend who lives in Calgary, AB . The idea being that I was going to have it ready for him to attend the Scooter Rally in Kelowna this coming weekend (sponsored by Vespa Kelowna). We have just run out of time. All of our delivery options have conspired to work against us and we have just run out of time, so now my friend Kory is flying out to Vancouver on Friday morning to join us on the ride back to Kelowna.
I had originally arranged for space in a friends Van, then that fell through. Others are not going, others have said "their trailer is full", no room, sorry. Oh well, it is an adventure in the making.
The scooter is a MotoItalia restoration. It has a new engine which is just at the broken in stage, everything is new so I think it should be able to make the trip, but it is, after all a vintage scooter . . . cables may break, it may overheat, who knows what else may go wrong
Kory has been doing a lot of legwork and I think that our major obstacle will be the long downhill stretches with little or no throttle as it is a 2-stroke and gets lubrication from the oil in the gas - so no gas means no lubrication. Anyway, I think we are up for the challenge
I have ridden the Lambretta a few times during the past few days and there is nothing like a manual shifting 2-stroke machine for the thrill of times past. Old technology at its best, and innovative Italian styling for its time. Old skool kool .

I may not be able to post anything for a few days (until after the weekend). Tomorrow I will be busy packing up the scoots for our Lambretta adventure. And bright and early Friday I will be at the airport to pick Kory up, bring him to his scoot and we will be on the road. I know that my Lambretta will be going to a good home and get more use than I was able to give it. Goodbye 'old friend' and I hope that you will like your new home in Calgary, AB

Monday, July 14, 2008

Coquihalla "Othello" tunnels, Hope, BC

Last Saturday we went on a little ride to Hope, BC. Our group (2 vespas and a Kymco) started early in the morning with the intention of taking backroads to enjoy the scenery and our beautiful summer weather. I don't believe that summer is finally here and hopefully stay for a while.
The Lougheed highway is a peaceful alternative. We scoot our way through miles of farmland and lots of "country perfume" . Traffic is light and we are content to wave them by so we can ride at our relaxed pace. After all, we are on our scooters and are in no particular rush to get anywhere fast. Once in a while we stop to stretch our legs. Often photo ops pass us by as there are not that many safe places to pull over.
Can't pass up an opportunity to take a picture at the Sasquatch Inn, near Hemlock Valley. There are usually lots of Bikers here but I suppose that we are too early for them
Don't you think that our scoots just fit in nicely between the Harleys ?
A little farther along we are still on Hwy 7 between Agassiz and Hope, BC
We finally make it . . .
After a quick W/C break and refreshments at this nice coffee shop
We play tourist and get another photo op at the Rambo Site. Hope was the setting for the first Rambo movie "First Blood"
Many of us pass through Hope on our travels and most only think of this little town as a "gas" stop on the way to somewhere. Not many people know that there was an engineering feat just on the outskirts of town where they had to blast tunnels through solid rock through Coquihalla Canyon for the Kettle Valley Railway. The Railway shut down around 1961 and the tracks have been removed, but the tunnels remain as a tourist attraction
From the parking lot we walked along the old railway bed beside the fast flowing river and we eventually get to see our first glimpse of what we had come to see
While it was a very hot day, at least it was hot because of all the protective gear we had to wear while we ride . . . inside the tunnels, it was very cool, sort of like having natural air conditioning, and a little breeze too
Here is another view from the inside
Today the parking meter/ticket machine was broken so we only had an hour before our time expired so we headed back to our scoots and started our journey back to town
We took a short diversion to Cultus Lake and while it was late in the day there were lots of people just enjoying their day on the water.

Oh Oh, almost forgot, one of us took a test ride on a Mana 850


This is a technological wonder from Aprilia. it is a 7 speed CVT type auto/manual transmission with paddle shifters, and NO clutch lever. Also the "gas" tank is really storage as it opens up to accept a 3/4 helmet. The Fuel is under the seat.

It was a really great day with great friends; Emilia, Lise and we were also joined by Richard for our return ride to town (Burnaby/Vancouver)

One last chance to say our goodbyes, until next time . . .

Today I logged 395 kms , in 12 hours, got home at around 10PM just in time to go out for a late dinner.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shaniko to Fossil, Oregon

I must say that this is one of the best Motorcycle roads we have been on, it's just that we didn't bring the motorcycle this trip, but that doesn't make it less enjoyable
I didn't believe my eyes. The switchbacks just didn't stop and there was that nearly 360 degree "first" turn to navigate. I just love it when I see those "slow to 15mph" signs
You can just see what I am talking about on the right side. A little farther down the hill we came upon a Harley cruiser group and just let them all ride by. I think it is just safer for them to maintain their formation without us being in their way.
Shortly we came upon this little town of Antelope. Well it shows as a town on the Official Oregon map we obtained at the visitors information but really it is just one building and a few homes in the middle of nowhere.
It sure looks deserted with all these old and abandoned buildings. We continued on our way, nice twisting road and all banked on the correct angles. No wonder bikers love this road and we saw a lot of bikes today. When we reached Fossil we saw all the bikes parked outside of the local pub. It was a very warm day and I they need to replenish their liquids. This town had a court house and a small downtown grid. We saw this car dealership which looked like it belonged in the 50's. Perhaps it was restored.
We are in a semi-arid / desertlike area of Oregon Hwy 218 and passed by John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
There so many things to take photos of but as you will notice, Oregon roads have a steep embankment and often they do not give you enough room to pull over. I often wonder how the pioneers travelled 100 years ago in their wagon trains with no roads to guide them along.
We left Fossil and continued north to Condon
Hmmm 45th Parallel and we live on the 49th parallel. Just an interesting sign
at Condon we decided to branch off to Hwy 19 then west to Ione. We passed through beautiful farmland, or where they wheat fields. I'm not much of a farmer, perhaps they should post some signs showing what the crops are for us city folk.
We drove through miles and miles of rolling hills with all these brown plants on them. Here is a closer view of what I think are wheat fields
These must be very large farms, this is all you see for miles in every direction. We continued on Hwy 19 to Arlington then right on I-84 the south road along the Columbia "Gorge" until we arrived at Biggs, Oregon and crossed this bridge into Washington State
Not very far, Eastward high on a cliff we saw this sign . . .
We must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and landed in good 'ol jolly England.
More to say next time . . .