Archive for July, 2007

Ride to Work Profile: “Scooterriffic”

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Today’s RTW Profile features another scooterist, another “Vesparado”.

She lives in Adelaide, Australia, and I became aware of her by the frequent posts she puts up on the Modern Vespa forum. The photo you see below is a larger copy of the image she uses as her “avatar” there.

“Scooterriffic” prefers that her real name remain a secret, so I cannot publish that here. In her Ride to Work essay, she uses a lot of Australian slang, which I will do my best to translate. My comments will be in italics.

If you have any questions about what you read here, please address them to the comments section.

The face that graces so many posts on the Modern Vespa forum.

“Scooterriffic” says:

My normal ride to work is too short to bother describing. About two kilometres through a few leafy terraces, with a one hour stop for two double shot long blacks and a browse of the national broadsheet on the way to the office.

For the next few weeks it’s a little different. I am house-sitting for a friend. Or more accurately, dog, cat and chook-sitting in a suburb by the sea to the north-west of Adelaide, increasing my commute to 40 plus k’s a day.

“chook” means chicken.

This is the first time since I bought the Vespa that I have had to visit a service station more than once a fortnight.

Semaphore and the Port Adelaide area is a great part of town. Old pubs that haven’t been turned into renovated meat markets selling boutique beers. No way! This place has a great sense of community and pride that comes from its working class roots, its footy team and its sense of its own history.

The journey begins here – typical working class cottage from the early
20th century. Timber and corrugated iron – now gentrified.

Two films have been shot down here; Bad Boy Bubby (in the 90s) and Look Both Ways (a few years ago.) Look them up to see more, but please don’t take Bubby as being representative of a typical Australian life.

While gentrification hasn’t passed the area by, it still hasn’t been invaded by yuppies in SUVs who want to turn it into the overpriced bourgeois enclave they just moved out of.

The new apartments being built on what was once industrial wasteland may change this. People crazy enough to pay more than a million for a penthouse that includes the Adelaide Brighton Cement Works in its vista will be fighting hard to increase the value of their investment.

My days out here start with a ritual – get Barbara the labrador outside and the cats inside so she doesn’t eat their food. Then head out the front and feed the chooks and check for eggs. Tell crying dog at side gate to shut up. She is currently working on a 1:20 scale replica of the Suez Canal in the backyard. I am ignoring it.

Then get the cats out, sometimes involving threats of physical violence if they decide to try and hide under the bed for the day.

Once this is all out of the way (and I have taken to washing my hair at night to make it all happen without having to get up at 5am) I push the Vespa out of the garage.

Barbara likes to go for drives, so it is not possible to exit the yard without her trying to work out how to join me on the scoot if I have the engine running.

I start her up in the back alley, known colloquially in Australia as “dunny lanes” because they were used by the night soil men to collect the ummm…waste products from houses in the days before plumbing.

I’ve just had a PM Tuning exhaust fitted, so hello neighbours!

Ever get the feeling they’re out to get you? The road to outer harbour, avec jaws.

I head straight onto a road that leads from Outer Harbour, Adelaide’s commercial port. The road is heavy with petrol tankers and B doubles, but it is a 60kph zone and vehicles are all well behaved. There are too many traffic lights and level crossings for those big beasts to build up any serious momentum.

Far as I can make out, a “B double” is what we typically call a semi-truck, or 18-wheeler.

A nice, gently curving road starts the journey, past a pub that actually had a horse grazing on the block next to it the first time I came down here. I am really only 15 minutes from the CBD, but it’s another world.

CBD = Central Business District.

My ride takes me along most of the length of Port Road, the major arterial to this part of town. Peak hour is a doddle. It is busy enough and fast enough that the cagers are generally well behaved. It is one of the few places considerate driving is still practiced – for the most part – with vehicles making allowances for those needing to change lanes. We’re all just trying to get to work.

Night time on this road is another story. But I might save that one for later.

I bypass the city. There is a real bottle neck through the northern end of Adelaide’s square-mile CBD at the moment, as the tramline (our only tramline, from Glenelg Beach to the south west of the city) is extended along North Terrace. Lanes are closed down, right hand turns are limited. It’s not anything I’m interested in before my vital heart-starter dose of caffeine.

The city bypass takes me around the outside edge of Adelaide’s parklands. As I just mentioned in passing, our CBD was designed as a square mile, surrounded by parklands. A very civilised concept. Some public buildings have been built on this protected strip, but any attempts at further clawing back of public land are fought off tenaciously.

Big house, big palm tree. Not mine!

I am about to head through some of our wealthiest suburbs, in stark contrast to what I have just left behind.

Medindie is a postage stamp-sized locale full of very large houses. Very, very large. And palm trees, for some reason. A little flamboyant for such an old-money kind of place, I would have thought.

My journey around the parklands soon takes me past Adelaide’s most exclusive boy’s school. St. Peter’s College is the size of a whole suburb. The doctors and lawyers of tomorrow are all in there.

From a traffic point of view, you don’t have to slow down for children in the area, none of them walk to school. You just avoid the left lane because 99.9% of European cars will be turning in to the school gates.

To my right is the Botanical Gardens’ “Glass Pasty” and the Adelaide Wine Centre, a piece of architecture that divides people. I belong on the “love it” team. And the plonk inside is alright, too.

Okay, I’m stumped too… What, exactly, is this “plonk” of which you speak?

This, I guess, is the “glass pasty” she is talking about. Nice scooter, btw…=gc=

If I’ve managed to set off before 7.30am, I will get a pretty clear run without much traffic. I will have made it to this point by about 8am (and dontcha just love the way so many people seem to head out of their driveways at 8am on the dot?) – I’ve got time for my coffee ritual!!

Up the Norwood Parade to Buongiorno, where they understand I drink coffee like a wog, not a skippy, so when I say strong I really mean it.

Both “wog” and “skippy” are a bit ambiguous in web definitions. Please elaborate?

They know my name, they know what I order. Except for the depths of winter, I sit outside, adjacent to a table full of old Greek guys who meet up every morning to take the piss out of each other. Sometimes one or other of them will bring me a rose. I love all of this stuff. Why would you go to Starbucks?

Actually, in Adelaide, you can’t. They haven’t invaded here yet!

On the way home…feeling peckish? No it’s not a soprano in a coffin, it’s a wog in a box.

A quick read of The Australian and a bit of a chat with some of the other locals, and I’m off. Work is only a few minutes away from here, and I’ve had a great ride to start my day.

I once heard someone describe the difference between driving and riding to work; driving to work, your work day starts when you get in the car, but your time on
two wheels is your own.

I agree completely.

Time, Stand Still…

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Weather: Hot and Humid
Road Conditions: Congestion and Construction in the `Cities.

Captivated by motion, some days I wish I could stop the clock.

“Summer’s going fast, nights growing colder
Children growing up, old friends growing older
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each impression a little bit stronger
Experience slips away…” – Rush, “Time Stand Still”

It must have been the Back to School crap on the store shelves that started the reaction.

Suddenly, time seems to be going too fast. Summer is getting away from us! There’s still so much I want to do this riding season, before Winter comes back and I have to make The Decision.

Even the Existential Gravity, which slows the clock whenever I walk through the doors at work, seems to be weakening. It seems I have so much to do, and so little time, both in and out of work. Trying to fill every moment with meaningful experience eventually wears you down. When can I rest?

“When you’re dead…”, says the dark one with the scythe on my shoulder.

Yeah, I seem to remember saying something like that, back when I was young, and every day was an adventure. Now that I am battling middle age and high blood pressure, I’m just not feeling it like that anymore. (160/100 yesterday… bad?)

“Alright Charpentier, just what the hell are you whining about now? Shut your pie-hole and get back on that treadmill. Move! ”
-Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Ego

So, my brand new Vespa Rose is in pieces out in the garage, and it is too hot and humid to work on her right now. Frogwing is happy to be back in harness as my primary mount. We won’t be going up to Duluth for “Bring Out Your Dead” this weekend, it’s just not in the budget.

No, I’ll be staying home this weekend, working on my motorbikes, and maybe we’ll get out for a ride or two.

In the meanwhile, I am going to meet with the man known as “Motogristle” after work tonight. We are going to take photos of him with his unique Honda GL500 “Gullepumpe”, and discuss his Winter riding strategy, among other things.

I’ve got a young lady from Adelaide, Australia who rides to work. She has sent me a story of her daily ride, along with some photos from Down Under. Just a little editing to do on that one, and you will see it here.

As the Aerostich sticker says, “So many roads, so little time”.

Are you feeling the pressure yet?

The Bearded Lady Motorcycle Freakshow: Part II

Friday, July 20th, 2007

Just a couple of decent (for N.E. Minneapolis) citizens out for a stroll…

Meet Jamie and Megan. Just your average Nordeast couple, dressed up in their party clothes for the Bearded Lady Freakshow.

Sure. Nice young folks, just rambling around, until they find a dark secluded corner somewhere… Then I’ll bet they flash-mate like a pair of weasels in heat!

What!? Motorcycles, you say? Oh, yeah… now that you mention it, there were a few motorbikes buzzing and rumbling about!

Focus, Gary… focus. Okay.

Scott Montour rode in on his brilliant green Kawasaki, for instance. There seems to be a movement afoot to put these old Mad Max bikes back on the street, with some modern hardware to bring them up-to-date.

Scott’s bike sports a ZX6 front end, and a Dyna 2000 ignition, among other mods, and he just finished the paint job in time for the show.

Scott’s 1977 Kawasaki KZ1000 was one of the nicest I’ve seen.

Scooters showed up in abundance, as well. There were some really nice examples of well-ridden vintage Vespas.

Kevin Kocur, from Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly, was rockin’ his old P200. Now I know where they got the “Vintage Red” color for my own GTS.

But, I thought Mods were supposed to be stylish! What happened, Kevin? Have you been camping out in the parking lot long? You should really ask Victor for a raise…

Kevin, roused from his box behind the dumpster, joins in the festivities.

Music was provided by a band called “The Brass Kings”. They really helped set the tone of the event, and played from an extensive repertoire.

I was most impressed with that old-school washtub bass and… what kind of guitar is that, anyway? Haven’t I seen that on an old LP cover somewhere?

These guys rocked, in their own subtle way, without overpowering the conversations taking place all over the lot. Some bands try to make up in volume what they lack in talent. Not the Brass Kings. These guys are a class act, all the way.

Accoustic atmosphere provided by the Brass Kings band.

Rose and I had arrived early, while the crowd and the amount of bikes were relatively manageable. I can only imagine what it was like as the day wore on. Bikes were pouring in the whole time we were there. I was wondering if any of the vintage Cafe Racers were going to show up.

Then I spotted Elmer.

This guy rode up on his immaculate 1976 Triumph Bonneville. But the way he was dressed was all wrong. Wearing my Ace Cafe jacket, I would have looked more at home on his bike, and he on my scooter. Then I realized we have something very profound in common.

Stay with me here…

You see, I have become more and more amused lately by how seriously people in the various moto-tribes take their respective “images”. If you ride bike X, then you have to dress in the Bike X Uniform. And you have to live the Bike X Lifestyle ™.

It’s all about playing the part of some kind of fictional hero, during your so-called freetime, to make up for the banality of Real Life in the Modern World. But the more I see of all this posing and pretense, the less seriously I take it.

Elmer gets it…

During our very short conversation, I had an epiphany: I dress like a Rocker, but was riding a scooter, like a Mod. Elmer was dressed as a Mod, but was riding a Rocker bike.

Rocker-Mods? Mod-Rockers? Split the difference… call us “Mockers”!

We ride what we want, dress how we like, and laugh at those who scowl. Why not? Life is too short to live by arbitrary rules dreamed up by strangers.

Laws are different… they have Teeth.

But nobody is going to tell me what to wear or what to ride, just so I can come and hang out with them. The Marine Corps burned all that conformity crap right out of me, many years ago. Nowadays, I do what I want.

The only “normal” bike in this frame is… MINE!
Better do something about that. Or not.

That was when the whole spirit of this Bearded Lady thing started to sink in. Of course! This was a Mocker’s paradise, where stereotypes are shattered, and rules are broken. In this little space, on the edge of a Midwestern Metropolis, all the motorbike freaks could blend with all the other freaks and everybody would just get along, somehow.

What a wonderful concept.