Navigation and Confrontation

21 November, 2005 Temperature: 38 degrees

Nate Miller is a scooter guy. He has two vintage Vespas in his garage, and rides one of them daily in good weather. I met him this weekend, when I accepted his offer to lend me his Garmin emap GPS. He lives at the top of a hill overlooking West Saint Paul, only a mile from my home.

In return for his generosity, I let him take the Baron for a ride around his neighborhood. I’m not going to say he was impressed, but he WAS intrigued. The Baron, being a twist-and-go type, automatic scooter, is a completely different animal from Nate’s Vespas. He liked the disc front brake on the Baron, which is much more effective than the drums on his vintage machines.

I have never operated a GPS, but after about ten minutes of instruction, he had taught me enough to use it for my intended purposes. After making the commute this morning, I can tell you the following with full confidence:

• My commute is actually 26.3 miles, each way.
• Top speed achieved on Shephard Road this morning, slightly uphill, was 57.4 mph.
• The odometer on the scooter reads 19.9 kilometers for a 16 kilometer (10 mile) trip. This is an error factor of 24%.

The speedometer calibration is hard to do while moving. The GPS is strapped to my left sleeve, so I have to look at it sideways while trying to stabilize the scooter’s speed at an indicated number. There is also a bit of lag in the GPS as the signal travels from the satellites, so you have to hold a steady indicated speed for several seconds in order to get a good read. I will work on that this afternoon, when I ride home in daylight.

I can see where people get addicted to these gadgets. I have only scratched the surface of it’s capabilities.

Deer Me…!

On my way around West Saint Paul yesterday, during our initial ten-mile calibration loop, I encountered another aggressive buck. We were on Butler Street, up the hill from Concord, near Kaposia Park. This was a smaller, younger buck, with tines broken on the right side of his four-point rack. On hearing the Baron and I snorting up the hill, he charged out of the brush and stood, stock-still and challenging, right in the middle of the road. I twisted the throttle and we crept towards him, and he backed up a couple of feet and tossed his head. Then I hit the high-pitched horn, and he sauntered slowly across the road, and only a few feet into somebody’s yard. There, he stood staring at us. He wouldn’t run. We left him standing there, and a theory began to form.

I researched buck calls on the internet, and sure enough; the Baron 150 SX scooter, under throttle at lower rpms, sounds exactly like a buck call. No wonder we elicit such aggressive behavior from these animals! To test my theory, when we were passing Wirth Park in North Minneapolis this morning, I blipped the throttle slowly and repeatedly, trying to draw Homey the Deer out of the underbrush. He didn’t show, but I still think I am on to something. I have never had deer act this way towards my KLR, or any other motorbike, for that matter.

Maybe Cabella’s and Fleet Farm should market these scooters to deer hunters. A camoflage paint job, rifle scabbard, and a sturdy luggage rack in place of the trunk would make for an interesting hunting rig. Or not…

8 Responses to “Navigation and Confrontation”

  1. Don Says:

    It’s too bad that the baron isn’t like a big ol 80s f150 or something, you could’ve had vennison for lunch ;-)

    Maybe working on the exhaust system will fix your problem. Get something a little louder perhaps? (not too loud, you ride so early, you don’t want to wake up the neighborhood, just something to change the pitch.)

  2. Eric Says:

    Hey Gary,

    It’s a good thing you aren’t doing your testing in the great north woods of minnesota… I saw 16 deer within a 10 mile stretch of road last night (which i’d consider a low number for that area). They were just standing on the side of the road laughing at all the hunters on their way back south after the last day of deer season!

    And yes, you might want to look into a little exhaust modification to keep the local population of woodland creatures out of your face…

  3. Anonymous Says:

    It might be time for drastic measures against these deer. I suggest getting your conceal/carry license (legal in MN). That way you can legally pack a .40 calibur on the scoot. Next time you see one of these cocky deer, unleash a preemptive strike. Shock and awe.

    Oh…in the city limits? Silencer.

    You could also mount a 12 point rack on the front of the Baron (think Boss Hogg). Then you could challenge this young upstart buck to a real dominance bout. I heard the ladies mildly swoon over a guy on a scooter with deer rack mounted to the front.

    All in good fun ;) Love your blog, been following everyday.

  4. Mad Says:

    I’ve just found your site and I must say I really enjoyed your posts so far and I shall be adding your RSS feed to my aggregator. I too am an all year round rider but the climate I ride in is less severe (England). Even so we do get some rough weather, yesterday I rode home in freezing conditions with fog bringing visibility down to 30 ft at times, like you I perversely enjoy the challenge of remaining upright and safe. I think come summertime when the fair-weather-boys get their bikes out of the garage we’re better riders for our experience. This year I’m on a Kawasaki Z750 (the naked version you guys don’t get over there) but last year I rode the whole winter through on a Gilera 125 scooter. I rode that little machine on ice, in snow, through gales and torrential downpours and I think they are fantastic little machines for use as a winter hack. I know it was much easier to keep upright than my Zed. Anyway, sorry for the rambling comment and keep it rubber side down and keep posting.

  5. mnscooter Says:

    To the anonymous hit-man… what can I say? We understand each other perfectly. The .40 cal is a bit much for urban work, though, don’t you think? I’m pretty sure they don’t make a sub-sonic round for it, so the silencer wouldn’t be very effective. I prefer my old friend, the .45 Colt 1911, which I was issued in the Corps. These use a sub-sonic round which still packs a deer-stopping punch, especially with hollow-points. I also like your antler mount idea, and maybe I will look into that as the season progresses.

    Mad, I know what you mean about riding a full-size motorcycle on snow and ice. I did it three years running on a NX650 Honda, what you call a “Dominator” over there. Too tall and too heavy, when compared with the scooter. I made it work, at the time, because I had no choice.

    On the scooter, I can put my feet down with plenty of room to bend my knees. When the scooter slips, I can save it easily, just like riding a dirtbike in loose conditions. What I miss on the scooter is the power to throttle-steer, if I want to bring the rear-end around in a corner. But I am still in a learning phase with this, so maybe I will solve it later on.

    Tell me, do you ever go to the Ace Cafe?

    Ride well,

  6. Mad Says:

    I haven’t been to the Ace yet (it’s about 100 miles from where I live) but I’ve been thinking about heading down there in the summer. There are some good bike meets in my area but I suspect the Ace is something special.

    The dominator looks like it would be a good winter choice but I see your point about being too tall and heavy. All the big trailies look tall to me.

    It snowed here last night so I had no choice but ride home in it. Turns out it was ok, all but my work’s car park and my home road were salted and pretty clear. I can now tell you that the Z can be ridden with both feet down! I saw one other biker out - guy on a Suzuki GSX-R - at a roundabout we gave each other the “Ah another crazy person” nod and rode of our seperate ways in the blizzard.

    Keep posting

  7. mnscooter Says:

    That’s hilarious, Mad! I wonder how our drivers here would handle roundabouts in the snow.

    Regarding the Ace, I have an enormous leather Ace Cafe, London patch on the back of my black leather jacket. I look like a proper “Rocker” when I wear that. At present, I am caught in an identity crisis, somewhere between rocker and mod. Not by choice, mind you. I just think the scooter is a much better choice for winter commuting than any other bike I’ve owned.

    Ride well,

  8. Mad Says:

    If you have the Ace patch you’re a rocker! The scooter only makes you a mod if have weird urges to stick more mirrors on it and you start wearing a parka (mods duffel coat). In which case I shall have to disown your blog forever! ;)

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