Archive for July, 2007

Ride To Work Day Report

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Weather: Warm and humid in the morning, pouring rain in the evening.
Road Conditions: Streets flooded under pouring rain.

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This is what happens when The Weatherman gets it Wrong…

Yesterday was a black day for the Windsock and Crystal Ball Guild.

For those of you who are new to this blog, that is my obscure nickname for the sorry bunch of so-called “meteorologists” who try to guess the weather on our local morning news. On days when I have the time, and when the issue is in doubt, I poll the various channels and listen intently to their forecasts, planning my day according to the results.

When they vote for any significant chance of rain, I wear my Aerostich Darien and bring rain covers for my leather gloves. When the prevailing opinion is for sunshine, or partly-cloudy skies, I wear my leather jacket with the giant Ace Cafe, London patch on the back.

That’s a little vanity on my part, and I freely admit it. That jacket and I have been together for over a decade, and it proudly wears the scars that prove it. Even though I rub it down with mink oil as part of my Springtime Ritual, it is not even remotely waterproof.

So, obviously, I am loathe to wear it in the rain.

Yesterday, as a result of very poor weather forecasting, my beloved leather got thoroughly soaked, as did my gloves. They will both be stiff as boards once they dry out, and will require lots of work to make them supple again. But that’s not the worst of it…

My Vespa GTS was never intended to operate as a submarine.

Yesterday, on the ride home, the rain came down so hard and fast, that water was running a foot deep in some intersections. That is no exaggeration. It was running six inches between the curbs on a lot of streets, and there were several times that poor Rose had water rushing over the top of her legshields, and right into my sodden lap. Even her headlight was submerged at one intersection that I misjudged.

I couldn’t help but think, “This is Frogwing Weather!”. He handles these conditions with ease.

But Rose is a trooper, and she never faltered. Still, I worry… Her battery is mounted below the “waterline”, and I thought about the tales I have read of GTSs burning to the ground because of an electrical short.

Then too, there is the air intake for cooling the CVT, which is also located below the waterline. I’m almost certain some water must have gotten into there. I won’t know until I take off the cover this weekend, and do a comprehensive 3,000-mile service.

Piaggio only recommends I check the oil and one or two other things, but you can bet that I’m going to do a whole lot more than that. While I’m at it, I’ve got some new Kenda tires to mount, but I’ll tell you more about that later…

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten Part II of the Bearded Lady Motorcycle Freakshow saga. That should come out tonight… tomorrow at the latest. I just had to vent about those damned weather-guessers. Thanks for indulging me.

The Bearded Lady Motorcycle Freakshow! Part I

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Weather: Sunny and hot.
Road Conditions: Normal Minneapolis weekend traffic….
Lots of Abnormal Motorbike sightings.

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The guy pushing this cart was the only Bearded Lady I saw at the show. Hey Gus, is that YOU?

Way back when I was first looking at Vespas, down at the Minneapolis Motoprimo shop, a very intense young Irish fellow named Jamal told me about The Bearded Lady Motorcycle Freakshow.

He said it was going to be the most amazing two-wheeled spectacle since Blind Lizard, maybe even better!

Those are strong words, in this town…

Especially when you consider that our very own Buster Brown just remarked to me, at the aforementioned Blind Lizard, that while he still enjoyed the same old events, he really wished that these Young Slackers would put something together and entertain him, for a change.

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Robb Kaiser rocks out on his brand spankin’ Ducati Hypermotard!

I remember taking a flyer from Jamal, and then not thinking much about it, until this weekend came along with nothing pressing on my calendar.

Then I started to go through those little things you collect out there, on the road, and I noticed that we had this event right here in Minneapolis. It was well within Rose’s range, on a weekend when I needed to stay close to home.

“Well, why not?” – I thought. So I saddled up my Vespa GTS, and rode on out to Diamond’s Cafe, on Central Avenue in Nordeast Minneapolis.

Diamond’s has been the site of many a two-wheel spectacle over the years. Since I don’t live very near there, I know I miss out on a lot. But every time I do go, I know I’m in for a good time.

The Bearded Lady did not disappoint.

There’s this cat that I used to see around Bob’s Java Hut, back in my “Diary of a Cafe Racer” days, who still haunts the sharp edge of the local scene. We only know him as “C.T.”, but he may as well be P.T. Barnum for this gig. He still rides a fast Ducati, and as you can see from the photo below, he still maintains a racer’s frame.

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Ringleader of the Bearded Lady Motorcycle Freakshow: “C.T.”.

Motorbikes are his passion, and he has done a Very Good Thing with this Bearded Lady show. We sat for awhile and chatted amid the noise, but the only notes I can still make out are his thanks for the people who helped him put this deal together. They are: Amie Walz, Lindsay Brown, and Jimmy Von Sugg.

Other thanks were directed to the crew of Pizza Luce, who helped cater the show and lent some crazy local color. Most of the beautiful ladies you see in these photos work there, and it is to my everlasting shame that I never got their names straight. (Story of me life, mate…sigh.)

Well, I did get some, but they will feature in Part II…

Meanwhile, there were some incredible bikes showing up. Look at this:

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Tom Jones shows his Willie, and he didn’t even get arrested!

All I can tell you about this bike is that it was homemade, with a Briggs & Stratton engine, and looks exactly like one of the original early 1900s motorbikes. A beautiful piece of mechanical sculpture, and I hope he won a prize with it.

You see, the atmosphere at The Bearded Lady show was fast and frenetic, feeling like the parking lot outside a Grateful Dead concert. The people whom Buster called “Young Slackers” put on an event that stimulated all the senses at once, and it was difficult for me to pin-down the center and the soul of the thing.

That, along with the fact that I took so many photos, is why I am going to split this event into two parts. Just like I did with the Blind Lizard, and all of the other trips that can’t be explained in a nutshell.

I have found that these experiences are too much to absorb during a lunch-break at work, or a quick web-surfing session.

Part II will come soon, depending only on the demands of my life here in “meat-space”. Until then…

Ride well, especially tomorrow on Ride To Work Day!

Ride to Work Day: 18 July, 2007

Monday, July 16th, 2007

IT’S COMING…

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For those of us who commute regularly on our motorbikes, this isn’t such a big deal, right?

Wrong.

Ride to Work Day is all about getting out there, on your bike, and showing a Presence. It’s about reminding the cage drivers and Box People out there that we are a large and vibrant part of the community, and encouraging them to join in.

These days, it’s also about reminding them of all the money they could save at the fuel pumps, and all the time they could save if more of us rode instead of drove.

If you read this blog, I’m preaching to the choir. I know that.

Still, if you have friends who have been asking you questions about riding lately, even such a simple query as, “What kind of mileage do you get with ‘that thing’?” – you need to engage them, and let them know that it’s possible for them to enjoy life as much as you do, by taking on the adventure of motorbike commuting.

To me, that’s what Ride to Work Day is all about. And I’ve just come back from riding and talking with the man who invented it. Let’s all get out there on Wednesday, to share the vision, and the fun.

Ride well…