Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Saddleback Mountains. Orange County, CA

I've been settling into the routine of riding to work rather than driving. I'll say this. Even in So Cal, it is pretty brrr at 5AM in the saddle. Some of that is early morning acclimation, but it does more to rouse me than a hot shower or that first cup of joe. Reminds me of surfing in Northern California at dawn. The feel of cold swell smacking you in your sleepworn face gets your attention. And keeps it. I've got a good route down that only tacks on 5-10 minutes from my commute in the truck. And if there weren't two intersections with 3 minute waits for a left turn arrow, the ridetime would be about the same as the drivetime.
The ride home is a little longer, due the afternoon traffic that just isn't there at 5AM, but it's rewarding. I met another rider with a similar commute to mine, taking the same parkway home. Mike rides a Yamaha with 125cc. I don't know if it is a Vino or some other model, but it moves at a good clip. We traded lead positions at each light and chatted a bit waiting for signals. I'm sure I'll run into him regularly, and that's pretty cool.

Parked behind a Lance 'Venice' at Home Depot in Mission Viejo, CA

Another cool thing...it cost ten bucks a day to park my truck in the garage at work, so I was having to park it across the street in a spot with limited space. The Vespa gets locked up in the parking garage to a rail, free of charge. You have to love that.
So, the point of all of this, I guess, is that there are more incentives to riding than an initial cost/benefit analysis reveals. Gas savings and easier parking are measurable, but the intangibles can have just as much value.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Commuter / Cruiser

Newport Beach, CA
I took my first trip from home to work, the map re-routed to avoid the highway. It added about four miles to the overall commute and an extra half hour. Well worth the added fuel economy. Also, I realized you can gauge your speed by the level of wind noise. Pretty handy, since I am most comfortable with my head up and scanning the road. The old 'SEE' from the MSF course - Search, Evaluate, Execute. All of this worked out pretty handy when I was on the PCH between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach where the speed limit rises to 55 mph. This means, of course, that the slowest car on the road is doing at least 60. And at 60 the wind noise level is REALLYF&$@INGLOUD. Good to know. 

Laguna Beach, CA
Another observation...maybe it is just living in the OC, but I haven't found any lack of brotherhood from other two-wheeled conveyances. I get the head nod or wave from other scooterista, crotch-rocket racers, cruisers, touring bikers, and even choppers. No one was more excited, however, than the Michelin Man when I showed him the branding on my tire walls. :)

 Lake Forest, CA
I purchased a little protection today - a Scorpion 'Exo' type jacket from Mission Motorsports in Irvine. After a few rides in short sleeves, as 'free' as that feels, I can't help thinking, er, yeah, dude, you are moving along at a pretty good clip. What if? What if, indeed. Pounded a nail today and hung it up in the garage, so it's easy to remember. 

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Day Two (Acclimation)

Alright. I wasn't ready for just how LOUD it is after you pass 40 mph or so. The earpieces for my helmet were described as functional for 'cold weather riding,' so I took them out. Right. First time I stopped the scooter, I put 'em right back in. It's still a bit louder than I anticipated, but I'll get used to it. Tonight was the first time I actually took it out on the road and got a feel for it. Last evening's laps around the parking lot don't really count. I suppose today was really day one. I can say, between today and yesterday, having the LX out in public, it does garner the attention people claim. When it was tied down in the bed of the truck yesterday, people wandered around the perimeter staring at it. At a red light, a guy in a four-wheeler with big tires leaned over the passenger seat to talk to me.
"Is that a Vespa? Yeah? I thought it looked like a real Vespa. What year is it? 2009? Cool. How many CCs? 150? Oh, that's perfect!"
And there are the pedestrians at crosswalks discussing the merits of getting their own scooter. "I should get one of those for work. I could take the side roads..."
Of course, not all attention, even if it is positive, is good attention. I was doing 45 mph in a 45 mph zone. Traffic was dense enough that riding at the speed limit wasn't really obnoxious, but a guy in a Lexus was tailgating me in the left lane regardless. So I waited for an opening, and got over to the right. Lexus got over and resumed tailgating. My first thought was that he was just not fond of sharing the road with a scooter. Then I realized, Lexus driver was just gawking. Proud of my purchase as I am, it was still a little uncomfortable to be tailgated like that, even if the cause was unabashed admiration for the ride.
The other question I've been getting constantly is 'How much?' When I first started looking, the MSRP was a little daunting, but after figuring out the economy/cost of ownership vs. my current vehicle and certainly after experiencing my first real ride - my initial reaction at being asked 'How much' is not longer sheepish or explanatory. Rather, it's a little proud.

Post-ride grind. Rubio's black bean and cheese burrito. It's A Grind's Iced Nutty Cow.

Other observations. Need goggles of some sort. A rear rack (or top case) would be nice. Despite the impression many people give - I don't agree that a stock LX has a lot of storage. Yes, there is room for a helmet under the seat, and that's awesome. The 'bag hook' does the job, but I think I'd rather have that space free. The 'glove box' is pretty useless. Anyway. Something to think about. And I wonder if a windshield is a good call. I've read that it can improve top speed/fuel efficiency - and also cut down a bit on the wind. Which, well, makes sense - being a windscreen and all. Oh, back to storage. Do people actually put groceries in that under-the-seat bin? I mean, it gets kinda warm in there. I was thinking, if I lived somewhere colder, I would love to keep a spare pair of gloves down there.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Day One (3+2+1+1+2=40)

2009 Vespa LX 150. Graphite Black.

I was on a business trip a few weeks ago. Lisa from Newport Beach Vespa called me as I was trying to board a plane at DFW, bound for Albuquerque. "We've got your Black S in," she told me. Well, the black S was my second choice. I really wanted the LX 150 in Graphite Black, but I figured I would go ahead and get the S. Pretty much the same scoot, and I'd save a few hundred. Right? I was still number two on the list for the LX. Fast forward a day and a half later. While waiting for the park/fly shuttle on the ground at LAX, I decide to give Lisa a call. She couldn't get hold of the first person on the list. If I wanted the LX, it was mine.

"Um. Yeah, I want it."

Of course, I didn't have my permit yet. I figured after taking the MSF course, I would just take the written portion of the test and get the license. Didn't imagine the scoot would arrive as quickly as it did. So, I wouldn't be able to drive it home. No worries - I could just load it in the pick-up (also a 150, an F-150). Eh. Now I needed a way to get it out of the pick-up once I got home. I went over the options. Buy a moto-ramp. Maybe a thick piece of wood? Then I found out Home Depot will rent you a ramp - 4 bucks for 4 hours. Or keep it 24 hours for 7. Not bad.

I actually stopped at the DMV in Laguna Hills, CA on the way home to take my written test. I guess 2PM on a Wednesday afternoon is the right time to visit the DMV. Three lines, two forms, one remittance, one photograph, two tests - about 40 minutes.