The AmeriVespa shots

It was my longest ride, the sun shone, I saw lots of scooters.

I enjoy riding my Vespa, a GTS 300. It's great fun, powerful enough to keep up with traffic and comfortable enough to use as daily transport in good weather. This year, AmeriVespa was being held in Seattle and it seemed like a no-brainer. I should go and investigate how scooter rally's are done over here. In short, the answer was fine.

This would be a short roadtrip yet my longest ride on the scoot. Even though the GTS can run at highway speeds I wanted to take it easy and enjoy the ride rather than have to keep the 'cagies' at bay. Over the border at Sumas and State Route 9 provided the relaxed ride there, the Mukilteo ferry, Whidbey Island and Chuckanut Drive offering up the scenery on my return route.

The highlight was certainly being part of around 100 scoots, mostly Vespas, on the Saturday Weird Seattle ride. I also discovered the Seattle Seafare festival, an event I'd not come across before.

My big takeaway was that scooter rally's are most likely best experienced as part of a larger group. Next time!


Music Therapy Ride

Being part of a massive bike convoy, now that’s cool.

I’d promised myself that I’d take part in the Music Therapy Ride, a once a year charity motorcycle ride for the Canadian Music Therapy Trust. I guess there are a couple of questions, what’s music therapy and why do the ride.

The Canadian Music Therapy Trusts mission includes the following, maintain, and improve the mental, physical, and emotional health of Canadians and I think that captures things pretty well, improving lives through music. The wiki entry explains the details.

Why take part in the ride? Well, I love being on two-wheels and love music. What better way to combine two passions and do some good.

In past years the route has been from Vancouver to Whistler. The 2012 route changed things up as the Whistler Gran Fondo was scheduled for the same weekend, and Harrison Hot Springs would be the destination. As the start of September neared, the anticipation rose. It would be my first experience of this kind of event, and the great thing was that Lesley would be riding with me on her Vespa, ‘Audrey‘.

The ride was sold out and I had no idea what that meant until arriving at the start point, Fraser Downs Racetrack, for breakfast. Bikes of all sizes, well actually mostly cruisers, were being parked up. There must have been at least 60 plus bikes in front of me and  there was plenty of space behind for more. After breakfast the true scale of the ride became apparent. Bikes everywhere. This would be one memorable ride.

How to get so many bikes from A to B in safety? The Vancouver Police Department motorcycle drill team, that’s how. A full police escort, motorcade style ride. No stopping for lights or turns, our escort ensured all junctions were clear, what better way to ride.

We eventually found out there was some 160 bikes (including four Vespa’s, so Lesley was not lonely). It was the biggest ride to date. Being part of a massive bike convoy, now that’s cool.

The noise of so many bikes starting was truly something to behold. A lot of cruiser riders mod their rides with new tail pipes that are amazingly noisy. Riders argue that it’s a safety device as car drivers can hear you coming. Personally I’m not convinced. A great engine note has something about it, but noise for noise sake just says ‘macho’ to me.

So, on a gloriously hot September Saturday, 160 bikes hit the road. Lesley and I were around half way from the front runners and I estimated that it would take over am minute for all the bikes to pass a fixed point. Just stop to think about that.

Count to sixty and imagine pairs of motorcycles passing the entire time. Amazing.

It’s pretty much impossible to convey the high, the emotions, the ear-to-ear grin that I experienced. Even better, I could share my feelings with Lesley as we were using the Sena comms system. I think we both got more out of the ride by being able to chat about what we’d just seen/felt as we rode.

The Km and time disappeared and after a pit stop at a Fire Hall just outside Mission, it was all too soon over. Harrison Hot Springs, the end of the ride, but not the end of the event. Lunch and an auction were next on the agenda.  There were many music related items to bid on, a really moving thank you from a music therapist and a cool acoustic set from a couple of members of 54-40.

The ride raised $60,000, was so well organized and full of friendly bikers. It was a totally amazing experience and has to be on the ‘must do’ list for riders in the area. Look out for the 2013 ride, it’ll be a blast.

Washington road trip day 5

This was the first experience of two wheeled road trips for Lesley and she handled it impeccably.

Weather checked, not looking good. The 10 degree drop that occurred between leaving home  on Saturday morning and waking up on Sunday morning had remained and it made riding chilly. The traffic speeds experienced the previous day were probably going to be the norm if we headed to Seattle so the decision was made. Head for home.

Despite being on scooters, the bikers that joined us on the 8.45 ferry to Coupeville were happy to chat as we made our way across the Sound. I’ve found bike snobbery to be fairly uncommon here which is refreshing. No inferiority complex, no ‘cc’ envy and I can certainly handle that.

The ride home was pretty uneventful. We made our way back up Whidbey Island, on to the mainland and back on to the minor roads. Chuckanut Drive was once again appreciated and after a personal and Vespa re-fuel in Fairhaven, it was on to the border. An easy crossing, no line up thank goodness. I’m really not sure what the border guards think when a couple of scoots show up and the riders say they’ve been as far as Port Townsend. I think the Vespa’s are always seen as 50cc machines, so the guards just probably shake their heads in private.

650 Km had been covered over the 5 days. Lesley hadn’t even ridden a scoot until April, so to complete the trip was a great achievement. I’ve also learnt one or two things. I became frustrated at having to keep pulling over for cars when we were riding the 101. The scoot will cruise fine at 60-70 mph, but when traffic is moving faster, I felt I had to get out of the way. Again, it comes back to being on a scoot. If I was on a motorbike I just feel that car drivers wouldn’t be as impatient, it’s all part of that ‘scoots are 50cc town things’ mentality.  I’d have covered many more miles on the Ducati, however, this was a slow tour, it was the scootour and so remembering the guiding principles of fun and relaxation, the time away was successful.

Would I scootour again? At the moment I’m not sure. I’d need to find more minor roads to really get the best out of a road trip by Vespa, so I’m going for 7/10, which isn’t bad for a first experience.

Washington road trip day 4

That’s the thing about road trips. Planning on the go is permissible.

Port Angeles and maybe a trip up the local mountain that was the plan. Today we’d push a little further in to the Olympics. Highway 101 was a route I’d traveled before, in 2010 on my first road trip and earlier this year on the California trip. The route has some of the most spectacular scenery in Oregon and California. The stretch to be covered today was unknown territory though.

This road trip had a couple of guiding principles. It had to be fun and it had to have adequate downtime to relax. It turned out that the northern section of the 101 wouldn’t meet either of those needs. The stretch being ridden by two intrepid scooterists was populated by fast moving and plentiful traffic. Despite the Vespa’s 70 mph capability and a 55 mph posted speed limit, it was clear that traffic was in the 70 mph plus zone. The thought of 50 or so miles having to pull over every few hundred yards to let big rigs rumble through was not in the least appealing and certainly wouldn’t be fun or relaxing. Something had to be done. That’s the thing about road trips. Planning on the go is permissible.

A well placed roadside coffee stop appeared, a true java oasis that offered a warming shot of espresso and maybe more importantly, wifi. Out came the iPad, maps fired up and a decision taken to turn around. A combination of the road and weather conditions (chilly and not improving) really made it an easy choice. We’d stick to minor roads around Port Townsend.

So that was day four. Not the originally envisaged expedition, however the Vespa’s were still on the road soaking up the miles without complaint. Fun was re-established as we discovered a desolate beach and relaxation Was in the shape of another delicious late lunch at blt coffee.

Given that the weather forecast for the rest of the week isn’t too encouraging, the scootour may well head north again.

Washington road trip day 3

We’d made it to the Olympic peninsula.

This was to be an easier day with limited scoot time. We’d booked in to a motel in Port Townsend for a couple of nights and would plan our next few days from there. Our destination was a short ferry trip across the Puget Sound. As it happened, the previous days aborted trip to Fort Casey could be revisited as the Fort was next to the ferry terminal.

1208-Washington-23So, first stop Fort Casey. The fort was built towards the end of the 1800’s as one of several fortifications to protect the western coastal area from attack, and much like the other forts, it never fired its guns in anger. The potential invasion never materialized, threats changed from seaborne to airborne and within twenty years of completion, the fort was obsolete, serving only as a training base. These places are facilnatng to wander around. Exploring the nooks and crannies, figuring out the use of the rooms beneath the gun emplacements, imagining what life in the early twentieth century would have been like.

After a leisurely wander around the fort it was time to mount up and mosey along to the Coupeville ferry terminal. One great thing about being on two wheels is that you’re invariably sent to the front of the line on ferry’s and this crossing was no exception. Now, the thing with scooters is that sometimes they’re not treated seriously. A scoot isn’t a proper bike and thus is ignored. This seemed to be the case today as two guys on BMW’s in front of me remained firmly in conversation with not so much as a nod of the head. Actually, I can’t complain too much as there’s been a lot of biker wave Vespa respect from others riders. I think that it’s an acknowledgement that the scoots are travelling at a good speed and properly in formation so the riders are obviously ‘proper’ bikers despite being on a Vespa.

1208-Washington-25A coffee and muffin later it was Port Townsend. We’d made it to the Olympic peninsula. The plan was to investigate the town over the afternoon and head out towards Port Angeles on Tuesday. Port Townsend isn’t a large place, investigating really didn’t take long. One great find was the late lunch stop Better Living Through Coffee. A local cafe with great food and coffee (Fair Trade, organic and where possible, locally sourced foods) with a smashing view of the Sound. Highly recommended.

Day three closed out pretty quietly. A good nights sleep was needed as the plan was to take a ride further along the peninsula tomorrow.