Where Thought and Riding Meet

There's a weird, strange thrill riding in the sticks that's hard to describe. Part visual, part physical, part spiritual. The ride is important, an anthem to living, a meditation on feeling blood and breath course through the body. Problems, opportunities, secrets and answers unfold on the road. Those discoveries fuel my ride.

Installing Heated Grips

Devil's Walking Stick at the Arboretum at Penn StateAny maintenance work on the Vespa puts my head in a mental jungle.  This picture of Devil’s Walking Stick I made last night while Kim and I were on a walk does a good job illustrating the jagged tangle of thoughts that I have to wade through.  Came close to just handing off the scooter to a professional to do the install but decided to take the plunge and embrace the installing of heated grips.

Before starting I reviewed two resources to help reduce the chances of disaster — a blog post by David Masse on Life on Two Wheels: The Scoot Commute that details installation of another brand of grips on a Vespa GTS300. Figured it would be similar.

And a video produced by Scooterwest.com showing the installation of my grips on a Vespa S150.  Again, has to be of some help.

So this evening I started even though I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time. Made pretty good progress considering I was diverted to transplant a shrub and repair a garden hose.

Vespa GTS scooter parts in a boxThe dismantling was quick and easy.  Had the windscreen, front rack, mirrors and headset off in 15 minutes or so.  David’s post pointed out a possible problem with a headset screen that could be dropped down into the bodywork and recommended a magnetic screwdriver.  I don’t have any such things so I went to Sears to buy tools.  Unfortunately there were no Craftsman brand screwdrivers in stock so I had to go with a cheap knockoff brand they had.  Says “magnetic” on the packaging but I found no evidence of magnetism.  I did get the screw out without any problems.  Getting it back in will be another challenge.

I did find some issues with the headset though.  Three screws hold it on but only one was in place.  One screw just was gone, probably fell out or was never replaced during some past service, and the other side the plastic was broken.  Oh well.

exposed handlebar on Vespa scooter

Once the headset was off all that was left in the dismantling actions was to remove the bar end weights and the stock grips.  David’s post talks about using a heat gun to get them off.  I opted for the less nuanced approach and cut them away with a utility knife.

electrical connector on Vespa GTS scooterI quit after that because I’m not at the harder part of prepping things and figuring out how to wire the grips to a power source on the scooter.  Wires are wires to me so i’ll have to concentrate.  Saw this connecter.  Wonder what it does.

More to come in the continuing saga of idiot meets heated grips.

Backup Photography

Vespa scooter in rural area

Departed this morning to take advantage of the warming trend before sidelining the scooter as I attempt to install the heated grips.  It was 35F at this stop but the temperature increased quickly into the upper 40s within an hour or so.  After some sub-freezing riding that feels positively warm.

Had to switch to my backup photography plan at this point of the ride when I realized I had forgotten to put the SD card back in the camera after downloading images last night.  I briefly considered riding back home to get it but decided on plan B and use the iPhone.

Vespa in Linden Hall, PA

This photo was made as I entered Linden Hall, Pennsylvania.  It’s typical of many small central Pennsylvania towns — narrow roads, little traffic, a church and a few buildings.  I never tire of riding through these places.

Vespa scooter on a rural road

Despite the greyness of the morning the riding was outstanding.  I just needed to put some miles beneath me to work out the mental cobwebs.  At this point I still hadn’t made any decisions about destination.  A lot of rides are like that — just a casual approach to the road.

Vespa scooter in cornfield

Almost all crops have been harvested leaving many open fields in their wake.  There was a time when I might venture off through these places but of late I’d rather get permission to trespass.

Vespa scooter at stop sign

Sometimes it seems as if scenes are constructed for photographic stories with a variety of graphic elements in play.  I stood at this intersection for awhile imaging what it all means.  Maybe nothing.  Maybe there’s a cosmic message coded in this picture that I really should decode.

Vespa scooter on gravel road

A shortcut over Mount Nittany meant some dirt and gravel riding.  I was glad the temperature warmed well above the freezing mark leaving me mostly free to ride without fear of ice.  The Vespa isn’t a dirt bike but can easily handle this kind of track.  Takes a bit of practice to get comfortable but well worth the effort.  On the downside the scooter does picture up a lot of grit, dings and filth on the machine.

Vespa scooter at Penn State

If there was a downside to the ride it’s the fact that I passed on breakfast and rode to my office to complete a few unfinished projects.  I’d thought it would only take an hour but it turned into three hours of focused work.  But I can rest a bit easier knowing some things are finished and not looming in my mind.

Got home in early afternoon and have begun work on the heated grips.  Removed the front rack, windscreen, mirrors, and have begun the headset removal.  First time I looked at it closely and I see one screen is missing and there is damage to the plastic where someone over-torqued some screws.  It’s always something.

I have my fingers crossed that I can finish the installation in less than an hour.

Sounds funny as I write that.


Reluctant Vespa Mechanic

Front of Vespa GTS scooter

Soon, perhaps this evening, I’ll start removing things from the Vespa; front rack, windscreen, mirrors, and more in order to install heated grips.  The task has been postponed a number of times since the accessories arrived due to the flimsiest of excuses.  Too cold, too tired, Leonids meteor showers, hangnail, dog ate the instructions, possible plague, the usual things.

I’ll say it though, or write it actually, I HATE WORKING ON THE VESPA.  Hate may be too strong.  Loathe could be more accurate.  Maybe even despise.  Regardless, I’m not one of the scooter or motorcycle owners who thrives on the prospect of servicing the machine.  And it extends beyond the scooter.  I don’t like mowing the lawn, paying bills, doing laundry, washing cars, and on and on.

Maybe it’s the weather that’s got me worked up.  Regardless, there are just some things in life you have to do and the less time complaining and the more time doing then things will get done and a person can move on.

I keep telling myself that.

Vespa at the Pump Station Cafe in Boalsburg, PA.

Late this afternoon I rode down the street to the Pump Station Cafe for a few treats.  Seeing the scooter standing alone in the parking lot triggered some tiny desire in me that I should do more work myself.  Not just maintenance on the Vespa either.  Things like remodeling the bathroom or repainting the inside of the house.  If people actually turn over in their graves my father has had to do so many times watching me reject the kinds of things he loved doing, and taught me to do.

Unfortunately whatever gene or DNA sequence that programmed my father into a maintenance/remodeling/building machine was not passed on to me.  He provided me with the knowledge, information and training to do an awful lot of stuff.  I just don’t like doing it.  And the older I get the more I dislike doing a lot of things.

Still I’m going to install the heated grips despite my strong resistance.  Perhaps I’ll find some serenity in the process much like I do washing dishes by hand.

I’m stretching.

Stay tuned for news from the reluctant Vespa mechanic.

Autumn Light

Autumn near Galbraith GapJust a few weeks ago autumn was still amidst its fragrant, natural bloom of color and leaf.  Circumstance and schedule largely kept myself and the Vespa indoors engaging other worlds and foes.  But Kim, Junior and I did find a few moments late one afternoon to drink in the spectacle that comes to central Pennsylvania each fall and let the autumn light wash us clean of responsibility and concern, if only for some dazzling minutes.

On the way home from an appointment, the light guided our little car towards Galbraith Gap and a corridor of land recently acquired by the Commonwealth that leads into the mountains.

Kim Dionis in autumn light

Long shadows imply a rapid change in the day as the sun plummets toward the horizon.  I’m convinced the transition is faster in autumn and winter.  My camera watched Kim explore as Junior watched me, waiting for a tennis ball to emerge from a pocket.  Funny how attention, human and canine, can be so focused and connected among a group of people.

Kim Dionis, photographer

As the remains of the day began to fade toward dusk I watched as Kim worked with her camera.  She considers me the photographer in the family but that’s purely a one-sided judgement.  In the art world arena she’s sold more photographs than I have.  She shoots more that I do.  And her relentless approach to a subject is dizzying.  I’ve learned much from that approach though must confess I cannot bring the focus of mind or will to bear on any subject.  It remains a goal but I suspect I don’t have the intellect or obsessive capacity for it.

Due to a chronic medical condition her productive time is limited, strangled really, to a few short hours each day.  Some days less.  In any good relationship people find strength in one another.  How those are embodied are different, and for some perhaps unknown.  It’s clear to me though.  I’ve watched Kim struggle with loss and defeat, but she returns over and over in enthusiasm and desire.  In the autumn light I’ve had the chance to witness the soaring of human spirit and be able to say, “Hey, that’s my wife!”.

I hope I can offer something useful in return because Junior just wants fed, played with or another biscuit…