Monday, June 25, 2007

22 vs. 9000; Horsepower, that is.

Most mornings, when I take the direct path to work, I pass the local Union Pacific switching yards. This small yard serves several short-line railroads, most notably long Utah Railway coal trains, along with the big yellow UP itself. I'm a long-time railfan, being enamored of big traction engines since childhood, when my dad bought me a small AT&SF N-scale toy train set for Christmas. I've loved watching trains, big or small, ever since. When I'm near the yards, I try and notice what rolling stock is there, how it's configured, and especially which locomotives are on duty.

I generally pass the yards early, as the train crews are preparing for the day. If I give them a toot from my scooter horn, they'll often honk back with an air-powered blast or two.

This morning, three matching UP EMD SD40-2 locomotives were warming up for the day, with their unique ticking sound. As I whizzed past, I couldn't resist stopping to snap a photo of my humble 22 hp next to their combined 9000 hp. I console myself by thinking that my top speed is higher than theirs.

And I don't have to follow the rails; I can go anywhere I please.

Friday, June 15, 2007

New Saddle; Happy Butt

Ever since I bought the GTV, I've been a little unsettled about the leather saddle on this particular scooter. I like having unique items, but not when they don't perform as they should.

This particular saddle is not the same as other GTV scooters I've seen, being an orange color, almost like a basketball, instead of the normal medium brown. That's OK, but what's worse is that the leather itself is also so thin that it tends to wrinkles up under my butt on rides of any length. This can get uncomfortable and looks cheap.

Additionally, the foam padding feels to be not very dense. As a result, it deforms easily under my weight. I notice this happening when slowing the scoot when coming to a stop in particular. As my weight shifts forward in response to the deceleration, I find the front of the saddle deforming and letting me slide forward and almost off the front of the saddle. I'm well aware of this happening with a poorly adjusted bicycle saddle. In that case, the remedy is to angle up the saddle slightly in the front, an adjustment that is easy enough to do with a decent-quality bicycle seatpost, but not apparent at first on this scooter. I examined the saddle and determined that I could insert a set of spacers under the nose and thus slightly raise the angle in the front. I haven't done that yet, but had intended to hit the hardware store this weekend for a set of longer bolts and spacers.

I casually mentioned my displeasure of the saddle's construction to the Vespa salesman earlier this week, but figured there was nothing more that could be done, short of ordering the $900 seat myself, and I wasn't that displeased. Well, two days later, I received a call from the Service department of Utah Vespa saying that my replacement saddle had arrived.

Wow. What quick service!!

Two-day turn-around in response to a vague complaint is remarkable. I didn't figure the salesman would go to the trouble to warranty the original saddle, but he must have. Great customer service indeed.

Well, everything isn't always as it initially appears. As it turns out, the mechanic who uncrated and performed the initial assembly on the scoot noticed the same issues as I. He placed a defect replacement order at that time; it was in response to his request that the saddle was shipped.

Regardless, I rode in to the dealership yesterday afternoon and swapped the old for the new. What a difference!! The new saddle is more attractive in color, being a medium brown instead of orange and thus should be easier to purchase other leather accessories to match. In addition, it appears to be made of substantially thicker leather that holds its shape much better. The saddle itself is firmer and therefore more comfortable; I wonder if it has different foam padding as compared to the original. It sure feels like it.

I do like the difference. I'll have to pay particular attention to the firmness of the padding over the next few days to see if I need to apply the tilt modification to this saddle or not.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Took the Long Way Home

I took the long way home Friday after work. I spent lots of time up on the east benches of the valley, looking down on the congestion. I was very pleased at how the scooter handled the hills, though I didn't push it hard at any point; I've still only got 300 miles on this scoot and as such we're just shy of half-way through the recommended 625 mile (1000 km) break-in distance. Unfortunately, I wasn't looking at the time and, after stopping for gas (filled 'er up with 91 octane for a whoppin' $5.50, by the way), I arrived home a few minutes after 18:30. The trip took considerably more time than I thought it would. Sure was fun, though.

I picked up a cheap $17 face shield for the helmet Thursday on the way home. It makes the helmet difficult to fit in the pet carrier, but otherwise is a welcome addition to my gear. I find I no longer have dust and other gunk blowing into my eyes while speeds over 45 mph are not as difficult either. I'll have to get one for the wife as well; I think she'll like it.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Rainy Day Thursday

I woke up this morning to light rain, heavy clouds, stiff winds, and a 45 degree temperature. I thought about taking the car, but figured that sooner or later I'd have to see if my rain gear is up to snuff or not. I got all the clothes on and was immediately too warm standing there in the garage, but once on the scoot and headed north, I felt fine.

Legs and upper body weathered the ride fine; the only cold parts of my body were my fingers and face. Frankly, I expected as much. I need to find a nice wool balaclava and some sort of windproof covering for the gloves. I think I have a pair of half-way decent gauntleted mittens somewhere, but after the recent move, I'm not sure exactly where they might be.

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the ride in was, though the rain never hit all that hard. I was especially careful at every corner, just in case.

No problems, not any at all.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Early Morning Joggers at the City Park

I seem to have no problem waking up early enough to be one of the few mechanized folks out on the road. I seldom see another scooter or motorcycle rider. Perhaps as the overnight low temperatures rise, along with the prices at the pump...

It's amazing the number of joggers out this early, though. Depending on the community I drive through, the difference in the number of runners is dramatic. In my own hometown, I regularly see the previously mentioned jogger-moms, but they're limited in number to perhaps a half-dozen or so. No other exercisers seem to be found in town.

But when I head east to the next community on the other side of the farms, they're out in force. I must have seen 20-25, mostly young, fit women, running in pairs or triplets; very few men are out, and they're always alone. This community is of a higher economic scale, no doubt. The homes are substantially larger, the cars are nicer, and the lots tend to be rather well-groomed. I wonder if the women see themselves as needing to keep up a certain standard. Maybe that's their motivation.

If so, that's too bad. On the other hand, they seem, to my five-second glance as I ride by, to be happy and laughing. I wonder if the same could be said for the inhabitants of my own home town.

As I passed the city park, I noticed this fine older bandstand sitting empty. It looked like a nice place to spend a summer evening, listening to the local brass band play some John Phillip Sousa tunes.

Just then a gaggle of joggers passed by, giggling and laughing with each other all the way down the street.

I made it in to work with plenty of time to spare. Nice ride.