Friday, August 03, 2007

Keeping Up with the Big Machine

Last Sunday morning I rode 153 miles with my friend Paul Ruby to see how the latest addition to his two-wheeled fleet performed. Paul just purchased a 2000 Kawasaki Concours which joins his Vespa and Ducati as riding options.

Arriving at his place at 8AM found the Concours still under wraps and the Ducati up on a jack. Paul came out the door, cast aside the cover and we were on our way - almost. Before the ride could commence fully he had to stop to pick up the Sunday New York Times.

Paul lets me lead so I can stop when I want to take pictures. I worry a bit that I am traveling too slow but the Kawasaki seems content in my rear view mirrors. Heading west into the Moshannon State Forest I stop to look at some cimicifugia racemosa.

Kim calls them fairy candles and they are also known as Black Cohosh or Black Snakeroot. Paul takes the stop as an opportunity for more coffee and a breakfast banana.

From there it's on through Black Moshannon State Park and northward over Red Moshannon Creek. The history of coal mining in the region displays itself in the bright orange streams fallen victim to acid mine drainage. This damage will last pretty much forever I'm told.

During a stop to look out over the West Branch of the Susquehanna River you can see some of the contamination seeping in but the greater water volume seems to dilute it.

A growling stomach and short discussion points us to a small eating establishment about 30 miles away. Riding up the Quehanna Highway the Vespa cruises comfortably at 55 MPH until we turn off onto Wycoff Road to head towards Sinnemahoning and a hearty breakfast at the Willows, the only place to eat for miles around that I know of.

I was hungry so I didn't get any pictures of breakfast. You all know what bacon and eggs look like. It was good. If you get up this way stop here to eat.

Getting ready to leave we see a pack of BMW bikes cross the bridge and head towards Renovo. They are packed and riding fast somewhere. Following their path I think about how fast I am comfortable riding and it's pretty slow. Traffic on these rural roads still wants to go fast and I tend to let the occasional car or truck go by at 70 MPH. Those 55 MPH signs are a waste of tax dollars.

As always I want to see things and tend to move along at a more relaxed pace and Paul seems content to do the same.

I pull over to look at the river and Paul makes a portrait of me.

While I'm looking around he amuses himself with a short piece of lumber he finds along the road.

I guess the ride just isn't enough.

We stop one more time so I can look out over the river and valley and take a few pictures. My low fuel light comes on before we get to Renovo but I'm not worried---gas is just a few miles away. The gas station is closed. The only gas station around is closed, probably because of the fire that must have just occurred in the past few days.

With the low fuel light on and two bars showing on the fuel indicator we cross the river and head south to the next gas station in Snow Shoe about 36 miles away. I'm comfortable that I have enough fuel and the fact that there is little traffic and no cell coverage doesn't bother me. When the fuel indicator drops to one bar before we even get to the top of the plateau I start to wonder how I might move fuel from the Kawasaki to the Vespa. Then it starts to rain.

A quick stop to pull on raingear and take a picture of one of the out of place rocks that sort of appear here and there we are on our way. I keep the scooter at around 40 MPH thinking I am going to stretch the fuel supply and maintain a light touch on the throttle as the last bar on the fuel indicator disappears. I'm actually surprised to make it to the gas station in Snow Shoe without running out of gas. Even more surprised that I had 3/10 of a gallon left when I got there. Sometime I am going to have to run the tank dry to see how far I can really go.

Getting closer to home Paul and I part ways. I didn't register any reasons why the relatively small Vespa and the large touring Kawasaki couldn't ride all day together if there was no need to chew up miles or ride at high speeds on the Interstate. For touring around like we did it was fine. I know I could ride a lot faster but that interferes with most of the goals I have while riding


Conchscooter said...

Paul is a lucky man, he gets lessons from the Master of the Slow Ride!
As for the fuel I am now finally, sure that i can hit 150 miles and still only put 2 gallons in the 2.4 gallon tank ( and I ride a lot faster). So I'm looking forward to you experimenting with running till empty.

Phil said...


Its time to think about carrying a fuel cell "MSR" container..just to have enough to get to a gas station. I ride a Vino 125 and being a small scooter - I have a range of 100 miles on a 1.2 gal tank. Now that is small but carrying an extra fuel cell 20 ounces "MSR" emergency fuel carry me an additional 20 plus miles. Its nice to know that I have extra fuel in the pet bucket just in case. But its must be fun having a big scooter riding with the big bikes like Paul's motorcycles and also a friend like Paul. When you mentioned BMWs - it reminded me of "Feasting on the Asphalt" by Alton Brown. Himself and his group ride BMWs and other big bikes - crossing across the country and eating their way there, like you guys having breakfast. Another great day write up and pictures on your scooter.


Evan "JabberWokky" Edwards said...

As I was walking upstairs, my wife called out to me "There was just an ad for Feasting on Asphalt 2... they are going up the Mississippi". I get to my office, sit down, and read this. :)

The first four episodes were quite nice, and we're looking forward to the new season.

irondad said...

Awesome post. Sometimes I go to your site just to drink in the photos. You probably did Paul a favor by keeping the speeds down. The Councours uses a revamped Ninja motor which is said to be quite buzzy!

Steve Williams said...

conchscooter: I think I'm luckier than Paul. Aside from him being responsible for me being on two wheels he has pointed me in good directions photographically and is a good friend.

Let me know how far you can go on a tank of fuel.

phil: I think if I were out west or in more remote places I would definitely carry extra fuel. I could have easily avoided this situation if I had filled up when I left home. I usually do but I was sloppy this time.

I've read about Feasting on Asphalt and look forward to being able to watch it sometime.

evan: Synchronicity!

irondad: I enjoy making photos of the trips and I sort of relive them myself when I look at the pictures.

I took the Concours for a spin around the neighborhood but not out where I could see what it was really like. I'll have to ask Paul if there is any buzziness to the engine. So far he has commented on how smooth and quiet it is.

Paul said...

Hi Steve. That was a long ride and you got a lot of worthy photos. I love the one of me kicking wood. I put that on my website. Thanks. That ride blew the cobwebs out of my head. As you noted riding your scooter can be therapeutic.
Conchscooter: "Slow ride"...the national anthem of State College. Actually any song by Foghat is the national anthem of State College..."I'm a full for the city"
irondad: There is an RPM range on my 1964 Vespa and the 2000 concours where a harmonic vibration sets up. If you drive through it though it stops buzzing.The Kaw buzzes at 63mph but it stops buzzing at 70mph. At 60 it's smooooooth. The front fender on my old vespa buzzes like the dickens at 42mph. At 50mph it stops doing that. So I rode 50 back and forth to the garage this evening. Put the clutch back into my car.

gary said...

Back during "The Baron in Winter" project, I did a mixed ride like this with my friend Mark Foster. He was on his Honda Trans-Alp, and of course, I was on the 150cc Baron SX.

It would seem like a mismatch, but the roads we were on, and the icy conditions, served as a great equalizer.

It's great that Paul has the patience to put-up with your photo stops. Mark was the same way, though perhaps I didn't impose quite so much... ;^)

Nice post, Steve.

Ride well,

Phil said...

Your pictures are fantastic and very much appreciated..I use them on my laptop desktop screen. Your pictures reminds me how much I enjoy scootering and picturelog review.

Kano said...

As always great pictures and post Steve! The pic with the big rock in it caught my eye. How did it get there? I have seen what is called Glacial Erratics. Rocks that had been carried by glaciers and left behind when they thawed. Is that what it is?

Anyway, my Brother In-Law used to own a Concours and I rode it several times. I never did get comfortable with it. It was just too darned fast for one, the riding position for another and it felt awkward to handle at low speeds, such as in parking lots. Other than that, for the Sport Touring types, the Councours is a very affordable bike to get used. It has been around a long time, so all the bugs had been worked out, so it is a very reliable machine. This year they came out with a much updated 2008 version.

dru_satori said...


I love the pictures, always do. It's interesting that so few seem to ride mixed rides. It's really all I ride, because there are so few scooters out my way.

In my experience, the folks that think of a scooter as not being able to keep up are at fault, because on anything but a wide open highway, if you are pulling away from a scooter, you are taking too many risks. But there are always people willing to take big risks for marginal gains.

It's much more fun to slow down and enjoy the scenery isn't it?

As always, thanks for sharing!

Ale- said...

hi Steve,
sorry to be writing here but i can't find any email address to write to...
I was wondering 'bout an interview. as I'm a Vespa rider, and a photographer (though hobbyist) like you, it would be fun to me to write sort of an interview/comparison between us and publish it on each weblog.
would you like to help me suggesting questions or anything else?
I thought about these ones:

What's your name/nickname?
What kind of Vespa are you currently riding?
Why did you start bloggin'about it?
What do you use your Vespa for?
What about photography, then?
How do Vespa and Photography mix, so?
What photographic gear do you bring with you when you go out for a ride?
Did your Vespa change the way you perceive the landscape around you?
Do you have any suggestion for the Vespa riders and/or the photographers?

feel free to correct my awful english, and to suggest any other question. it would be nice to publish the results!

you'll find my email browsing my profile or my personal weblog.



Steve Williams said...

gary: Paul is a photographer himself and when I go with him on a photo trip in a car he drives slower than I ride. So he is endlessly patient with stopping for pictures.

phil: Thanks for the kind words and I am glad you find enjoyment with the pix!

kano: As I understand it the stray rocks are leftovers from the retreat of the last big glacier age. They really look out of place and make for cool pictures.

dru: The GTS can defintely keep up at legal speeds. The problem is that many people ride and drive far beyond that not considering any desire to see things.

I'm more and more comfortable riding my own ride.

ale: I'll send you an email in regard to your request for an interview piece. You raise some interesting questions and it would be fun to try and answer them.

Eldercattus said...

I've been known to stop my car or bike and pick up & carry a turtle over to the side of the road. That said, I remember when I tried that with a snapping turtle. It jumped straight up, spun around in mid-air, and bit 6" off the end of my walking stick on the way down. Needless to say, he didn't get my help across the road.

Steve Williams said...

eldercattus: I've helped a few turtles across the road including one sizable snapping turtle. Gave him a big branch to snap on and dragged him across.

I've seen people pick them up by their shell and tail but I value my body parts too much to slip up with a snapping turtle.

Demonio Pellegrino said...

Owning both a scooter and a "real" motorbike, I strongly believe that the sensations that you get from riding the two are largely similar, with a few exceptions.

If I had to choose, I would say that my preference would go for riding slowly on a motorbike. That's when I get the most out of my rides. because while I enjoy, I also know that I have the power to overcome sudden obstacles, or go home to my loved one faster. That's the only difference i can see.