Tuesday, November 22, 2011

There's Somethin' About a Sidecar

I've been riding riding scooter for 3 and a half years now. For most of that time I've been fascinated by sidecars, also known as "hacks" or "rigs." Who isn't? Right? Sure, I had people tell me that they're not all they're cracked up to be, but my interest continued.
Here's the Stella after I had ridden her to the rally.

My interest hasn't always remained high, though. I had the opportunity to ride/drive one about 20 miles in May of 2010. We were having a scooter rally and my friend Meta, who has a 2005 Stella with a sidecar, and I traded scooters so she could ride unhindered in one of the rides. I had been jonesing to ride one, so I didn't hesitate to let her take my Stella on the ride, so I could take the sidecar across town to the next rally location.

I was underwhelmed, to say the least. I had no idea it took so much work to control one of these things! Because there is no brake on the sidecar, every time I came to an intersection, the whole rig would swing violently to the left. Because the sidecar isn't powered, every time I would accelerate at any rate harder than a snail on quaaludes, the hack swung hard to the right. It was all I could do to stay between the lines.
Argh! Beware of the corners!

Cornering? "Fuhget abowd it!" I made a left onto a street with three lanes for cars and one for bikes and still almost ran over the curb! Right hand turns were nightmarish as well. I don't think that the sidecar actually went into the air on any of turns, but I have seen enough YouTube videos that I felt like it was going to. I think I made every turn at 5mph or less. I never knew how much roads sloped in one direction or another, until I was on that rig. That was yet another disturbing sensation. By the time I arrived at my destination, my arms were limp with the exhaustion of fighting the scooter.
My SIL, Raoul, my eldest grandson, Zak, and I on the hack.

Now that I had ridden a sidecar 20 miles or so and was, therefor, an "expert" I told some of my friends how I foolishly wanted one before I had piloted one, but now I knew better and would never get one. I knew those foolish sidecar fantasies would plague me no longer.
My daughter, one of the grand twins and I on the rig.

Apparently, sidecar fantasies are not easily eliminated. Time went by and my thoughts about them ceased being as negative. I have a daughter, son-in-law and grandson who all live in Cape Town, South Africa. When we first learned, in May, that they were going to come and visit, my wife mentioned, in passing, that sidecars and grand kids would make a pretty good combination. I wasn't too sure about that idea but it fell into one of the many lesser used parts of my brain and began to germinate.
My other daughter, mother of the grand twins, my other grand twin and I

Before I knew it, I was thinking a lot about sidecars again. I was googling them. I was watching YouTube videos. I even started following a blog about Hubert Kriegel, who travels the world on a Ural Sidecar Rig. I began think "What better way to transfer my love for scooters and riding on 2-wheels is there than taking them for a ride in a sidecar?"

As the time for the South African contingent's visit got closer, I asked Meta about borrowing her hack for the visit. She never hesitated a moment and said I could have Stella and "the Rocket" (her sidecar) for as long as I wanted them. In the end, we actually traded rides. Meta took my RV-250 and I took her Stella w/sidecar.
Zak loved all the scooters.

The kids were actually in town before we managed to make the trade. I met Meta at Scoot Over (Tucson's finest scooter source) and rode home. This was the same rig I had ridden 18 months earlier, but I didn't have quite as many problems with it riding to my house. Perhaps it was because there weren't as many turns. I also was real easy on the brake and accelerator.

I got home fine, but knew I had to practice a bit lest I scare to bejeebers out of my 2 year grandson. As I was sitting there on the bike, up drives a car with California plates. My daughter and SIL were expecting some friends from CA who wanted to see them now that they were in the states.

Here, dear friends, is the allure of the sidecar. I had never seen these folks before in my life. They stepped out of their car and I called over:
"You must be the Dunlaps. Want to take a ride in my sidecar?"
To which Kendra replied: "Are you kidding?"
"Nope." I said, and she jumped in.
It's great for picking up pizza, too!

I did advise her, once we were out of sight of the house, that she was the first person i had ever ridden in the sidecar. We zipped around the block and when we pulled up to my driveway, it was clear that Justin was ready for his ride. I took him around the block and when we got back to the house, I took them in the house to introduce them to the family. People will take off with total strangers, if it means they get to ride in a sidecar.

For the next ten days, I gave rides in that hack almost every day. I learned to anticipate what the scooter would do on take off and with braking. I learned to slide my butt off the side of the seat in the turns. I learned that even "cool" high school boys, smoking cigarettes, will point and shout "Look at that!" when I rode by. The more I rode, the more I enjoyed this scooter.
Smiles before & during each ride, tears afterward.

If the fact that Zak, my grandson, cried every time he got out of the Rocket is any indication, I would say he really liked it. Additionally, everyone else in the family liked it too. I am pretty sure that I don't want a Stella with a sidecar, though. I think it's a little much to expect a 150cc bike to pull the extra mass associated with a sidecar much less a passenger.
What is NOT to love about this?

I am finding myself attracted to the Ural. The fact that the Ural looks just like the hacks you see in the old movie about WWII kind of cements it in my head. I will be looking at scooter and various motorcycle w/sidecar combos over the coming months. I don't know how I'll ever afford one, but we'll wait and see how that goes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I went for a ride a couple of days ago and took my Go-Pro along. I was on my RV-250. This ride was listed in Arizona Highways Magazine, so I decided to go out and try some dirt road again.

I think my starter failing during that other ride was a coincidence.

View Larger Map

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Deeds Done & Dues Paid

I haven't really had the opportunity to blog about it lately, but I've been having a LOT of scooter mechanical difficulties. The Buddy broke a belt on my way home from work, then again when I brought it to Sedona. The RV-250 lost its starter in the middle of the desert, leaving me stranded for a few hours. Then, earlier this week, Stella seized her crank on a ride to Sonoita with some friends, again leaving me stranded, but at least John K. stayed with me while we waited for my son to come pick me up.

So, it was with some trepidation that I left on a very long ride a few days ago. At every major point along the way, I was thinking about who I could call and where I could keep the scoot until I could come back to pick it up. Thankfully, the scoot ran perfectly for the entire 550+ miles.

Did I say 550 miles? Yes, I did. For details of how and why the route came to be that far and on those particular roads, please refer to my scooter club blog post: Of Prescott Twisties to Jerome to AZ Rim Country and Home. But why consider riding that far, knowing that it would take 14-16 hours in the saddle?

Here is a comment my mother made on my facebook status referring to the length of the ride: "And why is it you are doing this? I know you love to ride that scooter, but sometime-----" She wasn't the only person who asked either.

It was a cloudless morning when I set out

The fact is that there is more than one answer to that question.The first, and most obvious is that I wanted to ride the area. Yesterday seemed like as good a time as any. Actually I was going to do it 2 weeks ago, but it was raining the morning I planned and going.

The Weaver Mountains outside of Congress, AZ

Another reason is that I'm pretty sure I won't always live here in Tucson. I don't want to move away wishing that I had ridden a certain road(s) before moving. again, now was as good a time as any.

Frog Rock outside of Congress, AZ

Third, I just love to ride, and I love to ride where I've never ridden before. I had several days off work and this was a good time.

So, what is it like to ride long distance on a 250cc scooter?

I felt great as I left Tucson. I had found some roads outside of Casa Grande on which I had never ridden, as well and a new route around the southwest part of Phoenix. I was looking forward to what lay ahead. Never the less, every bump in the road, made me wonder if the scooter was about to die on me.

Being somewhat of a farm boy, originally from Roswell, NM, I enjoyed the ride between Casa Grande and Maricopa. There were lots a cattle and hay cutting and all the associate smells were there. I may be the only one, but the smell of manure brings on a certain nostalgia for me. The road itslef was straight and flat, but I still enjoyed it a lot.

Elevation and cloud cover started increasing as I left the Phoenix area, riding toward Wickenburg. One of the many things I love about riding in AZ are the mountains. A 50 miles ride can take up, then down several thousand feet, depending on where you are. Temperatures can drop 30 degrees and you can go from desert to pine forest. It is amazing to experience. On this day, I experienced it over and over again. What a treat.

Roadside Memorial along the White Spar Highway (AZ-89)

My excitement in creased as I left Congress, AZ. I knew that I would be climbing a big mountain (the White Spar Highway) and then, not far after that, I would reach the first of the roads I was out here for. The White Spar is an impressive climb. The I was limited to about 45mph top speed, because of the grade. I've read that this is a dangerous stretch of road, but there was little traffic when I was there. Riding down probably would have been a bit scarier.

Route 89 outside of Prescott.
I reached the top and wished there had been a scenic overlook for pics of the valley. As I am writing this, I discovered that there is one, but it is only available to vehicle goes DOWN. Another time, maybe. I pulled over in the little town of Yarnell to mount my Go-Pro camera. I really wanted to catch the twisties and share them with others.

Beautiful Blue Stella w/sidecar Combo at Prescott Scooter & Auto Source

My desire to share my rides is another reason I enjoy these rides as well. Since I have started blogging about my rides, I have had many people tell me that they enjoy each installment. I encourages me to know that I bring other people enjoyment by writing about my little scooter hobby.

Scooter & auto source also had this 150cc Tomahawk Replica

I learned from from my first video attempts in Sedona, so I changed up the way I was videoing. Rather than just letting the camera run, I only shot 1-2 minutes at a time. That way it would take forever to load and edit. The biggest problem I had with this technique was that it is hard to tell if the camera is on or off. There is no indicator light on the top or back of the camera, so I had to guess a bit. I did end up missing one to the better segments of the road. Here is my edited video of the segment of AZ-89 HERE.

I was thrilled to see a lot full of scooters as I rode through Prescott. I stopped for a bit and met Mark Tetreau, owner of Prescott Scooter and Auto Source. I love scooter people.

Storm heading toward Jerome

I cut my visit short because it had started sprinkling. It initially looked like the skies were clearer to the south, but once I got out of Prescott, I saw the storm clouds you can see in the pic above. I could see frequent lightening as well. I knew I was probably going to get wet.
Looking through rain squall toward Jerome, AZ

I found myself looking forward to the rain. It's probably just me, but I don't want to be a "fair weather" rider. So, I rode through the rain, up, then down, a steep, winding, mountain road. I kind of feel like I've "paid my dues." Another milestone passed. Also, I was pleased, because I had just ridden the other stretch of road that I wanted to ride.

I was a bit disappointed that it was pouring down as I hit Jerome. It's a very scenic little town. I might have gotten off the bike and walked around a bit had it been nicer.

Riding in the rain got my manual GPS a little damp

I had planned on stopping for a bit in Cottonwood, but I was right on the leading edge of the rain as I got there. I decided to keep going. It took until Camp Verde, another 25 miles, before I was into some partial sunshine. At this point I was just over 300 miles into my ride. I checked in with my wife to let her know that I expected the ride to take another 6-8 hours.

Rain squall near Roosevelt Lake

A lesson I learned while on this ride: Don't bet new glasses then take off on a 15 hour ride the next day. I wasn't having problems seeing, but they were too tight behind my ears. Over the course of the day, they were getting more and more painful. I'm sure the helmet didn't help, either.

More anticipation: I was now headed toward Pine, Strawberry and Payson. I had never been to any of these communities until my last trip to Sedona. This area is what is known as AZ Rim Country, because it is on the Mogollon Rim, and it is beautiful. It is also a bit under utilized because it is not really "on the way" to any place. The good thing about that is that there aren't big crowds. There are nice looking hotels and B&B's as well as a lot of campgrounds. The road quality all around this area is excellent, though. I definitely have plans to return to the Payson area with my wife.

I was getting tired at this point. One thing that keeps me alert is the excitement of a new road. I left Payson then turned onto AZ-166 which would take me by Roosevelt Lake. I had never been on that road now had I seen that lake before. I remained alert as I approached, rode along side, then passed this beautiful lake. There are many large camping and picnic areas along it shores and most were almost completely empty as I went by.
I found this bridge next to the Roosevelt Dam to be quite beautiful

I reached Globe, AZ for some food and my final fuel stop. It is just over 100 miles to Tucson from Globe, night was falling and I had been riding for more than 12 hours.

More lessons learned:
1. Even a good fitting helmet gets uncomfortable after this long. The top of my head was feeling like it was burning from the continuous pressure.
2. Even a comfortable seat gets uncomfortable. My butt was also beginning to feel as if it were burning.

If you think you'll be doing a long ride like this, then plan for the fact that you will likely have to stop more and more frequently the longer you ride. I had been stopping about every 100 miles or so until now. I had to stop twice more before I got back to Tucson

The other thing I had trouble with, was driving at dusk. I found that I was pretty darn frightened. I kept imagining a deer leaping out from the side of the roadway. Once it was completely dark, I felt a lot better. I am glad the RV-250 has such great lighting.

Ride on,

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Savoring the Switchbacks

It took me a while, but I recently took a little vacation to Sedona with my wife. While there, I shot some video with my new Go-Pro camera. I learned a bit about shooting video and a bit more about editing it. Here is the first video I shot during the vacation:

I hope to be posting again soon. I also been posting recently at the Sky Island Riders site. I posted, already, about the trip from Tucson to Sedona.

Ride on,


Thursday, July 21, 2011

From Scarab Ride to Sugar High

So, once again, I have been lax about blogging. It's not quite as bad as it seems though,because I have posted a couple of times on my club site since last posting here. Today, I thought I would write about a couple of the group rides I was a part of in May and June.

The Rapture Ride
One of the scooter clubs in Phoenix is the Scarabs. We were invited to ride in their monthly ride and a couple of us decided to attempt the trek to Phoenix for this ride. Craig organized this ride and called it the Rapture Ride. (Remember the guy who said the world would end on 5/21?)
Arizona Falls - There is a lot of water around the Phoenix area.

Initially, we were going to ride up, but that meant getting up around 3am, riding 150 miles or so, doing the ride, then riding back home. We decided to truck the bikes up.
The author at AZ Falls - This is a great park!
This ride was most excellent. I have been to Phoenix many times, but I've never had the opportunity or inclination to just drive around and site see. Craig picked out a bunch of quirky points of interest and connected them together in a fun way
Here we are all parked at AZ Falls

Some of the places we checked out: AZ Capitol Building, the oldest house and the oldest commercial building in Phoenix, the Cross Cut / Williams Cemetery, Papago Park, Arizona Falls and a really nice, though difficult ride around Camelback Mountain.

The view from Camelback Mountain
A Lizard next to the road.

After taking a break at Arizona Falls, we headed for Camelback Mountain. I didn't get a pic, but we were there to get a look at Copenhaver Castle. We had a couple of novice riders with us and, unfortunately, a couple of bikes were dropped on the extremely steep road. Sorry guys.

We cruised by the Arizona Biltmore and the Wrigley Mansion.
Scooter gangsters at Hula's
Hula's French Toast

We finished this ride with brunch at Hula's Modern Tiki. I had the French Toast which has a hint of Kona Coffee in it. Very tasty.
After the ride, John and I rode to where we had left the truck. We loaded the bikes and made the 2 hour return trip back to Tucson.
My Stella's crash bars made the fit in the truck a little snug.

We both had a lot of fun and look forward to attending another Scarabs ride.

The Donut Ride

This ride had been in the works for months. I have seen other scooter clubs do rides where they cruised around tasting one particular item or another. I decided to do a donut tasting ride, but change it a bit. I created a critique form to give to everyone where we could judge each bakery, then at the end of the ride have "Tucson's Best Donut / Donut Shop."
Next to Le Caves
Since "Live to Ride / Ride to Eat" is our unofficial motto, we had a good turnout. I selected 5 local shops, then connected them with a somewhat interesting route. We met at the first shop. Critique forms and pencils were passed out and the tasting began.
This shop even had a little shrine, complete with coffee and a donut.

The ride was a LOT of fun. A group of scooters flocking in to a small donut shop attracts a bit of attention and we had fun explaining to the management of each shop, what we were doing.
At the last shop, I asked if anyone was feeling sick

This was a popular ride, so I'm now working on another "tasting" kind of ride. What should it be? Tacos? Sonoran hot dogs? Ice cream? We'll see.

My next post will probably be about a recent trip to Sedona, AZ. My wife and I went there for six days and had a grand time. I brought the scoot along and got some fine pictures as well as some video.

Ride on,


Sunday, May 22, 2011

I got a Go-Pro camera for my birthday this year and really hadn't used it yet. I do plan on using for some upcoming "You Are There" type videos on the Sky island Riders "Riding SoAZ" series.

I took it along with me on a one of the rides we did one the rally and included that footage in a rally montage I edited using the video and pics taken during our rally. The video has been posted on the various club sites, but I am posting here because some of the people who read this blog, do not read the others.

If you've seen it already, I apologize, if not, I hope you enjoy the video:

Ride on,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Of Fractures and Fun

"Fractures and Fun." There's a couple of words that you don't hear together all that often. but they describe my life of the past 6 weeks.

First, the fracture part: On March 16, I was on the scooter, riding around behind Scoot Over, and. . . crashed. I don't know how or why. I presume that I hit a patch of grease of oil, but I just don't know. So, going 10-15mph, the scoot (Iron Buddy) went down on it's left side. I went over the front, broke my fall with my right hand/arm, rolled to my elbow, then over to my butt and up on my feet, grabbed the scooter and returned it to it's full upright position. All this happened in 5 seconds or less.

I immediately felt as if my right wrist was sprained. I helped unload a scooter from the back of the Scoot Over truck, then took the cowl off the Buddy's engine, replaced the spark plug cap and put the cowl back on. My wrist was really beginning to stiffen up. I decided that I had better head home before I couldn't ride.

By the time I got home, I was unable to take my gear off and had to have my wife help me. Naturally, I had to tell her what had happened. Being the good, caring wife that she is, she told me to go the Urgent Care as she was certain I had fractured my wrist. Being a nurse, I was rapidly coming to the same conclusion.

Long story short: I had fractured my right radius bone in two places. the first was at the wrist and the second was in the elbow. Additionally, judging by how much it hurt to move or breathe, I believe I fractured a rib on the right side as well. This put me in a sling and wrist immobilizer and out of work, for the better part of five weeks. The picture above is me, an hour or two after returning from Urgent Care. They splinted the arm, but the next day, the ortho doctor removed it.

The worst part of this was that i was supposed to ride in the Salton Sea Endurance Rally the following week. I had to cancel. Initially, I could only type with my left hand and so, didn't feel like posting anything about my little mishap.

So, where was the fun part? I don't know that I mentioned it, but we have been planning our second scooter rally, called "For A Few CC's more." The rally was this past weekend. My injury kept me off of work, but not out of rally planning. Thanks to my fracture, I was able to get out, find sponsors and plan rides in a lot more detail than last year.

I had debated on writing a separate entry just for the planning aspect of the rally, but I'll pass, since the rally is over. Suffice it to say, that we (4 of my loyal club mates and I) spent about 4 months planning the rally. The last month was hectic and required a lot of time, but we got it done. So, what did the rally involve?

We kicked it off with a ride. 9 scooters and a beautiful Triumph motorcycle participated. It was a bit windy, but it was sunshiny and about 90 degrees.
This ride crossed through some beautiful desert areas. We rode through Picture Rocks, then around behind the Tucson Mountains and returned to the Tucson area via Gates Pass.
This is the group stopped at a gas station for a couple minutes of rest and fuel for those who needed it. The ride was 52 miles and 2 hours long.
We finished the kick-off ride at Scoot Over, where we were holding our Meet & greet. Rally bags and t-shirts were passed out.
This is our shirt. Isn't it amazing. One of our local scooterists is a graphic artist. Everyone really liked the way the shirt came out.
Saturday started with an early ride, breakfast, then the most planned ride I've ever been associated with and I didn't even ride in it: the Tucson Oddities Ride. We selected a number of unusual locations around town, provided a pamphlet to tell everyone about the locations and took a long, urban ride. One of the spots was Valley of the Moon. I think I'm going to try and do a separate post with pics from all the locations.
Another part of the ride was Roller Coaster Road. I posted a video of it in an earlier post.
Our main venue for Saturday was Grace Community Church. One of our riders is a member there and they welcomed us warmly and gave us the run of the place. It's not a great pic, but they made a nice welcome sign for us, using our t-shirt design. We used their parking lot for our scooter "rodeo" and the inside for our spaghetti western dinner.

Our teeter-totter from last year was modified a bit, for safety. Most of the participants rode the rodeo course. Six even did the teeter-totter.

We also had slow drags. Above, Brandon and Damn Dirt Dave are pretty close. Dave won the slow drags and the rodeo.
Sunday was our ride up the Sky Island Scenic By-Way, aka Mt Lemmon. It is a beautiful ride. It is 26 miles and about 7000 feet to the top. The road twists, turns and climbs its way out of the desert and eventually into pine forest. At the top in the little community of Summer Haven. 18 bikes participated in this ride. I always have us ride up as a group. The ride down is done as individuals. I do this so that everyone can ride in their own comfort zone and skill level. I don't know if other groups ride mountains this way, but it makes sense to me. We meet up again at a coffee shop at the bottom.

The other neat part of this rally is that we gave the money from the raffle to a local charity. This year it was donated to Ben's Bells. I was able to give them a check for $543.00. I had deliberately looked for a local organization that was small enough, that our gift would matter. I think it will.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Viva Vegas

For four days, from 2/25 - 2/28, I went to Las Vegas for the High Rollers Scooter Rally. It's the biggest rally I've ever attended. Picking a handful of photos for the blog from all the ones I took is the hard part.

It's more than 400 miles from Tucson to Vegas, so we decided to trailer some scooters up there. I got together with some friends from the GGR Scooter Club and we shared the trailer and a hotel room for the rally. The drive up was enjoyable as I got to spend some time getting to know some folks that I had never really talked to before.

In the trailer is Bald John, president of GGR. On the ramp is Smiley and that is his Rattler 110 being unloaded. John K. who rides with the Sky Island Riders and is a member of GGR was also along. At the base of the ramp is Grumpy. He's from GGR in California and mets us in Vegas.
In this pic is the reflection of the scooter parking area as seen from our hotel room at the Golden Gate Hotel located at the end of the "Fremont Street Experience."
This is the same parking lot from a different view point. This is taken Friday afternoon. There were a lot more scooters there on Saturday, but I was busy enjoying the festivities and didn't get back up into the parking garage.
There were a lot of scooters, but this was my favorite. It's a Heinkel Tourist and it's in beautiful shape. This is the scooter featured in the book "I See by my Outfit" by Peter S. Beagle.
Another view of the Heinkel.
There were scooters with weapons and gas masks. They are probably preparing for the zombie apocalypse, which a common concern amongst scooter folk, but I'm not sure why.

Some beautiful Lambrettas brought down from Washington state. They were telling us in the hotel that their truck broke down en route, so they sold it to the tow truck driver, rental a u-haul and drove the rest of the way. Now THAT'S dedication to a rally.

Friday night two of the attendee's got married! I can't remember their names, but they seemed like a nice couple. It was a great time.
Here's a pic of their scooter "limo."
Saturday morning was cold and blustery. John and I decided to find something indoors to do. We found the Pinball Hall of Fame! It really took me back to my childhood. If there was an arcade nearby, I would be there.
Another row of machines. All of them are functioning and are playable.
Saturday afternoon at the Golden Gate parking lot.
Sunday morning was a group ride out to Red Rock Canyon. I was riding in the middle of the pack. This, obviously, is a pic looking forward......
This is looking back. I think there were 30-40 scooters along on this ride. It was a blast.
At a fuel stop, there was a group of crotch rocket riders. They really enjoyed coming over and looking at all the scoots. We had one sidecar rig with us, with the obligatory dog. The bikers loved that.
red Rock Canyon is beautiful. It reminded me of Sedona, AZ or the mountains about Albuquerque, NM. Pictured is John K. accompanied by our two scooters: my black Stella and his red Stella Fireball.
For the most part, we road through the park in groups of 2 and 3. Quite a few of us did stop at this plateau for some pics.
Stella and I stopped for a couple of pics.
At one point, John and I saw these Bighorn Sheep. What a treat.
At the end of the ride through the park, we stopped to get the group back together. Naturally, there a little bit of screwing around while we waited.
Once the group was back together, we went screaming through town for the gymkhana and concourse. There were more scooters there, including this beautiful Honda Gyro.
Some of the scooters gathered at Fred's Bar.
A pic of a scooter going over the jump on the gymkhana.

I'm not really a fan of Las Vegas, but I love scooters and scooter people. That made the trip worthwhile. I'm not sure if I'll being going back again next year or not, but I did have a good time this year.

Below is a youtube video done by Scooter Space. It gives you a good idea of the flavor of the rally. You can see my Stella at 0:33 in the video.