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Living la Vida Moto

February 19, 2008

It was a very busy President’s Day weekend.

Kat(t) says, I picked up a little something today. Could you meet me at Vespa Seattle? This is what she picked up:

Kat(t)'s new GTS

Kat(t) is all smiles on her new GTS (Orin O'Neill photo)

So I hop on the 13 bus, which runs right by Vespa Seattle. Kat(t)’s already there, trying on Corazzo jackets. Kat(t)’s a bit taller than I am, and seems not to be able to find a jacket that fits. Next time, maybe.

Kat(t) rode the infamous Frankenstella to Vespa Seattle, and since she can’t ride two bikes at once, she’ll take her new GTS while I ride FS. We’re off on a short ride.

Up the south slope of Queen Anne Hill we go, my thought being to get a few pics for posterity (like the one above) while the GTS is still brand new. It was about 5:15 in the afternoon when we got to Kerry Park. I was happy the sun hadn’t set.

Through the Queen Anne business district and across the Fremont Bridge we went, stopping for Mexican food in the shadow of V.I. Lenin. Some UW Husky fan wrapped a purple and gold scarf around his neck.

It was getting dark, and cloudy. Kat(t) took her new toy home, while I brought Frankenstella home to the garage, where it would share the space with the PX.

Saturday morning was bright and sunny as the PX and I pulled up to the Starbucks on Dexter. Maryvu, whose Buddy 125 had just received an engine transplant (she now owns two wrecked scooters), had put the word out for a ride. Kat(t) couldn’t go, but stopped by anyway to say hi.

We waited for Doc. And waited. And waited some more. We called, worried he and Tiny might have had another Close Encounter of the Wrong Kind.

Finally, a message. We must’ve gotten our signals crossed; Doc was thinking Maryvu was talking about the ride on Sunday. It was just Maryvu and me, and I wasn’t really hot to go anywhere. We took off to run separate errands.

Sunday morning, meeting up at Café Racer. A good crowd, too. In Seattle, people tend to go a bit nuts when the sun comes out, because gray overcast is so common. Cabin fever obviously had not been abated. Kat(t) is here with the new GTS. “One hundred miles,” she says with a big grin. Wow!

Queenie led us on a meandering tour of Seattle’s more suburban landscape. View Ridge, where the streets are named after Ivy League colleges. Matthews Beach, where gigantic houses sit on fairly steep hillsides, interspersed with twisty roads that have hosted Kurt rides in the past. But this time we were travelling much more slowly.

In my case, maybe a little too slow. The PX is not happy putt-putting around. In fact, it seems unhappy generally. Then it really gets upset.

The group had come to a stop sign at the top of a fairly steep hill. I give the PX some gas, but the engine starts racing. I turn the key off, hit the kill switch, it’s still running! Flat out!! Oh my gosh, is it going to blow up?

I’m not sure what to do. I’m afraid if I dump the clutch it’ll take off like a shot, and run into God only knows what… with me on it. Finally, it occurs to me to shut off the fuel. That finally stops it.

By this time, most of the group had come back to see what the problem was. No, it didn’t die, I explain, just the opposite.

I need to get the bike to level ground, so I take a deep breath, turn the fuel back on, and hit the starter button. Fires up, idles normally. Geez. Okay, back to the ride.

We do more meandering, finally getting on Lake City Way to ride around the top of Lake Washington, then down to Kirkland where we stop at Marina Park.

After hanging out and soaking up the sun, we mount up and head south on Lake Washington Boulevard toward SR 520. Yes, we’re taking the 520 bridge back to Seattle.

There’s a big enough group for us to go pretty much any speed we want as long as we remain tightly grouped. Queenie leads us onto the general-purpose lanes; if I were leading, I’d have stuck to the HOV lane, since Washington allows scooters and motorcycles to run there.

Traffic isn’t too bad, but I still don’t like riding the PX on freeways. It’s interesting to see how the group has positioned itself; new guy Stubbie has his orange Stella right up with Queenie, Tiny’s 50cc Venice is not far behind, while I can see Mary in my mirrors on Amy’s Orange Stella. Interestingly, many in the group comment later about how windy the bridge was, but I found it much less so than other times I’ve ridden it.

It’s still fairly early (and still light out) when I get home. I need to dash over to Fred Meyer, so I decide to take Frankenstella.

The idle speed is still all over the map, and it has become apparent the shifter cables need adjustment, but the fact remains Frankenstella would suck the headlight out of the PX in a drag race. That’s called reed valves, five ports instead of three and a Sito Plus equals more horsepower. Upon returning from Fred Meyer, I adjust the mirror stems so the mirrors show something besides my shoulders and set the tire pressures at 19 lbs. front/35 lbs. rear, as with the PX. The PX seems to work better with a harder rear tire, which works the rear suspension a bit more. Which means better cornering and a smoother ride. Perhaps 26 lbs. is a figure better suited to people smaller than 5′ 11″ and 240 lbs.

Monday’s a holiday. I meet Kat(t) at the Starbucks on Broadway and Republican. We’re going to Renton. Kat(t) has never been to Renton.

I thought she’d like to take a route that would give her GTS a chance to stretch its legs, so we make our way from The Hill to Airport Way. The stretch that actually runs by Boeing Field has a 45-mph speed limit that’s almost universally ignored, making it a good place for speed runs.

“…silent, effortless 60 mph. I’m in loooove” said an e-mail from Kat(t) the previous evening. She did a speed run to Magnuson Park. She did an early-morning run up Queen Anne Hill to photograph the early fog. She started this trip with 130 miles on the clock. She picked it up Friday, remember?

We zoom by the airplanes and make the loop to Boeing Access Road (yes, that’s the actual name), stopping at MLK for a red light. I look over at her, she looks at me. She is the very definition of the term “sh*t-eating grin”. And we haven’t done the fast part yet!

MLK is also known as SR 900, sweeping through Skyway before becoming Sunset Boulevard and then 3rd Street. We had to stop for a red at the abandoned 76 station. Kat(t)’s grin was wider still. At Rainier Avenue, even wider. The light changed before I could get the camera out of my pocket, otherwise I would have had a great picture to contribute to Wikipedia. If there’s an article entitled “Sh*t-eating Grin.”

At Rainier, Kat(t) was counting with her finger, saying “chain, chain, chain.” Renton’s center is mostly big-box retailers and car dealers, not unlike a bazillion other cities in the U.S. and Canada. And Ireland, even. We went down 3rd Street and up 2nd, getting on Rainier to head north.

Rainier Avenue runs the gamut between upscale and ghetto, depending on how close you are to the shore of Lake Washington. It’s usually a nice ride because there’s lots of distance between traffic signals, and the 40 mph speed limit is mostly obeyed.

We’re almost to Dearborn, but it’s still early. “Wanna go to Alki?” I ask. “Yeah, sure,” says Kat(t). Wow. The girl likes to ride. Maybe it’s the GTS. Favicon

  1. February 19, 2008 10:48 pm

    I wonder how often does that 50cc Venice get to ride on the freeway? Kinda scary there w/the PX going wild like that, Orin. Did you figure out whatever happened to cause that?


  2. February 19, 2008 10:57 pm

    Lorenzo, contrary to popular belief, the state of Washington has no law limiting freeway access to 2-wheelers of a particular displacement. There is a law that makes going so slowly as to cause a hazard an infraction (in Washington, most things you get tickets for are civil infractions… “preponderance of evidence” is a lot easier than “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt”), but that applies to any vehicle.

    Tiny was ahead of me… she was going as fast as the ride leader!

    As for the PX engine, on the way home the exhaust pipe popped off the exhaust port. Can you say “air leak,” boys and girls? Oh, and the carburetor main jet separated from the mixer tube. All fixed, running much, much better…

  3. Joe permalink
    February 20, 2008 11:17 am

    “Rainier Avenue runs the gamut between upscale and ghetto”???? Ghetto? Really? By what standard?

    That ride is nice…minus the chain stores.

  4. February 20, 2008 12:54 pm

    By the Seattle definition of “ghetto,” the one all the white people who live in remodeled bungalows and drive Priuses think is “edgy.” 😀

  5. Joe permalink
    February 22, 2008 12:25 pm

    Perfect! Not a Starbucks within 3 blocks, either!

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