Skip to content

Nora Ephron’s mom was right*

March 24, 2010
The GTS in Castle Rock, Wash.

The GTS in Castle Rock, Wash. (Orin O'Neill photos)

The weather forecast looked good. I would ride the GTS to Seattle, ride the La Vita, and ride home. Four hundred miles, give or take. In one day. No problemo!

Yeah, right.

The alarm clock went off at 6:00 am. It was nice to see the sky wasn’t pitch dark on this Thursday morning. While the whole of the Pacific Northwest would be sunny and unseasonably warm, it would be chilly initially.

I wasn’t expecting 33°F chilly, however. The GTS was covered in a thin layer of ice.

Back inside to get the rain pants, then I’m off.

By the time I’d finished breakfast, the sun was out, and it had warmed up a bit. There was almost no traffic on the dreaded US 30, but there were places deep in shadow, with ominously shiny-looking pavement. The center of the road was dry thanks to the heat of engines and transmissions, so as long as no vehicle had puked out its entire supply of lubricants, I’d be fine.

A glimpse of the Lewis & Clark Bridge meant the tough part of the journey north would soon be behind me. On previous occasions, I’ve tried routes going through downtown Longview, but I’ve since realized the most efficient way to the Westside Highway is to take the first right on the Longview side of the bridge.

I’m feeling really good about my progress as Vader gets closer. The hope is to make it to the Point Defiance ferry dock before the lunch break, which would get me to Scoot About in the early afternoon.

Aboard the M/V Rhododendron

Front and center on the M/V Rhododendron, Talequah in the distance.

In Toledo, I turn left and go up the hill. But I soon spot a railroad crossing. Something’s wrong here. But I keep going. Winlock?

Okay, not too big a deal. Roads lead somewhere, and the scenery is rather nice. I’ll keep going until an intersection appears. Out in the sticks, there are signs at the junctions pointing to what’s left and what’s right.

“Toledo Vader” sez the sign pointing left. I’d gone in a circle. Filed for future reference when I’m not going anywhere in particular, I’m thinking the travel gods have smiled on me.

Once back in Toledo, I realize what I did wrong. This time I take the exit for Jackson Highway, which is a short distance up the hill.

There’s still no traffic, the sky is blue, and Mt. St. Helens looms large to the east, though there may be an optical illusion at play. It’s 11:00 o’clock when I decide to stop in Chehalis. I’m not going to make that ferry before lunch, so I’ll have lunch.

Back on the road, through Centralia and northbound on WA 507. The GTS purrs contentedly at 60 mph. Last time riding on this road, I was constantly looking over my shoulder; this time, the odd passing car reminds me to check the mirrors more often.

The M/V Rhododendron is waiting patiently at Point Defiance. While in the past there have been many other scooters accompanying us, the GTS and I are the lone 2-wheelers on this voyage, our place on the ferry’s deck front and center between the yellow hatches.

While it’s usually possible to just make the ferry to Fauntleroy if you make a mad dash from Talequah, a section of Vashon Highway was closed. The detour deviated considerably from the main route. Hmm. Looks like there will be a wait at the other end.

I was right.

I parked the GTS in the 2-wheeler waiting area and went looking for a ferry schedule. The next sailing is… 3:25?! I have an hour to kill. But then I noticed something truly disturbing.

Cut rear tire

See the big cut?

See the big cut in the tread groove? I have no idea how that happened, and more importantly, had no idea whether it happened in Portland or on the way up. Remarkably, the tire was still holding air, but there was no telling how long that would still be the case.

What to do? Find out in my next installment. Favicon

* Nora Ephron’s mom famously said to young Nora, “it’s all copy, dear.” Arguably, the concept at the root of blogging…

  1. March 24, 2010 10:13 am

    Dear Orin:

    I love ride reports like this one. I think a 400-mile round trip in a day is very ambitious. Quite frankly, I couldn’t do it. I’m still recovering from the 228-mile run I did this weekend. But I notice your bike has no spare and I’m wondering, are the tires tubeless as well? That back tire looks as if it has a lot of good miles left on it, for the esception of the cut. Do you remember hitting anything that wouls have done that?

    I can hardly wait for the conclusion.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  2. March 24, 2010 6:14 pm

    Jack, I would’ve needed a day to recover, had I succeeded in making the round trip in a day. Do they give Ironbutt awards to scooterists?

    Yes, the GTS has tubeless tires, as do all modern scooters. At least the ones I’m familiar with. In fact, the tires for the departed PX were tubeless as well, but when mounted on split rims you need to fit a tube.

    While that rear tire had worn down to the treadwear indicators, making it technically illegal to use it, there was probably another thousand miles of useful life left. There’s no periodic safety inspection in Washington or Oregon, so I could easily have gotten away with continuing to use it. The rear tire was bald when I got the GTS.

    I cannot recall running over anything (and I read the road very carefully); what I find troubling is the possibility that this was a failure of the tread compound and/or tire carcass. A whole bunch of other scooters use the same size tire, and they’re all capable of 55-60 mph. The Kendas are much cheaper than equivalent tires from the major manufacturers, but if they all behave like this, it’s false economy…

  3. March 24, 2010 7:06 pm

    So, was the trip to have the GTS serviced…? Or just a good ride to visit with folks, etc.?

  4. March 24, 2010 7:11 pm

    The primary mission was to ride the La Vita, so I could write the review. Of course, sometimes things turn out differently, as you will see…

  5. March 24, 2010 10:31 pm

    Oh… d’oh! It didn’t occur to me to connect the two. 🙂 Thanks… didn’t mean to be nosy.

  6. Jack Riepe permalink
    March 25, 2010 9:42 am

    Dear Orin:

    That tire in the picture above looked good to me.

    I still have a lot to learn about tires. I averaged 13,000 miles on my first set of Metzlers, which were shot on the last ride I did in 2006, and I put 12,000 miles on a set of Avons, which were replacd last summer. The Avons were wearing like iron and looked good for 2 or 3,000 miles, but the back was thoroughly flat in the center.

    There was a recent post on Key West Dairy in which two women were riding a scooter with a really bald back tire (treadless). I remembered what you said, about the cost of switching out a back scooter tire, and how it prompts some people to take chances. So what you save on gas….

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad

  7. March 25, 2010 6:05 pm

    Jack, a cut like that can often be a tread separation waiting to happen. Not a good thing, but then neither is a blowout. Vintage Vespas (and new Stellas) can be laid on their side (on grass or a blanket, unless you want to scratch up the cowls), both front and rear tires held on with five lug nuts that can be easily removed and replaced. That was part of the original Vespa design brief…

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: