Gotta Scoot

A foray into the world of the 2-wheeled amateur

More on riding through Bali

After only a few days here I couldn’t resist the urge to document one of the many great rides through this magical island. This day tour took me from the funky little town of Ubud north through the central mountains and down into the valley at the foot of Gunung Batur. Hope you enjoy!

Advertisements

March 25, 2008 Posted by | Bali, General Riding, Indonesia, overseas, unusual experiences | 2 Comments

19 August 2007 Double lives

How often have you led a double life? For many of us, the teenage years provided the fertile soil in which our tendencies to say one thing and do the other grew like a field of wildflowers. Just think about the number of times you said, “Sure mum… I promise I’ll be home by 11… no, I’m only going to the movies to see ‘Driving Miss Daisy’!” 

For some of us, this rigorous adolescent training comes in mighty handy. Especially when one’s mother has maintained a hard-line stance summed up with the simple words “you’ll ride a motorcycle over my dead body!” 

One day my girlfriend’s mother comes to visit – a once a year occurrence that always has us changing water in fish tanks, scouring ovens, scrubbing toilets and squeegee-ing windows until all is squeaky-clean and in record timing. This occasion is the first visit since the purchase of the scooter back in April. And so it is that I begin depositing my ideas into the local Bank of White Lies:

“Oh that thing? We’re minding it for a friend…”

“Yeah – that next-door neighbor is a real hoon! wakes us up with that engine roaring at 2am every morning!”

“Who on EARTH has parked this scooter in my driveway?! I will speak to council about this first thing Monday morning!” 

Of course we’re rather lucky here folks – we live in a block of eight units, so it’s unlikely she’ll assume that the scooter is ours. That is, unless she spots our gear. 

“Why don’t we just take our helmets, jackets and gloves and shove them in a laundry basket with towels on top?” Felicity asked.

“Because your mother would lift the towels up and find them,” I patiently reply. 

“What about in the cupboard?”

“Your mother would open the cupboard door and find them.”

“The toilet?”

“Your mother would open the lid and…”

You see, the mother of which we speak is the meticulous type. She likes to inspect and suggest, and is generally none too pleased if we don’t placate with the usual ‘oh – what a great idea! wish I’d thought of that!’ She also likes to poke around. 

Needless to say, I load up the car with everything from our riding gear to my collection of Australian Scooter Magazine, my scooter manual, extra sets of keys and a nice-looking Vespa key ring that Felicity bought me from Europe. I drive the car well out of sight. I cover all in the back seat with a blanket and hope that the cops don’t think I’m harboring a corpse. At least nothing incriminating will be found… at least, not this time.

That morning, we open the door and launch a barrage of smiles as we show mother-dearest around the house. She turns to face me squarely. 

“That scooter downstairs…” she begins.

“Yes?” I hesitate. 

“I saw it in a catalogue the other day. Nice torque… fair bit of power… should ride pretty well on the motorway. What do you think?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t know, Sandy! Never ridden one myself,” I stammer, all the while smiling nervously. 

“Good… because If you ever do, you can forget about marrying my daughter.”

“Lets have some tea, shall we?”    

 

 

August 19, 2007 Posted by | General Riding, unusual experiences | 2 Comments

11 May 2007 Ode to the smell…

Relishing each riding experience and in search of new ways to describe my new life as a scooterist, I discovered on a ride to work this morning what makes the thrill of the road so unmistakably unique for us two-wheelers. Thus, I dedicate this post to the one thing that we know far better than anyone else on the road and so rarely often celebrate: the humble smell.

…the earthy smell of recently disturbed grass clippings as you buzz past council workers riding lawnmowers with engines that clatter in harmony with your 150ccs…

…the smell of freshly fallen rain on the glistening road, masking the petrol fumes of a bustling inner-city street…

…the smell of warm bread as you overtake the delivery truck at 6am – when you’ve skipped breakfast and are starting to feel a bit peckish…

…the smell of roadworks – sparks flying, concrete being pummeled by jackhammers, sewerage churned up and workers having smokos…

…the smell of riding home at night…

…the smell of careless sea breeze on a summer’s day, sweating like nothing else in your rider’s jacket…

…the smell of the country, when the fumes are gone and the open air opens your nose to the memories of pine trees, eucalypts, lavender and wildflowers…

…the smell of recent roadkill, where blood, feathers, fur, metal and tires have clashed in a moment of fear, absent-mindedness and crushed bones, spattering reds, browns, yellows and greys onto a dirt road…

…the smell of crushed leaves in autumn…

…the smell of something sweet in the air but you just can’t figure out what it is…

Have I missed anything? You be the judge!

(thanks to the flickr.com community for these borrowed photos…)

May 12, 2007 Posted by | General Riding, unusual experiences | 12 Comments

5 May 2007 Motorway Madness

This morning I decided to loose the car and scoot my way through the 42km of laneways, roundabouts, traffic lights, overpasses, underpasses, highways and motorways that connect my little unit in Parramatta to my school in Glenmore Park. Having only formally ridden for three and a half weeks, the prospect of an 84km round trip as the book-ends of a full day’s teaching is still a very daunting one.

What I hadn’t counted on this morning was the near gale force winds to which the humble scooterist is often prone. I had read so many entries from my favourite scooter blogs about this subject and it seems that the consensus is clear: when the wind blows, stick to sailing!

What a scary sensation it is to have a combined weight of only 182kg (scooter @ 122kg + me @ 60kg) hurtling along the motorway at a cool 90km/hr, to be buffeted by winds in all directions. Sometimes I felt knocked sideways; other times it felt as if I was slicing through a big gust one second, only to be nearly bowled over the next! In truth, I’m probably exaggerating the severity of these winds, but it did make me think twice about suavely remarking at a dinner party, “oh yes – of course I ride in all types of whether!“ In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m realising how the ego is perhaps the deadliest factor in the rider + deadly outcome equation.

I wonder whether or not motorway riding is really the way to see the world on a scooter? Sure, motorways cut a lot of time off our journeys, and I’m pleased that when riding my simple little 150cc TGB that I can surprise other motorists with my formidable, comfortable top speed of around 110km/hr. But I’m constantly inspired by the scooter bloggers out there in the blogosphere that celebrate taking the time to make each ride special – and that usually means stopping to smell the roses.

May 5, 2007 Posted by | General Riding, motorways | 5 Comments

25 April 2007 Here comes the rain again…

Being a public holiday with fortunately very little for me to do, I had hoped to jump on the scooter today and travel a good hundred kilometres or so to get riding ‘out of my system’ for the week. However, it’s been raining non stop for the past three days and that is remarkably rare in Australia. In fact, I now find it strange to think that a pleasantry like “terrible weather we’re having, isn’t it?” is actually quite politically incorrect over here, given the phenomenal droughts we’ve had for nearly the last ten years. So when I woke up to the gentle pitter-patter on the rusty carport outside my bedroom this morning, I simply had to accept that, on the face of it, I wasn’t going anywhere interesting today.

I’m also mindful of the incredible collective wisdom of the scooter blogging community, where discussions of gale-force winds, snow and rain are taken very seriously as genuinely life-threatening elements. So fortunately I haven’t been stupid enough to succumb to a sense of disregard for the many ‘moods’ of nature.

But when the rain did subside this afternoon, I couldn’t help but jump on the TGB to take it for a (careful) spin around my local neighborhood. Many people that love walking or bicycle riding will attest to the beauty of taking an evening sojourn after heavy rain while smelling and breathing in the freshness of the air. I guess for me though, this trip was more about becoming a little more accustomed to the prospect of having to ride in the rain.

I say “having to” in reference to a conversation with a colleague and experienced rider who told me “you only ride in the rain when you have to, not when you chose to…” and pointed out that a little drizzle could be more deadly than a downpour, given that it might just spread oil in places where riders aren’t expecting to find it (instead of washing the oil away)… not to mention the high gloss paint on pedestrian crossings, where, he added, “you can feel yourself skidding without even trying!”

Nonetheless, there’s still a beauty in riding after a storm and noticing the subtle changes to the world around you. It’s also yet another context in which you become more aware of the nature of things around you: the beauty of graffiti, the fascination one has at the first sight of roadside junk, or the shear size of trees that are older than many of the streets they now line.

 

 

I guess no day is ever wasted unless we close our mind to its infinite possibilities.

April 25, 2007 Posted by | General Riding | 3 Comments

20 April 2007 School is in session again…

These holidays have been a real learning experience indeed, and that’s saying something for a teacher. After all, we teachers reach the end of the term and find ourselves so devoid of life that the first half of the holidays end up a write-off. We stare mind-numbingly at daytime television… we try to read that favourite novel but don’t have the mental stamina to make it past page 3… we go out to friends’ parties and simply don’t manage to stay awake past 10:30pm. Of course, once we manage to restore even a small degree of brain activity, we then spend the remainder of our time dreading the return to the following term: the marking, reports, difficult kids, even-more-difficult parents, the long days, the sleepless nights… do I have to go on?

But occasionally we short-circuit the process by doing something different that vivifies our atrophied brain and returns that special joie de vivre that also miraculously helps us forget all about school for two weeks (a very good thing indeed). Such has been the joy of scooting for me these holidays.

What better to do when you wake up and have nothing planned for the day?

Of course, holidays come to an end, and sometimes, even before they do, we have to ‘pop in’ to school to tidy up that messy desk we never got around to tidying before we left. So it was I spent my last Friday of the holidays… riding to work in my new scooter!

I think I’m up there in terms of the distance I travel to work. My daily grind consists of an 84km round-trip that takes me from what is effectively the geographic centre of Sydney to the very outer-western boarder between Sydney and The Blue Mountains. My route includes quiet suburban streets, main roads, high-speed motorways, country lanes and fabricated security housing estates with winding roads that are supposed to slow down the local ‘hoons,’ but end up frustrating daily commuters and causing them to wear through a set of tyres at least once a year.

I often feel exhausted driving this journey in a car each day – in part because of the distance, and in part, because teaching is so damned exhausting! So in taking the scoot, I also decided to take it very slow and enjoy the scenery. I couldn’t wait to drive through Orchard Hills, a farming area on the outskirts of Sydney which saw the TGB finally make it to some proper country. Here were my attempts at a ‘Steve Williams’ photo, however, I don’t think my TGB looks nearly as nice as his vesper, do you?

When I arrived at school, I spent a long time hanging out with my buddies in Drama and Music. I gave them all quick scooter lessons in the car park.

Some of the kids – who were at school for a musical rehearsal – overheard the commotion. I must say that when we saw the stunned looks and furrowed brows on their faces, we felt very much as if we were the naughty kids in the equation. Oh well, nothing like buzzing around on your fancy new scooter in a school carpark to feel young at heart is there? After all, it makes the thought of returning next week that little bit more bearable.

April 22, 2007 Posted by | General Riding | 4 Comments

12 April 2007 Out of the closet and into the traffic!

At long last, I decided this morning to traverse the 24km (48km return) trip to my mum’s house on my new scooter. A word before we begin though: I’m sure most, if not all of us, are aware of the ‘parent’ issue when it comes to all two wheeled things that happen to be endowed with an engine. How often have you heard the expression, “You’ll ride a motorbike over my dead body!”?

Well, in this post I’d like to open up this topic a little more by inviting you to post comments about your ‘coming of age’ or – should I say perhaps ‘coming out of the closet’? – with your parents and their induction into your new-found life as a dreaded two-wheeler. I’d also like to share with you my story of riding to my mother’s house, arriving and showing her my new TGB.

Let me begin by saying that I didn’t surprise my mother out of the blue with the new scoot. I had forewarned her one evening at a Japanese restaurant where we often dine when I come to visit her. I buttered up the news of my recent purchase with the standard euphemistic phrases, including, “it’s just a little scoot,” “I’d only be riding it where one rides a bicycle,” “it’s very cheap to run,” “…nothing as dangerous as a big motorcycle” and so on. Surprisingly, my mother simply remarked calmly, “well, I don’t like it!” and left the conversation there.

Anyway, here I was, braving the traffic of Epping road (my first foray into a four lane, 80km/hr arena where anything sporting an L-plate doesn’t tend to go down well with the other folks on the road. “But confidence is the key,” I told myself, determined to ride safely through the thick of it and without being perturbed by the collective roar of the traffic through which I was already ‘swimming.’

Actually, the biggest challenge proved getting my camera out of my velcro-secured pocket, turning it on and taking the snaps in the red light breaks, all with my gloves on!

Arriving at my mum’s house, I realised how much of a mental workout it is being a scooter on the road – especially a main road – by contrast to driving in a car. How often we zone out and let our minds wander when driving a car! How impossible it is to zone out when on a scooter in four lanes of 80km/hr traffic! Perhaps this is why so many scooter bloggers say that riding always ties us into the moment and gives us a heightened awareness of everything around us. Perhaps that’s the survival instinct at play and we simply have no other choice if we wish to live.

In any case, I was pleasantly exhausted when I arrived at my mum’s house. With no on-street parking, I decided to park on the garden path – how convenient!

I asked my mum to come out and have a look. Her eyes widened as she looked at the TGB for the first time. She began to question me about the usuals: under-seat storage, the top-box, why the headlight is always on, how fast it goes, why I have an L-plate on the back, and so on. While she examined the TGB and listened to my answers, my beloved feline and 10 year-old friend, Lester, came to see what all of the commotion was about. Like my mum, he appeared interested too, but rather more interested in the smell of the tyres and the footwell than anything else (I don’t suppose he’d fancy a ride in the top box, do you?) I dutifully answered all of my mother’s questions, after which there was a somewhat awkward pause.

“I still don’t like it” she muttered. I looked at her quizzically and then noticed the strangest thing: she started to smile! “I still don’t like it,” she repeated, half-smiling, half mock-frowning.

Thus it was my mum came to accept my new life as a scooterist. Thanks for your support and understanding mum! I promise I’ll ride safely.

April 12, 2007 Posted by | General Riding | 8 Comments