Monday, September 6, 2010

A long road

I finally arrived in Vancouver on Saturday night and had a great time at the WSCE Olympibad Scooter rally. Many, many thanks to the incredibly awesome, generous and gracious hosts who welcomed me here for the first time and for putting on such a fun rally this weekend! The rides were fun, Olympic events were a blast, and I enjoyed seeing many old friends and meeting lots of new ones too. I hope to see you all again soon!

I'm very glad to be here, for many reasons, aside from attending the kick ass rally. The hurdles that got thrown in my way at the last minute made for a very frantic lead up to the Cannonball! First, as I mentioned before, an exhaust stud broke on my GTS a little over two weeks ago. However, thanks to the masterful talents of Rolf Soltau and Gary Sloan, and the Johnny-on-the-spot donation of a new stud and nut from Jess from, my bike was back together and running great the following week! I can't thank you guys enough for coming to my rescue and helping me out in my time of need. You guys are my heroes!

However, while the first hurdle was being cleared, another one came along very suddenly on the particularly hot morning of Tuesday, August 24th. I was heading out to run a few errands on my way to work, when a car pulled out right in front of me from a side street without looking. I hit the brakes, heard the front wheel start to lock up, but when I tried to ease up on the brake to save it, the handlebars began shaking violently from side to side (a.k.a. a "tankslapper", and my pristine Vespa GTS 300 went down on the right side, landing on top of my right ankle. Thankfully it was in my neighborhood so I was riding at a slow speed, but it wrenched my leg ankle around as I slid along the ground with the bike on top of me, so that my leg was out to the side and my foot was pointing backwards. Thankfully, my bike and I stopped before hitting her car, otherwise things could have been a whole lot worse. My first thought as I lifted the bike off of me was "please don't be broken!!" That would have put an end to my Cannonball adventure in a matter of seconds, just days before I was planning to leave for Vancouver. Thankfully, the driver stopped and she helped me get the bike on the stand, and I checked out my foot. It didn't feel good, but I could move my toes and my ankle, I didn't feel anything grinding, so I was pretty sure that it was just a soft tissue injury. The leather on left side of my right shoe was worn through from scraping along the ground, and my pants were torn up pretty badly around the knee though. After I removed what was left of my shoe, I was relieved to see that nothing was poking out or contorted in some unnatural way, although a couple of my toes suffered some small scrapes. My knee, on the other hand, had a nice big patch of road rash all the way across, right in the middle. It took me a bit to regain my bearings and let the adrenaline subside, but I had a pretty good idea that my injuries weren't too severe. A bystander who witnessed the crash came over and gave me a glass of water and some ice wrapped in a cloth, for which I was very grateful. The driver and I exchanged insurance and contact information, I let her know we'll let the insurance handle the repairs, and I rode myself to my doctor's office, which was only a mile away.

I hobbled into the doctor's office, they got me a wheelchair, and I called into work to let them know what happened and that I wouldn't be in that day. The nurse cleaned up and bandaged my wounds, and gave me an AirCast brace for my ankle. My doctor then examined my ankle, which didn't produce any noticeable pain just by touching it, and she agreed that it did not appear to be broken. To be sure though, she sent me into the X-ray room to take three pictures from different angles, then sent me on my way to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions for an anti-inflammatory and Vicodin, then straight home to rest. I iced my ankle frequently and kept it elevated, and pretty much spent the remainder of the day resting and wondering how the hell I was going to finish all the Cannonball preparations being all gimpy. I just told myself I'd figure it out later and focus on healing for the moment instead.

As luck would have it, my ankle make a rather quick, and some might say an almost miraculous recovery! My good friend Nicky lent me a pair of crutches to get around with, and my clubmate Rich lent me a high tech ankle brace and a cane to help with my recovery, and by Friday that week, I was back up and walking on both feet again without the crutches. Rich also came through for me bigtime, by helping me run some very crucial errands that were urgently needed to bring all the Cannonball preparations together. I finished editing the route and time sheets, printed and collated them, got the covers printed up, and stapled all 40 of them all together, picked up other supplies, worked on my roll charts, put the finishing touches on my bike after I picked it up on Friday night, gathered all of my parts and supplies to go on the support truck... and on and on and on. It was such a whirlwind of activity that I can't even remember all of what I managed to accomplish, but by the end of the weekend I felt very relieved that nearly everything was taken care of and ready to go. Whew!!

I should also mention that similarly to the way that my injuries proved to be a lot less severe than they could have been, the damage to my 300 was entirely superficial, with most of the bolt-on parts taking the brunt of the damage: the windscreen, the front fender, the brake lever, the bar end, the legshield trim, the topcase, the crash bar, and the muffler. There was only one small part of the frame that actually hit the ground, about a 2" spot underneath the front of the floorboard, which I didn't even see until a few days later. It broke my heart that my gorgeous new bike, the first and only new vehicle I've owned in my life, was scratched up and sullied, all because of an inattentive driver, but I was at least relieved that the damage would be easily repaired by replacing the damaged parts, aside from the paint on the frame.

As if those two tragedies weren't enough of an ordeal for me to go through, that ice cream sundae of suck was crowned with a very bitter cherry on top when my girlfriend decided to unceremoniously dump me. I had felt that things had cooled off between us recently, but I was not expecting that to hit me like a ton of bricks. Apparently she felt that the relationship wasn't working and that we weren't right for one another, despite the fact that we hadn't even really tried to talk about anything that was bothering either one of us. But when someone tells you that out of the blue, it's a little too late to try and work things out, so I just let her go. It was a shock, it hurt, and I felt betrayed, but what would be the point of fighting it? Although I had thought that there was a good chance that she could be the right one for me, I'm at a point in my life where I'm not willing to waste my time trying to build a relationship with the wrong person, and she proved that she was by giving up on me like that.

Anyway, I had enough on my mind since I was planning to leave for Vancouver in less than four days. Although the organizational work for the Cannonball was pretty much squared away, I still had a lot to do for my own preparations. The bike was just about ready, but I still hadn't begun to pack my gear and I still hadn't even finished the list of things I needed to bring with me. So, over the past week, I launched into a frenzy of running errands, picking up things I was missing, and trying to think of what else I was still missing. By Wednesday afternoon, when I dropped my 300 off at the shop to be repaired while I was away, I knew that I just wouldn't be able to be on the road by 6am the next morning to ride an Iron Butt up to Vancouver, and decided to postpone my departure until Friday. This was a wise choice, because as I tied up loose ends the next day, I realized there were more and more things that I had overlooked and needed to do. So many, in fact, that I ended up staying up much later on Thursday night than I should have, but I felt that I finally had everything ready.

I got up very early the next morning, determined to be on my way. Although I had originally hoped to be on the road by 6:00am, there was no way I was able to get up that early, and I ended up leaving just after 7:30am. I had my housemate Jesse sign my Iron Butt form as a witness, rode to the gas station to top off my tank and I hit the road. I was weary, but it felt good to finally be rolling. However, a problem soon reared its ugly head, when I noticed that my fuel gauge was going down when it shouldn't have. My spare 4-gallon tank feeds directly into my main 2-gallon tank, which means the gauge should register as full for at least 200 miles. However, as I approached my first fuel stop in Stockton, it had gone down nearly halfway. Now, I hadn't tested the spare tank thoroughly since I had hooked it back up for the first time since the 2008 Cannonball, but I had ridden a good 40 miles after I first filled it up a day or two earlier, and it seemed to be working ok, because the level had dropped when I topped it off that morning. At the gas station, I opened the cap to the main tank and saw that no fuel was trickling in at all. I opened the cap on the spare tank and it was still filled to the top. I checked the lines and they didn't seem kinked or anything, so I proceeded to take the cover off around the filler neck of the main tank. As soon as I loosened the bolts, fuel started flowing from the spare tank - that told me that the fuel line was being pinched somewhere inside. After a little sleuthing, I realized that the way I had routed the fuel hose, it was being squashed by a piece of plastic hanging down on the underside of the cover. I tried to re-route the line a different way, but couldn't find a good path to take which wouldn't cause the hose to kink. Eventually, I re-routed the hose back to the original position (all the while, trying to keep the fuel from the spare tank from spewing all over the place), and simply pushed it out of the way of the hanging piece of plastic. After bolting it all back together, the fuel finally flowed smoothly, I filled up the main and spare tanks the rest of the way, and figured that it was finally sorted out after nearly an hour at the gas station. But I was wrong.

Another 30 miles down the road, my bike started hesitating, as if the fuel pump wasn't putting out enough pressure. I noticed that the fuel level in the main tank was dropping once again... what the hell, it was flowing fine before! I stopped, unloaded my gear again, opened the main tank, and saw that the fuel was not flowing yet again. I opened the spare tank, and immediately the fuel began flowing - that could only mean one thing, that the vent line was clogged, probably due to the fuel sloshing around in the spare tank when it wasn't draining because of the pinched line. I let the spare drain into the main tank, closed it back up, and kept going, in the hope that the vent line might unclog on its own. However, it continued to do the same thing as I pressed on, and I stopped in Willows, CA to let the spare tank drain into the main tank. I was concerned about the way the bike was hesitating too, in particular that the vacuum created by the plugged vent line might be stressing the fuel pump. A fuel pump failure would be a very bad thing to have happen while riding solo over 1000 miles! There would be only one way to find out though... keep pressing on.

I kept going, and the main tank continued to drain without the spare tank flowing into it. The bike continued to hesitate once in a while, but I kept pressing on. All of a sudden, I saw that the fuel gauge started going back up as I was riding - a very good sign that the blockage in the vent line was clear! However, I noticed later that the gauge started dropping again, so the issue wasn't completely resolved, but hopefully it was at least getting better. The weather got hotter and hotter as I pressed on, and by the time I got to Stockton, I was feeling very worn out from the heat, the lack of sleep and the persistent fuel problems, so I decided to stop for lunch. I parked the bike, got some water and ice from the convenience store to refill my Camelback, and sat down in the shade to eat my sandwich. The lack of sleep was really catching up with me, and the energy drink I downed didn't seem to do much of anything. I gassed up and hit the road again, but made a mistake that compounded the fuel problems: I filled the main tank, closed the cap, then filled the spare tank. This left air in the fuel line, which prevented the fuel from flowing from the spare tank. As a result, the gas gauge started to drop again as I pressed on, and the hesitation problems kept cropping up.

By the time I approached Yreka, it was after 4pm and I decided that I wasn't going to be able to make it all the way to Vancouver. I decided to give myself a little treat to take my mind off things, and I stopped in this funky little old VW shop that can be seen from I-5, which I had passed numerous times before and always wanted to check out. I stopped in to say hi and asked about their shop and the guy said that they're not in business anymore, but they still work there more as a hobby. He invited me to have a look around at the cars there, and I eagerly went out in the yard to check them out. He didn't have any oval bugs anymore though (unfortunately), but he did have a couple of VW Rabbits and Pickups. I asked if he'd be interested in selling any parts, and he said sure, so I clipped off the bulb socket from one of the Rabbits, which I've needed for my Pickup since I bought it, and I paid him $3 for it. I figured that would be my consolation prize for not making the Iron Butt this time, at least I finally scored a very hard to find part that I had been looking for, for quite a long time! :D

I rode on and stopped in Roseburg, OR just as the sun was going down to get a bite to eat, cool off, get some caffeine and gas up. By then I had realized the mistake I had made when I had last fueled up, and I added some gas to the spare tank before closing off the main tank, to ensure that the fuel line was full of gas instead of air. Once I had tended to my own needs and felt ready to press on, I gassed up, cleaned my visor and got back on I-5 right at dusk. I was a little concerned about deer and other wildlife being out at that time of the evening, but thankfully I didn't see a single one, alive or otherwise. Aside from constantly fighting off fatigue, the last 200 miles to Portland were relatively uneventful, and I arrived at my uncle's house at just over 700 miles. That night, I had the most restful and deep night of sleep that I have probably had in years, it felt SO good!

The next morning, after having a delicious breakfast with my Uncle Carl and his partner Gary, I met up with my fellow Cannonballer Karen G when I stopped for gas, and we chatted for a bit about Cannonball preparations and my adventures the previous day. I set off north on I-5 and within minutes crossed the bridge to Washington State, my first time ever there... the last time I visited a state for the first time was Missouri during the 2008 Cannonball. The trip up went well, aside from continuing issues with fuel delivery, although those weren't as bad as the previous day, however the hesitation problems were getting worse, and after I stopped at a rest area to use the facilities, the motor cut out completely just as I was about to get back on the freeway. I had suspected that the spark plug lead was coming out of the cap, so I tried to press it back in as far as I could get it to go; after that it fired up again and I went on my way. However, it still continued to hesitate occasionally, which left me feeling rather nervous, especially since it seemed to be getting more severe than before. I stopped for lunch in Tacoma, where I had an amazingly delicious Cobb salad at King Oscar's Motel & Restaurant, and when I came out to my bike, the spare tank had drained into the main tank again, so I kept going without gassing up. Of course, that wasn't the end of it and I continued to have issues, so I later stopped in Marysville, WA to gas up and make a pit stop. However, after that it seemed to behave properly and whatever residual fuel was left in the vent line must have either been sucked out or evaporated.

Before I knew it, I had reached the Canadian border and I felt a real sense of accomplishmemnt - I was almost there! I made it across after the standard questions from the border guard, plus a slight sense of astonishment that I had ridden over 900 miles from my home town to get there. As I entered Canada, I realized that it had been a full 15 years since I had last visited the country, for the Mallorytown, ON rally in 1995, quite a long time ago! I haven't even been out of the country since the fall of 1998 either, which left me feeling that I really need to get away and travel more, it's been far too long. I was starting to feel a little fatigued too, and I was thrown off by how different the road signs are. Not just in how they look, but the way they're placed, how they're written, and adjusting to km instead of miles. I was excited to be there though, and the combination of those two took my attention off of navigating, which caused me to miss my exit! I ended up having to backtrack a few miles (or should I say, 'kilometres'), but soon got back on track and found my way to Vancouver, and made it all the way to where I'm now staying, at the 2400 Motel, after traveling 1009 miles in almost exactly 36 hours, 23 of which I spent on the road. It gave me a huge sense of relief to finally make it here and I was glad to have put that journey behind me, so that I can now focus on the longer one that now lies ahead on the Scooter Cannonball Run!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another Cannonball approaches fast!

I should be sleeping, but my mind is still awake and mulling over all that I still have to do to get ready for the 2010 Scooter Cannonball Run. This year, I'm not only riding in it, but I'm coordinating it as well. Most of the prep is done, swag is in production and should all be ready in time, and I'm in the process of going through the time and route sheets with a fine tooth comb. I will make no guarantee that the directions are 100% clear and accurate, but I am doing my best to eliminate any confusion or errors. I will feel more comfortable once the time and route sheets are printed, folded, stapled and wrapped up for transport and the rest of the swag is in my hands, which should be within the next week... but what concerns me the most right now is my bike.

Yes, my trusty Vespa GTS 250, which carried me across the country in 2008 with relatively few hitches, is currently suffering some rather large hitches, at a very inopportune time. My plan is to do an Iron Butt ride up to Vancouver on 9/2 (1000 miles within 24 hours), but I'm a little worried that I may not be able to keep this schedule. For the second time within the last year and a half, one of the exhaust studs has broken. Right now, it's back in Rolf's hands, who is an absolute hero for helping me out... the motor's out, the head is off, but I haven't been able to get a hold of new exhaust studs, or a new exhaust gasket, or a cylinder head gasket. I just tried to order the parts from an online shop, but now their website is down, "Service Unavailable"... FML!

Somehow though, I have a sense that everything will work out well. I just have to figure out how to get it all done this week, somehow. Wish me luck... time is ticking!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Rainy days and busybody neighbors

Lately it's been raining here like it was Seattle. Now I'm all for rain, since we were getting dangerously close to drought conditions, but now it's beginning to seem like building an ark might be a good idea. But that's ok, since we're still not at 100% capacity in terms of reservoirs and snow pack, but we've gotta be getting close and I'm starting to get really tired of having to ride around in it. For those of you who don't know, my scooters have been my exclusive mode of transportation for the last 2 1/2 years, since the differential gave out on my last car. So, to say the least, riding in the rain has been a pain. I'm ok with the conditions myself, but the mindless lemming cagers on the road scare the crap out of me, and I'm getting tired of struggling to get the banana suit on and off every time I need to go out. Thankfully though, it looks like today will be the last day that we're going to get rain, at least for the next week or so. Phew!

Ironically, I'm getting very close to having my truck running again - just in time for the end of the rainy season. This is a 1981 VW Rabbit Pickup, into which I'm installing a TDI (turbo diesel injection) engine from a 1996 VW Passat. This is my dream truck, small but capable of hauling scooters, and most importantly very fuel efficient and capable of running on biodiesel with only minor modifications. That was the idea I had when I first started searching for one in 2004 and when I ultimately bought this truck on New Year's Eve at the end of that year. This truck is in fantastic shape for it's age, with no corrosion other than the most minor surface rust here and there, none of it structural at all. It was (technically) a two-owner truck before I bought it, having been owned by an old painter in the east bay for most of its life. It needed a new motor when I found it, and the guy I bought it from, who was a diesel mechanic agreed to install a turbo diesel for me, which he pulled from a 1983 Jetta in a junkyard. It needed some minor work here and there, but I was happy as a pig in mud after I took possession of it, still with the original blue and yellow license plates.

However, the head gasket blew out less than two months later, since which time my scooter hauler has sat inanimate. Not only did the head gasket blow, but it did so while I was doing 70 in the left lane of 280 in downtown San Jose, in the evening rush hour, in the rain, in the dark. By the time I got across the four lanes of traffic to the next off ramp, all of the coolant had boiled off and the aluminum cylinder heat melted at the top of two of the cylinders. It came to a stop just short of the peak of the Vine St. offramp, waiting for a tow truck to pick me up - thankfully nobody hit me while I was stuck there! I tried to find a new cylinder head for the engine, but the only one I could find was a rebuilt one from the VW dealer, which cost $1500! For that money, I figured I would be better off getting a whole new engine. After doing some research, I decided on a TDI motor, more specifically the 1Z version, which has a very efficient computer-controlled injection system, but without an immobilizer ignition lock which would be difficult to install. After some searching, I found one in great shape, with a custom-built intercooler, for $2250, which I bought. However, I soon realized that the four-speed transmission in my truck was geared completely wrong for the motor, and I ended up picking up a 5-speed transmission from a 96 Passat with custom mounting brackets to mount it in a VW Pickup like mine, for $600. I eventually got a flywheel, clutch and pressure plate and bolted the two together. Later, I pulled the old engine and transmission out of the truck, and after getting the right motor mounts, I installed the new engine and transmission in the truck. Slowly the truck was getting closer to being done.

However, as things happen, I found it difficult to devote time to working on the truck, being preoccupied with scooter repairs and the last Cannonball Run. Which brings me to my busybody neighbor. Just after the new year this year, the police got a call from someone who complained about at least a half dozen vehicles on my street, which they suspected did not run, including my truck and my roommate's car. I woke up to a bright orange sticker on the driver's window of my truck, which was a big surprise to me, since it's been parked in our driveway. However, apparently there is a law in my town, which prohibits non-operational vehicles from being stored within *sight* of the street. This was news to me, especially since I had lived here for well over 2 1/2 years at the time and no one had said peep about it. What's worse is that this puts me at risk of a $500 fine, having the truck towed, including fees for that plus impound, which would likely total more than $1000! I called the officer who left the note and discussed the situation, and she was willing to give me time to get it running. So, it was crunch time for me to make some serious progress on it.

I quickly got to work installing the parts I had and ordering the parts I found I needed, but this has been difficult with all the rainy weather we've been having. So far I have installed the intake and exhaust manifolds, new fuel lines and fuel filter, the axles, the alternator, parts of the intake system, and connected all the wiring from inside the truck to the new fuse box that came with the engine. However, this past weekend my busybody neighbor called the police yet again. Come on man, give me a break! I'm doing my best and all this rain is not making it any easier. Thankfully, I'm almost ready to have it towed to the shop to have the last couple of things done that I'm not able to do myself, including the exhaust system and cooling system. After doing some more work on it this week, hopefully I should be able to do that next week. Thus is the long, sad, sordid tale of my poor little scooter hauler truck... wish me luck!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Winter projects

Brrrr! It's been chilly, even here in the Golden State, but thankfully I have warm gear to keep me from turning into a popsicle. The GTS doesn't seem to mind too much though and is still purring right along. However, the time has come to finally get my P back on the road. It's been laid up in the garage for well over a year now, which has been far too long. As much as I love riding my GTS, I really miss riding the P. Besides, I have too many 3.50x10 tires sitting in my garage that are wasting away, waiting patiently to be put on rims and get chewed up carving the twisties in the hills! :D

My bike, complete with bug collection

The exchange rate with the Euro finally took a significant drop earlier this month, so I placed an order with SIP in Germany for some much needed parts. Although I missed the low of $1.25 because of credit card issues (somebody tried to put through some fraudulent charges on my card and my bank shut it off), I was able to put through an order at $1.27 to the Euro, which came to just over $500 total. That includes a banded Cosa clutch, a new PX fuel tank, a new Fournales front shock (since I scavenged the old one for my GTS), and a few other smaller bits I'm sure I'll need. It should be arriving soon, I can't wait! More to come...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Last of the evil Cannonball voodoo purged... I hope!

I'm nearly two weeks late in posting this, but I finally figured out why my GTS wouldn't idle properly. It turned out that a crack had developed in the rubber boot on the intake manifold, which was letting more air in past the throttle body. When the lambda sensor saw the mixture getting too lean, it compensated by enriching the flow through the fuel injector, which lowered the RPM's and sucked less air in through the crack, causing the lambda sensor to lean out the flow through fuel injector and raise the RPM's again. This condition caused the motor to continually surge up and down in RPM's when idling. I discovered the crack when I was poking around at the motor and I noticed what sounded like an air leak - a small, pulsating, high-pitched swooshing sound. When I lifted up the throttle body a little, it sealed the crack which stopped the noise and immediately the bike started running fine. This was a relief, because I was worried that I'd need to spend an inordinate amount of time replacing sensors, wires, and various doohickeys, in order to track down the source of the trouble.

Thankfully, Rolf had a good intake manifold on his spare GTS engine, so I rode down there and we swapped it out. After it was all bolted back together, it ran like a charm again, nice and smooth - woohoo! It's been getting me around reliably since then, including a jaunt up to SF last weekend. The Heidenau tires have been quite comfortable in the rain so far, although I've noticed that the disc brakes don't grab as well at first in the wet. After a half a second or so though, once the water is pushed aside, they work just fine, so it hasn't enough to make me wary. I've simply been adjusting my riding to match the conditions, so that I have some extra room and time to slow or stop, as one should in inclement weather anyway.

So, that's one thing I'm thankful for - the fact that my GTS is now back in good running shape once again and the evil voodoo it managed to pick up during the Cannonball has now been (hopefully) banished once and for all. I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving... ride safe!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A very sad note

It's with a very heavy heart that I post about a tragic loss this past weekend. A local scooterist and good friend of mine, Dirk Sundman, passed away early Sunday afternoon after crashing his Vespa on Highway 9, just south of Skyline Boulevard. Apparently he lost control after taking a turn a little too wide and slipping on wet leaves. I previously posted this on, but I want post it here as well, as a personal remembrance.

I am personally deeply saddened about Dirkie's passing. I've only known him the last 3 years or so, but he was such a great guy with such a positive, humorous outlook, who always made my day a little bit better whenever I saw him. Even in the face of the health problems he had within the last year, he always remained upbeat and kept looking at the bright side. I always enjoyed the opportunity to put my feeble knowledge of Dutch to use when I talked with him. The last time I saw him, less than two weeks ago, he was telling me about the massive Vespa dealership he went to visit on his recent trip to Holland, who jokingly offered him a deal on the 6 brand new Vespa GTS 300's they had in stock, so he could bring them back with him to the US.

I remember when I first met Dirk, he told me stories about the tours he went on in Europe back in the day, which made me wish that I could have been there too. He was a very experienced rider who knew and respected the limits that came with age, but he still loved to ride all the same. I rode with him a number of times, on the VCLG monthly rides and some of the local rallies. I was always impressed when he'd make the trip over the hill from Santa Cruz to San Jose just to see us, it was a pleasant surprise and a real treat to see him show up. The last time I saw him was Tuesday a week ago, when he came up to hang out with our crew at Trials Pub in San Jose. I just wish that didn't have to be the last time I'd ever see him.

This really, really sucks... it hits very close to home to lose Dirk. He will be fondly remembered by all of the bay area scooter community who knew him and he will be very, very deeply missed. My heart goes out to everyone who knew him. Many thanks to James and Dave of the Vampires MC for doing everything they could to try to save him, their heroic efforts are greatly appreciated. Rust in vrede, Dirkie mijn vriend... ik wens je un heel goede reis naar de andere kant!

Dirk Sundman

Gassing up in Santa Cruz

Dirk's Vespa GT 200

Two weeks later...

It's been two weeks since I've been able to ride my GTS. The Bajaj has been chugging along admirably and reliably, getting me wherever I need to go, in spite of burning more oil than it ought to. It needed a workout, so it's a good thing. Anyway, it turns out that the "missing" exhaust stud on my GTS was actually broken off inside the cylinder head, which is much harder to repair. It involves an unbelievable amount of work, just to swap out a $0.50 part - draining the coolant and motor oil, removing the motor from the bike, disconnecting the timing chain, removing the camshaft, removing the cylinder head, very carefully machining out the hardened steel stud without damaging the aluminum cylinder head, then finally installing the new stud. You could think of the machining part like a high stakes game of "Operation". Some people I know have swapped out an entire motor, rather than go through all that.

So, I've been without my GTS for the last two weeks, while I've been figuring out what to do. After talking it over with Rolf, he agreed to do the job for me, as long as I paid him for his time, of course. I got a brand new stud and head gasket Vespa and dropped my bike off at his place last week. He got it all apart by Friday and with the help of our friend and master machinist Gary, the old stud was successfully milled out and a the new one was installed over the weekend. Rolf got everything back together yesterday and tonight I'll finally be able to get to ride my GTS again! Hopefully he was also able to sort out the wonkiness in the rear shocks too, which was causing it to handle oddly... I'll have to ask him about it tonight when I pick it up. In any event, I can't wait to have it back... hopefully these will be the last repairs it will need for a good long time!