Red Dog and Me

This is an on-going dialog between me and a certain motor scooter, namely a 2009 Piaggio MP3 500 that came to live with me in October of 2009. I've named the scooter Red Dog and as yet have not determined its gender. In the past when I've named boats, bikes, and other like characters I've thought of them as feminine due to their behavior characteristics. Red Dog I'm not so sure about...we'll see. Update: OK, Red Dog's a girl...with an attitude

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October 10, 2010 Catching up, Red Dog’s camping outfit

Man I can't believe it's been this long since I last updated Red Dog's blog. A ton of stuff has happened in the interim period; I changed my mind about riding Red Dog on my summer tour and bought a new Kawasaki Vulcan 900LT. I named her Green Girl and barely a week later rode off to Key West, FL.
June 06 Leaving for Key the rain
Five weeks later I stopped to visit a friend  in Kansas City and while there I traded Green Girl in on a new Honda Goldwing which I christened theYellow Peril. Talk about spur-of-the-moment decisions, that’s about as extreme as you can get.

July 15th -Leaving Kansas City on the Yellow Peril
.The 2010 summer ride clocked up more than 11,000 miles on the two bikes and turned into one of the most fun trips I’ve taken. For anyone interested here’s a link to the blog about it:

Red Dog and the UniGo trailer
Meanwhile back to Red Dog and her latest report. Not long ago while I was logged onto the Modern Vespa Forum the topic of how much camping gear could be packed in the UniGo trailer came up. I figured it was time to do a show and tell with pictures and made it an afternoon project . In addition to that I wanted to see how the trailer would handle with a full load.

The UniGo easily holds all my gear plus clothes 
Starting out I gathered up what I expected I’d take along for an extended camping trip, tent, sleeping gear, cooking equipment, that sort of stuff. I didn’t include food as I’ve found it just as easy to buy things as I go along, particularly perishables. This wouldn’t be quite the case if I were heading out to a wilderness area but for this exercise I figured my imaginary trip would be in the lower 48.

Trial run base camp set up in the front yard

Cooking gear, lanterns, etc.

My creaky old back loves this GoKot

A Cocoon sheet from REI...what luxury

Katahdin down bag from L.L. Bean keeps me warm

In my previous post I talked about fine-tuning the Red Dog/UniGo rig for optimum handling under full load and as a result they’re now ready for a long road trip. I’ve been riding Red Dog a lot of late, much to the chagrin of the Yellow Peril and as much as I like the big yellow Goldwing I find Red Dog to be a constant source of fun.
A bunch of us who own Piaggio MP3 scooters are planning to get together this coming springtime around the first week of June. Our initial choice for the gathering is Panguitch, Utah and that would be an excellent outing for Red Dog and the UniGo. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August 18, 2010 - Fine tuning the Uni-Go trailer

Today I spent some time messing around with the UniGo trailer and I think I may have finally resolved the occasional fish-tailing issue. It was simple enough to do; when all else fails follow the factory's advice so I removed the shim I'd installed to level the tub up. They claimed they'd built-in a slight offset list to counteract fish-tailing....???

After doing that I carefully loaded my regular camping gear in it and set out for a trial ride into town. Although it never once fish-tailed there still seemed to be a slight swaying present most of the time, not severe but noticeable. It had a familiar feeling and it finally dawned on me that it strongly resembled the way my old Yamaha XS-1 felt the other night when the rear tire was going flat.

I returned home and checked the air pressure all around and although it wasn't low it got me to thinking about what Jerry Smith had observed the other day; that the rear tire seemed low. I looked up the factory recommended pressure settings and found I had it set spot-on for a solo rider at 35 lbs. Considering that the added weight generated by the trailer would be similar to that of a passenger it was woefully inadequate. The recommended setting for two-up riding was 41 lbs; 6 lbs heavier so I moved up to that level and went for the same ride into town and then out to Bullard’s Beach to photo the lighthouse.

Happy little lighthouse

Everything you need to know about our lighthouse

The difference was immediately apparent; there's now barely any noticeable sway and no fish-tailing whatsoever. I rode at regular highway speeds up to 60+ mph which is about where I’d be towing a trailer with any vehicle.

What gravel?
As an added measure of evaluating road worthiness I made several stops along the shoulder of the road including some very rough sandy and gravel surfaces. I also ran over a nasty stretch of weather damaged road twice, the first time hitting most of the deepest pot holes and the second time using sudden avoidance turns.
What Sand?
Red Dog accepted them all without mishap and I never once felt uneasy with her handling or balance.

Son-of-a-gun, I think she's ready for a tour!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Aug 01, 2010 – Tweeking that darn saddle

Yesterday I shimmed the front of Red Dog's saddle up ¼” using spacers under the mounting bracket. The difference in riding position was noticable so today I added another ¼” of spacers bringing the total change to ½”. It was a simple enough operation; I used 3 thick steel washers under each of the 4 mounting bolts and that did the trick.
The saddle shims went under this bracket

I also moved the backrest towards the rear about 3/16th of an inch which doesn’t sound like much but I think it’s enough. Back rests are funny critters, they can take the load off your back while riding but if they’re positioned too far forward they work against you and can cause fatigue or worse.

A friend of mine recently experienced some very painful back problems that were traced to the position of the back rest on his Goldwing. It was too far forward and whenever he hit a hard bump it telegraphed to his kidneys. After five days on the road it was so bad he had to stop riding for several days to recuperate. Until then I'd no idea such a thing could happen.

Once the adjustments were made I was ready for a test run. I rode south on 101 around 20 miles to Port Orford, then on the way back I rode out to the Cape Blanco Lighthouse. Once I left highway 101 and headed west I could see solid fog banks moving in along the cape. By the time I reached the park area it was totally socked in and the temperature dropped dramatically. It was so cold I had to turn the heated grips on.
Freezing cold in August no less! What's that all about?

Choppy cross winds made riding very rough, one moment they hit you hard enough to drive you off the road and the next moment they stopped. By the time I arrived home I’d only logged around 60 miles but felt as if I’d ridden 100. That’s how it is on the coast sometimes, you never really know what to expect.

Time for a repaint Coos County!

At least the saddle issues seem to be improving to the point I probably won’t take it back to Rich’s. The shims raised it enough that I'm not sliding nearly as much and that’s what I was after.

Some time in the next few days I’ll do some riding with the Unigo trailer hooked up and see how that affects things. The last time I pulled it I had it loaded to the point it was overloaded and the handling was affected.

I may get in touch with the manufacturer for some additional advice on loading techniques. Once it’s all sorted out I should be ready for my first outing with it, something I’m very much looking forward to.

Stay tuned...


Saturday, July 31, 2010

July 31, 2010 Wake up Red Dog!

Now that my main summer tour is over I've once again turned my attention back to Red Dog. For the past two months she’s been relegated to sleeping in the barn under her cover and plugged into a battery tender. I probably should have added some Stabil fuel treatment to her gas but I simply forgot. As it turned out she started right up and seems to run OK so maybe it wasn’t that critical.

Red Dog snoozing away...

I rolled her out of the barn, gave her a thorough wash and inspection, then went for a ride into town. My first impression was she is not a Goldwing; the wind factor is much more pronounced and those smallish wheels on the front tend to follow the path of least resistance. This last results in a tendancy for her to produce a wandering effect; something I’d hardly noticed in the past.

Red Dog all clean and shiny after a 2-month hiatus

After returning home I noticed the back tire looked very low and when I checked the gage indicated there was hardly any air in it. So much for my “thorough inspection” during the wakeup ceremony. I filled it up to the recommended level and checked the fronts. They were both up to snuff so maybe the low back tire was contributing to the slight wandering effect.
One of the items that has been nagging me is the sliding issue on the new saddle. When I first had the saddle redone it seemed OK for awhile, then after a few brief rides I became less than satisfied with the way I tended to slide forward on it.

I contacted Rich’s Custom Seats and arranged for a re-do, shipped it to them and they returned it proclaiming it fixed. I rode around on it a few times and it did seem better but still not as good as I thought it should be. Unfortunately all of this occurred right about the time I was preparing to leave on my extended tour so it got put on the back burner until now.

I mentioned this on the Modern Vespa Forum, my favorite hangout and a couple of members suggested shimming the forward end of the saddle up a bit to see if that helped. Yesterday I did so but didn’t get a chance to ride until today. There seems to be a pronounced improvement and although still not perfect at least it’s better. I think I may have to adjust the backrest more towards the rear of the bike as that may be pushing me forward a bit.

Bandon Lighthouse in the Fog - July 31, 2010

Today’s ride was brief, amounting to less than 30 miles but it was enough to provide a bit more data to consider. I’ll have a go at the back rest and see how that works; if I can get it resolved I may be able to squeak in a short camping trip up north to one of my favorite places, Vancouver Island.

I still have some business in Portland to attend to but with luck I may have that out of the way by mid-August. And wouldn't that be nice?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June 1, 2010 Brief update, link to Green Girl’s site

Hi All,

I’ve received a few requests for the link to Green Girl’s blog so here ‘tis:

Things are still on schedule so if you’d like to follow along on my summer ride please visit Green Girl’s blog. Red Dog will get active again but probably not until later on in the summer.

Thanks for following, hope to see you soon.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

May 29, 2010 Poor Red Dog gets jilted!

Fate sometimes has a way of dealing a funny hand. My summer ride plans have been centered around Red Dog since she came on board last October. All of her upgrades and modifications have been with that in mind and continued to be so until just recently. But….as much as I enjoy riding her I’ve never quite felt confident in her overall roadworthiness for an extended tour. There are just too many weak areas that although none of them are serious any one could cause delays and gobs of frustration on the road. If they occurred that is.

The busted tire incident in my last post called my attention to that, and I began to rethink things. I’d mentioned in a previous post that I might consider taking the Ducati ST3s since I’d never ridden her further than Portland which is really nothing, distance-wise. With that as an option I began riding her on a regular basis to see how I might fare at the end of a long day. The results were not good, the ergonomics although not bad simply aren’t what I’d want to deal with all day every day. I’d imposed on Jerry Smith, a friend and former Yamaha racer with tons of mechanical knowledge to mess with the suspension bits. The idea was to see how much of an improvement might be accomplished via that avenue. It helped, in fact it helped a lot but still not enough to turn the trick.

Then a few days ago while I was in Coos Bay having coffee with Jerry, Ron Wardman, and Chuck Bruce I mentioned I was going to stop by the local Kawasaki dealership and oggle their bikes. This is the same dealership I bought my Ninja “El Nino” from, the one I rode to Alaska and Nova Scotia. Chuck had said he’d like to ride along on my summer tour so he was naturally interested to see what I might be up to.

There on the showroom floor sat a gorgeous new 2010 Kawasaki Vulcan 900LT, fully equipped with windshield, saddle bags, and back rest. It’s Kawasaki’s entry in the mid-sized cruiser-touring market and it’s a doozy. Reports and test results have rated it well and it’s regarded as an excellent choice for that style of bike.
I was smitten. Done. I talked with the salesman and after a brief bit of haggling arrived at a price I could live with. The deal was they would prep the bike for a test ride the next morning and if I was satisfied it would be mine.

Naturally it rained cats and dogs the next day and I nearly called it off because of it. Then I thought why not, if I can handle it in the rain and slop it should do just fine when it’s nice out. As I was thinking about how to get to Coos Bay for the test ride Chuck called and offered to give me a ride in, “Just in case you decide to bring her home” he said.

Having never ridden a “cruiser” type bike with floorboards and forward foot controls I wasn’t too sure if I’d like it. I needn’t have feared, that riding position is dead simple and the low saddle height makes manoeuvring easy as pie. I toured downtown Coos Bay, then did a bit on the main highway and after a few miles returned satisfied to the dealership. Chuck gave me a huge grin proclaiming “You’re gonna love that bike!” and deep down I knew he was right. I rode her home through broken periods of rain and sunshine, typical of our costal weather and stored her under the garage eves for the night. I've decided to name her Green Girl, it just seems to fit.

My goal of finding a bike I’d be comfortable on long distance tours had ended; with my past experience with Kawasaki’s Ninja I know I can rely on Green Girl to take me where I want to go. Having said that I think it would be appropriate to begin a new blog with her as the star attraction for the upcoming summer tour.

So what about Red Dog, does she just sit and rot in the barn under her cover? Not. I’ll ride her, she’s still an absolute hoot and I think will be my main ride for runs into town, etc. Time will tell but for the moment I’ve got to get moving with Green Girl; if things go as planned we’re on the road next Sunday, June 6th.

See you then.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Apr 27 2010 – The new Gold Standard Tires have arrived!

You may recall I’d placed an order for new tires all around right after the busted tire incident? Hard as it is for me to not mention the vendor’s name, as of today they still haven’t shipped.

I’ve already vented more than enough about them and their flaky way of getting your business so I won’t belabor that any further, suffice it to say I placed an order for yet another set of tires, this time with ScooterTrap in Orlando, FL. My order to them was via email on April 19th, they shipped the next day, and I received them yesterday.

At present I’ve made arrangements for Bay Area Yamaha Cycles to mount and balance them as soon as they arrive. Before doing so I have to remove the 2nd front wheel which hopefully won’t require too much of a balancing act…

Today being typical of Oregon’s coastal springtime, our weather has erupted into one of the hardest rain storms I’ve seen outside of the tropics. All of the gutters on the house have been defeated and water is pouring off the roof as if they didn’t exist.
Red Dog is huddling under her cover waiting it out and I’m stuck in the house doing the same. Of course with this weather, our satellite system is down so no Internet service. You sort of get accustomed to that after awhile. Country living; bring it on!

But wait, Wow! Typical of our locale, the rain stopped about 2 minutes ago and the sun is now shining! Dare I go outside and have at it?
Nah, I don’t think so…It looks like rain...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 13, 2010 I did a really silly thing yesterday….

Sometimes just sitting around begins to get to me so yesterday I decided to have a closer look at Red Dog’s busted tire & rim. Using my trusty Sears & Roebuck floor jack I lifted her up and removed the tire & rim. The damaged area just didn’t look all that bad so I tried pumping air into it but it kept leaking out about as fast as I could fill it. I admit to being easily entertained but after awhile the novelty began to wear off and I decided it might be time to try something different.

Right about then it occurred to me that tubeless tires need to be seated tightly against the rim before they can hold air so I held the wheel with my chest pressing down against the tire and the busted part on the lowest side next to the pavement. This seemed to help but try as I might I still couldn’t put enough pressure to seat the tire. Or so I thought… Anyway I figured it was time to pay a visit to my buddy Franklin’s automotive repair shop and try out his new tire changing gear.

Just as I was climbing into my truck I felt the first drops of rain begin to sprinkle so out came Red Dog’s new but as yet untried cover from Beverly Bay. The fit is excellent although they don’t rate the cover as being waterproof, rather it’s “water resistant”. That works for me as the waterproof rated covers tend to be really bulky; not exactly a good touring feature.
Besides, it was only going to be on there for a short time while we looked at the tire. Right? 
Arriving at Franklin’s shop I found him hard at it chasing down some mysterious problem in a Chevy. He broke away for a few minutes and after a lot of messing around trying to downsize his tire changer to fit Red Dog’s little 12” wheel we managed to get the tire off. It had a nasty 2” long split right where it seats against the rim which spelled the end for it so into the recycle bin it went. Bummer!

After visiting with Franklin I headed back home with the now tireless rim and it wasn’t until I got there it struck me that Red Dog was still sitting on the jack in the driveway and there she’d stay until the new tires arrived! If I’d been thinking I’d have put the flat tire back on so I could at least roll her back into the garage…duh.

Some days are like that, nothing to do but just sit around…

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Red Dog & Bella Rosa..Still waiting for those #!%X tires!

After hitting that damn rock and busting Red Dog’s left front tire it seems the whole planet’s been on hold. As soon as I got home from that little escapade I ordered a complete set of tires all around so I’d have fresh rubber for this summer’s ride. The on-line store whom I shall refrain from mentioning by name had indicated on their web site the tires were “available” and would ship in one or two days. Naïve as I sometimes am I took that to mean I’d be looking at them in a week or so.

Hah! What a joke, it seems that’s their way of saying “We don’t actually have them but they’re “available” somewhere on planet earth so we’ll order up a set for you and as soon as they arrive we’ll ship them right out in a day or two.” After ten days passed I called to see where they were and that’s when they let the cat out of the bag regarding their ‘policy’. Last I heard I was told to look for them around the 21st or 22nd of this month, just a tad longer than what I’d expected. Like nearly a month longer. And that’s only if they receive them from the US distributor who needs to receive them from the manufacturer in Europe. Phooee!

So, with all this time on my hands I think maybe I’ll trailer the Ducati up north to Rich’s Custom Seats and have some mods done.

What’s the Ducati you ask? Hmm….well it’s just another Italian bike but with only two wheels, not three, and you have to shift it, that sort of thing. I’ve owned it (her?) since new in 2007 but haven’t ridden her much as it’s not that comfortable for me, sort of like Red Dog before her new seat.

Ducati is a small Italian firm best known for their many successes on the Grand Prix racing circuit.
Like many manufacturers who race they also build bikes for street riding and occasionally touring. You remember the old axe, "Race on Sunday, sell on Monday"?

My 2007 model ST3s is just such an item and I couldn’t resist buying her the moment I first laid eyes on her.

At the time I had visions of riding across America on this glorious red Italian beauty drawing long looks of admiration from men and sly sideways heated glances from beautiful young nubile-like ladies...

Fantasy is everything, eh?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mar 18, 2010 Apple Pie, Oysters, & Road Hazards!

Red Dog’s modified saddle came back from Rich’s Custom Seats on the 16th and yesterday was time for a test ride. The coastal weather Gods were smiling so it was on the road again, this time heading to the little town of Reedsport located about 60 miles north on highway 101. I had several stops in mind, one, a friend has been looking for a vintage ice chest to use as a gas tank container for a hot rod he’s building. I’d spotted one in an antique shop in Reedsport several months ago and figured it might be a good place to check into.

Then I had a couple of food stops to make, Kitty’s “Christmas is all year ‘Round” in Winchester Bay just happens to make the best pies in the area. At $20 they’re not cheap but they’re the best and worth it. Kitty is a great lady and will let you combine flavors all in one pie if you tell her what you want. Apple is always high on my list so I usually get half apple and whatever else strikes my fancy. My girlish waist line suffers for this but I doubt it’s cutting too many years off my life so I do it every few months.

After Kitty’s I’ll head to Clausen’s Oyster Farm in North Bend for a pint of their extra-small morsels. I’ve been going there for a number of years and never been disappointed yet, like Kitty’s they’re the best. Sadly the owners have decided it’s time to sell so they can retire and travel. I can only hope the new people will maintain the local flavor as to how they run the business but it will probably get snapped up by one of the mega outfits. If I had a few extra million lying around I’d be tempted but that’s not likely to happen soon.

Anyway that was my itinerary for the day and I intended to make the best of it with other stops along the way. Sunshine is way too precious to waste indoors, right? So here we go…

This is part of Old Town, Reedsport. It’s a fun place to visit, lots of curio shops and small café’s.

Kathi’s Vintage Antiques, Gifts, & Collectables is located on the main drag through town. They have a nice assortment of stuff, some new but mostly old. I like her place and always find time to stop when I pass through Reedsport.

I found they still have the vintage Coke cooler so I shot some pics to email to my friend. Their asking price is $400 which seems a bit steep to me but I don’t do old coolers so maybe that’s a good deal?

After leaving Reedsport I headed south to Winchester Bay where I stopped to buy an apple/chocolate chip pie at Kitty’s Kitchen. (Edit: I had to explain this to a friend at breakfast this morning so maybe I should do so here as well. When I say my pie was apple/chocolate chip it means Kitty removed half of an apple pie - already baked - from its plate and replaced it with half of a chocolate chip pie - already baked. I didn't mean she mixed chocolate chips in with an apple pie & baked it. Eww....I'm not so sure how that would taste but it doesn't sound very good.)

Winchester Bay is the neatest little town, lots of old boats being restored and a calm harbor for mooring your fishing boat. It’s also home to lots of great little restaurants so if you ever go there be prepared to eat! If by chance you're an artist you'll nearly always find someone painting or sketching the boats & harbor, especially during the summer.

Leaving Winchester Bay I had the option of continuing south on 101 but instead I chose to head west and visit Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. On the way I paused to view Winchester Bay from the vantage point of Jack Unger Memorial Wayside, a site dedicated to the men and women who lost their lives at sea.

After that I continued on to the Umpqua Lighthouse where I stopped for pics of the lighthouse and the Pacific Ocean surf off in the distance. This is a particularly beautiful area and should never be missed by travelers. The state park adjoining it offers some wonderful hiking trails around a lake plus great fishing. The campground is typical of Oregon’s State Park system; once you’ve been there you’re spoiled forever.
Back on the road I headed to Clausen’s Oysters located on the north side of Coos Bay. Usually I pick up a quart but since Linda is gone all week attending a seminar I settled for a pint.

Years ago I was fortunate to meet two ladies who had just published a book titled Oyster Cookery and in it was the best recipe in the world for pan fried oysters. I’ve stuck with their instructions and I can guarantee they turn out wonderful every time. Oysters are one of those food things for which there's no middle road, you either love them or not. I'm lucky, they're one of my favorite things.

 Red Dog’s top box is perfect for this type of outing, there’s plenty of room for things like pies and bags of iced oysters, etc. so we headed south through Coos Bay figuring to reach our home south of Bandon by 5:00pm or so. As I was riding along I realized I’d not had to shift around on the new saddle at all, it was as comfortable as could be. Rich had solved the sliding issue by whatever means and the ride was really nice.

Did you ever notice when things are going really well that’s when the you-know-what hits the fan?

Just as I passed a logging road entrance to highway 101 I noticed a lot of rocks on the road, the kind that log trucks discharge from their dual-wheels when they pull onto blacktop. Shortly thereafter I hit one of the damn things and it was really solid, making a loud bang and I knew at once one of the tires was gone.

Red Dog didn’t react like some bikes, she gave a small shudder but nothing drastic yet I knew there was something seriously wrong so I pulled over. Sure enough the left front tire was flat. I rolled her backwards while inspecting for damage but couldn’t see a break in the tire, just a total lack of air, i.e., flatter than the proverbial pancake.

Ah hell I thought; time to call AAA so I did. That’s why I have their service plus I didn’t feel like fiddling around with tire repairs while log trucks and semi trucks were thundering past me.

Their tow truck showed up about 30 minutes later and using his truck’s air supply we tried to pump the tire up. No dice, the rim evidently took quite a hit so we loaded her onto his flatbed and headed home. Once there we off-loaded Red Dog and I rode her down the driveway to the garage where she’s resting.

I’ll have a look at her wheel in the next day or so to see what the damages are but for now it’s time to kick back and relax. Even though the day ended on a bit of a sour note there’s still apple-chocolate pie in the fridge and a pint of extra-small oysters waiting to be fried and that’s a very good thing, isn’t it?

Post Script: The tire is gone, busted right at the rim with a hole way too big to fix so I've ordered in a new set all around. The fronts are sensitive to being matched up and I figured I may as well do the rear one too; that way I'll be ready for my ride south later this spring.