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, January 24, 2010

Jan 24, 2010 UniGo Pics I forgot to include yesterday

I meant to include a few pics of the trailer connection wiring as some of you had asked me to do so here they are.

The connecting cable that came with the trailer was more than long enough so I ended up shortening it by a foot or so. I tapped into Red Dog’s wiring system and connected wires for tail lights, turn signals, and brake lights plus a ground wire. The factory furnished several solder-less connectors for this but I don’t trust those and elected to solder them instead.

Mounting the plug went pretty well as there was an empty space just above the license plate that was well suited for it. It’s a type of plug I haven’t seen before and has a spring loaded cover that conceals the connecting pins when the trailer is disconnected. I think it will be fairly weatherproof.

I ran a separate power feed with its own fuse directly off the battery that feeds an auxiliary power outlet inside the trailer. This should prove to be useful as a point to recharge cell phones, computers, or power up any 12 volt device needed. One of the cool things the factory did was install an interior light inside the trailer. It's one of those touch-type LED lamps and puts out plenty of light. If you've ever fumbled around in the dark looking for something inside your gear you'll appreciate this feature.

While I was poking around locating various wires for the lights I came across a plug socket and corresponding wire that was unplugged. There was nothing about it in the manual that I could easily find so I left it unplugged and queried the members of the Modern Vespa Forum. Turns out it’s used to reset the code for the remote saddle unlocking system and if I’d plugged it in I’d have lost the feature. Somehow you’d think the factory would have tagged it with a warning note… Duh…

In the end the lights all work great and it’s hard to imagine another driver not seeing Red Dog at night, even in bad weather.
So that’s it, time to continue with weatherization of the remaining plugs, etc. Fun, fun!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jan 23, 2010 The Uni-Go Trailer Project is finally winding down

Boy this has really been a fun project, building the hitch, ordering and waiting for the trailer to arrive, then assembling it and seeing it on the scooter for the first time.

Then making up the wiring harness and plugging in the lights and no sparks or blown fuses! And the first short ride towing it without even sensing it was back there, that was really great.

I still have to adjust the shocks to their heaviest setting but that won’t take long. The idea is to compensate for the added weight of the trailer on the rear end, otherwise the front end would be a bit light resulting in funny handling.

After putting the final touches on the wiring harness I remembered I had to treat all of Red Dog’s switches and electrical connectors with dielectric grease so I’ve started on that. It’s no small project as there are lots of components and most are buried under the plastic body parts.

This is something I picked up from other owners on the Modern Vespa Forum. It seems nearly all MP3s are prone to electrical issues that can be avoided simply by early weatherization treatment.

Now I’m truly looking forward to the first road trip, probably to Portland to have Red Dog’s saddle reshaped. The weather starting Tuesday of next week is looking pretty fair for this time of year so if it holds that may be a good time to go.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jan 18, 2010 The Uni-Go is here!

Phone rings at 7:00am this morning....
I hate calls when it's still dark outside, they're always bad news, someone died or your nephew stacked up your car, etc. This was different, it was the shipping company advising me they'd be delivering the UniGo beastie in a couple of hours and could they get their semi up our driveway? Of course they could given enough time but rather than mess with that I agreed to meet them at the nearest landmark, the Wildlife Safari Game Park up the road a few hundred yards. Living next to them is like living in Jurassic Park but I won't go there just now, suffice to say it's interesting.

I arrived a few minutes before the truck just in time to snap a photo of them approaching, and then it was transfer the shipping box from the truck into the back of my pickup and head home.

I spent most of the day messing around with various goodies and in the process managed to drop and subsequently lose one of the critical nuts. You wouldn't believe the stuff that's disappeared in a flash in my garage, it's simply amazing. Anyway this resulted in my having to drive into town and search for a 12mm 175 thread aviation type nut used to secure the trailer's axle. After the True Value I went to the local Ace Hardware where at least they knew what I wanted but didn't have and directed me back to the NAPA store where they actually had several of the beasts. Simply incredible, what are the odds?

At home again I finished installing the wheel and moved everything out of the living room up to the barn. (Wot? I didn't mention using the living room as UniGo assembly station No. 1?) In any event it was up to the barn, unload Red Dog who was still parked on the trailer from her recent trip to Medford and prepare for the next phase of the UniGo's assembly. The next step entailed alignment of the tracking to the bike's stance and for the most part it went well enough. It isn't letter perfect but then again neither am I so I expect it will do.

During all this commotion the main fluorescent lights in the barn went south so I spent a considerable amount of time messing around trying to fix it with no real success. The end result of all this was after doing a minimal alignment of the trailer to the bike I decided to pitch it in for the day and go get well, i.e., have a very large G&T, set a fire in the fireplace and maybe watch a really bad movie or two.

Tomorrow is truly another day…

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jan 16, 2010 Red Dog’s First Service

After fumbling around trying to locate a dealership close enough to use as a service agency I finally settled on Oregon Motorsports in Medford. The dealer I bought Red Dog from is located in northern California, way too far to travel and they recommended these folks so off we went. We, meaning Daisy and I took the camper figuring on finding a place to stay close to Medford. Unfortunately we started out a bit late and by the time we arrived it was pitch dark and beginning to rain.

After following various signs to campgrounds I decided old reliable Motel 6 was the answer so that’s what we did. There was lots of parking available for the rig so after checking in I gave Daisy her dinner, fixed my own and headed indoors for the night. Daisy stayed on guard in the RV which I’m sure she prefers over unfamiliar motel rooms.

In the morning Medford was totally socked in with dense fog, to the point the weather folks were broadcasting warnings to drive with caution. This was one of those instances when I was especially glad to have the GPS along; were it not for that there was no way we’d have located the dealership. As it was we arrived before anyone else and had lots of time to get Red Dog prepped and ready to unload. One of the shop guys offered to give me a hand at it and I was glad to accept; the ramp was slippery from all the fog and his help was welcome.

Their service guru is Tony Johnson and his background with Piaggio is extensive. After a brief discussion I was confident he knew what he was doing so I left him alone and spent the next several hours hanging out in their showroom ogling all the cool scooters and Yamaha bikes on display.

Pink Vespa anyone? Not cheap but you always have to pay for the cute factor. I'd like to have one but probably in a different hue...

Besides new scooters they carry used ones too. This little Honda Reflex 250 was available for $2499.00 and had 18000+ miles on its clock. I sat on it and it felt pretty comfortable. Red Dog would be jealous…

Finally Red Dog was finished, all oiled up and given a clean bill of health. Tony checked to see if there were any factory service issue bulletins and since there were none we departed.

Notice how sunny the weather is in the pictures? That lasted until we got within about 50 miles from the coast; then the skies opened up and really dumped on us. We arrived home in the middle of another winter storm, gusting winds with horizontal rain penetrating everything. Since Red Dog was already soaked and dirty I decided to abandon her to the elements and scurried into the house for the night. Tomorrow there’d be plenty of time to figure out what to do next.

An email informed me the Uni-Go trailer’s been shipped and is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday the 19th so I think we’ll hang around till then. After that it’s off to Portland to see about getting her saddle reworked to fit my big ol' butt better.

I suppose that’s probably more visual than you need, right?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jan 03, 2010 At last the hitch is installed, doesn’t look half bad

The weather people co-operated today, overcast & cool but no rain, at least not around our place. Typical Sunday morning meant breakfast with friends and then it was time to install the new hitch. The whole process went easy and with the help of a big rubber mallet the beastie was soon knocked into place and all the hardware set and tightened. Ron builds things to close tolerances which suits me just fine.

I replaced several of the nylon zip ties we’d had to cut during the fabrication process plus removed a bit of primer overspray. As most things go where the fit is tight the fresh paint job picked up a few mars but nothing serious. I’ll attend to those later when I dig into the wiring harness to install the isolation relay.

The Uni-Go folks said the optimum position for the hitch receiver is 14” from the ground so Ron set it at 13 ½” when the rear shock is on the low or softest setting. You gain a bit more than ½” at the firm setting which is what the trailer people recommend so it should be just right when loaded.

To finish up I reinstalled all the Tupperware without incident, no broken tabs or other nasty bits although I seem to have 4 small identical screws left over. Right now I’m ready for a break so I’ll leave those for later, wouldn’t want to use up all the fun stuff in one sitting.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Jan 01, 2010 It’s time to paint the Uni-Go hitch

New Years Day always seems a bit slow for some reason, not much happening and hardly any stores open. Yesterday I picked up a couple of cans of Krylon Gloss Black paint to use on the hitch, then today I changed my mind. The black paint on Red Dog looks like more of a satin finish so it was back to the local True Value for an exchange. They’re only closed 3 days a year and today wasn’t one of them, lucky for me.

Since it’s raining and nasty outside I set up a “paint booth” area in the far corner of the garage where I could do the deed. There’s a ceiling mount electric heater right above the same area and although it hadn’t been fired up for at least a couple of years it came up to speed and soon had the corner nice and comfy. I also have a set of heat lamps mounted on their own adjustable stand to help dry the paint so everything looked good to go.

It’s been awhile since I painted indoors and I’d forgotten how nasty the paint fumes from rattle cans are but it soon came back to me. Yuk! I hung the hitch from an old laundry hanger gizmo I’d picked up at a garage sale years ago and it worked perfect. Well at least until I decided to move it slightly so I could get a better angle to paint from. Down it went so I had to do that coat, the third one I think, all over again. No big deal, it just had a couple of minor scratches and since the paint hadn’t hardened out yet it took another coat without problems.

I’m going to let it set up overnight and tomorrow I’ll hang it on Red Dog to see what it looks like. So far so good I think.

I wonder how other people spend New Years Day?