Scoot Commute

Connecticut, why it’s not complete crap

Posted in Bike Buying, Buddy St. Tropez (Franz Biberkopf) by sbahn on 2009/07/07

Ok, I gotta admit. I’m not a fan of Connecticut. When I was a kid and we would go camping at Baxter State Park in Maine, I would fall asleep in New York and wake up several times and we were always “still in Connecticut”. As an adult, Connecticut is just in the way between Rhode Island and me getting to New York to get a real bagel (that would be pumpernickel).

So anyway, why am I going on about Connecticut when there’s no reason for me to have been there? Well, I found a Scarabeo 500 on craigslist and rode out after work yesterday to have a look. First, the trip.

Connecticut is not complete crap because:

  • there’s really good road signage (I didn’t get lost once and I am seriously geographically challenged);
  • the backroads are beautiful with loads of trees, decent speed limits, smells of horses and cut grass;
  • there are farms where actual food is being grown which brings me back to my childhood;
  • the roads are in great shape considering they’re secondary and tertiary roads and the winter was fairly hellish;
  • drivers are sort of considerate, but I do pull over and let them pass even if I’m doing 15 over the posted (I don’t know these crazy, curvy, up & down backroads and the guy in the pick-up just wants to get home and have something to eat);
  • did I mention the signage? Real A+ on that, Governor Rell.

I rode out to the town of Baltic to meet a guy called Dave to see the Scarabeo. The ride out was ok except Route 6 in Connecticut gets crazy! It may be posted at 45 and 50, but people are hauling. Good thing the shoulder is nicely paved; I just scoot over and let ’em sail by. It is not worth proving a point. I think they go so fast because the pavement is smooth as silk and it’s a straight shot west. At one intersection in some town (maybe Killingly?) there was a crowd of scoots and they all waved as I went by. I also a couple of more 50s on my way home.

I turned on Route 97 (thank god for Google streetview!) and entered the town of Scotland. No Hibs supporters, no thistles, but a really lovely road. Unfortunately there was a red VW Jetta or Passat behind me. Even though I was going at least 10, and more likely 15 miles over the posted 35, he still stuck to me like Velcro. There simply was no where to pull over (narrow country lane anyone?), so it wasn’t the most calming of rides.

I pulled into “town”, if that’s what you want to call the center of Baltic, after taking a sharp left up a hill and an immediate sharp right down a hill and over train tracks. I made a left onto Main Street and pulled into Dave’s driveway. The ‘beo was sitting there all ready for drools.

Dave is a nice guy. 57, bought his first scoot, a 50cc, at 54, when he and several members of his extended family decided they wanted to get into scootering. I talked with him for about an hour and a half. He went from a 50cc to a 500cc in one year. He’s selling the ‘beo because his wife, who had upgraded from a 50cc to a 250cc Helix (that’s one ugly scoot) while he was riding the ‘beo, felt that if they’re riding together, they should have matching scoots. I looked at him, stunned. I muttered, “wow, that’s a new one. I’m sure glad Erik doesn’t think that way; we’d be broke!”

So he bought matching Burgman 400s. I saw them in their special shed in his backyard.

Dave doesn’t ride 2-up yet as he feels his skills are not there yet, but his plan is to eventually get a Goldwing Trike and ride together with his wife. Wow. I think that this attitude did play a part in my decision to forgo the ‘beo. But I skip ahead.

I asked if I could ride it, but he declined, which is fine. I don’t know what I would do in a similar situation with roles reversed. I did think that if I rode there on my Buddy, he would have thought I was a half-way decent rider and might let me try it. Oh well. We did go for a ride together and lemme tell you, that thing hauls ass.

Scarabeo 500: Impressions

Well, it’s big. Big, big, big. Super-big. I’m 5’11” and I could just flatfoot it, and that was standing at the very end of the seat. It’s heavy. But it’s got a really great look to it, and I love, love, love the matching saddlebags.

From the back the lighting was great. Nice big indicator, nice big brake light. There’s a brakelight on the rear case that can be hooked up to the brake as well. It looks good from the back making sweeping turns, and with the upgraded 16 inch Pirellis, you know that thing can handle the highway like a Boston Terrier puppy draws gay boys.

Some things I really didn’t like are:

  • The gas tank is under the seat, so you have to open the seat to refuel. That means, you have to remove all the gear strapped down to the passenger seat in order to get at the tank for refueling. That’s a pain.
  • The rear case doesn’t come off. That’s irritating.
  • It has a reminder indicator for service. I asked Dave if he had all regular service (fluids), and he said, oh yes, he’d only had it in for one oil change since he owned it (second owner). Then he said, “look, it tells you,” and turned it on so I could see that the next service is in 1400 miles. I remarked that my car does that.

As we’re talking, standing on the sidewalk next to our respective scoots, a woman pulls up in a crappy car with the bumper falling off, and asks out the window, “Where do you get a battery for, for, for that thing?” and flipped her hand in the direction of my scoot. “Um,” I paused, “the scooter store?” and then I looked at Dave. He shook his head. I said, “No scooter store nearby?” and he laughed. I then suggested she try Benny’s, as we had gotten a battery for one of the Hondas there. I told her to confirm the size she needed and they may have it. If not, then try a motorcycle shop. She seemed satisfied, thanked us, and headed off.

About two mintues later, she’s on the other side of the street going the opposite direction, and yells out (oblivious to the cars behind her), “Is replacing the battery something I can do? Do you need any tools?” I yelled back she would need a wrench and it’s really not that difficult. Just make sure it’s the right size. She waved, and headed off.

It was starting to get late (7:30 pm) and I still had about an hour ahead of me, so I thanked Dave for his time and asked where the nearest gas station was as I was on empty. Thankfully there was one right down the street as I don’t think I could have made it to the next town.

As I was riding back on Route 138, then 14A and onto 14 in Rhode Island, I was really thinking about the ‘beo. It just isn’t a scooter. It’s a couch with wheels. And I don’t want to be stuck riding a Goldwing scooter thingey and Erik gets all the attention (and headaches) because everyone goes berzerk over the Beemer or the Dream. So I’m going to pass.

The best sign I saw on the way back was at the end of someone’s driveway who lives at #357. It was a large, white sign with a handpainted, black 357 on it. Clever.

As I was passing by the ice cream shop on Route 14 in little Rhody, the same place where Erik & I stopped on one of our trips to the reservoir and where none, not one, of the people on giant bikes spoke to us, I saw three guys with scooters off in the corner. I swear one of them was a Blur. I was going by kind of fast, but did stand up a bit, look over and shake my head to indicate, “hey cool”, and they waved back. I would have turned around and stopped, but it was getting dark and I was still on the wrong side of civilization in Rhode Island. It took me a second to realize I still had my sunglasses on, so I stopped shortly after to switch out my glasses.

Further up I passed an old ADV-style dude on a beautiful BMW, followed shortly by a guy all in black on a new Vespa. Dude, stop following that car so closely and you’ll be able to pull your hand off the grip to wave at me.

I’m weaving through Cranston, craning to read the street signs (what few there are); at least I think it’s Cranston because the street signs are blue and we don’t have blue street signs in Providence. I then come into Providence. At least I assume I crossed the border because all the street signs are gone. Remarkably, there is a sign for Farmington and I make my right turn and meander through Silver Lake. Not my favorite neighborhood. I come up to the yellow house and make another right onto Webster (again, thank you Google streetview). I turn onto Cranston Street and know where I am, so I can stop looking at the printed directions taped to my speedo head, aka as my ghetto GPS.

I pull onto the street about 8:30 and the whole gang is congregating outside of one of Ron’s houses. Erik comes over to say hello before he goes back to the house to grab Wii Play for Jason to play with the girls.

All in all, it was about 125 miles roundtrip. Not bad for after work. And I’m glad I brought my NERCOMP fleece jacket, because it was cold on the way back. My middle fingers went purple, as they always do when my hands get cold. I would have been one of those people buried alive back in the day.

Result: trip, good. ‘beo, no.

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