Category Archives: scooters

New reflectors for my ride (and other boring stuff)

I picked up my Vespa from Scooter City the other day after some expensive work was done on it. Hopefully, the leaky back tire is fixed for good. I’ve been in to have this leaky tire fixed for the third time. This time I put my foot down and told Rick, my trusted mechanic, that I wanted a new back tire. I think Rick couldn’t do it, knowing the tread on the Dunlop Scootsmart was good. He overhauled the old rim this time, claiming there was corrosion in the old rim and that he believed that was the problem. Despite my initial frustration with him not charging me for a new tire, I realized, unlike some car mechanics I have had in the past, Rick can’t see replacing something in good shape and charging me for it.

He also replaced the belt and roller set, including the idle rollers. My GT 200 also got a much-needed lube job. After I okayed it over the phone, he installed the reflectors missing from the scooter when I first bought the Vespa used some years ago. The last two items (replacing oils and filters and getting reflectors) are the only things I really understand and, if I was desperate, could do them myself with the help of YouTube videos. My scooter rides like a top now, and the reflectors are an excellent and needed addition, though this old man doesn’t like riding in the dark anymore.

Reflectors on the skirts of the back fenders and tail.

The bill was steep but fair, and I got a brand new Scooter City t-shirt with it. But, hey, is that Evel Knievel on my new tee?

My Scooter’s Long-Lost Twin

How many years have I had my Vespa? I don’t recall exactly, but it has been around ten years. And in that time, I had never seen a Portofino green Vespa Granturismo 200L like mine. (Actually, I did see one while on a Google Maps search of Oxford, England. It was parked on a sidewalk, students from the famous university walking by it with their pixelated faces.) Now I have seen one and touched one. (Even accidentally sat on one.) Last Monday, I was walking back to my ride after working a half-day in Downtown Sacramento. The owner of my scooter’s twin parked his GT200 right next to mine, probably as a friendly gesture. If I had kept the windshield on mine, they would be virtually identical.

My scooter’s doppelganger sports a windscreen. Mine had one, but I removed mine.

My scooter’s twin has some black detail on the back fender, whereas mine is
Portofino green.

I’m a little over a month away from retirement, a month away from regularly
parking here, and my Vespa finally found her long-lost sister. Cruel irony.

Burger Patch and Scooter Parts

Burger Patch and my perpetual (failing) diet

This blog started out in part to investigate hamburgers from Sacramento restaurants, bar & grills, and food trucks. That part didn’t last–dieting got in the way. I’ve been trying to lose weight and to cut back (way back) on beef and dairy. This is in part for my health and also for ecological reasons. “Livestock farming has a vast environmental footprint. It contributes to land and water degradation, biodiversity loss acid rain, and deforestation. Nowhere is the impact more apparent than climate change—livestock farming contributes 18 percent of humans produce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.” (Source: “Five Ways the Meat on Your Plate is Killing the Planet” from The The other part of the original project—checking out local scooter culture, scooter clubs, and run and rallies–was actually a much bigger failure. I’m a reclusive guy, so I didn’t know what I was thinking trying to rub elbows with fellow scooterists. I always ended up in the corner alone during meetups, rallies, and runs. Anyway, scooterists drink like fish–I’m, for the most part, a teetotaler. In the end, I guess I was just excited I had a scooter and initially, couldn’t be happy with just the ride.

Anyway, I don’t miss Royal Bastard Scooter Club events, and I especially don’t mind riding clear of the Vespa Club of Sacramento. The dieting part is far more challenging. And as far as beef and dairy goes–I’ve been far more successful in cutting back on beef than avoiding dairy. (Me likey Half & Half in the morning joe and cheese on just about everything.) One little victory on the cutting back on beef and all other animal-based food, for that matter, is drinking Huel shakes for weekday lunches. I started out drinking the environmentally-friendly shakes for both breakfast and lunch at work. I wrote about it here. Alas, that didn’t last long, but I am back on track, when it comes to most lunches during the work week. I am also interested in vegetarian and vegan alternatives to dairy and all kinds of meat. I still love hamburgers, but often choose a restaurant’s veggie burger alternative to the beef burger. (I know it’s blasphemy from the guy who started this blog writing about Squeezeburgers and Fatboys.) When I started seeing ads for a place called Burger Patch, I wrote down the address without reading the whole advertisement. A week later, I had my poor vegetarian-curious son driving me around Midtown Sacramento, trying to find the phantom place. As it turned out, Burger Patch had no established address at that time but had pop-up events in different locations for about the first two years. I didn’t know that at the time and just gave up–until recently. Last August, Burger Patch opened a brick & mortar joint at 2301 K Street. It took me a while, but I finally checked this place out.

Patch Burger alternative hamburger offers are “Patch Burger,” “Double Patch Burger,” and the “BBQ Patch Burger.” (I know, they’ve got to do something with those names. In that context, they sound less to do with a garden and more to do with how you fix a flat on your bike.) They also offer three alternative chicken items called “Chick’n”: “The Ranch,” the “Crispy BBQ Ranch” (I’ll be back to check out that last one.) and “chick’n” tenders option called “A Bunch.” I ordered the “Patch Burger” and added “Hickory Smoked Strips”–there alternative to bacon. (As if there ever could be an alternative to bacon.)

But I digress.

I also switched out their standard bun for “Pushkin’s GF Bun,” just because I was curious what gluten-free bread tastes like. The bun is from the locally famous Pushkin’s Bakery, a wheat/gluten and dairy-free bakery here in the Sacramento Area. When I asked for the Pushkin’s GF Bun, the young woman taking my order asked if I had an intolerance to gluten. When I said, “Alas, I can eat anything, and that’s my problem,” she laughed, but I followed with why she asked. She said something to do with cross-contamination. Presumably, my order would have been handled with special care if I would have answered in the affirmative, but I didn’t need the special treatment and there was a line forming behind me, anyway.

The instance reminded me of when I used to take my dinner breaks with my work partner, Dawna, at the nearby McDonald’s back in the mid-1980s. I initially thought she agreed with my and our co-worker, Bobby, on Mickey Dee’s because it was the fastest place to get our food. (We only had 30-minute find a restaurant, order, eat, and get back to the grind.) Dawna would order her Big Mac without ketchup and her fries without salt. The kitchen–designed to make food in advance to serve more customers in less time–came to a screeching halt to make a fresh Big Mac and drop a special basket of fries in the fryer just for Dawna. She would watch the minimum-wage workers like a hawk preparing her food special to ensure they made it to her specifications and made them fresh. This alone was annoying–it’s fast food, for fucks sake, Dawna! But after she got her dinner, she proceeded to salt up her fries and squirted ketchup on her burger. I suppose I could have had the folks at Burger Patch dawn their hazmat suits to make my burger special, while the line behind me got longer, but I only wanted to find out what a gluten-free hamburger bun tastes like. I liked it.

I also ordered a “Shovel of Spuds.” One hundred percent vegan, fried in non-GMO rice oil. The “house blend” of herbs they finish the fries off with making this one of the best orders of fries I have had in quite a while. Vegan or not, fries are fries, fatso, but I can’t help myself. Speaking of fatso, I had a Vanilla Bean, “Earth Quake Shake.” This vegan shake is made with cashew, soy, and almond kinds of alternative milk, and is the equal to most dairy-based shakes I have had. It is also 100 percent vegan and also not a low-calorie item, just a feel-good-about-yourself-and-the-planet shake. And that’s the thing about vegetarian and vegan foods–just a walk through the isles of the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op and you can see this shit isn’t exactly Jenny Craig.

But how did the burger taste, Jockomo?

I thought the tomato, and the lettuce tasted fresh, the grilled onions and the melted cheese also added to the burger’s good taste, but the Hickory Smoked Strips simply do not replace bacon, but what are you going to do? I’m trying to live a little cleaner and reduce my carbon footprint. I’m trying, Greta, really I am, but it is hard. The Hickory Smoked Strips are optional, so I suggest you skip them. The Patch Burger also comes with “Patch Sauce”–a slightly spicy version of Thousand Island Dressing. The little bit of heat gives it the burger a distinctive taste. Strangely, the Beyond Burger patty was dry.

What should I expect, the patty to have the consistency of a beef patty? I guess so, I’m at a hamburger joint, right? The only other beef (eh-hm) I had with the burger is how the whole thing fell apart about halfway into eating it. I’m not talking about how a bun will disintegrate while you’re eating a burger due to a combination of a poor bun, too much sauce, and a juicy patty. There weren’t any juices, and the Patch Sauce and the melted cheese didn’t seem to contribute to the breakdown. Was this an end-user issue? Maybe. Only a return visit will determine that. I think it was the patty’s dryness that was the main reason for the breakdown.

How does the Patch Burger compare to Burger King’s “Impossible Whopper”?

Well, aside from all the elements around the Impossible Foods patty, I liked it over the Patch Burger’s Beyond Meat patty, but everything else about the Patch Burger was superior to Burger King’s meatless offering. Too, Burger Patch’s Shovel of Spuds and milkshake were better than Burger King’s, by far. Also, if you check out head-to-head taste tests on YouTube, you’ll see it is–for the most part–a tossup when it comes to taste and juiciness, so I’m betting someone was asleep at the grill when my burger was being prepared.

A final note about the Burger Patch. Make sure to check out their excellent website: They have promising items, not on the limited take-out menu. Also, if you’re a progressive like me, you’ll appreciate their commitment to sustainability. Also, take a look at their Patch Match page where each month, Burger Patch selects a charity and donates a portion of every burger sold. Another reason to patronize this burger joint. If I was rating burgers like I used to, I would give them a pass and try a Patch Burger a second time. Who knows, maybe they will have changed the burger’s name by then!

scooter repairs

It was tune-up time for my Vespa GT 200 L. Which means taking my ride into the shop. I have no idea how to work on engines short of filling them up with gas and adding/changing the oil. This job required more work, so I took my Vespino to Scooter City. Mike, the mechanic, said it would take an afternoon to complete, but when I told him to check a growling noise I experience most times I accelerate from an idle that put a question mark at the end of the estimated time of completion.

This sound was not consistent: I would hear it, and then it faded away, and other times, I wouldn’t hear it at all. I reported this to my old mechanic. He slapped a strip of duct tape across the front of the frame and the center panel because I assumed the sound was coming from the front of the scooter instead of the engine. The tape didn’t stop the growling. I put up with that sound for a few years—crossing my fingers all the way.

Me working on my ride with a torque wrench. Ha! Just kidding! I lifted this from the good folks at, but the scooter is my model and my Portofino green color. Check out the drive belt. I’ve seen one of those up close! What or where the “Bellville nut” nut is, is a complete mystery to me.

The source of the growling (or what might have been the source) ended up being significant, and I was glad I told Mike about it. When he opened up the crankcase, he found dust, rust, and severe wear. Ultimately, the drive belt, rollers, guides, the o ring, the Bellville nut, idler pulley, and pulley bolt had to be replaced. What are these parts, and how do they work in the Vespa GT 200’s Leader engine? Short of the drive belt, I don’t know. That’s why I pay a mechanic. As per law, the shop gave me the replaced parts, and I could tell there was some serious wear—the drive belt looked like it would snap at any time and the idler pulley (I think that’s what it was) sounded as if it was the primary noisemaker, and when I tried to spin it with my fingers, the sound it made was as if it would break any moment. The bag of worn parts was a photo op missed, but, as usual, whenever a mechanic gives me the replaced parts, I always play with the shit as if I have some idea how the stuff works, then leave it on the counter asking the shop to dispose of the bag of junk.

Out of the garage, my Vespa felt tight and smooth, but a day later, the growling came back, but it was a faint sound, and it wasn’t as frequent. I have no idea what all of this means. Maybe I should have been a master mechanic like my old man, or the late venerated Vespa sage, Rolf Soltau. Nah, I am sure it will be alright. Anyway, I’ve mastered the art of operating my Vespino with fingers crossed on both hands!

Ha, what do you know! I went to and this was on their home page–my drive belt!

Five Guys, another fat guy on a scooter, and the burning question that just might render all this burger scooting irrelevant



Yeah, couldn’t find a closer spot.

As the subtitle of this blog suggests, I don’t review burger joints very often anymore. Also, now that I am almost as fat as I have ever been, I have made a couple of healthy half measures (I rarely stick to whole measures): cut way down on dairy and beef. The decision on cutting down on dairy is purely a healthy choice–I’ve replaced milk with vanilla soy and hope to go to almond or some other replacement for soymilk since I’ve been reading negative stuff on that milk substitute. I haven’t begun to look for alternatives for butter, cream, mayo yet. (So the cutting down on dairy is truly a baby step.) Cheese, what would life be like without cheese? My low-beef consumption decision has more to do with how the demand for beef–especially in America–is killing the planet. I would rant on about that, but instead, I’m providing one of many sources here if you care to investigate this very serious dilemma yourself.

While on this kick I picked up Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra. I’d love to tell my readers that when I was forty, I weighed 200 pounds (think heavier) and that within two years I was training for the Ultraman or Ironman Triathlon or the NorCal Spartan or even the less-challenging Sacramento Urban Cow Half-Marathon (nope, nope, nope, and not even), but at forty I was happily stuffing my face. I’m sixty and twenty quid past the two-century mark as my stressed scale tells me. I am interested in Roll’s book for some inspiration and information, that’s all. And since reading it I do think more about what I’m eating, but I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to personal fitness and healthy food choices. I love to eat, and plants are at the tippy-top of my perverted food pyramid. At least for now.

Water tower Sac

Famous water tower with the new and controversial signage.

Last June folks from both sides of my family met up at Raley Field to celebrate my mom’s 85th birthday. It was quite an event. The matriarch rented a corporate suite and my brother popped for the refreshments. With beer bottles in hands cousins from my mother’s side and my late father’s side (presumably still thinking this blog was for the reviewing burgers) marveled at the fact that I had never been to a Five Guys. At one point one of the cousins whispered the driving directions to me as if she expected me to Uber it to the lauded grill and pick up a burger in between innings.


As it turned out, there is a Five Guys much closer than the one the cousin directed me to–only ten minutes away from the park. So when I decided to check out what’s the big deal with Five Guys, I opted for the one in West Sac. From my house, I can use a circuitous, but pleasurable route: from my South Land Park house take the River Road, cross the Freeport Bridge and take South River Road up into West Sacramento proper then Google Maps the rest of the way.


It had been a could of years since riding the River Road (California State Route 160). It is by far the best ride for a motorcyclist or scooterist in Sacramento. Winding roads that follow the Sacramento River down to the Delta. (If I was more serious about turning over a new leaf I would ride my bike there, but the streets are very narrow with no bike lanes.) If the rider doesn’t want to cut over the river at Freeport they can keep riding to the Old Sugar Mill, a place I have never visited, but seems worth checking out. A little further south and there’s Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge–another place this blogger has not seen but might be worth a look. Al the Wop’s is in the Walnut Grove area about a half hour from the end of Freeport Blvd and is known for excellent food and has some history to it. If this blog had remained a burger review, I would have covered it a long time ago. Keep in mind, all these places can be accessed much quicker by taking Interstate 5 South, but that’s not the point. The River Road is the event. The destination takes a backseat to the ride!

Water tower WSac

West Sacramento’s not-so-famous water tower.


Five Guys: In-N-Out on steroids. But is it better?

Anyway, if you have ever seen the colossal IKEA store in West Sac, that’s where the Five Guys store is. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the restaurant is that it looked very similar to an In-N-Out Burger. This is an important point–to me at least–because the cousins at Raley Field and every other burger booster I know who has sung the praises of Five Guys, inevitably compare the chain to In-N-Out Burger–not Smashburger, not Habit Burger, and not any other chain.

The menu is much bigger than In-N-Out Burger since we’re on the subject. There are far more items on the menu including hot dogs, veggie selections, and a BLT. There are far more flavors of shakes besides In-N-Out Burger’s traditional chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

I ordered something called a Bacon Cheeseburger, which was two patties, two strips of bacon and two slices of American Cheese. (It’s sad that the most boring cheese on the planet is called “American.” Perhaps the French or the German’s invented it and named it as a joke.) I also ordered medium fries, an Oreo Cookie Pieces Shake and a small Diet Coke. Before you think me a complete pig, I ordered the Coke as a shake chaser so I wouldn’t have that aftertaste one gets after drinking a shake. I normally don’t order shakes unless I’m getting the order to go.

So did it meet all the expectations? It was a mixed bag. First, the shake was delicious. I didn’t finish it. Nor did I finish the Diet Coke. The fries were excellent and quite possibly better than In-N-Out if my memory serves me well. If I wanted to kill myself, a blind taste test of all these items could be executed with little hassle since there is an In-N-Out Burger spitting distance from the Five Guys. The same with the shakes. Five Guys has an In-N-Out Burger beat on variety, but vanilla shake to vanilla shake–that would be interesting.


This is what the burger looked like when I peeled away the foil. It’s as if after the line cook prepared it, the expo chef wrapped it, took a blackjack to it, and kicked it across the kitchen before bagging it.

The Bacon Cheeseburger was a mess. I damn near asked for cutlery to eat it. First of all, they have the labeling all wrong. The Bacon Cheeseburger was a double bacon cheeseburger and the Little Bacon Cheeseburger was not a kid’s bacon cheeseburger, but a large single-patty affair. (Think Quarterpounder, Whopper, et al.) In other words, a good-sized, single-patty burger. What self-hating fatass would want anything “little” when they waddle into a burger joint! Not me! So I bought a huge burger that immediately fell apart when I opened it.

So there I was, eating what tasted like a pretty good burger–with my fingers. Was it better than an In-N-Out Burger? Once again, I don’t know, but for sure it was too big. If I go to a Five Guys again, I’ll order the Little Bacon Cheeseburger. Ridiculous naming conventions! But why should I care, anyway? I can’t enjoy this shit anymore in my physical state and my age: while I was eating this stuff, I envisioned two people sitting across from me: my ex-doctor whispering, “Don’t love food that doesn’t love you back” and Rich Roll, the guy I have been reading. He’s just shaking his head and saying, “Man, you’ll never find Ultra the way you’re going, bro.”


It was a miracle that the President of the Clean Plate Club didn’t finish all of the fries, the shake, and the soda. Maybe that’s a turning point. Or perhaps it was way too much food for even me to choke down. Burp!

IMG_0808 (1)

I used to think bacon was the greatest thing in God’s creation. “A Vegan’s bridge food,” as the joke goes. Now, I am just embarrassed.

If only…


Hi-V and my ugly safety vest

Early this month I had my third near collision on my scooter with a car. This time just like the first time the driver of the vehicle pulled out of a parking lot to cross my lane only to notice me too late. Thanks to me I stopped in time and didn’t hit the car’s left fender and go sailing over the car’s hood. And like the first time, the driver remained in my path–presumably gathering their wits. The first time this happened I was pissed, but calm and gave a kind of sarcastic bow with a flourish of my left arm as if to say, “Oh you first. I insist!” The third and last time, I violently waved the car away multiple times as if saying, “Okay, so you didn’t hit me. Congratulations. Now, get the hell out of my way!” Yeah, I was a little rattled. The third time was a charm. When I got home, I pulled the Hi-V vest from the hold under my saddle and put over my riding jacket and hung that jacket in my closet–as if the ugly safety vest was a part of the, previously, cool-looking jacket.

When I first got my scooter, I attended an intensive motorcycle safety program. The program was comprised of a night of classwork, followed by two full days of hands-on training at the company’s course with the company’s own motorcycles. If you pass the rider’s test at the end, you are given a learner’s permit. All you have to do from there is pass the written DMV test and you get your M1.

Easy enough, right? Alas, like everything in my life, nothing comes easy. Back in the mid-70s, it took me five times to pass my driver’s test. (No, gentle reader, that’s not a typo FIVE times! That’s got to be a record. Also, I almost killed the DMV employee the first time.) It also took me multiple attempts to pass my written motorcycle test back then. So you won’t be surprised to find it took me two times to pass the final riding test in this class. The permit cost me a crash & burn finale and a cracked rib!

The thing that has stayed with me well beyond this one of a multitude of humiliations in my life and the pain in my chest that came with it was the acronym I learned in the classroom. It has become a mantra whenever I catch myself daydreaming while I ride: S.E.E. or Scan, Evaluate, Execute. The Scan part is ongoing and should never stop, but the mind does wander. If the Evaluate is followed by the Execute it happens in a split second. If it doesn’t, you are either dead or the truck that almost crushed you had your Guardian Angel behind the wheel. Either that or you did some fancy maneuvering.

A second thing I remembered was the depressing stat that over ninety percent of all accidents involving motorcycles happen in intersections. (So much for being safe by staying off the Interstate.) The final takeaway from the motorcycle safety class was for the rider to always be visible to the surrounding traffic. That’s where Hi-V comes in. Hi-V, HiVis, or HV means high visibility wear or measures. I wore some Hi-V when I first got my Vespa with a learner’s permit–a cheap synthetic, black and fluorescent jacket that was always uncomfortable and hot as hell in the summer. I still use it from time to time since I can cram it into the hold under the saddle. Later I bought an expensive, bulky, but a breathable black jacket with a tiny fluorescent bead across the upper back of the jacket and no Hi-V element in the front.

OccupyI loved this jacket, but I knew when I tried it on I would need more Hi-V and I had just the thing for it. I was an armchair supporter of Occupy Wall Street–supporting the movement monetarily. I bought American-made products for the protesters through Occupy Supply. Occupy Supply, like the movement, is long defunct, but I was proud to support the campaign even if no one ever asks me what’s that design on the back of my safety vest mean. The problem is, you can’t make a safety vest look “cool.” I’m sure if anyone took a second look at the design on the back of the vest they probably thought it was some CalTrans sign or maybe a cryptic Seal of the Fraternal Order of TSA Operators. Occupy Supply supplied the Occupy activists in Zuccotti Park and in the other protest centers. If you bought two tents, they sent you one and another to an Occupy center in need. I ended up ordering a few items then I just started posting them money, when I could.

Time past and the vest got to be a pain; I would forget to zip it up and it would flap in the wind. When I had the time to pull over and zip it up, it would be rolled up into an impossible mess under my arms. I finally stowed it. After this last incident, I found the thing where I had left it. I also found this website that shows how critical high visibility motorcycle clothing is.

Oh, for the sake of inclusivity, the incident between the first and this last episode involved traveling in the left lane of a two-lane, one-way street (J Street in Midtown Sacramento, for local readers) and the driver on my right decided to change lanes with me presumably in his blind spot. The car forced me off the road not before I slapped the back door of the sedan before heading for the gutter. (I’m not a horn person and so forgot which button it was.) I have nightmares wondering if I would still be alive if we were on a four-lane, two-way street and he pushed me into the on-coming traffic. The kid behind the wheel turned out to be a student driver with a very embarrassed and apologetic mom trainer. The scariest thing about this situation is I could have been wearing a fluorescent clown suit, my helmet a revolving disco ball and it wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference.

Another reason for the heightened concern with visibility, independent of the last incident, is that I have been racking up more miles than usual and many of them in the dark. I started an early-morning exercising regime recently. Before I turned over this new leaf I was commuting to work via bicycle and most of that commute was on bike trails and roads that saw very little traffic. Now, with the mornings so cold and the family not wanting my alarm to go off early enough for me to make it to the club on time via bike, I have been forced to ride my scooter. That doesn’t sound like a scooterist, does it? Well, it’s just the law of averages: the more I’m on the road, the higher the chance of an accident. And add to that the fact that it is dark–I’m harder to see.

This commute is not a scenic ride either. I love riding my scooter, especially on the River Road (California State Route 160) and Garden Highway, but I usually try to avoid the more mundane rides–especially when it is dark. Oh, and in case you didn’t know I don’t drive, so taking a car in is out. Why I don’t drive is directly connected to why I ride a scooter, but that’s a long story. Perhaps for a different blog post.

“But Jack,” you might say. “There’s the public transportation system.” This is Sacramento, I reply bitterly to the visitor from Chicago or NYC. We have SacRT–one of the most poorly served (and ironically expensive) transportation systems in the country. No, there is not a line near me that will get me to the club on time. Cabs are too expensive times three days a week and don’t you dare tell me to Uber it!

Maybe I should get me one of those belligerent stereo systems for motorcycles and have it installed on my ride. I could crank Slayer to eleven and play it all the way to the club in the five o’clock hour. Even some of the names of these products scream, Hey everybody, here I come, an asshole on a motorcycle. Don’t hit me!: “Reckless,” “Thunder,” and “Rumble Road.” At least they would know where I am. I also noticed most of these systems are waterproof so they will work on personal watercrafts. Aah, those things assholes ride wide open around 5-mile-an-hour limit boat landings. Got it!

The motorcycle safety trainer who failed me had a much more elegant way of listening to music (and chat on the phone) that would not help me here at all–a Bluetooth helmet. So he sounded pretty hypocritical in the classroom when he told his students they need to “always be listening to the traffic.” I guess the physics of traffic didn’t apply to him.

My friend and fellow State of California employee, Dave, does not like Hi-V. (Well, to be honest, neither do I. I just consider it a necessity.) Dave is a member of the Resurrection MC, a “one percenter” so a Hi-V safety vest would obscure or completely cover his colors and all the motorcycle clubs colors–their back patch and rockers are a critical part of their identities. Considering how dark they dress fluorescent green or yellow would just not cut it.

Dave was in a horrible accident some months back. This incident has absolutely nothing to do with visibility since he hit a car from behind when attempting to split lanes at high speed and the vehicle in front of him suddenly stopped when he was executing the move. His Harley hit the corner of the car and spun the bike violently around. By the time he hit the road he had five broken ribs and a broken shoulder. He walks with the assistance of a cane for now. I spoke with him about my latest incident and how I was now wearing a Hi-V vest. He gave me a dirty look and said something like I’m not helping to combat the specter of mandatory Hi-V legislation. Sorry man. I just can’t get into walking with a cane or in an electric wheelchair.

When I got my first promotion in the State of California, I was working in a small courier unit with a guy named Hector. Hector was a bit of a wild guy. He once rolled his girlfriend’s Honda Civic down an embankment. I don’t know the details. He could have been driving defensively and he swerved off the road to avoid worse damage. I’m betting he was pushing the edge of the little car’s envelope and he pushed too far. Years later, after he moved to a different agency, I attempted to contact him for information having to do with a project I was heading. I found out he had got in a motorcycle accident and was now a quad. I don’t know the details of that crash only that he was on a motorcycle. That’s enough for pause.

Then there’s my friend Mathieu and his accident. He was hit from behind at a stoplight by a woman in a Mercedes SUV. The big truck catapulted him and his small scooter six feet into the corner of the SUV in front of him where he bade his ride adieu and careened off to the right about 15 feet to the asphalt. Miraculously, he suffered no broken bones—just bruises and cuts and his recent back operation mercifully held. I wish I could say the same for his little red 50cc Yamaha Vino. The scooter folded in on itself–like The Hulk had played it like an accordion. Like a lot of riders (including me until recently), he wasn’t wearing any Hi-V wear, though one wonders if it would have mattered since it happened broad daylight.

And that’s the rub. Mathieu might have been hit even if he was lit up like a Christmas tree. The driver could have been texting or giving a Thumbs Down to some song that started on her satellite radio. I recall riding home on my bicycle just behind a guy with psychedelic-looking wheel lights on both his wheels along with a blinking headlamp, a flashing tail light, and a fluorescent-colored helmet and lycra top. A car came out of a parking lot and nearly hit him (and me) stopping at the last second. “Jesus Christ, how many lights do I have to put on this fucking thing until people can see me!” he yelled back at me in frustration.  He was right, but most likely the driver just wasn’t paying attention.

Update on Mathieu: he recently purchased a used SSR 150cc scooter. It broke down on the ride home from the seller’s house. A bad omen for any bike, but especially considering it’s a Chinese scooter. He took it to the right guy–the local legend of vintage scooter techs, Tim from Midtown Scooters. Mathieu rode it into work yesterday. He plans on applying a minimal Hi-V solution–reflective tape on his jacket. I’ve investigated the tape solution, 3M makes a Solas tape that seems to be popular.

So to avoid nightmares like Dave’s I keep lane-splitting to a bare minimum. As for Mathieu’s unrequested launch ‘n’ crunch, I am wearing a Hi-V vest, but am looking for more solutions to either add to or replace my current preventative measures. I have a black helmet and am thinking about maybe some of that reflective tape Mathieu plans to use. There are standard retroreflectors (like the kind that come standard on bicycles) and then there’s flashing lamps. The battery-powered LEDs for a helmet look good, too.

One idea that does not come from a DMV manual or a motorcycle safety program, but from the world of bicycling in traffic is waving your hand in the air in the situations that you may think a driver cannot see you. The idea is if retroreflectors, fluorescent riding gear, and even LEDs don’t get the driver’s attention movement will. This may work for bicycling, but I wouldn’t want to lose even a little control when I’m on my scooter.

So, I wear a safety vest, and as long as I don’t notice it and drivers do, I’m happy–I guess. Still, whenever I see my jacket with the vest the first thing I think is CalTrans, not a smart-looking motorcycle jacket. Of course, the other option is looking into Hi-V accessories for my scooter. I’m investigating fluorescent wheels or fluorescent-wall tires, but that’s a lot of money. There is also tape for your tires or wheels. My top case has retroreflectors on the back, but there are some top cases that have LEDs in them hooked up to the electrical system so they give drivers behind the scooter extra break lights and directional signals. Call me vain, but I would like to keep my current top case because it is the same Portofino green as the rest of my ride. (If my Dad had a grave he would be rolling over in it about now.) I’m passively looking into lighting up the retroreflectors so I can keep my current top case. I’m also looking into other measures for my ride, but it kills me to turn my beautiful Granturismo into a rolling neon “Eat at Joe’s” sign. I guess it’s all about balance.



Rolf Soltau and the Vespa Tech Workshop I may never use

I was looking up something about my Vespa. In grand Jockomo fashion I had forgotten what a particular indicator light meant on my scooter’s instrument cluster and after failing to find the information in either the Google or Google Images results I pulled up YouTube and entered the same criteria.

When the results came up, I saw something that instantly reminded me of my father and his legend, of my struggle with making new friends, and of the icon parked in my garage–the thing I’m trying to figure out, the thing I will never really figure out. I saw an image of Rolf Soltau on a Vespa. Rolf Soltau: Preceptor of the American Vespa Technician.

Immediately, I was taken back to the first rally I ever attended, IL Inferno Scorciante Due (or The Hottest Hell 2) hosted by the Vespa Club of Sacramento (VCOS). It was July of 2010, and I had recently purchased a used 2005 Portofino green Vespa GT 200L. On the Friday-night Meet & Greet, Billy, a member of VCOS, had walked up to me at Bonn Lair, an Irish Pub here in Sacramento, and shook my hand as if he meant it. He was so friendly, making it his honor to introduce me to all the club members that I nearly didn’t believe him when he said No to my query about becoming a member of VCOS.

It was Billy who, on the second day of the rally, introduced me to Soltau. We were now at The Shady Lady. Billy yelled in my ear over the music something like “I want you to meet Rolf Soltau,” as if I was supposed to know who Rolf Soltau was. Soltau looked like any guy in his mid-70s or so, but he was surrounded by adoring scooterists–many of them young enough to be his grandchildren. As Billy and I came closer, I heard others mention his name in reverent whispers. It was Déjà vu in the dark. Replace Vespa owners with Keaton Boat owners, The Shady Lady with a boat ramp or the Stockton Ski Club and Soltau with my father and it was the same thing. I was not fully aware of it at the time, but I was in the presence of a living legend.

Rolf Soltau was born in Hamburg, Germany. (As a student of journalism, I’m a man of dates, but as a particularly poor student of journalism, I haven’t been able to find an obituary or a death notice on the man. I only know he is dead because I accidentally stumbled upon the sad news in Modern Vespa one night some months ago.) It’s a crime that doesn’t have an entry for the man, but no one has come forth with enough information to post one, I suppose. (I would think someone at Vespa Club of America or his own Vespa Club of Los Gatos (VCLG) would have enough information to at least start a post. Hell, maybe if I ever find a death notice I’ll start one!)

Soltau worked for Porsche from around 1951 to 2000. In 2000 Piaggio (the company that owns Vespa) approached Soltau with a five-year contract to spearhead a training program for Vespa‘s newly formed North American division. Soltau trained over 700 technicians in five years across the U.S. and Mexico on how to fix these iconic scooters. He would go into semi-retirement in 2005 and work five more years in a similar capacity before finally hanging it up in 2010–around the time I met him. Soltau was living in the South Bay Area most of the time he worked with Vespa and, in retirement, was the celebrity (and I would imagine the heart) of the VCLG. He died in May of 2016. From the posts of that time period, it appeared the Vespa world wept.

So that’s who the old guy with the silver hair and glasses keeping the young scooterists in rapt attention was. Billy introduced me to Soltau. Billy told Soltau my name and what kind of Vespa I rode. Everyone stopped and looked at me with their judging vintage-scooter eyes. Soltau smiled and said hi and then said in a thick German accent, “GT 200? All you’ll need to do is keep oil in it, and it will serve you for years.” He smiled at me again then continued to explain how P125s or some other old Vespa needed so on and so forth. I walked to the bar and ordered some non-alcohol drink at an alcohol price while Billy and the rest of the vintage VCOS listened to every word that proceedeth from Soltau’s mouth.

That evening the rally moved to Midtown Scooters for a barbecue. Midtown Scooters is a tiny shop, in fact, it is a fragment of a larger property that is leased out to multiple small auto service business, but the word among the vintage crowd was that it is the place to get your older scooter fixed. “Tim is the only guy you want working on your scoot,” I recall someone saying when I asked how good the mechanic was. I doubt the person I was talking to knew I was one of the few Judases riding a newer Vespa.

I didn’t see Soltau there. I did meet someone else besides Billy from the VCOS though I don’t remember his name. He was tending the grill and explaining to me when Vespa cut over from the two-stroke motors to the four-stroke a little bit of its soul got lost or some BS like that. Despite that foreboding (and stupid) comment I decided to ask him if he thought someone would sponsor me with my late-model Vespa as a VCOS prospect.

He smiled, handing me a hotdog in a bun and said, “No. We’re a vintage club.” Then started in on how great it is to have a vintage Vespa. I wanted right then and there–hotdog in hand–to ask him rhetorically isn’t the whole reason the Vespa Club of America exists is to promote the Vespa product? Not these old ones (and maybe even not my five-year-old Granturismo, for that matter). Vespa does not get a dime from someone buying a rusty old 1966 Super Sprint. Of course, I held my tongue and ate the dog. My teetotalling ways probably won’t mesh with these excessive beer drinkers, anyway. After I finished the dog, I downed a diet soda and quietly mounted my ooooh so gauche GT 200 and left. Since I decided to never attend another VCOS rally (and hazard the chance of photobombing club members’ shots of all their K00L P125s, Super Sprint’s, and Rallys with my butt-ugly GT 200), I never had the opportunity to see Soltau again.

Belated vindication! Soltau is using a late model Granturismo in the attached videos. (Either a GTS 300 or 350; a Super by the looks of the detail.) Take that, VCOS vintage snobs! Soltau also took a swipe at vintage snobs in the first video, as well. 

Sorry for the rag-tangent. This post is sounding like it’s about me rather than the Master Technician. Then again this blog’s foundation is principally made with first person singular cement. Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I never turned out to be a club guy. I tried to hang out with the Sacramento chapter of the Royal Bastards Scooter Club. A club that happily accepted owners of all makes/models of scooters–Billy! After only a few awkward meetups and a Rio Vista run gone sideways I was reminded there’s a reason I’m a loner: whenever I make an effort to become a part of something beyond myself someone usually pisses me off. I’ve been riding solo ever since.

Anyway, below is the ten-part Vespa Tech Workshop I accidentally ran across. Strange I didn’t find this earlier. I don’t think any of my usual readers are going to go through the ten videos lasting over six and a half hours. I’m posting it anyway because I’m a hopeless hero worshiper and though I only saw him for a moment (and occasionally see his immortal image on many VCLG Facebook posts popping wheelies, eating, drinking, smiling, and laughing with his club members) he was a monumental figure in the scooter world, though very approachable. Kudos to Ryan Kirk who recorded and posted these on his YouTube channel back in 2012. Will I ever use these videos? Me? Ha! I’m the guy who struggles to replace an inner tube on his bicycle! No, I don’t think so, but my model is mentioned throughout the videos, so one never knows. I’m just glad Soltau and Kirk had the foresight to record these treasures and share them with the shooter world!

Postscript: While watching these videos, Rolf answered the question that indirectly led me to the discovery of this treasure trove: the light on my instrument cluster is a diagnostic LED for the electrical system. Now to look up the flash sequence codes to figure out what my ride is trying to tell me. So I did glean something from these videos.Thanks, Rolfie! You were a mensch!

Finding My Vespa

I recently got my scooter towed. I and three or four motorcyclists had been parking our rides in a tow away zone for a couple of days. Sure there were signs, but each day I found my Vespa in the spot where I left it–in between two signs prominently stating: NO PARKING BETWEEN 9-5 PM. The City was laying a new sewer line and where we were parked we were about four feet away from where the jackhammer was scheduled to work. No problem we all thought.

On the third day, I left my work excited to dine and see American Made with some friends of mine. When emerged from an alley ready to jaywalk to my scooter (I like to break petty laws, as you may have gathered) I could see it was gone. I panicked. Sure the City’s sandwich boards were still their warning all drivers and riders they will get towed if they dare, but, as I tried to convey above–motorcyclists and their rides are special, these rules don’t apply to us.

After I calmed down, I considered the remote possibility that the City towed my Vespa. I called a number I got from 3-1-1. It turns out my Vespa had been towed, after all. This was good news. I knew I was going to have to pay up the nose to get my scooter back, but the alternative was much worse.

It was past 5 p.m. when I nailed down exactly where my ride was but, unless I wanted to shell out more money I would have to wait until tomorrow, and even the overnight stay would cost more. Ugh. Below is a modest, poorly-shot storyboard of my adventure reclaiming my Vespa GT 200L.


The next morning after re-verifying where my scooter was, I needed a ride. Lucky for me I work next to a taxi hub.



I caught the closest cab to me and found out there is a pecking order. I was instructed to walk to the front of the line. The driver in that car drove me to the Sacramento Police Station. I have only been a paid rider in a taxi once before. I paid the driver in cash to take me to a River Cats game in town. It is nice that taxi drivers have those credit card scanners on their smartphones. It turns out the police station was the one that was walking distance from my house. It would have been far more convenient and a little cheaper if I had just walked to the station from my house. Unfortunately, last night I didn’t know that I needed a Vehicle Release form that is provided by the police at the price of a parking ticket. I had started from scratch that morning at work and spoke to a person who worked at the tow yard.



Just outside the police station. I bet this gets plenty of use!



Then again the SPD accepts all major credit cards! Otherwise, I guess I would have had to go to that ATM. The officer at the window was very nice and with a sense of humor–when I told her where my scooter was towed from she smiled and said three other motorcycles were towed from that location at that time. Sorry bros. Too bad we didn’t show up here at the same time. It would have been funny. Meh, probably not.



Check it out, bitches, I’m a Junior Officer!



After getting the form and paying the bill I walked over to Jack in the Box for a breakfast sandwich, hash browns, some truly horrid coffee and something else just as horrid.



I did something I swore I would never do: I downloaded and used a ride-sharing app/service. I hate Uber. I hate the name Uber. (The Nazis loved that word. Remember the Nazis?) I like the idea I picked up somewhere to use word Uber as a euphemism for “shit,” “goddamnit,” or some other expletive I would use when I stub my toe or have my scooter towed. The screenshot above is not the Uber app. I was going to use Uber, but the first thing to come up on my phone’s browser was Lyft. So that’s what I setup while I had my artery-clogging breakfast. Notice all the hyperlinked Ubers? No, they don’t link to the shitty company’s corporate site, nor do any of them send you to a download page. They all go to different news, opinion, and even humorous videos that explain what a neo-liberal, ecology-busting, and utterly destructive company Uber is. You think Uber (as well as Lyft and all the other ride-sharing companies) is nifty, convenient, post-modern hip, not to mention money-saving? Think again.


lyft driver

My hatred of Uber–the WalMart on Wheels–gave me an idea of comparing the taxi service with a ride-share service. My ride came quick, quicker than a taxi, I am sure, but that’s not necessarily a good thing for reasons Richard Wolff, the Chicago Tribune, Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, The Nation Magazine, Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky, In These Times, Chris Hedges, DSA, Kshama Sawant, PSL, both of my sons, and other sources (some linked above) can explain far better than I can.



My driver was nice. Maybe nicer than the taxi driver, but who gives a shit–the taxi didn’t get lost. I’m not kidding. The Lyft driver with his smartphone navigation app running couldn’t figure out how to get to the tow yard.


Lyft lost

Finally, he asked if he could use my phone. I already had the app up with the sound down so it wouldn’t confuse him. Too late. He was confused from the start. The sad thing was I–the customer–knew we were going the wrong direction before I asked Siri for directions. It was simple math–the avenue numbers were going up when we needed to go down, towards Downtown. Ultimately, he asked to use my phone. I turned up the volume and gave it to him and we were finally going in the correct direction.



At the yard, I paid for the tow and the one-night layover. But first I paid the Lyft driver via the app/PayPal. He looked over my should and asked that I give him the highest rating–Five Stars. He also wanted me to click on all four areas of satisfaction–one of them being navigation. I did as he asked so I could get rid of him.



When I saw my ride I checked to see if my jacket was under the saddle. Yep. Then I examined the contents of the top case: helmet, balaclava, gloves, glove liners, Arsenal FC scarf, sunglasses, and–as you can plainly see–toothpaste. You’re damn right I ride prepared!



I checked my tires, breaks, and controls and I was off…



for a cappuccino and a pastry. Then, finally, time to go back to work.



As I pulled into the alley–the same alley where I emerged from to find my scooter gone twenty hours previous–I saw the construction workers tearing up my parking spot.



When I got to my cube, I had the morbid curiosity to know how much money this whole ordeal set me back. It turns out it was over $400. Funny, the thing that got me the most was the $10 parking charge in my office’s covered parking. I used to pay $5, which was all I had in my pocket at the time since I sprang for pizza last night. It didn’t matter though since the attendant told me they only take plastic now. Looking back on it five bucks to me seemed okay considering my scooter doesn’t take a parking spot and there are free motorcycle parking slots all over Downtown (I was just too tired to ride to one). Now it costs a Hamilton. Greedy bastards.

Speaking of greedy bastards. You may wonder how a ride-share service matched up to a taxi. I mean, Lyft was half the price of the taxi. Remember my Lyft driver did not instill confidence and if you don’t know by now exactly why you pay so little for ride-sharing you are not paying attention.

I guess aside from my politics, the moral of this story is “Don’t Park in a Tow-Away Zone.” That’s tough when all my bros on bikes won’t comply. How about “Always Carry Plastic.” I can swing that!

The schizophrenic burger joint


I started this blog as a journal about scooters, scooter culture, and hamburger joints around the Sacramento Area. I have strayed from those subjects, but not completely. I rode by Mango’s Burgertown at on K Street near 19th here in Sacramento often enough.


Whew! Just beat the oil train!

Today I decided to see how it stacks up with other Sacramento Area restaurants. I haven’t been checking out the burger joint scene here in a while (I still cannot lose weight!) but thought, with a name like Burgertown I should really check it out. If you’re going to put “burger” in your name you should have a good selection and higher quality burgers.

Burgertown does not disappoint. However, Mango’s Burgertown–as illustrated from its website–is a schizophrenic affair: by day it’s a local bar that serves over a dozen different types of burgers. By night it appears to be a very lively nightclub. Me, I’m a homebody with a list of TV shows and books to attend to, so I’ll have to trust the website’s claim that this is a hopping place. Now, around lunchtime, it is pretty quiet. There are the omnipresent giant-screen TVs, with a soccer match and a basketball game on when I visited. I didn’t check out the back yard where, presumably, there’s a large area for live bands and such.

I ordered the Dirty Cheese Burger with Garlic Curly Fries. I do not order chiliburgers as a rule–too messy, but I was intrigued by the contents: besides the 1/2 lbs Five Dot Ranch beef patty and cheddar, the Dirty Cheese Burger features sour cream(!), jalapenos, red onions, and Burgertown’s own chili con carne. I was glad that they didn’t ruin the burger by throwing in the conventional tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce. You think those omissions are evident? I was at a deli recently where the customer had to ask the preparer to hold those items on her meatball sandwich! Some places think more is better regardless what that “more” is.


Dirty Cheese Burger and Garlic Curly Fries

The burger comes standard on a focaccia bun and a pickle spear (somewhere buried under my fries). The chili in the burger was not as messy as it could have been. Even better–the bun did not disintegrate as I progressed through the burger, as often does with some burgers and especially with messy-types like a chiliburger. In the end, I wouldn’t order the Dirty Cheese Burger again, but I will come back to BurgerTown, and that is saying something! As for service, considering the parking meter situation in Sacramento, it was nice that I ordered and ate all within one hour. This says as much about how fast the service was as it does how the author inhales food!

Mango’s Burgertown is located at 1930 K St, Sacramento, CA 95811.

Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play

via Daily Prompt: Prudent

I try to ride my bicycle to work every day. That’s eleven miles of commuting a day. Not much, but I don’t really like to ride on a recreational basis, and I don’t put in many steps in the form of walking my dog or “micro walks” (to quote a FitBit article) on my breaks. So, when I ride my scooter into work, there’s usually a valid reason.

Today I rode my scooter into work because I need to get my Vespa serviced and planned to ride the “Green Hornet” to my shop during my lunch hour and walk back to the office grabbing a bit along the way. I’d take public transit home. In the past, it would take only a day or two to work on my ride, and I would take the bus in the day after I got the call the scooter is ready to pick up–repeating the above process in reverse. Damn, I’m smart.

I started riding to Barber’s Automotive where I always get my service done. What’s the address? Uh, I don’t know, but I will recognize the landmarks. That’s how I work. Fifteen minutes later and I am way south of where I believed location is. I finally pull over and asked Siri on my iPhone where Barber’s Automotive is. Siri replies in a rather snooty tone, “Here is the contact information on Barber’s Automotive.” Yeah, I had the information in my Contacts and Siri is rubbing my nose it. I’m surprised it didn’t point out I could have looked this up at my desk before leaving. I’m glad I had changed Siri’s voice from the sexy British Female back to the default American Female–the Brit would have sounded intolerable!

scooter citySo after riding to the shop, I parked my scooter in front of Barber’s Automotive and walked into the garage. My mechanic, Frank, wasn’t around, but some younger guy walked up and asked if he could help me. I said I needed my ride serviced. He gave me a look of surprise and said, “We haven’t done that in quite some time. We do cars strictly. You want to go to Scooter City. It has a service center now.” He proceeds to tell me where Scooter City is. I thanked him and started to put on my helmet and jacket when he informed me that the Scooter City is closed on Mondays.

So I rode my scooter into work on a day I did not need to, which also means I did not get 11 miles exercise in. I rode my Vespa back to my parking spot and was told by my man a hardhat that tomorrow these motorcycle parking spots would be taped off for roadwork. So, unless I want to find some other–less convenient parking spot–, I will not be able to get my ride serviced tomorrow.

In my frustration of wasting a commute on my scooter, I threw figuratively throw my hands up and–with what little time I had left of my lunch–I walked to the nearest eatery, the less-than-healthy-choice Bud’s Buffet and got buffalo chicken sandwich and some chips and some diet cola. Baby with the bathwater. Now, what’s the Daily Post prompt word of the day? Oh yeah, “Prudent.” I’ll get right on it!


When Prudence is not on the menu.