Sunday, September 30, 2007

Farewell, Aquarius, and we thank you.

We are at a Sam's Club in Texas City (map). Our GPS told us there was a Wal-Mart here, and clearly there used to be, but it is closed. That's OK -- the Sam's Club is still open, and its parking lot was even more convenient to the Olive Garden, where we went for dinner, natch.

On the subject of the GPS being incorrect about the Wal-Mart, it was similarly incorrect about the three Wal-Marts north of here along I-45. We did pass three enormous and new Wal-Marts, but each was half a mile or so from where the GPS thought one would be. After decades of recessive slump, the Houston metropolitan area is again experiencing explosive growth, and Wal-Mart (along with other merchants) is upgrading its stores at a blistering pace to follow suit.

We left the Wal-Mart on Westheimer mid-day yesterday, bound for Galveston. Considering it's only an hour or so to Galveston from Houston, you'd think we'd be there by now, except we stopped on our way out of town to run some errands. The first of those was a stop at Goodwill to drop off two huge boxes of stuff, a more-or-less continuous process when you live in 300 square feet.

The other stop was at a scooter store. I haven't been blogging about it here, but I have been looking at scooters for myself since Louise made the decision to sell her SV650. We had stopped at a Vento dealer, but all their models were too tall for Odyssey's bays, and I came very close to making a deal at the Yamaha dealer in Houston on a Vino 125, but we couldn't connect the numbers.

So, I hear you ask, why would anyone in his right mind trade in an SV650 on a scooter? And what's the rush? Well, since you asked: We've had the SV650's for four years. We bought them specifically because they fit in the bay, and were light enough to push in and out, yet sturdy enough, powerful enough, and comfortable for all-day riding and maybe even some weekend-type touring. We had even invested a good deal of time and money in them to make them suitable for long tours, with custom-fitted Rick Mayer saddles (highly recommended -- do the "ride-in" service as we did), throw-over tour saddlebags, and bolt-on windscreens.

The reality of life aboard Odyssey has turned out somewhat differently than we anticipated when we bought the SVs. Before we hit the road, we imagined ourselves parking in some beautiful and remote spot for a couple weeks, taking out the bikes, setting things up so that the dog could do her business in our absence (this would involve, essentially, a "litter box" in the now-empty motorcycle bay, which she could access through the tunnel behind the driver seats), and loading up the bikes for a one, two, or three-day ride. We even kept all our compact camping gear for the purpose -- I have a miniature stove, lantern, cook set, etc. that we used to use quite often while motorcycle touring. In this model of the universe, we would put perhaps 5,000 miles a year on the bus, and 10,000 miles a year on the bikes.

It has decidedly not worked out that way. In the whole time I've owned the SV650, I've put less than 6,000 miles on it. And 2,000 of that was riding from Fort Wayne, IN, where I picked it up (it was an eBay purchase), to San Jose, CA, where we were living. We seem to be constantly on the move in Odyssey, heading to scheduled events, or to family visits, or to Red Cross assignments. Staying put for even a week at a time is a treat, and the longest we stay anyplace is a few weeks (or months) on a Red Cross job, where we're not allowed to use personal vehicles anyway. Getting the big SV650s in and out of the bay, at close to 400 lbs. each, was more work than we wanted to do for a stop of only a day or two. On top of which, we never drink and ride, and so we go out of our way to use public transit, or just our two feet, to get to dinner -- the place we are most likely to want to go when we only park for a night or two.

So the upshot of all this is that Louise's new Honda Metropolitan scooter (photo in this post) has seen more use than my motorcycle since she bought it. It's easier to get in and out of the bay, even single-handed, and it's just plain more convenient for scooting around the campground (to get to the iron ranger a mile away, for example), or running to the store for a quart of milk. The Honda, though, just can't carry two people -- no rear seat or footpegs, the suspension bottoms out, and the 49cc motor is too anemic to accelerate in traffic with 300 lbs on the seat.

To make a long story even longer, I've been thinking that two scooters would get more use and be more practical than one scooter and one motorcycle. For one thing, we can't really ride these two vastly different machines "together" the way we rode when we had two identical bikes. So we were limited to exploring one at a time on the scooter, or gearing up for two-up riding on the Suzi, which has some comfort issues of its own on the back seat -- the fancy butt-molded seat is only in the front.

What finally sealed the deal for me, though, was seeing how badly damaged Penelope got from lack of use and improper storage, and how little we got for it when we sold it. I resolved not to allow Aquarius to suffer the same fate. If I was going to replace it with a scooter, I wanted to sell it while it was still in good shape, where someone else will get some real pleasure from it.

So I've been looking around at scooters, with the idea that I would put Aquarius up for sale, likely on Craig's List and eBay, and, once sold, pick up a gently used scooter. And we had very specific requirements for the scooter: It had to be freeway-legal -- we felt we should have at least one vehicle we could ride anywhere, unlike the Honda. It had to have a real passenger seat and pegs, so we could legally ride it together, as the only freeway-legal bike. And, of course, it had to fit in the bay and be light enough to push it in and out.

These requirements actually limit the field considerably. After the small 50cc models, which are out on the freeway legal (and often two-up) grounds, displacement jumps up to 125-150cc, and the next jump is to 250cc. The 250's are all too heavy, and most too large, to go into the bay. That left the 125-150 models, most of which are simply too tall for the bay due to tupperware above the handlebars.

That left a number of vintage-era scooters, and a handful of modern choices: the Yamaha Vino 125, the Kymco People 150, and a number of mainland-Chinese no-name knock-offs. The Chinese knock-offs, while ridiculously cheap, have a very bad reputation among their owners, and parts and service are difficult, if not impossible, to find. I was pretty much resolved to getting the Vino, on the grounds that Yamaha has service everywhere, even though it was a bit underpowered and I didn't really care for the styling. But yesterday we decided to stop at the Kymco dealer, just to look at a People 150.

They had only one left in stock, which was mint green ("Vintage Green," according to Kymco). Not anyone's best color, and clearly they were having trouble moving it. It was a slow day, we had a young and eager salesman, and in a very low-pressure, casual sort of way, we managed to craft a deal wherein I paid nearly the list price on a brand new, 2007 scooter, while he gave me my $2,200 asking price on the SV650. Considering the SV badly needs a carb cleaning and/or adjustment, and/or possibly new plugs (a fact which I did disclose) and that it has scratches on the bodywork from where the windshield fell down and started rubbing one day while underway in the bus, I counted myself lucky. He probably counted himself lucky for getting rid of the mint-green scooter at only $200 off list.

So I am now the proud owner of a mint green, 2007 Kymco People 150 scooter. I like it -- it's zippy, it has 16" wheels (appealing to the MSF-geek in me), and it appears to be comfortable for two (time will tell). It fits in the bay -- barely, with the top of the tupperware just clearing the center of the bay by millimeters. And the color is growing on me. I'll try to get a photo posted on here soon.

But I already miss Aquarius, and the quote from Joe Kerwin I used for today's title is heartfelt. And as Jim Lovell said -- she was a good ship.

1 comment:

  1. My scooter isn't anemic! It's delicate and lady-like.


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