Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Grief and relief

I am back from my three-plus week deployment to St. Thomas, USVI, with the Red Cross. I returned to Charleston late Wednesday evening, but the combination of being exhausted and yet also incredibly busy since then has kept me from posting here. I finally have a mostly free day, and can update the blog.

I do have a few photos from St. Thomas and much to report from my deployment there, and I promise I will get to that shortly. But first I need to grieve here for my beloved scooter, Chip, his steadfast pillion, Oopsie, and the accumulation of personal effects I kept with them.

Chip in happier times, in New Orleans. Oopsie is wearing his new Mardi Gras beads.

Chip was stolen from the parking lot here at the Charleston City Marina sometime during the night of October 11th, while I was away. Louise had been riding it, since her battery was dead; one of the last things I did before leaving here was to order her a new battery. She parked Chip at 9pm, and when she went back out the next morning at 9am with her new battery in hand, Chip was gone. She called me right away.

I, of course, was up to my eyeballs in problems in St. Thomas, and dealing with a bad cold to boot, and so it fell to Louise to make all the phone calls to the police, the insurance company, and the marina trying to sort it all out. Sadly, nothing was captured on the marina's numerous security cameras, and the police did not offer much hope of recovery. There is evidence they also tried to get into her scoot parked right next to mine; perhaps they were thwarted by the dead battery, as it appears they broke my fork locks and rode it away.

Chip when brand new. Pay no attention to the knobby-kneed geek in the saddle.

Three weeks later we still have not settled with our insurance. A decade-old Taiwanese scooter isn't worth much, and so I am expecting the settlement to be a fraction of the replacement cost. When I added up the replacement cost of accessories and contents alone, things like my Tourmaster cold-weather riding gloves and the Givi detachable tail trunk, it came to over $500, and I've already spent close to half that on Amazon trying to replace many of the items.

Long-time readers may remember that Chip replaced a full-size Suzuki SV650 motorcycle, one of two we carried in the forward luggage bay of our Neoplan bus. When I made the decision to downsize to a more convenient step-through scooter, the overall height (minus the mirrors) was a gating factor, since it had to go into the 43" tall bay. That ruled out lots and lots of 150-and-up scooters, and I ended up with this mint green Kymco, the last one in a dealer showroom in Houston, as I shared in this post.

That was a decade ago, and the mint green color quickly grew on me, leading many to ask if it was a Vespa. The hand grips and floorboards were a dark chocolate brown, making the whole thing remind us of mint chocolate chip ice cream and inspiring the name we gave it, coined by Louise's brother. I put my beloved traveling companion Heddy on the pillion seat, a stuffed bear that had put in thousands of miles on my big touring motorcycle and hundreds more on the SV650 once we hit the road in Odyssey. Chip outlived Heddy, who was replaced a couple of years ago by Oopsie, another stuffed bear.

The last photo of Chip, outside our club here in Charleston just three days before I left. I took this photo just in case the pickup backed into me on his way out. I had to send this to the insurance company, along with both ignition keys.

We knew that if we did not replace the scooter during our final couple of weeks here in Charleston, it would be incredibly complicated to do so later at some random future stop. I also knew that it would be miserable having to spend our last two weeks here with just a single scooter; neither of us likes to ride two-up, and the Vino is underpowered for the task. And so it was that I spent my scarce free time in St. Thomas searching for a replacement scooter in a 250-mile radius, from Jacksonville to Greenville to Raleigh.

I managed to find what looked to be a suitable replacement in the used inventory of a motorcycle dealer out in Greenville. It was another Kymco, a 2015 model with another 11cc of displacement and an even more Vespa-esque styling. It was a dark metallic blue, which looks black in photos, had just 2,100 miles on the ticker, and looked to be in good condition. The asking price was right, and so after just a single day of downtime when I returned, we set about making arrangements, booking a compact pickup truck at Enterprise for Saturday morning, and spending Friday researching every detail of the model.

My new ride, fresh from the dealer.

Greenville is a three and a half hour drive, and so this was an all-day affair. We judged the scooter an acceptable replacement and the condition excellent, but automotive dealers everywhere being what they are, it was no simple matter to close the deal. The asking price quickly escalated a full 10% due to dealer "fees" that are nothing more than profit, and an attempt to convince me they needed to do title and registration work in SC (we will be titling and registering it in FL). Eventually we got them back down to within a hundred bucks of the asking price, plus SC sales tax which we should get credited from FL.

Thus I am now the proud owner of a midnight blue Kymco Like 200i scooter. It already has a color-matched tail trunk and even a 12v power outlet, eliminating two things I had to add to Chip, and it even came with a set of Kymco accessory windscreens, one of which I have installed. I've also spent numerous hours ordering replacements for the rest of the contents, from tire repair kits to helmet locks to miniature first aid kits.

Factory color-matched trunk and temporary plate.

I once again have wheels, and I am sure that this (as yet un-named) scooter will also grow on me the way Chip did. But still I grieve; Chip and I bonded over some 11,000 miles and perhaps 4,000 hours. The mint green color made it easy to spot in a crowded parking lot, and Chip and Oopsie always garnered looks and compliments. After a decade of use, half of that in the salt air on the deck of a boat, it was rusty and creaky and showing its age -- in other words, perfect for carrying on the deck of a boat.

Before I even returned home, Louise had replaced the bear, surprising me with another Gund from the same Lands-End rugby bear collection whence came Oopsie. I'll need to devise a way to secure him to the seat.

My new pillion. His Lands-End name is "Big Daddy" but he'll get a scooter name when it comes to me.

I'll also need to engineer new lifting hardware to get the scoot aboard, and it will take weeks to get everything dialed-in the way I had things on Chip. Much of my annoyance with the thieves here is not in the monetary value of the scooter itself, but in the cost to us in time that could be better spent doing other things. Between the two of us, the theft has already cost us nearly a week, and we still have not closed the claim or dealt with the state of Florida about registration or the stolen plates. Neither have I added lifting eyes or a jump-start connector like I had on Chip.

While it seems like I've done nothing since returning other than deal with the scooter, there have been a few other happenings. For one, we had to move the boat, which was the reason why I needed to return when I did, rather than spend another couple of weeks in the islands. The marina had told us someone was coming in to our spot on the 28th, and we'd need to relocate before then.

Windshield installed and back alongside Louise's Vino.

When first told this, it appeared we'd need to leave this dock altogether for a different dock elsewhere in the marina, but it turns out that we only needed to move forward a hundred feet, at least until tomorrow. That could easily have been done without me, by lining the boat at slack tide, but there was no way to know that three weeks ago. We took advantage of the opportunity to start the engine and exercise everything, including my maneuvering skills. Tomorrow we may need to move again.

I also sold and shipped some of the old satellite dome hardware that was removed during the great antenna relocation project, and started getting the boat ready for a departure in a week or so. And I finally made it to Happy Hour on the dock, something that happens only during the spring and fall migration and which I mostly had to miss since I was deployed.

I'm still gathering my photos and my thoughts of St. Thomas and should have another post up here shortly.


  1. Farewell, faithful chip. Hail, "Rocinante," or "Roc" for short. Just a thought. Sorry for the hassle.


    1. From the Wikipedia article on Rocinante: "...he is awkward, past his prime, and engaged in a task beyond his capacities."

  2. Glad to hear you are back safe & sound. GSO had at least 1 Mass Care person on Puerto Rico and VI. Both are back now. Sorry to hear about Chip but looks like you have a good replacement! My ERV also returned from Orlando, FL last Sunday!

  3. Always a fear of mine....to come out and find a bike gone....even have had dreams about such a terrible scenario.


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