Friday, April 26, 2013

What a Difference a Week Makes

This was the view outside work last Friday:
Minnesota: April 19, 2013

This was the view today:
Minnesota: April 26, 2013

It also snowed several inches this past Monday (which confused the poor robins), and yet today it's supposed to hit 70. I can't explain it, but it would appear that spring has finally sprung for good in Minnesota. Which is good, because I'm tired of this:
This is April???

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Little Scoot Turns Three

This past week we celebrated the Little Scoot's third birthday.

How did this happen?  How did my little baby suddenly become a little kid?  The Coffee Queen has illustrated his journey here.  Has three years really gone by that fast?  I'm not sure I'm OK with that, but it sure is fun to watch him enjoy his birthday!

Two Saturdays ago was the big shindig, with most of the immediate family in attendance.  My mom always makes a fun cake and this year, going with the jungle theme, was a giraffe cake.

Blowing out the birthday candle.  Note all the grandparents in the mirror.

Presents included a foam rocket launcher (thanks to his uncle) which will be a blast come spring (if it ever shows up) and castle blocks.

Building castles with Papa Bees.

On the Little Scoot's actual birthday he, the Coffee Queen, and I went to the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum.  He loves watching the trains go by, playing with the wooden train setups, and getting to drive a train on a figure-eight.


And of course what birthday would be complete without ice cream?  (Or in this case frozen yogurt at Menchie's.)  Mmmmmm.

A birthday treat

Lastly, we celebrated again this past weekend with more of the family, including his Great-Aunt and his Great-Grandma who also have April birthdays.  The Coffee Queen made cupcakes.  The most awesome cupcakes ever, I might add.

Monkey cupcakes!

In all honesty, I don't mind too much that the Little Scoot is growing up as he just gets to be more fun.  I love that he and I can roughhouse, that he has a sense of humor and tells "jokes" (Knock, knock.  Who's there?  Orange.  Orange who?  Orange castle), and that he's becoming his own little person with his own ideas and plans.  He must think I'm a little slow sometimes, as it often takes me a few minutes to follow his train of thought (it helps when I realize we're not operating in any sphere that could be called reality).  And he has a good heart, which is about all any parent can ask for.

To be a parent is to wear your heart outside your body. - Chinese proverb

Friday, April 19, 2013

Why do we live here again?

This was the view from my bus stop this morning. On April 19th.  Really.

This is spring???
Look, I understand this is Minnesota. I understand we get a lot of snow here. But we're also supposed to get spring. Eventually.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we endure the freezing temperatures and the endless snowfalls when there are so many places in the world where "winter" just means it's time to put on long pants?

Since the Little Scoot was born our family vacations have been to Florida. When it's snowing in Minnesota this is the view from Cocoa Beach.

Don't you wish you were here right now?
Which would you prefer?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Scooter Story: Part 2

50cc scooters are a gateway drug. Really.  They're a great introduction to scooters as they have some great benefits: no motorcycle endorsement needed in Minnesota, you can park at many bike racks (any public ones in Saint Paul or Minneapolis), and they're dirt cheap to insure.  What you don't get is a lot of speed.  30 mph is fine for getting around the city, but a little more power and speed can really extend your range.

Last spring (and yes, at this time of year it actually WAS spring in MN) I did a little research online on the SYM Symba.  I'd seen one once before, back when Blue Cat Motors sold SYM scooters, and thought it a pretty cool looking bike.  What's funny is I'm not sure why exactly I started looking into the Symba.  I wasn't seriously thinking of buying one.  At least I didn't think so.

Fast forward a couple of months.  The Coffee Queen, the Little Scoot, and I were at Grand Old Day in Saint Paul (one of our favorite summer traditions).  Midwest Motorcycle in Minneapolis always has a presence there and this year a familiar-looking bike caught my eye.  I walked over and sure enough, it was a red and white Symba.  I pointed it out to the Coffee Queen and said that - someday - when I bought my next scooter I thought this would be it.  She looked straight at me and said, "If you want it, you should buy it."

The Little Scoot at Grand Old Day.  He likes red too.

Well, if I had learned anything in nine years of marriage it was to take advantage of that sort of opportunity when it presents itself.*  But I did my research.  I scoured the web for information on the Symba's quality and reliability, I researched the alternatives, and made a trip to Go Moto to take one for a spin.  I was a little concerned about learning the semi-manual transmission (the Symba has gear shifts, but no clutch lever) as my one attempt to learn to drive a manual transmission had ended in failure.

But riding the Symba was a breeze.  Just remember to let off the throttle before you shift (otherwise it resembles a bucking bronco, and probably isn't good for the clutch either).  I went home, gave it some thought, went back, and put down a down payment on a brand-new, red and white Symba.

Since picking it up last summer I've hardly ridden the Mio at all (the Coffee Queen has now become very possessive of it as her scooter).  I love the ride, the extra power, and the ability to easily climb above 30 mph (I swear the bike doesn't even like going that slow).  It's just plain fun.  The Coffee Queen quickly dubbed it Dr. Atomic and the appropriate icon was soon procured.  Never let it be said I don't embrace my physicist training. :-)

Me and Dr. Atomic

With the new bike I promised myself I'd learn more about how to maintain it.  I've already done a couple of oil changes, adjusted the chain, and learned several other basic checks.  SYM isn't nearly as well-known in the US as other scooter brands, but as any SYM owner will tell you they make fantastic bikes, and so I don't expect to have to do much more than the basics for quite awhile.

 I've learned that once you get past the basics of what you're looking for in a scooter or motorcycle (speed, price, etc.) you just have to find the one that feels right.  I looked into the Buddy 125 but just couldn't get excited about it in the way I could for the Symba.  It just fits.

* I should add that's not all I've learned about marriage in now 10 wonderful years. :-)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Where have all the motorcycles gone?

This was the view on Monday of the motorcycle parking where I work: just me and one other scooter. When I rode to work last Thursday it was just me.  In the summer there are dozens.

Spring has been slow in coming this year in Minnesota and it seems most people haven't been quick to dust off their scooter or motorcycle. (I shouldn't talk, I've only ridden into work the two times so far.) I've seen a handful on the roads so far, but mostly on the few nice days we've had.

I have to say, I'm always impressed by those who ride year round, or nearly so.  The Everyday Riding blog is written by a fellow Minnesota rider who sold his car and now rides year-round, switching to a sidecar outfit in the winter (we certainly have a lot of weather in MN where three wheels are preferable to two).  Circle Blue, a fellow Symba rider, keeps a blog called Did He Ride Today? about whether or not he rode to work (St. Louis looks to have much better weather right now!).  I don't have anything in the way of cold weather gear, but as I only have a few miles to go I can push the envelope more than I would for a longer ride. :-)

Monday, April 8, 2013

My Scooter Story: Part 1

It all began ten years ago. My wife, the Coffee Queen, and I were off to Italy for our honeymoon. Pasta, art, coffee, sea and sunshine. And of course, gelato. We discovered it our first day and had it at least once every day after.

The Coffee Queen enjoying a gelato in Pisa
We also discovered scooters. Specifically Vespas. They zipped through traffic by the dozen (no small feat on the streets of Rome) and their riders looked to be having more fun than anyone. We gazed longingly after them and wondered...

Yes, the romance of life on two wheels had captured our imagination. When we returned to the States we toyed with the idea of buying a scooter, but where? We'd no idea where one went scooter shopping and the couple of times I poked around online all I learned was how expensive a new Vespa really is.

Fast forward five years. My brother started riding a Buddy 125 and when we talked to him about it one day our two-wheeled dream was rekindled.  "What? Vespa isn't the only one that makes scooters?"

Apparently not. Genuine, SYM, Kymco, and others (all at half the price of a Vespa). A whole world of scooters we never knew existed. We soon visited Blue Cat Motors in St. Paul (at that time the SYM dealer) and learned about the different models they carried. Over dinner we discussed the benefits of a 50cc scooter: 100 mpg, we could save on parking. And then the Coffee Queen brought up the most important point of all: it's just plain fun.

Before I knew it we were back at Blue Cat and once the Coffee Queen took the SYM Mio for a spin I knew we'd be taking one home. But to be fair, I didn't need any convincing. :-)

The Coffee Queen on our SYM Mio 50
Zipping around on that little bike, suddenly even the most routine errand was so much more fun. And being limited to about 30 mph or so forced me to learn the back ways to get around. But not being stuck in a metal cage, who cared if it took a little longer to get places? (Even if I did need to pay a little more attention to the weather report.)

And so the Coffee Queen and I joined the ranks of the two-wheeled, our dream finally realized. It was about a year later, back at Blue Cat for an oil change, that I caught my first glimpse of a new bike by SYM, a Symba, and I couldn't help but linger for a moment...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday morning with the Little Scoot

But before we get to scooters, a little about today's adventure. This morning the Little Scoot and I had some father/son time at the Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul. They were having a publication party for Three Triceratops Tuff, a new picture book by local author Stephen Shaskan. It's the story of the three Billy Goats Gruff, only with dinosaurs. How can you not love that?

Outside the Red Balloon Bookshop
Red Balloon is a delightful children's bookshop on Grand Avenue and they had a great turnout for this event. And the Little Scoot had a blast. Shaskan played the guitar and sang several songs with the kids both before and after reading his book. Little Scoot hopped right up in front and danced and sang his little heart out! (He was sad when it was time to sit back down for the reading.) We bought a copy of the book, of course, and had it autographed (Little Scoot's birthday is coming up, perfect). Then we had to enjoy a piece of cake courtesy of the wonderful staff at Red Balloon. They wanted to know if it was our first time there, which it was. We will definitely be back.

Shaskan singing for the kids (Little Scoot is in the blue stripes)
After the reading I promised the Little Scoot a special treat: strawberry ice cream at the Grand Ole Creamery. The perfect ending to a perfect morning with my favorite little man.
Who likes ice cream?  We do!


Hello, and welcome to the Roving Physicist! A new blog to share my adventures as a writer, dad, and scooter rider. (If you're looking for my old blog, Open Wardrobes, you can read the archives here.)

I currently ride a SYM Symba, a modern version of the world-famous Honda Super Cub, which my wife quickly christened Dr. Atomic.

So how did a mild-mannered author and recovering physicist become a rider on two wheels? Read on, my friends, read on.

Dr. Atomic