Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Scooter Scoop

My friend Rick Nitti is considering following my treadmarks and buying a motor scooter.

I can’t recommend my choice of scooter without reservation. It’s a TN’G Milano 49 cc (see photo), ungoverned. If the authorities are reading this, I’m in trouble as it is licensed as a moped and hence shouldn’t be capable of speeds in excess of 30 mph.

My metallic green steed, a handsome plastic brute, does 50 easily, although, in light of the law, I try to keep it to 30 mph.

My only real problem with TN’G is questionable quality. Primarily in body integrity. This is becoming apparent in surprising, but harmless (so far) ways.

For reasons unknown to me, the scoot decided to shed its license plate the other evening. I heard a clattering on the proximate pavement but dismissed it was some kind of aural anomaly. Besides, I was in a hurry.

Only later did I discover my plate missing. As a matter of routine, I should have checked the attachment bolts, but really!

License plates are supposed to stay put. How often do you check the plates on your car?

Turns out that on the Chinese-built TN’G, the holes on the plate bracket are 1/8th inch too wide for Oregon plates. Beijing, meet Salem. So the fit isn’t snug, so the nut works loose, so the plates come unattached etc.

This could be symptomatic of more serious problems to come. Pray for me.

Who knows what Rick Nitti will come up with for a scoot. Something interesting, reliable and no doubt more expensive, but worth it.

I don’t know how I got off on advising him about the, ahem, scooter “amenities” of Portland's downtown bridges in an e-mail, but there I was sputtering on about the “fear factor” to scooterista of various bridges — the Hawthorne, the Morrison, The Broadway, The Ross Island, The Sellwood.


Not really?

Too bad.

Here’s the scoop, scooterwise.

The Morrison gets the highest marks of all the bridges. Easy on/easy off ramps, and minimal grating.

Grating can be unnerving, particularly to the novice. Like pain, you just have to work through it. Anyway, the Hawthorne has a long stretch of grating, which gives the scoot the “wobblies.” Survivable, but unsettling. The Hawthorne is my second choice.

The Ross Island is looooong, elevated and, hence, often gusty. Buffeting is only slightly better than the wobblies.

The Steel is out of the way, but actually the most user-friendly of the lot. No grating and short — but watch out for silent, serpentine MAX trains.

The Sellwood is also long but gets you where you want to go (especially if it's Sellswood). Its major shortcoming is that it is narrow and requires serious, co-operative merging to get on. And then there is its perplexing sign, “Don’t throw, men below” or something like that. I’ve never figured out the meaning. Throw? Like, what? Men below? Huh?

The Burnside is out of the question. Even if it had an easy on/off (which it doesn’t), I have no use for it. I can go to where it takes me using more convenient routes.

Likewise the Broadway Bridge, which seems useful only for Blazer games.

Enough said.

So there you have it, the scooter-eye view of Portland’s bridges. Bookmark this, just in case you get the scooter bug, which I highly recommend.

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