22,222.2

In the New York Times Magazine, about once a month, a spread called DOMAINS appears, about where and how a certain well known person lives. Morning routine, Always in fridge, Gadget she can live without, Prized possession, are some of the questions posed. The reader can then think about his answers and thereby relate. My Prized Possession is my Yamaha Riva Z125 motor scooter. It is unrivaled for getting around the streets and hills of San Francisco, and parking is a breeze.

The yellow stickers are parking permits. I can park in un-metered spaces nearly anywhere in the city for $24 a year.

I’ve had it for as long as we’ve lived in San Francisco, over 15 years, and except for about 20 (a couple trips to Sausalito), the miles are all San Francisco miles.

I moved here alone in the spring of 1992 while Carol finished her school year at the Preschool Experience in Newton. I had a job and a flat, but no car, no bike, no bed. I rented a Mustang convertible for a week in order to explore my new city and bring home a futon.

Some notes from my journal recount early learning experiences:
Commute to 6 Federal Street:
Monday April 13, 1992
Bus 41 Union to Columbus to Montgomery to Clay to Beale & Howard – 30 minutes – walk 13 minutes. Turns corner at Clay and Montgomery, better? Looks a little longer on the map, but would surely be a nicer walk.
Home – Bus 45 caught on Third Street under overpass, about a 5 minute walk. Overall, about 45 minutes.

Tuesday April 14
Bus 45 Union to Stockton. Slower, through Chinatown. Longish walk from Fourth and Market.

Wednesday April 15
Bus 41 to Montgomery and Clay. Walk 22 minutes.

Stopped at a stoplight on Columbus Ave, I looked out my bus window to see a woman in a skirt and high heels on a motor scooter. By gosh, if she can handle a scooter, so can I.

Saturday April 18, 1992
Bus 45 broke at the end of Stockton tunnel in Chinatown. This is not a commute to cherish, like Jerusalem or Boston.

Saturday April 18, 1992
Justification
I gotta commute
I want to be mobile
The bus is ok, but doesn’t cut it
A car? Big bucks, hard to park, costly insurance
What’s the debate?
This is the city – the city of hills.

Friday April 24, 1992
So I bought the scooter today… and a helmet and lock and USAA insurance by phone so I could ride home. The salesman was really nice and thorough. I rode off just like I was still on my moped.
Black.
Shiny.
All the bells and whistles and mirrors… Yamaha Riva 125Z legal for both bridges but not for the highway.
Riding it home tonight was nice. Freedom!

Scooters are ubiquitous in Barcelona and Paris. They’ve always had high gas prices and many of their streets are narrow and clogged.

Barcelona

Paris

Why not San Francisco? Over the years, I’ve seen more and more scooters and motorcycles in the city. A big clue to their increasing numbers is the amount of dedicated motorcycle parking spaces in the city these days.

Parking in San Francisco a block from the Ferry Building and BART station.

Every Saturday morning I ride to the Farmers Market.

I carry a cloth bag for meat, eggs, potatoes and the like. That goes on the back, secured by a bungee net. The net bag hanging from the handlebar is for fruit and vegetables.

Last night I rode to work at opening night of the SF International Animation Festival. Today I rode to the grocery, hardware and hairdresser.

Pacific Ave on my way home from the market.

I wrote this story in September 2008, but didn’t quite know how to finish it, so it has been “in the drawer.”

Meanwhile…

life went on and the miles piled up.

Now, January 2011, I reached a significant milestone on Union Street at Mason.

That kind of numerical configuration won’t occur again for 11,111.1 miles, and while I fully expect to reach 33,333.3 miles, it will take a while. I’d better post now.

4 thoughts on “22,222.2

  1. If you think Europe is big on scooters, wait until you visit Asia where it’s not an alternative to a car, but to walking. “Scooter” encompasses everything from electric assist bikes to full blown motorcycles (the Porsche/Ferrari of their ilk). China has now mandated an end to gasoline powered cycles (no new ones can be registered) which means people are switching to propane powered scooters, or electric. We learned in Shanghai that both of these newer options are nearly silent meaning that you have NO IDEA that one is bearing down on you as you walk on sidewalks (they ride them on the sidewalk even though it’s technically illegal), or attempt to cross a street. In the narrow and twisty side streets of the French Concession, wandering among the shops can be very dangerous. Your head must be on a swivel at all times. Also, because they are so depended upon in Asia there are many clever/silly “solutions” to the rain issue. I suppose your solution is “not riding the scooter” but you must get stuck away from home when it suddenly rains. What’s your emergency solution?

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  2. Eric,
    Thanks for the comments. First, my scooter accident wasn’t too serious. I was following a car too close on Main Street in SF and he panic-stopped. I swerved to avoid and went down on my right side at low low speed. Ripped pants, ripped calf and knee but nothing structural. I rode home, patched my knee and changed pants and was only slightly late for the meeting I was bound for in the first place. The worst part was a pedestrian observer called the police and I got a $125 ticket for following too close.
    Rain. I have a golf rain suit that works fine, and it is important to avoid the “painted” lines on the street and steel manhole covers… very slippery. If I’m caught without my rain suit, I get wet.

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  3. Nice story. I had a Honda 50 in the Philippines and used it for transport for a year around Clark AFB. It got me back and ‘forth while courting Carol – she on one side of the huge base and me on the other.

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