ARGH!


I guess you could call me SpongeBob.

If you’re not familiar with the show, one of its running gags is that SpongeBob is a terrible driver and has failed every single behind-the-wheel driving exam he’s taken, much to the dismay of Mrs. Puff. He’s even ended up inadvertently putting her in prison because of his poor driving skills. It’s a long story.

Anyway, you might recall my euphoria way back in July 2014 when, after studying really hard in the hopes of passing the written exam, I obtained my permit. That permit, despite a few restrictions, granted me the right to ride my scooter legally for one year and in the meantime, gave me time to schedule an appointment at the local DMV so that I could take my skills exam.

I did indeed take my skills exam in March 2015 – and I failed it miserably.

So here we are on July 28, 2015. I had scheduled my DMV exam a few weeks ago for this day, the day before my permit expires.

I’ll admit that it was probably a case of bad nerves that made me screw up the first time. I went into the exam with little to no practice and wasn’t quite prepared for it. But this time, I decided to do something much different.

Last Sunday I rode over to the local DMV to ride their test track so that I could get a good feel for it without being stressed out about it. They even left the cones out for some reason.

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I had the track all to myself to practice so I took advantage of it. After about 10 runs of the Serpentine Ride (weaving between the cones), I was confident in my ability. In fact I didn’t hit a single cone the whole time I was there so I was pretty happy about that.

Then came the Slow Ride in which you start in the right lane, ride around the circle at the end twice, then end in the left lane. That was a bit more challenging.

But after a few runs, I had figured out that if I didn’t touch my front brake, the bike wouldn’t suddenly stop and pull me out of the circle. (Riding on the lines is fine but going outside or inside the circle is an automatic disqualification.) Not only that, but if I throttled up at the last cone, the momentum would carry me about halfway through the circle. A few more tried and I had this one down perfectly.

With the Serpentine Ride mastered, I started the Slow Ride. Again, laying off the front brake worked wonders and I eventually got the hang of it. I was going to kill my exam this time.

I then came home and drew a huge circle – the exact dimensions, no less – in my neighbor’s driveway so that I could practice even more before today’s exam. I was going to pass no problem because I could now ride at least five times around the circle before falling out or putting my foot down.

My appointment was at 1:45 and I was ready. And because I had already taken it once, I had to pay a $7 re-test fee which I could have easily lied about because my previous DMV witness didn’t write my results on the permit as they are required to do. Had I known that, I would have probably told them this was my first time.

So I get in line and there was a guy ahead of me with his shiny BMW motorcycle who didn’t even acknowledge me, most likely because I was riding a scooter. Whatever, dude.

He failed the second he entered the circle when he put his foot down. He then complained that the circle was smaller than at the DMV office where he practiced. The DMV official wasn’t impressed.

“They’re all the same size,” he said as he marked the results of his exam on his permit. “Go inside and schedule another appointment.”

Off you go.

Then it was my turn and on boy, was I ready. The instructor was really cool and probably a rider himself with how he was speaking to me and the previous guy.

So how did I do? The Serpentine Ride was perfect. Flawless. Unbelievably simple. The instructor even gave me the thumbs up when I was done. Just one more to go and that M1 license would be mine.

I started the Slow Ride. In the right lane, no problem. Around the circle once, no problem. Around the circle again…problem. Watch what happens at 0:59 of the video.

No. NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

One more turn and I would have had it. I don’t know what the hell happened to make me swerve into the circle. I didn’t hit the front brake. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.

Whatever the case, the instructor let out a loud “OH NO!” the second I fell inside the circle and unlike my previous exam, he wouldn’t give me a second chance which I thought was kind of lame. My first exam, I put my foot down which is an automatic DQ but they let me go again. What does it matter if I drifted out of the circle for three feet this time? I was literally 99.5% through the exam and had only one section to go. Why not give me another chance or better yet, just pass me so I can get this over with? I showed him I could do this.

Nothing doing. He marked the Slow Ride a DQ. After all this practice, one minor mishap killed me. I was NOT happy about this because with my permit expiring, I now have to pay for and take the written exam again (already scheduled) and then take the skills exam again.

ARGH. Just unbelievable.

The good thing is that scooter riders aren’t exactly tops on the list of people to get pulled over. So I have that going for me for the next few weeks, which is nice.

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I’m on Bing Maps


About two months ago, I saw a Bing Maps surveyor and decided to follow it for a bit because I thought it would be funny to eventually see myself on the street maps.

Well, tonight I checked the maps to see if they had updated them. They did.

But first, take a gander at the video I shot and posted on Instagram. I always have my camera going when I’m on my scooter because you never know.

Now here I am behind the Toyota RAV4, sitting at the stop sign.

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I guess I should have waved at it for maximum effect but I didn’t even think about it. Oh well.

To see the precise location, click here. Note that you will probably need to view it in IE since Bing is Microsoft, Silverlight, blah blah blah.

2014: My Year In Review


I know it’s a few days late but I like to wait until the year is over because hey, you never know what can happen, right?

Anyhow I bid you a very Happy New Year. And in keeping with what seems to be a new tradition since I’m always taking pictures of even the most minor event in my life with my phone, I’m going to share with you my photographic year in review* as I did last year. I enjoy doing these posts because I throw in a lot of crazy little things that I saw along with the big things, plus add often sarcastic commentary to go along with all of it.

Will 2014 compare to 2013? Will it be better or worse? You be the judge. So grab your choice of beverage, sit back, and enjoy the (possibly bittersweet) ride.

January 2014

We were invited to go to Disneyland and took the first of what would be, quite honestly, too many trips to Walt’s Magic Kingdom.

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I found a wallet and tried to return it, which turned into one clusterfuck of an ordeal. (Note that the term “clusterfuck” may appear many, many more times in this post – you’ve been warned!) The coins were found in the parking lot next to the wallet but I kept them. Half-dollars are cool.

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We made another trip to Disneyland a few weeks after the last one. It’s already too much.

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I had two of my photos posted in the local newspaper which recently shut down after only 20 months.

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February 2014

I discovered that the local church has parking dedicated to corpulent parishioners.

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In an effort to cut costs due to unemployment, we cut the cable cord and bought Roku boxes and digital antennae.

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Speaking of unemployment, I got a job the day after my birthday at a local grocery store where I tend to take selfies in the freezer.

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And speaking of birthdays, I turned 45 without much fanfare as don’t have my birthdate visible on Facebook. (Those who know, know.) I’m not a big birthday person and only posted this cryptic image on Instagram for people to figure out. I think only one person did.

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I celebrated Chinese New Year the way I did last year, by riding in the Chinatown Firecracker 30-Mile Bike Ride. It’s one of my favorite events but sadly, due to my part-time status, all of my events for 2015 have been put on the back burner. I may not do any if I can’t get the money together for them.

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March 2014

I participated in my second Coaster Run but only the 5k. It rained for most of it and was probably the most fun I’ve had doing an event.

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I witnessed one of the most amazing sunrises in recent memory.

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We switched from MetroPCS to AT&T using my new Corporate Discount through work. That, of course, required getting new phones.

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I decorated (read: wrote on) my first cake while working in the Bakery.

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After around a week of building, I completed constructing The Simpsons LEGO house.

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We celebrated Anthony’s 10th birthday at a local pizza place where his grandfather showed him how to score a bunch of tickets playing the Blackjack game.

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April 2014

While out for a run, I saw the Amityville Horror house being built in a local park.

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You know. Korean Doritos.

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We took one of two trips to the tide pools, one of our most favorite local spots.

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Sadly, on my Mom’s birthday, my Aunt Mary (seated) passed away. This was taken a year earlier at Mom’s surprise 75th birthday.

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May 2014

We were invited to go to Disneyland’s 24 Hour event and I was the only person in our group to make it to sunrise on Saturday (after arriving around 4pm Friday). I didn’t blog about it; I only posted my pictures on Instagram.

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June 2014

We discovered that there’s a Hello Kitty wine, but we don’t like Chardonnay. I’m more of a Merlot person now that I occasionally drink wine.

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We took our final trip to Disneyland.

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July 2014

I got this really creepy lenticular Jesus picture sent to me from a church that was begging for money. I was on their mailing list for a while and got all kinds of weird stuff sent to me, including a communion wafer.

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The door of the baler at work came down and smashed my fingertips. They were numb for about a month or so but are fine now.

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In an effort to earn a few bucks since I was (and still am) only working part-time, we sold our extra refrigerator. And you know what? That turned out to be a big clusterfuck as well!

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Only 17 months into our lease, we had to say goodbye to the Kia Optima. Working a minimum-wage, part-time job just wasn’t enough to make the payments anymore. It felt like a kick in the gut but it has turned out to be fine in the end. It also gives me yet another opportunity to say that Kia financing is the worst on the planet. Read this post for more information.

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The day we got rid of the Optima also ushered in a new day of motoring for me: I bought my Yamaha Zuma scooter which I still love. Payments are 1/4 that of the Optima and it is ridiculous on gas (between 65-80 MPG), meaning I’ve never put more than $3 in it since I’ve owned it.

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I applied for a job at Disneyland. I had the interview and was shortlisted then later offered a position. I turned it down for many a good reason.

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I got a second job someplace near and dear to my heart, which I quit after only one day of training. I’ve never seen the paycheck. I quit for many reasons, the main one being their ultra-strict policy on personal items and phones. It pretty much granted them the right to search my locker, backpack, and phone any time they wanted with no reason or cause. I’m an honest guy but their policy was way overboard for me, so I left.

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After a month of studying, I took the written exam for my motorcycle license and got my permit.

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August 2014

Anthony got his parakeets.

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I hit 100 miles on the scooter.

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We took a trip to Mattel, across the street from where I used to work.

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We paid a visit to the Queen

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…and her neighbor, a Russian submarine.

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My friend commissioned us to refurbish the sign for his restaurant. Here is the Before shot.

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September 2014

My “promotion” at work became official. But I still take selfies in the freezer.

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I was reunited with some friends from my old Catholic school whom I hadn’t seen in over 30 years.

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Remember the sign we were working on? Here’s the finished project.

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How YOU doin’?

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October 2014

The job allowed us to root for our favorite local team in the MLB playoffs, so naturally I did.

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My mad art skillz came in handy at work once again when I was asked to conjure up a sign for a our seasonal caramel apples.

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Catastrophe. Just a few days before participating in another event, I dropped my phone and rendered it useless.

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That same day, my scooter was vandalized by local school kids who don’t understand what it’s like to have their property willingly broken.

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Anthony ran in his second Aquarium of the Pacific Kids Run

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..and I did my second duathlon the following day. I did it last year and rode the bike tour the previous four years.

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I replaced my broken phone with this, the Samsung Galaxy Skyrocket II. It was such a horrible phone that I returned it the next day.

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It was replaced with the HTC one M7, an absolutely amazing phone.

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November 2014

I got a new camera and started shooting quality photos again. My first trip was a Dia de los Muertos event.

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A few days later, we made another trip to the tide pools where I messed with the different settings on the camera.

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Anthony and I took the train to the L.A. Auto Show where the camera performed well in every lighting condition.

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December 2014

Well, outside of Christmas, there wasn’t much to speak of in December so I don’t have many pictures for that month. It looks like 2014 had its share of highs and lows but naturally, I took the good with the bad and moved on.

By the way, I’m still on Facebook Vacation and enjoying it. It’s amazing how much you can do with your time when you don’t give it so much attention.

Anyhow, there’s my second annual Year In Review post and I hoped you enjoyed it. Here’s hoping my 2015 is less phone-breaky, scooter-pushy, and wallet-findy and that yours is everything you wish it make it to be.

*Selected events, of course. You don’t need to know about my doctor’s visits.

Our Friday


Last Friday, Ann and I had a list of things to accomplish:

  1. Sell our old refrigerator. It was an extra taking up room in the garage and hadn’t been used on a regular basis since I was laid off in 2009, back in a time when I actually made decent money and we could afford to buy extra groceries and store them in the garage. It was money sitting around that we could use.
  2. Get rid of the Kia Optima. While it seemed like a wise decision at the time, what was our 20th anniversary gift to each other turned out to be a nightmare when I was let go from my last proofreading job. Unemployment just didn’t pay enough and I couldn’t find a job so despite our best plans to keep the thing, we just couldn’t do it.
  3. Look into a means of transportation for me. I had told Ann that while I can easily walk or ride my bike to work, there may be days when I need to go a little further than either foot or bicycle could take me – comfortably, at least. A scooter of some sort was the best solution we could come up with so we had a list of stores to check out.

So let’s cover each and every bullet in this list.

The Fridge
IMG_20140702_180325We had plugged it in a few days before so that potential buyers could see that it was working. Then Thursday morning, I placed an ad for the fridge on Craigslist and got a bite later that night via text message. We were initially asking $400 for it which we thought was reasonable considering it was over $1500 brand new.

The buyer thought otherwise. Stating that she was unemployed (and a host of other sob stories I won’t elaborate upon), she told me that renting the U-Haul truck cost more than she expected and asked if we would take $280 for it. Ann and I discussed it and agreed we would. We arranged the pick-up time of 9:30 am on Friday morning since we had planned to be at Carmax to sell the Kia at about 10 am.

They didn’t arrive until 11 am but the buyer was keeping in touch with me via text message (traffic on the freeway, etc.). Both of us were nearly livid despite her good nature. But when she and her helpers arrived to pick it up, she then said it wasn’t what she expected and that she thought the entire unit was stainless steel, not just the doors. You can guess where it went next.

That’s right. She wanted to pay only $200 for it. By now, Ann was fed up with all the bargaining and just agreed to take it to get this person out of our hair. I concurred. Take your fucking shit and leave. We already wasted our day waiting for you to arrive. Hell, I even threw in an old tube TV that someone down the street was getting rid of. I was going to use it for my NES but figured I’d never get around to it, so I let her have it.

The lesson learned here: don’t sell shit on Craigslist. Just don’t. You’ll get burned.

The Kia Optima
20140711_125642What you see here is the last picture I ever took of our 2013 Kia Optima as it sat waiting in line at Carmax. We had it appraised earlier in the week for X-dollars and came by to rid ourselves of it.

Of course, it wasn’t as easy as one might think, especially when the vehicle has negative equity. This means we had to pay the difference between what Carmax offered and what the buyout quote on the lease was. Yes, we had to take out a loan with Frankie and Knuckles to cover the cost of the negative equity but in the end, we left free and clear of the car we could no longer afford.

Now let me tell you about Kia. They are jackwipes. Total, complete jackwipes. Shortly after I was laid off, I called them to ask what we could do in order to keep the car: defer payments, return it, sell it, etc. Their only suggestion was to sell it to a private party which in essence we did. But when I inquired about deferring payments, they refused to help because it was a leased vehicle.

Hmm. That’s strange. When I had a 1991 Nissan Sentra, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation was kind enough to defer two payments for California residents after the Northridge Earthquake and a bunch of wildfires – even if they were nowhere near either. When we leased a Ford Escape and I was laid off, a call to Ford was all it took to defer three months of payments so that we could get ourselves back on our feet. Toyota also lent a hand when when we needed some financial help.

Kia? No way. They wouldn’t budge. They are the cheapest and most unsympathetic group of bastards I’ve ever dealt with, and they even gave Carmax a hard time about selling the Optima to them. I will never, ever buy another Kia or for that matter, Hyundai. Same thing.

The lesson learned here: be like me and don’t even think of buying either. Kia will not help you when you need it.

The New Ride
It was a long day by now. We took $200 less than we wanted for the fridge, the selling process at Carmax took much longer than expected (three hours, mostly because of Kia being a bunch of jackwipes), and we were adjusting to the reality of having only one car. It sort of hit us hard and kind of left me deflated. But we had to press on and look at the possibility of getting me a way to get around.

I had been doing some research about scooters and had a few in mind and where I wanted to check them out. Earlier in the week I visited a local shop that had a few Lance scooters in their tiny showroom.

What, you’ve never heard of Lance Scooters? It’s okay. I bet most haven’t. Anyway, it all sounded okay and then I asked about financing.

They wanted half the cost of the scooter as a down payment and post-dated checks for the remainder of the term. They would deposit them as each month came around.

Yeah, no. I didn’t have the $1200 to put down.

After we sold the Kia, we went to another local store to see what they had. It was a small selection and they were only 50cc, meaning a small motor that wouldn’t go very fast or keep up with traffic. Besides, they salesman didn’t seem to interested in helping. By the way, the used ones they had were actually Honda Metropolitan models that were used by Rose Parade officials during the parade. Kind of cool, but only 50cc. Next.

It was getting late and I wanted to check one more place which was by the in-laws’ house. By now we were all cranky and in need of a break. We went to Del Amo Motorsports and spoke with a cool guy named Martin about what it was I was looking for.

He showed me everything that would do the job and then some. In the end, the overall best deal was the Yamaha Zuma 125, the number obviously implying the motor type (125cc). It had power, it didn’t look like a wannabe Vespa and unlike a Lance scooter, parts would be easy to come by should it ever have problems. It’s a Yamaha, you know.

Then the number-crunching game began. I always hate that part of making a big purchase and was hesitant about it. Then again, the cost was nowhere near that of a car nor were the payments. In fact, they are about 1/4 what we were paying on the Kia Optima. After some wheeling and dealing we came to an agreement, shook hands, picked out a helmet that was part of the deal and then like the rest of the day, waited – again.

But this was a good waiting period. Things were happening and everyone at this shop was a total pro and very thorough. I signed some paperwork, got approved, then was made a fool of as they announced over the paging system that they had sold a Yamaha Zuma 125.

Then I banged the gong to let everyone in the store know I was the lucky dude. The scooter was prepped, I was shown how to operate it and then nervously, hopped on it and took it for a spin.

Did I mention that it had been years since I last rode a scooter and damn near hit my own car with it? Yeah. Maybe not.

But it was different this time. Maybe all of the cycling I’ve done has made me more aware of things and not as crazy when riding because I handled riding this like a champ. It took a few runs up and down the street adjacent to Del Amo Motorsports to get a feel of it but once I did, I had it down.

The lesson learned here: buy your scooter from Del Amo Motorsports. You won’t regret it, and tell them Dave sent you. I get rewarded for referrals!

The End of a Long Day
The ride home was fun and I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way. It was literally fun. With Ann following me, I took the long way so as not to encounter much traffic. It was at an open stretch of road with no cars around that I decided to open it up a little and hit a speed of 45 MPH, which feels a lot like 90 MPH on a scooter. I took it easy the rest of the way home.

When I pulled into the driveway I had a smile on my face and told Ann, “You need to get one of these things!”

And for what it’s worth, here’s a collage of my new ride.

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The mileage on this thing is estimated to be around 89 MPG but naturally, depending on a number of factors including driver’s weight, YMMV. The Optima never managed to deliver more than 19 MPG even while using cruise control. It had horrible mileage despite what Kia claims.

With the scooter’s 1.6 gallon tank and an estimated 89 MPG, we’re looking at around 142.4 miles per tank. It doesn’t seem like a lot but with me working so close to home and not going very far otherwise, that could last me a long time.

Besides, who couldn’t get used to this?

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It didn’t have a full tank when I drove it home and with me riding it home and doing a little local riding plus going to work, the gas had gone down to a little over half a tank.

It may now cost me $5 to fill my tank versus the $25 for half a tank on the Optima. And in addition to cutting payments by 75% versus what we paid on the Optima, the cost to insure this is lower as well.

We’re saving money on insurance. We’re saving it on gas. We’re saving it on monthly payments.

For everything we put up with last Friday, I’d say we ended the day making the right choice.