Monday, October 22, 2007

My "Special" Vespa

I liked this photo from last weekend for how the color of 'Ol Blue looked against the color of the sky in the background. This was taken last Sunday before we had the change in weather that brought a series of storms through western Washington that included winds of 60+ mph, thunderstorms with hail, and "cow peeing on a flat rock" rain. In a nutshell, the weather sucked.

Since Port Angeles is tucked nicely in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, storms blowing in from the south generally split around the Olympics, and the wrath is more intensely felt to the east and west of us. This is how it went on Wednesday and Thursday, so we ended up being spared the full brunt of the winds. If the systems roll from the west down the Strait of Juan De Fuca, we usually take it like a punch to the forehead. The forecast for the next week calls for better, "more seasonal conditions."

This junk didn't stop most of the cronies from riding every day though. JayBee wrapped up in the fishtail parka and sloshed his way to work, as did Slim Jim on my old Helix. I was able to get my pant cuffs wet a few times as well on the BR. As long as nobody sends out the message to stop riding, I guess we'll stay the course.

For as long as I've had the Vespa, I hadn't ridden on the highway at any time. I've gotten my fix by riding pretty much in town, and on some close-by country roads with slower speed limits. I really wanted to see what its limitations would be if I were to put it in a commuting situation. So I rode out to work yesterday to find out.

I needed to drop an item off at work, and I would normally ride the Big Ruckus out or drive out, as I do this every Sunday. This trip would be the first for Ol' Blue. It was time to stop worrying about the rain and wet, and how filthy my old scoot would get, and just get out there and ride the darn thing. I've never owned a motorbike that I wouldn't ride in the wet before, so why am I treating the Vespa any different? Riding in the rain is part of the gig around here. So with my old school parka zipped up tight, we headed out.

The best thing about the ride to work on Sunday is the lack of traffic. Either folks are at home, or in church, so the streets are pretty much empty till around noon. This made for a much more relaxed ride, and I was able to putt along quite nicely. The exception was the guy in the red Mazda pick-up that stayed next to me for about 3 blocks that kept looking over at me like he couldn't believe what he was seeing. He finally turned into a coffee stand, and I headed down the Baker Street dip. This "dip" is where I would first encounter a real hill to climb.

I tried to build up a head of steam on the downhill so I could blast up the other side. Well, there was no "blasting" up the other side, but I made it without having to shift into third gear, so now I know what to expect. I've never pushed the Vespa this hard before, and I'm happy to know that it will handle the job. I don't want to make a habit out of doing it though. Taking it out in crummy conditions is one thing, flogging the whiz out of it is another. I still look at the GT as a "special" little scooter, and really don't want to abuse it. But at least I know now that it will do the job if called on.

After making my quick visit to work, we retraced the route home with no problems. Mission accomplished. In all the years that I've been riding, and on all of the motorbikes I've ridden, this little jaunt was a new adventure. Most anybody would look and say "So what?" "It's no big deal to ride a scooter through town." But for me it was special. I was reminded of a time when I was about ten years old, and I rode my bicycle across town. It was a big adventure for me, and with my parents approval, I succeeded in making it to my destination. And when I turned to make the long ride back, I realized that I was exhausted, and hadn't planned on having to ride all the way back home. Parked just down the road from me was the family station wagon. My folks had followed me without me even knowing it. I was triumphant though, and they let me know how proud they were that I had made it. After loading the bicycle into the car, we drove over to my grandparents house to share my great story. How ironic that my grandparents house is the same house that we now own, and are raising our kids in. Maybe that is why this simple little ride on my Vespa reminded my of that great day. Both rides took me to the same place, and both rides gave me the same good feelings.

Isn't it something that forty years can pass, and a memory can return so vividly? I pulled my scooter in, in the exact same spot that my parents parked their car all those years ago. And I walked in the same back door to tell my wife about my scooter ride, that I had walked in to tell my grandmother about my bicycle ride. Who says that you "can't go back." I did, and I did it on my Vespa scooter. Did I mention that I think it's "special?"

Have fun,


Blogger Eric Link said...

Great story man! I have a '66 GT that I put a 177cc polini on - it's pretty zippy now! I cut an adaptor plate to fit the 3 port kit to the 2 port engine - my first fabrication work. It was fun.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Kano said...

That's cool that you and your scooter friends work and ride together. What year and cc is your Vespa?

8:46 AM  
Blogger Bill Sommers said...

I don't find too many cats that own the GT, let alone a '66. I could use a bit more zip for sure. I've got a pal that just returned from MMI school, and he graduated #1 in his class. Supposedly he can work on any type of motorbike. Lets see what he can do about putting some "zip" in an old Vespa. Stay tuned...

The Vespa is a 1966 GT125. Although its 125cc, it doesn't do much more for mph's than a modern 50cc twist-n-go scooter. But man, it is a fun little scoot to bomb around on.

Out of the four scooters that were parked at work today, I had previously owned 2 of them, not counting my Big Ruckus. I'm so happy that these guys have caught the scooter bug, and ride them all the time, and in any weather.

All of this preaching about the positives of scootering has proven worthwhile. Yeah, it really is cool.

Have fun,

6:30 PM  
Blogger Shaun said...

Not to pile on the love fest, but why not. Great story, you have a way with words. I read that story a few times and outloud to my girlfriend...Man...I need to get an old scooter. Thanks Bill.


6:20 PM  
Blogger Bill Sommers said...

Wow, thanks for the nice comment. Makes me proud!

When you dig around in the haypile long enough, you end up finding the needle. In my case, I've owned a lot of motorbikes over the years, and I finally ended up with this little scooter that has touched me on more of an emotional level. I encourage anyone that is into motorcycling or scootering to look hard for what the bike gives back to you. Sometimes it goes beyond just being a means of transportation, and becomes part of what makes you who you are.
Its hard to describe...its a feeling. You'll know when it happens.

Have fun,

4:45 PM  
Blogger irondad said...

Motorcycles can take us many places, can't they? They're time machines, Karma antennas, and guiding lights.

I'm not a person who could really appreciate actually owning and ridig older machines. I have a 26 year old Honda and it's becoming a pain in the butt. If I waxed poetic it would be just a smoke screen for the fact that I couldn't afford anything newer!

Glad there's people like you who keep these things in their well deserved place of honor.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Bill Sommers said...

I grew up in a family that is still into antique vehicles, tools, radios etc. There is something about the simplicity and beauty of these pieces of the past that draw me to them. The older I get, the further back I try to reach.

Have fun,

9:05 AM  
Blogger twistngogrl & vespajitsu said...

Bill, that is just a great looking Vintage Vespa! Love the color and it looks in really good shape.
This is probably my favorite post by you thus far. I think anything that wax nostalgia really hits home with me. Possibly because at our ages we can go back to the past, which sometimes depresses me cause it's just means I'm getting old.
I really was into bicycling when I was growing up, and a good friend and I rode everywhere, always trying to push the distance. It was the only way to get around for one, and two, it was safer and less crowded. I rode a bike everywhere even when I started work on the Fire Dept. But now I live to far away from work so I drive, plus the Vespa has taken it's place. It's a hoot to drive and looks cool as heck.
In twenty years we will be waxing nostalgia about these days!
I also think your flair for writing has really improved.
I'm sort of getting away from blogging, but still enjoy reading certain bloggers like you.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Bill Sommers said...

Thanks for hanging with me. I hope to hang in for the long haul, and guys like you provide the incentive to keep plunking away at the keyboard.

I really like this old scooter. I don't usually find a real fondness or a soft spot for motorbikes, but I did with this one. It has a permanent home with me for sure.

Hey you know, I was a real bicycle head when I was a kid too. I actually still look for old and unique bikes as another hobby to drive my bride crazy. Something about being on a two-wheeler that I can't resist.

I hope to provide a pile of memories to look back on twenty years from now. I guess in a lot of ways I'm creating a journal right now to be able to look back on and be clear on the details. It'll be cool.

Have fun,

7:45 PM  

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