Thursday, November 13, 2008

A scooter taught him to love motorcycles

The picture is fuzzy but my memory of the Vespa is sharp.
Vespas are true classics, but too many of the scooters running around my town look like baby Ninja motorcycles. Most are just pretending, but I know that many modern scooters are fast enough to justify their looks. Even Vespas today come powerful enough to keep up with U.S. traffic.

It was a Vespa, that one scooter I've ever ridden, that taught me to love motorcycles. It was a battered rental, on the Greek island of Corfu. The year was 1976, and my wife and I were looking forward to having a day of personal vehicular transportation after months of traveling on a Eurail Pass.

The little red two-stroke carried us around the island nicely until it came up against a steep switchback in the mountains. The road surface by this time had given way to ruts peppered with loose rocks the size of baseballs. The scooter and I saw the hill coming up at the same instant. I sighed. The scooter died. It wasn't even going to try.

I asked my wife to get off, got a running start, and just gripped the handlebars. My chest banged on the seat as the scooter bounded over the ruts and rocks. Largely freed of my weight, it towed me up the hill, but it was a wild ride.

The July sun was hot by then, and I was very proud that we weren't going to have to push the scooter up the hill after all. My wife didn't see it that way.

"You left me to walk up!" she complained. It was very funny. If not for the scooter and her comment, would I even remember that fine day, 32 years ago?
Today, as I ride my Royal Enfield, always within its own endearing limitations, I feel certain I am building memories for the future. Every trip an adventure!


  1. For me, it was cars. Which are a lot harder to push.

    One thing, David, that is driving me crazy. The memory is going. Why do you seem so familiar to me? Did you ever live either in Palo Alto, CA, or Kansas City, MO?

  2. I lived in Kirkwood, Mo., near St. Louis, as a boy, then family moved to Van Nuys, Calif., part of Los Angeles. I attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., near Chicago. I have lived for 30 years in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., near Miami. I'm 58 years old now. I was 26 when the Vespa picture was taken, probably 54 when the blog profile pic was taken. Much grayer now!

  3. Nice story, David. I think it might be fair to say that I, too, fell in love with motorcycles with the help of a scooter!

  4. Josh, it's fair to say you were the inspiration for this post. Readers, if you haven't seen Josh's story of his two-up scooter trip into the Sahara, check his blog,

  5. We're the same age, then. My picture was taken in 1970! OK, until now I guess our paths never crossed.

  6. What a great vignette! Mom would look way butter on a scooter than in a sidecar, for sure. You should blog about the motovino shirt you have with the vespa on it.

    Also, I wouldn't hate a vespa for Christmas! Just a thought :)

  7. My story started in much the same way, with a peacock green Vespa (here in India, they are called LML Vespas). From there to a black '97 Bullet, was a jump away in Bangalore.


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