I pulled out of the driveway at 5:56AM with any hopes of seeing the sunrise in the sticks dashed by sunlight already licking the tops of the trees in the valley. Long summer days means I have to get up even earlier, probably around 4:30 AM judging by the time I need to actually get out the door. On the bright side I wouldn't have to endure the 48° F temperature as long. After many weeks of warm and hot rides the cold was a shock to my delicate nature. I was on my way to meet up with my father-in-law Bob for a ride but had to stop after 50 miles to warm up. Hot chocolate was nice but better was being able to press my hands against matte black steel on the outside of the convenience store. It was hot from the morning sun even though the air temperature was only 51° F by that time. My hands warmed nicely as I stood facing the wall looking as if I was about to be arrested. None of this sounds a lot like a summer dream though.
I have been thinking a lot about motorcycles, scooters, and riding. How did I end up standing with cold numb hands early on a Saturday morning?
The Vespa in my garage isn't a dream. It's real. Summers as a kid were spent dreaming about girls, cars, and motorcycles. Not necessarily in that order. As I probe my mental history I have to believe the summer of 1963 planted the seeds of interest in motorcycles after seeing Steve McQueen racing around Germany in The Great Escape.
I watched that movie every chance I got when it would appear on television and still rent it occasionally now. The Cooler King's motorcycle heroics and quiet, go-it-alone temperament appealed to me even then I suspect. Motorcycle as escape was never clearer than in that movie. We'll ignore the fact that walking and rowing were more successful escape strategies.
In 1969 I received another potent dose of near mythic rides from the television series Then Came Bronson. Jim Bronson, played by Michael Parks, abandons his connection with the work world to find the meaning of his life by way of what I thought then was the coolest motorcycle ever---a Harley Sportster. The video linked below was the only one I couuld find on the net but it gives you an idea of what one facet of the show was like.
I was not overly enthralled with machine specifics even then but really affected by the idea of riding and adventure. For me it has always been about riding.
So here I am with a Vespa GTS 250ie. On the surface it doesn't appear to match those old summer dreams. There is a motorcycle that does and is on my secret acquisition list for some day out in the future --- the Triumph Scrambler. As a machine it fits the image of those programs.
But is the Vespa really out of line? I don't think so. It affords me the freedom and opportunity to ride. To see the world and to explore what I am doing in it. And frankly speaking riding the Vespa is more challenging on many levels than any motorcycle I have had the opportunity to ride. In the end though it's riding that's the key for me.
Several times, almost like a scene from Then Came Bronson, I have been asked where I was headed on the Vespa. My response --- "Oh, I don't know...wherever I end up, I guess."
And that's the truth.