Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer Dreams

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.


Anonymous said...

I love the looks of the scrambler. Well, everything but those pipes.

Ahem...Are you saying that those feelings never leave? You know, the yearning to tell your boss to screw off, hope on a bike and see the world?

If so, maybe I'll skip the whole "career" thing. Heck, maybe the whole "marriage/kids" thing too while I'm at it. :) I mean why deny it?

Matt Hoefler said...


I have a question for you. I noticed back in one of your old post you said you wore armored pants when you ride. In another more recent post you said you just wear jeans when you ride. Do you still wear armored pants? What kind of safety gear do you wear these days?

P.S. Sorry this does not relate to the post, but I didn't want to wait until you make a post on safety gear to ask.

Thank you,

Anonymous said...

My husband tells me that we saw you on Saturday on Westerly Parkway. He reads your blog and told me about you. He swears I need a scooter for my commute to PSU. I still fear I might kill myself on anything with two wheels more powerful than my Huffy Luna "Comfort Bicycle" (with all 6 gears). Anyhoo, when he said, "that was Scooter in the Sticks" I have to admit that I was wildly enthralled and excited! So ride on, Scooter in the Sticks...ride on! And if I ever join your ranks, would you mind if I wrote a blog called "Scooter with Tits"? (No offense if tits is offensive to anyone...I just think it's hilarious...sticks...tits...kind of rhymes...oh never mind.)

eldercattus said...

I became a DINK on FIRE about 4 years ago (Dual Income, No Kids - Financially Independent, Retired Early). I bought a Suzuki Burgman 650 about 2 years ago (a big scooter for a BIG guy - I'm 6'8"). I wouldn't want to part with it short of the Second Coming. Before that, it was a Vespa P200E, in Texas & NJ.

Steve Williams said...

anonymous: For me, the desire for solitude and time alone has never left. It took a long time though to see that it was not just desire but a necessity to be happy.

It doesn't preclude work and family though---just part of a balance that makes up my life. Riding has become an important aspect.

Matt: I almost always ride with full protective gear from head to toe. When the temperature nears 90 degrees though my Tourmaster Overpants are just too hot and I will ride in long jeans or pants for short errands or to work. I plan to order mesh armored pants today. I really like the idea of some padding on my knees and hips.

The rundown from head to toe is:

Full helmet
Armored jacket
Riding gloves
Armored pants
Leather, over the ankle boots

I always wear that stuff except for the pants as indicated. On any long trip I wear it all including the pants regardless of temperature.

anonymous: your husband is right---a scooter makes a fun commute. You should stop by Kissels to have a look. With a blog title like that I'm sure you'll have some traffic!

eldercattus: Sounds like you are set up for some serious riding. The Suzuki Burgman 650 sounds like the perfect scooter for you at 6'8". Can't imagine you on a P200E!

Glad your run on 322 went well. Did you go all the way to Cleveland?

Dakar Rider said...

Great post Steve. I am familiar with the need to have time alone. I love my family and look forward to going to work but a measure of solitude is an essential ingredient for me.

It makes me a better husband, father, and worker.

While I ride a bigger machine than your Vespa the spirit of almost every post you make sings of a rider's heart. Thanks for sharing here at Scooter in the Sticks.

Kano said...

I had forgotten about "Then Came Bronson", what a great show! That show had a big influence on me too. A friend and I used to ride little scooters back then called "Tote Goat" back and we imagined ourselves as Bronson and pretended that we were him.

I started a new blog and have put up a link to yours because I enjoy your writing and subject matter.

pitchertaker said...

From a Clint Black song: "Wherever you are, there you are." It's the journey, not the destination. I spent the night in Raton, NM, which as late as yesterday morning, was not on my agenda.


Anonymous said...

Great blog and photography Steve,

I ride a Granturismo, and commute to work about 35 miles a day. With longer rides and the muggy I've found that the normally comfortable seat (I'm pretty sure its the same as the GTS) is, well, prone to chafe the derriere. Anyone out there had any problems with that, or advice on how to deal with that?


Vince Stevens said...


It just gets better and better. Funny how riding brings out old associations with just about every aspect of your life, past, present, and future.


American Scooterist Blog said...

I see that Triumph and I think back to that first Kawi 250 enduro. My wife and I have always been Triumph fans and she almost bought herself one before the kids came along. I think it was called a Legend or something?

Anyway, I agree with you on needing the solitude. Might be a reason I prefer riding at night. A rider is really alone at those hours. Nothing but the night creatures to think about. Oh, and the ginormous damn watering systems the farms use. Like the one that sprayed me last night. Another great post and imagery.

Vino Guy said...


Your photos just get better all the time. Must be age.

Steve Williams said...

dakar rider: Thanks for the kind words and support. I feel exactly the same about the way riding makes me a better person. It works that way because I end up paying more attention to life.

kano: Then Came Bronson was just a great show. I suspect it influenced a lot of young and impressionable future riders.

The motorcycle blogging world needs a philospher! I will add your Moto Philospher blog to my list of links. Your latest adventures with an old Honda Trail 90 are great. I remember riding one of those through the neighbor's hedges when I was but a lad...

Pitchertaker: Your adventures always marvel me. Nice mental place to be when you can just be wherever you are.

KM: I can relate to the backside issues on hot, muggy days. My riding pants don't help but make it worse. Even when riding in jeans it can be bad. It's probably one of those "personal" problems that no one wants to talk about. In a whisper you might hear "He's having rider problems...."

vince: Exactly! Riding just opens the mind up to all sorts of things.

roadbum: I enjoy night riding as well though hardly every do it. When I do it is usually an errand and not on any wonderfully isolated roads.

We don't have irrigation in this neck of the woods so I don't have to cope with spray. That would be a nasty surprise to ride into at night. At least they are not spraying manure....

vino guy: Are you saying I am like fine wine....? Thanks for your kind words about the photos. I believe anyone's photography will get better with practice. I shoot a lot and each picture I take helps the next one.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous....For your derriere problem I suggest you check out Corbin Motorcycles Seats in California.They are on the internet and they offer a nice seat for the GT Vespa series with foam that molds to your posterier and real leather seat inserts to help eliminate hot butt syndrome.I may be getting one for my GT200! said...

Dave King.
But you know, hope I don't disillusion you too much. But it was not Steve Mcqueen who jumped the fence, I'm sure that he could have done it. But with movie stars and insurance, the directors would not allow it.
At the same time the movie was being made, the I.S,D.T. was being held in Bavaria, I believe Steve McQueen was taking part in it also. But they called on a guy by the name of Bud Ekins to do the filmed jump, he was also competing in the I.S.D.T.