Sunday, February 17, 2013

Stranger in a Strange Land

Hot tea, a pen and small notebook provide company until friends arrive at Saint's Cafe on Sunday morning.  Familiar rituals, touchstones, reminders along the road which makes up a life.  And until recently a ride on the Vespa played an important part.

The morning sun and blue sky was strong enough to have me thinking about sunglasses instead of the scattered snow showers predicted.  Last night the desire to ride was strong, insistent, whispering until I found myself on my daughter's Yamaha Vino under a sliver of moon just before midnight.

Silent and waiting in the garage the Vespa still suffers from a simple mechanical failure.  Soon, soon I'll make that repair.

Winter remains on the road in the form of gravel and grit, just part of the additional risk a rider must consider in cold weather.  Walking the dog before the ride an argument grew in my head between the rider experience in sub-freezing travel and a stranger who questioned the wisdom of riding a scooter at 19F.  With a mental hand gesture I left it behind and soon found myself on the road again if only for a short ride into town.

Saint's Cafe on a frigid morning, a cold world outside well seen through freshly washed windows.

Something was different this morning, I felt a stranger to this frigid world.  The expected rush didn't come, only the noise of the earlier mental arguments. Maybe it was just the cold but I felt oddly mortal standing on the gravel lane when I recalled a line from Robert Heinlein's book Stranger in a Strange Land: "There is no safety this side of the grave."

I need to remember that.


Robert Wilson said...

It's funny you should mention that odd feeling. Back on 12/21/12 I had an accident. I remember feeling a weird sensation that maybe, just maybe I should not be on the bike that day. That something was just "off."

After that day I've not had that feeling...but if I get it again I'm simply not going to ride.

In your case I think it might be the need to get your Vespa back up and running. It's calling to you.

Charlie6 said...

Steve, it's guilt, what you're're Vespa is getting impatient. It's not the same, riding someone else's ride when things are iffy outside. :)


Charlie6 said...

Dang it, sometimes autocorrect can be annoying, I of course meant you Vespa not that you are a Vespa.

bob skoot said...


I like the Vino, I liked the Vino parked across the gravel road (it's so you), but I loved the striping of the black & white lines of the awning and all those vertical lines of the glass and the reflections . . .

Riding the Wet Coast

Dar said...


I think we all have those unsettling moments, I tend to heed them and stay off my bike.

Love the little vino - that is the bike I originally wanted, but because of not being licensed I ended up on the 50cc blue vino. Beautiful pictures as usual.

Steve Williams said...

Robert Wilson: The older I get the more closely I listen to feelings -- they exist for a reason and are worth exploring. Often though they are not what they seem on the surface.

The Vespa makes me feel guilty when I squeeze past it to get birdseed for the feeders.

Steve Williams said...

Charlie6: (Dom) Regret maybe but not guilt. And you're right about the Vino not being my ride -- there is nothing for me like that Vespa.

Steve Williams said...

bob skoot: Funny thing, I have never felt uncomfortable with a camera in front of me. I feel indestructible and that effect probably accounts for how war photographers can do what they do.

I remember climbing to the top of a tall, industrial smokestack to make photos and how the sense of height vanished when I put the camera to my eye. Or walking along the boom of a crane to photograph the launch of a ship, shooting along the way, feeling as if I was walking along a narrow sidewalk instead of a honeycomb of steel and air.

Riding though, I don't feel indestructible. Confident yes, experienced, but always mortal. I suppose that's a good thing on the road.

Steve Williams said...

Dar: The Vino is really nice and a capable machine around town and on long trips for a rider with patience.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve:

Who is this person writing this blog? Who is this man citing thoughts of mortality?

I have several thoughts on the blog episode you have just written, and I intend to share them.

1) I have often wondered if riders ever got omens, and listened to them. On three occasions, I got a feeling of dread, that my number was up. I crashed on every one of those occasions. (One story about this is carried in the current BMW MOA magazine.) Two out of these three experiences were compliments of cars, driven by assholes. I could have gone back to the garage or the hotel that day. But that would not have been a valid choice. I'd have had to sell the bike. I had no choice but to ride, and to do what I wanted to do that day.

2) Is the garage heated? If not, just bring the Vespa into the kitchen, and fix it. Do it next Saturday. Start at first light. Allow yourself to think of two other things before working on the bike. (Your wife and the dog.) Get your wife a muffin and hot tea. Get the dog a bowl of Purina gruel. Do not mix this up. Work on the bike. Working on the bike (for you) will be like working on yourself. Once the the Vespa is running, you won't think about this again.

3) Is there a table at Saint's Cafe that faces the counter area, where the pretty waitresses work? Can this be reserved? I am researching this for a sick friend.

Fondest regards,
Jack Riepe
Twisted Roads

Steve Williams said...

Dear Mr. Riepe: This post was written by my more thoughtful alter ego Juno. He surfaces now and again but until now has shown no interest in writing.

Omens are to be respected according to Juno. Your experience bears out that position.

The garage is not heated and the weather forecast holds little hope for any warming of the world. The kitchen would be a nice alternative but it would interfere with my cooking. So the Vespa will wait. I'll surprise everyone with it's sudden reappearance on the road.

No reserved seating at Saint's Cafe but tell your friend to get there by 8:30am and the choices are wide. I can't comment on the view, it only goes as far at the cup of tea and bagel sitting before me.

Anonymous said...

Cher Steve,
Je suis français et je ne comprends pas beaucoup la langue anglaise mais ton blog est génial et les photos superbes. Tu as le même état d'esprit de la route que moi. Tes aventures me donnent envie de reprendre le scooter et de laisser la moto...
Continue comme ça et ne change rien...

Anonymous said...

The sooner you make those repairs the better, winter will be over soon and that riding urge will kick in. Get working, you don't want to kick yourself for not repairing it on time :)

Dunlop Motorcycle Tires said...

Winter is not good for riders because there are lots of risk to consider like the gravel on the road.

Ski ShrimpRun said...

If your travels ever take you up to Maine, we are having a scooter rally here this summer. Lots of vintage vespas plus many other makes and models will be in attendance. Let us know if you are interested and want some more info. We would love to have you :)

maestro said...

Dear Steve,
Tonight I finished several months of pure enjoyment (along with education and entertainment) as I read the last post of "Scooter In The Sticks", having now read all the way from your first post in 2005. I want to thank you for your wonderful photos and insightful observations. Perhaps you will understand my appreciation more when you realize that I am where you were, when you began the blog -- a new Vespa rider, waiting for my first bike and first Vespa (a 300 Super) to arrive at the dealership sometime this month. Your blog has been a wonderful vicarious substitute for the real thing, and I have so many times looked at the photos and imagined myself beside that Vespa. Moreover, your positive review of the 300 as a good beginner bike had a big hand in confirming my purchase. I want to especially thank you for sharing the sometimes brutally honest way you look at yourself, because that really helps me to realize the risk -- and rewards -- of riding, and the responsibility I have to appreciate every day as the gift that it is. I also feel like part of the family now, that I could meet you at Saints Cafe and be completely comfortable, or that I could find my way around the byways of central PA -- thanks to your excellent work over the past 8 years. Also, I feel I am better prepared for the whole riding experience, having read your blog. So, a heartfelt thanks, along with enthusiastic encouragement that you continue to post your photos and musings. I hope you are well and that your Vespa is soon on the road again. Let us know the next time you are in Ogunquit and I will loan you a Vespa for your stay! Thanks so much for everything.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve,

Once again I am posting to a blog that is over a month old. I had the same experience when I posted to my own tonight.

Rumor has it that you are reluctant to venture out in the fluffy bunny slippers you got for Valentine's day. I'm afraid that does sound like you.

I am telling the truth about my encounter with a redhead next week. Could my experience apply to all redheads? I am going to give that impression.

Fondest regards to you and Kim...
Jack Riepe
Twisted Roads

Steve Williams said...

Laurent: Thank you for the kind words of support. I am happy you find some use from the things I write. Life on a Vespa is sweet.

And my weak attempt at French:

Merci pour les paroles aimables de soutien. Je suis heureux de que vous trouver certains utilisent des choses que j'écris. Sur une Vespa, la vie est douce.

Steve Williams said...

Ski ShrimpRun: Thanks for the invite to the scooter rally. You never know where a Vespa might take you!

Steve Williams said...


Wow -- reading everything on Scooter in the Sticks is pretty impressive. I shudder to think what might be there in years pasted. I'm glad you found some enjoyment.

Having read everything you probably recognize the changes I went through in regard to riding and how I started seeing the ride differently. And of course a lot of the pure joy that can be plucked from time on the road.

Please share from time to time how things develop with your new Vespa GTS300. The weather in Maine is probably just about to break into a grand invitation to ride.

I'm especially glad that you've been able to think about what it means to be a rider. So many people I run into seem to think of a scooter as a glorified bicycle and embark with little understanding of what lies ahead. A smart, informed rider is the safe rider.

Thanks for the kind offer in regards to visiting Ogunquit. It's been a few years now since our last stay at the Beachmere. Everytime though I think I should put the Vespa on a rack and bring it along.

Thanks again for your kind, kind words of support.

Steve Williams said...

Dear Mr. Riepe: Your reminder triggered a new post. Still no Vespa riding but at least a whistle from the winter abyss.