Sunday, January 27, 2013

Vespa Calvary

It was a long time coming but finally after six weeks on the road, traveling from Mason City Iowa to California and back to South Florida I got the word my Vespa was ready to be delivered. We arranged to meet at McDonalds in Florida City. I set off at four in the afternoon and by the tI e I reached the 18mile Stretch the sun was going down. It looked good from the bridge even if snapping a picture underway meant I couldn't avoid the power poles...

I flew to Mason City last September to pick up this restored 1979 Vespa 200 but the restoration fell short and the piston burned a hole in the first twenty mile test ride I took. Luckily there's a restoration shop where the previous owner should have gone for the start had he been more interested in riding than fiddling, and they agreed to replace the piston and cylinder and the ship it on. That added $450 to the original price of $2500 and through a shipping brokerage called uShip I agreed to lay $550 for a no hurry delivery.

I was worried when I went to get my new scooter, the fates have been conspiringbtomkeep me separated from my nostalgic desire for a P200, a scooter I round around the US and Mexico in 1981. I was hinge to get a low cost ride to do the bulk of my commuting and save my prematurely aged Bonneville from adding another 70,000 miles in the next five years. My cross country trip was a great success and mechanically speaking it was remarkably trouble free. I was 23 and the Vespa was brand new, purchased in Brooklyn and ridden to San Francisco via Guadalajara. The picture was taken by me of me at the Tropic of Cancer in Mexico's central mountains.

Well, there it was, on the flatbed trailer in the parking lot while the driver Carol was getting something to eat.

I did not allow myself to get my hopes up even though everything was as I left it.

I had never heard of uShip until the Vespa shop recommended it. It's an online brokerage service that connects independent drivers with people needing to move stuff. Carol has hundreds of positive recommendations and she usually moves animals which struck a chord in Cheyenne's owner. We unloaded the Vespa without incident which should come as no surprise as she had much larger machines including a six cylinder classic Kawasaki 1300 KZ on the trailer as well as a Kawasaki 500 2 stroke which reminded me of Jack Riepe and his tales of riding its big brother the 750 triple.

Carol has been doing this for four years after quitting a career as an electrician. Based in southwest Florida she goes back and forth to California picking stuff up and hauling it. The whole arrangement seemed a bit iffy compared to the kind of less-than-load trucking I used to do it I was feeling like I had got away with something that had worked out.

With the Vespa unloaded all I had left to do was release the code from uShip that in turn released her pay and take the key and off I'd go. While Carol looked for the key in her little box I loaded the Vespa onto my trailer. That was when a worn out little old man came up asking if in as from around here. I said I was from Key West and he lit up. Of course he was scrounging and my heart sank. So much for self reliance. He needed "gas" money and I needed a prop to hold the scooter up while I strapped it down. So much for self reliance! We made a mutually agreeable pact and as I know how to strap motorcycles down it took just a few minutes.

That was when I went back to Carol with the code to release the money which I had located previously and transcribed onto the notes page of my phone. I think ahead and like to be organized. Carol not so much. My key had gone missing from her chaotic little box of keys, titles, buttons and paper clips. Fuck me!

"I think I know where it is."

"Good I'll go and get it now" I replied thinking it was ather last stop in Boca Raton.

"It's in Texas, I think." Shit! I was about to get into a high holy state of righteous anger but she wasn't worth it.

"When did you drop off a motorcycle in Texas?" I asked after a moment's cogitation and speculation about the penalty from strangling her sorry ass.

"In November," she replied. Which told me she hadn't a clue where my key was. She picked the Vespa up in December. Sod this. Sod everyone. I drove off key-less.

Cheyenne and I got home without incident, apart from the cretin in a van who dislike being passed by a Vespa in a trailer who felt a need to cut me off from time to time. I was struck by the irony thatbi had misplaced my car keys when I came to leave the house to pick up the scooter. I had checked the trailer, had the bearings greased, checked the lights and hooked everything up in advance of the call to head north. So I then proceeded to drop the keys in the darkest corner of my courier bag...I found them soon enough but I never misplace keys, thats the sort of thing that drives me mad. Now I was coming home with a scooter with a new engine but no damned key!

It turns out its easy to jury rig a key for this model of Vespa and with a little work I managed to create my own replacement much to my surprise. Getting the engine to start after six weeks essentially parked in the open was a little tougher but persistence and a little telephonic help from GreenTree scooters in Iowa got my bike unflooded and running loudly and smokily winthe familar two stroke pop-pop-pop. Now when she's run in let's see if she will break 60mph on US Highway One as she should, which would make her an ideal commuter. This story isn't yet over.


Anonymous said...

There is a show on TV, not that you would watch it, called Shipping Wars (Discovery channel I think). It follows several U-Ship transporters as they move various loads around the US. Your lucky your Vespa made it in one piece. Have a blast. Scooter Vic

bayrider said...

That's a sweet scooter for sure. But that Kawasaki triple brings back some memories, my first bike was the 1972 350 version, a beautiful bike and crazy fast for it's time. It was pure dynamite fun although I spent a lot of time adjusting the 3 sets of points (and going to traffic court). I always loved the 2 stroke street bikes.

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