Thursday, March 12, 2015

Vespa Tea Break

I am developing the habit of taking a meandering ride in the afternoon, the scooter equivalent of a tea break from doing too much other stuff, a break from dumb bells, dogs, desktop computing, all of it. And deep on the south shore of Sugarloaf Key my Verizon signal fails pretty rapidly leaving me out of touch.
My phone may not work as a communication tool or as a hot spot but the camera keeps clicking away allowing me to play with the Vespa in heat that would stifle my dog, back home sleeping in the air conditioning. Sometimes I feel like the proverbial housewife with a need for some alone time, away from 911, podcast interviews, business letters, schedules and laundry baskets. The Vespa forces me to slow down, to baby the new piston, as this old style engine requires a gentle prolonged break in period.
I am forced to slow down and look at the cracks in the pavement, to think about how hot the sun is on a March afternoon, not yet Spring. It feels like summer in a sensible part of the world, but here because there is no humidity and a cool undercurrent of air it must be Winter. Setting the Vespa on its stand and standing on the foot boards I am a child again, seeking a new perspective, looking down from a great height.
Compared to the serious, frowning skater I feel like I am breaking the sound barrier as I putt-putt past at 40 kilometers an hour (24 mph). The speedometer on my Canadian model P200 is in Canadian miles per hour, rebuilt in California and by my GPS extremely accurate if you can translate kilometers to miles. I can as I grew up in both currencies and metric holds no secrets.
The skater slipped into my rear view mirrors and my misspent youth came back to me, the smell of the rubber floor mat the distinctive puttering of the two stroke motor and the clunk of the gear shifts; I was doing this in the summer of 1970 on the little orange Vespa 50 my mother bought me. She loved motorcycles and wanted me to grow into a rider. She let me ride all over the back roads near our home even though I was two years too young to be legal on the roads. I look back at that mad period in light of the modern obsession with being afraid and I am grateful that shortly before she died she showed me the way. And while I was being grateful I checked out the charming disregard for No Parking signs shown by the winter visitors. Were they to get a ticket I would expect a very indignant call at work from some annoyed tourist busy telling me they spend too much money in the Keys to be bothered following the rules. One thing I have learned is if you flout the conventions take your punishment like an adult.
Riding in shirt sleeves is a pleasure reserved for the foolish in our modern circumscribed safety world. Sometime you have to allow yourself to feel the sun on your skin, the wind ruffling your life just a little, immerse yourself in the moment. An old slow Vespa is a way to do that. 35 years of puttering hidden under that sheet metal frame. I wonder sometimes what is in its past, the way I look at Cheyenne and wonder what was in her past before the abandonment at the SPCA pound on Stock Island. The watery flats of Sugarloaf Key:
On the Overseas Highway I have no particular place to be other than at home to meet the wife back from work so I can stop and admire the view from time to time, get out of the traffic flow that finds my 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers) too slow in a 45 mph (70 kilometer) zone because I have surrendered my man card and elected to take to the road on a motorized shopping cart. So I pull over to admire the water and take a picture:
Time to get home and break out the teapot.