Sunday, March 20, 2016

Old Vespa. New Tricks

After a weekend spent in Miami dealing with the Great Exploding Egg Fiasco and sundry other amusements my wife went home Sunday afternoon to gird her loins for the teaching salt mines. Me being a shift worker was off till Tuesday night so I drove, as you do, to St Petersburg. Rusty came with me, it goes without saying. 
I have the best dog in the world (now that Cheyenne has gone to her reward) and he rode across the Sunshine State curled up in a ball on the back seat that used to barely accommodate my Labrador. There was room for three Rustys. We crossed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, always spectacular:
And stopped in the same place alongside the causeway where Cheyenne took a few rather splendid pictures in the past. 
I was not only hauling my dog and good self to St Petersburg, I was on a mission to deliver my new/old Vespa to the shop for one more go at  making a permanent fix to some running problems. I have a lot of experience with this rig and it works quite well:
The Vespa ran 5,000 rather uncertain miles with a couple of seizures. The last set me back and I couldn't figure what was wrong. I was stumped. Then I found out the former Sarasota dealer had set himself up as Vespa Servicing of Bradenton. He did a great job with my wife's modern Vespa after I lost faith in Vespa Miami and Jiri was falling out with his flakey partner on Stock Island at their former motorcycle shop. I was delighted to discover Darren could be the solution to my current Vespa problems as he loves vintage Vespas. Jiri hates two strokes and says if he worked on this scooter it would end up compromising our friendship!
Rusty had a grand time as always and he kept close enough I could let him trot around and work off some energy before we settled in for the night at yet another dog friendly La Quinta.
It was a pleasant interlude, under overcast skies and slightly muggy. Temperatures don't seem to bother Rusty at all despite his thick fur.
Next morning found us at Vespa Servicing, Darren's place a couple of miles inland from I-75 in Bradenton half an hour south from St Petersburg. Darren operates out of his home with a full workshop downstairs and a mobile van to service Vespas at people's homes. I wish I had someone who would come out to the house, change the oil and the belt and the tires and bugger off again. He says he has picked up most of his clients from his former life as a dealer, and I'm not surprised.
He gave me a coffee (it was eight o'cock in the morning) and I intended to high tail it out of there to be on Duval Street for an appointment at 4:30. Instead we got to talking and I was enjoying myself. He grew up in England like me but we talked of his dealership and how he got discouraged after the fiasco of 2008 and the difficulties of working with Piaggio who owns Vespa. Rusty was fascinated.
 Darren's own GS on the bench.
And a whole bunch of lost causes looking to return to the road. These old scooters need to be preserved because they aren't making these any more. Even the Indian Vespa lookalikes are now four stroke automatics even if they look very similar. 

Darren's home away from home. I rather envied him his wheels and the sound of six months exploring Colorado sounded good to me. But I'm glad he's back and working on Vespas. I'm pissed I need his help, the previous epic restore was supposed to end these capers, but I am hoping he can finish in proper style that which I started elsewhere, with the renovation of my long suffering Vespa. The work has begun.
The plan is to slightly modify the existing engine for more power without sacrificing the integrity of the design. Hopefully that will help me keep up with traffic on Highway One and I trust Darren can tune it properly which is beyond me. My wife kindly agreed to let me try this last experiment and if I remembered how to  genuflect I'd be praying this experiment works. The full power boost to 220cc was going to cost three grand roughly so that was deemed too much and I think Darren has found a good compromise for me. Slight power boost, better reliability at better than half the cost. Cool. 
 Back home we drove, arriving in 6 hours with a sleepy but perfectly composed little dog sleeping on the back seat. It was good to be back and I made my appointment with 45 minutes to spare. Keys Disease is a foreign concept for me.
 Rusty's reward was a serene mangrove walk until he was exhausted.
Home sweet home.