It’s obvious now why I post so little during the summer. I’ve grown intolerant of the heat.
Riding into town the other day with the temperature just above 90F, grumbling at the hot air pouring through my mesh riding jacket, visor up to let the wind blast away the hot air from heat-stressed lungs with little success, I was just miserable.
And as much as I love riding, there’s something sinister about midday heat that leaves me cold.
So imagine my thrill in the morning when I see the sun hidden by fog and a chance to escape the relentless heat with a little ride.
Standing at the end of the driveway it was apparent that any respite would require a gain in altitude if I wanted to get lost in a mysterious world. And that would mean riding up into Rothrock State Forest and gravel roads. Vespa riding on gravel brings it’s own special challenges.
There was just enough mist in the air to provide a pleasant transition from the bright sun on the valley floor to a cooler, and more visually compelling environment in the forest. Perhaps the most startling revelation of the entire ride was the fact that I did not see another vehicle or person for almost 2o miles of gravel road wandering. Even though I always knew exactly where I was and how close civilization loomed — that isolation provides a welcome escape from all things that chew on the soul.
It also reminded me that it might be time to consider a Spot Tracker. Riding alone as I do, often without letting anyone know where I’m going and sometimes without cell coverage, it may be a prudent investment just in case a deer bumps me off the road or my heart decides to fail.
As usual, I have no idea where I’m going and just follow the gravel trails without much thought. From time to time I ask myself where I’m going. There’s seldom an answer. Instead, I look around, walk around, shoot a few pictures and kick at the gravel with my boot bemoaning my neglect to bring any food along.
At one point I see a big Black Snake stretched across the road far enough to bring the Vespa to a halt so I can motivate him (or her) to be on their way. And handful of gravel tossed at the snake brings zero response.
“Huh. Must be dead.”
So I climb back on the scooter and ride pass the head of the poor dead guy. Only he’s not dead and suddenly rears up.
I don’t like snakes. That’s high adventure for me.
The Vespa scooter isn’t great with gravel. Especially not with normal street tires. I can manage 40mph in this stuff when pushed but the scooter feels pretty squirrelly at times, especially when you encounter a particularly thick spot and the tires seem to swim. Much lower speeds are far more comfortable but you’re still throwing stones up to chip away at the paint and the suspension takes a pounding that it was really never intended to endure.
A motorcycle with bigger wheels and more aggressive tires would provide a far more luxurious ride. But I’m still hammering away with the scooter.
One thing I’ll say after miles and miles of gravel travel on the Vespa — when you get on the pavement the scooter feels like it suddenly leaps into life and provides one of the smoothest, quickest feelings on two wheels I’ve ever experienced. Thinking about all the motorcycles I’ve ridden, few feel like the Vespa.
So off I go, heading toward breakfast and journal and happen to feel the wind cut through my riding jacket and provide even more release from the growing heat and humidity.