Among other reasons, I ride to relax. On the quiet rural roads near my home, I can pilot the scooter along and breathe in the landscape — through my eyes, ears and nose. The sensory tapestry created as the Vespa rolls along is rich and seductive. On this morning I only planned a short ride; too much tennis ball play with the dogs had me on the road later than normal. An early afternoon engagement meant a short ride.
There’s something about the Vespa scooter that brings childish behaviors to the surface. On the empty roads I find myself weaving the scooter back and forth like a bird swooping over a field. The Vespa moves effortlessly, to and fro, in a hedonistic ritual I practice more than I like to admit.
A funny thing happens when I go for a short, quiet ride on the scooter. Like eating potato chips, it’s hard to stop after one or two. My intention to ride a few miles to unwind and head home was being undermined by “one more mile” thinking. There’s always one more little road, one more reach before heading home.
For the first time I sensed the coming of fall during the ride. Here and there leaves were beginning to turn color and some of the late summer flowers were blooming — Chickory and Milkweed. And the cicadas were droning their late summer hymns. The slow rides turn into a series of slow stops where five miles of travel is a major accomplishment.
This is home. It’s the place I accidentally chose to live.
I suppose I know that I’m not going to do a short ride long before I consciously admit it. Choice after choice, I get farther from home. When I decide to ride “a little farther” to Poe Valley State Park I’ve jumped off the diving board.
I’m going to get wet.
It’s been 25 years or more since I’ve come this way. Never on two wheels. I knew the approach used to be dirt and gravel but surely by this time the roads were paved. Without maps and dwindling cell coverage I started up the mountain toward the park.
Had I stayed on the main road to the park I would have arrived in 15 minutes and wandered home on schedule. But I was seduced by a sign with an arrow promising “Vistas.” Just as it’s hard to pass a fine diner or opportunity for a good donut, the chance to take in a vista is more than I can resist.
Riding along what seems to be the valley floor through a darkening forest and narrowing road I’m no longer sure where I’m going. There’s no cell coverage and I haven’t seen another vehicle or person for 40 minutes. The road is smooth with only occasional spots than require extra attention.
So on I go on dirt, gravel and eventually upwards toward the ridge top and the promise of vistas.
Even with the haze, Penn’s View Overlook is breathtaking. Call me a sucker for rooms with a view. Wandering around the ridge and rock outcrops I’m wishing I had binoculars. Or had packed a lunch and sit for awhile and eat. When you lie to yourself about short rides you’re unprepared for the consequences of your actions sometimes.
Wishing for a map and trying to remember where things were located was a futile exercise. With plenty of fuel and a workhorse Vespa, seemed appropriate to continue ahead in hopes I would arrive somewhere familiar.
The feeling of being lost is exquisite. Or so I tell myself.
Some roads seem robust and well traveled. As I made my way down off the ridge and continued on I could not help notice the road turning into two tracks and evidence of traffic getting smaller and smaller. Still no cell coverage, no signs and only a vague sense of where I hoped I was going — on I went.
Nothing like scooter adventure.
Should have suspected a poorly spelled sign meant trouble. Or that a Vespa scooter isn’t a Baja dirt bike screaming for a change to pound along a bad road. Magical thinking whispered, “How bad could it be?”
And just like that I started down a steep, rough road on my Vespa adventure scooter.
Alone, without cell coverage, hot and exhausted from muscling the scooter over large rocks and obstacles, I began thinking about my conversation with Kim regarding the purchase of a Gen3 Spot Tracker.
The photograph doesn’t do a very good job depicting the steepness of the road or the difficulty of the terrain. Too tired to do a good job with the camera, and too difficult to stop for pictures on the steeper and near impassable sections, I had to just keep going and hope nothing broke.
The little tires aren’t made for this kind of riding. The only magic I saw is there were no flat tires.
This was a relatively tame section of road. The rocks were large but there was a lot of room to move between them. But in some places I had to muscle the scooter over a big rock and hope nothing crashed through the bottom of the engine. And twice as the scooter lurched over a rock and into loose gravel below I had to use divine assistance to kept the scooter upright and not break an ankle or leg.
Still no cell coverage.
Down the mountain, through two switchbacks, over countless too large rocks I finally made it to Poe Paddy State Park and the relative splendor of a normal gravel road. Surprisingly, the only thing that broke on the scooter was the glue gave way on the left heated grip — I would have to reglue onto the handle bars. All the pulling and muscling of the machine was more than the glue could endure.
Not quite home free, a short but pleasant stretch of gravel, then freshly paved road, and then more gravel and dirt until I reached US 322. Wasn’t shooting pictures or doing much of anything else. Just riding on home to have some lunch and give thanks that I didn’t break anything on the scooter or me.
The Vespa scooter is not an off-road machine. This ride proved that even with aggressive tires, the suspension and tire size would make this kind of riding painfully slow and difficult.
Still, I survived the scooter in the rocks.
Wonder what will be next?