There’s nothing magical about a Vespa scooter sitting in the driveway. It could easily be another scooter or a motorcycle. The magic comes with riding. And over the years I’ve discovered that the quality of the ride has more to do with what’s going on between my ears than it does with the route or landscape through which I ride.
The act of riding itself pays dividends. I find myself embracing life as a Vespa rider.
One would think that now that I’m retired I would be chalking up hundreds and thousands of miles on the scooter — filling my time with riding. This hasn’t been the case. That time has been filled not only with riding the Vespa scooter, but with myriad other explorations and tasks. The absence of work has beckoned to be filled with something else. What that is has yet to be determined.
Morning is my favorite time to ride. There’s an energizing quality to the light and air, regardless of weather, that sparks the spirit in a positive way. Dark thoughts or anxieties are often swept away as the tires spin over the pavement.
On this morning I was heading nowhere. The goal, the desire was to fly through for a little while and see what was happening in the world. As the Vespa stood in the driveway in the morning sun I could feel that familiar excitement that comes as I near the scooter. I still can’t believe how I feel after all these years and so many miles.
Adventure has been co-opted by advertisers and marketers. For riders of bicycles, scooters and motorcycles it’s come to mean expensive and time consuming challenges that precludes the possibility of anything more simple, direct and accessible. Once you’re convinced that adventure can only happen far from home then it’s no wonder that what’s actually available on a daily basis seems boring and tedious.
I remember the utterly satisfying adventures I had as a kid in the woods behind my house. Or on bicycle rides into town just a few miles away. The bus trips into Pittsburgh at 10 years old where I spent the entire day in department stores, Army surplus stores and lunch at a White Tower.
Now, as I descend into my senior years, it’s thrilling to reacquire that perspective and be able to find adventure in any sort of ride.
I was riding into town to return a library book. A six mile ride as the crow flies. The kid in me turned it into a 25 mile trip as I rode south under a brilliant sun.
The tall corn that lines many of the roads in the valley signal the approach of autumn. There’s a scent in the air, even on a warm morning, that signals fall. I feel it strongly. There’s a sense of loss or decay on the horizon. Perhaps it’s the change in light. Or maybe the thrum of a natural rhythm.
I love these roads and the views they offer. The ride is luxurious in a way that reflects the slowing of my thoughts until my mind seems in sync with the motion on the road. If I would ever say I become one with the ride — this would be it — embracing life as a Vespa rider.
Change is everywhere. Even in the bright sun there’s a melancholy feeling seeing places I’ve watched for years decay and disappear. Buildings, trees, icons of the place I live give way to something new. Riding has allowed me to stay attuned to those changes and better understand the rhythm of life. Everything has a beginning, a middle and ultimately an end.
Part of my blogging absence of late can be attributed to a renewed interest in photography. Outside of my professional work or images of the Vespa, I’ve lost my way with any personal work. For years now, about the time I stopped shooting film, I’ve not been working with the camera. It’s an odd, personal dilemma that I won’t go into now aside from saying that personal work has it’s own rhythm and style much like riding. And the machines involved either resonate or they don’t.
After I parted with my Leica M6 camera my personal work stopped. I’ve had the X-Pro1 for a week now and have felt the magic again. It’s as close to the M6 experience as I could ever hope. Shooting is simple, relaxed and fun again. Make no mistake, the X-Pro1 is quirky and takes some time to learn to use. But the images it makes, even as a 5 year old technology are technically stunning.
This old building stands along a road I pass frequently. I finally stopped and photographed it knowing it might disappear at any time.
An hour after leaving home I get to the library to return a book. The errand was an adventure. I saw many things and felt good in the process. The ride was a small act of meditation. Riding slow, taking in each moment on the road, the scenes I pass through, allows me to become grateful for the experience in a way that’s lost if I just rush through the experience.
None of this is meant to diminish the heady excitement of a big trip. Those grand adventures can have profound effects on the riders who make them. But so to can the little rides. For those who, for whatever reason, can’t go on grand adventures, satisfaction awaits on the little rides as well. It requires practice and intention. But it’s there for those who want it.
Embracing life as a Vespa rider, or almost most any other kind of rider, is worth the investment. For me at least.