It was one of those days when the light and atmosphere changed minute by minute. And to make things even more unpredictable I was riding for the first time with fellow Vespa rider, Andy Heckathorne.
Two Vespa scooters on the road.
Riding with another person, especially for the first time, is a bit unsettling. You’re letting someone into your personal space. And you have a choice of being yourself or to put on a facade.
For me, the biggest concerns I have when riding with someone else are my slow speeds due to rubbernecking and my desire to stop and take pictures.
Andy experienced a little of both.
Standing Along the Road
I feel guilty being myself on the road. I stop so often to look around, make pictures or jot down a few notes that I’ve convinced myself that I have to ride alone lest I drive any riding companion crazy. Especially when I stop to think where I just sort of stand along the road doing nothing. Sometimes for a long time.
Who wants to ride with someone like that?
I’m never sure what to do when someone wants to ride with me. Or what they expect. The things I write are personal and what I experience will likely be different than their experience. We’re each on a different ride with brief moments of connection.
Most often an unspoken connection.
Andy is a relatively new rider with under ten thousand miles on his Vespa GTS 300. We didn’t discuss how he decided on a scooter instead of the more common choice of motorcycle. Perhaps an aethetic prediliction related to being a graphic artist reverberated in the classic lines of the Italian Vespa. What I do know, judging by the images on his Instagram feed, is that he likes to explore.
New roads. New places.
The ride began in a heavy overcast. Riding feels more challenging when you’re not in a postcard. The changing light provides an endless reinvention of the beautiful places in central Pennsylvania. It’s a minor miracle that I ever park the Vespa. What struck me most during the ride were the dramatic shifts in atmosphere. The sky changed in brightness, hue and color. When we left I asked if he had rain gear — the gray gloom seemed to promise rain.
Moving southward through field and forest we merged from the darkness into a bright mist. Another shift in atmosphere where the threat of rain surrendered to the mysterious thrill of a landscape not fully visible or revealed — if only for a moment.
And then another change. Low light sweeping through an open forest suggested a grand awakening. Strange how those thoughts are tempered by a quiet voice whispering to me, “He’ll wonder what the hell you’re stopping for again.”
If Andy had those thoughts he kept them to himself and just went to work with his camera.
The light changed once, twice three more times. Each triggering another stop for pictures. On one stop Andy whispered the magic words — “I’m hungry.”
I suppose each of us has a word or phrase that triggers a Pavlovian response of some sort. “I’m hungry,” launches me in a flight toward food. An odd reaction considering the pedestrian palate I have with little culinary desire for adventure. I’m content to eat the same thing over and over again.
But just like that, we were off to breakfast.
Even the stop for food at Diner 22 was part of a swirl of the elements. Dazzling sunlight and a clearing blue sky when we arrived only lasted for a short time. Fifteen minutes into breakfast and it was raining hard and I was thinking of Andy’s helmet hanging on the handlebars collecting water.
A fine mist in the air greeted us after breakfast. A gray sky formed overhead as we prepared to ride on. I pride myself on being prepared on the road. A scooter Boy Scout accounting for the common events a rider faces. But when Andy pulled out a clean white towel to dry the saddle of his Vespa I felt rough and uncivilized. Sure, I had wrenches and parts to replace exhaust gaskets and sparkplugs. But a towel to dry the seat?
I rode off with a dry ass.
Every ride has a half life — that point where desire to stop and make pictures crosses with my desire to get home. Our ride meandered along winding country roads and offered numerous opportunities to stop and look around. Andy and I never discussed a protocol if HE wanted to stop. For that I apologize. It doesn’t occur to me that others may see things they want to investigate.
This stop was made to inquire on next steps in the ride. We each had commitments later in the afternoon but I inquired if there was time for a stop at the Pump Station for something to drink and bring closure to the day on our Vespa scooters.
Portrait of a Vespa Rider
Andy made a portrait of me during the stop. More evidence that I appear to enjoy riding the Vespa. Photographic evidence of time on the road. Triggers of memories moving quickly into the past.
Still a rare sight–two scooters in the parking lot. And two events involving food on this ride. I often wonder if I would ride as much, or at all if there were no coffee shops or diners.
The frequency of stops these food stops is likely a testament to retirement and a release from the tyranny of regular employment. If only I knew a few years earlier.
He’s also a graphic artist at Penn State, husband, father and who knows what else. Not to minimize the complex nature of another person, but I have to say that one thing that stood out from the day together was his Fuji camera. More specifically, how it came to be his.
Andy had attended a big Adobe conference where everyone, EVERYONE in attendance received one of these cameras. To keep. For all the years I was at Penn State and the countless conferences I attended I must have been doing it wrong. I never got squat.
Oh, the things you learn while riding…