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May 27th, 2003

gently riding

"No 20-minute ride will tell you what the Vespa is about. Its virtue lies deep within the soul of the machine, only to be revealed to the patient rider who is willing to sacrifice a little automation. The Vespa isn't so slick, sterile, and easy-going that it lacks personality". ---M. Pierson, Rider Magazine, December 1986.

I remember during a trip to Victoria, British Columbia, when we rented scooters and headed up the island to Butchart Gardens. We had little Vespas, which cost very little to rent (I'll choose, but only barely, not to spend a paragraph on the Miracle of the Canadian Exchange Rate).

I prefer to drive automatics to standards, and my two wheel experiences largely stopped at bicycles and mopeds. So scootering on a manual-geared little scooter was an altogether new experience. My wife went to work on the editorial staff of a motorcycling magazine when she got out ot college, so she rides with ease.

We had what was to my point of view rather a hiccup at the outset.
We somehow got separated in city traffic, due to a red light and a variety of mix-ups. Victoria is not a large city, but it's large enough that one does not really enjoy circling the same few blocks, hunting for a fellow scooter. Fortunately, though, after a few moments of Three-Stooges-like missed connections at intersections,
we linked up again.

We headed out of town on a small road which ran by the coastline.
The ocean looked great as the scooters climbed a little incline.
Then we headed inland on a shady country road. The whole thing had rather a Mayberry, British Columbia feel to it. We rode at a gentle pace, drinking in the ambience.

The garden sat perhaps a half an hour ride away. We parked in the parking lot, which had a special scooter parking section. Then we went into the garden. Butchart Garden features an extremely diverse array of flowers, splashes of color everywhere. The garden makes a big point of not putting little signs everywhere, but instead of using an educational pavilion, because the main point of the garden is enjoyment, not education. We wandered past waves of flowers, bright reds, stunning blues, crisp yellows. We love public gardens, but we never yet acquired that "expert's" critical facility about flowers. We love to see them in bloom.

After a few hours, we hopped back onto the scooters. We began heading back to the city. Somehow we took a wrong turn, and got on a main highway. The scooters had governors on them that limited how fast they could go. The diesel trucks all around us did not have governors on them that limited how fast they could go. We had a few moments of fear as we rode gently in a harsh world of trucks.

Soon, though, we found a way off the highway. We turned in our scooters. I've never ridden a scooter in the years since, and I'm working up to getting my neglected bicycle tires pumped back full of air. But I like two wheel riding, particularly on country lanes,
and though it may be true I'll be doing mine non-motorized, it's also true that I'll definitely ride again.