By Melissa Reese
It's painted a lovely, dark greenish-blue with an opalescent topcoat. It has a saddle seat as well as a buddy seat, just in case I may want to take a lucky passenger along for the ride. There's a rack on the front for extra cargo.
My beautiful Italian scooter didn't originally look like this, though. I had finally scraped together enough money to buy myself the dream Vespa I'd always wanted, and I managed to find one for almost next to nothing. I don't think the gentlemen I bought it from realized he could have gotten more for it, as it belonged to his father who had passed away.
When I first got it, it was a beat-up factory orange, and it had a fairing mounted on the front. That was the first thing I took off when I got it home. That big gaudy windshield was not for me. I wasn't too thrilled with the color, either, so my pops helped me rattle-can it red. We did a fine job of it too, for spray paint, polishing it off with a clear topcoat and all. I rode it around like that for quite a few years before having it professionally repainted. It was only 150 CCs, but I could still get the speed up to around 60 mph, which isn't too shabby for two tiny 10" tires.
There came a time when my scooter was my only transportation. I would drive it to work at the music store and park it on the sidewalk out front where I could keep an eye on it. One day, I came out to find a flier on it for an upcoming vintage scooter rally. I was stoked! This was a chance to meet other Vespa lovers! Up to that point, the only person I knew with a Vespa was my roommate at the time. I convinced her to come with me to check it out. It was October in Seattle, which meant it would be cold and potentially wet, so we bundled up and headed out.
There we were, chatting with 20 or so other "scooterists" before heading out for a ride. The weather had turned pretty nasty during the ride, and we found ourselves caught in an insidious downpour. The water was pelting our faces like millions of tiny needles. Barely able to see, the entire group of riders was forced to take shelter under the awning of a roadside business and wait it out. That experience was enough to dissuade my roommate from wanting to attend future scooter rallies. I, on the other hand, had found the collective smell of two-stroke fuel and the buzzing of the many synchronized motors intoxicating. I was ready for more.
Soon after that, another good friend of mine had decided to buy a Vespa as well. I was giddy since this now meant I would have a partner in crime to attend rallies with. I taught her how to ride, and we were off to our first Canadian scooter rally. The Friday night was the traditional meet and greet -- a chance to grab a few beers with friends and buy a rally pack for the weekend containing a patch and other goodies. The following day consisted of a show-n-shine and gymkana to show off our bike and riding skills if we were so inclined, and the evening was filled with drinking and dancing to Ska and ë60s music late into the night. The last day brought forth a long ride followed by a barbeque as well as a raffle. It took a little while to break
into the tight-knit little groups; but, eventually we started forming friendships with some of the other riders, and many of them I am still friends with today.
My friend and I attended many rallies together over the years -- from Seattle to Vancouver to Victoria, B.C. to Portland. Both of us eventually met our future husbands during scooter rallies. My husband being an avid scooterist and scooter mechanic led to many more rallies for me. Together, he and I attended rallies in San Francisco, San Diego, Denver, Colorado Springs, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. We even attended a EuroVespa many years ago that was held in Hamburg, Germany -- the craziest number of scooters I have ever seen! The city blocked traffic for us one of the days so that we could parade our scooters through the streets. If you were unlucky enough to be a driver on one of the side streets, you had to sit there and wait a full hour for all the scooters to pass.
Over the years, our obsession with these vintage Italian motorbikes led us to many other cities and countries, including Vespa's birth place, Italy. We have formed life-long bonds with people from all over the world. We have friends spanning from Vancouver, Canada, to New York, London, and Australia, simply because we all share a passion for the same thing.
Looking back now, I can't even recall why I had such a love for the old scooters; I guess I just always liked the way they looked. Regardless of the reason, the love of scooters brought my husband and I together more than 20 years ago. Although we haven't really been actively involved in the scooter scene for quite some time, I just can't bear to part with my scooter and probably never will. (I may, however, leave it to our daughter one day if she's lucky.)
I will certainly never let go of the memories of all the years of tomfoolery and camaraderie that came from our involvement in scootering. It's mind-boggling to think of just how different my life would be today had I never bought that 1979 orange Vespa 150 Super for $400. There's a rally in Vegas next month. Perhaps we will go....
Photo courtesy of Melissa Reese