I have spent most of this summer bombing around on a Vespa. A contraption generally regarded for those of the feminine gland by men who feel the need for vehicular superiority. Surprisingly, I am not one of those men. I spent last winter fixing it up and might have been prone to doing laps around the theaters at night when the weather sucked and when no one else was in the building and deniability was more plausible. Damn those security cameras.
The thing about the new Vespas; they are faster than they look.
Ron didn’t hear me pull up to his shop. He knew I was coming but was startled when I walked in where he was slumped comfortably against his workbench with his phone on his lap watching a video. Usually I can be heard rumbling a decade away. Yet, there I stood, unannounced, helmet in hand, darkening his doorway. This was calculated, of course. I parked behind his van so he had to go outside to see the silver Italian beauty parked there.
I’d ridden a Vespa 60 miles to see him. That, somehow, was bloody hilarious to him.
Ron had recently restored a 1963 Chevrolet. It is red. I told him he needed to warm that high-compression racing engine up and prove he’s up for some real competition. Since car culture is a dominant pillar of our decades of friendship, he was left without a choice. I told him I would go first and he was to try to keep up. I waited until he was straightened out on the road behind me before I twisted the scooter throttle all the way. The revs went up and through a magnificently designed drive system, all of the twenty-two horsepower was sped to the Vespa’s rear wheel. I shot away. I heard the four-barrel carburetor under the Chevy’s hood suck a little more air as Ron came up on me, sporting seven more cylinders than my scooter’s single.
Ron is one of the finest non-professional drivers I know. There are very few people I would let get that close to the back of my scooter/car/motorcycle/hamster chariot at speed and not want to throw a handful of ball-bearings over my shoulder. The boy knows how to go fast and not kill anyone. It was due to his proficiency in the driver’s seat that I won this little race. Not only did Ron not know how fast my Vespa is out of the hole, he did not know mine had a top speed of about 75 mph. You see, Ron’s Chev had been meticulously restored to be almost indistinguishable from its condition on its first day on the showroom floor 53 years ago. However, I happened to know that the specific tires he needed to complete the restoration were hard to come by. Thus, he was using old tires that he would not risk taking up over 65 mph, lest they fragment and damage the restored quarter panels. My Vespa can do ten miles per hour more than the top speed of his old tires. So, I slowly walked away from an American muscle car on a 250cc Vespa.
There is a country church that seems like it’s in the middle of nowhere, which is where it is. It’s a very nice church surrounded by oaks and farms. We stop there when we can, in front of the white rail fence along the gravel road. It’s a summer place where the smells and the sounds and the birds and the combines all come together to remind you that, even if it’s just for an hour, summer can have its way with you. The air was perfect and we draped ourselves, perhaps a little too casually for Sunday on this Thursday, on the front steps, forgetting with gusto to watch our language. We have yet to see another saved or unsaved soul at that church. That being so, conversation ambled as we gazed out upon the unlikely duo: A 1963 Impala Super Sport with a built 327, and a 2007 Vespa GTS 250ie with an accessory power outlet. Both resting, teasing each other with their different styling and proportions, showing off a bit.