As you probably guessed, by seeing some of the links on the sidebar and my avatar, I LOVE scooters. You know, the two-wheeled, gas-engine kind. Think Quadrophenia and Roman Holiday with the wind in your hair (or rather rushing past your helmet, of course), and feeling more in contact with your surroundings than a “cage” (aka four-wheeled vehicle) could ever allow you to feel…ever.

My Scooter Love affair started when I was sixteen-years old and never died. But the love affair had to be more of a crush, a fan-based crush, for twenty-four years, as I wasn’t allowed to obtain a scooter for various reasons. First, my parents feared, as any good parent would, that I would kill myself on two-wheels. Then, as I grew into adulthood, my worry replaced theirs and financial reasons got in the way. I drooled over others’ scooters, the green-eyed monster rearing its ugly head. And I could only dream about owning and riding my own. Or so I let myself think. The power of thought is a fantastic tool, for good or evil.

I had been to scooter rallies in the U.S. and the U.K., rode pillion (on the back) of scooters and motorcycles for years and then, finally, at forty-years old, I met a few local scooterists and decided that it was “now or never” time to purchase my own scooter. I had to or I felt like I was going to regret it until the day I died.

My cousin, Barb, lives her life to the fullest. While I was going through a personal crisis in my thirties, feeling like I was wasting my life, she told me that forty was even better and not to worry. She truly lives her life: rides a motorcycle; became the president and CEO of her family company; the first female president of the local contractors’ association; and goes on adventures when she can fit it in her busy schedule. She is an inspiration and an incredible woman. She was correct about turning forty.

Maybe my love of two-wheels also was ignited by my mother. I remember my parents going out into the wilderness, when I was a child, to ride dirt bikes with their friends. Mom’s dirt bike was purple, if I recollect correctly — with a matching, sparkly helmet, of course! Hey, it WAS the 70s! She often would let me ride on the back of her bike during short, slow, and safe rides.

Only having flashbacks of standing in a dusty clearing of the woods, waiting for the other riders to return, I had forgotten all about the riding along part. But one day — during my drive-everyone-to-insanity scooter search — she smiled, kind of chuckled and reminded me of those rides. Laughing, she said it was probably her fault that I had such a passion to find my OWN scooter, not just ride on the back.

Fast forward to 2004, I met and fell in love with a mod/scooterist in England at the first ever Modstock, while on vacation. He owned (still owns, hopefully) two beautiful scooters: a P-series, T5, 172Vespa and a Lambretta 200 Special (SX200),  both faithfully restored and GORGEOUS. Sadly, I only was allowed a few rides on the Vespa, as a pillion, before we parted ways. There are not enough words to describe riding through the English countryside, your arms wrapped around a cute guy, feeling connected and alive with everything whizzing past you. You can smell everything, feel the wind on your face, the rumble of the scooter below doesn’t hurt, and people SMILE at you as you ride by. Now try that with about a hundred scooters riding together, during a rally, and people stop and take pictures. It’s magic!


To be fair, my first ride on a scooter, as a pillion, was on my friend Nick’s Vespa. He named her “Vicky”. Cute, eh? Nick and I took off from his flat on a crisp, English morning and rode down some narrow, ancient streets, onto the motorway and made our way to a scooter get-together in the town centre of Birmingham. I still remember one stop where we had a quick snap taken by a couple of men standing on the sidewalk, and he leaned back a bit to yell over the engine’s loud putt-putt-putt, “Don’t you just love being a Mod?” I had the biggest grin on my face at that moment. Scooter LOVE! (Check out his amazing scooter art here. He takes commissions too!)
– Update 2012: Links broken – trying to get new info to link-up. If you would like the info now, remember Google is your friend.)

So, let’s head back to being forty-years old and driving everyone insane with my scooter passion.

My father (whom I worked for at the time, so he got an extra dose of the scooter insanity) once said, “If they cut open the top of your head right now, all they would find is a little track with scooters buzzing around on it.”
Very funny, dad, very funny!

But, in my constant droning on and on about scooters-this and scooters-that, I also got regaled with tales from people talking about the scooters from their youth. Some were even Mods way back when, or at least as close as they could be in the U.S. at the time. They always lit up when telling me about their Scooter Love. People also started telling that me they were thinking of buying a scooter too due to the cost of gas. It is amazing how many people have a story about or a love for scooters.

It was scooters, morning, noon and night with research consisting of reading Craigslist ads, Scoot.net, ScooterBBS (now Scoot Rally), ScooterDiva, Scooterlounge, StellaSpeed (now Scooter Central), and scouring the internet. American message boards, U.K. message boards, you name it and I have probably devoured every word on the site. Like I said, I was driving everyone insane!

My friend, Justin, at that time, owned two scooters a Vespa GL and a Lambretta (sorry, I can’t remember the models and years completely here). He introduced me to scooterists in my area – of all kinds: mods; general enthusiasts; hardcore riders and wrenchers. That gave me an opportunity, outside of scouring the web and my U.K. friends’ brains, to ask questions. I asked question, after question, after question of these folks. Thank goodness for their patience and knowledge.

I showed them pictures of scooters that I had my eye on and got their opinions. Stubborn as usual, insisting on wanting a vintage scooter, they wisely talked me out of it; to get my chops on something reliable first. But I didn’t want a “twisty” as the automatic scooters are referred to on the scene. The new Vespas, at the time, seemed nice and all, but…*

I wanted that classic sound, the smell of two-stroke smoke and something made of metal, not plastic, with proper mod accoutrement, such as extra mirrors and lots of chrome crash bars.

If you don’t know about older scooters, they are like classic cars. You need to be able to diagnose any of a myriad of problems that may arise with their engines, cables, carbs, tires, etc., if you don’t want always to be turning to someone else for help. And sometimes you need to know how to fix that niggling problem that stops you, bringing you to the side of the road, if you want to make it back from that lovely country ride out in the middle of nowhere. Scooterists don’t always travel in packs, so it is a good idea to be able to do it yourself. Plus, I didn’t want to be the “girl” who always had to bat her eyelashes at a proficient rider/wrencher to get her “vroom vroom” going again. I didn’t want to be the one in the pack on a ride that held everyone up because of a broken down scooter. NOBODY wants to be that person.

So, after much thought, I started looking at the Stellas imported out of India by Genuine Scooter Company Now, before you say, “India?!” let me tell you that the plant that makes these scooters has original molds and die-casts for the original P-series Vespas by Piaggio. 

They were one of their producers, when Piaggio had higher production rates, apparently. So, the scooter looks and sounds classic, just like a vintage one, but has improvements: front Grimeca, hydraulic disc- and 6″, rear drum-brakes; performance shocks; and it arrives with a one-year/5,000 mile warranty with roadside assistance in that first year. The P-series engines are also one of the easiest to learn how to fix, should trouble arise. Also, parts are more readily available – engine, accessories, body parts — in case they are needed. Needless to say, really, I was sold, after sitting on a friend’s Stella and learning about the extras that came with a new Stella.

There were naysayers, saying that since I drove an automatic car, I would never be able to pick up driving a “shifty” scooter. “P’shaw,” I said, while I wondered if that was true. Plus, I had never – yes, never – driven a two-wheeled, gas-powered vehicle in my life. Eep. Enter the Motorcycle Safety Training course taught by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF)**. They had one scooter I could learn and test on and it was a “twisty”, ARGH!!! Oh, well, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. So, there I was the only woman taking the class, on the only scooter. It was amusing and strenuous. All the men on the course were encouraging me and joking about how they were going to get me on a Harley, yet.

The course was three-days long and exhausting. but, I passed! Yes! Now, I would just have to learn how to apply everything from the course while learning to shift gears. That is where Youtube and How to Videos came in handy. I watched them a hundred times while I waited for the “right one” to come along.

And then she did…

Finally, a black, 2007 Stella appeared in Portland at a dealership, Vespa Portland. I had to have it! After much patience from the dealership, financial finagling, ordering of chrome bits, the motorcycle safety course (if you don’t take one, as a rider, you are crazy), safety equipment purchases, insurance arrangements, lectures on safety from my policeman brother, and getting a new license with the official “M-class” added to the front (one of the proudest days of my life, next to achieving my BFA) I had my “baby” on the way. When the truck arrived to deliver it, everyone must have thought I was insane. It was Christmas time! My excitement couldn’t be contained. I was jumping up and down like a little kid! I did it! I actually did it! I had my scooter! Oh, the glee!

The minute she exited the crate, I took pictures, just like a proud parent. I named her (Sexy) Sadie, after The Beatles song. It just seemed to fit, after one of my fellow riders said, “That’s the sexiest Stella I have seen.”

My friend, Justin, stepped up to the plate and took me riding in business center parking lots, down quiet streets, ran me through turns, slow riding and quick stops, basically repeating/reminding me of my MSF course work. Slowly and steadily, he got me out of the 20 mph zone I initially felt comfortable in and got me up to speed, so to speak. I was riding downtown with him in traffic! Baby steps, remember, baby steps.

Then, one Friday in August 2008, Justin and I attached a scooter trailer to the car, tied down the  Stella and Lambretta, packed our riding gear and some dancing duds and we went on a 500-mile journey to the Long Beach Scooter Club rally (co-hosted by the Westside Scooter Club) for their 24th anniversary! Just the anticipation, and a bit of nerves, I admit, had me excited the whole journey there.

Except for one minor spill the first night — a low side, silly me — I held my own. The spill was from a stop sign, from my over-throttling out of the gate. Can you say, “pop-a-wheelie-to-the-right”? I instinctively threw myself off to the side to avoid 250-pounds landing on my leg. My protective gear – and my lovely chrome crash bars, sniffle – took the impact. I lived to tell the tale. No biggie. A little sprained wrist never really hurt anyone, right? (I even went dancing that night and did the twisty, canyon ride the next day.) Pick yourself up and dust yourself off and meet up with the pack.

Ice the wrist, put on an Ace bandage and continue to ride. It is a good life lesson in keeping on going.

Everyone was patient with me and complimented me on my riding, when they learned how short of a time I had actually been riding, even after my little mishap. Now, to get compliments like that from guys and gals that have been riding together, mostly, for twenty years or more, that is a HIGH. We spent the weekend riding, day and night (over 100 miles on one day alone) and dancing in the evenings. Friendships were created. Skills were increased. I realized that I could do anything I set my mind to and I know how to get back on the horse if I get bucked off.

Since my recent move, poor Sadie has been sitting in a storage unit, waiting for new insurance, state plate, etc. It kind of drives me insane, but I believe in doing things correctly. My helmet, gloves, fishtail parka and Corazzo Jacket are here with me at the house, though, if anyone wants to take a girl on a ride. It feels like a long-distance relationship, not being able just to walk out into the garage at least to sit on her, polish her up a bit, pull off a cowl and look at the engine, if not just to start her up to listen to her.
If you have Scooter Love, as I do, you understand.

Someday, soon, Sadie we will be out riding again; a smile on my face, Scooter Love in my heart, and your engine putt-putt-putting along. I promise. Soon…

*I am thinking of getting a “twisty” Vespa since I saw this one: GTV 300

**In my opinion, the MSF course also makes you a more aware and attentive “cage” driver. The in-classroom part, at least, should be part of drivers’ training.

All Photos were NOT taken by Carol A. Bourns this time around. Just the “proud parent” Stella pics are CBR’s.

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