Thursday, Oct. 15 | Day 2: With a Vespa we can’t fix in a lonely, remote gas station parking lot, we consider our options, like JFK’s EXCOMM during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis1.
(Part 1 is here.)
We can’t run the scooter because it may screw up the engine even more and maroon us in an even more inhospitable place.
A towing service isn’t available – I ask the gas station clerks and they say there’s one tow truck driver in town and he stops working at night2.
The Vespa will have to stay here tonight. Linda finds a room three miles away at the Baymont Inn in Cheraw, South Carolina. She stays with the scooter while I take Terra Nova to Cheraw to secure the room and drop off our bags.
From the mission linguist: Cheraw is pronounced Shuh-RAH, with accent on the second syllable, not Chair-Rah. (We were mystified, too.)
I return to fetch her and we put the black Dow cover over the Vespa, making it less of a theft target. We go back to our room and end up walking over to a convenience store for a late-night dinner3 – two small cans of Beefaroni for me.
We try and decide what to do. We’ve paid for 10 days at a condo in St. Pete Beach and won’t be refunded for days we’re not there. So we need to get going.
We could ride two-up on the Yamaha but it’ll be overloaded and really uncomfortable and we have lots of miles to go.
We could get a rental truck and take both bikes to St. Pete and drop off the Vespa at a dealer for repair. But I don’t have faith the Vespa can be fixed in time for us to go home, especially if some exotic parts have to be ordered from Italy or someplace. Or if the engine needs major work.
In the rainy morning, after an uneasy sleep, I suggest this: We store both bikes here and rent a car to drive to St. Pete. On the way back, we’ll get a rental truck and take both bikes home, dropping off the Vespa at Scoot Richmond for repair.
That way, we only have to travel to Richmond, 100 miles from home, instead of mounting some super-expedition to retrieve the Vespa from Florida or Savannah.
Linda agrees this makes sense so I start calling for towing and storage and she looks for a car to rent. Her first discovery is that the Enterprise rental in Cheraw is closed permanently because of the coronavirus. She starts searching elsewhere.
The first storage place I call says they’re full up.
The second place has space but doesn’t accept motorcycles or vehicles. “We really discourage them,” the guy says. “Oil could leak, gas could be a fire hazard…”
The third place has space and will take bikes. I reserve a space, though we’re not quite clear on its location. Google Maps is vague.
Then I call the we-don’t-tow-at-night towing service and speak with a woman who says they can help. She calls back 10 minutes later.
“I talked with our driver and he doesn’t want to do it. He’s afraid the bike will get damaged.”
I say we’ve done this before4 and tell her I’ll secure the scooter myself and absolve them of responsibility.
“No, we can’t do that,” she says. “I’m sorry.”
Well, is there another towing service?
“No, not really,” she says and I grit my teeth and say thank-you and good-bye and refrain from throwing my phone across the motel parking lot. I’ll push the damn thing there myself is what I’m thinking.
But then we start getting some breaks.
The Baymont Inn folks very kindly allow us to pile all our baggage in the vacant lobby while we take the Yamaha to look for the storage space and rent a car.
We check on the Vespa and find it unmolested at the Shell station.
Then we cruise down South Carolina 9, past the Dollar General, looking for the storage place. I’m thinking I’ll have to push the Vespa a half-mile, maybe more.
But we can’t find it. I turn around at the elementary school and head back to Shell station, and suddenly we see the place near the Shell station. It’s within easy walking distance, maybe a football field’s length away.
The nice woman behind the counter – unlike a few others we’ve encountered that morning – makes it so easy. We pay for the space, get a lock, and I push the Vespa over and secure it inside a 10×12 locker.
We ride 20 miles north to Rockingham, North Carolina, to get the rental car Linda has found, a white Hyundai. We go back, park the Yamaha beside the Vespa and lock the door. Then we fetch our bags, profusely thank the nice woman at the Baymont Inn and finally, finally, leave around 4 p.m.
The vacation is still on, but our problems are not over. I reserve a rental truck for the bikes but I’m not yet sure how to get them up the ramp – it’s kinda steep5. I’ll have to be careful while strapping them down inside.
But I look at all our motorcycle gear suddenly turned useless and unnecessary, the helmets, jackets, boots, gloves, rain gear and I feel another loss, like last year. Maybe we’ll try again next year. And check the oil more often.
1 – That may be a bit of a reach, but I love reading history and Kennedy’s Executive Committee advisers didn’t want to make a decision that made things worse. That’s what I was thinking: Let’s not make this worse.
2 – Perhaps he engages in towing as an occasional hobby.
3 – Food options were limited at that point.
4 – It’s true. It was in Zephyrhills, Florida, in 2003, when my uncle’s 1976 Honda Goldwing refused to run. A guy with a flatbed tow truck came out and transported it to a repair shop that ended up not repairing it. Both his motorcycle and my aunt’s went back to San Diego in the back of a U-Haul truck, our Inskip Odyssey aborted, one of the great sorrows of my life.
5 – I’ve seen too many YouTube videos of guys messing up and having their motorcycles fall off ramps while riding them up into trucks. I’ll have to be careful.