And So It Ended (Part 1)

The guy at Home Depot said: “Are you sure you’ve got enough straps?”

“And so it ended, except in my mind, which changed the events more deeply into what they were, into what they meant to me alone.”

– James Dickey, “Deliverance”

Saturday, Nov. 7 | Seven Days Later: After too many days and too many miles in the back of a rental truck, we got the Vespa from the mechanical medics at Scoot Richmond and rode it home.

We’d left it there Oct. 291 on the way back from St. Pete. The diagnosis is: (1) We overfilled the gas tank on Day 2 in Wallace, South Carolina, and temporarily fubared the EVAP system2, and (2) The engine may have a pre-existing problem from the factory which requires a top-end overhaul3.

Oy vey. In the days since returning home, post-mission analysis confirms the overfill was our fault, but probability is high we could have continued riding after the fuel had evaporated from the EVAP system’s charcoal canister. That would have taken some time, perhaps overnight.

Retrieval of the Vespa on Nov. 7.

The oil loss, however, is a different matter. There was no leak but the scooter simply should not have been be using that much oil in that short amount of time. Some other Vespas with the HPE4 have been reported with similar oil consumption problems.

So Scoot Richmond will take a look, under warranty. Per their instructions, we took the Vespa home, put 500 miles on it, and will return it to them on Saturday for their inspection.

Sorting things out after getting Terra Nova home. Friend, neighbor and riding buddy Bob Hamilton was a great help this day.

All this is a boring and anticlimatic ending to a disappointing ride, motorcycle-wise, but I was grateful anyway. We’d emerged from the cloud of uncertainty that overshadowed the entire trip, with a few sleepless nights for me worrying how I was going to get the bikes in and out of the rental truck.

At about 370 pounds, the Vespa didn’t worry me. The Yamaha, at 575, did.

Part of it was YouTube disaster videos of guys riding their motorcycles up ramps and falling off. Here, this will give you an idea; go full-frame for the best effect.

In Wallace, there was no one around to lend a hand. The truck ramp was 10 feet long and about 26 inches wide. The cargo deck was 33 inches from the ground. I found a place where the ground sloped upward that reduced the ramp angle.

That was better, but it took me longer than I’d like to admit5 to work up the nerve to ride Terra Nova up that damned ramp and into the truck.

That got us over the peak, as they say. Linda and I push-pulled the Vespa up the ramp and we were able to use Home Depot tie-downs6 to secure both bikes upright in the truck. I checked them every time we stopped.

The ramp.

After that, it was a matter of just driving home.

Driving home. Usually I’d be brooding over the loss of a motorcycle trip, but the relief after loading the Yamaha stayed with me on the highways into Virginia.

It was kinda like the successful failure of Apollo 13, I reasoned; Linda and I may have lost the ride, but we still had each other, we were safe, the bikes were secure, we’d had a good time in St. Pete, and the Vespa would be fixed to ride another day. And we will ride another day.


1 – The official end of the mission, I reckon.

2 – EVAP is shorthand for Evaporative Emission Control System, which closes the vehicle’s fuel system to prevent gasoline vapors from the tank and fuel system from escaping into the atmosphere. Overfilling the tank can cause fuel to enter the EVAP’s charcoal canister which, on the Vespa, causes a stalling/starting problem until the fuel is cleared from the canister.

3 – A top-end overhaul involves taking the engine apart and replacing a number of parts, which could include piston rings, the piston itself (Vespas are single-cylinder engines) and valves. As you might guess, that’s a lot of work.

4 – High Peformance Engine.

5 – It really did. No one likes to admit he’s a wuss, but I was genuinely scared silly that I’d fudge it up somehow and take a tumble.

6 – Four tie-downs on each bike, which may have been overkill, but I had more to make sure they wouldn’t fall over. In addition to those stupid YouTube videos, I was haunted by the experience a relative had while taking his bikes back home to California from Florida in 2003; the bikes weren’t properly secured and ended up falling over inside the truck. I didn’t want that to happen to us.

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