Tag Archives: Scooter Cannonball Run

Sort of a Dry Run, or: How I Accidentally Fixed A Vespa the Same Day I Registered for the 2023 Scooter Cannonball

“There are no small parts, only small actors.”

– Konstantin Stanislavski

Starting with the battery.

I signed up for the 2023 Scooter Cannonball1 – a scooter-only, 8-day event covering 3,170 miles – on June 25, the day registration opened, and the same day I tried to fire up Linda’s Vespa 300 GTS and found it wouldn’t start.

It was irony of the highest sort, since the Cannonball is a long-distance event in which participants ride scooters of 300ccs (or less) across the country. Scooters aren’t really meant for that type of distance and riders typically do scooter maintenance in hotel parking lots at night.

My rider name – pronounced “Yer-ko,” thank you – and number.

So the work of getting her Vespa back online became a learning experience, a dry run of sorts for the Cannonball, since breakdowns are common during the event. Riders are expected to at least attempt to make their own repairs, though fellow competitors often offer help2.

The Vespa hadn’t been run in a while. I pulled the Dow cover, rolled it from underneath the patio overhang and turned the key.

Creating the usual mess…

The system initialized: the dash lights came on, the fuel pump pumped, but when I hit the starter button, I was rewarded with only a single click from somewhere in the engine.

One tries to be rational and methodical in times like these but I couldn’t help but think: “What if this were happening at a hotel in Guymon, Oklahoma, in the morning?3 What would I do?”

I charged up the battery, tried the starter again without success, and found the battery level had fallen again. From experience with Endurance’s battery, I figured that was the problem.

Inside the workshop for the new wire connection.

We dashed to La Moto Washington before they closed and got a new battery, which didn’t solve the problem. So I was feeling rather clueless.

I started searching online for solutions and to watch Robot’s instructional videos on scooterwest.com5. I traced the clicking to the starter relay under the saddle and checked it by swapping out the relay from Erebus, which has the same engine as Linda’s Vespa.

Erebus fired up, but the other Vespa didn’t. So it wasn’t the starter relay.

A ring terminal, like this.

I started poking about the engine, looking to check the spark plug and spied a rubber sparkplug-like boot and pried it off, only to see a stud, a nut and the business end of a broken ring terminal, a dime-sized fitting used here to connect a wire to the engine block. Could this be it?

I modified a ring terminal from a box of spare parts, fitted it on the engine, and tried the starter button. The Vespa cranked over and started.

I don’t know what I felt more: relief or amazement at discovering the problem. I have to permanently mount a ring terminal to the engine wire, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem. And now we even have a spare battery.

Down there.


1 – I wrote about the Cannonball in 2021 for USA Today online4. It’s one of my favorite stories; I enjoyed talking with nearly a dozen riders, a good group of folks. After some internal deliberation, I decided to sign up myself, though I have a long way to go before I’m actually ready.

2 – It’s part of the camaraderie of the event. Seriously, it’s a wonderful thing to see.

3 – Guymon is one of the overnight stops on the 2023 route. It’s in the Panhandle.

4 – The story was well-received by scooter riders, but readers really liked Veronica Bravo’s illustrations, which are really good.

5 – Robot has no doubt helped thousands of Vespa riders take care of their scooters.

The View at 1,021 Kilometers, or: How the Sei Giorni Feels So Far

The new windscreen, with a “6” added. The black triangle just cried out for something.

Let’s get right to the point: Erebus has been delivered to Richmond for her 600-mile service1 and I’ve spent some time and effort on upgrades for comfort, utility and visual appeal.

I’m still getting accustomed to the small size2 of it – it’s a 2020 Vespa 300 GTV Sei Giorni – but the flat seat, the one obtained with the swap from Linda’s GTS, allows me to sit farther back.

The floorboard rack doesn’t look too obtrusive.

I’ve also started using the passenger footpegs, which make it more comfortable and gives it more of a motorcycle feel3. And I attached an inflatable AirHawk cushion, which is working so far.

I feel a bit less intimidated on the freeway now, even with clueless Virginia drivers passing like they’re in practice for their own private Le Mans. It’s getting better, though. And it does feel good on meandering county roads, with a slower pace and less traffic.

Putting in some distance for the 600-mile service.

One problem is a lack of storage space. There’s a small glovebox-like compartment in the front shield that could conceivably carry a pair of gloves, and a small tub4 below the saddle that can fit a half-helmet, a rain jacket and a real pair of gloves on a good day.

But the Sei Giorni (as we discussed earlier) is patterned after a racing bike, laughable when you think about its 24-hp engine, but still. I want to store tools and rainsuits and spare parts and such without turning it into the truck from the Beverly Hillbillies.

Yep, that there one.

A few other additions:

A windscreen from Scooter West/Vespa Motorsport, along with handlebar-end weights, an extended footpad for the sidestand, a rubber floormat and a small luggage rack for the floorboard. (That’s where the main toolkit will reside.)

From Scoot Richmond: A luggage carrier behind the saddle and a set of crash bars.

I attached two plastic canisters that each hold a 30-oz. MSR fuel bottle. The canisters5 look like a pair of small torpedoes or maybe warp nacelles from a Starfleet vessel.

I spray-painted the plate flat black, to get rid of the studded-chrome look.

Installation of all this was just basic tinkering, though it took me a while to figure out how to position the fuel carriers on the underside of the luggage plate. I also had to fabricate a way to attach them.

But at least now I can carry a half-gallon of gas in reserve.

I dithered over the floorboard rack but decided I liked it. It’s low-profile enough to carry the toolkit without looking junky. It’ll be a pain to remove when it comes time to fuss with the battery, though.

The acclimation process continues. And have you heard about this Scooter Cannonball Run? It’s this coast-to-coast endurance rally, see, and I was thinking…

Stopping for gas.

1 – Though the odometer shows 1,021.7, which makes it plain that the dial is recording distance traveled in kilometers instead of miles. 1,021.7 kilometers equal 634.9 miles, if you want to know.

2 – Relatively speaking, in reference to the BMW and the Yamaha.

3 – Aside from the saddle problems, foot placement can be a bit maddening at times. There’s some space on the floorboards to move your feet around, but I found myself wanting more. I tried folding out the passenger pegs and using them and it works, sorta.

4 – The tubs are called pet carriers because you absolutely can’t carry pets in them.

5 – They’re actually tractor manual carriers from Agri Supply. I read about them somewhere quite a while ago; the MSR bottles fit perfectly. I have a set on Endurance and Terra Nova.