So Linda hit the commit button and traded in her 2010 300cc Vespa for a 2020 Vespa; same style, same engine size, almost the same daring shade of red, you can’t hardly tell them apart. We brought the new scooter home from Scoot Richmond on Saturday.
What’s different is that the new bike has anti-lock brakes and traction control, making it a safer machine than its 10-year-old mate. It also has what Vespa calls HPE, a High Performance Engine that offers a little more horsepower than the old 300.
“Have you ridden her bike?” the young woman armed with Scoot Richmond’s financial paperwork asks me. “You’ll have to try this new one, you’ll really feel a difference.”
Linda and I had talked about her trading up to a new Vespa, especially when the company was reportedly planning to build a new 350cc model. Since we were doing more long-distance travel, we wanted that extra horsepower.
And I really wanted her to have a machine with ABS. She was amenable to all that, but in red, of course1.
Alas, Vespa scuttled its 350cc idea2, but my interest was piqued by the new HPE. We started dropping in on Vespa dealers to look at them, and when a red one arrived in Richmond, Va., we got it.
We got it for the ABS and the engine, of course, but also because we’ve decided to take the motorcycles to St. Petersburg, Fla., this year as our traditional long-distance ride3.
In this time of coronavirus, it seems to be the best choice, the best compromise between breaking the rule of going someplace new4 and not going anywhere at all. More on that later.
But it was difficult to say good-bye to the 2010 bike, which we’ve had for nearly nine years and more than 14,000 miles. It had its moments, but it never let us down.
I put some effort into upgrading it for her, including a windscreen, brighter headlights and running lights, an exterior power socket for a heated vest, a quarter-sized Formotion thermometer, and flashing hyperlights that really brightened up the stern when she braked.
So there are memories in those parts, and others, like the green sticker put on the windscreen by someone in a Marriott hotel garage in New Orleans in 2017. Terra Nova has one, too.
The 2020 bike will get some of those. I transferred, from old to new, the Hungarian flag5 bolts for the license plate and the Vespa logo valve-stem caps obtained at Modern Classic6 in the District a few years ago. The thermometer migrated over, too.
We got our first taste of the new bike duo on the way home from Richmond, taking U.S. 522 instead of I-95, a good ride through rolling Virginia countryside.
We stopped at the picturesque deli & grocery7 in Winston, an area best described as a combination of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry and one of those spooky places you photograph, examine later, and discover someone staring down at you from an abandoned third-floor window.
We looked around a bit, and then, as we were suiting up to leave, some little red-haired kid came around a corner, forced open a shed door and, in a true Children of the Corn moment, emerged with a sheathed hunting knife the size of a Marine Corps KA-BAR8. He went into the main building and never acknowledged us, or even looked at the Vespa.
New bike, new ride. I’ve already started futzing with the 2020 Vespa; I wonder how many Winstons we’ll see between here and St. Pete.