Happy Bellingham Pride
It’s been a while since I last rode a scooter in a parade. And it’s been a while since I’ve ridden one that required shifting gears.
Nelly recently acquired a 1981 Vespa P200E, which she calls Bimbo (I’m going to guess not after the snack cakes sold at Walmart that have the creepy CGI bear on the package). And she said it would be no trouble at all bringing an extra scooter to Bellingham.
Nelly rather famously talked the P200’s previous owner down about $600 from what was a pretty reasonable asking price, and immediately turned it over to Big People in Seattle for a thorough going-over.
While this here blog is called Scootin’ Old Skool I’m not ashamed to admit my shifty scooter experience up to now had been confined to Stellas and 2005 PXs. A couple years before the PX came home with me, one of my fellow Vespa Club members seemed rather eager to sell me his P200E… until I finally got the money together, at which point he said someone else would be buying it. Oh, well. A few others have come and gone on Craigslist in the meantime. Poverty, it sucketh mightily.
Today’s riding would be a great introduction; go to Nelly’s friend’s house to pick up the bike, ride a mile and change to the staging area, ride back after the parade. Everything’s perfect, Nelly assured me.
Where’s the key? Oh, right… above the speedometer, so the other keys on the key ring can obscure it! No electric start here. I have to kick it. While I was apprehensive about how well that would work with half a right foot, it did, on the third kick.
Put it in gear, and I’m on my way. Nelly and her friend would be along later. Geez, the clutch lever requires a hard squeeze. I stall it, so I have to put it in neutral. Which is not so easy to find, at least compared to the Stella 150 I rode a while ago. The engine does idle perfectly and acceleration is good, at least on city streets.
I arrive at the staging area to find another member of the scooter group, a woman who has her Buddy 125 decked out with rainbow streamers. And a bubble machine. Sadly, the bubbles wouldn’t show up in the picture.
Of course Bellingham has a women’s roller derby league; several of their members were skating ahead of our group.
We headed out more or less on time, and 16th in the parade order. Not at the head of the group, like last time. Geez, this is going to be difficult… the parade’s going so slowly even slipping the clutch in 1st gear isn’t going to work… I’ll have to jump between 1st and neutral. And not catch 2nd gear and stall.
But then Nelly reminds me of the box of candy strapped to the rear rack. Heading for the sidelines, I yell “FREE CANDY!” I instantly become the most popular guy in the parade!
And my group is long gone by the time I get to the end of the block. No worries, Nelly had purchased Snickers, Milky Way and other chocolate confections that were sure to melt in the 80°F-and-rising temperatures. Better to give ’em away than have a gooey mess in the milk crate, right?
Once the candy was gone, I could ride at something approaching a normal speed to catch up with the group. I even hit 3rd gear a couple times! 😉
The parade took the usual downtown route: South on Cornwall, east on Chestnut, south on Railroad, ending at the Depot Market. I poked my nose into Boundary Bay, but the place was packed with fair-weather soccer fans watching Germany defeat Argentina in the World Cup final match.
Finding a bench, I am quite surprised at how tired I am. Crawling is hard work, and so is everything else about operating a 33-year-old scooter at walking pace. Of course, so is walking with 1½ feet.
After a while, Nelly found me and asked if I was ready to leave. Yes, definitely. The three of us saddled up and headed for Nelly’s friend’s place. Now THIS was the kind of riding I wanted. The P200 idled contentedly, accelerated with alacrity and generally felt great to ride on a warm, sunny summer day. Nelly said I could ride it again next time I’m in Seattle. Surely, I must have a reason to go there…