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Hey, it’s me!

Back in summer, 2003, I received a credit card statement from Shell that totaled $101. I decided I needed to do something, so I bought a 2003 Vespa ET4.

The ET4 was my first motorized 2-wheeler. I rode it. A lot. From Seattle to places like Vancouver, B.C. and Bellingham, Wash., where I now live. I rode it to work. I rode to the grocery store. I even just rode it to ride it, going on group rides with the Vespa Club of Seattle and other clubs. Three years later, it had 11,000 miles on it.

I liked it, but I found it a little less than engaging; to make it go, you twist the right handgrip, to make it stop, you squeeze the brake levers. I found I liked having a little more to do when riding.

On those group rides, I fell in love with vintage Vespas. I love the design, I love the sound of their 2-stroke engines. But what I love most is their manual transmissions. The way an old Vespa goes ker-CHOONK when you put it in 1st gear just did something to me. I had to have one.

But I also saw firsthand the trials and tribulations of vintage Vespa ownership. Unobtainable parts, stuff breaking at inopportune times, fouled spark plugs, kicking the starter lever dozens of times to fire the engine. When shopping for the ET4, I had considered a Genuine Stella, a scooter that shares the PX’s design. The “made in India” label gave me pause, however.

Then came word that Vespa parent Piaggio would be selling a limited number of new 2005 PX 150s in the U.S. Tightened emission regulations in Europe forced Piaggio to find other markets for these unsold PX 150s, and those markets included the U.S. and Canada. The PX 150 is essentially a vintage scooter made of brand-new parts.

Perfect! Better still, Piaggio USA was offering a lowball financing deal, and Vespa Seattle gave me a great trade-in on my ET4. So, October 7, 2006 was the day I started Scootin’ Old Skool. Uh, the blog and the verb.

I got a Vespa GTS 250i.e. (the letters are the abbreviation of “iniezione elettronica,” which is Italian for electronic fuel injection) a while back, and personal circumstances forced me to pass the PX along to a new owner. However, it’s still possible to compare/contrast old-skool vs. new age. Besides, a faster bike opens new possibilities for road trips. While the emphasis has always been on the ownership experience of an iconic Italian motor vehicle, scooter ownership in general (along with anything else that piques my interest) has always had a place here, and always will.

Why write this journal? Aside from the faint hope for a book deal or reality TV show on some obscure cable channel, I want to do the same thing for scooter ownership, old-skool and otherwise, that Rick Steves has done for European travel: give you, dear reader, the opportunity to see what it’s really like to own and ride one of these things… and more importantly, give you the chance to learn from my experiences, and my mistakes.

The volatility of the price of gasoline, not to mention a persistent recession in the United States, has more people than ever considering owning a motor scooter. I’ve never regretted the decision to get one. I’ve found the headline from the brochure I got before buying the ET to be completely true: “Every trip is an adventure.”

—Orin O’Neill

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