Group Riding

When I first got my Vespa I didn’t think about riding with a group of other riders. I needed to feel comfortable riding on my own before I could even imagine riding in a group. It didn’t take long to find out that there are other scooter enthusiasts in my area and for me to be interested in joining in on rides together.

My local Vespa dealer has a couple of groups known as Scoot Jockeys that meet up for rides and then there is ModernVespa.com. ModernVespa.com or MV as it’s known, is an online community of scooter enthusiasts with an emphasis on Vespa. I stumbled across MV before I bought the Vespa and through it I learned a lot about scooters and scooter riding. It didn’t take long to get to know another Wisconsin rider by who goes by the name of fledermaus.

Fledermaus had posted announcing “Wisconscoot” coming up at the end of summer and I messaged him with some questions about it. As I hadn’t ridden in a group ride before he suggested a closer one day ride and said that he’d let me know when he organized the next ride.

A few weeks ago the email came with the thought of a local ride for those of us who couldn’t make it to Amerivespa this year and finally a date was agreed upon by a majority of riders. As you can imagine, getting a group of people together is a challenge due to everyone’s busy schedules. The weather cooperated although there was a threat of rain storms most of the day. We met up at fledermaus’s mother’s farm. For once I wasn’t late! It took me about an hour to get there as I avoided major highways driving through “Lake Country” in Southeastern Wisconsin. Something about the sight of a group of scooters gathered together for a singular destination is moving. As I rode up the long winding driveway I saw them parked by the farmhouse.


It was nice to meet the guys I’ve come to know through the MV forums: fledermaus, gitder and his wife, and Madison Sully. Mike and Roger from the Scoot Jockeys Milwaukee Chapter were there as well. Everyone got a chance to chat and there was plenty of scooter/motorcycle discussions. I had the pleasure of meeting mother fledermaus – a remarkable woman who greeted each of the riders and enjoyed sharing with us all of her home baked treats. It was so nice of her to offer her homestead as a meeting point for us all to gather. Then we made our preparations to head out on the road.

As I was putting on my helmet and gloves everyone had their motors running and kickstands up! I rushed to not keep them waiting and we all headed down to the road. Fledermaus had mapped out the ride and led the way.

I had prepared for the ride by reading up on the MSF basic guidelines of group riding which includes knowing the meaning of the common hand signs used on a group ride. I knew studying paid off when I realized I could anticipate turns and stops coming up signaled by those riding ahead of me, plus understanding when & how to stay in information and keeping proper distance between scooters when riding. This is all important for safety’s sake. It’s also important to keep up with the group and pay attention to the other riders actions. After all, you are riding in a group, not just out there on a joyride by yourself!

It’s hard to describe the feeling of riding in a group. It’s thrilling, to me at least, when we all would take off on the road. With a 150 cc engine, my Sprint had the least amount of power, but kept up well enough except on some of the starts and when going uphill on long stretches. I did alright zooming around twists and turns on the backroads. Even on slower sections of our adventure when we headed down a gravel road along side a river the Sprint handled just fine. One thing I noticed that is different about a longer group ride on two wheels is that I didn’t find myself site seeing nearly as much as I would in a cage on four wheels. Glances of rivers, hills and old farmhouses and barns are about as much as I could take in. We stopped a few times along the way including twice for gas, once to take a tour at the Lake Mills Aztalan Historical Society, and a stop at the Tyranena Brewery in Lake Mills where some of us had their house root beer that was very good while the other riders enjoyed a beer.


After our ride we gathered again at mother fledermaus’s farmhouse and had some lunch together. The clouds were threatening rain again with thunder was coming from the not too distant storms to the north. We bid farewell to one another and headed our separate ways. I was lucky and didn’t have any major rains to deal with on the way home even though I was prepared for it with my rain gear in the top case. There were only a few raindrops that hit the helmet although the roads were soaked in many of the small towns I rode through.

On longer rides like this I’m glad that I used my Rever app. I haven’t found it useful as a true GPS for guidance to get from one place to another, but it’s great for tracking where I’ve been with a convenient map showing the route taken, total time length of trip, and giving your average and maximum speeds along the way. I especially like that it automatically pauses on long stops and starts again when you start your ride again. On this trip I logged 162.8 miles (includes to/from the meeting place/home) with a max speed of 64 mph and average speed of 25 mph (time includes brief stops). It took about five hours total.

I use the Waze app for my actual GPS. I change the navigation settings in it to avoid highways for scooter riding and it works great for me. Running two GPS enabled apps at the same time really drains the iPhone battery fast. I was glad that I had a UBS port installed in the glove box recently to charge the iPhone while I’m riding.  I don’t have a Bluetooth interface for my helmet yet to hear the GPS well. That’s on my wishlist. Earplugs are a must on rides like this as the wind noise really is bothersome.

If you’re new to scooter riding and haven’t joined up with others for a group ride together, I definitely recommend looking into it if you’re ready for it. I really enjoyed this ride. Thanks go to fledermaus for inviting me! It’s a very different experience than commuting around town for sure! I look forward to many more group rides in the future.

 

 

Les Paul

One recent Sunday I took a ride on the Vespa out to the City of Waukesha to Prairie Cemetery to visit the gravesite and memorial of famed guitarist, musician and sound inventor Les Paul. It was a windy, but otherwise warm day. I headed out to Waukesha taking the back roads as usual. My Vespa Sprint 150 3vie will go up to about 50-55 mph, but I stay off freeways. I prefer the country back roads for my rides.

I have been past the Pioneer Cemetery many times over the years, but never ventured in to look around. I found it to be a very large, but well kept cemetery. It is owned and maintained by the City of Waukesha. A great place to ride around in on the scooter. The Vespa’s engine is relatively quiet and my ride was unobtrusive to others visiting the area. Signs along the paved cemetery roadways pointed me in the right direction of the cemetery’s most famous eternal resident.


The memorial is a conservative one. This surprised me, as Les Paul was such an innovative man in his time. It resembles a somber veteran memorial with gleaming slabs of pale gray granite. The life sized Gibson Les Paul guitar carved onto the main headstone looming over the interments of Lester William Polsfuss and his mother, Evelyn Stutz Polsfuss, left no doubt of his most modern well known accomplishment. The granite walls surrounding the memorial detail his life story and accomplishments, along with quotes. 

Every setback might be the very thing that makes you carry on and fight all the harder and become much better. ~Les Paul


Without Les Paul’s innovative use of sound and recording techniques the music I love would not be possible. I remember my Dad telling me stories about him when I was young and listening to his records, especially the Les Paul and Mary Ford 45’s that my Dad had in his record collection.

It’s nice to finally see Waukesha give recognition to him. Nowadays it’s difficult to go far without seeing an homage to Paul. I was reminded of this as I left Waukesha passing the city limits heading east.

Check One off the Bucket List

One year ago, I didn’t have a Vespa. Getting a Vespa was on my bucket list, but it wasn’t a high priority. Then it happened: I fell down the rabbit hole that is Google search and next thing you know, I was calling local dealers asking what they had in stock and researching all available accessories. Weekends became full of dealer visits to see them in person. The one issue I had to overcome was that I didn’t have the motorcycle endorsement on my drivers license so I couldn’t actually test drive a Vespa before buying one! I had never rode a motorbike before, so before putting down money to buy a Vespa I had to be sure that this was something I would really enjoy doing.

One of my local dealers has 50 cc Buddy scooters for rent so my husband and I took a Saturday and did just that. They also provide some instruction for newbies like me to get you started on your adventure safely. I knew I wanted to purchase a scooter bigger than a 50 cc, but it was a great way to see how I would like riding. First off I had problems riding. I just couldn’t get the feel of the throttle, how to turn – all the important things.

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First time on a scooter!
The instructor had the patience of a saint! She turned what could have been a negative experience into a positive by boosting my confidence and my husband encouraged me too so within about an hour I was practicing figure 8’s in the parking lot with relative success. We graduated to riding around on a local public road with very light traffic and I was able to experience the joy of flying on a scooter. I hadn’t had this feeling since I was a kid zipping around the neighborhood on my bicycle coasting downhill fast. Pure joy. I was sold on the experience.

Deep down I did wonder if I should do this. Many of my friends said it’s too dangerous. I’m in my 50’s, but most of the time my brain doesn’t remember how old it is. Besides, if I don’t do this now, when would I ever do it?

How to decide which Vespa to buy? I had my eyes on a brand new GTS. The largest and fastest model in the Vespa line up. It is also the heaviest. Although I still couldn’t test ride one, the dealer let me try it by pedaling it around and sitting on it to see how it fit me. I am by all means not petite. I never have been. At 5’ 7” with curves and long legs I had no problem reaching the ground while seated. I wasn’t used to handling a heavy scooter and had a difficult time moving it confidently even while seated.

The dealer suggested I give the Sprint 150 a serious look. Sure, it’s the baby brother of the GTS, but fast enough in it’s own right with a top speed of almost 60 mph. It proved to be great alternative for me as most of my riding would be in the 30–55 mph range and I would rarely if ever go onto a freeway. An absolute must was that the scooter be able keep up with suburban traffic. The Sprint 150 was much easier for me to manage and it had ABS which was a feature I felt was important to me. The fact that some of the new Vespa line up had ABS was what prompted me into seriously check them out at this time. I put down my deposit and ordered the Sprint 150 ABS in Blue Gaiola.

So much to think about and so many things to do and buy. Brain overload! I took a step back and started a list.

I think quite a few of us start out this way if you aren’t lucky enough to born into the culture of Vespa or at least the motorbike world. If something is truly important to you then make it happen! Don’t be afraid to take that first step even if it takes you out of your comfort zone. Otherwise you’ll never know what adventure awaits.

Cross posted to Vespa Club of America.

Spring 2017

I am happy to say that in the past three months (yes three!), I have been out on five rides. One in February – CRAZY? I know. However we did have a few warm days and when the temps hit the 70’s, I just had to take the Vespa temporarily off of it’s battery tender and take it out for a ride for about 6 miles that day. I would’ve gone further, but due to gusty winds. I took it out again at the end of March. When the temps are in upper 60’s and into the 70’s, I cannot resist a ride.

This weekend the weather was just short of perfect, it only stopped short because of the winds, which were steady in the afternoon into the evening at least 15-20 MPH.

So where did I ride? I went out to Lake Country in SE Wisconsin again.

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After riding for about about 40 minutes through Pewaukee, Hartland, and the town of Oconomowoc, I stopped at the St. Joan of Arc cemetery. I’ve been past this cemetery countless times in the days of my youth, but never stopped to look around. It has quite a few very early tombstones. I never the realized the cemetery was around for that long! It is the more recent, modern memorials that you see from the road.

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Most of the remaining, oldest headstones are now cemented to the grown, laid flat to protect them in their fragile state. It is a peaceful last resting place, with a pond behind it and farm fields around it.

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Subdivisions are cropping up around it though, as is evident in the photo with my Vespa posing happily on it’s adventure on Saturday.

My next stop was at the public boat launch at Moose Lake in Nashotah.

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This lake is much longer than it appears in this photo as it is long and narrow. Many of the old cottages that once existed on this quaint lake are being torn down and replaced by large mansions. The mansions you see here were built where the Hasslinger Resort and Apple Orchard once stood. It had a tavern & dance hall and was a place where many came to escape the heat for the cool lake waters in the summer. Moose Lake is surrounded by other lakes, Okauchee Lake to the west, Pine Lake to the east and Beaver Lake to the northeast.

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My Sprint was happy to get out and enjoy the day on the road with me. The bugs were starting to come out with the warm weather. Both my windscreen and helmet face shield needed a good cleaning when I got home. I really like the product I picked up at Road America when I was there to learn to ride. It’s called Bug Slide. This stuff really works great!

I have an appointment in a couple of weeks to bring the Vespa in for it’s first service. I remember when Sherm from Midwest Action Cycle delivered it August and told me that the first service was needed at about 600 miles and I thought “600 miles! That will take me forever to get that many miles on it!” Not so much. I would’ve had more miles on it, but the first month I had it I didn’t ride very far as I hadn’t taken the MCF course yet. Once I had that course and got the MC endorsement on my driver’s license, I have felt much more confident riding. Then winter happened. So glad spring is finally here. This past weekend I have put on more than 170 miles on it and I didn’t want to stop riding!

 

Vespa visits to cemeteries 

I have discovered that the Vespa makes the perfect vehicle for visiting cemeteries. In October I took advantage of the unusually warm autumn we’ve experienced to visit several cemeteries in the area. 


The Oak Hill Cemetery in Brookfield, Wisconsin, is the final resting place of a Revolutionary War patriot, Private Nathan Hatch. We don’t have a lot of Revolutionary War veterans’ graves in Wisconsin, so it’s a very special honor to pay my respects to Mr. Hatch. 


At the Pioneer Cemetery, also in Brookfield, has the grave of William Riley Blodgett and his two wives. One of the first settlers in the area was also a distant relation to my Blodgetts, both of which were from upstate New York. This is a very small cemetery.


The most beautifully serene cemetery in my visits was at Stone Bank Gardens. This is a much larger cemetery and my visit was on a warm day in full fall color. I particularly like how they’ve worked to preserve the oldest and most fragile headstones. 

Finally, the rain stops

We’ve had rain for a week now and late Sunday it stopped. Even though everything was still soaked I just had to take a ride on the Vespa.

Mound Zion Cemetery, Brookfield, WI

One of the appealing things about the Vespa is how in tune I feel with what’s around me. The car isolates me from my environment. I have driven past this cemetery several times a day for the past two decades. I’ve always wanted to stop by and take a look. With the Vespa it’s so easy to do just that.

Cemeteries intrigue me. Maybe in part it’s because of my interest in genealogy, but they have always been a draw for me.

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Customary stones placed on headstones

I recently took a Mt-DNA test which traces back your direct material ancestral DNA. I found out that my maternal line is Ashkenazi  Jewish. This connection is not recent, as none of this DNA showed in my Autosomal DNA. This is my ancient ancestry.

The stones connect me to these ancient ancestors. I have always been drawn to stones. Most everywhere I venture I end up collecting one, or two or more. I have them all over in my home – from all over the world. Even my friends bring them from their travels. Hopefully someday my headstone will have a pile of stones on them like this one. That would make both me and my Ashkenazi ancestors happy.

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I am loving the top case on the Vespa. I originally thought the folding rear rack would be the most versatile accessory, but the top case has worked perfect for my needs. Some people don’t care for how it looks on the scooter, but I love it!

 

Summer’s last hurrah

The Rock River Thresheree  at Threshermen’s Park in Edgerton, Wisconsin, is a fun way to celebrate the last hurrah of summer. The weather at this year’s event was absolutely beautiful with temperatures in the mid to upper 70’s and hardly a cloud in the sky. They have antique and vintage cars and tractors on display, a tractor parade, antique construction equipment, steam train rides around the park, a flea market, many other activities plus lots of food. It’s American agricultural history up close and personal. I hope you get a chance to check it out as its a great way to enjoy the last days of summer.

 

Why?

I notice scooters everywhere I go now. I see at least one or two every day especially now in the middle of summer. As I’m learning about riding a scooter and motorbikes in general, I cringe whenever I see someone not wearing the right gear for riding. I realize that this is a personal choice, but sometimes I wonder why someone would actually choose to wear what they do on the road.

Case in point – I spied this beautiful Vespa zooming past me on a major highway the other day and pull up beside him at the light. FLIP FLOPS! He’s wearing flip flops!

Sorry dude, if you see this and wonder why on earth I took your pic, but I really couldn’t believe it and a picture is worth a thousand words. What is it they say? Kids, don’t try this at home!

Ride 1-2-3

It’s been one week since I got my Vepsa. Let me tell you about ride 1, 2, 3.

Day 1
First time riding, I was terrified! It wasn’t supposed to be that way, but after about 10 minutes trying to ride I was shaking. It didn’t help that it was so stinking hot and humid and I was overheating due to the gear I had on. I was afraid I was going to pass out I was so hot! I didn’t sleep well that night… did I make a mistake by buying this scooter? Was I ever going to be able to ride it and feel comfortable?

Day 2
A good nights sleep the night before and watching some You Tube videos on riding a scooter especially on braking, and I was ready to try again. I was determined to ride to the health club that I belong to for swimming! I got everything all set with my gym bag strapped on the back rack. It went great! At the very start I felt a bit unsteady, but reminded myself of what the instructor in the video had said. After going around the block the first time I started to relax and enjoy the process of riding. It was freeing and I felt like I did when I was a kid riding around the block on my bike. After practicing my starts, stops and turns a bit more, I headed over to the club. The club isn’t far – I could walk there easily on most days. It was screaming hot though and the breeze from riding felt great. I parked in the shade at the club, but had to shlep my helmet and leather jacket and find a locker to put them in while I swam. The cool water felt so great and I was refreshed after an hour in the pool outside in the sun. The ride home was not stressful at all, so I zoomed around the streets of my neighborhood a few times before parking my scooter in the garage for the night.

Day 3
The success of my 2nd ride carried me forward in learning to ride a scoot. I found a couple of books recommended online and started reading one, Proficient Scootering by Alan Hearnshaw. The first couple of chapters helped me tremendously. One thing that kind of freaked me out when riding was the whole leaning into turns. This books explains in layman’s terms the physics of how it works. This took some of the fear out of riding at least on aspects that I have control over.

That was last week. This week is going very well. I am practicing every day except when it’s raining. I am looking forward to autumn when it will be a little cooler outside. I’m getting excited about taking the MSF Basic Motorcycle course and getting my MC endorsement on my license as I now have my MC temps.

Door County, Wisconsin

We recently went to Door County for a little R&R and stayed in a cottage for a few days. I kind of have a “thing” for Tom Bihn bags lately and this trip gave me a chance to utilize many of them! I used the A30 bags and they worked great. The dogs were happy to go with us on our adventure. Their crate is their home away from home. They got to use their own Tom Bihn Skookum Dog Camp Mat in the crate. The Tom Bihn Travel Tray worked perfect to hold leashes & collars.  We ate at Shipwrecked Micro Brew Pub and it was delicious. The beer there was good too!