For you, the dress code is casual.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Love Story About a Scooter

Whoo-hoo! My scooter could soon face the end of all its woes!

Had breakfast with Vespa-club types today, and I was talking about how sad my scooter is, and one of the bike geeks offered to give it a listen. Turns out I'm probably EXACTLY right about what's wrong: clogged injector on the carburator.

How exciting. Better yet? He's gonna take a look at my bike next weekend, and see what he can do to fix it. Even better yet? Dude's one of these hardcore hobbyists who not only fixes bikes for kicks, he's one of these rare guys who's trying to max his ride out and has taken it to Bonneville on the Utah Salt Flats to test the land-speed record with the official guys who vet all speed records.

Not like I'm looking to have my bike totally tweaked, but I definitely want my power back. The guy's not looking for much money for the work, either, which was going to set me back $185 elsewhere, and'll probably be a paltry $75 or so.

Oh, I cannot tell you how exciting this is. I've been wanting it done since August and was itching to get it resolved since about the beginning of November. First, my first choice for the repairs was a guy who had a scooter shop on the East Side then decided to close down at the end of the summer and was going to reopen later a little south of his then location. It's been five months now and apparently lawyers are entering the fray, etc. The shop languishes in limbo -- as do the bikes belonging to people that are behind locked doors now. Sordid stuff, really.

Mechanic option #2 was first out of the country for a few weeks, and now he, too, has closed up shop and is the in midst (still) of moving to a new location. He drives me insane, though, since he's one of these "must be GENUINE Yamaha parts" kind of guy who's so by-the-book that it limits his effectiveness and drives up costs for you, the consumer, when a cheaper, more versatile part might work (and won't take three weeks to ship overseas). A 2-stroke engine can take a lot of fudging, man. But he has no creativity when it comes to solving problems, and he's one of these Taiwanese scooter guys who's all about the performance, so god help you if you're one of these slacker Western riders who washes it when the inclination to do so hits, who repairs after the fact rather than doing preventative maintenance. Meaning, dude doesn't understand someone like me who rides a sticker-covered filthy dirty bike like mine and who repairs things with duct tape. Heh. I felt guilty every time I saw him.

So option the third will require a 40-minute ride on my putt-putt bike in the frigid climes of January, but he's pretty passionate about the bikes and I have a great feeling about this. And he's cheap, which rocks.

But it's so funny how different attitudes are re: scooters in a place like Taiwan, where they're high-performance toys people tend to obsess over, versus places like Cambodia or India where a scooter is an incredibly valuable resource and takes a daily beating, or here where you're either a high-maintenance owner for whatever reason or you're the opposite, someone like me who's made a lifestyle choice and is way over the whole "but it's so cute" love affair every scooter owner has for the first year or so.

I've put 40,000 kilometres on scooters. I assure you, I'm over it. Still, I fucking LOVE my scooter in all its cracked, scratched, hesitant, grumbling, stalling, but reliable glory. I. Fucking. Love. It. LOVE it.

And will weep with great sadness when it dies. But I'll ride that bitch right into its grave, baby. Bring it on!

Here's my relationship with my scooter in a nutshell. One of my friends from the scooter club owned it, and I just loved her bike the first time I saw it. I always liked the Vino better than the Jazz when I first saw them, despite owning a Jazz. She put it up for sale right around when I crashed (and totalled) my Jazz. I bought it about 2 weeks after I crashed the Jazz and nearly met my maker. My face was still bruised and blood-clotted, and I couldn't ride it for another three or four weeks, I think.

When I bought the bike, I didn't know how I was going to get over the fear of god I had just from looking at it. I almost died, man. Getting back on a bike? Fucking horrifying. I spent much of the first six months after my accident injured in one form or another, on crutches and shit, so there was very little riding that winter. I was terrified of turns, everything. Riding a bike's physical, you have to be able to lean into it, and I was so off physically for the first year or so, that I couldn't mechanically ride it as well as I could, which made me feel awkward and ungainly when riding. Getting over the fear of riding probably took a year. Ironically, the first night I remember thinking "Wow, it's been 14 months and I finally feel confident, graceful..." I got home and found my dad sitting at the front door of my apartment. My bro was in the hospital after having been hit by a Suburban while riding his scooter. He was in a coma five days and spent months recovering, mostly from the head injury.

So, the fear came back since it was the dead of winter, and winter riding's only for us purists. This last year has been where I've really come into my own and I'm now a confident rider who knows she can get out of most predicaments, and has faced (and beaten) some bad wobbles, ridden through every climate, carried ungodly amounts on the scooter... (Nothing like having it strapped with about six pots and pans, carrying two massive bags brimming on the floorboard between my knees, and a block of knives balancing on the top of THAT. Heh heh. Taking shit in for my cooking classes, and home at the end of the week, was just hilarious. The looks I was getting! Ha! But I've even taken a 6' long roll of bamboo blinds on there, too, and a huge toaster oven. It's fun!)

I dunno. The scooter's been huge in helping me conquer fears and inadequacies. It's been a huge part of my identity. I love my scooter and it's hard to explain all the reasons why -- from the convenience it affords when I roll it up on the sidewalk next to traffic-surrounded urban stores, or the fun it offers in the warm summer when cage-drivers are stuck in sweatboxes in 35 degree weather, the ease it gives me in getting around a city consumed with pre-Olympics construction on every fucking block for two years now with two years to go... It's the original "how do I love thee, let me count the ways" conundrum. Does my love for my scooter know bounds? Likely not. Like I say, I ride it year round, and sometimes it's awesome in the winter, too.

My boundless love has ceased of late. I have bounds. Oh, how I have bounds. Let me count the ways. I hate the sloth-like pace up hills that has me feeling like a victim waiting to happen, and the rugged, ragged chugging of its idle, the baffling way it spits and huffs as I cross the holy numbers of 34-38 kilometres and it finally finds some power, and how it slows and sputters and gives up against the slightest of hills... in a city of hills. I find myself half-dreading rides, and I dread the dread since I feel like I'm betraying a longtime love of mine.

And now that looks to be coming to an end any day now. And not only will it come to an end, but this guy claims he'll patiently teach me everything he's doing, so I'll learn a little about how to care for it. :) Again, for free! I'm gonna make him cookies, and pay him of course, but definitely cookies. Or maybe brownies, since my brownies are sublime. They ARE. (They have marshmallow cream!)

YAY. Requite my love, baby! Make it happen! Oh, Pussycat. All will soon be well again. Happy, happy Steff.

(I dubbed my scooter "Pussycat" a long time ago since it's too fun blurting, "Faster, Pussycat, faster!" when chugging uphill. The last one was "Lemon" since it was yellow and built for sluggishness. Yes, I do get verbal on the bike. It's half the fun.)