Growing up in Southern California with year round good weather, it is not surprising that people have a dream bike or scooter. For me it was the Vespa Scooter. While the Lambretta is a fine scooter and its engine can be tuned well beyond that of a Vespa, it was the look of the scooter that caught my eye.
It was in the early 1980’s and I was in Jr. High in Yorba Linda. Walking home from school I saw this vehicle driving down the street, not quite a motorcycle and not a bicycle. What was that? I asked my older sibling, knowledgeable on cars and such.
“Oh that’s a Vespa. They are really cute.” I found myself at the library looking up anything I could get my hands on that mentioned these scooters. Given our library was quite small, it wasn’t much.
While looking over scooters it still stuck with me, I liked the shape and design of the Vespa. The Lambretta seemed long and awkward to me. Yes this is purely subjective and Lambretta owners have a list of reasons why they love their scooter. There is roundness to this scooter that appealed to me. Much like older cars of the 1940’s ,it has curves.
When it came time for me to learn to drive my father was nowhere to be found. I asked my mother for driving lessons. The first car I drove was her 70’s La Mans. A muscle car that I loved, it was very responsive and when I lurched forward with the first push of the petal she freaked out. This was in an empty parking lot and she yelled at me to stop. I must have covered 4 full feet.
She got rid of that car and the next one I was going to drive was a Honda Civic it was much smaller than and not nearly as powerful as the Pontiac. This time I was able to drive halfway down a street before she freaked out…progress. Despite the improvement, I was asked to get out of the car and into the passenger seat.
My friends were now getting their drivers licenses. We had an open campus at lunch and all the students screeched out of the parking lot. My friend ‘Bubba’ drove a van and we were tossed around like dice in a cup every lunch break. No one was really driving well. So it occurred to me, we are not mature enough to be driving. I didn’t get my license until I was 18 years old.
It was now the late 80’s and the Mod scene had been around for a while. I had friends at school that had scooters and they would take me to the Circle in Orange. There was a club that let underage kids in. Scooters could be seen lined up in the street. It was like a mini rally. Since my mother was so scared for me to even drive a car, I held off talking about a scooter.
When I got my first job and needed to drive instead of using the bus I finally brought it up. At that time it was cheap to buy a scooter and gas was and oil would be in my budget. I was told, ‘absolutely not!’ I learned that moms and motorcycles don’t always mix. She drove me to work rather than have me drive a scooter. Comically, my grandmother wanted a scooter and thought they were great.
I had not worked into that equation the cost of any repairs. Looking back I don’t think I was ready for a scooter despite my enthusiasm for one. I kept riding with friends in high school and later city college. All of whom frequented the Orange Circle. The group was mostly art-centric and the whole scene had a bohemian feel. After college and getting into the workforce I forgot all about scooters.
One day in the 2000 I was at South Coast Plaza and in the window display were Lambretta’s and Vespa’s along with the Italian clothing to go with them. There was a blue and white scooter and it all came back to me.
I was now married and of course couldn’t care less what my mother would think of all this. I saw the name of the shop alongside the scooter and went to visit. Within three months I had my first scooter.
One of the things that I value is being unique; I don’t want the same scooter or car that everyone else has. There is an immigrant mentality to buy the biggest, flashiest and most recognizable status symbol possible. Instead of going that route, I chose vehicles that are rare but not costly. My Vespa GTR was made mostly for the Spanish market. Very few were shipping into the USA. If you are ever in Spain you will find them. I have been to over 20 rallies on the west coast and I have only seen about 5 GTR’s.
The scooter shop I bought this from is long gone, along with the $3,000.00 price tag. Since I have bought and sold a few scooters, but I still have my 1970’s Vespa GTR. Her name is Sam, and though she now needs a bit of body work the truth is that Vespa’s are like VW’s, they just keep running.
When I rode the scooter home I wasn’t prepared for how emotional I would be. It was really hard to concentrate on driving. I was just so happy I had finally realized my goal of having a scooter. My older sibling was living with us at the time and was not very supportive. I believe that was due to jealously, and that I had gotten a scooter first.
Some choose to look back and feel their glory days were in high school. For myself, I strongly prefer adulthood. I can do and go where I want. I can also ride what I want. That is so much better than anything in my teen years. Of course as a rider, it’s much better to look ahead.