Vespas in Fog City. Jan 4 – 23, 2015.

Mostly local riding for this portion again, just bouncing around San Francisco. Actually, this month probably saw the least riding of my own bike – it was in the Vespa SF shop for the shorter end of an eternity. I was riding everyone else’s bike, including a branded Boomchickapop Vespa for a few days! Paid to ride, the hours of grinning come free!

Most fun I’ve ever had on a job!

Okay, okay, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. On a whim, Pete forwarded me a Craigslist ad seeking licensed motorcycle riders, last minute, for a three-day promotional event during the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. It involved wearing the branded uniform, handing out free samples, and smiling for photos. I sent my info and crossed my fingers.

I got the call back while Matt and I were walking around Palo Alto, making this my first paid Vespa gig evar!

Unfortunately, I also got a pretty terrible cold, making it my first real sickness on the road too. That Madison illness was a mere 24 hour bug, compared to the week or so in January lost to a haze of NyQuil and DayQuil. Somehow I made it between San Jose and San Francisco in the hunt for somewhere alone and undisturbed to sleep/curl up and die. I’m just glad it was on the way out just before I started the Boomchickapop gig.

No idea what to expect as they handed out uniforms.
Sam and Aisha, my fellow riders for the weekend.
The riding uniform, including pink hair extension.

On the phone, I was asked if I could drive a Vespa with a trailer. Having never pulled anything before, I believe I enthusiastically said something like, “Hell yeah!”

Actually I only ended up pulling the trailer in the very beginning. Sam bravely picked up trailer duty thereafter.

Load’em up.
Combing the Embarcadero.
White Cheddar was my ride most of the weekend.
Sam bravely wrestled that beastly trailer the whole weekend. I have much respect for her.
Is it possible to have too much fun?
No, right?
In the name of free popcorn, baby.
So glorious.
Still more popcorn to hand out.
Day 3: We got (bouncy) balls. To hand out.
Let’s open these babies up on the Golden Gate!
Derp derp.
Thanks for the photo, Joe the random rest stop amateur art director!

Yes, the jackets were mesh, it’s January, and even in San Francisco by Day 2 all three of us were bundled up like Randy from A Christmas Story. And I’ve never worn so much bright pink on my person…ever. The job included making hours of left turns around the Moscone center in non-stop traffic, enjoying the nuances of car exhaust. I mastered riding side saddle, cross legged, standing on one leg, driving with one hand full of popcorn, and using the horn for interpretive percussive expression among other attempts at entertainment. At the end of the day, I couldn’t shake a knee-jerk reaction to smile and wave at strangers on the street, and I was totally beat.

But I have never had so much fun on the job. Sam and Aisha were such a blast to ride with, especially the day I took our crazy little bikes over the Golden Gate. It’s hard not to smile all the time, tearing around the city in a blindingly colorful trio, with the explicit purpose of taking goofy photos and making it rain popcorn. Unforgettable, working with Katheryn for the Boomchickapop campaign. Perhaps I’ll see White Cheddar another day, in another city!

Yep, the most fun I’ve ever had on a job!

Retreating to the strip malls sprawls of San Jose, I busied myself with quieter tasks that benefit from stability.

VHB suckaaaa. That Velcro isn’t coming off again.
Such health.
Very work (ooh, sneak peek at next book cover!)
DOT approved eyewear.

Still, I managed to find myself in the city nearly every weekend.

Remember last year when Pete confused me by asking me out? I cautiously made plans to meet again, if just to figure out his reasoning. He knew I wouldn’t be here for long, and he’s happy in SF. I’m usually not explicit about this whole… dating… thing. I hadn’t planned on participating, but I did set out to be riding for the long run, not just as a departure from so-called normal life. I didn’t want to put things on hold for it, if I could help it.* It occurred to me…why would I put dating on hold? In the past, even with the plethora of verbal warnings I give it always seems to come as a surprise when I choose my bike (or something) over more traditional ideas of commitment. I got that out in the open, and we realized we were both remarkably okay with this.

* Sadly, some things were too much for even me to take along. Sorry, jujitsu gi, but you’re bulky as hell and require frequent and special laundering. Same goes for skates, swords, and sandbags. I miss them. Oddly, after being removed from the burden of option for so long I’ve been finding I miss the full array of my clothes less and less. Hm.

So yeah, I was finding lots of opportunities to hang out in the city with this fancy guy.
Edwardian Ball, ho.
There are so many curlycues going on here I don’t know where to look.
Mmmyes macabre, my favorite.
Kungfu pants and ink. I applaud.
Head sword balancing. I also applaud.
I do not know what is going on, but maybe that’s the laudanum in the cocktails.
It is just me or does everything tastes like absinthe around here.
Thanks for supplying 90% of this outfit, Kendall! Your closet is fantastic. I feel so fancy. Thanks for playing photographer, Pete!
Fancy odd drunk people.
Scene change! Guess where I am…?

So this is the progressive city of San Francisco, correct? I found out you can take tours of the Armory Studios, that massive fortress-like building at one end of the Mission district. How could I possibly pass up this piece of San Francisco history?

Look up what Armory Studios produces…but not while you’re at work.
Upper Floor Derp Face.
One month’s supply of personal lubricant.
Back to bike upgrades, borrowing Vespa SF’s shop.

After much internal debate, I decided to spring for a waterproof, shockproof iM2450 Pelican case to replace my topcase (I found a cheap one minus foam on Ebay). Since I’m not sure when I’ll hear back from editor types, the idea is to carry a compressed version of my studio with me to work wherever I can. The rectangular shape was much better suited for boxy art supplies, though it would mean re-hauling my tried and true compact packing arrangement, and furthering the problem of weight towards the back which makes front end wobble more pronounced. Oh well, I’ll burn that bridge when I get there.

Pelican case is go!
Serenity is getting a face lift (actually just replacing speedo cable).
Meanwhile I’m putting an iPhone charging cable in Pete’s bike.
Breaking in Pete’s new Super.

Notice how there aren’t actually many shots of my bike.

Pete, being of Vespa SF, had somehow brought Piaggio into discussion about offering me a new bike – namely, the Super that I’d been breaking in while Serenity was being serviced. This was a surprise to me.

News from the shop about my bike was dismal. The truth was, this scooter wasn’t designed to do what I’m doing with it. Tom went through the front end with a fine tooth comb in search of the cause of the front end wobble, and nothing was found. Their thinking was that the accident early in her life (that manifested the blue paint job) caused micro fractures in the welds of the monocoque body. Over so many miles, the frame just settled in, sagging slightly in the middle and changing her geometry just enough to wobble. In short, due to the signature unibody nature of Vespas, there was nothing to be done.

This was terminal. The wobble would only get worse with miles. Even if it’s ridable, I was told that catastrophic engine failure was typical at mileage not far ahead of mine. Mark, concerned it would eventually cause injury to the rider, suggested to take the trade-in Pete was pushing for. I was heartbroken.

Vespa SF was so incredibly kind to my cause and I could never thank those guys enough, but my bike seemed interned indefinitely at the shop. I needed to ride it, at least a little more. She’s certainly broken in, but doesn’t ride like a shitty scooter. Why would I trade her? She hadn’t failed me in so many miles, and I do the required maintenance. I’d always assumed, perhaps foolhardily, the only way this would end was when the engine dropped out from under me from being so damn tired, or (preferably not) the scoot was totaled an accident. I intended to ride my GTS into the ground, I simply hadn’t pictured it any other way.

But would there come a day that parts and service become too expensive, or I just couldn’t stand the wobble anymore? Worse, would there be a day it causes an accident?

I had a couple more weeks to think it over. Although Piaggio’s sudden involvement was exciting, nothing was set in stone. Rationally, I knew that the best course of action was to graciously accept any blessing that came my way, but I secretly crossed my fingers that they might just help out on scooter service so I could continue just as I would have before. Maybe another ride, I would love the opportunity of working with corporate one day, but for this ride… Well, I started it for my own reasons and it’s not finished yet.

Borrowing the Bonneville again in the meantime.

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