Unofficial Modern Vespa Blogger Touring Summit of White Springs, FL. December 9-11, 2015.

Things had been quiet since I landed in Atlanta in November. In my experience, it can take up to a couple weeks for the fernweh beast to start making noise again. Luckily, if I could hold out a little longer, a December trip to Florida was falling into place.

Scoot is getting on in its miles.
Map porn. I use GPSVisualizerto draw my KML tracks.

The greatest rewards in travel are so often intangible, but I like seeing chunks of tracks together. It makes me feel like I’m getting somewhere, though counting miles and plotting tracks isn’t so much an accomplishment on its own so much as it helps trigger memories and fill in between the lines on a map.

What I missed most about being in one place was training, so I signed up at Alliance Atlanta. Thank you endlessly for the gi, Deanna!
Mostly, life looked like this (plus some book work, not pictured).
And some of this: cutest kitty bowl, while marathoning Jessica Jones with Wai.
Also, repairing things, like my early model Kevlar leggings.
Night rides back from class get chilly.

Back in July, life circumstances arranged themselves such that when I passed through the Adirondacks, David Masse gave me Jim’s tour after they had road tripped together (see David’s post here). This December, Jim was volunteering as a blacksmith at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, in White Springs, FL. He and his wife, Grace, were staying in their Airstream, but Jim arranged a cabin for a get-together of long haul Vespa riders. In addition to finally meeting Jim, you might recognize Ken (Lostboater) and Bill (Rocket & Me). It’s quite the list of modern Vespa tourers and bloggers.

I packed my bags for 2 nights (so small, what luxury) and turned my heated gloves on high to beat the 3 C morning chill. An early wrong turn surprised me with a hit of nostalgia; I stumbled upon Stone Mountain, the first mountain I ever laid eyes on as a rugrat, possibly on my first ever trip outside the city. It’s a modest geological formation by other standards, but I remembered kiddie-me in awe of seeing something so massive rise out of the ground.

By Macon, temperatures climbed to 12-15 C, and at our designated meeting spot of Douglas Municipal Airport the ambient air had warmed to a stunning 25 C. I thought I would never feel t-shirt weather again! Pro tip from Ken: you can often find free hot coffee and a restroom at small airports.

Hi Ken, Bill, and Jim!
I’m so excited to meet everyone!
In the hangar, Jim observes photos of an uncommon twin fuselage fighter plane in flight.
Ken worked in aviation, and picked the hanger to witness the ongoing restoration of the extremely rare XP-82.
It’s taken over 7 years to get this far, hopefully it will fly in 2017. Check out the blog about restoring the XP-82.
It’s a riveting effort.
Four scooters and an airplane.
At the cabin, I finally get to check out other GT and GTS touring rigs.

Gliding down the flat, straight highways of Florida in a Vespa pack transformed what could have been a dull ride into a gleeful experience. One of the hilarious moments for me was when we all stopped to wait for a turn. At least three of the bikes were beeping, like a little chorus, and at slightly different tones. We had all installed the same turn signal beeper modification!

Apparently ‘cabin’ at Stephen Foster is way fancier than I thought.

We had just enough time to settle at the cabin – which, with its two bedrooms, electricity, comfortable shower, and fireplace exceeds all my expectations when I hear the phrase ‘cabin by the river’ – before it was time for a seafood dinner. To digest, we explored Stephen Foster’s winter village with some popcorn and hot chocolate. I’m still marveling that it’s comfortable to be outdoors at this time of year.

Grace volunteers at the loom.
It must be a procedure to string those Christmas lights up the bell tower.

Back at the cabin, we chatted by a warm fire. I practiced some ukulele on the guys and attempted the thematically appropriate Suwannee River song, but I actually don’t know it very well (apparently it goes like this).

Sadly, Bill and Ken are already off the next day.

It was all so brief! Check out Bill’s post about the trip on Rocket & Me.

It was great getting to know the guys, and a bit funny when Bill refers to “four dinosaurs and a Steph.” I suppose there are few people my age who can/are willing to take the kind of time away from career development that’s essential to extended travel. I was brought up to prioritize career, but if anything has come from slow, open ended travel, perhaps it’s an expanded understanding of the nature of work or its role in creating a meaningful existence.

Speaking of slow, I’d be sticking around for another night.

So much space at this cabin by the Suwannee, but it’s time for me to change camp.
Jim got me a tent spot for an extra night at the park. It’s huuuge.
After lunch in High Springs, we took a walk around Poe Springs.
Cypress and all the knees! Like a little village of treelings.
So peaceful. Jim finds good spots.
The water was so clear, we spent some time watching turtles paddle around lazily.
What is this, a painting?
As if it couldn’t get more charming…
…I discovered this part of the bank was made of tiny shells.
So tiny underfoot.
Jim’s GTS rig includes a clock and thermometer. Yes, it’s in the 90s F in the sun.
In a free moment back at the workshop, Jim begins fashioning a helmet clip for me out of scrap aluminum, much like the one I saw on his bike. Cool!
In the evening Jim is back to work volunteering at the blacksmith shop, and entertaining the kids.
He walked visitors through the skillful creation of several hooks, and a wine bottle opener.
Scoot is all packed in the morning. It’s like clockwork now.
I stopped by Jim and Grace’s RV before scooting out. This must be the right one!
The Airstream is so awesome. I got a mini-tour, and had some coffee and conversation.
Jim made me the coolest gift out of a fork! Thank you so much for everything, Jim!
Go ahead and ask yourself how I managed to take this photo.

I had 300+ miles to ride back to Atlanta, but I was prepared with my throttle lock and a good playlist. On long, empty, straight stretches I would sometimes take my hands off and steer with weight, when I realized I’d listened to at least 3 songs without touching the handlebars. That’s about 10 miles of hands free operation. I didn’t know I found a self driving scoot.

Back to my Atlanta life. The tiki mug I’m using to rinse watercolors came from a Tuesday at Bookhouse.

Back to thermal layers, colder temps, work, and ibuprofen for now. See you on the jiu-jitsu mats.

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