Mission Creep

Weather: 51°F (10°C) Under partly cloudy skies
Road Conditions: Dry with salt and sand in places.

Frogwing loiters in an unfamiliar environment: Saint Anthony Main.

When I started Rush Hour Rambling, I had intended to explore the urban commuter routes, inside the Interstate 94 Loop, on an economical modern scooter. For the longer range rambles, I was going to rely on my ever-faithful Kawasaki KLR-650, Frogwing.

This worked beautifully, last year.

However, since Scarlet O’Baron decided to give herself totally to the study of advanced corrosion in mobile metals, I have been left without that convenient, twist-n-go commuter option. So Frogwing has been pressed into service as my urban transport as well; a little bit of mission creep that doesn’t bother either of us too much. Especially in view of this latest bit of news…

The Announcement

Cooper Katz, the ad agency for Piaggio/Vespa, have agreed to lend me a Vespa 250 GTS i.e. for the riding season this year. I phoned Kathleen at C.K. in New York this morning, and she is going to get the ball rolling on this next week. Our local Vespa dealer, Motoprimo in Minneapolis, will handle delivery.

Not only will I be testing the scooter itself, but this will be a Ride to Work(tm) evaluation of the “Vespanomics” concept. I will be evaluating this scooter for practical suitability as an everyday commuter, as well as taking it on a few longer rambles to see how it fares in the touring role. Mileage and maintenance will be recorded, and I hope to be able to give my readers a comprehensive picture of what Vespa ownership is all about.

The Vespa GTS looks like this:

Image of Red Vespa 250 GTS i.e. from the “Bikez” website.

I have been drooling over this scooter ever since I first became aware of it. In my humble opinion, it looks the way a scooter ought to look. Everything I’ve read and heard about it tells me that I am in for a real treat, and I’ve got to tell you, I can’t wait.

Now, back to Frogwing and our urban adventures…

I chose a modified Ramble Plan Bravo, formerly known as the “Como Cruise”, for our first urban commute of the season. Later in the year, when the roads are cleaner and the weather warm, we will range farther afield, but last night we explored Saint Anthony Main across the river from downtown Minneapolis.

This is a popular destination for upscale dining, as they have several very nice restaurants in the beautiful brick buildings lining the cobblestone street. I’ve toyed with the notion of reviewing one of these places, but the prices scare me away. There’s a Japanese restaurant called Kikugawa, a Euro-style place called Sophia, and several other fancy bistros along this scenic stretch of road.

Unfortunately, they are doing some major construction right now, and the noise level was horrendous, so Frogwing and I didn’t linger for long.

Frogwing and his shadow, lounging on the cobblestones.

We stopped at the Sportsman, where I had that wonderful chili last year, and I talked with Lindsay for awhile, catching up. Then we headed on down the road towards home. Amy is feeling better these days, and she finally decided to try cooking again, so there was no dinner stop along the way.

Early Spring in Minnesota is not very picturesque. The foliage is brown, the trees still bare, and we have these piles of dirty snow scattered about everywhere. Still, it sure feels good to be back on two wheels.

Today, as soon as I finish typing this, Frogwing and I are headed up north to my Dad’s trailer in the swamp near McGregor. I should have some new stories to tell when I get back on Sunday. This is shaping up to be a wonderful riding season.

18 Responses to “Mission Creep”

  1. Sidewalk Dan Says:

    Gary, congratulations on your new “arrangement” and your new ride! Your daughter will be looking fabulous as ever on the back.

    Also glad your wife is on the mend and feeling better.

    Some good news all around!

    You should find some nice slop up north to play in this wknd, and the weather looks fantastic for some nice riding up there.

    Congrats once again.

    Sidewalk Dan out.

  2. Lady Luck Says:

    Congratulations!! I wish I was that lucky, I actually have to pay for my 250GTS i.e. Vespa… WHATEVER! I drive it almost everyday to work (20 miles each way – highway) and it does WONDERFULLY. You really will love it. It is a great machine. Now that gas is almost $3/gal, I sure do make everyone jelous with my $8/week commuting costs.

  3. Buster Brown Says:

    Two thumbs up. Good schnorr!

  4. Bro Shagg Says:

    Well, I’ve done it again- waited too long to comment on a post. Personally, I’ve always ‘read’ your name as “Shar-pon-tee-yay”, and am just a little disappointed that you don’t pronounce it that way…

    The snakes didn’t eat ‘taters or Irishmen, but they did get into the Guinness, which earned them the wrath of Patrick, after which he chased the buggers off the Emerald Isle. And, if you’re gonna be sainted, what better reason is there than that?!?

    (This post was written with, and thusly should be read with, a good thick brogue!)


  5. Bill Sommers Says:

    Oh man, this is HUGE! You are one deal swingin’ cat.

    Nothing against my chosen steed, but there is something about those darn 250 Vespa’s that has me curious. I can’t wait to bounce between Steve’s blog and yours to get the straight story on this model.

    Have fun,

  6. Steve Williams Says:

    Congratulations Gary! I think you’ll really love the GTS. I expect Frogwing is going to get real jealous real fast. So take it easy.

    Looking forward to your Vespa adventures.

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

  7. michael Says:

    I think the GTS will astonish you with its level of comfort, ease of use and praticality for daily riding. I look forward to hearing you help put to bed all the noise about “small wheels” as you ride this machine further afield than you ever expect. I’ve ridden scooters and motorcycles all my life but the GTS does everything i want and better than I had a right to hope. The best $6,000 I spent on a two-wheeler. Better by far than the old, and lovely, two strokes.

  8. Arizona Lucky Says:

    I gotta stop reading your ramble plans. You make me miss Minnesota. Except that I KNOW that I don’t miss Minnesota.

    Congrats on the Great Vespa Hustle of Ought Seven! Here’s to many happy miles this season!

  9. jsmith14 Says:

    Hey Gary,

    I’ve been faithfully reading your blog since you started.

    How about a recap of all those restaurants you’ve visited?

  10. combatscoot Says:

    Congrats on the GTS review! Cooper Katz won’t be likely to abandon you like they did Vespaway, at least not while you have their scooter:)

  11. Biker Betty Says:

    Congratulations!! That is one sharp looking scooter and sounds pretty neat. I just saw a scooter at the store last night and I wished I had a camera. It was white with a black and white checkerboard pattern over the fenders and on the front. I was very impressed. Hope you and Frogwing had a great trip (as I know you will be reading this Sunday/Monday).

    I’m glad to hear your wife is doing well and wish her a continued speedy recovery from the surgery.


  12. Dan Jones Says:

    Hope you had fun in the swamp. The wife and I stayed at the newly refurbished Big Sandy Lodge (formerly Karephree Pines) on Big Sandy lake just North of McGregor. Very interesting country up there. Very soggy too.

    No matter how many different scooters I’ve seen–be they new or old–none of them stirs my soul quite like a Vespa. Back in the day, I was all set to tour Europe on a Vespa but Uncle Sam had another idea in mind. I did get to see Europe but in a deuce-and-a-half. Never did get around to buying a Vespa but having fun on my current scooter. Who knows? Maybe one of these days…

  13. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Sidewalk Dan: Yes indeed, on all points. Emily is even more excited than I am. She has developed a discerning eye when it comes to scooter style, and she is only seven years old. By sixteen, who knows?

    Lady Luck: Thanks for writing in! But luck? It’s not like I won a sweepstakes or anything. I’d like to think that my many years as a published moto-journalist had something to do with getting this deal. That, and my persistence in finding the right people to talk to.

    Unless you are in the big glossy major leagues, moto-journalism doesn’t pay squat compared to a “real” job. Guys like me have to really scramble to line up deals like this, and it has taken me years to get the hang of it.

    Still, Cooper Katz and Piaggio/Vespa strike me as very progressive and creative in their promotional thinking, and they may well create a new paradigm with their Internet efforts.

    Buster: Thanks, buddy.

    Bro Shagg: Aye laddy, `tis true what ye say. I’ll raise a pint with ye any old time in honor of Saint Patrick.

    Bill: Well, thanks… It was largely Steve’s experience with Vespas that inspired my interest in the marque. Then, when I saw one on the showroom floor, I was hooked. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the GTS affected me much the same as the Ducati 900SS did years ago; we used to call it “Moto-lusto Italiano”.

    Steve: Hey, we were just talking about you! Frogwing has been most patient with my philandering ways. He is secure in the knowledge that when the going gets tough, he gets the job done. But the Vespa will be perfect for the urban commuter mission, and I can’t wait to go touring the two-lanes with it.

    michael: I still shake my head when I think about how profoundly scooters have affected my life. The old Rocker in me is sulking in a corner of my psyche right now, kicking the wall and muttering darkly to himself.

    AZLucky: I developed an affinity for palm trees and sand during my long hitch in the Marine Corps, so I know what you are saying. Still, family obligations will hold me here for at least another decade. I could never escape with my conscience intact. However, nothing prevents you from coming up to visit once in awhile, especially during the heat of your Arizona Summer. Keep me in mind, next time you fly north.

    JSmith14: I could be snarky and tell you that’s what the archives are for, but I’m not like that. This sounds like a good idea for next Winter, maybe the New Year’s Retrospective. Somebody has suggested that, once I get enough of them lined up, I should publish a Rider’s Guide to Dining in the Twin Cities. Another possibility is to separate the Ramble Plans from everything else in the archives, for easy reference. Maybe I’ll talk to admin Shane about that…

    CSJohn: I’m not at all sure that was C.K. who did that, but maybe you have inside information? Either way, they seem to be trying hard to figure out how to use this online medium to best advantage. I have to give them credit for that.

    Betty: First, thanks for your kind words to Amy. She doesn’t quite know what to make of the fact that there are people out there pulling for her that she has never even met. The wonders of the Internet, eh? Second, yes, Frogwing and I had a great trip. As soon as I am finished answering comments, I will get busy on the next blog entry.

    Dan: We certainly did. When were you up at Big Sandy? Did you drive up?
    Touring Europe on a Vespa seems like an impossible dream to me, but it is something I would very much love to try some day. Just THINK of the stories I could write on such an adventure!

    Ride well,

  14. Harvey Binder Says:

    Oh man are you going to love the GTS. Gary, I think its the perfect Vespa for you. Of the two bikes which could cover all the bases I would say its hard to beat an enduro and a freeway capable GTS 250.

    I’m hoping you have a safe return as the weather was a little wild here through the nighttime hours.

    Looking forward to tonight’s post,


  15. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Harv: Considering the weather, and the corrosive soup it would bring to the roads, Frogwing and I headed home yesterday afternoon, beating the storm by about half an hour. I’m hoping for a couple of “gully-washers” to clean all this crap from the pavement, and prepare it for my new Vespa adventures.

    I think Saint Cloud should be one of our first destinations. That work for you?

    Ride well,

  16. Harvey Binder Says:

    I think that would be great. Let me know what works for you and we can put something together.


    ps you really are going to love the GTS.

  17. Buster Brown Says:

    On a second look, the Vespa still looks really good, except for one thing, that seat. It looks like a Corbin Gunfighter installed backwards. A true retro treatment would have featured a sprung saddle, sized somewhere between a Brooks B66 and a Harley tractor seat.

  18. Mad Says:

    Hey Gary I’m on a course in London at the moment and everywhere I look there are Vespas just like the one you’re getting. They swarm in packs here in the city, diving through the traffic and parking in brightly coloured rows.
    You see the city of London has instituted congestion charging, which means that cars must pay a daily tarrif of (I think) £5 to drive in the centre. Now powered two wheelers are exempt so their popularity has gone up hugely and it seems like most people who didn’t want to go the full fat motorbike route went and bought Vespas. I’ve been quite impressed with them, classy looking and pretty competent in tight traffic. I think you’ll have fun on yours.