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The Solo Scooterist

Documenting my travels on a Vespa

Month: October 2014 (page 2 of 2)

Riding Rural

It was time to bid farewell to the  coast of dreams , I had two days to get up to Pisa , my sister had made arrangements to fly in from the Uk to welcome Vic and I to the continent and spend some time together enjoying Tuscany . I fired up Vic now insured against the driving wrath of the Italians and the ever clear and present danger of those hire cars and mobile homes , we set off up the coastal road .

I had programed the GPS to avoid all toll’s and  highways  so we could stay as close as possible to the sea and follow the coast  up to Pisa . The morning traffic bumper to bumper and this would not end until I left the coastal road just after Napoli . The road was so congested along this route that Victoria was sporting desert riding temperature changes , we decided to take a slightly more usable route up as we had spent almost two hours getting to the outskirts of Napoli , the home of pizza perfect , but the traffic  disastrous like to many toppings on a pizza .

 

Farwell to Sorrento

Farwell to Sorrento

 

 

Victoria saying goodbye , to the coast of dreams.

Victoria saying goodbye , to the coast of dreams.

So with the GPS re programed we ended up on the Autostrade , another name for projectile travel , 4 lanes wide full of traffic and trucks , all trying to emulate the speed of sound , I thought only Tanzanian trucks could travel at those speeds , clearly not , these European truck drivers must have had some training in Africa . I made it up and through Rome , and yes it is true all and all too many roads lead to Rome , even with the GPS we lost and found ourselves too many times in and around this gladiator town .

I found the flight and fright ride on the autostrade exhausting , Just like in sport or anything really in life , practice makes perfect and   being off the scooter for just short of ten days , I had lost my riding eye , it took some real adjusting to the speeds and traffic  that surrounded Vic and I . We survived over a hundred and fifty kilometres on the autostrada , but almost did not survive the bill we got when we took the off ramp to the countryside . I was getting really tired after the long day on those busy roads , luckily the rural roads took us through beautiful country side much more our style , with slower speeds , less traffic and those curves and corners we have grown to love .

As the Italian summer  season had come to an end the  campsites and the majority of guest houses had decided to take a break and  closed up for the winter , but we managed to find a spot hidden amongst trees and freshly ploughed fields , rustic and rural , just perfect . It felt great being off the scooter and after a hot shower I put my feet up enjoyed the setting sun , the peace and tranquillity of country life  looking forward to a good pasta once the restaurant opened .

 

Our overnight stop in rural Italy .

Our overnight stop in rural Italy .

The waiter was absolutely fantastic  , caring for the entire restaurant  packed with Italians and of course me with the skill of a F1 pit team but without the team . I took my piping hot oven fresh bread , mopped up that golden gleaming olive oil mixed with the pitch black balsamic vinegar , followed by a  delicious Ragu so simple yet flavours  that made me close my eyes and dream of taking up utensils in this country kitchen and dedicating my life to  the art of food and flavour.

Off to bed , with a singing belly , I still had a long ride to get to Pisa and I had decided that rural roads would be the path of choice going forward. The next morning after breakfast and a number of espressos it was time to head for Pisa. My choice confirmed to be the right one as the kilometres wound towards Pisa .

The roads  took me past or through hill top towns ,  villages  walled  to protect  , towers to sound the  warnings , spirals and steeples to show standing , a way of life long changed but preserved in architecture and design . I was so enjoying these back roads , If I saw something interesting I would ride off my chosen path  to go and investigate , so I came across a market day bursting with fresh produce from the surrounding areas , men dressed in camouflage and boots with half cocked shot guns slung over their backs strolling the streets ,  some successful with fury and fresh proof , others still in pursuit stopping at the local  coffee bar for a shot of espresso and in most cases a drink not warm but one that leaves you  warm  . I hope these guys stay  accurate after the bar visit and I don’t feel some buckshot finding its mark as Vic and I ride these mountain roads .

 

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country scootering .

country scootering .

The roads out here is what scootering dreams are made of , sweeping bends , cut back corners , hill climbs , valley descents and in between  all the road excitement the  villages , espressos bars   , unadulterated beauty and of course Vic and I . I have often found myself in a place while driving  a car saying , damn I wish I was on my scooter  and here I was on one of those roads with my wish being granted , so we rode and rode beaming , sweeping , leaning , the colours of autumn starting to emerge , with the matching , ever so slight chill in the air .

 

Rest stop.

Rest stop.

 

Italian addiction

Italian addiction

 

One of the many villages I rode through .

One of the many villages I rode through .

 

Rural lands

Rural lands

 

Vic and I full of joy on these corkscrew roads.

Vic and I full of joy on these corkscrew roads.

It was an amazing day on the road . Those long leans to the left , that sometimes end to suddenly , off to the right , then down to the valley floor , the throttle opens , Vic increases her speed lets her motor run free and then back into the mountains, climbing , leaning , curves and corners bringing a smile to my face and the chance for Victoria to use some of her side tread .

 

The start of autumn , the changing of the colours.

The start of autumn , the changing of the colours.

As we rode this beautiful countryside , the autumn colours blurring with the speed and light , I looked around with wonder , not just at the beauty , but with the realisation that we had made it all the way to Italy , I felt my eyes fill with tears of emotion , my body shook  with a sense of both relief and  grief , the journey almost complete , the road blurred in my tears , I reached down , turned the music up , full volume , adjusted my posture , eased the throttle open , heard the motor  take up the challenge and off we sped  to Pisa  with a full and grateful  heart . Seeing my sister just hours away , getting to Pontedera just days away  , Yes what a great ride .

Until we meet again

 

 

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Pisa , Pontedera and Piaggio

I rode straight to the Pisa airport to meet my sister , I was met with tears , smiles and then laughter , me in my riding gear , reflective jacket and fluffy beard , my sister thought that a courier guy had had been walking towards her not her long  not so lost travelled brother . We left the airport in search of our hotel which took and hour to find between the GPS confusing both itself and me , and the peak hour Pisa traffic . We checked in , cleaned up and  left to explore our  new town , it was going to be a wonderful four days .

 

Leaning at the tower .

Leaning at the tower .

 

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We spent our first evening walking the streets , enjoying this town known for its tower , but as we would find out over the next couple of days a fantastic place to explore offering so much more , our starters enjoyed  roadside with fresh bread , cheese , prosciutto and the ever famous Chianti wearing its straw jacket , then on to  wonder the streets some more . We end up in a lovely Italian restaurant tucked away in the old town , Republik  I think it was called .  A dinner worthy to mark a family reunion and toast a safe arrival .

 

Our street stop .

Our street stop .

 

breaking bread .

breaking bread .

 

heading home

heading home

So began our time together , we would spend the next couple of days exploring Lucca , Florence and of course Pisa with our last day together spent at the Vespa museum . Our days rolled by with walks , talks and cultural delights of which going to the Amedeo Modigliani exhibition in Pisa being  a highlight .Those long necks and elongated faces made for a wonderful way to spend the afternoon . Our time together was absolutely wonderful and just what I needed after all the months solo on the road .

 

Loving Lucca

Loving Lucca

 

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Life in Lucca square .

 

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Our time in Fashionable Florence was spent walking for hours , stopping for coffee and gelato and lunch of course , I cant say much about Florence that guide books have not spent years perfecting , other than , yes it is really old , charming , beautiful and wears a rich mantle of history that it shows with spectacular pride .

 

streets of Florence .

streets of Florence .

 

scooter city

scooter city

 

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The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

 

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The Ponte Vecchio .

 

our lunch venue

our lunch venue

Then it was back to Pisa for the next day we would explore our home base and enjoy a relaxing time together in each other company . My sister the culturally groomed one , me following her wearing my training wheels  . The weather fine , the sunshine getting the town out onto the streets , into the parks and onto the river .

 

Pisa

Pisa

 

Lazy Sundays

Lazy Sundays

Up early , today was the day I was taking Vic to her place of birth , the Piaggio factory in Pontedera. The guys in Johannesburg had tried to organise me a tour of the factory .  I was so excited to see if they had managed to secure  the factory and  museum visit , but the real excitement would be to follow the path Victoria took , to transform her  from a  galvanised  metal chassis  to the scooter swan she now is .

So after breakfast off we set to the home town of my  Vespa .  On arrival  there was a bit of confusion as to who I was , where I should go , who I should meet and generally what was going on . After riding up and down road Piaggio a few times and numerous phone calls , the lady at reception tracked down my host and Victoria and I were allowed on to the premises .

 

Two ladies leaving for Pontedera.

Two ladies leaving for Pontedera.

I was shown around the factory and given a detailed explanation about the different production lines and various other facts and figures pertaining to the production of these trusted scooters , from there  we went down to have a look at the museum , which was officially closed , but what they do is leave the door open , so that if  scooter enthusiasts come all the way  here they can still have a look around , I really enjoyed my tour . That been said  the visit was a bit of an anti climax and very disorganised ,  all I can say with certainty  is that vespa owners are far more enthusiastic  about the brand than the marketing department . What  a fantastic feeling having reached the factory and I loved my Vespa morning.

 

Victoria outside the Vespa museum .

Victoria outside the Vespa museum .

 

The original

The original

 

lets go racing .

lets go racing .

 

Almost off road like Vic. The Dakar special. Note the extra fuel tank.

Almost off road like Vic. The Dakar special . Note the extra fuel tank.

 

Wasps on parade

Wasps on parade .

I was asked to wait at the museum as two guys wanted to come and interview Vic and I about the trip , the one from Vespa World the other from the digital marketing department at Vespa . To kill a bit of time while waiting , I took a walk down the road to go for a coffee only to find that is was the local hangout of the factory workers , If only  they knew how much I appreciated the way they had put Vic together , so strong and reliable to cross Africa with hardly a glitch , I said a quiet thank you to them while ordering  my cappuccino . Back to the museum , unfortunately the interview was cancelled as there was some kind of confusion or miscommunication and they were stuck in Milan.

I fired up Victoria said my farewells and thank you’s and pointed us back to the airport to see my sister off . We had such a special time together it was going to be a sad parting , me back to the road and her to the UK . We said our goodbyes and I rode off with a heavy heart , like trying to swim with an anvil it was  .

I had to track down a place to have Victoria serviced and checked over , so  back to the hotel to do some research . Not surprisingly there is an official Piaggio dealer in Pontedera  , as I was about to ride back a heavy storm broke and took my desire to  ride all the way back away ,  I  would ride down in the morning . I found the dealership easily the GPS was on Q , I introduced myself to Paolo the owner , and what a fantastic guy , he could not believe that I had crossed Africa on a Vespa , he came out had a look at the scooter , now even more surprised after seeing all the extra’s . Victoria was taken into the workshop and so began the check up .

 

In need of some TLC

In need of some TLC

Riccardo was put in charge and Paolo kindly translated what needed to be done . New oil filter , oil , new spark plug , checked the tyres , the brakes , on went a new drive belt and then the expensive news hit , the clutch was done , as I had expected , so in went a new one as well as the indicator lens and Vic was as good as new. The clutch lasting just over 20 000 km showed just how taxing the conditions were , as under normal riding conditions a clutch lasts between 50 and 60 000 km .

 

New belt , new clutch .

New belt , new clutch .

 

Service time , in a official Vespa dealership , Nice

Service time , in a official Vespa dealership , Nice

Victoria felt fantastic after all the work and ready to tour , before heading home to Africa  . Paolo very kindly gave me very special labour rates and discounted the parts dramatically so what could have been a very expensive morning turned out a total treat  , thank  you Busdraghi Piaggio I really enjoyed my morning with you guys .

Then it was back to Pisa for it was time to tour Tuscany.

Until we meet again.

 

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