Late this morning I decided, while in the shower, that I needed to go on a scooter ride. Other than short trips here or there, I hadn’t gone on a proper “scooter ride” in a while. So around 11 AM I took off in the State College direction. I took my usual route into town: 550 to Siebert Road, left on Rock Road, right on Airport/Fox Fill Road. From there I went through Toftrees and made a stop at the North Atherton Farmers Market in the Home Depot parking lot. There I chatted with a friend, ogled the ElGringo Taco Truck owner, I mean food, and bought a few snacky bits for the ride. (Ok, this is a post about scooter riding, but I’m going to shamelessly plug Ben Stanley and the ElGringo Taco Truck, because it’s the best of all things. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just watch the video below.
Took off on Valley Vista unsure of where I was going. That’s the best kind of riding I suppose. I knew I wanted to get out of the ‘burbs of State College aka Park Forest, and toward the corn fields. I turned on Circleville and headed toward Scotia. I had rode this way before with a friend and when we did that we took the road that goes through Scotia Range. I decided to nix that road 1) because I had done it before; and 2) because it was mostly gravelish dirt. (In retrospect of the day, this was a GOOD decision.) Instead curved around the bend and the road turned into Meeks Lane. I had a “AHA” moment once this happened and figured out where I was and where I was headed. After winding my way on Meeks Lane I hit up with 550 and turned left, prepared to go as far I could. (I even entertained the idea briefly of driving out to visit Dave Bonta at Plummer’s Hollow but decided that might be a bit too far for an unplanned trip.)
[insert awkward screen shot photo of my route on google maps, or just go to google map of route if you care to see it.]
I got just before the left turn onto Marengo Road when Vroomfondel stalled out. I had noticed it was catching a bit as I was slowing down and it just quit on me, luckily in a nice gravel parking area of a old garage. (Ahh, I just remembered as I was typing this that it also stalled out on me while I was on North Atherton street going downhill near the Sheetz and the turn for Home Depot.) I didn’t think much of it since it’s happened before to both myself and to Jason when he owned it. So I parked it, got out my current read, Dharma Bums, and my whoopie pie from the farmer’s market and took a break in the grass.
I read for about 15 minutes and then decided to get going again.
Get on the scooter.
Turn the key to on.
Hold in front break, start the ignition.
Engine turns over.
Engine turns over.
Engine. Does. Not. Start.
I tried sweet talking Vroomfondel. Told him I promised to take better care of him. Get him a proper bike cover. Take him to get his headlight fixed. Just please, please start. I looked at my (pay as you go) phone. No cell reception. I took out my itouch — no available wireless. I looked around me… a few houses and many rows of corn. So I sat down and spent some time with the owner’s manual. I tried kick starting it. I got really excited when I thought I heard the engine start a little idle. But I think it was Vroomfondel just giving a little puff. After about 15 minutes I made the decision to walk to the nearest house and ask if I could use either their internet or phone to call someone. Who was I going to call? I really wanted to call Chris Hults, because he was relatively close to where I was stalled or he might be able to suggest something for me to try. But I didn’t have Chris’ number. When I knocked on the door no one answered, but eventually after doing a little aimless walking in the yard, I found two older men sitting in the backyard. One of the guys let me use his phone and so I called Stacy and asked if he could come get me. Unfortunately, that meant no nap for Jo. (Those of you with young kids will understand.) But, like the valiant knight that he is, he packed up Jo in the car and drove out 550 to get me. I made some polite chit chat with the men, made some jokes about the phone calls I was making and to whom, and then said my goodbyes and went back to Vroomfondel.
I spent the next thirty minutes or so in the hot sun, taking off various articles of clothing and getting dirty. I wanted to figure it out, so I read through the owner’s manual, found the engine, played around with wires and plugs and tubs. I checked the oil. I tried starting both by ignition and kick starting it several more times. I put a note on the scooter and when Stacy arrived I asked him if he would jump it with the car. I knew it wasn’t the battery, but I just felt better knowing. So he did, and it didn’t work. I threw all of my stuff in the car, defeated. I said, “Before we go, will you just do me a favor? Will you try kick starting it? I tried but I don’t know if I gave it a strong enough kick.”
Ya’ll know where this is going, don’t you?
He kickstarts it – nothing. He kickstarts it again – rough idle. I get excited and tug on the throttle. It stalls. He kickstarts it again and it idles again, low and rough. For a good minute it just idles rough and I don’t dare touch the throttle for fear it’ll stall again. After a minute the idle starts to smooth out. A minute and a half and it gets even smoother. Two minutes and it sounds like a normal idle. Stacy looks at me and says, “Well? You want to ride it home or leave it here?” I tell him I want to ride it and so he follows behind me with his flashers. We decide at the intersection of 550 and Mountain Top to just take it to Campus Skooters and leave it there for them to fix. Stacy has errands to run so he agrees to meet up with me later to take me back to Bellefonte.
I get to Campus Skooters without a hitch and explain the stalling experiences to the very nice young man who is working there. I also ask them to fix the headlights (again) and change the oil. Might as well get it all taken care of in one go. So that’ll all get done Monday, hopefully.
Not quite how I had hoped my scooter riding day would turn out. But I’m happy I didn’t have to leave Vroomfondel on 550 in some random parking area off the road. And I’m grateful there was someone home at the nearby house that let me use their phone. And I’m grateful that Stacy was able and willing to come and get me.
This is how I ended my day of scooter adventures…