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In Retrospect…



Ever since the first days of the ride I’ve anticipated that someday I would be trying to summarize this experience, wondering how best to put a tidy bow on a package that was getting bigger and more complex by the day. The daily blog posts published during the trip were relatively easy…let the pictures tell the story, and try not to let the words get in the way.  What follows are a few pictures as reminders of the trip, and some of my thoughts looking back.  You have seen most of the pictures before.   I’ll try not to let the words get in the way.
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There are many options available for how we conduct our travel.  Four choices I made prior to starting the ride largely defined the nature of my trip.  These were: the choice of a scooter as my vehicle, a preference to minimize time on the interstate highway system, the absence of a planned route or daily destination, and the goal to document my daily progress in a blog.

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You went through all those states on that?  Why a scooter instead of a motorcycle?  Are you crazy?
I heard these questions a lot.  Mostly though, people would look at the map on the top box, look at the scooter, shake their heads and chuckle.  It was always good natured.  I enjoyed it.  I rarely tried to explain myself other than to say I was happy with the arrangement.
_JMH3323_LR_800_WMIn fact the scooter was the perfect vehicle for my trip.  I like a single cylinder better than eight, prefer quiet to loud, slow to fast and conservation over consumption.  I own a scooter because it matches who I am. We were well paired for travel.
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The scooter helped me engage with people.  For some reason people have good feelings about scooters, and they seem well-inclined toward the rider also.  In most of the United States a scooter is a novelty item, and people liked approaching me to talk about mine.  I had memorable interactions with many people that would not have occurred if it wasn’t for the scooter.
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The scooter allowed me to ride and park in places that wouldn’t be possible in a larger vehicle.  I could ride into a field or through a public park.  Sidewalks and hotel entries were fair game for parking.  For some reason scooters get a free pass.  Wherever I rode or parked my scooter I would be considerate of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  I wouldn’t ride onto a sidewalk if pedestrians were near-by.
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Many of my pictures were taken while I was parked on a road shoulder too small for a car.

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Identity, novelty, convenience…I think all of the above are true.  But may-be I’m just fooling myself.  It could simply be that I rode the scooter because it’s fun and exciting.

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There is the obvious issue of safety with any powered-two-wheeler.  I tried to stay cautious and minimize exposure to hazardous situations.  There were times when the risk was greater than I was comfortable with, like riding at night or in high winds.  How to decide?  I don’t think there is a rational basis for risk analysis when the reward is subjective.
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So what’s wrong with the interstate?
Nothing, it’s a wonderful thing.  But it wouldn’t have served my purpose, which was to explore.  I wanted to travel down a road that allowed stops and u-turns, so that when I came upon something interesting I could get off of the scooter and look around, walk a few steps, listen, look at the plants and the ground…
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…and the towns.  The interstates tend to by-pass the small towns.  They have exits at the big towns and cities where business is done via the national chains…food, lodging, clothes, tires, coffee…it has a predictable quality that is the same here as it was in the last town and will be in the next town and the next.  But small towns…may-be they have a cafe, may-be it’s gone out of business, and if it’s open may-be it has good food or may-be not, but either way it will be different from any other cafe you’ve ever been in.  And so it goes business to business and town to town, the parks, churches, gravel roads, homes on Main Street, the water tower and the VFW.  There’s space between the towns, lots of space.
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I was born in a small town, but it’s not small any more.  There’s no space between my town and the towns surrounding it.  I understand and am comfortable in my town’s culture.  I  may not be well-suited to live in a small town, but I respect them and am fascinated by them.

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We don’t need no stinking reservations. . .careless or carefree?

I might have done more planning if I thought it would have done any good. But on the scooter, riding in good weather was more important than a particular destination.  And even more important than that was the flexibility to stop along the way or explore a side road without concern about reaching a particular destination that day._JMH0455_LR_800_WMMy route planning amounted to looking at a weather site on the web to find the best weather for the next day or two in the general direction I was headed, then pick a town in the good weather area, find a promising road in that direction and go.  I frequently kept on or near the roads I planned for that day, but rarely ended up in the town that was my “destination.”  Too many variables.  

_JMH0756_LR_800_WMI never started a day’s ride with a room reservation for that night, and only once called ahead more than a few minutes before arriving to see if a room was available.  Most of the time I just rode into a town and picked a motel, often the only motel.  It was sometimes a bit of a scramble to get a room at the end of the day, but the liberation of not being limited by a destination was worth it to me.

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Sharing via the Blog
The scooter ride was a wondrous flow of thoughts, sights and sensations.  I was excited about sharing the experience, and the blog was the best means I knew for doing that.  I usually worked on the blog in the evenings and mornings, for about two to four hours per day.  Sometimes I was tired and had to push myself to work on it, but it was fun work.

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Getting comments from readers was a reward.  I would like to have responded to the comments, but was reluctant to start down that slippery slope.  If I responded to some then I should respond to them all, and may-be it would develop into correspondence.  My days were already full.  Thank you for your comments.
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I never thought of the blog as a distraction or as being somehow in conflict with my experience of the ride.  I wasn’t interested in the night life, if there happened to be any, and I wasn’t going to turn on the TV.  I actually felt like doing the blog added to my sense of immersion.    So much transpired every day that it was not unusual to look at picture in the evening with some surprise and think, “Oh yeah, that just happened earlier today.”  The blog was a daily review, reminder and perspective.
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Photography
For most of my adult life I’ve had a camera.   As I planned the trip, the opportunity to take pictures was one of the things I looked forward to the most.  During the trip I would occasionally ride off in the morning focused on the logistics of the trip, thinking that possibly the excitement was behind me and this would just be a day of grinding out the miles.  But inevitably something interesting would come into view, I’d get off the scooter, take the camera out of the top case and the game was on. It would last all day.  Frequently I would ride beyond the time of day that I knew I should stop, because the evening light was good for photography.

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It was exciting to take pictures, ride a scooter and explore the world, all in the same package.
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Day to Day. . .
All of the above is well and good, but what was it really like? As the miles rolled by, days turned into weeks, away from the comforts of home, cautious but unable to totally eliminate the risks of the road or mechanical failure, safety and security, compromised nutrition, exposed…was I happy?  Yes, I think so, but happy because I liked what I was doing, not because it was easy or I was without problems.
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Exposed?  Yes, separate from the issue of the weather, I felt exposed in a way I had not anticipated.  A scooter doesn’t provide that cocoon we take for granted in our daily lives, typically a car, office or home…roofs, walls, windows, doors and locks to provide privacy, familiarity, security and comfort.  You can check into a motel in the evening, but they want you to leave in the morning. And even if they would let you stay, you can’t, because that’s not going to get you where you want to go. You’ve got to go back out into the open…exposed.
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Especially in the last phase of the trip, during the long rides west, the concept of “sustained effort” came to mind.

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Now that it’s over. . .

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. . .am I the same person I was before I made the trip?
I hope not.  Experience adds perspective, and I’d like to think that this large experience has added to my understanding in a way that will influence how I view life and conduct myself going forward.
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. . .if I had the decision to make over again, would I do it again?
Yes
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. . .will I do it again?
I don’t know.  Separately and together Marion and I have had many adventures worth repeating, but we haven’t gone back to them.  There are so many other attractive possibilities not yet explored.  On the other hand, a couple of days ago I did sneak a look at the mileage to Jacksonville, Florida…
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. . .and the blog?
No plans.  When I set it up with the host I paid for a two-year presence on the web, so the posts and comments will be here for a while.  I feel a connection with the readers of this blog.  A few of you I know, most I do not.  Either way, we have been on a trip together, and have been part of each others world.  Thank you for riding along.
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37 Comments

  1. Richard Lewis Richard Lewis

    Neat epilogue, thanks for sharing and “taking ” us
    along on your road trip. 😎

  2. FRO FRO

    Thank you for taking me on your trip.
    Thank you for allowing me to get to know you better.
    Thank you for being yourself and teaching us all to take life as it comes, appreciate it, and share it with others.

  3. Bill Hughes Thousand Oaks CA Bill Hughes Thousand Oaks CA

    Mike…thanks so much for taking us along on your journey, and what a journey its been. You’ve taken me to so many places I’ve never been, and I thank you for that. Your commentary, pictures, descriptions, planning, trip tips, etc, etc, etc as they say, have so inspired me and I’m sure so many other fans who have become your riding friends and companions, yet to be met. Ride safe. Oh yea, and about that Florida trip….I’m ready to follow you.
    Thanks, Bill Hughes

  4. Tom Lucas Tom Lucas

    WOW, that made closure the best it could be, Thanks

  5. Alan Alan

    Amen, Brother! A fitting conclusion to an
    extraordinary journey.

  6. Scott Martin Scott Martin

    Blessings to you and your wife. Dee and I have enjoyed this ride and this distant relationship. Till we meet again.

  7. Kenneth Hansen Kenneth Hansen

    Enjoyed reading about this trip/adventure! Pictures were great.

  8. Rick Base Rick Base

    Thank you for blogging your journey. Each entry was wonderful and inspiring.

    One of the best parts was seeing the freedom created by using a scooter. I have a question if you get the time to respond. I’m planning a very similar journey next summer also on a scooter. The scooter though is bigger, the Suzuki Burgman 650 ABS which is like a motorcycle in size. My question is that I would like to have the freedom to park on sidewalks etc. as you did and wonder if you could comment if a larger scooter like that would be feasible?

    Thanks for taking us along.

    Rick

    • Mike Hermens Mike Hermens

      Rick,
      I don’t know how your Burgman would be treated. I would guess that the smaller and more scooter-looking the vehicle the less attention it will attract from the authorities. People on Modern Vespa will have more definite opinions.

  9. Bob Clem Bob Clem

    Thanks for the great epilogue, perhaps the best of all your posts, both in photos and narrative. This is probably a great time in your life to make a trip like this, with the trip’s experiences tempered by all of your previous life experiences and made all the richer for it. I am saying that perhaps a younger person would not be as apt or as inclined to savor the deeper aspects of what is available to experience through travel. You managed to convey quite well that richness to all of us who followed along, seeing through your eyes what we may have glossed over otherwise. Welcome back.

  10. A great summation of a wonderful life adventure. As a fellow Vespa wander and blogger I must say yours is one of the best. People do not appreciate the effort it takes to do a blog on a daily bases. Our thoughts are aligned in many respects. When I first starting getting readers I would think “what do I have to write about today”. Then I would remind myself that the blog was my journal, written for me, but glad to share with others. In the end, most days, something or someone interesting would cross my path.
    The difference between yours and mine are, you can write.

    As whether you will do another one, I am willing to bet that you will.

    Thanks for the ride,
    Ken

  11. Thank you Mike for wrapping up the trip in this post. A lot of what you shared I might have guessed but there were other things I wouldn’t. Especially the idea of being exposed. I suppose I understand it intellectually but have not ridden far enough from “home” to experience it. Or maybe it’s not universal.

    Bravo for finding a way to integrate your blog into the trip. Your estimate of four to five hours a day working on it — that is a major commitment.

    I hope when your hosting plan is up that you consider keeping it going beyond that. Or maybe find someone to migrate it to Blogger where Google will keep it going indefinitely. It’s not a subject I’ve seen raised many times in the blogging community but I wonder how so much story and experience can be saved…

    Best wishes on whatever adventure is ahead.

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

    • Mike Hermens Mike Hermens

      Thank you Steve,
      I struggled with the word “exposed.” It’s not a word that occurred to me during the ride. But when writing the Retrospect post it was the closest word I could think of that might describe the low-grade discomfort that comes from being removed from the security and predictability we imagine in our everyday lives. The feeling did not detract from my experience. It was simply something I was aware of as the flip side of the adventure coin.
      You are generous to suggest that the blog posts should possibly be retained. In fact they do serve as a memory for me and possibly something of a curiosity to others, and I hope and expect to find some means to keep them accessible.
      Best wishes for your own adventures and development.

  12. jim mandle jim mandle

    Mike, I awaited your final posting of the trip and found both your words and photos just as inspiring as time spent following along the entire journey. For many of us, you have fueled that spark which hopefully will flame into a similar road adventure.
    And if you are checking the milage to Florida, there are many here ready to join you for a ride in our sunshine state.
    Many thanks for all of your postings and the special thought and time you took to post the last two – worth all the ram my little computer has!
    Jim

  13. Michael B. Michael B.

    Very interesting, Mike. Nice pics. Man, amazing you found space for your large camera stuff. Your Vespa handled the trip with just regular maintenance?

    • Mike Hermens Mike Hermens

      Michael, Not quite trouble-free. See posts of Sept 19 and Oct 13 & 20. Room for the camera was a matter of priorities.

      • Michael B. Michael B.

        Thanks, Mike, for the answer. Today I took the time to go through all your post. Well, not enough time to read all the details in all of them, but at least to see them and many of the pics. Tire and injector. Get it. It’s good you can do lots of repairing yourself 🙂 On my trip I had only tools to replace the exhaust gasket, a set of torx screwdrivers, fuses, and an air compressor. Of course, my trip was one tenth of yours…
        Again, very nice pics. You have a good eye for composition. Cheers, M

  14. You should really consider making your journey into a small book. Before you discount that thought, remember that many have lived vicariously through your words and eyes, and would likely relive it again through a book!

    Wonderful conclusion, but hopefully it’s not the finale. 🙂

    Best wishes,
    Michael

    • Mike Hermens Mike Hermens

      Thanks Michael for suggesting that the blog might qualify for print. It would be convenient to have a copy to leaf through for the memories. May-be someday. Right now I am engaged with deferred maintenance of person and property.
      Take care and best wishes for your own site.
      Mike

  15. Randy Pfyl, Concord CA Randy Pfyl, Concord CA

    Enjoyed your epilogue. Very clever and well thought out. Cool the way you had the photo of “the tin man” with his eye brows raised and stated “it matches who I am” – seems like Mike being comical again. Love those photos: hay bale truck, small town cafes, Wisconsin Michigan fork in the road, etc. They’re all so good and your photo choices seem to flow with your epilogue. Very well thought out. Thank you.

  16. John Doyle John Doyle

    Mike,many of us ride, but few can put those experiences to the pen. You,Steve,and others have that gift.Thank you for the journey.Please consider adding to your Retrospect.For now, I wish you and yours,a safe and blessed Holiday Season!

    • Mike Hermens Mike Hermens

      John, Your comment put me into a five day binge of introspection about my writing and what, if anything, I have to write about. What I’ve come up with is that I am not a “writer” in the sense that Steve Williams is. Steve can publish a story about losing his fountain pen that is interesting, enjoyable and meaningful. He has a talent for helping us see the larger picture, insights to the human condition. My own writing ability is limited to supplying a background narrative to fill in the gaps of a larger story. I need a prop, a really big prop, like a scooter trip around the country. I enjoy writing the background narrative, and hope to do it again, as soon as I find the right prop.
      Thank you for your comment, and Best Wishes for the Holidays.

  17. Bill Hughes Bill Hughes

    Hi Mike…I’m curious. Did you have riding experiance, scooter or motorcycle, before beginning this epic adventure? Or was this “on-the-job” training?
    Bill

  18. Bill Hughes Bill Hughes

    Forgot to mention why I am curious about your riding experience. I got my Vespa just three years ago and ever since have wanted to take a long trip to visit family members in the western states of WY, CO, ID. At age 73 I’m sure this would be quite an undertaking for me. But your blog has inspired and informed me greatly. And as I sit in the dentist chair right now re root canal, I’m dreaming of my hoped for trip next summer…heck, I’ll be only 74 then! Miike, thanks for the journey you’ve given us.
    Bill Hughes, Thousand Oaks, CA

    • Mike Hermens Mike Hermens

      Bill,
      It’s good to hear from you again. Before starting my trip I had one year and 7,000 miles of scooter ownership/experience. Thirty years ago I owned a Yamaha 650 for a few years, which I rode probably 20,000 miles, including a 5,000 mile trip up to and across Canada to the Great Lakes, then back to California with my future wife riding pillion. I sold the motorcycle after children came into my life.
      I realize you didn’t ask for my opinion regarding your proposed trip, but I’ll offer it anyway, as it is free and a good value at that price. My initial reaction is enthusiasm for your plan, assuming you are of reasonably sound mind and body, and are comfortable and experienced riding the types of roads and daily distances your trip will entail. A road trip is more than stringing together a series of day trips, but not much more. If you stay within your abilities and take your time, I think you will do fine.
      My advice, and may-be you’ve already done this, would be to take a three-day, two-night ride to see how you tolerate the roadtrip routine. I suspect you will find it to be much more of a joy than a hardship.
      Take Care,
      Mike

      • Bill Hughes Bill Hughes

        Mike,
        Thank you for your reply and sage advice/recommendations. One-day-at-time is a great approach…that I feel capable of achieving. Thanks again for taking so many of us with you on your inspirational and informative adventure. We’re all hungry for more, I’m sure.
        Ride safe…and ride often.
        Bill

  19. Tom Lucas Tom Lucas

    Any plans for another trip?

    • Mike Hermens Mike Hermens

      Tom,
      Thanks for remembering Single Cylinder Psyche. It’s good to hear from you again.
      Regarding another trip, I currently have no plans. However, I cannot allow myself to believe there will not be another trip.
      Back in Oct/Nov you were considering a trip of your own. Please let me know if/when that happens. Take care.

  20. Bill Hughes Bill Hughes

    i Mike, any plans yet for a 2016 trip? Still thinking of Florida? Looking forward with anticipation.

    • Mike Hermens Mike Hermens

      Bill,

      Thanks for checking in. Sorry for the delay in answering, I’ve been thinking about what my plans might be. I won’t be going to Florida this year, I have family activities planned at intervals that don’t allow time in between for a long scooter trip. One of the events is a family gathering in Portland in late July that may be an excuse to ride the scooter up into Washington, Idaho and maybe Canada. We’ll see.

      I did a ride up to Tahoe a few weeks ago and have some pictures that I’ll probably post to Ride Reports in Modern Vespa.

      Are you still planning to do your Washington, Idaho, Colorado, etc. trip? Please keep me posted if you do.

      Mike

  21. MICHAEL BRENOEL MICHAEL BRENOEL

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.
    YOU HAVE PROVIDED ME WITH OVERWHELMING JOY TO FOLLOW YOUR WONDERFUL JOURNEY. YOU ARE A BLESSED INDIVIDUAL AND THANX FOR SHARING A CHUNK OF YOUR LIFE!

    • Mike Hermens Mike Hermens

      Thanks Michael,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the site. In many ways I am still enjoying the ride.

      Mike

  22. Joan Joan

    I just read this again tonight after a long day at work. It did my soul good. I hope you keep your blog longer than the 2 years

    • Mike Hermens Mike Hermens

      Thanks Joan,

      I’m glad the visit did you good. Yes, I plan to renew the blog. I revisit it myself occasionally, and it has a similar effect on me. Thanks for your comment.

      Mike

  23. Hello Mike
    I’m an old schoolteacher in the north of Scotland and have just spent a couple of great evenings reading through your trip. Thank you so much for publishing it. It is fascinating. The photographs are amazing. What a wonderful land you live in. Scotland is lovely but 60 miles and you drive across it, and its very wet. I have an old XS650 and a wee 125 Chinese scooter that was my sons which he trashed. I couldn’t see him just dump it as its engine still ran well! So its rebuilt. I dream of doing something like you did. Continental Europe is not too far and just a ferry ride away. I’ll have to be brave like you.
    Thanks again, Hugh

    • Mike Hermens Mike Hermens

      Hugh,

      Thank you for your comment. It makes me smile inside to know that the trip is still being enjoyed by others, and is maybe a source inspiration. I hope you will continue to cultivate your own sense of wonder, whether it is with a trip around the continent, a ride across town, a walk in the park, or reading a blog. We don’t have to go far to remind ourselves that this is an amazing world. Thank you for taking the time to tell me something about yourself.

      Take Care,

      Mike

  24. How kind of you to reply. You are motivational.
    God bless you.
    Hugh

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