scooterlife - photog's blog

Motorcycles. Scooters. Wheelchairs. Tape. Whatever rolls.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Scooter Saves the Day

So I'm headed out on assignment, enjoying the cool spring morning in the Jeep. The CD player is cranked up, my gear is ready to go, and I'm on time to meet the client.

Without warning--and not a hint of anything amiss from the gauges and idiot lights on the dash--the Jeep rapidly loses power and a horrible clattering sound erupts from beneath the hood. Bear in mind that the 4.0L inline six is bulletproof; if I've blown up this one, I'll go down in history as one of the few lunkheads to ever actually drive a 4-liter Jeep into an early grave at 154,000 miles. Oil pressure--check. Water temp--check. I coasted my way across 4 lanes of commuter traffic to the right shoulder just as the engine cut off. From the right side of the hood, a wisp of steam emerged. Hmmm.

Apparently, the radiator had blown itself to bits--a large hole developed so quickly that it overheated rapidly, even before the temp gauge could catch up. Sure enough, when I turned the key, the needle began to climb. Golly, I said. Or something similar.

First came the apologetic call to the client. Thank God I got voicemail--those sorts of calls suck. I kept trying and finally got through to someone who could get through to them. I was sort of a tag-along, not an essential part of their field study, so it wasn't like their day was ruined, but I felt bad. Despite that professionalism, what I REALLY felt bad about was that my beloved Jeep was Tango Uniform on the side of the road. If the engine had gone bad, I was in deep doo-doo transportation-wise AND had lost the best packmule I'd ever owned.

After letting it cool, I held my breath and cranked the Jeep up--it started immediately and ran smoothly--good! About an hour and a half after my call to AAA, the tow truck arrived, yanked the green beast onto the rollback, and we were on our way to the local shop that's been maintaining my Jeep. From there, it was a 2 mile walk back home--uphill, unfortunately--with all my camera gear slung across both shoulders. That's 2 video cameras, assorted support gear, and so on...about 50 pounds total.

Aside from a Suzuki Marauder that stranded me every time I rode it, it was the first time since college--about 25 years--that a vehicle made me walk home, so I wasn't too upset.

But the next day was gonna be a busy one. We had one car between us, and I needed to pick up someone at the airport. The solution? The little Zip.

Here's where the Scooterlife test really came into action.

The plan was pretty simple--take the scoot to where the car was, and swap. This is no big deal on my end since I've been riding for 20 years but the 2nd half of the relay rider team for the trip home was going to battle downtown rush-hour traffic plus a short hair-on-fire jaunt on a high-speed 45mph thoroughfare (with average flow-of-traffic around 55) on the scooter for the first time.

On my way there, I was tempted to just keep riding. It was about 70 degrees with a nice cool breeze, and traffic was light. The Zip felt fine at the low downtown speeds--it's really in its element there with acceleration to spare.

Later on that afternoon I called in to see how the return trip was. You'll have to read the scooterlife2 blog to get those details.

No matter how much you integrate a scoot into your daily life, there may be a time when it REALLY becomes your only vehicle. Any work you've done to get ready for that day or undetermined period of time helps--figuring out a locking system, being familiar enough with it to tackle any traffic you're likely to encounter, and so on. Despite the 100 or so miles of that sort of experimentation, it was still exciting to strike out knowing that the bike had to run flawlessly or 2 people would be in deep doo-doo. And it performed as it always has--cranked up quickly, sliced through slower traffic, and disappeared into a tiny parking nook without stealing a full-size space from a co-worker.