Dawn picks me up in what she’s calling the “shag wagon,” a big ol’ Eight-is-Enough van, except the seats in the back have been taken out. I hop in with the luggage. I bounce around with luggage. The door doesn’t open from the inside, so I’m unloaded with the luggage, too.
The Delta Guy eyeballs us anxiously as we roll our cases up to the e-ticket kiosk. It turns out he’s been waiting for us. The flight is late (no, really?) and we are the only two on his chik-chikked list he hasn’t rebooked. That’s because, I learn, the cheapest tickets on whatever Travelocipedia site Dawn visited headed east to Atlanta before heading west to Seattle. There’s no way whatsoever he can get us there tonight.
Dawn sighs a lot. I think she evens stomps her feet. The dude’s nervous, but in a productive way. His nerves get us re-booked for another flight Thursday morning.
I get loaded back into the van and visit my dog. I already miss her.
Thursday, July 12
Fucking Michael Chertoff and his fucking gut feelings. I hope his intestines are as sluggish and compacted as the security checkpoint line. I hope he gets colon cancer. No offense, Tony Snow.
When we finally reach SEA-TAC, it’s a whole other rigamarole. Our man Austin picks us up in a borrowed Acura. It’s decked out with Engrish accessories from one of the Chinatown department stores. It’s got a GPS touch screen, which is a godsend, because how else would we get back to Seattle from the air-freight place using only surface roads?
La Lone Sirena is my other travelling companion on the trip. The Robert-Tatum-painted cowgirl-mermaid 1979 Vespa P-125 is waiting for us in a crate in the next city over. Dawn changes into a sleeveless workman’s one-piece, and I swear she’s got nothing on underneath. The shipping gorillas are subtly going apeshit as she fills the girl up with gas, kick starts her with a whooo, and plants a kiss on the headset.
After settling at the Fir House, the punk-rock two-story where we’re staying, we roll down the hill for registration and the opening-night cruise. One of the organizers looks and talks just like Michael Moore. I spend about a minute on the boat before I flashback to the cruise around the Cliffs of Moher when my folks and I visited Ireland last summer. I remember a boat-load of tourists slumped over each other with queasiness. I remember wanting it to end so badly I was considering gnawing open a thigh artery just to get medivacuated.
I get the hell out of there without a second glimpse at the buffet table.
Friday, July 13
Damn, Dawn spends a long time getting ready. But every minute is worth it: She’s what pin-up models tack to their make-up mirrors. Plus, it means I can surf the net longer. There are as many as nine wireless signals broadcasting into the Fir House.
Dawn scoots down to the rally, but wheel-less me, I hoof it. Google Maps says it’s only a couple of miles. Google Maps doesn’t have topography. It’s all downhill, steep as the Giza Necropolis. I think I’ve permanently bow-legged myself.
There are a couple-hundred scooters down at Lake Union Park, possibly one of the least scooter-friendly parts of Seattle. On one side, they’re putting in cable-car tracks, on the other a pier. The only four-wheeler I notice is a skanky old truck with “Wussy” spray-painted on the side.
Mostly the attendees are going on city rides. I don’t have wheels of my own, so I’m bored senseless.The walk back up the hill pulverizes my calfs. I feel like I’m walking on buffalo wings.
I nap and I nap and I nap. When I wake up, a friend takes me to a German bar, where we drink out of a boot, just like in Beer Fest.
Saturday, July 14
A friend I haven’t seen since high school is down at the rally. I had a major crush on her then, and now I have a crush on her scooter: a pink Stella. But I’m classed; today I’m riding the clunkiest two-wheeler on the lot, a 2003 Honda Metropolitan on loan from Austin. It’s not European. It’s not vintage. It’s got a puny 50cc engine. A few riders are wearing T-shirts that say, “Twist-n-go fuck yourself.” They’re talking to me.
The scooter competition is in full effect. La Lone Sirena made the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today, but she’s got steep competition for the People’s Choice prize. My money’s on the scooter designed to look like a Navy Blue Angel jet and the big red one with the touch-screen PC and Wifi antenna.
We take a group ride, a few dozen of us, me struggling to keep up — and succeeding! The Honda rocks. The pack stops at a shop called Archie McPhee’s — Seattle’s one-stop crap ’n’ kitsch shop, where I buy an “Uncle Archie’s Box O Fun (25 FABULOUS PRIZES IN EACH BOX!)” for my dogsitting friend’s birthday. My pal buys a cherry lollipop shaped like a rotting mouth.
We get back just in time to watch a muscly modern scooter with a sidecar burn pitch-black figure eights in the pavement.
I skip the awards dinner (where La Sirena wins best “Modern Manual Vespa Custom”), and instead, after a nap, tag along with the Fir House folks to Pony, a gay-hipster bar. The walls are decorated in naked-cowboy posters. The word “schlong” re-establishes itself in my vocabulary.
Sunday, July 15
At Krispy Kreme in the morning, everyone’s bitching about the old bearded codger who won the prized vintage scooter in the raffle. He’s never ridden a manual before, they say, he doesn’t deserve it. I’m glad I didn’t buy any raffle tickets.
The guy who looks just like Michael Moore has a dog that looks just like Nibbler from Futurama.
The first unofficial count I hear is 250 ... 250 scooters parked outside a donut shop waiting for the big Sunday ride. By the time we get to the ferry terminal, I’m hearing 350 ... then 600. The line of scooters goes well beyond my field of vision. When the ferry attendant addresses the scooters as “mopeds” on the P.A., everyone boos. That is, except for the one guy on the yellow moped.
The girl on the Vespa behind me recognizes Austin’s Honda. She was the original owner, and ecstatic to see that it’s not only running, but wheeling it up at Amerivespa.
We ride for 20 miles or so around Vashon Island, Puget Sound’s largest island. Something sharp and black, some sort of bug I think, hits me in the neck and stings like hell. I don’t care though, because I think I get it, even if I can’t articulate it. There’s just a special moment, when the growl of the engine mates with the whoosh of the wind, when oil and exhaust is infused with fresh leaves and pasture, and old people are standing by their mail boxes waving, and children are hanging out of windows, and I can see priceless expressions on car-drivers’ faces that say they’d be furiously impatient if they weren’t too busy being charmed and astounded, and you start to get offended that more bugs aren’t taking you head on.
Waiting for the ferry on the way back I overhear the employees say the scooter count was over 800. I believe it.
Then suddenly I’m back in Seattle, alone, lost, and now on the I-5, one of the major freeways. This is bad. I try to exit, and end up on the S.R. 99, another highway. I’m hoping a cop will pull me over and then escort me off the fucker. I grin and bear it, and that’s when I really get it: You don’t need a Bronco to own the road. All you need is two wheels, two-strokes, and the ego to ride like that patch of pavement was built just for you.
See more photos online on CurBlog, the Current’s blog, at Sacurrent.com.
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