Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Taking the Express Home

Not by train. Not by boat or car. Not by any method which would get me there in record time unless you consider the slowest constant moving rate some kind of record.

After two years of puttering around the outskirts of my town it was time to return the little Honda Express scooter to the man from whom it came. The bike was sort of a gift to me. With fuel prices looming toward the stratosphere it was time to give back. My father in law had an interest in the little machine. What better way to take that last ride before the title switched back to him than to hop on and take her on one of her longest known excursions.

Saturday morning my wife and kids piled into the truck. I rolled the little green scooter out of the garage. We said our 'see ya laters' and they were off.

I checked the fluids, let the engine warm and prepared to head out on my quiet way. Something told me to put on a jacket. The hall closet is packed to its gills with riding apparel. That's what happens after all those years of riding. You accumulate... stuff.

The bike is of 1978 vintage so I grabbed a jacket which hadn't been worn in I can't remember how long. An old Levi's denim number of classic style. I reached into a pocket to find the obligatory buck and change I always leave myself in case of gas emergency. That alone should be a pretty strong indication how long its been since I've worn this thing. For any other bike I have, a buck and spare coin would be almost useless. A Honda Express can go a long way on a dollar and a half.

Back in the garage, I listened to the satisfying two stroke sound of that little motor. Grumbly little beast. Sounded nice. A cell phone, wallet, and multi-tool were all that went with me. Either I was going to make it on this fifty mile sojourn or I wasn't. Worrying about it would take the fun out of the whole experience.

I'm thankful my driveway has a slight grade to it. I puttered down its length and headed west. A few blocks later and I was in farm country. Other than some outcroppings of homes and passage through towns of a hundred or so people, it would be wide open cropland. People hearing the little 50cc working its darnedest, smiled and waved. You sometimes feel a certain vibe as you pass people or other motorists. Each person who acknowleged me made me a little happier.

There were some long slopes. High hills that tested the little Express. From a top speed of about 27mph this little engine proved that it could. It held enough torque to keep it chuffing up the inclines although the steepest brought it down to 19 or 20 mph. It didn't caugh or sputter either. With the throttle wide open that little banger pushed itself right along.

The wind was brisk Saturday morning, in the hinterlands beyond central Minnesota civilization. Pickups loaded with farm impliments gave wide berth but their gusts and the passing clouds made for a sometimes cold ride. Even at a constant 25-26 mph. I felt a little naked on what amounts to a stout bicycle frame with a little two stroke engine hung beneath it. At the same time it felt really good.

For a little more than two hours the Express chuffed along, carrying me to my family. While my feet buzzed on the hard rubber footpegs, that thickly padded oversized pear seat did me just fine. Instead of being in a hurry to get somewhere, I enjoyed the scenery at a pace few people want to go anymore.

It went too quick. Before I realized it I was closing in on the house on the hill. My inlaws' home. I rolled up the gravel drive feeling triumphant for finally having done this ride on the Express. I also felt a little sad. It would most likely be the only time I'd get the chance to ride that thirty year old scooter that kind of distance.

I can't explain it. To ride something of that limited speed for longer distances is a kind of experience you'd have to have had yourself to understand. It is absolutely its own kind of fun. And you really can't compare it to any other type of two wheeled riding. Going slow on something capable of going quicker isn't the same.

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