(This story originally appeared in Vol 3, No 2 of the now defunct Scooter Canada magazine).
Colorful fall leaves and two curious deer welcomed us, as my brother and I arrived at a friend’s cottage near Haliburton, Ontario for a weekend of scootering. Despite the beautiful scene, the mood remained somber, as my brother Ben and I had just ridden double for 325kms on my less than spacious Honda CBR125. The near freezing weather, incessant rainfall and our lack of rain gear hadn’t made the trip any more comfortable. Chilled to the bone, we stumbled inside to thaw.
Several hours and quite a few cups of coffee later, the four of us headed outside to unload our scooters. Donny Orr (second place finisher in the 2007 Mad Bastard Rally might I add) had been so kind as to trailer our scooters to the cottage. Normally I would have jumped at the chance to embark on a long ride at a leisurely 60km/hr, but in this case I had serious doubts about the integrity of my machine.
My 1983 Yamaha Beluga 80 had been registered for road use just two days earlier, after spending a cool 16 years in a Kitchener shed. Where in not for the nonchalant nature of the safety inspection (which didn’t even include removing the scooter from the back of my truck), I doubt this scooter would have been seeing road use any time soon. My brother Ben’s scooter wasn’t much more confidence inspiring. As he proudly extols, his 1983 Honda Mascot hasn’t seen any sort of maintenance in years. The fact that he has over 40,000kms on that scooter is mind-boggling.
Rounding out the quartet of scooters was Donny’s 2005 Honda Ruckus and Brian’s borrowed 1986 Elite 150. We unloaded our scooters from Donny’s pickup truck and trailer and moved them into the garage. Despite Donny’s infectious enthusiasm, we weren’t in the mood to ride so we headed inside for the night.
The next morning we prepared for our epic fall ride by gorging on ‘Better than Bacon’, an interesting substitute for bacon that is ready in the microwave in about 8 seconds. I was a bit suspicious of any food that is ready in less time that it takes to pour yourself a cup of coffee, but it stemmed our hunger and so we headed out for little scooting.
With a hot mug of coffee in my cupholder and the throttle wide open, we headed 20kms into Haliburton at a pace rarely exceeding 55km/hr. We stirred things up in town with a lot of honking and then meandered another 10kms to a local waterfall for some scenic photos. As we departed from the waterfall, my understanding was that we were heading back. As it turned out, Donny knew a very long way back.
The kilometers rolled past as we scootered along unfamiliar roads for about two hours in the brisk fall air. Despite my dropping core temperature, I was thrilled that my jalopy scooter was running like a champ. Sure it drops to 25kms/hr up any sort of an incline, but my Beluga seemed happy to grind away at that pace all day long. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Donny’s Ruckus.
Somewhere around the 120km point in our ride, Ben and I noticed our group of four had shrunk to two. We turned around and soon found our missing two members huddled around the Ruckus. Brian, who had been riding the Ruckus, said it felt like the rear brake had locked up as he was climbing a large hill. Donny tried to re-start the Ruckus with the kickstarter when he realized the worst, the motor was hard seized. The Ruckus’s motor had been bored out to nearly 60cc earlier that year and ever since it had a tendency to use a little oil. Apparently Donny had not been diligent with checking the oil, because I pulled out the dipstick and it was bone dry.
With the mood deflated, Brian and Donny rode double on the Elite 150 to get Donny’s pickup truck. They soon returned and we loaded up the Ruckus and headed to the cottage. A late dinner was prepared and the evening trickled by as we watched old VHS movies. Around 11pm, Donny realized that he had brought along a copy of Quadrophenia, a cult classic movie from 1979 about scooters by rock band The Who. The rest of us had never heard of the movie, but it was a scooter weekend so we popped it in. In the two hours that followed, we learned about the legendary seaside battles between the Mods and Rockers in the UK. Based in the 60’s, Quadrophenia is packed with vintage Lambretta’s and Vespa’s that are adorned with a slew of mirrors, flags and chrome accessories. That movie made me more proud than ever to be a scooter rider.
As the movie ended, we were stoked to ride so we headed out to the garage to see if we could get the Ruckus’s motor unseized. After filling it up with oil and a few jumps on the kickstarter, we got the piston to budge. A few more kicks and the engine was turning over freely. We flicked the key on and 58cc’s of 4-stroke power roared to life. It was 1:30 AM and the mood was electric.
The four of us rode out of the garage and into the cool night air. There was a low fog rolling out of the woods and several deer were standing on the narrow gravel road. We could ride almost right up to the deer that were blinded by our headlights. We tore down that winding gravel road around the lake at a foolish pace. Twisty turns were taken at irrational speeds and small rolling hills gave us that weightless feeling in our stomachs. For close to two hours, our blend of 2-stroke and 4-stroke exhausts filled the quaint forest.
Despite a paint removing incident where Brian failed to keep the Elite 150 rubber side down, we all had one of the most epic rides of our lives. The starry night, camaraderie of friends and joy of scootering combined to create an unforgettable experience.
– Dan Durston
[Post Script – The Ruckus’s motor blew itself to bits about two weeks later. The connecting rod snapped where it connects to the piston. Free of the piston, the con-rod cut through the cylinder wall and spun a complete rotation, smashing holes in the top, back and bottom of the engine case on its way around. It was impressive to see how much damage the con-rod did. The scooter is back on the road now with a replacement motor.]