This is the story of my '64 Vespa 150 - how it became mine and how it has given me a new vespatude.  I'll be recording the neat places I visit, the different things I do to make the Vespa my own, and - oh yeah - those reactions I get from both friends and strangers.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Vespa-ing the whole day
I took the kids to school in the Suburban and then returned home to grab the Vespa. The weather report was saying the temperature would reach the mid-sixties. I thought it would be neat to go the whole day.

Off to work around 8 a.m. The only problem was that crazy fuel tank cap. I had to keep it loose to keep the bike from stalling. 11:50 a.m. I headed downtown to a lunch appointment. I left the bike parked at the office and walked to Sticky Fingers for lunch. On the way there, I did stall once at a stop light. I couldn't get started up the hill. By 1:30 p.m. I was back in my office.

No stalls on the way back, but I did lose the nut that holds the gas cap down. Because I have had to keep it so loose, the nut was too close to the end of the threaded pin. While it was off, I hit a bump and could smell the fuel come rushing out. Sure enough I got to my office and saw the fuel on the body of the bike.

The worse news is that while I was sitting in my office I kept smelling the fuel. I figured I had gotten it on my pants somewhere. I had to suffer through for the next several hours until I could head home. At 5:10 p.m., I got on the bike and headed home.

By the way, I have been putting my rack on the front of the bike to put my satchel on. It works pretty well, but I'm sure it looks pretty funny. Anyway, I figure it is too late to avoid that!

After I got home, I changed and headed out to a local parts dealer to see if I could find a temporary solution for keeping that cap closed. I found one, but it works too well! Now I can't keep the cap loose. On the way home it kept stalling out because the cap was too tight.

The good news is that I ordered a new cap today. I also added some spark plugs, light bulbs, brake light switch, fourth hand tool, and a new headlamp lens. They probably won't be here until early next week. I think those few things will help me through some headaches.

It was pretty cool to use the Vespa as my only source of transportation for the day - other than taking the kids to school. When summer comes, maybe I could go a whole week using only the Vespa. We'll give it a try.

Oh, one more thing, Heebie attracted some attention at the auto parts store. I spent a good amount of time talking about it in the parking lot. Also, the mailman delivering mail at the Worthwhile office also stopped to talk about the Vespa and other scooters. He said he was looking to get one. I wished him luck!
Monday, February 27, 2006
Time to gas 'im up
I drove Heebie to work today after lunch. I would drive him to work in the morning except I have to drop the kiddos off for school. Since I only live a mile from my office, I ran by the house after making a bank run and traded the bimmer for the Vespa.

No problem to and from the office. When I got home, the family had not yet arrived from the dentist appointment they were at so I decided to get some gas for the Vespa - and use the Vespa to do it. I took the second seat off and bungied a three gallon can in its place. Then it was off to the station about a mile from the house.

I was glad the can stayed on until I got to the station. Once there I drove right up to the pump and put two gallons of gas in the can (I had already added the engine oil before leaving the house). It cost me $4.10 to get my two gallons.

While I am at it, a comment on the lights. I think one of my issues is the brake light switch. The brake lever does not spring back far enough to disengage the switch. So, the brake light keeps burning (never very brightly, I have noticed) and ultimately burns out. When the brake light burns out then the pilot light and rear running light won't work if the brake light switch is engaged.

I think I will solve some of my problems if I can get the switch problem worked out. I'm loving my halogen light. I can drive at night and really light up the place.

Another problem is that I basically have NO rear brake. The front brake works pretty well, but I have found I have to use my gears to slow myself and plan my stops well ahead of an intersection.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
I take my longest ride to date
I decided last night I would take a route I that would be the longest ride on my Vespa so far. It would also test the abilities of the bike like I had not tested it before.

First, I looked at the weather. It appeared that if I was going to do it and not get wet, I would have to head out on the road no later than 10 a.m. The temperature was about 47 degrees so I knew I could get a little chilly. So, before heading out on the ride I took Heebie over to Touring Sport BMW where there is also a Ducatti and Vespa dealer.

I purchased me some pretty nice kangaroo skin gloves that fit - well, like a glove - they are thin but warm. Plus they are motorcycle gloves with a skid plate, etc. When I drove up I parked kind of out of the way. As I got off the bike and walked in the store the attendent said, "Next time you need to park the vintage bike up at the front. You've earned it." That was pretty cool.

Unfortunately, I flooded the bike because I forgot to turn off the fuel flow. I tried kicking it and then tried roll starting it. I couldn't pull it off because the parking lot was too small. Then one of the guys from the shop came out and offered to push me. He seemed to know a bit about the bike because he knew exactly what to do. He pushed and I was on my way.

My plan was to head over Paris Mountain. Now, for you all from a place where there are actual mountains, Paris Mountain is more of a hill. However, Altamont Road gives some nice climbs and is great fun because of all the curves. I mapped out a 19 mile route and headed off. You can see the route by checking out my Wayfaring space:

The blue line shows the route. Click here to expand the map. The bubbles are different locations that figure into my Vespa chronicles.

When I left, it was beginning to mist. I almost turned back but I simply couldn't resist! So, off I went. Heebie did great. Even in the steepest places going up Altamont I managed about 24 mph. I would say I averaged 35 mph over the whole mountain.

Down on the other side, I had a much easier time of it. It was a little warmer down on the lower elevation and a little flatter as well. I really opened it up and got up to 55 mph a couple of times. It was kind of funny passing some of the slower drivers in their cars.

Most people looked at me with interest. Only once did I see a teenager point and laugh at me as she and her friends passed by. Didn't bother me at all. I was having a blast.

Things I learned: 1) I still need to do something with the gas cap. It does not appear to be a vented cap. If I close it, the carb gets starved. 2) I'm still not happy with the brakes. I don't really see how I can fix them. I wonder if it is just a "vintage Vespa thing." 3) The gears are not exactly where I want them. The more I drive the bike, the better I get with finding the right ones. However, fourth still tends to slip into neutral if I don't really twist the shifter as far as possible. 4) at certain speeds - especially when slowing - the bike seems to bump quite a bit. I have heard this is somewhat normal for these scooters, but I wonder just how much bumping is normal.

Other than those few things, it was awesome! Even though I got a little cold and the rain covered my visor toward the end of the ride, it was great fun. I can't wait until spring. I've got to start planning my next actual long ride.
Friday, February 24, 2006
One more thing...
I have ridden the bike to and from work both yesterday and today. It is running like a dream. My only issues at this time are 1) the brakes don't seem to be that great. Is that typical for a vintage Vespa? 2) I simply cannot keep bulbs for any amount of time. I'll put them in and not even get in a two mile ride before they blow.

Tomorrow, if it isn't raining, I may try something daring... I'll save it just in case I'm unable to pull it off. We'll see what tomorrow brings!
Thing Three leaves his mark
A piece of advice to you folks out there rebuilding your Vespas. Don't leave your three year-old around the bike while you go inside to get a tool. You can see the results of such a choice in the picture below.

My youngest son, Thing Three, was outside playing while I was working under the carport on Heebie (by the way, you will recall that it is Thing Three that gave Heebie his name - it is the way the little one says Herbie). I had gone inside to get a piece I needed while replacing the lightbulbs (they keep blowing, again, and again, and again... you get the idea) and left the lens sitting on a towel by the bike. When I came out, it wasn't there.

I looked and looked and couldn't find it. Then I looked up on the bike and there is was in place. At first I thought I must have put it back up there without realizing it. That is when I noticed the cracked lens.

I was proud that the little guy was able to figure out how to get it up there, but frosted that he had broken the lens! Now I don't know what size to get. The headset is a reproduction, so I don't trust the original specs. Anyone have any ideas how to figure out what size lens I need? Or should I go ahead and get the whole thing?
Thursday, February 23, 2006
The bad and the good
The bad news is that my little princess got an intestinal virus and had to stay home from school yesterday. Since the beautiful redhead had to teach a full load that day, I stayed home to take care of the little one. She seems to be doing better today though she is still weak and at home. She'll probably mend even better today because her mom is taking care of her.

The good news is that it gave me a chance to give one more shot at the valve problem. I learned that the reason this kept happening is that I thought I would have to guidle the switch rod through the hole. Somewhere, I had read that you needed to tape a wire to the end of it and pull it through.
Not good!

Trying to pull it through was what was causing the problem. Tuesday night, the redhead was helping me try to get the tank in and I was growing frustrated with my attempts to guide the rod through. She had to leave to check on something in the oven and I just gave up and dropped the tank down in the body. Guess what? The rod went right through!

So Wednesday morning I tried it again after repairing the valve for the third time. Sure enough, if I let the rod to its own thing, it went right through. It was a matter of making things harder than I had to. I then took it out for a test drive right before it started sprinkling. I was good to go. Unfortunately, it started raining later.

I think I will drive Heebie back to work after lunch today. It is nearing 60 degrees and it is supposed to hit 64 this afternoon. Looking at the 10 day forcast I realized that March is about to come upon us! Ooooo, it is going to be fun!
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Fuel valve problems
It has been a hard week. I had hard drive failures, sickness and cold weather. It all put me behind on the Vespa. I thought everything was good to go last week. I made some adjustments that really had the bike running well. After making the adjustments I had just a little time to give it a test ride. Man, it was running great! Then I got home and noticed gas pouring out beneath the bike!

What had happened was it was necessary to take the tank out to fix the cowling fastener (the nut, washer and spring came off). I had a problem getting the fuel valve switch through the body of the bike. It compressed a spring washer that caused a gap. Fuel leaked out when the valve was turned to on or reserve.

I finally got back out there tonight to try to fix it. I took the valve apart and retorqued the spring washer. Everything worked fine when I had the tank out of the bike. When I tried to put it back in, I thought I would need to pull the switch through with a wire. Doing so once again stressed the spring.

So, the Vespa is still sitting out there waiting for me to make this simple little adjustment - simple except I have to remove the take and the fuel line. It is a mess trying to get that fuel line in correctly. The good news is that I have figured out how to get the switch through that hole without stressing the valve.

The only problem is that it is supposed to rain for the next several days...
Monday, February 06, 2006
Oh, I forgot the second thing
Yesterday I mentioned there was a good and a bad. I shared the bad which kind of morphed into a good, but forgot to give the good news. Well, here it is...

After much struggling, I have gotten the Vespa running pretty well. I have been able to ride it every day (except for today with all the rain and cold) since I discovered the gas cap problem. To think it was something that simple!

The other day I edged 90 kph (that's about 56 mph) going down East North Street. On Saturday I even spread my wings and drove several miles down Wade Hampton Blvd. to the Super Wal-Mart in Taylors. I went to find the Wallace and Grommet DVD for my kids (unfortunately, it wasn't there) and then drove back.

One of the neat things about driving the Vespa is not the driving, but the parking. I find that I am able to park in places you generally wouldn't find a motorcycle parking. I think that is partly because of the size. It is smaller and you can slip in on a side walk by a trash can so it isn't impeding the passage. People stop to admire it and don't think it that strange that it would be parked in such a place.

At Wal-Mart I pulled back into a storage area and went inside. When I came out, I pushed the bike into position to get started and the buggy boy came up with his long train of shopping carts. "Wow, that is really nice," he told me. It was also fun to see the people in the middle of conversations stop and look. I'm sure part of it has to do with the sound the bike makes, but that just gets their attention. The classic style and uniqueness holds it.

Only two problems face me now. I hope to soon have them straightened out.

1. I keep blowing lights. I can't ride the bike for more than 15 minutes and I will lose all of my lights. Often the 12 volt 35 watt halogen bulb in the head lamp will last the longest. The other bulbs blow on a regular basis.

2. I think I have a problem with my gear cables (at least I hope that is all it is!) When I get up in fourth gear and I'm heading down a long stretch of road, the bike seems to slip very quickly out of gear and back in. It is as though the gears are not getting moved over enough to properly mesh.

All in all it has been great! I'm loving being able to go out, start Heebie up and take off without fear that he is going to stall and leave me stranded. Sure, there are some things left to be done, but if there wasn't something this whole adventure would lose some of its thrill.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Wow, ain't this fun!
There was a time when I wasn't posting because I was so discouraged. Now I haven't posted for a couple of days for several reasons. One is good. The other is bad.

First the bad: I have had trouble connecting my Mac to the ftp server. I can connect using the Finder "Connect to Server" function. I can read files, but I can't write, edit or copy them. It has forced me to use my Windows machine in my downstairs office whenever I want to put a picture up here for you all. Well, I finally downloaded a little ftp program that works like a charm (be sure to download Transmit from Panic should you Mac users need a third party ftp client).

Here is the pic I've been wanting to upload for some time. Of course, with every picture there is always a story! Read why these little Vespas are special below:

Heebie has become quite the scooter of interest around my office. In the office next to me there is a lady whose husband works in another near by office (they are newly weds, by the way) and I've talked with him about the Vespa. A couple of weeks ago I came in and he came up to me. "Hey, there is something I want to show you," he said as he came up to me pulling on his blazer sleeve. I looked at his cuffs and there was the coolest scooter cufflink!

"Wow, where did you get that?" I asked. He told me his mother got them for him. He told me where she got them and then said, "Well, I might sell them to you." I told him that if I couldn't find a pair myself I just might buy them. We then parted and it didn't cross my mind again until the next morning.

The next day, I walked into my office and saw a nice wooden box sitting on my desk. I knew immediately what it was - the cufflinks. Sure enough, there they were. I immediately emailed Andre to tell him thanks, but surely I should owe him something for this. He told me not to worry about it. He said he didn't have a scooter and every time he put them on he thought about me and my Heebie. He felt it would be better if I wore them.

Of course, I'll think of Andre and his generosity every time I put them on. I tell you, Vespas seem to bring out the best in everybody!
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Can you believe it?
Yesterday I thought I would be brave and use Heebie to transport myself from my university office down to the Worthwhile office in downtown Greenville. Things had been running relatively well - even if the engine would flatline at around 60 kph (about 37 mph). It was such a beautiful day and I figured the guys would get a kick out of seeing me pull up on the scooter.

Bad move.

I started out okay and nursed the bike down East North Street toward downtown Greenville. I was just passing through the Overbrook neighborhood when the bike stalled. It kept coming and going until I got to the ramp that leaves Park Avenue and goes up to Church Street. At that point, Heebie just said, "I'm not going any further!"

I fiddled with that. Pulled at that wire. Tugged on another one. I moved the fuel line back and forth and sloshed the tank. Finally I just opened the fuel lid and started the bike with it open. Hey! Heebie was talking again. I started off toward Main Street. No stall.

I turned on Main Street in stop and go traffic. No stall! While going down the street near the Hyatt, I saw the guys I was supposed to be having lunch with. They had given up and were headed to the restaurant. When they saw me they got my attentiona and then decided they didn't know me. Who wants to be known as someone who knows someone who drives a scooter!

I parked at the office and joined the guys for lunch. It was pretty neat being able to park up near the building in a mulched area. No need for a parking place.

After lunch I went back and it started right up! I made it all the way home without stalling -- though the engine was still flatlining. The difference now from before was that I was not tightening the gas cap. The gas cap - can you believe it?

After work I came home and switched out the spark plug. I figured it was fouled and sure enough, now not only was the scooter not stalling, it was reaching speeds of 85 kph (around 52 kph) even while going up gently sloping hills. On my test drive I didn't stall once.

Best I can figure the tank wasn't breathing and when the carb started really sucking the fuel, it created a vacuum that started sucking the fuel OUT of the carb. Loosing the gas cap released the pressure and negated the vacuum. This allowed the fuel to flow more freely.

Oh, one other thing, while stopped at the light at East North Street and Church Street I had a car of teenagers pull up beside me. "Wow, what is that?" the driver asked. "An Italian scooter," I replied. "It is forty-one years old," I continued. "Wow, that old? How fast will it go?" he asked. "It is supposed to go about 55," I said and then hoped that I wouldn't stall when the light turned green.


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