I met Francis one afternoon in early June, just a month or so after I purchased the Vespa. I was fueling the bike at the Irving on Main Street in Lewiston when this older guy pulls in from the other direction on an Aprilia Scarabeo 200. “Hey!”, he shouts, clearly excited to see me, “you’ve got a scooter just like mine!”
He proceeded to cross the island of gas pumps and look my Vespa over from stem to stern, all the while asking questions about how big the engine was, how fast would it go, what mileage did it get, and how long I had owned it. When I told him I was a new rider, he immediately said “We should go riding together!”. Keep in mind, now, I still had no idea who this guy was. But I could tell that his heart was in the right place, and he somehow radiated a refreshing sort of innocent good nature that I immediately found appealing.
It turned out that Francis was looking for a “scooter buddy”, someone to ride with because his wife worried about him whenever he rode any distance alone. I replied that I would be very interested in joining him on some rides so I could better learn the bike and learn how to ride safely. In the course of the conversation we also discovered that not only did we both live in the same town, but in fact we live only about a quarter of a mile apart! At this news Francis insisted that I follow him home so I could see where he lived (!), and then he followed me home so he would know where to meet me on our riding trips.
In reading this it now occurs to me that I was taking a risk having him follow me home; I mean, what if he was some kind of weirdo scooter stalker or something? But here’s the thing about Francis, he is a simple, honest and good-natured guy, and you get this from him right from the start. I had nothing to worry about.
And, over time, Francis was as good as his word. It was Francis who introduced me first to the Height-of-Land (see previous post). And over the intervening two summers we have visited a good part of Maine, east and west:
Francis and I have traveled by scooter to Rangeley, to Islesboro, to Attitash, NH and over the Kancamagus Highway, one of the premier motorbike roads in the northeast. Along the way he proved himself to be an excellent teacher of riding, with a kind and encouraging demeanor and a constant attention to safety. I say this with one caveat, however — Francis is slow. His method is to ride however slow he wants, and when traffic starts to back up behind him, he pulls over and lets them go by. I suppose this is OK, but as the guy following Francis, it gets plenty unnerving to be going ten miles an hour slower than the limit with trucks right on your rear bumper. Finally, last summer, I informed Francis that our Italian bikes are notorious for speedometers that read 10MPH faster than they are actually going. Once he learned this, he did much better.
Anyway, I introduce you now to Francis because he is the impetus for my next scooter ride. Francis, like me, has a beloved aunt, only his aunt lives in upstate New York; he has always wanted to ride his scooter there to visit her. So, in a couple of weeks, he and I will head west on US2 through Montpelier, VT and then on into NY to visit this aunt. For him, it will be not only a long-term goal met, but a celebration of his recent retirement; for me, it will be invaluable practice packing for our upcoming trip through Nova Scotia, AND posting to this blog from on the road.
So, be looking for more posts somewhere between here and Messina, NY! Thanks for reading!