Riding with the Royal Bastards

I have always wanted to be in a group or club or to be a part of something larger; however, it never pans out. I always end up alone. For this reason, Facebook was made for me. Yet, just like MySpace before it, I joined, connected with some friends, and realized that no one was “talking” to me–social media was much like the real world.

When I first bought my Vespa, I went online, associated myself with the Vespa Club of Sacramento (VCOS), and attended my first rally only two months after I first turned the ignition key on my GTL. Some people might have said, “Hey, just enjoy your scooter,” but I have never worked that way. When I got my first chessboard I joined the U.S. Chess Federation. It’s kind of a compulsion.

I thought I was on my way to becoming a member of something beyond the stuff I take for granted, such as the human race, the U.S. citizenry, Californian, church member. I never really had a chance to have an extended ride with these individuals. I missed the featured run in that first rally I attended, but I thought that there would be plenty of other opportunities, especially once I became a member of the VCOS. Billy, an officer of the VCOS and one of the nicest people to ride a scooter, told me when I asked about membership, “You wouldn’t be comfortable in our club.” I soon found out that my scooter was too new. Further, whereas I found it to be counterproductive for the Vespa Club of America to support chapters that excluded newer scooters, as shiny new Vespa scooters are free advertising for the Vespa, I did not weep. On the same day I was being denied by the VCOS, I discovered the Sacramento Chapter of the Royal Bastards Scooter Club (RBSC). The members accepted anyone with any kind of scooter, even the much maligned Chinese scooters!

I began attending RBSC meet-ups (meet and greet gatherings at which members, prospects, and outsiders would meet at restaurants and coffee houses) and weekend rides sponsored by the Scoot Shop, which is now closed. I felt anxious at the meetups, so I would eat a lot. I ended up not going to many of these events, but remained updated on where the next one would be in case I could find the courage to try to socialize again. The Scoot Shop’s weekend rides were not bad, primarily because the co-owner, Rebekah, made everyone feel welcome and because the runs were well-structured. Given that I was new to this, I liked how the other co-owner, Theron, controlled the run with new people in the front and experienced people in the back. I did not feel as though I would be dusted.

The meet and greet at On the Y


From the time I started tracking the RBSC’s activities I believed that all RBSC rallies were overnighters that required camping out. (By the time I was told that this was not the case, it did not matter anymore, as you will see.) I failed to register for these rallies, avoiding many stressful hours of hanging around a campsite trying to fit in and getting waterlogged or tea-logged while everyone else drank beer, which seemed to be the official beverage for scooter clubs.

At a Keaton boat gathering last winter, a fellow boat owner, who happened to be an RBSC member, told me that they were planning a one-day rally. This event seemed ideal for me, as it required no tent or sleeping bag. During this phase of my life, the one thing that I thought would make me feel like I was a part of a group I could call my own was the run, the long road trip that was the heart of the scooter rally. On May 19, 2012, when I attended the “Y Not One-Day Rally,” I finally had that chance to be in a run and believed that everything would be okay. During lunch, I discovered that many rallies had nearby lodging accommodations. Further, except for the rallies that required scooters to be towed to remote locations, I would be ready to attend these events and could possibly become a member.
After the usual awkwardness during the continental breakfast meet and greet at a dive bar called On the Y, we took off for our run. It was a ride to Rio Vista for lunch at Foster’s Buckhorn, then back to On the Y for some barbecue. At slightly less than 50 miles each way, it was a short ride compared to some of the rides about which I had heard. Nevertheless, it was the longest ride that I had endured. I stress the word “endured.”

Royal Bastards et al on one of the ferries heading towards Rio Vista

When we took off from On the Y, I found myself near the front of the pack as we made our way through town. I did not like this pole position, but my scooter was parked at the bar in such a way that when the after the first three or four scooters rolled out down Fulton Avenue my scooter was in the “next” position to go and I felt all eyes were on me to roll on the juice. By the time we crossed the American River on the I Street Bridge, I had fallen back to the end. I was only in front of the RBSC member whom I thought was maintaining the rear. As we wound our way down South River Road, I found it harder to keep up with the scooter in front of me, a Honda Silverwing. If all of the scooters in this run were larger bore machines like this Honda, I would have felt better. However, I saw a Vespa P125 and a Rally 200 (2 stroke engine). There were also some older scooters. I could not understand why I could not keep up with those machines. Was I that slow?
My hands began to ache like hell, especially my right hand around the thumb and index finger—the throttle hand. I was not used to travelling so far and fast. I was still losing ground. I kept looking in the mirror to see the designated final rider at a comfortable distance from me. If she wanted me to go faster, she was not showing it. Still, I was amazed how fast these scooterists wanted to travel and how slow I was.
In my defense, I truly believed that all of these scooterists, who had been on many more runs than I, were missing the point of riding River Road. We were not on a smoggy freeway through a dull area. In a recent post, I wrote about River Road. These scooterists rode as if they were fleeing a bank heist. I concentrated on that last scooter, using more power, even at my poor right hand’s expense. Nevertheless, the Silverwing just kept shrinking.

The fast scooterists waiting for the slower ones.

At the first of two ferry crossings, I caught up with the pack. The scooterist behind me politely criticized me for not moving over to allow a truck to pass. I felt embarrassed because I should have known better, I’ve rode the River Road many times and know to give passing cars a wide berth. I must have been looking at the shrinking Silverwing, rather than noticing that a truck had passed the last scooterist before passing me. I was also embarrassed because, despite my poor socializing skills, I wanted to make a good impression on all of the club members. I was failing.

As the nice lady was gently advising me on something about which I already knew, but obviously failed to exercise, approximately eight scooters pulled up. My jaw dropped. There was a slower group behind us. I had been twisting my right wrist until it was literally numb for nothing. We crossed the river. I remained with the slower group. My fellow slowpokes and I crossed another ferry. Within a few minutes, we were in Rio Vista.
The idea was to eat at Foster’s Bighorn, a burger joint of sorts with an interesting menu: a Burger Scoot opportunity. Unfortunately, my new position in the back of the line hindered me from hearing one of the leaders asking for a show of hands for Bighorn. As a result, I ended up eating at a pizza joint a block away. It was not a problem, although I felt like a fifth wheel at a table with two couples comprised of Royal Bastards. They were friendly enough, but twenty or so minutes where I kind of kept up with the conversation the couples then turned the subject on club business and much like watching the tail of the Silverwing, I was left in the dust.
One thing that made me feel forlorn was that I was spending time with couples. I thought that it would be nice if my wife and I were members and if all six of us could be having a conversation about the club. We could also go on all of the rallies and attend the meetings and the meet-ups, but on the ride home I didn’t care about any of that stuff anymore.

When the time came to leave, once again, I strategically placed myself at the back of the group with only two riders behind me. Given that both women were club members, I assumed that one of them was the official caboose. Unfortunately, this time, all of the other scooterists were riding at a speed way above my comfort zone, including two-stroke scooters that had a smaller displacement than my 200. I realized that I must have been riding slowly. Yet, when I checked my speedometer again and saw the speed limit signs, I was traveling the speed limit. On straight-aways, I am sure that I was exceeding the speed limit. I should have been able to catch the slower scooters, but the last of them disappeared.

In Rio Vista–Foster’s Bighorn in the background

One of the two women behind me who was riding a red Vespa GT250 with a black flame detail. She pulled me over and told me to follow the other scooterist. Over the next hour, we got lost twice. Further, I received bitchy instructions once and an apology for the bitchy instructions twice. When we finally made it back to On the Y, she apologized one more time, addressing the elephant in the room. I had obviously screwed up her day. At that point, I would have preferred it if she had simply told me what a loser I was. Sometimes, the Honest Planet is the most compassionate place to be.
I did try to defend myself by pointing out that I hung back to ride with the slowpokes, but they all seemed to be riding quickly. She read to me one of the commandments from the Scooter Bible informed me that “slow riders are supposed to lead because they set the pace.” This makes perfect sense–like the scooter runs sponsored by the Scoot Shop–but whom was she lecturing? Was I leading this run? Was this my fault? Where was the leader who should have placed me in front of the pack (the way the Scoot Shop used to direct their scooter runs)? Even though I was accidentally in front when we left the bar in the morning, scooterists were passing me left and right when we rode through Sacramento. I told her these things, but she just repeated how it should be done in a bitchier tone, as if she was tired of hearing my defense. I was praying she I wouldn’t get an apology for her last set of comments. Maybe I won’t have to hear it if I am not around.
I gave away my drink tickets and the $25 worth of raffle tickets I purchased earlier that morning. When I got home, I cried. I know, a 54- year-old man crying is really pathetic. Still, it was just another failed attempt to be part of a community.

Fueling up on the way back

I felt a little better when I reflected about the day. I realized that I might be too sensitive. Nothing ever comes easily to me. I knew that it might take some work, but I would someday be an experienced scooterist and maybe enven a Royal Bastard. I thought again. This was all for the best for both the Royal Bastards and Jockomo. I tended to do things alone and had done so for so long time. I felt more comfortable that way. No more awkward socializing and I did not see anything relaxing in riding at those speeds.
Two days later, I was ordering my usual soy chai latte at my favorite coffee house downtown. I asked Ann, the pretty, young woman making my drink, if she still enjoyed riding her Honda Helix scooter. She said that she did, then lit up, “Hey, I saw a bunch of scooters riding together downtown last Saturday!” I beamed for a second and stated, “Yeah, I was in that pack! That was the Royal Bastards” Sadness immediately washed over me. What the hell am I so excited about. I paid for my drink, and Ann delivered it to me a minute later. She was too busy to ask about the rally if I had a good time. Good! I sipped my chai latte and realized that I was the only customer drinking alone, nothing new there. Later that day I would go out to lunch—alone as usual.
I am the Lone Scooterist.

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