6.19.2006

Gassing Up

I pull into a gas station and a giant RV is parked at the adjacent pump. A condescending and pointless remark from the man as he pumps gas: "there you are girl - we passed you ages ago." Well, here we both are, Dick. The woman looks at me wistfully from the passenger seat and tells me how brave she thinks I am, that she could never be that brave. I believe she could.

I pull into a gas station, fill my tank, clean the face shield of my helmet with the window squeegee, down some water. An older couple approaches me from the other side of the station. They're carrying a green disposable camera and ask if they can take my photo. I laugh and blush and say sure. We chat, they snap; after a few hollow clicks of their plastic camera they thank me and walk back to their car arm in arm.

I pull in to top off my gas in the middle of nowhere Nevada. It's not even a town; it's a place with a sign. I'm about ready to go and the tallest, thinnest cowboy pulls in. I smile, he looks at me and says with a slow, lyrical drawl, "You drivin' that thing across the country?" I say yes. His drawl is almost slow motion. "If it weren't impolite, I'd say that takes baaalllls."

I pull into a gas station that is swarming with Harleys. I'm fairly intimidated, riding into the mix on my sparkly little white pony. The moment I stop I am surrounded with bikers, full of smiles and questions and stories. They invite me to Sturgis. The women who ride on the backs of these Harleys fall completely in love with the Vespa. They righteously declare that if their men don't want them driving motorcycles, then damn! They are going to get Vespas!

I pull into a gas station across the street from a Senior Center. There's a carload of elders - three very old ladies in the backseat and two old men up front. I smile and wave as they drive out in front of me, staring. One of the women gives me such a smile back, it seems as if she is concentrating all her energy and willing herself into my skin, into my body, even into one of the snaps on my jacket, just to be along for the ride.

12 comments:

Trevor Carpenter said...

I love these entries. Your writing is clean and crisp. Your style makes me want to tag along, maybe even pilot my own Vespa along, just to observe.

teacher dude said...

The scene with the Harleys remind me of when I went from Greece to Italy on my vespa (PX200). I remember getting ready to disembark from the ferry, surrounded by all these huge BMWs, Hondas etc.

What made it an even funnier sight was the fact that they were all wearing their serious biker gear and I was decked out in a t-shirt and pair of baggy shorts.

Anonymous said...

i have to say, the little story about the Harleys made me laugh! i have been riding on the back of my hubby's Harley for quite some time....until i bought my Vespa 5 days ago! he actually enjoys "zipping" around town on "my bike" too.

PaulVincent said...

I am very much impressed by your travels on the Vespa. My wife and I made much of the same journey as you traveled, but we started 50 miles south of Chicago and went west (and we had each other). We were in a rented Pontiac Vibe, and even that seemed to be underpowered (strong winds, steep grades).

David H Gatley said...

"Well, here we both are, Dick."

HAHAHA classic.

Have you thought of turning this into a book? Dare I ask, have you read "Travels with Charlie" by Steinbeck? Your life (blog life) seem to mirror that book hauntingly so. Obvious connections aside, the sentiments shared throughout both are worth checking out.

Anyhow, I need to get back to reading more of this =)

Anonymous said...

I dont know why, but that last part about the old woman willing herself into your body made me cry. It's a reminder to take advantage of my 24 year old body. Thanks to your blog, I have acheived absolutely nothing at work today. (well, nothing work related at least) :)

Lynn said...

Seems like you got fuel for more than your Vespa on this stop. You are truly inspiring. I hope you know what your stories do for people's hearts.

lorien_i said...

This is a lovely, lovely set of vignettes. I don't know if you'll read comments this far back, but thanks for posting this. Lovely!

Anonymous said...

I know I'm late to this blog and you'll probably never see this comment. I agree with the comment by Anonymous above: the last part about the old woman made me cry, but for a different reason...I WISH I had taken advantage of my 24 year old body. Now I'm dealing with a 50+ year old body and what seemed possible at 24 seems unattainable now. But reading about your trip keeps the dream alive. Thank you for your lovely pictures and heartfelt observations.

renovatio said...

You should make this into a book. I'm about three posts into this and tears start rolling down, it's so powerful!
(But why does the word verification code read "chick"? I think, wordpress is sexist... :/)

Jonathan said...

I must agree with the other posts for this section in regards to the older lady "willing herself into your body to go along for the ride".

Your analogy has made me realize even more how that I need to get out and enjoy life while I have it at the age I am now...because there will truly come a time when I am not able to ride my Vespa. :/

Anonymous said...

Shreve, if you wrote an entire book about nothing but gassing up and your observations thereof, I guarantee I'd buy it. You draw people to you like moths to a flame because you are doing the thing that you have been told - what you have told yourself - is crazy to do. And when other souls see you leaning into the curve like that with faith in reckless abandon, they see the possibility for themselves: crazy or not, you can do what you want to do. You just have to have the baaalls to do it.