Friday, May 4, 2012

Scooter Cannonball Run

Hi All,
    Well I am back to blogging again, mostly because I actually have something to write about. Earlier this year I opened my mouth to someone about my desire to do the Scooter Cannonball. This person, Ricky from J's market in Elk Park N.C. immediately jumped in and said he would sponsor/support me, so...I was in.
     The Cannonball is a run from Savannah Ga. to San Diego Ca. around 2580 miles.It is specifically for scooters and directed toward older scooters. It's popularity has grown from 6 old scooters in 2004 to 58 scooters in 2012. A lot of the scooters in 2012 were newer and bigger than was probably intended at the start of the event in 2004, but modernity and engine size does not take away from the accomplishment of riding what is basically a city commuter vehicle across a country the size of America.
 Here is my Sears/Vespa before I started "prepping her for the Cannonball

I had read a lot of stuff other people had written about their experiences in the Cannonball, how easy it is to crash, how previously reliable scooters just break down due to the long days and hundreds of miles, how a rider has to be a roadside mechanic and macguyver while trying to stay sane on endlessly straight roads. Warnings were everywhere... Do Not Do This If You Do Not Know Your Scooter Inside And Out.
      I knew all that stuff didn't apply to me, after all, I had a 46 year old scooter that had never seen a mechanic, my knowledge of two stroke engines was limited to swearing at and kicking my push mower, and I had been riding a two wheeled motor vehicle for exactly 6 months. Heck let's go!

 I figured, "if something ain't broke, don't fix it" so I left all the mechanical bits as they were and concentrated on carrying capacity and looks.  Makes sense to me!
 Despite the fact that "Sophia" looked good in her 46 yr old white paint job from a distance, the closer you got the more you could see the ravages of time and the application of various shades of white over accumulated scratches and dings. I really did not know white could come in so many different hues. So one of the things I really wanted to do was paint her, primarily to look good but also to be more visible on the road. After long deliberation, weeks in fact(paint choice is a very big deal) I decided on the GULF OIL racing colours from the 60s race cars. Basically blue and orange. Only much later did I realise that those were also the colours of our home town soccer club in England. Oldham Athletic Football Club.
                                        Painting in the front yard 1 week before the Cannonball.

                                                  Oh yeah, Eat your heart out MAACO.

                                                     Drying time. Add the Orange later.

   I am not the most patient person in the world so I did not do tons of prep on the scoot before I painted her. Just a quick sanding down so the paint would stick, and a bit of hammering on the lesser dents. I decided that the big dents could stay there to "add character"
    I had also acquired a period (1968) windshield from Rob, one of the guys I work with at the golf course. He kindly gave it to me as it had been "settin in the apple house fer 40 years gathrin dust". I will say that riding with a windshield on a bike for long distances is a lot better on your body than going without one, so....Big Thanks Rob!
    I needed a rear rack in order to carry tools and a tray on the footplate to hold a 2 gallon gas can! These I made at Bruce Dyacks welding shop in Pineola.

   So this is what a custom painted, custom racked,custom windshielded, and custom upholstered Sears/Vespa by Sir Paul looks like.

                Did I mention I also made the seat for the trip? The original was way too uncomfortable for long rides and so I took it off and made a new one using plywood, foam, and leather. I made it quickly removable by using velcro. The seat has to be removable to get to the fuel tank and the carburettor. The American Tourister vanity case on the back rack is holding my tools and spare parts, I paid 5 dollars for it at a flea market and it proved to be tough as nails.
     You can also see the tray I made for the gas can. Unfortunately, I discovered that when I would "tuck in" behind the windshield to get more speed I was breathing lots of fumes from the gas. Eventually I put the gas can on the back rack and the toolbox on the footplate. This gave me two added bonuses:-

  1 The center of gravity was lower.
  2 People seemed to back off a wee bit when they realised I was carrying a gas can in a position where, if they rear ended me, they might be involved in an explosive situation.

        A cool front view of my scooter outside a Sears store that might have sold scooters 46yrs ago!

 My wife Cheri also made stuff for the trip, in particular a leather pouch thingy that slid over the rear rack and gave me 2 more pocket spaces which I used for storing a raincoat, 2 inner tubes, and an assortment of granola bars. The pouch thingy also gave my scooter a tough biker look that I am sure intimidated many road warriors on the trip.
   What else did I do to prepare for a 2500 mile trip? Oh, yes. I bought some new tires, 2 to be exact, and I went for a 250 mile round trip excursion to the Va. state line to see if "Sophia" could handle a long distance day.  She did handle it, so all I had to do next was get to the starting line of the Rally on the 22nd of April. That little story will be in the next posting.


  1. Nice!!! I love the picture of Sophia in front of the Sears! :-D Can't wait for more stories!

  2. That scooter sure looks great to me. Well done.

  3. I must agree, the scoot looks great. I think your comment about having something to write about may be an understatement.

  4. I hope you continue your adventures. I would be lying if I was not seriously considering doing this in 14. I'm glad someone else who is "not mechanically inclined" was able to complete the race.

  5. I just wonder how you manage to paint it so accurately! I have tried once to paint my scooter but it was a total failure.

  6. Is this the sir Paul that comes to buck man, tn? If so I have a 65 blue badge and I need help!