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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Feeling the Need (For Speed)

To those of you I've recently spoken to, meaning you are immediate family or live nearby, you are probably aware that I recently purchased a vehicle for commuting purposes to work during the summer and campus during non-winter time periods. I am now the proud owner of a Genuine Scooters Roughhouse R50 moped!


Not too long ago, Molly and I were looking at purchasing a new (to us) vehicle, one that would either replace our aging, but still reliable, Elian (a minivan with a Cuba bumper sticker). We ended up not purchasing a car, even after researching and test-driving several models. Time passed and we both forgot about the need for an additional method of transportation, as I mostly ride the bus to and from campus to get around.

However, come summer, I began to crave the convenience of an auto. With high gas prices and limited income, it just didn't seem prudent to purchase a car, make payments, and attempt to keep fuel in it without having to make midnight siphoning trips in nearby neighborhoods.

Lucky for me, Madison is a very moped-friendly town. Campus is filled with students busily zipping from here to there on their scooters, quickly swerving in to designated moped parking spots conveniently located outside many academic buildings. I always thought I would just look silly on a scooter, and that I'd never find one with enough juice to even realistically count as a mode of transportation. But Molly patiently went with me to Scooter Therapy, UW-Madison's preferred moped store, and waited as I probed about mopeds vs. "motorcycles," attempted to find out if I needed more power than a 50cc engine, and contemplated the parking convenience that a moped would afford on campus and around town.


Now I can successfully report that I have joined the ranks as one of thousands of happy moped owners. Now that I use my trusty steed (yet to be named) to run errands, get to work, and drive on over to campus, I notice other moped riders more. Sure, there are tons of people my age that drive scooters around downtown Madison, mostly recklessly and without helmets. But I have also seen an increase in the diversity of ridership, with more and more adults commuting via scooter. The obvious reason must be gas mileage, as 80-100 miles per gallon is hard to beat. Moreover, the range of scooter models and styles allow riders a comfortable and safe way to commute while being able to steadily keep up with other vehicles at 45+ MPH.

The most remarkable thing I have noticed about riding my moped is not how different and much more exciting driving is on two wheels, but the new ways in which smell has been incorporated into my driving experience. A quick trip to campus takes me through the neighborhood, where I am often overcome by the sudden smell of person's flower garden or blooming dill. As soon as these fresh scents arrive, they are gone. Stoplights are no longer an opportunity to change radio stations or mess with my cell phone, but now involve the oil from my 2-stroke engine and the aroma of hot pavement. Commuting to work is made more interesting on the days when the lawn is mowed at the nearby cemetery, and the smell of freshly cut grass lingers for a full two blocks.


I look forward to whatever adventures my new moped brings, beyond the practicality of using it to commute and run errands. Perhaps these smells will change with the season, and perhaps I will discover that there is even more to two wheels than I had initially anticipated.

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