OH THE FEAR OF THE OPEN ROAD!

Browsing the Web today, I came across an ad for an antique Puch Maxi moped on sale for an astounding $5,000. It brought back memories of my scary attempt to “grab life by the handlebars”.

It was in Bermuda years ago and I did grab the handlebars, scared stiff on a perilous Puch Maxi which I feared might carry me and my wife into eternity or at least into an emergency room.

I hadn’t even been on a bicycle for 10 years and was quite upset on arriving in Bermuda to hear the best way to tour the island was on one of these motorized enigmas.

I eventually found myself mounted on one of the little devils, helmeted and staring down the road through tinted goggles as I called for more and more power, twisting the throttle further, thrilling to the crescendo.

“Hey mister,” the attendant shouted over the roar, “aren’t you gonna take it off the stand and give it a real test run?”

“I want to get the feel of it first,” I said.

“You’re gonna run outa gas soon. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it and have a lotta fun.”

Easy for him to say. He had my money and I had two pages of the rental company’s legalese with bail-out phrases like “excludes all liability” and “makes no warranty of the working order of the vehicle.”

On my solo test run (My wife Barbara refused to board in back.), the Puch almost left without me. I managed to remain partially seatborne by alternately braking and throttling. Turning was simple. I stopped, raised the front wheel, and swung it around. Sometimes you have to improvise.

To make it more interesting and scary I had to remember to drive on the left like everyone else on the road and obey the 20 mph speed limit without a speedometer.

The rental guy had shown me how to engage the rear brake with the left control and the front brake with the right. “By the way,” he added, “don’t apply the front brake alone or you’ll go over the handlebars.” I was beginning to feel like a rookie Kamikaze pilot.

Returning from my third shaky test run I found my helmeted wife, Barbara, all atwitter. “This should be fun,” she laughed, mistaking my clenched teeth for a smile.

“You have to shout every 20 seconds, “Keep to the left please Sweetheart”. I told her. “If it’s an emergency, leave off the last part.”

A nervous hour later, having survived some near misses with several vehicles and one traffic cop, we were climbing the steep hill to the Southhampton Princess. It was tea time at the posh hotel, but I was thinking of something stronger. Suddenly I saw an idiot mopedder coming straight at us.

“Keep to the left, you idiot!” he shouted as he squeezed by.”

“You forgot to remind me,” I scolded Barbara. “You could have caused a serious accident!” She leaned forward and whispered in my right ear, “Horse hockey, Darling!” It was her cute way of ending our arguments.

By then the pooped Puch’s putts were getting fainter. “Lean forward or something,” Barbara suggested. “People are walking up the hill and they’re gaining on us. This is embarrassing!”

Soon there was a strangled cough and we stopped. “Try sliding off the back,” I said, but I’d forgotten to throttle down first so me and the Puch rocketed ahead into the bushes beside the main entrance.

While the doorman was helping me out of the greenery, I noticed Barbara was strolling by, pretending she didn’t know me. All was forgiven later when I found her sitting in the lounge with our two old friends, the Martinis.

Fortunately, the Puch fit snuggly in the taxi trunk for our safe ride back.

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