It Takes a Village to Raise a Stella

The Frankenstella’s story is an unbelievable tale fraught with so much intense emotion that I’ve tired of even discussing it. Especially among my scooterless friends, who simply don’t understand the level of involvement I have with Celeste.

I had so much invested in that bike that I decided the best plan of action would be to take her off the road, restore her to showroom condition, and retire her to my garage, perhaps taking her out on sunny days for a spin around the lake. Hence the purchase of the new Vespa. I had totally and completely written her off as a viable form of transportation.

Then, of course, came the unfortunate chain of evens involving the new Vespa, wherein I rode it for three days and it has since been in the shop undergoing diagnostics because it will not start. Three days on the road for every ten days in the shop is my historical ratio with scooters, and this one is no different.

At Sound Speed on Friday, I was advised that riding the Frankenstella in her current state was dangerous. She only performed well with wide-open-throttle and often died in fourth gear. The idle would race psychotically when in neutral, and sometimes it would race in gear uphill and continue to accelerate until I removed the keys from the ignition.

My StellaSpeed Forum posts for help resulted in the diagnosis of an air leak, which I didn’t want to hear, because I didn’t know how to fix it. Jeb offered to keep the scooter for awhile and figure out what was wrong, but I couldn’t reconcile leaving two scooters at two different shops while I continued my adventures on foot once again.

So I rode Celeste home, using the kill switch and the brakes, crossing my fingers that the engine was running rich and not lean, so it wouldn’t seize again while doing 45 m.p.h. on Westlake.

This was the state of affairs on Saturday when I got on the bus for class. And when I returned home, Celeste had been revived and sat brightly pop-pop-popping in my driveway. It had been an air leak after all, a snafu in the Sito+ exhaust installation.

I took her for the test route – the Montlake loop up the backside of Capitol Hill. She cleared her throat and growled, didn’t hesitate in third or fourth, and each time I pulled in the clutch or put her in neutral, the idle returned to normal – a variable heartbeat, rather than the usual rollercoaster-on-acid.

I was afraid to talk about it too much, or look directly at it, like the sun threatening to burn out my eyes if I paid too much attention. So I invested very little energy in the restoration, even though I wanted to throw a party and string purple lights across the scooter and ride it down Broadway blasting “Walking on Sunshine” from a boombox strapped to the rear rack. Instead I parked her in the garage and turned off the light.

But Sunday she started right up again, first kick, an arrhythmic pop-popitty-pop to greet me in the early morning. So I rode to Edmonds, tool kit in my glove box, AAA card in my wallet.

She didn’t falter. Not a hiccup. Barreled on down the road, coasted contentedly, returned to a leisurely idle when left to her own devices. I was, and still am, amazed.

My only consistent issue, which I’ve had for quite a while, is that the Sito+ pipe increases the gear range. When I’m riding with a group, most of the roads seem to be 35 m.p.h. zones. That’s the exact speed at which the Frankenstella wants to shift from third to fourth. So if we’re traveling at 35, I’m either winding it out in third or glugging in the bottom of fourth. Neither is comfortable. It’s a bit frustrating. She just wants to go fast – all the time. Who can blame her?

The resurrection of Frankenstella requires a bit of a schema shift, as I had written that bike off and established some new rules about The Way the World Works. I’m learning these rules must be fluid — in fact, they are not rules at all. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is the importance of community.

While I was raised in a world of Yankee Ingenuity, to be completely self-sufficient, I don’t think that’s the best path anymore. It’s satisfying to know I can survive on my own if I need to, but I’d like to change my default setting. It blows my mind how much generosity, help and support I’ve gotten from my friends and Westenders SC family through my many trials and tribulations with this scooter. As my new favorite motto goes, “It takes a village to raise a Stella.”

Edmonds is pretty. It smells like pine. You should go.

About kristin

I launched Scooter Lust in 2008 to fill the void of all-inclusive scootering sites. I've been riding for 22 years and I have a degree in journalism. I create all the content on this site. I'm so happy you're here! Read more about me, leave a comment or contact me.

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