Sanctuary (Or Exit 48 Revisited).

Amerivespa held their 20th rally this year. I had been zero for nineteen in attendance and feeling determined to change that status. For the first time it was in the relative vicinity of Scooterville. Lake Geneva is tucked into the southeastern corner of Wisconsin, just a few miles north of the Illinois border. Previous year’s rallies had been spread around the country, but never this tantalizingly close.
The problem with operating a scooter shop in a seasonal climate and mixing in scooter fun, such as rallies, is that we need to make the most of our summer months generating sales and service for our customers. It’s hard to get away. There’s a shortage of slow-season scooter events (although Coco Beach has moved to the top of the short list).
When Amerivespa announced a midwest destination for the 2012 gathering, plans were put in place for attendance. Transportation of scooters, accomodations, and ample coverage at the shop were all put into place. But life threw a bit of a curve into those plans. 
Both my daughter and my son have been involved in a summer theater workshop for the past several years. It’s an intensive two week program that culminates in a weekend of live theater. My daughter has aged out of the program but my son was lined up for a starring role. This year they would be doing an original work by the director entitled “Sanctuary”. One show on Friday night and a matinee on Saturday. Guess which weekend the show would be produced.
So we adapt. The rally would cover four days. I would simply roll out early Thursday morning, do the first two days of events, and return to Minneapolis early on Saturday for the 1PM matinee.
The truck was loaded Wednesday night for a very early Thursday departure. The contents included our 4T Genuine Stella and our 2T Stella and side car combo, plus assorted tool boxes and a small suitcase. Neil assisted me in checking and topping off all fluids and tire pressure in our 1980 step van delivery and rescue vehicle which is often refered to as “Big Red”. My nickname for it is “Lucky”. All was set for an early morning departure.
The trip down to Lake Geneva was uneventful. Lucky purred right along and sipped a mere 9 MPG. I pulled into the rally HQ at 11:00 AM after 6 hours on the road. The first ride of the rally went out at noon. The local scooter club, The Scoot Jockeys, along with the folks at Midwest Action Cycle did a great job of leading about 100-150 early arrivals on a 4 hour meandering ride through the scenery, which included a nice brat and potato salad picinic along the way. Got to meet a bunch of scooter folk from all over the country. The reception that evening provided the opportunity to make more acquaintences and renew some old ones. More familiar faces showed up as the evening progressed.
Friday featured a couple more sizable group rides and the attendance was growing. The afternoon ride had to have been host to close to 300 riders. The return to Flat Iron Park revealed more old scooter pals who had arrived while we were out on the road. The evening was topped off by a reception and party hosted by Genuine Scooters and Scooterworks. The rally was truely in full swing and I had to weigh a 5 AM departure time vs. hanging out with a bunch of friends. Early reveille won out and it was off to bed for an early exit. I thought my rally was over. Guess again.
I rolled out of bed before the roosters and was on the road by 5:00. Lucky kept chewing up the southern Wisconsin scenery and pavement. At 8 AM I was nearly to Tomah when I caught a strong whiff of anti-freeze and looked down to see the temperature needle spiking on the very hot side of the gauge. I rolled off on the shoulder and popped the hood for a closer look.
Coolant everywhere. Boiling noises. I hoped against hope that it was a radiator hose failure, but I already knew from the white plume coming off the tailpipe as I was rolling to the shoulder that it was likely a blown headgasket.
After a half hour cool down and dumping available water into the radiator I limped a couple miles to the next exit. EXIT 48. Oakdale. The nice lad at the truck-stop gave me the phone number for “Gordie”. Gordie said to let it cool down and he’d be over in about 45 minutes. My goal of a 1 PM return for my son’s play was slamming shut. I poured cold water over the valve covers to speed up the cooling process and then refilled the radiator. This required several trips to the truck stop men’s room with the three 16 ounce containers in my posession. By the time Gordie arrived the engine had cooled. It was 9:40 AM and my only transportation alternative to Minneapolis was a 2005 Stella which typically serves as the motorized side of our side car rig.
A few years back, LML, who builds the Stella for Genuine Scooters, discovered they had a small inventory of 200 cc engine cases that could be built for simple integration into a 2 stroke Stella or into most large frame Vespa models. A 12 volt system was the required element to make it go. Scooterworks had the engines available for a short period of time and we were able to procure four of them. Three were sold off and the fourth was saved for our sidecar project.
For truck loading purposes, the 200cc Stella had been seperated from its typical sidecar arrangement. It had become my only option for getting home. After another 4 mile trip into the country to get “Lucky” to the truck garage, I off loaded the Stella for the final 171 mile trip to Minneapolis; That is, if I took the Stella down Interstate 94. No other route could get me to my destination on time.
One more barrier stood in the way. I was low on 2 stroke oil. Nothing would end a scooter ride quicker than running dry on oil. Gordie led me to Tomah and the Auto Zone store to pick up a liter. They were out. I remembered passing an O’Reilly Auto Parts store along the way. Just a mile up the road, but the minutes were working against me. I noticed the speedometer had stopped working. No big deal. I’d only be going one speed the rest of the way. I added a liter of oil, made a call to my wife and to Scooterville, and checked my watch. It was 10:05 AM.
A mile to the entrance ramp and I merged into Interstate 94 traffic at full speed. The Stella was feeling very strong. I wished I had a speedometer to mark my progress. A bit down the road I noticed a mile marker. I wear a wrist watch with a second hand. Speedometer solved. 
The first measured mile ticked by at 51 seconds. That’s really close to 70 mph. Not bad if I could keep that pace. Western Wisconsin topography rolls quite a bit. Gentle as they may be, there are a good number of hills to climb. I tried drafting behind a tractor/trailer. If you can get in real close there can be some significant opportunities for speed and fuel savings. The down side is that you have to be ever ready to stop quickly, and you get pretty beat up by the wind when attempting to get into the drafting spot. Also, truck drivers do not appear to be fond of this maneuver. Both successful attempts to draft were eventually met by the truck driver pulling over and letting me by.
About 2/3rds of the way into my tank of gas, I noticed a drop-off in performance. I flipped the fuel tap over to the reserve portion of the tank and started looking for an exit with a gas station. A few miles up the road I pulled off for my first fuel stop. The Stella took about a gallon-and-a-half in a two gallon tank. The results of a full tank of gas were immediate. Performance was back to the brisk clip that I was experiencing an hour earlier. The mile markers were diminishing at a pace that would hit zero at the Wisconsin-Minnesota border, with only twenty miles left to cover at that point.
Ten miles shy of the border I made my final fuel stop. Just under a half hour to cover the distance and 32 miles left to go. I made the exit-fueling-entrance ramp trifecta in three minutes. The Stella roared out of Baldwin, WI with a purpose. The hills that had been posing problems were hardly noticed. I roared up the incline out of the St. Croix River valley at the Minnesota border passing traffic along the way. As I entered the eastern metro suburbs the Stella had not run better. Autos were getting in my way and I was using the passing lanes to get around them. St. Paul disappeared into Minneapolis and I hit the exit to get to Nicollet & Franklin.
I got to the lobby of the theater at two minutes after one PM. The lone person in the lobby told me they’re about to start. I steppedinto the theater, sat down, and 5 seconds later the show began. It was spectacular!

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