Saturday's Scooter Ride Required Roadside Rescue: By TIM PRESTON

In an effort to help relieve my wife's isolation, I picked up a used scooter for her to use to get out of the house and around the neighborhood. I liked the little "Schwinn Campus" myself, and decided to use it for my Saturday morning community journalism news cruise. It was going so well there for a while ...
I was set to meet members of the Kitchen and Bradford families in the early morning as they set up their roadside produce stand with a goal of raising money to support Shriner's Hospitals.

"It is a beautiful morning. I'm going to ride that scooter into town," I thought.

The Schwinn's small engine fired right up and I climbed aboard and hit the throttle. The little engine died immediately. This process was repeated a few times until I finally let it "warm up a little," and then I hit the street.

As soon as I hit 10 m.p.h. the air temp seemed to freeze the hairs on my arms. I made it to the stop sign, turned around and went back inside to find a jacket.

Properly jacketed, however, the morning air was nothing short of glorious. The little engine breathed deep as we rolled down "Raider Mart Hill" into Grayson, hitting the speedometer's top mark at 40 m.p.h.

"This is absolutely terrifying. I'm glad I wore a helmet," I thought, involuntarily leaning forward in hopes of going just a little bit faster. 

I throttled back to obey the law when I saw the 35 mile per hour sign at the edge of city limits, but the scooter already had me hooked. I arrived at the produce stand, snapped a few pictures and took a few notes before launching back out onto Grayson's not-yet-busy streets.

There were small patches of fog still lifting in the morning sun as I visited the four corners of Grayson, which gave me a better chance to test the scooter's ability to haul an old fat man up hills. Every incline was climbed with the speedometer between 30 and 35, so I was again pleased with the machine's performance.

"I could ride this thing all the way to Olive Hill and back for the ribbon cutting at Massage By Ashley," I thought, wondering just how long that trip would actually take. Instead, I diverted toward the Town Branch section (admit I do not know what that area is called, but Town Branch creek(?) runs right through it), where I hoped to show the scooter to a couple of bike-enthusiast buddies.

"I wonder if Don and Angie are up yet," I thought, just as I pulled onto their street and saw both of them sitting on a porch covered in Hummingbird Vine.
Don even had an electric guitar on his lap.

I joined them on the porch, secretly switching my camera to video mode just in case they were doing a little picking and singing. While no tunes were produced, I photographed a garden spider which appeared above their gate that morning and we enjoyed some conversation.

Predictably enough, the talk devolved to Don and myself speaking about the virtues of lightweight electric guitars that still sound good unplugged.

And, inevitably, my text alert sounded and I had to scramble to correct a mistake from earlier in the morning when I had managed to rename All Creatures Veterinary Care.

Again, I straddled the Schwinn, started it up and hit the gas. I was home in no time, fixed the story online and enjoyed a fresh cup of Goose Bridle Boilermaker Bold coffee.

"I'm so pleased with the scooter - I'm going to take it to my next assignment," I thought, trying to determine how long it would take to putt-putt my way up Biggs Hill on U.S. Route 60, as well as if the scooter could even climb such a steep, long hill.

"Only one way to find out," I said, climbing aboard and allowing myself 20-plus minutes to make a trip which might require 7-8 minutes in a car.

Before departing, however, I had to figure out a way to carry my small case of harmonicas, as I planned to jam with the amazing Shelby Lore at the start of the National Day of Remembrance.

I emptied an otherwise unused camera bag for the blues harps and essentially tied it into the small rack behind the seat, then strapped my camera across my shoulders like a woman who doesn't want her purse to be snatched, and headed out into Carter County with a notebook in my back pocket and an ink pen behind my ear.

And yes, a helmet on my head.

Amazed, I watched the speedometer rest at 20 m.p.h. the whole way up the big hill, and again as it went way past the high mark of 40 m.p.h on the way down the other side!

I arrived alive, snapped photos, played harmonica and got goose bumps while Shelby Lore tore up the guitar and sang "Pride and Joy." I consulted with the Kentucky State Police troopers on hand for the event and asked if my 49.5cc-powered scooter is indeed legal and requires no licensing, and they confirmed I was good to go.

And go I went, knowing I had messed up my own proposed schedule for the afternoon and trying to think of a way to get myself out of that situation. Time was not on my side and the little scooter only goes so fast.

Back up and down the hill I went, formulating a new plan for the day as I passed the Cooperative Extension office and nearby ball fields. Just as I hit the edge of the small bridge in the curve, a strange sound came from the scooter as I pulled over to allow cars to pass.

I could rev the engine, but it seemed there was no power to the rear wheel. After a few failed attempts to get it going again, I grabbed the handlebars and started pushing toward the parking lot of the gas company a few yards away.

"I should probably call Tony Collier," I thought, knowing my neighbor has a pickup truck and might be home. "Then again, I'm not far from home and that hill isn't too bad. I can walk it," I thought, realizing I was wearing a cheap pair of dollar store shoes which always make my feet hurt.

So, off I went up the hill, camera on shoulder, harps and helmet in hand.

I was maybe one-third of the way up that hill before I was reconsidering my plan. Again I thought of calling Collier, but thought he was likely busy with his cabinetry business that morning, so I kept trudging onward.

At the top of the hill, I watched an Oldsmobile stop and circle back around toward me.

"Hey, is that your Vespa back there?" the driver asked, referring to the scooter by a better-known Italian manufacturer. He offered me a ride, and even though I didn't have much further to go (one last hill on Poplar Heights) I was grateful to take the lift.

Just as I was getting into the back seat, I saw Collier pulling up to the stop sign in his truck and realized I should've called him from the bottom of the hill.

The good Samaritan, named Shawn/Sean(?), said he had once owned a similar scooter and really liked it. We talked about Buicks and Oldsmobiles during the short ride to my house, and I thanked him for the ride without getting much information about him. He works at a body shop in the area, if you happen to recognize his description.

I was watching for Collier to pull in when I realized I had failed to think of calling a friend who could not only help me rescue the scooter, but might also be able to fix it - the amazing Jim Wolford.

I wrote Jim an online message and minutes later we met at the gas company parking lot. Wolford evaluated the machine as best he could, but it was clearly something a bit more major than we could handle at the time. We loaded it into the back of his van and he said he would tear into it Monday.

About an hour later he already had the scooter taken apart, and sent photos of the problem. The drive belt between the engine and the rear wheel had essentially disintegrated. He found a replacement part online for only $10 and we are now waiting for the truck to deliver it.

Before we parted ways, Wolford somehow sensed my shoe problems after that uphill walk. He reached into his van, pulled out a brand new pair of Pro Keds in a box and said, "You need a pair of shoes?"

They fit perfectly. Thanks Jim!