If an outing has potential for any of the following elements: downtown, adrenaline, food and/or being outside, chances are low that I’ll say no. So when my friend Jenny discovered a Groupon deal for a 24-hour Vespa rental through EagleRider of New Orleans, I was stoked. Never mind that neither one of us had ever driven a Vespa before and we’re both prone to hilariously awkward mishaps.
I had been on the back of a scooter, which was easy so long as I held on to the person in front of me, and I figured that driving the thing would be almost as effortless. So we signed the waivers and listened to our briefing on how to turn the key, how to brake and the other few necessities. (It took us longer to pick out “cute” helmets.)
I began to accelerate when my attempt to maneuver out of the parking lot was thwarted by my first obstacle: A curb appeared (out of nowhere!), and I toppled over after braking way too fast. The scooter sort of landed on me, springing a gas leak. The nice man from inside the shop, who’d bid us adieu just seconds earlier, ran over to see if I was OK (I was embarrassed, and I could feel a bruise forming on my right leg, but I was more concerned about the damage I’d inflicted upon the bike and my wallet after so hastily and confidently declining insurance). I brushed myself off and took a deep breath, remembering an inspirational cliché my mom told me after I fell off a horse in my youth.
Jenny was already light years (a block) ahead of me so I shakily caught up, automatically more cautious and realizing I probably wasn’t going to be crowned “Badass of the Day,” as I’d hoped. We cheered as we successfully navigated our first big intersection and met up with our friend Jeff, a seasoned Vespa owner who served as our chaperone for the day and gave me several friendly reminders about proper usage of my turn signal.
We cruised from Mid-City to Bywater, where we stopped at Satsuma for brunch. Our next big stretch was down Rampart Street, where I caught a glimpse of a guy casually pushing around a broken toilet from the confines of an old grocery cart. We scooted under the oaks past beautiful mansions on St. Charles Avenue, and we took a break at the levee behind the zoo to watch the riverboats. Our friend Lewis joined us on his scooter and the four of us cruised down Magazine Street, turned onto Tchoupitoulas Street and headed back downtown for the final lap of our victory tour on Frenchmen Street. The day was rain-free, but chilly, which added to the European, free-wheelin’ feel of our adventure. We stopped to warm up at a coffee shop, and on the way home, we made one final stop at Jenny’s parents’ house to prove that we’d thus far survived our journey.
All in all, it was a great day and a fuel-efficient way to explore the city. I did end up owing some money for my misadventure in the parking lot (one of the handlebars was bent) so next time I’ll insure myself. I’m not invincible, but I’ll continue to be a junkie for fun.