by John Gerber
I have done extensive scooter touring over the past 25 years, but the prospect of a 1,500 mile trip on my 30 year old Heinkel was indeed challenging. The destination was Kingston, Ontario, site of Heinkelfest 91, North America's second international Heinkel rally.
The first day's destination was Barre, Vermont, where I was to stay with fellow Heinkel enthusiast Steve Miller, who would join me for the reminder of the trip. My initial departure from the Boston area was delayed for a couple of hours while I recharged flat batteries.
Once on the road, things went smoothly until I was about 75 miles from Barre. At that point, the engine suddenly lost power and could barely manage moped speeds. Since nightfall was only a couple hours away, I elected to continue on to Barre at 25 mph rather than attempt a roadside repair.
Following a delicious meal prepared by Steve and his lovely wife Cindy, the evening was spent working on the Heinkel in Steve's lighted garage. The problem, we felt, was due to slipped timing.
The next morning found us on the road by 8:00AM. The Heinkel ran perfectly for the first 100 miles or so, then the problem suddenly reappeared. We reset the timing again by the side of the road. A Vespa enthusiast on a motorcycle joined us for a half hour of scooter talk.
Once back on the road we battled 40 mph headwinds and 100 temperatures throughout the day. Since Steve's Heinkel had only 1,200 miles on it, we had to keep the top speed under 50 mph.
Steve's second Heinkel had been purchased only a few months earlier with only 800 miles on the odometer! His other Heinkel has been in his family since 1960 and has over 50,000 miles on it.
Around mid-afternoon we stopped for a picnic in the shade of a church lawn -- a welcome relief from the heat. Shortly after crossing the Canadian border the problem once again reappeared. A closer examination revealed the rubbing block of the points was badly worn. The points were changed and the problem was completely resolved.
Shortly before evening as we neared Kingston driving along the shores of the St. Lawrence a convoy of about eight Vespas and Lambrettas in a scene straight out of the film Quadrophenia--passed us coming from the opposite direction. In 25 years of scootering North American roads never had I encountered such a sight.
We tried unsuccessfully to flag them down and wondered where they were from and where they were going. By nightfall we were at the campground. Hugh MacLean was there to meet us with a case of cold beer which was extremely welcome after a long day of battling the heat.
The next day was spent touring Kingston, seeing sights such as a restored nineteenth century power station and a fort dating from the War of 1812. Returning to the campground we found a fourth participant had joined us, a vintage BMW rider from Bighampton, New York, who had driven 350 miles to see a Heinkel.
Shortly afterwards, the mystery of the scooter convoy was solved when a pair of young scooterists appeared and informed us that another scooter rally was taking place about 40 miles away in Mallorytown. Later several other scooterists from the rally appeared and we stayed up talking scooters around a campfire until 2:00AM.
The next day we set out to find the scooter rally in Mallorytown. About 20 miles from Kingston we encountered another scooter convoy. This time we were successful in flagging it down and an hour was spent talking scooters by the side of the road.
By the time we reached Mallorytown we found the rally was over. However, we ran into another scooter convoy and joined them for lunch. Initially, we had many doubts about how well our interactions with the Mallorytown scooterists would go, since their rally was an English "lifestyle scootering" type.
Despite major differences in ages (we are in our late 30's to mid -40's and they appeared, for the most part, to be under 22) we all hit it off well at all points, and the scooter talk that emerged during these encounters remains one of the high points of the rally. Lifestyle aside, this group represents some of the most enthusiastic scooterists I have encountered anywhere. Any older scooterists still skeptical about socializing with this rapidly growing and dynamic segment of scootering would be well advised to put their reservations aside. Later that evening we retired to Hugh's home for an evening of scooter videos.
The ride back to Barre along the south shore of the St. Lawrence was swift and uneventful, under perfect summer weather conditions. Shortly before leaving Barre the next morning I was in the process of taking Steve's Heinkel out for a test ride when the rear wheel suddenly came off, apparently due to a failure to place a cotter pin on the hub nut after a brake job! Fortunately, the timing was perfect and a major disaster was averted. The 300 miles back to Boston was covered in approximately six hours. Except for the problem with the points, the Heinkel had performed flawlessly for over 1,500 miles.