On a Vespa across the USA - three friends in the prime of life looking for adventure. And so in 2014 – right on time to coincide with the traditional May Day “rally” – they decide to go on an unusual trip: as the MOTORLIEBE Team, they ride cross the USA on three old Vespas. The journey starts in Los Angeles and the destination is New York City. Some 9,000 km on narrow roads, through vast expanses of land, unknown places, and huge glittering cities. With a power output of no more than 10 hp, the three putter across the third largest continent on earth – meet wonderfully crazy people, battle with gusty winds and huge trucks, become stranded in Indian territory and are repeatedly won over by amazing landscapes that you would otherwise see only on postcards. Their adventure goes along at a very special speed – in sync with a two-stroke soundtrack. The book is published by Delius Klasing Verlag.
We met Michael in Munich. What were the strangest encounters you had? There were in fact several. But we had one particularly strange encounter in Worland, Wyoming. We had to do our washing again. Then we came across a lonely, grubby laundromat in Worland. It must have been around 40 degrees in the midday sun and so we thought we could kill two birds with one stone: 1. stay out of the heat and 2. use it to dry the clothes. So we were standing there waiting for our washing to finish in this deserted laundromat, when an elderly lady walked in and gave us a friendly greeting – in a thick accent. Amalia, that was her name, then asked us what we were doing – apart from the washing. When we tell her about our tour, she asks us where we come from and says that she’s from Steiermark - but has been in the States for around 50 years and has lived in Worland since she came. We chat together for a while. And then she asked whether we would look after her washing (We wonder why? Nobody‘s likely to come by... certainly not in the next few days anyway), which we are of course glad to do. She comes back 15 minutes later with little packages wrapped in aluminium foil, one for each of us. What’s inside? Each one contained a pair of socks, some sweets, cereals and other nice things. Because we look so thin and have a long journey ahead of us. We stay for another hour or so and talk about this and that. Just one of the many pleasant experiences we had on the tour. The second happened almost immediately after this at the fuel station next door, but that’s another story...
Did you experience a low point on your journey and how reliable is a Vespa? I wouldn’t call it a low point on our journey, but we did in fact have to carry out quite a number of repairs, which gout us “down” a bit, if you like. Adjusting a screw every now and then is fairly normal, but not to that extent. The old "ladies", which is the name we later gave to the Vespas did get on our nerves a lot and needed far more attention than we had expected - the descriptions in the book are really quite amusing. Anyone who believes that the Vespa is a tough workhorse and invulnerable to that sort of thing should try covering a good 9,000 kilometres in seven weeks on three Vespas - on roads that you will rarely find in Europe, at temperatures of 50 degrees in Arizona and minus 5 in Colorado, through rain, hailstones and snow on roads that are not worthy of the name, in L.A., Chicago, Detroit and NYC, to name just the largest cities we travelled through. The traffic is murder, for man and machine. It‘s something you just have to get used to. If you don’t believe it, try it for yourself
Who is the invisible fourth person? That‘s Marius, but he is definitely not invisible in the book. He actually won a prize ;-) If it hadn’t been for him, the tour would have been impossible. We simply didn‘t want to have photos of fully-loaded Vespas looking like ugly mules. That‘s why we had our "support van". Marius drove the 5-metre long vehicle superbly and loved the rumble of its V8 engine. We had a rooftop tent on the van; two slept in the tent and two inside the van, with spare parts in the back, tools under the seats and photo equipment everywhere, the food is well. Yes, of course we could have done it all without an accompanying vehicle, but the outcome would have been quite different - just one of the hundreds of travelogues you’ll find all over the place. There was a good reason why the Vespas were painted as they were and should be visible in the photos.
Does an experience like that make you addictive for more? Yes, but we were addicted to travel long before that. We’re not the type of guys who sit around in pubs all day. When time allows, we are outside, travelling through foreign countries. We‘ve already seen a lot on our journey from the USA to North Korea, and now we want to do a few things with the Vespa, because there’s Motorliebe is in each of us.
How long did you plan in advance? Not long really, but it was very intensive. We bought two Vespas in December 2013, which were then completely overhauled by us and repainted. The idea had already been finalised in July 2013, and the planning began in earnest in November. We asked ourselves, "How do we get the Vespas into the USA in the first place " and "What route should we take."
How important was the planning in retrospect? Extremely important. Particularly because many of the intermediate destinations, which we “decorate“ in the book with interviews, are not easy to find. You need to do research, a lot of research in fact. One example we can mention is the "jeans man" Ryan, who produces customised, superior quality hand-made jeans. He works alone, cool guy, super product. Or the bio cafe with drive-thru in Denver, in which articulate baristas, scantily clad, sell you super delicious bio products. Another example would be the lowriders from NYC. There‘s a lowrider scene on the West Coast, and you’ll find a lot of them there. On the East Coast it‘s difficult, quite apart from the fact that these guys don’t want to cause a rumpus. Encounters like these don‘t just happen though, it‘s really hard work. This means: no planning = fewer good stories that make our book what it is. So far, something unique.
What kind of advice would you give to someone planning to go on a similar trip? Take some fun with you. Before we left, a lot of people had said to us: "Once the tour is over, you won’t want to see each other again". Not true, but you have to realise that you will be together for 24 hours of every day, which means that the group must harmonise, otherwise it will end up being unpleasant. Someone who simply wants to ride across the country and has enough time can simply let go. And someone who wants to achieve something in a predetermined period of time should... no, must plan ahead. And if someone wants to get good pictures, he must not let his focus wander. In our case, the focus is on riding matching Vespas through unusual landscapes.