Our Pandemic Baby – We Bought a Vespa
We had been talking about exploring car alternatives for a long time but outside living in a major city, being a one car household was unthinkable. It is no surprise that Europe is one of our absolute favorite places. One thing that always imprinted on us was the versatility of transportation and the utilization of motor scooters.
While we never rode one, they always looked like a fun, cool, and efficient way to get around. We would float the idea of owning one back home – we live very close to town and to Kevin’s work which combine half of our driving – so it was not completely out of the realm of possibility. But we always had two cars and everyone we knew also always had two cars so the idea of downsizing to one vehicle to the add a Vespa really never landed.
The pandemic sparked a lot of change – both good and bad – in almost everyone’s lives and it certainly gave us time to reflect. Kevin and I were work from home for the large majority of a year. Once the vaccine was available, I began commuting again every day to the vaccine centers but Kevin continued to stay home.
We are fortunate to live in a very fun and functional spot where we can access many locations – such as downtown Princeton – without getting on a highway. Even Kevin’s commute to work does not require touching a highway – just two back roads. The train station to NYC as well as the farmer’s market and even Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s – all accessible without the highway.
If there was every going to be a time to downsize to one car, it would be now. After making the move to one vehicle, we did a lot of research on the Vespa before pulling the trigger (thank you, Robot).
Our original idea was to rent a Vespa first to make sure 1) we could actually ride it and 2) we liked it as an alternative vehicle. Turns out renting a Vespa in a country that doesn’t drive Vespas was a bit challenging. The closest Vespa dealer was an hour away so we took a Friday afternoon to drive out and test drive one. Turns out, for insurance reasons it is not possible to test drive either. But we ended up having no issues picking out our Vespa and hoping for the best when the Vespa was delivered to our house the following week.
There are multiple engine sizes for the Vespa brand – 50cc, 150cc, and 300cc – each with increased power. In NJ – and this is a very state specific rule – you do not need a motorcycle license to drive a 50cc motorized engine. A regular driver’s license is sufficient. Anything larger than a 50cc engine requires a motorcycle license. That being said, a 50cc engine hits a max speed of 35-40 mph and is not allowed on any state highways. This ended up being ok for us since the places we would be using the Vespa included downtown Princeton, Kevin’s work, the train station, and Trader Joe’s – all which are 35 mph or less speed limit and do not require accessing a state highways. Some states require a motorcycle license for 50cc engines which in that case, there is more incentive to get a larger engine – the 150cc for example has a top speed of 60 mph. Make sure you learn your state’s rules around motorcycles before committing to this purchase. These also require insurance coverage which was shockingly inexpensive.
When we got our bright red Ferrari Vespa, we started off extremely basic learning how to handle it. Luckily our neighborhood to pretty extensive with lots of roads, cul-de-sacs and circles – perfect for practice. We also spent time in empty parking lots – of which there are tons thanks to COVID – to do little drills Kevin replicated from hours of YouTube tutorials. Only then, did we feel comfortable venturing out a bit. First, the neighboring office complexes, then the active shopping mall filled with stop signs, pedestrian crossings, and speed bumps, then going onto a 35 mph road for feel comfortable with the speed, then conquering the hill of an over pass to reach Trader Joe’s, and finally the drive into downtown Princeton.
After having the Vespa for a few weeks now, I have to say we are absolutely loving it! It is easy to pick up and with each ride to comfort and confidence increases. I have never felt so cool in my life riding around on this little scooter. Kevin looks forward to his breaks in the day where he can jump on the bike and get lunch or a coffee in town. We get stopped constantly from people asking about the Vespa and wanting to know more – are we starting the Vespa movement in Princeton? I sure hope so. While we still can’t get to Europe, we were able to bring a little bit of Europe to us.