It's 1962 since I last rode a scooter, but my fond memories of that different world were rekindled as I read the November 2011 issue of Scootering Magazine.
The year was 1955. I became the owner of a shiny Lambretta LD 150, which was almost new and one of the first Lambrettas in the area. The milometer registered but a few hundred miles. The scooter's first owner, a lady rider, had fallen off and, after losing her confidence, had decided to sell. I had recently left school and started employment as a trainee in Preston. After college classes in the evening I faced a lengthy 10 mile journey home, where the final two miles entailed walking on unlit rural roads. It was expected that my unopened wage packet of £1.75 per week would be handed straight to my mother. The 50p per week I received back was insufficient to buy any wheels, but my father was somehow persuaded to pay £120 for the Lambretta, which had caught my eye when advertised in a local newspaper.
I soon fell off on an icy diversion at Cuerdale, on the Preston Bypass, where preliminary work on the first British motorway was just starting. Damage was more to my pride than to the Lambretta, but it was the start of my fast learning curve necessary to survival.
My mates owned a variety of small two stroke motorbikes, such as BSA Bantams, James and Francis Barnetts. We had regular Saturday and Sunday runs, as far as the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, camping out and going off road on mountain tracks. A couple of the lads were mechanics and tuning the bikes was part of the challenge. The performance of the Lambretta was improved with polished ports, a straight through exhaust and other minor modifications. It was then able to hold its own on the road with the other bikes.
The Suez crisis in 1956 led to 5 months of petrol rationing with an allocation of only 200miles per month for motorists. After scrounging lots of unsuitable containers, I remember turning my Uncle's garage into a Health and Safety Officer's nightmare and managed to eke out the Lambretta's petrol supplies for the duration of rationing. My solo, longer distanc the Lambretta, we headed for the Postonja caves and Ljubljana, in Tito's Communist Yugoslavia, spending black market money exchanged in Trieste. Next we headed to Lake Bled, the
e UK adventures began with trips as far as Lands End and John O Groats. I visited the Cairngorms, the Isle of Skye (which was accessible only by ferry in those days), Ullapool and beyond. I camped or stayed at YHA hostels in Scotland where wheeled transport was allowed. I loved the freedom and empty roads of the Highlands, where hardly a car or a person would be seen. Pitching a tent almost anywhere I could find a good spot in the wild landscape, I caught trout for supper, gathered shellfish on the seashore for starters and ate wild berries for desert.
By 1958 I was a full time student in Birmingham. I used Birmingham as a base for further travels to Devon and Cornwall, Canterbury, the South Coast and the Welsh beaches around Aberystwyth. Heading back to Birmingham after a 36 hour London party on the newly opened and desolate M1 Motorway, with no speed limit, was not to be recommended. Especially on a LD 150 with two people aboard, no windscreen, no road lighting and on a cold wet night, with a strong headwind, stronger headaches and wearing street clothes.
Europe was my next challenge! By this time the Lambretta had clocked up about 50k miles and was getting a bit worse for wear. Seeing the back wheel pass me at speed on the outskirts of Bury didn't help my confidence. But with the sheared stub axle replaced, and a few other bits and pieces repaired, I was beginning to gear up for a Continental challenge. During the summer holidays of 1959, a couple of us students overloaded the Lambretta - with Athens as the target. Heading across France, for Basle and Switzerland, we studied the map for the highest peaks. Moving on through Davos, we braved the hairpin gravel roads of the Umbrail Pass and the Stelvio Pass (at over 9000ft). The winding roads were almost too much for the heavily laden Lambretta, which at the end of one crazy exhilarating day had overheated brakes, was missing the kickstart and the stand through touchdown, as well as having a partially shredded back tyre. I was amazed that we were able to wobble into Bolzano, with the ballooning inner tube visible through the tyre in several places, but we were now in the Lambretta's homeland and were quickly able to find a tyre replacement. Although I had to jump-start the Lambretta from that day on.
Moving on to Milan and Venice, we headed along the north coast of the Adriatic towards the Yugoslav Border. Physically it was a bad day for me, and increasing stomach pains caused us to pitch our tent on the Italian side of the border with a view to sleeping things off. The pain only got worse so we packed up and headed for a hospital in Trieste, the nearest big city. I eventually ended up strapped to a leather couch, naked, with a big hospital operating light over me, suffering from a burst appendix. I remember thinking "what if my mother could see me now!". It was then the anaesthetic kicked in!
A week later I was out of hospital and spent another week recuperating at the local Youth Hostel, with its own private beach. A trip to Athens was now out of the question, but I seriously doubted the scooter would have made it anyway. Uncomfortably climbing back on to
Grossglockner Pass in Austria and on to Munich to sample the beer. Finally we had a sightseeing journey, on and off German & Belgian Motorways, on the way back to Blighty.
In 1960, with some regrets, I traded in the Lambretta with 60k on the clock. It had served me well! I used it as a deposit for a new, just released, Birmingham made Triumph Tigress Scooter. That scooter made it as far as Istanbul and Arctic Lapland... but that's another story!