Several years ago I bought a moped made by the Hero Majestic Motor Company of India.
The scooter is made for working class Indians to navigate the traffic of Mombai, usually with at least one passenger on the back. On the left side there is a sari guard so that the Indian woman riding sidesaddle will not get her sari entangled in the spokes. There is no electronic ignition, it is a real moped, you must pedal to get it started and wait for the coughing growl of the little 50cc engine to engage.
I never used it before I came to New Mexico.
When I moved into my rented room in Hector’s house I was suddenly hit by the enormity of being in a tiny room in a strange city. Walking down the hot sidewalks around Hector’s house, I felt very small and alone and I wondered what I would do in this new place so far from my farmhouse.
So, on my second day in New Mexico, I got my moped out and looked at it dubiously. I had never gotten comfortable riding it. I have a DOT-approved helmet, more than is usually worn on such a slow-moving vehicle, just to be extra safe. Somewhat nervously, I started to pedal and got it started. The engine made a reassuring rattle and growl. I took a deep breath and headed out.
The flat valley of Albuquerque is perfect scooter land. There are no real hills to speak of. The roads are wide and drivers are used to bicycles, motorcycles, and scooters sharing the road. At first I was tentative. I took back streets. I hugged the curb. I avoided stop lights and particularly ones where I had to make a left turn. But soon I felt my confidence increase.
The wind is cool on a scooter, even at 20 miles an hour. The landscape flies by, but not so quickly that I cannot see it in minute detail. The ride takes longer than it would by car, but when I reach my destination, I glide right onto the sidewalk and park in the bike rack.
Within days I became Scooter Girl.
Scooter Girl is a faster, freer me. Carrie in a pick-up truck would never cruise the streets ogling the rows of adobe houses that look like caramels melting together under the hot afternoon sun. She wouldn’t go out of her way and burn precious petroleum to admire the turquoise-trimmed windows with brilliant colored cactus flowering outside. But at nearly 100 miles to the gallon, Scooter Girl does. She takes a turn for no reason other than to see the wrought iron sculpture made of stars sitting in someone’s lawn, the fantastical gardens of beautiful and somehow frightening flowers of the desert.
Scooter Girl shops local. She gets to know the local mercado where the Mexican families do all their shopping and buys four avocados for a dollar and tomatoes right off the vine. (Scooter Girl thinks that four-for-a-dollar avocados might be reason enough to move to New Mexico.) As she leaves the mercado, Scooter Girl knows she is the envy of eight-year-old boys. By the time the boys are ten, they will realize that the tiny moped tops out at less than 25 miles per hour and cannot keep pace with even a bicycle on an incline, but to an eight-year-old, Scooter Girl is cool.
Wearing a short skirt and sandals, my wire basket packed with fresh vegetables, I smile under my DOT-approved helmet.
“Yeah,” I acknowledge, “I am pretty cool.”
Till next time,