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The moped diaries

That big toe must really be cursed, I think to myself as my head smashes into the rock wall. My head I don’t worry about. Clearly it’s fine, or I wouldn’t be able to think right now. But I’m sure I feel my toe break, for real this time, about the same time my head slams into the rock. The helmet likely saves my life. I jump up immediately and inspect myself. Some odd sprains, sure. That toe can’t sustain weight and it’s already swelling to weird proportions. That’ll hurt in the morning. But no major damage. Barely a scratch besides the toe, actually, and if you’re going to break a bone, break a toe, you can bandage it yourself.

Mini Blue Lightning. A beautiful Peugot.

Mini Blue Lightning. A beautiful Peugot.

Earlier that morning…

“You have experience riding a bike?” He asks me.

“Of course.”

[ed: riding on the back of a motorcycle doesn’t count]
[Vagabond: Shut up, editor, who’s telling this story?]

Vagabond with mini Blue Lightning

Vagabond with mini Blue Lightning

He looks at me dubiously. It’s the third rental place that has tried to convince me to get a nice ATV instead, with its broad 4-wheel base, but no, I’ve got my mind set on the moped. The night before, my waitress had bandages on both her arms, in three places.

“What happened?”

“Motorbike accident a few hours ago,” she says. “I thought a bee had stung me and I flnched.”

Note to self: take the bee sting, don’t flinch.

The moped handled beautifully. I’d gone from a state of mild terror as i whipped around Naxos’ narrow highways at 40km/h, to exuberance, to pure joy. “So this is what it feels like,” I think to myself. I suddenly understand the massive addiction that a motorcycle must be. I resist the temptation to take my helmet off so I can feel the wind in my hair. That decision saves my life later. The moped, which I’ve named “mini-Blue Lightning” since it’s the same color as our Blue Lightning bus in Pylos, takes me to Halki, a little village in the central region of the island, where I sit in a cafe and sample citron on my way back from the accident as a way to calm my nerves, and to Filissi, a small town just outside, where the waitress patiently teaches me some Greek phrases and directs me to the Cave of Zeus.

Afterwards, I ride. I ride for an hour just for the sake of riding. just to see the mountains, just to meet some mountain goats. I make split-second decisions on which sights to see, change plans on the fly, make it up as I go along. I’m a man on a moped, and I can do that.

Drinking citron to calm my nerves, with a cat

Drinking citron to calm my nerves, with a cat

It isn’t until I’ve decided to head back, when I see a large truck coming down from the opposite direction, that I hug the road to closely.

And then there isn’t anymore pavement.

And the bike, and I, flip, and fall, and there are rocks.

Surprisingly, even the bike is fine for the most part. The truck that was heading toward me stops, two men get out, and help me get the bike back up to the road. The bike still runs, and has take surprisingly little damage. Despite the fact that I’m carrying all my electronics on my back at the time, nothing is damaged except for the camera I was wearing on my hip pocket, which now has a smashed LCD screen. The damage to the bike passes inspection with George, the motobike rental guy, a few hours later. I hobble off to the bar, to wait the next few hours until my ferry to Samos comes at 1am. I can feel the sprains and bruises forming already. The next day, the doctors on Samos will x-ray my foot and tell me there is no break. I am, in fact, staring at a completely clear X-ray of my foot right now, and thanking my stars. They tell me to man up, stop acting like a baby and put some ice on it. They charge me 15 euro for this, including the x-ray.

Some goats I met. Hey goat! Did you see The Perfect Storm?

Some goats I met. Hey goat! Did you see The Perfect Storm?

A few days or weeks or months ago, I’d have been upset by the crash. After all, it cost me a camera, some pain, and some aggravation. Now I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Broken toes and cameras are entrance fee you pay for living the life you want, and its a cost I’m more than willing to bear. Che Guevara took off for months on a motorcycle and came away with a new and radical take on the world’s economies. I’m neither nearly as grandiose or as radical, so I can only come to the following conclusions about myself, which is inherently limited and may have no bearing on anyone else’s experience. That being said, some thoughts:

1. Mopeds are the best way to see Greece
2. Some risks are worth taking, even if the risks are realized, they’re still worth taking
3. Cameras can be replaced, toes heal
4. Wear your helmet

That’s it. Enlightening? Hardly. But I’m totally getting a Vespa back in the States.

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