October 17, 2009 — Autumn is here in full force in the Twin Cities. Trees are multicolored, and leaves are falling along with the temperature. Evening lows are starting to flirt with freezing. This is my favorite time of year for riding my Vespa. I bought my first scooter in November of 2007, so when this weather kicks in each autumn, it’s like coming home.

Sadly, autumn is the all-too-short tail end of the riding season in Minnesota — our last chance before winter’s cold and grit to get on our iron ponies and just ride for the hell of it. Unfortunately, this has been a mostly wet autumn to boot. With a window of gorgeous, temperate weekend weather upon us, I couldn’t not take a big ass ride this Sunday. The Mrs and I connected with a scooter buddy of mine and undertook a Twin Cities ride of epic proportions. Three hours and 68 miles later, we’d reviewed — perhaps for the last time in ’09 — some of my absolute favorite routes around the Twin Cities. Starting in the Linden Hills neighborhood we made our way west on Minnetonka Blvd. into Excelsior, did a scenic loop ’round Lake Minnetonka passing through Wayzata, then cut down into Hopkins catching Interlochen to 50th St., then connecting with The Grand Rounds on Minnehaha Parkway, then to Hwy 55 where we crossed the Minnesota River into southern St. Paul. We connected with Hwy 13 and Sibley Memorial Highway before detouring off onto Lilydale Rd. and finally backtracking to a Starbucks in Eagan for some hot coffee laced with pumpkin spice. Fabulous. Leaves were in their fullest splendor of color, temperatures were perfect for cool weather riding, and our scooters seemed to just eat up the asphalt. This was autumn riding in all its glory.

Winter will be cold, and long, and I’m going to miss riding something awful, but winter also has its own motorcycle and scooter traditions which I’ll elaborate on in later posts. Until then, autumn rides like this are just what I need. I’ve scooted to work much more often this season and it’s a much longer commute than I had last year. In a way, it’s made riding much more ordinary for me. I need rides like the one we took today to help keep that joy of scooter riding fresh. It’s not hard to revive, especially on an autumn day like this.

Nathaniel Salzman