On my birthday, in 1987, when I 14 years old in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, I got my license & registration for the moped that I bought off my brother with dishwashing money I made at a restaurant called Yours Truly. My brother bought the shiny maroon 1978 Puch Maxi-Luxe Hi-Torque Moped from a guy named Rick who was older than both of us. This was a monumental day for me, because it offered an instant addition of freedom to get away from the house in an exciting and dangerous mode of transport. I never fell out of love for this little machine. I won’t lie, I was an awkward child with few friends, so I spent a ton of time just exploring my world on my nerdy moped on my own. I took it off road, I drove to downtown Cleveland mainly via backroads once, I got in trouble with the law with it, I flipped over the handlebars driving over an open manhole cover and I rode it all the way to Pymatuning, Pennsylvania where my dad had a 13 foot sail boat docked on its lake. I had to bring a gasoline tank strapped on the back with the gas / oil mixture not available at a gas station in order to have enough fuel to get back.
I took a nap inside my dad’s small boat. No one ever knew about the journey. And this certainly wasn’t the only journey my trusty Puch took me on. At 16, it was so uncool to be on that weedwacker motor-sounding thing that I had to move onto driving a car. For nearly 30 years later, I have romanticized memories of that old moped and in 2009 much of those desires came in the forefront of my consciousness when a moped repair and sales company opened in Greenpoint. The Orphenage Moped Shop way north on Manhattan Avenue actually had one of those maroon Puchs propped on the sidewalk and I nearly dropped a load in my shorts right there! I even walked in and asked how much, but it was already sold. (By the way, The Orphenage is now located in Bushwick.)
Then of course I did a little research online and started to have real thoughts of buying one. You know when you throw something like that out there to your girlfriend who is simultaneously helping you get out of debt and they don’t even think you’re really being serious? Well I left it at that. But the fantasy lives on. I’ve justified it to myself because I essentially live in a little town called Greenpoint. I don’t need to leave here too often, but I do need to get around locally. I don’t like bikes, because you’re completely defenseless to the random automobile death machine complex and a least you could accelerate out of the way or beep or something. I do realize that any mode of transport in NYC is dangerous, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting one. And I don’t like motorcycles either. They are for a different breed than who I am and don’t like the whole culty culture involved with all that. The want for a moped is sentimental and fun, not religious. It’s not something that I think about all too often, either, except when something comes along to stir up those feelings. And that happen again this past weekend when I stumbled across this great little story hailing from good ole Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
The New York Times covers a story on Kent Street resident Mikael Tarkel‘s quest to cross the country on a 4,200-mile ride to Los Angeles on his restored Peugeot moped that he found in a garage in California 17 years ago. He’s already on his journey and you can keep up to date on his experiences on Twitter: @slackrabbit. Although I have no desire to attempt this feat, it doesn’t take much to understand why he wants to do it. I wish Mikael all the best and thank him for reminding me of one of my first loves in life that gave me new experiences and taste of freedom at a very young and rather lonely age.