Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cheboygan, Synchronicity & Smooth Sailing

Sick Scooter.

Day Four: Fixing up my Scooter (and my Body) in Cheboygan, MI.

The weather report said heavy thunderstorms in the afternoon en route to Cheboygan, so I set about getting up bright and early to avoid testing out my new rain gear just yet. I had already put in a call to my bodyworker back home to see if she could help me find a Deep Tissue Massage Therapist in Cheboygan, because I was hurting pretty bad in quite a few places and I was worried that if I got chilled in the rain, I would definitely be out of commission for a couple of days.

I fell back asleep after my 5:00am wake-up call, but started hustling around 7:35 when I woke again. I was loaded up and on the bike by 9:00 which, although later than I intended, was my earliest to date. I was punching in the address to The Gables Bed & Breakfast in Cheboygan into the nav, the last step in my departure procedure checklist, when the nav powered down. This was weird. I tried to restart it -- no luck. I tried to turn the bike on -- no luck. I couldn’t even get the key out. It was making a funny high-pitched noise. I wondered if I did something to trigger the anti-theft device on the bike.

I called the Vespa dealer “back home” in Grand Rapids (where I bought the bike) and Dan, the mechanic who got my scoot all suited up for this ride, attempted to talk me through getting the key out. I was able to do so, in fact the ignition was stuck between the on and off positions and wouldn’t move. He said he had never heard of this before. He said he figured something was wrong with the ignition, that maybe some of the tumblers had jiggled loose.

My mind was racing. There are a tiny handful of Vespa dealers in Michigan and I wasn’t so sure I wanted to take my Piaggio to a non-Vespa shop for an ignition problem. I asked Dan, “If you were in my shoes which would you do — have it towed 300 miles to a Vespa dealer or take it to a local shop and see what they could do with the ignition?” I was imaging having to get towed to Detroit and wondering how I would ever make up the miles to get back on schedule. He said, “I would wiggle that thing around for a long time.” But it was like Excaliber in the stone. It wasn’t going anywhere.

I asked if he could look up where the closest Vespa dealer was to Gaylord, MI. Now here is the first miracle in the story — get this, the nearest Vespa dealer was in GAYLORD, MI!! NO LIE!!!

Thanks to Chris Maxsom from Total Powersports (Gaylord, MI) for
fixing me up and getting me on the road in record time.

I called and talked to Jeanne at Total Powersports. I was afraid that, given they didn’t know me, they might not be able to squeak me into their schedule -- but she said no problem and that they were rolling out the red carpet. She sent Chris Maxson, their sales manager out to get me. He was there within ten minutes. Once at the shop, Mike Peppler got me set up and Chris Smith started right to work on my scoot, while Mike took my information.

In about fifteen minutes Chris, the tech, came out with the word. Turns out the Piaggio has two off key positions (I forgot to ask why), and if you take the key out while in the “half-off” position, rather than the “full-off” position, the engine is actually still on. So my engine had been on all night which had killed the battery. He gave me a power jump and told me not to stop the engine until I got to Cheboygan, and then use my charger through the night (which was set-up for me before I started this trip by Scott Sternaman: Shoreline Smart Homes).

They then told me they were going to put me on their website and see if they could get their people to follow the project! AND, they didn’t charge me a penny for all their trouble! A big huge heartfelt thanks to Total Powersports, Gaylord, MI!

I took off for Cheboygan without further incident or rain. When I arrived I set about trying to find a body worker. Now given that I don’t have an abdominal muscular structure, the rest of my body takes on an extra load and, given the additional burden of riding the scooter — well, under normal circumstances I need to have body work to undo all the damage I do just trying to live. With the added strain, I was in a world of hurt and needed someone with some medical knowledge and skilled enough to be able to navigate the terrain of my unusual body. When I left, I knew I would need to find people along the way to unkink what I’m doing as I ride the scooter. I’m particularly feeling the additional stress between my shoulders, my lower back, my wrists and my ankles.
The Gables Bed & Breakfast (Cheboygan, MI).
Image taken from

When I got into town, the B&B was not yet open so I sauntered over to Alice’s Restaurant for a snack. I asked my server if she knew of any massage therapists and she mentioned several places, but I figured the one who works with a chiropractor would be the most likely to have the skills to manage my broken body. Dr. Dom’s office gave me her number — Shellie Charboneau.

Now here are the next couple of crazy and fortuitous parts of the story: first, she is usually completely booked on Monday, but for some reason she was open today and was just getting ready to go over to her mom’s for lunch, so she was available. Not only that, but her place was literally next door to my B&B, so I could walk over while my bike was charging (at the realtor’s office -- thank you Jessie and Chuck Knopp). But wait, that’s not all — she races motocross! Now, for those of you not familiar with the term, that means she races a motorcycle. In fact she competed last weekend at Onaway Motor Speedway in the 30+ Class (with all the boys) and took first place!

Shellie Charboneau, Massage Therapist and Motocross Racer,
fixed my overworked body, pained from riding.

Well, Shellie knew exactly what my body needed. She uncompressed my neck from wearing a helmet, pulled apart my shoulder-blades from holding my arms up for all those miles, took the stress away from my lower back and reassembled my wrists and ankles that were hurting so badly (I couldn’t even hang my left wrist limply over the handlebar without it hurting, much less use it to break.) Now I am all fixed up. I’m not feeling pain at all, anywhere.

Inside the Gables B&B.

I’m still amazed at how fortuitous the whole day was; that I would manage to breakdown in one of the few towns in the entire state of Michigan that has a Vespa dealership, that the only referral I would get for a body worker in Cheboygan would be located right next door to where I was staying, and that she would be a biker chick - what a day! If this is any indication of how the rest of this tour is gonna go, then I am smooth sailing!


  1. It's cool when a plan comes together - especially when synchronicity tags along for the ride!

  2. It was a mind-blowing day and to have a mishap to into a blessing, just amazing.