Forever Vintage: A History of Three Vespas

cropped-kd-yellow-vespa2I have been a Vespa enthusiast for more than fifteen years, which is new by some standards compared to lifetime riders.

Watch my video: El Banano in Land Park, Sacramento

If you’re unfamiliar with these amazing 2-stroke motor scooters, Piaggio & Co. S.p.A. of Pontedera, Italy introduced its classic single model in 1946.

Banana sunshine, Napa Valley CA

Today, Vespa is one of seven companies owned by Piaggio. Though the modern scooters have wonderful features like disc brakes and security locks, I’m forever a vintage Vespa rider, now on my third classic bike.


I purchased my first Vespa in 2002. “Ducky” was a blue, 1964 Vespa VNB named for its small size and humorous quacky horn: standard qualities of most scooters from this era.

1964 Vespa VNB

Ducky was bought in Pennsylvania but it was in San Francisco that I learned to ride: cruising the bike lanes by Ocean Beach, traversing through hilly neighborhoods, and eventually riding down twisty Lombard Street during a rally in 2005.

My jacket with its rally patches


A few years later, in my quest for more power, Ducky was replaced by Dynomite, a battleship grey 1978 P200 whose creative “modifications” included a kill switch resembling a vacuum cleaner on/off control just below the seat.

On top of Mount Tam, California

Mimicking J.J. from the television show Good Times, I would shout “Dyn-O-mite!” as I run-started the bike when the engine refused to kick over. Good times, indeed.

DynOmite with back cowl sticker from Motos Baja

I sold Dynomite just before I moved to Mexico in 2012. Scooters tend to run in small circles; in 2019, I learned Dynomite was acquired by a friend in Sacramento who enjoys riding him today, kill switch and all.

El Banano

In 2018, I returned to Sacramento after living abroad and was contacted by a friend about a yellow 1981 Vespa P200E. Recalling the fun of past rallies, I quickly agreed to the idea of owning another vintage Italian motor scooter.

scooter patch jacket, test run on El Banano

My friend delivered the bike to me from San Francisco and I reveled in its brilliant paint job and the sweet aroma of its 2-stroke smoke. I took the bike out for a test run and quickly remembered why I love vintage Vespas.

Although it took a few weeks to name, this Vespa is now called El Banano. In addition to being a great scooter for riding around Midtown, El Banano has taken me safely to and from work in the pouring rain while wearing – what else – a bright yellow rain suit.