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“You don’t want to stay there,” said our support-vehicle driver.
“Why not?” I said. Then came a very drunk Australian drawl from a man who had just staggered out of the bar.
“Where’s youze from?” he said.
“Sydney,” I said.
“On those?” he said. Then he scampered back into the bar, where we could hear him shout: “You’ll never guess what these stupid bastards from Sydney have done!” Then they all came out to see what we’d done.
That was in 2009. We were 13 days into a 15-day ride across Australia, and we had just arrived in Southern Cross, 2361 miles from home. This was the first time we had seen civilization in four days. And we’d done it all on Lambretta scooters.
My companion, Ron, was on a 1959 LI 150 built in Italy, and I was on a 1965 TV 175 built under license in Spain. Admittedly, there are faster ways to cross the country. But Ron had a scooter in Sydney, on the east coast, which he had to get home to Perth, on the west coast. So it seemed perfectly obvious to us both for him to fly to Sydney and then we’d ride the whole way back.
Roadside repairs on a trip like this are always a little unexpected, and our coast-to-coast adventure was no exception. Ron had to have his exhaust welded up twice, once on the second day and then again on the tenth day, someplace in the middle of nowhere, by a man who had just returned from brain surgery. After the second weld failed, we rigged it up with bits of wire we took from some fencing, until, finally, the whole thing fell off, and Ron had to replace the entire barrel, piston, and exhaust while lying in the mud. My own Lambretta required a piston replacement as well, a repair I executed on the shoulder as spinifex (similar to tumbleweed) and road trains went rolling by.
Australia by classic scooter is an amazing way to see the country. At about 55 mph, we were going fast enough to make time but slow enough that we could look around and take in the beauty of the place. Australia is far different from North America. We don’t have huge mountains, and there aren’t any dramatic changes like you can readily find in a single day in the U.S. But Australia is sublimely beautiful in the way it gently changes, from the almost garden-like southeastern corner to the semi-arid Nullarbor Plain, and then back to civilization with Perth, the world’s remotest city.
We rode a 90-mile straight, longest in the country. We rode the dramatic coastline of the Great Australian Bight. We saw wild roos and a wombat and an echidna. And I conquered the challenges of planning the entire route so we could make fuel stops—including a pair separated by 125 miles—on bikes with a range of 100.
I’ve since ridden vintage Lambrettas all over, and I even landed a job in America while riding a genuine 1971 NYPD Lambretta from Phoenix to Duluth, Minnesota. I know there’s plenty more to come, whether the rowdy drunks approve or not.
This story, submitted by Hagerty client Siobahn Ellis, appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of the Hagerty Drivers Club magazine.