Fast Eddie’s Bon Air in Alton, Ill., is something of a legend along the Great River Road. Its cheap food and great patio make it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, but since the river road is such a fantastic scenic ride (and Illinois doesn’t have helmet laws, which makes it appealing to certain people for certain reasons I will not expound upon), it’s also something of a biker bar. This is where I headed a few weeks ago with a friend.
I had a couple of firsts for the Vespa on this ride:
- First interstate
- First time crossing the Missouri River
- First time riding with a buddy
From St. Louis there are several ways to get up to Fast Eddie’s. We took the scenic route, using Highway 94 through St. Charles County and some nice stretches of farmland, then joining up with Highway 67 to cross the Mississippi River on the beautiful Clark Bridge. One of these days I need to film riding that bridge at night, because it is truly lovely when it’s all lit up.
I got some decent footage from various points on the ride. We cut through Creve Coeur Lake Park, which has an excellent lakeside stretch to enjoy, then took the interstate for about a mile to get over the Missouri River and onto Highway 94. Those parts, plus the ride over the Clark Bridge, are all in this video.
Also in the video – I moved the RAM mount for my phone to put in behind the windscreen, attached to one of the brackets instead of the mirror stem. I like this a LOT better, and it’s much less wobbly and less prone to making my already-shaky left mirror wiggle.
The listed top speed for the GT200 is 74 mph, and on this stretch of interstate the posted limit is only 60 mph. I wasn’t worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up or anything, but it was still a little bit nervewracking simply because I hadn’t done it before. As it turns out, the most frightening thing about the whole experience wasn’t the interstate itself but the decreasing-radius on-ramp with its 25 mph recommendation that then spits you right into traffic. THAT was new. I probably could have taken the on-ramp a little faster than I did, but the Vespa didn’t disappoint and when I opened up the throttle I got right in with the flow of cars with no problem at all.
Riding with a friend was another new experience. They covered some of that in the MSF course – appropriate following distance and hand signals and stuff. But he’s a more experienced rider than I am, on a much different bike, so I kept my focus on riding my own ride and doing what I felt was comfortable and safe for me. When we got to our destination, he lectured me a little on maintaining a closer following distance so he could see me in his mirrors and I could signal to stop or whatever. But let’s be real, I told him, 200cc isn’t always going to keep up with whatever’s in his motorcycle, and I’m not gonna burn my engine or take a turn faster than I like just to stay 4 seconds closer.
Fast Eddie’s has a dedicated motorcycle lot, and it was, as always, full of pimped-out Harleys and other cruisers. I buzzed in there on the Vespa to what I imagine were a lot of side-eyes behind the sunglasses. Only scooter on the lot – probably ever, my friend said sarcastically. Whatever. I rode there on it, same as he did his Shadow, so to the motorcycle lot I went. It was the first place I wasn’t worried about locking up my expensive helmet with the Sena still attached to it – no one on that lot was going to be caught dead digging around in the basket on a Vespa, so I was pretty confident it would be safe.
On the ride home, the wind started gusting a bit. Across those wide-open swathes of farmland, it got pretty intense at times. This was the first time I ever felt really concerned about my ability to keep total control in the wind, so there were some white-knuckle moments. Being a petite rider on a scooter instead of a big dude on a cruiser has its advantages when it comes to things like acceleration, braking, and maneuverability (and wheelies, so I’m told). But in the wind, it’s a huge disadvantage because I’m much easier to wobble. Proficient Motorcycling has an excellent chapter on dealing with winds – steady and gusting – so as we rode I mentally referred back to those pages and the advice therein. Gusts are largely unpredictable, but this is where riding with a buddy was really helpful. He hit every gust a few seconds before I did, so if I watched his reaction I could gauge what was ahead and be ready.
It’s a bit of a haul for a burger and a few beers, but it was 100 percent worth it.