• When John Gerber rode a Vespa...

    The Vespa was designed to get people around war torn streets in Italy, designed and built by a navy supplier they were the transport of the youth. My nonni hardly took them out of the village, many wouldn't travel that far either. But one man defied all of these notions, taking a Vespa where no man would have taken one before, becoming an icon in the process.

    John Gerber on his 1964 Vespa GS
    John Gerber is a 'hero'. He's not a household name nor are there any statues adorning the streets. He probably doesn't even have a street named after him; or he probably does and we don't know about it... yet. John Gerber was a rogue, very much a pioneer, his passion for the Vespa made him travel the world. 

    In 1966, John would ride through eight countries, starting in Minneapolis finishing in Panama. 18,000 kilometres would have been travelled, all unsupported, all on the back of a Vespa. (A single cylinder scooter that is). 

    Gerber had been inspired by the completion of the Inter-American highway which had been finished in 1963, his own recounts of the road would make you think that calling it a highway was somewhat generous; as he would later write "between San Jose and Panama City lay 300 miles of unpaved road, much of it over 11,000 foot mountains. The condition of the road confirmed my worst fears. Foot wide boulders and pot holes were the rule rather than the exception". 

    His journey began in auspicious circumstances as well. After crossing the Minesota - Iowa border a light drizzle turned into a torrential downpour; after seeking rain shelter under telephone box for three hours he made it to the nearest motel for the evening, discovering the next morning that there had been wide spread flooding across the state. A decision to not risk travelling turned out to be the wisest, although the following days travels were done under 100 degree temperatures and not in the most comforting of sceneries. 

    On his travels, Gerber would discover that Mexico didn't allow Vespa sales because of anti-competition laws, that Guatemala's romantic sounding names qualified the nation as 'the most interesting' and that Honduras may just be one of the best places to break down. After sheering pistons and finding dealerships that supplied everything but the parts he needed, Gerber turned to the locals,"Latin American mechanics are noted for their resourcefulness and the head mechanic proved to be no exception, with considerable difficulty these obstacles were overcome."

    The journey to Panama continued with stops in Costa Rica where he would get the opportunity to drive up the Irazu Volcano, active at the time. 'The twenty mile paved road to the top was steep and winding, requiring first gear most of the way. Once at the summit superlatives abound in the description--magnificent, stupendous, mighty, marvelous, unbelievable, beyond the imagination--they are all justified.' 

    The last part of Gerber's journey was arduous, he battled with poor road, weather and bike conditions. His earlier mechanical problems had returned and made riding the Vespa a near impossible task. He lost a silencer, the repaired piston was nearly destroyed and electrical problems didn't exactly help either. Panama City gave Gerber the time to rest and sight-see, after sixteen days which included repairs, Gerber set off home making the trip back in eleven days. 

    John Gerber would write of his journey in one of the many travel logs he kept. A year later he published the  manuscript of his Pan-America tour which he subsequently submitted to Scooter World, the most published scooter magazine at the time; he was to receive an answer nearly two years later, unsurprisingly his work was rejected for a 'a young welsh rider who is doing an around the world trip on a Vespa'. 

    Gerber would go on to break world distance records, all unsupported, all on a Vespa. He would once again return to South America and spend nearly two years covering forty thousand kilometres submitting pieces from telegraph stations in some of the most remote locations on his journey; Scooter World proudly publishing his tales after the earlier rejections. And whilst his achievements weren’t splashed over the world news, he would go on to be a cultural icon for anyone mad enough to fall in love with the scooters from Italy, a new age explorer is perhaps most fitting.

    John Gerber's achievements could be matched today but the likelihood of it happening in such similar ilk, probably never; as Norrie Kerr a mod pioneer noted at the time, 'this guy has a backside like an ironing board to do this".

    1 comments → When John Gerber rode a Vespa...

    1. Piaggio Vespa is a good performance Scooter but has a high rate then other Scooters. Piaggio Vespa is the great choice if anybody wants to purchase a Scooter. It has the stylish look and other good features.

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