On November 2, 2022

Forward: Part 1 of a journey

By Sandra Dee Owens

What direction is your dial set to? There is one thing I do in order to improve anything in my life. One single thing. I keep moving forward. I love how simple that is.

But as we all know, simple is not the same as easy. No matter how sucky things are, no matter how much I want to collapse into a whiny cry and give up, I know these feelings are simply a manifestation of being stuck. And I remind myself to turn the dial to forward.

So in my mind’s eye, I reach in front of my face and grasp an imaginary dial. I twist that dial to the right. To the forward position.

The art of the scooter maintenance…

The dial

The dial I see in my mind’s eye is off-white, older and shallow. It is the dial of a ’70s-era transistor beach radio. My dial has two settings: off and forward. It used to have a third setting—backward, but I left that behind as it fell out of use. When the dial is straight up and down, it is in the off position. Whenever I feel whiny, angry, afraid, jealous, depressed, I know I’m stuck and need to change the setting.

Getting unstuck

I spent last weekend working on my blue scooter. A little, gas powered, 50 cc twist–and–go, street legal toy-machine. Though these Chinese scooters are built to putt-putt around college campuses, I take mine out on the roads (preferably back and secondary roads) for some sizable rides and adventures. At less than $1,000 brand new and gas mileage of 114 mpg, these are an inexpensive ride…but the down-side is they come with cheaply made mechanical parts. Cheap price, cheap parts. In the past, my husband has rescued me with a broken clutch belt…on both the green and blue scooters. And I now own a red one. Like everyone else during the pandemic/high gas prices, I went looking for an E-bike, but knowing I would ride during the colder “shoulder’” seasons, battery life concerned me. When a friend lent me (then later gave me) her older (red) scooter I instantly knew it was the machine for me. The next spring, 2 two new ones found me and, inviting family and friends to come ride (and get one of their own), I started a scootergang.


I figured as a gang leader, it would be wise to learn some basic mechanical skills, which is not the same as wanting to learn something, I might add. On the inside I was whiny, resistant and looked to my husband to do everything.

I did get proficient at installing and removing the tiny, toylike battery, but never checked the tire or oil pressure without husband reminders.

Getting the centrifugal clutch assembly off proved more maddening with every YouTube tutorial I watched telling me how easy it was.

I didn’t know or care how centrifugal clutches worked. I just wanted to ride.

But my husband has his own projects to work on and they’re big (building a timber frame garage), so pulling him away to help me just stalls his progress. And I wanted to learn how to fix this problem on my own. But every time I tried, I failed. I noticed the YouTube guys had something I didn’t have: a heavy duty, electric impact wrench. So I borrowed one and guess what? That made it easy. It turned the nut I could not turn. It was the right tool for the job. I now want an impact wrench for Christmas. I installed a new, higher quality clutch belt, put everything back together, reinstalled the battery and prepared to fire it up and go for a ride.

I hate you

I turned the key, and the motor made a hopeful noise but did not start. My husband, hearing my attempts and keeping a watchful eye on me from across the yard, said, “You need to take all the bolts off and remove the cover again.” I wanted to cry. I was sick and tired and whiny and hated my scooter. I stomped my foot and asked Bill if I could cry now. He smiled and said, “sure.” I just wanted to take a damn ride! But instead, I took off all the bolts to the clutch case and removing the cover, I noticed little broken bits of black things lying in the bottom of the case. Scooping them into my palm, I held the broken bits up to Bill’s face. “Oh, that’s not good,” he said. “Those are the little plastic thingees that go in the keyways on the back plate of the front assembly.” And now, after having disassembled the clutch over and over, I knew exactly what he meant. And instantly, I realized I had put the back plate on inside out.

Body knowledge

“I’d like you to try and kickstart it while it’s on its center stand,” my husband suggested. He had made this suggestion many times, and many times I ignored him as I found it difficult to tug the little 225 pound bike up onto its center stand. But, having installed a fresh clutch assembly from the green scooter, I was pumped to get out there and let the wind blow the stink off me.

I just wanted to ride! But Bill was right; I needed to be able to kickstart the scooter in case the starter or battery wasn’t working. I needed to use this built-in second chance to take care of myself out on the road.

So, in my mind’s eye, I twisted that dial from “whine” to “try” and got my body in the correct position to muscle the bike onto the center stand. Then I straddled the seat and kicked. It started right up and sounded great. An hour later, after enjoying a backroad ride to a nearby town to get a few groceries, the scooter wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. Instead of looking to someone else to help me (as I normally would), I closed my eyes and reminded myself I had all the body knowledge I needed. Then I got off the scooter, planted my feet and with a mighty tug, pulled the scooter up onto its center stand. Then I straddled the seat and kicked. And it started. Woohoo! I was over the moon. I had not given up, nor lain down and died. Instead, I gained ground by moving forward. When I got home, I removed the battery, brought it indoors and hooked it up to the trickle charger. “Forward” is a call to movement—to do the hard thing. And when we do the hard thing, it’s a grand Woohoo! Want to join my scootergang? The membership fee is random acts of do-goodery.

For more, visit: .sandradeeowens.com.

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