By Lacey Burress
Renting a scooter in New Orleans is a novel idea. However, depending on a GPS navigator while riding said scooter is not. Please allow me to explain.
My mother and I decided that we needed to find a way to beat the impending heat while doing our shopping in the Big Easy this July. When we saw the Big Easy Scooter Rental Groupon, we knew that was the perfect solution. The deal permitted us to full access of a 2-person motor scooter for a full 24 hours at just 45 bucks. What a steal!
Upon entering Big Easy Scooters on Magazine Street, Mom and I immediately spotted the scooter we pictured ourselves zipping around town in. The shiny pink paint complemented the chrome handlebars perfectly. The new white leather seat looked so spacious and comfortable. It was then that we learned that these scooters located inside the shop were for motorcycle-licensed drivers only. The Groupon scooters were out back. But first, we had to pick out a helmet.
After copping a couple of less-than-fashion-forward-under-the-chin-strapping white helmets, we were led outside. Our scooter awaited. The old yellow and white paint complimented the Lemonhead decals that were plastered all over. The two rearview mirrors above each handlebar were the size of the bottom of old Coke bottles. The seat popped open for convenient purse storage. It was perfect.
Since Mom owned a scooter herself at age 10, she was the designated scooter driver. Apparently driving a scooter is like riding a bike, because even after 50 years she was able to pick it right back up. The adorable scooter shop guy gave her a few tips and how-to's and we were on our way.
Mom was doing great as we drove up and down the back roads around the shop. Our Lemonhead could make it up to about 40 M.P.H. so we could keep up pretty well in light traffic. It wasn't until we approached a large intersection that we realized how intimidating speeding SUVs in large volumes could actually be. Thankfully, there was a Subway restaurant just before the intersection, so about ten minutes into our joyride we decided that it was the perfect time to take a break.
Lemonhead was exactly what we needed that day. We began to feel more comfortable on it and were able to hit up triple the attractions we would have on foot. It even came in handy the next morning.
We were able to keep the scooter until noon on the second day, which just so happened to be our last day of vacation. Mom and I woke up early and packed our luggage, anxious to get a few last hours in with Lemon. Dad was staying in NOLA for two extra days for a conference, so it was a bit of an ordeal separating out what needed to be packed and what needed to stay with him. We finally zipped out of the hotel parking lot (or off the hotel sidewalk rather) at 10 a.m.
Mom whizzed over to Café Du Monde where we had a wonderful beignet breakfast. We reminisced on the memories we had created on our trip: our time with the lovely Mrs. Susan Stein, Mom's homeless wannabee boyfriend Alvie, the poet who insisted that he was the voice of my dog who missed me and was begging for me to come home…our vacation was coming to an end and we were content. It had been great. Now it was time to return Old Yeller and head home. We were right on schedule.
Our plan was perfect. We would return the scooter at 12, cab it to the hotel to grab our luggage, and then take the cab to the train station to catch our 1:00 train home.
It was around 11:45 when we told Siri to navigate us to Big Easy Scooters. Can you picture me behind Mom on a motor scooter, holding on for dear life with one hand while attempting to get directions from an iPhone with the other? I hope not. Anyway, we finally made it to Magazine Street! Big Easy Scooters, here we come.
"Mom," I said. "For some reason, Siri is saying we should take a right."
"A right?" Mom asked. "Why would we get off Magazine Street? The store is on this street."
"I have no idea, Mom. It's just what she's saying. Maybe it's a short cut or something."
Mom had a decision to make. Does she go with her instinct and stay on Magazine Street; the road in which she knows her destination is on? Or does she obey the almighty Siri GPS Navigator, which her daughter seems to have an everlasting faith in? She had about three seconds to decide because we were about to pass the street that Siri wanted us to turn on.
At the last second, Mom made the right hand turn. The road curved to the left a little, and we then realized what a huge mistake taking that turn was. We were dumped into one-way traffic that was all funneling into Interstate 10. Huge semi-tucks were barreling along the road that we were merging on to.
"Oh my gosh!! Mom! What are we going to do?!?!?!" I screamed. Panic raced through me as I realized that there was nowhere for Mom to turn Old Yeller around. "Please pull over!!"
"I am not pulling over, Lacey. We'll get killed if we pull on to the shoulder of the interstate. And besides, where would we go? We can't just sit there. We have to keep moving."
"How are you so calm, Mom?! Oh my gosh! Please pull over!!! I'm so scared! How aren't you scared?!"
Mom calmly scooted along the right lane of Interstate 10. Eighteen-wheelers were blaring their horns at us by this point. I was beyond mortified as I kept my head down and held on to my mother's waist as tight as I could with one hand and clutched my iPhone to my chest with the other. I knew exactly how strongly we resembled Harry and Lloyd from the Dumb and Dumber flick.
We then realized we were approaching the Crescent City Connection, formerly known as the Greater New Orleans Bridge. With nowhere else to go, we began to cross the fifth longest cantilever bridge in the world. On a scooter.
"Mom! Look, there's a cop!"
By the grace of God, a police officer was parked on the right shoulder of the bridge. Mom pulled Little Lemon up behind the patrol car. I hopped off and ran to his passenger side window.
"Officer! We are so glad to see you. My mother and I accidently ended up on this freaking bridge on this tiny scooter that tops out at 40. We are terrified. What should we do? Can we fit this bad boy in your back seat?"
"I don't think it will fit, honey," the police officer responded. "Where are you ladies going?"
"We are trying to return this scooter! The store is on Magazine Street, which we were actually JUST on, but Siri told us to take a right hand turn on some random street that dumped us out here. And we're supposed to have this thing back in 5 minutes!!"
"Magazine Street is on the other side of the river, the side you just left. You have to take the ferry to get back across," the policeman says.
"What?! We don't have time for that! We have a train to catch!" I felt the panic rising again.
"The ferry doesn't usually take long. I'll follow you across the bridge and make sure you get across okay. Take the first exit you come to. Then pull over and I will lead you to the ferry."
I walked back to Lemonhead and told Mom what was up. We crossed Crescent City Connection with our newest friend from the Big Easy, our police escort. The blue lights behind us didn't help my embarrassment at all.
The cop led the way to the ferry and even offered to wait on it with us. We insisted that he had done enough and thanked him endlessly. "You saved our lives," I told him. He smiled and thought I was exaggerating, but I wasn't so sure.
My father, Mr. Always On Time, was blowing my phone up throughout this entire ordeal, trying to figure out where we were and why we hadn't come to get the luggage yet. I couldn't answer very often, with me using Siri and being on the interstate on the back of a scooter and all. The few times I did answer, all I could get out was, "We're on our way! We're coming!" He was so confused and worried. Bless his heart.
The ferry actually didn't take too long. It was pretty fun, coming in to the Riverwalk area while sitting on Lemon on a ferry. We were getting nervous though. Our train was leaving in less than 30 minutes. While on the ferry, I nervously called my punctual dad.
"Okay, Dad. We had a crazy thing happen, but we're okay. It's a long story that we will tell you later, but right now we are on a ferry trying to get this stupid scooter back. Is there any way you can bring the luggage to the train station so we don't miss our train? I'm so sorry, I know you are in a conference."
"No problem. I'm on a lunch break anyway. I'll meet y'all at the station," he replied.
How did I get so lucky? My parents are awesome.
When the ferry finally reached the other side of the river, we zipped as fast as we could (40 mph) to Magazine Street. "You're doing great, Mom! Almost there! We're gonna make it!"
We pulled in to Big Easy Scooters at 12:50. They felt so sorry for us when we explained why we were late that they didn't even charge us a late fee. They even called their favorite cab service for us and told the driver that we needed to get to the train station immediately. Within a couple of minutes a cab had arrived.
The driver floored it to the train station and Mom and I ran inside at 12:55. Dad was waiting, looking at his watch, with all 8 of our bags.
"Dad! Oh my gosh! Thank you so much!!! I'm so sorry! It was crazy!"
"Go. Now. I love y'all. Call you later." Dad handed us the bags and pushed us towards the train. Within five minutes, the train was rolling and we were headed to Tennessee.
Mom and I sighed as we plopped into our seats. We realized how many wonderful people played a crucial role in our making it to the train: the police officer, the Big Easy Scooter employees, the cab driver, and my sweet father. It was a day that I will never forget and a memory that I will cherish forever. But there's a memory that I cherish even more: the entire train ride home, laughing to the point of tears about it with my mom.