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Me and Shelly, a motorbike love story

Me and Shelly, a motorbike love story

Monday, October 08, 2012, 11:28 GMT+7

After nearly two years of dings to the front of my motorbike, I finally got around to replacing the front panels. All my neighbors had bright, shiny, flashy bikes and I was starting to feel like the poor guy in the street!

So!! Off to my local Yamaha shop for a bit of tender loving care for my much battered bike… Easy! I thought, order the parts, rock up on the appointed day and get it all done… Haha! This is Vietnam, my beloved home and the land of the long story…

“Shelly” is a short word for Michelle (me-shel), the name of a wonderful lover I had many years before. She (the girl) was slim, looked great, tough, strong, fast and great fun. And so is my bike. Why a girl’s name? “Hey, Mr Stivi, that’s a girl’s bike!” Is that so? Ok – a girl it is! Shelly’s an Ultimo Yamaha with metallic red paint, a single left side suspension spring, and is small and very cute!

We’ve been through a lot together, me and Shelly. When I mention Shelly, people think she’s my wife and when I say no, they ask the inevitable question about marriage. Now, I’ve lived in Vietnam for three and a half years – my Vietnamese pronunciation makes everyone fall about laughing and my answer to the daily question, “Why you not married, Mr Stivi?” is met with the reply, “I like women too much!”, more laughing and rolling around on the floor…

Me and Shelly have been all over the place. We’ve crashed off the road to the beach trying to avoid the almost daily insanity of two or more large cars or trucks trying to overtake each other on the narrow road into Hoi An.

We’ve run into other locals at 10pm because their headlights were off and the street lighting is something similar to a Vietnamese power cut!

We’ve struggled on the coastal Highway from Danang in the winter rain, having no idea where the road has disappeared to under water faster than a Vietnamese street vendor who overcharges me. We have been in water up to my waist and mud to the floorboards.

We have done battle with water buffalo, cheeky school kids on oversized bicycles, dreamy lovers flying out of side roads coming back from the rice fields, mums screaming down the middle of the road in a hurry to get their kids to school, mile long funeral processions and the endless Formula 1 race between taxi drivers to deliver their terrified foreign customers to the luxury resorts before lunch at 11.30 am.

Why did I choose her? Because I didn’t want to think about gears and pedals in the mayhem that passes for ‘traffic’ here. I didn’t want to struggle to park a huge motorbike and I like quick getaways! I tested riding a lot of bikes and Shelly could zip in between trouble in just the way I wanted.

I’d finally saved enough money to get rid of the battle-scarred and sun-faded candy red panels. I quietly and slowly rolled up on to the pavement at the Yamaha shop for a little bit of care for Shelly. The kids at the shop were very nice and understood what I wanted…

“Sure, Mr Stivi, no problem – we get for you!, You come back three day!” Thanks… What a wonderful shop! Friday, I come in, “Owh, Mr Stivi, no have! You come back!” Ok…

Monday, the girl in the shop shakes her head because she’s terrified to speak to me…

Wednesday, more head shaking, some giggles in the background from the mechanics…

Friday, giggles are turning into sniggers from the mechanics… the lass on the service counter is now arguing with the staff because it’s not her fault…

The next Monday, the service girl slips out the back to avoid me… Mechanics refuse to look at me… no one’s laughing… Wednesday, “Mr Stivi! Moto in Danang, it comes soon!” – grins all around. Friday, again… (is this now a week?) – hang dog faces… “Mr Stivi, I dunno…” Following Monday, “ah! You come now…!”

I sweated it out in the main office area overlooking the intersection and finally, Shelly rolled out… gleaming! Hooray!

I spent the next three days tracking down a motorbike cover for protection against the dust and the sun on the paint work – three people, four shops… “Mr Stivi, we have but no color for you…” ok, ok, just let me buy it, Pleasssssse “Ah, we order from Danang! One week…”

I say ok and stumble across to Giang’s coffee shop, collapse, order a beer. “Mr Stivi, What wrong, you sick?” I tell her the problem. She shouts into the phone, and suddenly I’ve got a cover in one hour…

So now me and Shelly are content, cruising the mad streets of scenic Hoi An, equipped for all conditions. My girl is looking good and the loud, proud growl from the muffler mingles nicely with the background noise. And we’re still in love with each other.

Oh yeah…as I finished writing this in my favorite bar in Hoi An, the Vietnamese bartender handed me the beer with the beer cap still on…Sighhhhhh….

Stivi Cooke

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