Whether at the gas pumps, on the roads or in the parking lots, it seems that more and more motorscooters have been showing up around the Marshall area. According to many of those scooter owners, there are a number of good reasons for the increasing trend.
"It's a blast," said Campbell Hofstetter, who will be a senior at Marshall High School this fall. "They're awesome."
Jokingly, Hofstetter said people use the fuel-efficiency reason just to have an excuse to ride their scooters around town, though he admits the savings on gas is quite remarkable.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Olivia Hofstetter is among a growing number of motorscooter owners spotted around the Marshall area. A scooter, Hofstetter said, is the perfect transportation for a 15-year- old.
"I think the main reason people are getting scooters is because gas is so expensive now," Hofstetter said. "It saves so much money on gas. For a trip to the store or just around town, why waste it on a car when you have this little thing? Plus, you look sweet driving it, too."
Since purchasing his scooter a few months back, Hofstetter said he's found that a lot of girls like them. While girls occasionally enjoy a ride on Hofstetter's scooter, on Tuesday, it was friend Riley Roth who caught a ride to the Marshall Aquatic Center with Hofstetter.
"You're allowed to have a passenger," Hofstetter said. "If you're under 18, you have to wear a helmet. And, you always have to wear sunglasses."
Roth said that a lot of their friends had scooters, including the Beekman family, who had five of them. With one for each member of the family, the Beekmans reportedly go on scooter rides together. Hofstetter added that he also knew both girls and boys who owned and drove scooters.
"There's about 10 of our friends that have them," Hofstetter said. "There's no real gender difference. There's always been a few girls riding them around town, but this year, it seems like the scooters really caught on."
Hofstetter is actually on his second scooter, trading up for a newer, faster one after about two months.
"I had one before and I traded it in because (the new one) was faster," he said. "Mine is used, so it's a little worn in, but it's hot. It's very safe, very protective and saves money on gas. They're a lot of fun."
Hofstetter picked up the second scooter in South Dakota, the same time his sister, Olivia, got hers.
"I've had it for a couple of weeks now," Olivia Hofstetter said. "My family bought it for me because I'm only 15. So I got a moped license and now I can have transportation for the summer."
Even better, Olivia Hofstetter said, is that she can afford to drive the scooter around.
"I got 42 miles on my last tank of gas," she said. "Filling up cost me $1.50. That was really fun."
Olivia Hofstetter also appreciated the opportunity to select her own scooter color.
"I liked yellow because it was so bright," she said.
To go along with her dazzling yellow scooter, Olivia Hofstetter also purchased a matching black and white helmet and seat cover. She also has a neon pink helmet for passengers.
"I stay in town because it only goes up to 40 miles per hour," she said. "Going down the highways just isn't safe. It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but people really give you room on it. It's really fun."
Since she was not yet driving age, Olivia Hofstetter said she was required to take a test and take a class in order to drive her scooter.
"You get a permit and then you take a driving test," she said. "It wasn't bad at all."
According to Mary Haynes, owner and manager of the Auto License Bureau in Marshall, there are three stipulations that allow people with current driver's licenses to easily obtain a moped license rather than a more in-depth motorcycle license.
"The scooter can't go over 30 miles per hour, it has to be two or under horsepower and the engine must be under 50 cc," Haynes said. "If a scooter meets all three, you do not need a motorcycle endorsement."
Scooter owners would still be required to purchase annual tabs, which are currently $6. Motorcycle tabs are $10.
"You can actually go and take your written test and have your permit that day," said Jim Swenson, who, along with his wife Teah, owns Action Sports. "With the permit, you can't ride at night, you can't have passengers and you can't go on the interstate. But you can ride that day."
Typically, Swenson said, a scooter owner would return three months later and take the driving test, much like you would with a car.
"You go through a course and they watch you drive," he said.
A variety of rider training courses are available in the Marshall area and across the state through the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center (www.motorcyclesafety.org). A moped course is currently $35, while a basic motorcycle rider course is $160.
"Sometimes owning a scooter actually leads to getting a motorcycle, especially if a person already has a motorcycle endorsement," Swenson said.
Currently, Action Sports carries two different scooter brands - the Honda Ruckus and the Yamaha Zuma - though Swenson said that all of them have 4-stroke engines.
"Anything we sell here, you have to have a motorcycle license," he said. "It's because of the horsepower and the miles per hour the scooter can go. We have 49 cc and all the way up to 150 cc, which actually goes highway speeds and still gets 80 miles per gallon."
If a person is actually looking to save money, Swenson said a scooter can be the way to go.
"The scooters typically get 70 to100 miles to the gallon and they're reasonably priced," he said. "For $1,800, you can get 100 miles per gallon, whereas a motorcycle gets 50 miles to the gallon but costs $10,000."
Initially, high gas prices were ultimately the reason so many people started purchasing scooters, Swenson said, though now that gas prices have come down slightly, some are buying them just for fun.
"I would say two years ago, when gas hit $4 the first time, sales of scooters went through the roof," Swenson said. "We made a lot of sales. The first part of the year was pretty good, too. We have seen trends where gas ticks up and people come in and buy. I think there's the fun factor in there, too, plus you can save some money."
Swenson said he's witnessed an increase in women getting scooters in the last five years. The Carmody family is one of them.
"We bought ours three or four summers ago," said Maureen Carmody, who currently attends Southwest Minnesota State University and works at Animal Health Center in Marshall. "Our neighbors got one, so my mom (Pat) thought she had to have one."
Ironically, new neighbors and other family members also picked up scooters after the Carmodys did.
"My cousin had to have one, but he moved to the (Twin) Cities, so he couldn't use his anymore," Maureen Carmody said. "So we have his now, too. We have a lime green one and a black and white one. We like how much it saves on gas and that you can ride them on the city roads."
The Carmody family members take turns using the scooters. Maureen Carmody not only uses the scooter to go to work and college, she said she also takes advantage of the entertainment value they offer.
"They're awesome, especially if you need to just go somewhere quickly," she said. "My friend actually brought hers to SMSU from her home for college. We'll go riding around on our scooters just because it's so cheap and it's fun."
While fun and functional is for the younger generation, scooters also seem to suit the young at heart. James Hubley, who retired two years ago after serving 28 years as the Lyon County Veterans Service officer, has had one for about five years.
"I think I was one of the first ones in town to have one," Hubley said. "People would see me and say they saw me on my scooter. It just kind of made sense to me, to get 100 miles per gallon on gas. And, it's a great way to get around."
More recently, Hubley said he's seen a variety of individuals riding scooters around Marshall.
"I notice them all over now," he said. "There's an older guy in Hy-Vee who has a scooter. Jay Lee at SMSU has one. There was one woman in February, too, who was all bundled up riding one."
For the most part, Hubley said he's had good riding experiences.
"People are pretty respectful of them," he said. "I've had a couple of people tailgate me a little bit, but it's because I'm doing 30 (mph) and they want to go 40. I also had an incident in the Hy-Vee parking lot where a guy opened his car door, hit my scooter and knocked it over. But it didn't break anything."
Depending on the weather, each spring Hubley plans to continue using his scooter.
"I was riding by March this year because it was so nice," he said. "I've definitely got my kicks out of it."