Riding one wildly crazy adventure after another is the fuel that fires motorcycle hobo Garrett Peterson’s existence. Here’s how one of his epic travel stories got its start. In early 2022, Garrett took off on his Harley-Davidson FXR for a two month trip roaming the American Southwest, with a stop in Iowa for some fresh tattoo work. On his way back to Wyoming — his ‘home’ state, or as close as he gets — he stopped to buy chain oil at a small independent motorcycle shop. Displayed inside were several pink made-in-China small-bore TrailMaster scooters. A friend he was riding with laughed and said, “I bet you couldn’t do what you’re doing now, riding around the country, on one of those!” Garrett thought about that: “I was like, yeah, that would be kind of funny, wouldn’t it?”

As found: one pink Chinese 50cc TrailMaster scooter, and adventure waiting to happen. [Garrett Peterson]
That was just the beginning of an extraordinary tale. In jest, Garrett posted a picture he’d taken of one of those pink scooters on his Instagram story feed (follow him here @dum_rush). “I was like, ‘Hey, if you guys buy me this scooter, I’ll ride it coast to coast.’ It wasn’t a serious thing, but someone found me on Venmo, and sent me $150. That’s quite a serious investment for some dude to make, sending some random internet dude that much money. So, I posted my Venmo on my Instagram story again, and said ‘someone just sent me $150 – if you actually buy this for me’ — it was like $2,200 for the scooter – ‘I’ll try and ride it across the country.’ And it was fully funded within 10 hours. Kind of mind blowing, really. There were people sending me five bucks, 150 bucks, 20 bucks. I ended up funding $2,800 by the next day and felt I kind of had to follow through with it.”

Garrett Peterson hits the beach after 1300 miles on his pink scooter. [Garrett Peterson]
Garrett’s 24 years old. Some of his earliest motorcycle memories harken back to Discovery Channel’s chopper shows, including Biker Build-Off and American Chopper. Then, he got an American Chopper 2 Full Throttle game for his Nintendo GameCube. It’s a video game where a player experiences all the pressure of working under Paul Teutul Sr. building a fat-tire chopper. When Garrett turned 16, he wanted a motorcycle of his own, and because he liked choppers, bought a 1981 Yamaha XS650 and built himself a custom. “It was a little short bike, Wide Glide front end with a hot rod motor,” he says. For the most part, Garrett is a self-taught fabricator. His grandpa constructed hot rods, but frowned on street motorcycles, so wouldn’t offer any help. Garrett’s dad doesn’t like motorcycles either, and lacks mechanical ability. So, Garrett was on his own. With a 200-piece Craftsman tool set, borrowed A/C stick welder and YouTube videos as a guide, Garrett built his custom Yamaha. “When I turned 18, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona to go to tech school to take diesel mechanics. I rode my XS chopper around down there, but then got into more dual sport stuff and bought a 2005 Kawasaki KLR650. I was super, super poor while I was going to school, and about the only thing I could afford to do on weekends was go camping because it was pretty much free. And then, I thought maybe I could do this a little more long term, with two week or month long trips. Out of school, I had nowhere to be and $1,300, so I wanted to see how far I could stretch it. On the KLR, I rode from Antelope Wells, New Mexico to the Canadian border along the Continental Divide route and then down to Mexico along the Pacific Highway and did 32 days out on the road at 18 years old with no idea what I was doing. I was grossly underprepared.”

How They Break: the little 50cc motors were fragile, so Garret replaced tehm with a 125cc motor sourced on Amazon and delivered direct. [Garret Peterson]
He just wanted to push his limits, both physically and monetarily and came back to Casper, Wyoming with just $15 in his jeans. At that point, he got a job at a Caterpillar dealership, earned good coin and bought a house. During that period, he didn’t ride motorcycles often but when Covid hit, he got laid off from the job. Taking stock of his life, he says he thought to himself, “Wait a minute, I don’t want to work 45 years and then just crawl around the country in an RV. I might as well tour on two wheels now.” But instead he spent time and money building a 1989 BMW 325i open road race car. He began testing the car on a track and ran some lap times, “I realized I wasn’t a very good driver and the car wasn’t as fast as I thought it would be.” Selling the car, Garrett got another job once Covid started to wind down. Working with a mobility company, helping people in wheelchairs, Garrett was sitting in an office doing paperwork when he finally realized he’d never be happy until he got to go traveling long-distances on motorcycles. A 1990 Harley-Davidson FXR was purchased and preparations were made to hit the road with no destination in mind. In 2021, he rented his house, sold off his cars and gave away much of his furniture and took off to tramp around Idaho and Oregon. From there, Garrett made a Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine run. “I wanted to hit an event that was happening just north of there, where I met some cool people, and then started riding down the East Coast. By the time it was starting to get cold, I began working my way back to Wyoming and planned to stay with friends. I got a job in Wyoming in the diesel industry.”  But in early 2022, he sold his house, more of his possessions, quit his job and left on his FXR. After roaming around and returning to Wyoming, he bought the chain oil and found the TrailMaster scooter – and here the Pink Scooter Story begins in earnest.

All the way to Massachussets. [Garret Peterson]
While Garrett attempted to buy the scooter at the chain oil dealership, he says they tried to add an extra $1,200 in fees. Instead, “I found another little shop that only worked on Chinese scooters in Fort Collins, Colorado. I got in contact with them and said, ‘I want your finest — and by finest, I mean cheapest — 50cc Chinese scooter that’s pink.’ I didn’t give them much of an explanation of why or how, and they didn’t ask. A week later I went down to pick it up. From there, I brought it back to Casper and figured out how I was going to put my gear on it. I used U-bolts and square tubing to put footpegs on it and put a pink basket on the front. Anyone who helped pay for the scooter, their Instagram handles are in black paint pen all over the pink bodywork.” Garrett rode it around Casper for four days to break it in and figure out how he was going to make everything work for the journey. He upgraded the 4-stroke engine, installing a better clutch and an 80cc big-bore kit. He laughs and says, “there’s no cheating when there’re no rules.” Figuring it would take 30 to 45 days, Garrett says he extremely overestimated the number of miles per day he could average. The scooter could do 28mph on flat ground at 5,000 feet elevation. “Not necessarily a winner here,” he laughs, “but I set off for Newport, Oregon, a distance of 1,000 miles.” He had 40 pounds of gear aboard, with a 30-litre duffle bag on the floorboard between his feet and 1-gallon of storage under the seat. “I did really, really well on the first day, and that made me hopeful. I got to some smaller town in Wyoming, got drunk in the bar, and slept behind a building in town, and figured this was going to be easy. It kind of was. Once you get into the rhythm of just shutting your brain off for 10 hours a day and watching cars go by you at 80 mph, it’s pretty numbing.”

Garrett’s minimal camping rig. [Garrett Peterson]
On Highway 20 through Oregon, Garrett says he was freezing cold and had to buy a bunch of coats at a thrift store for $6 – a good purchase, he figured. Tantalizingly close to the coast however, he blew up the motor. Near Corvallis, with Newport some 50 miles away, coming down a hill, the motor lost all compression. Garrett started pushing the scooter and stopped at the first place he heard activity in the form of a tractor running in a field. “There was a dude with bright green hair and his wife was in pink hoodie pajamas and I figured I was in good company; they wouldn’t think I was too crazy. They were willing to help and asked where they could take me. I looked on Bunk-a-Biker and found a guy in Corvallis who said he had shop space. I called him, and he was in Mexico, but he told me I could use the garage and stay as long as I needed. I ordered a top end kit to his address, and I got hauled in the back of a pickup to Corvallis. I waited about five days for parts and put together a new top end and finally made it to the coast.” That was just one small anecdote of the misadventures of long-distance travel on what was basically an inappropriate machine. “It was pretty much non-stop blowing up motors and broken parts,” Garrett says. “Most days I had a moving average of 24 to 26 mph.” He left Newport and went south down Highway 1 to make a left turn onto Highway 50 to head east. “That’s a really barren road, but I made it across the desert and through Nevada. It was a long, long road. Going through Colorado I started to get a rod knock and decided to stop at my friend’s place, the Jack brothers, in Durango, Colorado. Trying to leave Silverton, I made it about 100 yards from the gas station and was headed to the top of the pass. The sheriff pulled me over and told me I couldn’t take the scooter over the pass because I couldn’t do the speed limit. We got into a shouting match, really about an hour long argument, and I was angry. He went back to his patrol truck, I started going up the hill, and he pulled me over again. So, I turned around, got to a pull-out, and stuck my thumb out. An old Dodge pickup pulled in, and they said, ‘We wondered what you were doing, a big dude on a little scooter.’ I said I’ll tell you what I’m doing if we load this into your truck and you take me to the other side of the pass. I got in, and they asked where I was going. I said Durango, and they asked if I knew Teddy Jack – he’s my friend’s dad – and I said yeah, I’m going to his son’s house. They drove me really close to Durango, I got out and two miles down the road blew up the scooter, like scattered it really bad. Ahead of me was a chopper pulled over on the side of the road, and I knew the rider. He walked back, we hugged, and he asked what I was doing.”

Taking a risk means taking a ride when things go south with your motor that has a life expectancy of 2000 miles… [Garrett Peterson]
At that point, a truck was located and Garrett ended up spending 16 days in Durango where a 150cc motor purchased for $110 from Amazon Prime was installed in the scooter. The frame had to be cut, crossmembers changed, and some minor fabrication work to make it fit but that was a major turning point in the life of the machine. After that, Garrett says he booked it east as far as he could, as fast as he could. He made good time in eastern Colorado, and in one of the midwestern states says he made 320 miles a day for two days at 35 mph average. “Those were long days, and the next major stop was in Pennsylvania where the 150 blew up again, and I did the same thing with another Amazon motor, staying at a little bike shop and then headed to Boston. I had a plan for a chick to fly in from Casper and take the ride up to Maine – I thought I’d be back on the FXR by that point in time – but that didn’t work out. So, I rode up to the Boston airport, she flew in, and she got on the back and we rode two-up on the scooter to the chopper event in Maine” There, Garrett wanted to burn the scooter, but a friend wouldn’t let him, and instead traded a Harley-Davidson ‘Dirtster’ for the pink machine. Garrett and his lady friend rode it two-up back to Boston, where Garrett left her at the airport. From there, he headed for North Carolina and the Trans-America Trail – and that was another grand adventure. The rear wheel of the Dirtster, he says, was made of glass and he blew it out several times with broken spokes. He ended up in Durango where a bicycle wheel builder helped construct a wheel with a good 18-inch rim and stainless steel spokes. “By that time, it was freezing and I was tired. It was a long year, so I just turned off the trail and rode to Casper.” Now, he’s building a chopper. “I had a whole lot of fun with the whole riding the most wrong thing possible, and it all boils down to bragging rights. It’s just fun to tell people when they’re complaining their bagger doesn’t have enough storage space and their wife can’t sit on the back of it to tell them you rode a scooter coast to coast and they really don’t have anything to complain about.”

Success measure in smiles, and miles. Be careful what you say you’re capable of, because you’ll be tested! [Garrett Peterson]
And the chopper? He acquired an inexpensive Shovelhead motor and thought it would be a quick four month build constructed over the winter. He planned to have it ready to ship in the spring of 2023 to Europe, where he’d, “travel around on a legitimate 1970s-style chopper – no front brake, weird front end set up, big 93-inch motor, magneto; it’s a pretty bad thing to be riding around Europe with a foot clutch and no front brake. But I got carried away building a show bike, because no one builds a show bike and puts 50,000 miles on it and that’s what I wanted to do. I have 180 hours just in molding the frame with Bondo, and I got way too carried away. So, now I’m keeping the same plan but have moved it back a year, for 2024.” The key pieces to the build are a frame from Flyrite Choppers, and the girder front end is from Spitfire Motorcycles. He entrusted the motor to a friend and says he didn’t have the tools or the knowledge to properly set up the bottom end. “The bike’s not crazy over the top, but a lot of it is molded. But a chopper’s a chopper, nothing new. It’ll be pretty fancy with nice paint and a polished motor — it’s way too much motor for the bike.” To get his finished chassis to a friend who offered to paint it, with no other options to haul it, he built a hitch on the back of his FXR and towed the chopper 700 miles, just like a single-wheel trailer. Assembly is close to happening, and Garrett plans to move to Arizona this fall where he’ll get a job and ride the chopper on a daily basis and dial it in – saving money for his trip to Europe. From a Kawasaki KLR, the ‘rightest’ machine for the job, he’s now embraced the ‘wrongest’ thing possible. “The big thing with doing something wrong – your likelihood of what people would consider more obstacles to overcome increases, and I thrive on that stuff. You break down, you’re gonna meet people, you’re gonna see something interesting, you’re gonna see how people live, and you’re gonna experience something that you’d never, ever see on something like a BMW R1200GS because it never breaks down.” He concludes, “When you have the right piece of equipment, all you ever see are gas stations and mountains.”

Garrett’s ‘Dirtster’, a converted Harley-Davidson Sportster, but it needed stronger spokes. [Garrett Peterson]
Other rigs, other rides: Garrett’s FX towing his chopper project home. [Garrett Peterson]
When adventure is part of the ADVenture: “When you have the right piece of equipment, all you ever see are gas stations and mountains.” [Garrett Peterson]


Greg Williams is Profiles Editor for The Vintagent. He’s a motorcycle writer and publisher based in Calgary who contributes the Pulp Non-Fiction column to The Antique Motorcycle and regular feature stories to Motorcycle Classics. He is proud to reprint the Second and Seventh Editions of J.B. Nicholson’s Modern Motorcycle Mechanics series. Follow him on IG: @modernmotorcyclemechanics


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