The Kindness of Scooterists

At the beginning of August, I went to the Motor City Shakedown Scooter Rally in Detroit. It's actually my third time in a row attending this rally, and over the years I've become quite good friends with a few of the Rovers (the scooter club who throws the MCSD rally). This year, like everyone else, I almost didn't make it because of a lack of funds. After much prompting by several Rovers, including assurances that I would be well fed, I ended up relenting.

I decided to drive a car rather than trailer my scooter behind the old Jeep Cherokee that is my usual "rally vehicle" because, like most Jeeps, mine is a serious gas guzzler. Once I got up to the rally, not only was I able to stay on my friends' couch (Yaaaay! No hotel costs!) but they also fed me most of the time. Then they made a few phone calls and ended up borrowing a scooter for me to ride during the rally. I wanted to make sure that it wasn't a nice-looking scooter because: a) brand new looking bikes haven't ever been my kind of thing, and b) because I can almost handle the guilt if I wreck some rusty old thing, but I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I harmed something like my friend Melissa's beautifully restored Lambretta Li150.

What they ended up giving me was the perfect definition of the term "beater." It was a rusty blue smallframe that belongs to a wife of one of the Rovers, though she rarely rides it. It was the perfect loaner bike... no front brakes... really hard seat... dented front leg shield with absolutely destroyed trim.

Greg loaned it to me after giving me a warning about its leaky fuel tap. What he neglected to tell me was that it had some sort of horrendous air leak (or so I was later told), resulting in the engine racing terribly every time I had to idle. This led me to have serious anxiety every time I saw a red light ahead. Would the engine seize? Was it going to explode? It certainly sounded like it! Then I remembered that part of the fun of these vintage bikes is figuring out how to get around their quirks. Turns out that if I let out the clutch a little, the bike would stop revving and settle back down.

While riding the bike over the entire weekend, I ended up figuring out all sorts of tricks to avoid the excess engine racing—but that's not the point. The point is that I had an amazing weekend of long scooter rides thanks to the great people in the scootering community. They heard that I was in need and wanted me to be able to attend the rally, so they gave me a place to stay, food to eat, and a scooter to ride. I have found this level of kindness during most rallies that I have attended.

I have to admit, on the way back home I was a little bit depressed. Until that point, I'd only hung out with one or two scooterists in Knoxville and even then only occasionally. On my way back "home," I had this terrible yearning to move out of Knoxville, even though I've grown pretty fond of it, mainly because I know that there are many cities out there with large scooter clubs whose members get together constantly. To my pleasant surprise, I got an e-mail from a friend the very next day saying that a few scooterists were getting together for a ride leaving from Old City Java that night. I couldn't believe it... the timing was amazing.

So that night I arrived at Java (first, of course) and waited for everyone else to show up. Everyone was late, but soon there were seven of us on six bikes. (Okay, there was one motorcycle but we let him slide because, hell, all the motorcycle guys I ride with let me slide every time.) We hung out for a little while then went on a ride through South Knoxville, in the dark, following a bunch of twisting curves up and down Martin Mill Pike and a bunch of other backroads. We ended up at Backroom BBQ and hung out somewhat late into the night.

It's the first time I have been really hopeful that we'll get a scooter club going here in town... it seems that a club was born that night and my desire to leave town completely melted away.

Melanie DiClaudio is a mad scientist working at UT, who has been actively involved in the regional scooter scene for about two years but has had a love of scootering since first spotting a Vespa at age 16. Contact her at