Lately several people have asked me, "Mel, why don't you throw a scooter rally???"
Maybe it's because I'm not getting to go to a ton of rallies this summer or because I want to hang out with other scooterists so badly, but… honestly, I'm getting a little jealous of my husband and all the like-minded old motorcycle enthusiasts he hangs out with. Jealousy is never a good thing… or is it? What if I channel that energy into getting off my ass and putting together a rally after all?
I can break a rally down into a few simple things: food, music, shelter, rides, and booze. Okay... food first. Most rallies provide some, though not all, of your meals. It's really common to have breakfast provided, at least on Saturday if not on both Saturday and Sunday. I have to admit that it's really nice to leave town on a Sunday after a rally with a full stomach. It makes the fact that you've just said goodbye to all your rally friends a bit more… digestible. If you've had a mimosa in the process then even better! The rallies that don't give you free breakfast will always organize a common meeting ground where you can purchase a decent breakfast for fairly cheap. That way as long as people have to buy breakfast, at least they are all buying it together. Also commonly an evening meal is provided, which is usually something like BBQ at the local venue where you're headed to see bands play.
As far as bands go, scooter rallies are always heavily focused on music like old Jamaican ska and northern soul (probably due to the history of vintage scootering and mods/rude boys) but these days I'm noticing more garage rock and funk mixed into DJs' playlists. Rallies always have a venue on Friday and Saturday night that can accommodate either a band or a DJ (usually both) that has a pretty decent dance floor. There's one thing I'll say about scooterists—they love to dance! I think it's one of the big things that first drew me to the rally scene. There's nothing better than rolling up to a venue on your scooter, hearing that old ska blaring, knowing that in a few minutes you'll be out on the floor.
For most rallies, arriving on Friday evening means that you head straight to wherever you're staying and dump the van or trailer. Then it's immediately time to ride to the Friday night venue/registration area. I think that it's actually my favorite part of every rally that I've ever been to. It's a moment that's full of anticipation. Who is already here? Is anyone dancing yet? First, everyone has to go pick up their "rally packs" that normally include a T-shirt, rally patch, schedule of events, and hopefully a map, which always gets stuffed in or around the bike somewhere, like it's a present being saved for later. Then it's time for happy hour! On Friday night there is typically a "happy hour" during which time the club will buy a keg and let people drink until it's empty, then it's up to you to buy your drinks from the bar.
Once everyone has gotten kicked out of the club, people need places to go sleep it off so they can be ready for the main festivities on Saturday. Invariably the club organizes a group rate at two local hotels: a cheaper, dirtier hotel where many people will quadruple up in rooms and continue the party until the crack of dawn (usually they call it the "make party" hotel), as well as a slightly nicer/more expensive "make sleep" hotel where people will go to… sleep. The rally scene is quite large but after a while you get to know a bunch of the people and if you ask around you can just bunk on someone's floor. I carry an air mattress to every rally and it has never gone unused, either by me or by someone else.
Knoxville has several things going for it as far as putting on an amazing rally goes, and the biggest one is the potential for fantastic rally rides. The riding around this area is definitely some of the best in the country. My friends from other states who come down here comment on it every time. That's the least of my worries when it comes to organizing this thing. It's getting the venues, beer, hotels, music, and people coordinated that's a bit daunting. There's one thing that every scooterist agrees with me on: Knoxville would be perfect for a scooter rally. I just wonder if anyone is willing to help organize it...
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 Mel(at)eviltyrant(dot)com.