June 9th, 2010

Amerivespa 2010 Wrap Up by Eric Almendral (@Scooterism)

A few weeks back Amerivespa 2010 took place in San Antonio Texas. Unfortunately we were unable to attend, though we are very fortunate to have a great re-cap of the event written by our friend Eric Almendral (aka @scooterism). If your not familiar with Eric you should be. Eric lives out in California and is a avid scooterist, designer, member/moderator/admin of Modern Buddy and Modern Vespa, and is strong voice in the scooter industry. Eric is the man and should be an honorary member of every scooter club in America. When I asked Eric if he would give us Kentuckians a little insight into the Amerivespa festivities he happily obliged, thanks Eric! Check out his re-cap and photos below and go ahead and make plans for Amerivespa 2011 in New Orleans!

“When many of us first begin riding scooters, we marvel at how differently we see the streets around us, at how much more we notice and how the experience differs from viewing the world from inside a car. There’s nothing more exciting than riding somewhere for the first time and viewing it in a completely new way. If you’re anything like me, each time you visit a different city, you think about what it would be like to ride there. That’s a large part of the appeal of Amerivespa, the massive annual scooter gathering organized by the Vespa Club of America.

Amerivespa is open to non-VCOA members and riders of any make of scooter. This year’s get together in San Antonio, Texas, attracted enthusiasts from all over the country and beyond. Scooterists rode from as far away as Seattle, Northern California and Indiana. Those of us who flew in rented, trailered, shipped or borrowed scooters for the event. International visitors included scooterheads from Sweden and Japan. Riders from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana—thrilled at finally having an Amerivespa in their (rather humongous) backyard— showed up in droves. All in all over 500 registrants attended, a great turnout considering many Americans have cut back on travel plans this year due to the economy.

I’ve often described Amerivespa to my bewildered non-scootering friends and coworkers as “summer camp for grown ups.” It’s a unique opportunity to meet and commune with riders from all over the map. For those of us who are active on (or, like me, addicted to) the scooter forums, Twitter, blogs and so on it’s a chance to connect with online acquaintances. Last year, I rode with a group up the California coast from Los Angeles to Los Gatos. I was thankful that I knew fewer attendees this year; I met more new people and found some very hospitable locals to hang out with.

The types of riders and scooters on hand were as diverse as the locations they came from. Much like the changing demographics of scooterists in the US, the attendees represented broad range of ages, interests and lifestyles, from mod hipsters on Lambrettas to free-wheeling retirees on maxi-scoots. The event is as welcoming to (fairly) new riders as those who’ve been on two wheels for decades. Many attendees had never been to a rally before or had only attended local events. Others traverse the country several times a year to attend various rallies and scooter gatherings.

At first, San Antonio seemed like an odd location for Amerivespa. Most folks outside the Lone Star State don’t know much about the city aside from tourist attractions such as the Alamo and the Riverwalk. Though these are must-see stops for any first-time visitor, playing tourist is different when done from a scooter. The Alamo is now famous for four things: A bunch of brave Texian (Texas before it was TEXAS) freedom fighters made their last stand against Mexican General Santa Anna there in 1836; Ozzy Osbourne was arrested there in 1982; Pee Wee Herman discovered it didn’t have a basement in 1985; and a few hundred scooterists invaded it for a photo op in 2010.

The scheduled rides provided some great opportunities to see the city, but the events between or at the end of these rides gave us a taste of the San Antonio behind the tourist spots. A big highlight for many of us was Friday’s live outdoor Lucha Libre at one of the many old icehouses in town that have been converted to restaurants and drinking holes. For the uninitiated, Lucha Libre is a highly entertaining version of pro wrestling, south of the border style. Long before the WCW and The Rock, famous masked luchadores (wrestlers) such as El Santo and the Blue Demon were not just stars of the ring but also starred in movies throughout the 1950s and ’60s. The modern version Amerivespa attendees were lucky enough to see is still rooted in tradition: high-flying aerial stunts, high drama, and the quest to unmask rivals.

And then there was the food. Thanks to new San Antonian friends, we gorged on Tex Mex all weekend, including late night stops at a taco truck that rivals any of the dozens I’ve visited in Texas and So Cal. A couple dozen other attendees visited Big Lou’s to tackle their 42″ pizza and many made food pilgrimages to Lulu’s Bakery for their famous 3lb., big as your head cinnamon rolls.

In addition to the ice houses and eating (and eating and eating), events included stops at art galleries, clubs, local dives and hangouts, and a loft party. Despite being a “Texpat” (i.e., native Texan living in another state), I was constantly surprised by the vibrant and interesting local culture.

Saturday’s Concourse provided a chance for owners to show off their rare and unique scooters (and win prizes in a juried competition). Among the models I’d never seen in person before: a TWN Tessy (German-built Triumph); a Mitsubishi Silver Pigeon; a BMW C1 (not so old but never sold in North America); and a Vespa 400 car. In addition to these rarities, a number of the scooters showcased featured amazing customizations including a pink argyle Vespa ET, a stylish cowgirl themed paint job on a P-series and a slew of rat bikes.

The Concourse also provided a chance to check out a number of vendors displaying their scooter-related offerings ranging from protective gear to seat covers, parts and, of course, new scooters for 2010/2011. Many offered show discounts and giveaways. Corazzo had “I (Shield) Texas” shirts printed just for the event.

In addition to handing out various awards during the Saturday evening banquet, the VCOA honored several Texas scooterists who had helped shape and support scene for the past several decades. Among these was Randolph Garner, VCOA #1, the organization’s founder and the man who gathered a dozen or so friends for the first Amerivespa 18 years ago.

Sunday was the big day for games and raffles. Competing in the gymkhana (a scooter obstacle course) and slow race (it’s harder than think) were a mix of novices and some of the best riders in the country. Raffled items included dozens of t-shirts, parts, rally patches, gift certificates and, of course, several scooters. I was a little disappointed not to be coming home with a new Symba but I guess there’s always next year.

Speaking of which, Amerivespa 2011 will be held in New Orleans. The local clubs have already started planning and are hoping to double this year’s attendance by offering an itinerary few can resist. It’s an amazing city that will undoubtably be more so when seen via scooter. It’s less than 800 miles from Lexington. Just a three day ride on two-lane blacktops…”

1 Comment

  • Thanks for the synopsis, Eric, and thanks to Vespa Lexington for posting it! Amerivespa sounds like a lot of fun. Hope I can go some day.

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