Hundreds of Vespa putt-putt scooter enthusiasts in New Orleans | Entertainment / Life

The big man walked up to Savannah Porter and said, “Let me guess, you are the person who owns this scooter.”

“I guess people tailor their scooters,” said Porter, 23, whose pink and green strands in her shoulder-length blonde hair match well with her new meerschaum green scooter and custom multicolored seat.

To prove his point, Porter pointed to a pink scooter with a pink leopard-print seat. Its owner, she said, was the petite woman in a skirt and heels, holding a parasol.

As she spoke, a two-wheeled cycle passed, its two-stroke engine producing the distinctive putt-putt sound that has been heard for half a century in Italian squares. (Vespa means “wasp” in Italian). It’s also become more common in this country’s urban landscape, as evidenced by the 500 scooter enthusiasts from across the country who converged on New Orleans for the weekend.

Organized by the Vespa Club of America with support from the New Orleans Scooter Cooperative, AmeriVespa 2011 is more of a rally than a conference. So, rather than watching PowerPoint presentations and panel discussions, delegates and their buzzing scooters will spend more time visiting the city and enjoying its culture.

Enthusiasts have joined a club with a stylish history. They follow in the footsteps of movie stars, including Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in “Roman Holiday”. Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Charlie Chaplin and even Louis Armstrong are said to be other well-known and actual Vespa owners.

Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali created what is believed to be the world’s most valuable Vespa with his signature and other artistic additions; his bike is now part of the collection of an Italian museum created for the manufacturer of Vespa, Piaggio.

Porter, who paid $ 3,200 last month for his real scooter, a Buddy model, compared his ratings on Friday with two other AmeriVespa newcomers, Laura McCalla and Jared Fuller.

The couple, both 25, recently purchased their second-hand Sunset Buddy for $ 1,700. For this weekend, they towed him from Amarillo, Texas.

Most AmeriVespa scooters arrived in town in trailers, although some were hung from trailer hooks or tied to pickup beds. A few groups, from the East Coast and California, drove the bikes to the conference en masse and others went solo, including a woman whose bike caught fire outside of Harper, TX, l ‘forcing her to abandon her journey, even though she was not injured and was not injured. in New Orleans anyway.

Porter said that during her month on the scooter, she found that the typical New Orleans street chatter increased for scooters. “People talk to you a lot,” she said.

And although she lives on Broadmoor, she’s learned to avoid Broadway at all costs – too bumpy – and keep an extra headset under her seat for friends who want to take a ride. “It’s really good with gasoline,” Porter said, noting that she can pay $ 4 to refuel and that it can take anywhere from a day to two weeks.

The life of her tank depends on her mileage and whether or not she has a passenger, she said. “Which I usually do; all my friends want walks.”

Fuller and McCalla said their scooter can comfortably ride at around 60 mph.

Tom Hunter, 55, a member of the Milwaukee Scooter Rats Club, said he avoided freeways, preferring the speeds of city streets. Once, on his 1966 red Vespa, “I hit 72 going downhill, saw God and slowed down,” he said.

And although Hunter’s club members put their bikes away for much of the winter, Lawrence Murphy said he’s been riding in temperatures as cold as 19 degrees on his matte black Vespa, which has a rubber rat. on its floor and a cast iron rat mounted on the front, as a figurehead of sorts.

Pam Mackey, 58, the woman holding the umbrella, brought her real pink scooter, a model Stella, in a trailer from Memphis, Tenn., Alongside a Cushman Eagle scooter owned by her husband, Ted Mackey, 70 .

The two are common in downtown Memphis with Momo, their Chihuahua, sitting in Pam’s basket with rose-colored glasses and a small pink helmet.

All “scooters” try to give their rides their own personality, said Pam Mackey.

“Mine is a fast pink bike with a lot of bling,” she said.

Katy Reckdahl can be contacted at [email protected] or 504.826.3396.

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