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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Biker tribute to John Norman Martin

A HUGE scooter procession is expected to pass through Bishopthorpe today for the funeral of a York scooter enthusiast known to his friends as “Vespa John”.

The death of John Norman Martin, 53, was greeted by family and friends with shock but also with warm memories of a “quite decent guy”.

He died suddenly in his sleep at his home in Bishopthorpe on March 30.

His girlfriend, Hayley Owen, 21, said the last time she and John were together was on a scooter from Knaresborough to York, just days before she died.

She said: “I met John through the Inset Scooter Club – we did it all together. She was a soul mate.

“It’s a big shock for everyone. The Sunday before his death the sun was shining and we looked forward to summer. Everyone was saying how good John looked.

John Martin was born at Campleshon Road in York and was a student at Tadcaster Grammar School. He was an early member of the York Scooter Club when it was founded in the 1970s, and when he wasn’t playing scooters, John loved flash cars as well.

His sister, Dawn Pawson, said: “He once had a Starsky and Hutch car – red, with a white stripe. He also had an MG, but he always came back to scooters.

“The scooter guys were always around our house. My father was never able to drive his car.

For the past seven years John had been a member of the Inset Scooter Cub where he was a familiar site on his Vespa, called “CHIPS”, which was decorated in the colors of an American police motorcycle.

Fellow and friend Nick Beilby said: “He loved being a part of the scooter scene.

“Whenever we went for a scooter run and one of us broke down, as we invariably did, he always helped.

“I know it’s a cliché, but he didn’t have a bad say in anyone. He was a really nice guy and he will be missed.

Alan May, founder of York Inset, said: “He was a popular member of the club and could always be relied on to show up at gatherings. He was a good guy in every way.

Bikers and scooter riders are expected to gather this morning at 10 a.m. to pass St Andrew’s Church for Mr Martin’s funeral at 10:30 a.m.

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Frampton’s mother’s safety appeal to scooter drivers

A MOTHER who lost her daughter in a scooter accident 10 years ago has issued a safety warning to all road users on two wheels.

Cathy Loving’s daughter, Jo, was 17 when she was killed in an accident on the A37 at Wrackleford, north of Dorchester.

Cathy, from Frampton, was deeply shaken by the tragedy but did her best to get something positive out of it and every year she hosts a fun day to raise funds to help promote road safety in memory of Jo.

She said: “It’s about making people on two wheels aware that people on two wheels are vulnerable and making them think. It’s not just motorcyclists and scooters, but cyclists as well.

Cathy says the fateful night of July 20, 1999, when she lost her daughter, appears to be “only yesterday”.

She said: “She was coming home around half past nine or ten in her Vespa on the A37 when a car hit her head on.

“He just didn’t see her and she died at the scene.”

She added: “It’s like it’s still yesterday, but when you think about it, 10 years is a lifetime. Now that the 10 years have passed, I think about what it would have been like now.

Cathy said her campaign, which grew out of these tragic events, was not aimed at scaring people away from scooters, motorcycles and bicycles. This is to raise awareness of the use and enjoyment of safe two-wheeled transport.

She said: “Jo was born around scooters and has been around them her whole life.

“When I gave her younger sister Charlotte her first scooter, someone said I must be mad at what happened.

“But I didn’t want to take away his independence, I couldn’t do that.

“We just want to educate people as much as possible about the dangers of the road.

“I just hope people embrace it and ride sensibly, and they realize that there are people on the road who don’t care about other road users.”

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Safety course for scooter riders

Gasoline prices fuel scooter sales, but much of the appeal of scooters is their non-threatening profile and ease of use. You don’t swing one leg on a scooter like you would on a motorcycle. You just take the plunge and sit down. You also don’t need to master a manual transmission. You just turn the handle and go.

Yet scooters are prone to many of the same safety concerns as motorcycles. Their size makes them difficult for drivers to see, and on smaller displacement models in particular, their low horsepower makes mixing with fast traffic more difficult.

If you want to ride a scooter and aren’t already a regular two-wheeler, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation has a few recommendations.

First, start riding a bike – “just to get used to balancing on two wheels and using the hand controls,” said Ray Ochs, MSF’s director of training systems. “Make sure you’ve integrated motor skills. It is very, very important.

Once you have mastered these skills, you would do well to enroll in a safety course. MSF is the organization that provides most of the motorcycle safety training programs in the 50 states. Two of these courses apply to scooters. His Scooter School is a beginner’s class that teaches riders street strategies as well as how to use the controls on scooters 200cc and smaller. The four hour course offers riders a series of 10 exercises, but it does not end with a skill test; they will still have to pass the driving test required by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain the M1 license to operate a motor vehicle, without pedals, of 49 cc or more. Scooter school is not currently available in California, so a better option is the Basic RiderCourse administered by the California Motorcyclist Safety Program. The 15 hour course is the same safety course recommended for novice motorcyclists. It includes five hours of classroom instruction to familiarize drivers with the safety concerns of operating a two-wheeled motor vehicle on the street and 10 hours of driving that teaches proper starting, stopping, braking and cornering. The class ends with a skill test which, if successful, overrides the driving test at the DMV; the written test remains compulsory for the M1 license.

Most sites use 250 cc motorcycles, but scooters are welcome. Beginner cyclists can bring their own or borrow one from a site that already has a scooter in its regular fleet. Sites in the LA area that have scooters available for loan are: West LA, the San Fernando Valley, and Long Beach.

I recommend taking the course before buying a scooter, just to make sure the scooter is right for you. This way, you can find the answer in a safe environment without spending or risking anything other than the cost of the course, which is $ 150 to $ 235.

For more information on the nearest BRC and class availability, call (877) 743-3411 or visit

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