A vintage scooter rally in Eastern Canada is the equivalent of a Wednesday night scooter club meeting at the local pub in the UK. In other words, it’s small. When I say small, I mean a dozen Vespas and Lambrettas.
Now some of you might think this is laughable but I believe instead that it shows how dedicated these passionate scooterists are. First, Canada is one heck of a big country. So even if I wanted to attend the country’s biggest rally, the Victoria rally in British Colombia, I would need to ride my 2-stroke for 15 days straight. Trust me I know because I rode to Vancouver in 1997 on a Lambretta GP200 and that’s how long it took me.
Fifteen years later, I’m way too lazy and old to even do the half-day ride to the 11th Annual Ottawa Curd Vintage Scooter Rally. I did it once before and had won the Furthest Travelled trophy and that is good enough for me. Plus the weather forecast for the weekend was bleak with a 90% chance of thunderstorms and rain. I have to give it up to my mates Eric and Dominic who braved the elements and rode their Lambretta Li and Vespa Rally without a care in the world. I, on the other hand, rented a trailer and drove the entire way in the comfort of my Kia Sportage.
I arrived on Friday night to some good news. Dominic and Eric had arrived safely and the county had just lifted the ban on campfires. North America has been hit by serious droughts this year and it was a welcomed surprise to know that we were able to have a fire to roast our marshmallows on.
As any owner of a vintage scooter knows, these little machines are sometimes unpredictable. My 1959 Vespa VNB is no exception. In the last couple of weeks, it has stalled on me a few times for no apparent reason. After leaving it to rest for a while, it would usually start up without a hitch. This is one of the reasons why I chose not to ride to the rally.
On Saturday morning, as we were all drying off our scooters from the night’s pouring rain and preparing for the day’s ride around the Capitol City, I managed to start the ol’ machine after many attempts. Two-stroke engines were being heard around the campsite. Just when we were about to depart, the engine mysteriously died on me. All attempts to start it again were in vain. All the scooters had left for some petrol and would wait for a while for me. I was left with the support vehicle and my buddy Dominic. After a good 10 minutes of trying every possible way to start it, I was on the verge of giving up and join the gang in the van. Dominic volunteered to push me one last time to see if I could start it on the compression. Vroooom! The scooter Gods had answered my prayers!
The morning ride was stress free and very enjoyable. The skies had given us a break. The majority of us were eager to return to the best sandwich place Ottawa has to offer, Di Rienzo Grocery & Deli in Little Italy. Once you had their sandwich made in front of you from freshly baked bread and their mouth watering homemade Italian pastries, you understand why you have lines that will go around the corner during the week.
A few corners away was the Pub Italia, our next stop. I was smiling from ear to ear when the Vespa’s engine roared after the first kick. My joy was short lived because it died on me again a few meters away. Those pesty scooter gremlins were at it again! After another intense session of kickstart action, with the encouragement of a few mates, it came back to life.
Pub Italia is a weird mix of an Italian restaurant, an Irish pub and an old cathedral. As stated on their menu: “What do Italian trattorias, Irish pubs, and medieval monasteries have in common? All represent meeting and gathering places for both celebration and respite. While monasteries fostered the art of beer and wine making, trattorias and pubs became the places of choice in which to consume them.” It’s their beer menu, appropriately named “The Beer Bible” with their selection of 400 brews that won me over.
While we were all enjoying our cold pints on the terrace, a sudden violent rainstorm hit us. How lucky are we? We ride a few hours, not a drop of rain. We stop for an hour and that’s the only rain we get.
We all got back to the campsite safely and we were all looking forward to some friendly Sumo wrestling! Shawn had the brilliant idea to buy some used inflatable sumo costumes for the occasion. I don’t think I have ever laughed this hard in my life. The photos don’t do justice to the hilarity of the situation. The epic Sumoff HAS to become a tradition!
|Shawn about to flip Eric over on his back.|
|Shawn, the grand winner and Eric swallowing his pride.|
As we all gathered under the main tent to toast Shawn, the deserving champion of the sumo competition, the skies suddenly turned dark and we were once again hit by a violent storm only to be rewarded with a beautiful double rainbow.
After a tasty BBQ, it was time for the traditional raffle with a mountain of interesting prizes up for grabs. I had my eye on some great books, a Fred Perry track jacket and a LED Plexiglas illuminated Vespa sign. Would you believe that after all the prizes were raffled off and everybody had won multiple times, I was one of only two that hadn’t won ANYTHING?
It was now time to crown Best Lambretta and Best Vespa. Of course, I had no chance in hell of winning the title of Best Vespa. Corey, our gracious host and organizer was too much of a diplomat to make the call. So after much debate, he simply yelled: “The first two people that start their Vespa and Lambretta wins!” Great! I had problems all weekend! So I run to the VNB and already I hear an engine put-putting away. Wait! That’s a Lammy! I already see my neighbor Garry frantically trying to start his red Vespa 150. I turn my fuel tap on and give it one mercy kick and IT STARTS! The bastard that has had problems all weekend ends up winning Best Vespa!
The prize pack was everything I hoped for. And after trading one of my books for the Fred Perry track jacket with the lovely Rachel, I ended up with everything I wished for. Could a guy ask for more?
A huge thank you to Corey Fraser from Scooter Fix for another great edition. I hope to see you all again next year!
|Some of the weekend's survivors|