VCOA’s national Vespa Parade Day is an ages-old tradition. At least a few ages… if my history is correct, it started with the Guinness Book of World Records attempt for the “Largest Scooter Parade” at Amerivespa 2012 in Lake Geneva, WI. Calling a “group ride” a “parade” is a little weird, no one’s throwing candy, playing french horn, or wearing Little League uniforms*, though in the case of Lake Geneva, with such a huge crowd, it was smart to limit it to a short loop at a low speed.
In any case, at least 50 local clubs organized a Parade Day event. Our 2021 Parade Day was more of a ride than a parade, we had about 20 scooters, and rode about 40 miles (almost two hours in Chicago Sunday traffic). The weather was hot, humid, and partly cloudy, but it felt like a miracle to have clear skies for one day in a weeklong stretch of thunderstorms and even a few tornados. In fact, a raging thunderstorm and tornado watch cancelled the LCUSA’s “National Lambretta Day” ride the day before, so we invited them along on our ride, and Lambrettas just about outnumbered the Vespas!
I headed out to Mather Park from the far West Side with Alfredo, my very first scooter friend, who’d ridden with me to my first rally in 1995, and helped me organize a group ride (Around the World in a Day) a few months later. That ride met up at the Leaning Tower of Niles, and I hadn’t been there for ages, so I figured it would be a good destination for Parade Day, and I was glad to have Alfredo along, both for the camaraderie, and so he could ride my Lambretta (it was feeling left out when the Lambretta ride was cancelled). We stopped for gas near Rob’s house and —what are the odds— ran into Patrick and Jimmy (from Minneapolis) and Rob all filling up their Lambrettas. We headed to the startup (sorry we were a little late!) and were happy to see a big crowd waiting for us. Once Adam and Mark rolled up from Kane County we set off on our ride.
We headed north into the suburbs, through Skokie, St. Paul Woods, and through the “80s John Hughes Movies” belt of Wilmette, Kenilworth, and Winnetka. A plan to confound and annoy aristocrats in expensive leisurewear by circling the hoity-toity Indian Hill Golf Club kind of backfired when we couldn’t find the road that circled it (turns out it was labeled “No Outlet” and “Private,” neither of which was true). But the joke was on them as 20 scooters got lost in their parking lot. As Alfredo said later, “I keep replaying those tight turns in my head… The sound of scooter engines drowning out the medley of monocles plinking into brandy snifters.” We have fun. Eventually we cut through a residential street, drawing out more confused local gentry. (Phil: “One dude… ran out of his garage, mouth agape like he was a kid watching a Santa parade — we absolutely were the highlight of his weekend and maybe his month, based on his expression.”)
Back on track, we cruised through the scenic Skokie Lagoons, then turned back down Shermer Road towards Niles. We lost numbers as a few folks turned off to go home (we were running a bit late at this point) but we arrived at the Leaning Tower about 15 strong. We wheeled the bikes up on the sidewalk to get some photos, and sat on a shady hill across the driveway to socialize. A few of us ended up getting Thai food across the street. It was nice to be able to socialize a bit after a year of social distancing, and I hope everyone out there is being smart so it continues to get better, not worse.
Thanks SO much to everyone who came out, old friends and new, it’s nice to see the club — and attendance at our events — growing! As always, VCOA welcomes all scooterists and scooters (even Lambrettas), and membership is not required to join in our rides, but we hope you see the value and camaraderie and history that VCOA-Chicago offers, and join up and/or renew!
* maybe we should “parade” it up a bit next year? Everyone has to cover their scooter in crépe** paper and we only ride eight blocks?
** Pronounce this like Nandor the Relentless.