Canada Vespa Days 2024

When it was announced that Amerivespa was put on hold this year to support Vespa World Days in Canada, I was thrilled… I’d never been to Vespa World Days, and here it was, within driving distance! Later, when Piaggio moved World Days to Pontedera, I was so struck with the idea that I took that plunge and went to Italy, but I remained excited to attend Canada’s first national rally in years. (An earlier incarnation of the Vespa Club of Canada hosted a couple national rallies in the 90s, mostly limited to the Vancouver area.)

There was lots of interest among Vespa Club of Chicago members, but registration was limited to Vespa riders only, following Vespa World Club’s policy. When registration opened, it was limited to 120 attendees, and I was able to convince seven other members to come along. Our group consisted of our trio from Pontedera (me, Chris and Sam) plus Phil, Patti, Sean, Greg, and Chris’ brother Josh, (who’s technically from Chicago).

Planning consisted of the usual morass of texts, emails, and spreadsheets. To add more complexity, Sam and Chris and I were blown away by the matching coveralls that some clubs wore in Italy, and insisted that we make our own for this trip. Thankfully, everyone else got behind the idea. Each of us chose a patch to represent ourselves, in addition to Chicago and VCOA regalia. In the end, it added up to 104 patches across eight suits: plenty of sewing and ironing, with a lot of help from Sam.

As the rally approached, it became apparent that Sean’s vintage Primavera wouldn’t be fixed in time, Phil’s GTS blew its second engine, and Josh… never had a bike in the first place. Thankfully, Jason lent Sean his GTS, Patti’s husband Tom lent Phil his Primavera 150, and just a few days before the rally, Chris bought a Vespa 90 in Iowa for Josh.

Chris and Sam met up with Josh in Montreal a few days before the rally, and Greg headed out solo. The rest of us (the “Van Posse”) left Chicago early Wednesday and stopped in the “Little Portugal” neighborhood of Toronto to break up the trip. We had a fun night at a bar called “Wasted Youth,” drinking (in my case) lots of something called “F**k Juice,” then we closed the pizza and pinball bar next door.

Thursday morning, after a delicious breakfast at a Portuguese cafe, we hit the road for Kingston. We arrived in late afternoon, unloaded at our Vrbo (a McMansion in the suburbs), and rode to the meet-and-greet at the hotel, ten minutes away. Pulling into the parking area, already packed with Vespas, I was surprised to see that my 1965 150 was the only vintage bike there. We found Greg, checked in, and then we met a bunch of new friends, including Martin and his daughter Pia from Vespa Club of Vienna, and Abet and Dax from Vespa Club Philippines. I’d known Abet online for many years, and it was wonderful to finally meet in person, especially as our clubs (Chicago and Manila) are sister clubs.

We also met Sandra of Vespa Club Trieste and Vespa Club Peru. Sandra and her husband Mario, who passed away a few weeks ago, are very well-known for traveling the world together by Vespa. Mario’s loss is a huge blow, but it was great to meet Sandra and see her still traveling the world and meeting people.

Friday morning, with Chris Sam, and Josh back in the squad, we headed back to the hotel for the early ride to the Wolfe Island ferry. I was terrified that Josh, who’d never ridden a Vespa before, would have a hard time keeping up on an untested 3-speed 1965 Vespa 90, but both the rider and the machine were well up to the task, and performed impeccably.

We kept up with the group in a sprint across the island, then all the Chicagoans decided to stay behind when the ferry returned to the mainland. We had a quick brunch at a bakery then rode to the other side of the island for some photos. Sam was having battery issues, so we returned to Kingston and picked up a charger at Canadian Tire, then went back to the Vrbo to freshen up. We met up with the group later at MacKinnon Brothers Brewing’s scenic farm, and continued socializing until we suddenly realized everyone else had taken off to beat some rain (which in the end, barely materialized).

Back at the house, club mixologist Patti made a round of maple whiskey sours. A few of us had the common sense to go to bed, while others kept going until we found ourselves doing shots in the swimming pool, eating freezer pizza, and not getting to bed until 4am.

Sam woke up early and very kindly cleaned up the ridiculous mess we left in the kitchen, while the dumber of us slept off the booze. We donned our matching coveralls and managed to make it to the hotel for the big 11am group ride, but it was delayed by rain. We hung out in the lobby for a couple hours trading patches and banners and stickers until the skies cleared.

I met my doppelgänger Jean-Francois of ScootArt in Montreal, who brought a beautiful 1953 ACMA Vespa decked out in French regalia, the only vintage bike aside from mine, Josh’s, and a couple P200s. Meanwhile, our Vrbo host called to let us know the neighbors called the police the night before. She’d smoothed it over, but she asked us to take it easy. After the wild nights Wednesday and Friday, that was OK with me.

Eventually, we departed in a huge pack to a lovely resort town, Gananoque, about an hour east of Kingston. Once again, when the group departed, the Chicagoans decided to stay in town and have lunch and visit some shops. After lunch, we followed John from Montreal back to Kingston and learned that, mighty as Josh’s 90cc Vespa may be, it can’t quite keep up with a GTS300.

We arrived back at the hotel just in time for the banquet, raffle and awards. Martin gave a lovely speech about the nature of Vespa Clubs, reminding everyone that whatever plans rally organizers have made, “we (the scooterists) are the entertainment.” Abet also said some kind words, and there was a tribute to the recently-deceased Mario, with a standing ovation for Sandra.

The food was top-notch and, for once, our lactose-intolerant and vegan members were thrilled to be very well-accommodated. We were exhausted from our late night and the long ride, with a 12-hour drive ahead of us, so we left a bit early to get the scooters loaded up and get a good night’s rest.

Just after we’d finished loading the bikes at 10pm or so, the police came out for another noise complaint, and were surprised to find us quiet as mice. Phil was outside checking the van and ended up charming the officers for half an hour, they surely left thinking the neighbors were unhinged. We got a nice early start Sunday morning and got home without incident, but now I realize we forgot to eat any poutine at all, so I guess we need to go back. As far as I can tell, Greg’s still in Canada, he rode up to Montreal with Zaidoon (from Vespa Club Charlotte) and spent a couple days in Ottawa, so he’ll have even more stories to tell.

Zaidoon put this great video together, featuring a song composed for the occasion by Issam from Montreal

Many thanks to organizers Jeff and Julie, and the whole Vespa Club of Canada! It was an ambitious first rally, but it came together well, and we sure had a good time. Thanks to Phil for driving and accounting, to Sam for navigating, help with the suits and cleaning up after our drunk asses, Sean for handling the swag and organizing the coverall situation, Patti for the drinks and being a bad influence, Greg for having less social anxiety than the rest of us, and to Chris and Josh for looking so dang adorable in coveralls. I’m really glad you all came along!


Canada Vespa Days 2024