Born to be mild 

click to enlarge 20061003_230754_2_storyjpg
La Lone Sirena, an award-winning 1979 Vespa P-125 painted by Robert Tatum, and her rider Dawn Brooks will compete with each other for adulation at the Third Coast Rally this weekend. 
Third Coast Rally
Fri-Sun, Oct 6-8
Registration: $25
Full schedule at: 3cr.franklinlyons.com
Riders, rev your engines. SUV drivers, mind your blind spots. Tourists, prepare to gawk. You shall know them not by their velocity, but by your curiosity.

If motorcyclists are naturally macho, then scooter riders are instinctually vain. The hog is about power and danger, but the scoot is about class and style.

Put Quadrophenia, The Who’s 1979 film immortalizing mod culture, in your Netflix queue. You’ll watch Sting, young and never more keenly preened and bleached, leading a Vespa fleet into battle against the cycling rockers. And winning, if not by brutality, then by attitude, proving a couple decades before Reservoir Dogs that a villain in a sharp suit and tie is far more menacing than a leather-jacketed thug.

As with most things cultural, America is eras behind Europe in scooter history. When San Antonio riders talk of the “old days,” they mean the mid- to late-’90s, when a small crew called the Ne’er Do Wells met on Tuesday nights for dinner at Josephine and a long ride around the city.

Back then, they dreamed of a mass scooter event in the Alamo City. Austin had its rally, but according to Ne’er Do Well Thovas Brown, his crew was lucky to round up six riders for their weekly romps.

The last two years have seen a major surge in the local scooter community, fueled in part by ludicrous gas prices, but also by a new online Yahoo! group at AlamoScoots.com, which currently boasts about 150 members.

This weekend is the second-annual Third Coast Scooter Rally, kick-started last year by Thovas and his wife Tina Brown. The rally begins with a First Friday Ride, then on Saturday an “Iron Butt Ride” will be followed by a drive-in movie (probably Employee of the Month, but maybe Quadrophenia next year, Thovas says). On Sunday it’s “Gymkhana,” the scooter Olympics, and an awards ceremony.

The thing about scooter vanity is that one scooter alone on the road is merely cute. Among the SUVs and pick-ups and Hummers, a scooter’s like a quail on an ostrich ranch. When you organize a rally, however, they become a swarming force of shock and awe.

“When you get into a pack of 40 to 50 scooters down a country road it’s a beautiful site,” Thovas Brown says.

That number’s an underestimate. More than 50 riders, from all over the state and even as far as Oklahoma, have registered in advance and Thovas predicts a couple dozen more will turn up during the event.

Don’t expect a drug-fueled rampage along the River Walk, cricket bats slamming against billy clubs as the mods clash with SAPD. Aside from some putt-putting under-the-influence, the rally is certainly a ride on the milder side.

“I wouldn’t say we’re misfits,” says Dawn Brooks, a former Ne’er Do Well who now rides with the Monday Night Raiders. “But scooter riders are certainly different.”

(Full disclosure: As far as vanity goes, I just bought my first scooter, a sly, baby-blue Kymco People with a 50cc engine. Try not to squash me with your Suburban. I’m too damned adorable to die.)

More by Dave Maass

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