The Hills Had Eyes

The first weekend of October, the Hill City United Scooter Club (Chattanooga) held a rally in Ocoee, Tenn. Truth be told, I’d really been looking forward to it. We haven’t gone to many rallies this year and it was Hill City’s first camping rally after having thrown two city rallies and then Amerivespa last year.

I’ve mentioned city rallies in these columns a few times but haven’t said much about the camping ones. We showed up on Friday night with our tents, got set up, and immediately witnessed someone shooting full beer cans off someone’s head with a pellet gun as everyone cheered them on and then raced to drink the spewing beer before it was empty. Luckily, the head had a helmet on it but even that couldn’t contain my attention as the club was showing The Hills Have Eyes on a big screen for the “scoot-in movie.”

You know it’s going to be a good rally when as soon as you arrive you’re watching a classic horror flick in the pitch-black woods while some bartender in a tiny cabin pours beers from a keg that’s all-you-can-drink for $5. Turns out that we missed the night ride, but there was plenty of fun to be had back at the campsite, which is pretty common for camping rallies, actually. You don’t even necessarily have to have a running bike to go to most scooter rallies, especially the camping ones, but given how incredible the rides were Saturday I would have seriously regretted it this time.

Saturday morning starts with a hot breakfast and a short ride out to the Ocoee Whitewater Center, where we all stood on a pedestrian bridge over the site of the canoeing and kayaking events of the 1996 Olympic Games. Well, stood isn’t exactly correct. While I stood there overcoming my somewhat paralyzing fear of bridges, everyone started jumping up and down in unison so the bridge would flex and shake. I’m not sure how I made it off the bridge. I tried walking but as the bridge slammed into my foot every time I tried to take a step, so I just closed my eyes and waited for it to be over.

Later, after hotdogs, chips, and Moonpies, came the long ride… 80 miles in the mountains along the Ocoee River out to Tellico. We snaked around the river in a route somewhat reminiscent of the Dragon, but with twists and turns that allowed us to ride with a bit of speed, which was interspersed with long sections where we could really wind it out. We stopped half way through at Tellico Motorcycle Outfitters, which was a pretty great little shop with a really nice owner. Many of us tried on jackets, gloves, or any number of the million different bits of riding gear that he had jammed into his shop. Really though, the ice cream stand was a serious highlight; the simple things in life sometimes end up being the most enjoyable.

The ride was one of the best I have ever been on and is an absolute worthy destination to anyone wanting to get out of town for a half day or just wanting to make it to an off-the-beaten-path motorcycle shop (lucky for most of the shops around here that it is so out of the way). However, I couldn’t help but feel a ton of anticipation for getting back to the campground though because I knew gymkhana and a shrimp boil were on tap later that evening.

Gymkhana is basically a scooter obstacle course that good clubs design to test even the best riders’ skills. You can always expect dumped scooters, bent cowls, skinned legs and the like. This rally proved to yield all of the above though no one got seriously injured with the possible exception of a bystander who dumped her scooter on the gravel, slamming her head into the ground and causing everyone to stop watching gymkhana and watch her lay there. To my complete shock, hardly anyone had that much of a problem with the big ramp jump but almost everyone had serious troubles making it through the series of bricks… something about those small tires, I suppose. Gymkhana ended with several people, including my husband, horsing around in the field pretending to flat-track their bikes but ultimately just dropping them a few times each because they’d been drinking since we got back from the ride.

A big highlight of the weekend was the shrimp boil, though after my first plate having only gotten three shrimp I went to my table pretty disappointed. My friend Stan and I staked out the big pots and made sure to be first in line the next time the shrimp came out of the water. I returned to my table victorious with my plate that was entirely filled with shrimp and only one teeny piece of potato. The awards and raffle followed and then we all settled in for our last cold night of rally-going. The next morning we loaded everything up and drove home, sad that we couldn’t keep camping but seriously glad to get back to the warmth of real shelter. This rally is one that we will definitely put at the top of our selective list of “must attend” rallies.

Melanie DiClaudio is a mad scientist working at UT, who has been actively involved in the regional scooter scene for about two years but has had a love of scootering since first spotting a Vespa at age 16.

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