Stepping into the road between Bar + Bistro and Artifice, I’m suddenly transported to 1960s London. Northern soul and Motown hum in the background as guys with horn-rimmed glasses and girls sporting cherry-red lipstick socialize and dance the afternoon away. The rows of multi-era scooters and the unusual obstacle course are the tip-offs that I didn’t need a time machine to get here. It’s the annual scooter rally that takes place as part of High Rollers Weekend, a meet up of Anglophile scooter-heads that’s happened here since 1999.
It’s hard to believe that in all that time the group had a better spot or day for this convergence of more than 100 brightly colored and tricked-out scooters. Some of the most notable: the brand new baby pink number, a vintage powder blue classic and crazy rides like the multi-mirrored tribute to Quadrophenia and blue-and-white homage to mod featuring a raccoon tail—The Kinks meet Davy Crockett.
There are also more than a few mopeds, motorcycles and classic cars and trucks. But some of the scooters seem more out of place than even these. They are the not-so-shiny rides that look like they were on the beach on D-Day, army green and displaying lettering with puzzling and pseudo-offensive phrases like, “f*ck kinky bitches.” But this has to be a massive joke considering “kinky” is precisely the word for people like, say, the dude wearing a striped hat shaped like a Hershey Kiss and ollying his scooter off of a ramp on the obstacle course, howling triumphantly as he goes.
Most of the crowd is more reserved, though, with mod insignias abounding (so many it’s like a small mod nation). Despite the prevalence of mods, the rockers are conspicuously absent, which makes for just the right kind of party on a sunny, Sunday afternoon. Looking around, you’d guess most of the crowd is local, with tattoos, sunglasses and black T-shirts—but the tiny license plates on the backs of the scooters are the dead giveaway. U.K. plates are sandwiched between scooters from as near as California and as far as New York.
It’s easy to see the mass appeal. The scooters are not only adorable, but each one is also as unique as its owner, or in some cases more so—the scooter featuring a sidecar with a bulldog looks like it should belong to someone way less sane than the guy in the driver’s seat.
As the drinks flow and the sun sets, reflecting light off of yellow, red and orange fenders, it’s tough to imagine being anywhere else. And it becomes easier and easier to picture yourself cruising on a good-looking, slow-moving ride of your own. This is the rally’s downside: the overwhelming temptation to go get yourself an adorable little scooter you have no idea how to ride—and, considering retail on a Vespa, probably shouldn’t buy.