DURHAM — Almost every inch of Ed Willeman’s black jacket boasts a large patch, each depicting a design from a scooter rally he has attended. His curled mustache twitches as he grins and reads off some of the names.
At the 15th annual rally of the Incriminators Scooter Club in Durham this weekend, he and dozens of other scooter enthusiasts got the chance to add another patch.
The rally attracts members of clubs from around the country, including the Columbus Cutters Scooter Club from Ohio, the Turnbull DCs from Washington, D.C., and Three Mile Island Scooter Club from Pennsylvania, according to Rob Sterling, member of the Seven Hills Scooter Club from Virginia.
Scooter rallies are opportunities for the often tightly knit groups of scooter riders to travel, ride and drink together. For some, like Willeman, scooter club is more than just a hobby.
“We’re like surrogate family,” he said. “We take care of each other.”
Sterling said his group comes down every year for the Incriminators’ rally. He grinned, and gestured to Willeman, the group’s vice president.
“We pride ourselves on our patches,” he said.
The rally began Thursday with a dance party at Triangle Dance Studio in Durham. On Friday, the riders enjoyed drinks and a midnight ride. They convened Saturday morning at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham for breakfast. Vespas, Lambrettas and other scooter brands of various colors, decades and states of repair were parked across the street.
As they waited for the afternoon rides to begin, the enthusiasts braved the January cold to vote for their favorite scooters and mingle.
Some attended the rally for the chance to socialize. Some came for the love of scooters. Virginia Beach, Va., resident Kristen Runberg beamed as she talked about her 1974 blue Vespa Primavera.
“It’s my happy little death trap,” she said. “I love my happy little death trap.”
Around 1 p.m., a small group of riders departed on a 60-mile journey that would take them around Lake Michie in northern Durham County. Later, the larger group of riders left for a tour around Durham. For some, that meant a guided tour of the Duke Lemur Center.
The Duke Lemur Center sits on 80 acres and houses the largest collection of endangered primates in the world. Margaret Gillis, president of the Incriminators, organized the tour out of her love for the large-eyed, tree-climbing Madagascar natives (her scooter even has an “I ‘heart’ lemurs” sticker on the side of it), and to give outsiders a good experience.
“We like showing off Durham, because look what we have right here,” Gillis said.
The lemur tour attracted about a dozen riders, including Incriminators member Laura Windley. Her 1964 Vespa 90 is green – her favorite color – and matches her shoes and scarf.
Windley said her love for scooters comes from the community aspect. Riding alone for practical purposes, she said, is not nearly as fun as riding with others.
“And you add lemurs and scooters, and it’s just so cute I can’t stand it.”
After the tour, the scooter riders were set to finish off the day at Motorco Music Hall in Durham for band performances, DJs, drinks, raffles and awards. Riders are scheduled to have brunch together on Sunday morning at Parker and Otis in Durham.
The proceeds from the raffle and from registration fees will go to the Durham Rescue Mission, a faith-based nonprofit that serves about 400 men, women and children by providing shelter to the homeless and helping people overcome addictions.