As the winter blahs encompassed Chicago, the Las Vegas sun was the shining light that kept Vina and me going all through January and the first half of February. Grace’s boyfriend Ken, aka Schmoopy, long may he reign in her heart, had promised us comped accommodations at the Hard Rock Hotel so we were really looking forward to a semi-posh, nearly-gambling-free Vegas experience, and our plan to rent Harleys was all Vina had talked about since Halloween.
Editor’s note: if 27 paragraphs of colorful language is not enough for you, my photos are at scoot.net.
Midway Airport wasn’t too bad on Friday afternoon, Southwest had the computer terminals set up for self-check-in, and security was long, but polite and organized. The flight was full but on-time, and I passed the time reading Hunter Thompson’s Hell’s Angels. On arrival, we caught a cab to the Hard Rock Hotel.
Schmoopy checked us all in at the Hard Rock and we freshened up, waiting for Vina’s friend Maryanne to join us. Even then, we heard scooters passing by our window, and it was clear that Vegas had been totally invaded by scooterists, they were everywhere, second only to Phish fans (Phish were playing at UNLV). The Hard Rock Hotel was really cool, though it was full of frat boys and Phish dorks with gold cards, it was very comfortable and a class operation. After Maryanne arrived, we went down to A.J.’s Steakhouse in the Hard Rock for dinner.
A.J.’s was incredible. I’m a steak lover who hates steakhouses, but the classy retro digs combined with Ken’s schmoozing and a fun, laid back waitstaff (our waiter reminded me of Everlast mixed with that bald guy from Some Kind of Wonderful) made the experience a pleasure, and the filet was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. We left A.J.’s in a post-orgasmic glow thinking “This weekend couldn’t get any better.”
By the end of Friday night, we figured we were right, it couldn’t get any better, only worse. After dinner I took a three-manhattan nap, then Vina, Maryanne, and I headed over to Venus at the Venetian, the Shag and Bosko-designed tiki bar where Jedi Chad had organized a party. Unfortunately, by the time we got there they’d kicked out most of the scooterists and clubwear-sporting trendoids were waiting in line to pay a $20 cover. We didn’t see anyone we knew outside, and I didn’t want to blow off Chad, so we stood in line to get in, but were promptly (luckily) refused admission because we were wearing tennis shoes. Good riddance, just then, a bunch of friends appeared, wondering what to do, so we phoned Grace and Ken to notify them of the change in plans, and we walked up the strip to the Frontier.
Here, we made our second mistake of the night. Instead of going to the Boston Strangler’s party (which I later heard was lots of fun) we went to Gilley’s, who had a big sign reading “$10 All the beer you can drink!” and “Bikini Bull Riding.” We paid our $10 to get in and found out it was an additional $10 for the “free” beer, and we could see that there were 2 bartenders for about three hundred people. Not surprisingly, I also found Chad there, in his mod cowboy suit, wearing a Union Jack as a cape, waiting for his turn on the bull. He introduced me to Michele from Denver and we talked for a while, then I went to look for Vina. She had decided the odds were too grim on the “free beer” deal, so we passed on that and sent the only hot Texan girl in our party to the bar for drinks. After Maryanne was ignored for fifteen minutes, we cut our losses and bailed, (Reports came in later that the bikini bull riding was lame, too.) Chad and Michele gave up on it,too, so we went to a little marguerita bar in the casino that had a sign that said “Margueritas $3.50” We asked for a marguerita, and they said “no! she don’t work hereOe” No, really they said “we don’t have any(!), but we will charge you $6 for a weak Beam and Coke.” so we had a drink, then ditched Chad and Michele and went back to the Hard Rock to continue the drinking marathon. Back home, the Hard Rock bars were also too crowded to get a drink, so we decided to get some sleep and hope for a better saturday. I fell asleep only half-drunk and dreampt upsetting dreams of the Hell’s Angels, scooterists, and Phish fans squaring off to riot on the strip.
We woke up early to go pick up the bikes. The local Harley-Davidson/Ducati dealership was surprisingly cool, they were super friendly, helpful, and organized, I would highly recommend them to anyone going to Vegas, for a day anyway. i was lucky to get the one Harley I like the looks of: the orange-and-matte-black Anniversary Sportster 883. The girls got the larger Dyna Low Riders, Grace’s in black and Vina’s in blue. Ken and Maryanne rode bitch with Grace and Vina, respectively, so laugh all you want that I had the girl bike, at least I had it to myself. As we did a couple practice laps in the lot, we looked up at the blue sky and bright sun and all agreed that today was going to be a hell of a good day, weather- and fun-wise.
Grace had made reservations for a tour of the Las Vegas Neon Boneyard, where cast-off casino signs go to die. We arrived at the boneyard surprised to find it was not in the middle of the desert, as we’d expected, but in a fenced-in area on the edge of a busy street next to a residential neighborhood.
It turned out our guide, Sandra, was the woman mainly responsible for the huge effort to restore and display old signs in a planned museum. The city has donated several acres of land for the museum, and her organization has a small storefront museum already open downtown, although we didn’t have a chance to visit that. As Sandra showed us around, she told us they need only 7 million dollars (pocket change in Las Vegas) to get it built and they’re just starting fundraising now. Aside from the corportate and political conflicts involved in such a huge undertaking, she felt everything was going very well and they hope to have the museum completed in a couple years. We felt honored to see the enormous starting point of the collection, and we could only imagine how impressive the museum will be when complete.
She told us fantastic stories of sign companies snatching signs under cover of darkness and demolition workers who’d heard about the museum and confessed they’d been hoarding stuff in their back yards and rec rooms. As we fired up the Harleys and rode off with whole SmartCards full of great photos, we were once again thinking we’d have a hard time topping that experience.
We returned to the Hard Rock to find the scooter show in full swing. We rolled the Harleys into the midst of hundreds Lambrettas, Vespas, and every other make and model you could name. Rumors were going around that Chad and Michele had impulsively married shortly after we left them the night before, and sure enough Chad eventually turned up, marriage certificate in hand. Schmoop went back to the hotel for a massage just as Remey from Project: Porkchop arrived, and Vina, Grace, Maryanne, and I found Phil and Merritt and their rented BMW bike. We decided to wait for the group to ride out, then follow Phil’s Bavarian Bomber out to the canyon.
Riding the heavy, idle-impaired beasts in the city sucked, but once we got out of the city limits it was a short ride to Red Rock Canyon, which was awesome. At the entrance we parked to take some photos, then we passed through the gate for a beautiful, hilly ride through the canyon at sunset. Other than some sportbike jerks and SUVs who seemed to be in too much a hurry to take in the scenery, and a handful of erraticly-riding scooterists, it was probably the best two-wheeled ride I’ve ever experienced. As we came through the end gate, I was again grinning ear to ear thinking “this REALLY can’t get any better. No seriously.”
Coming back through the desert on a flat, straight road, I let Grace and Vina get ahead of me and I found myself with a couple Ps and a Rally 200, taking turns passing each other. I thought “it must be really windy, it feels like I’m going really fast, but I’m only going 35.” So I sped up to 40 and left the p’s behind. I thought “They should be able to keep up with me at 40,” then I realized I was looking at the tach, not the speedo, and that I was doing 78 or so. I almost crashed as I cracked myself up, realizing that I was both really stupid and going really fast.
By the time we got close to the Hard Rock, we were really sore and tired and were getting sloppy shifting and riding. Following my dumb lead on a tight squeeze, Grace, Vina and Maryanne came really close to being taken out by an oil tanker. Two days later, the insides of my thighs are still killing me and my clutch hand is still formed into a claw. We parked the Harleys for the night in the hotel garage, and worried that despite the alarms on the Dyna Low Riders and the disk lock on my Sportster, there were enough drunks coming through there to screw with them. Back up in the rooms, though, Ken reminded us “This is Vegas. if anyone goes near them, twenty security guards will be on them in seconds.” Oh, yeah. Security is a GOOD thing sometimes.
Though I’d promised myself not to gamble, it was Las Vegas, and there was a Sid Vicious “Anarchy in Vegas” slot machine on the path from the Hard Rock door to the elevator. It was perverse and wrong on so many levels, I had to put a quarter in just about every time I passed it. I won at least 50c every single time, I think I put in five quarters and won about fifteen quarters. Then I blew them all in the arcade.
Ken and Grace left for Lotus of Thailand, but Maryanne, Vina and I were too exhausted to leave the hotel for dinner, so we decided (against our better judgement) to check out the in-house Mexican restaturant, the Pink Taco (eww!) where “Eating out has never been so much fun!” (EWWWW!) The food was mediocre by Chicago Mexican food standards, but we finally got the margueritas we craved the night before, which lulled us right into another coma. I actually crashed on the floor, with only a few chapters of Hell’s Angels left.
We woke up later than we wanted to, past 10pm, so we had to hustle to get over to the allnighter at the Riviera, worried we’d miss the bands and the Bajaj Raffle. By now, all the cab drivers had figured out that anyone between age 20 and 40 was in town for either the scooter rally or the Phish show, so each cab ride was spent explaining the difference between our cults to the cabbies. At the Riviera, we wandered into the huge ballroom, packed with hundreds of people. The Inciters were playing, they were great, kind of a Committments/Adjusters/Supremes set up. We’d unfortunately missed the Aggrolites. I ran around like a schoolgirl, finding more and more friends, telling stories, meeting online friends in person for the first time, and most important, downing as many bourbon-and-cokes as I could get my mitts on.
Vina eventually disappeared, as she is wont to do at rallies, and shortly later I was pounced on and simultaneously licked on the cheeks by the Chrissy/Nelly Secret Servix Sandwich. It would have killed a lesser man (like Sean Stevens), but all I could think was “where’s Vina to see this!?” Then I figured out she’d probably paid them off to occupy me while she snuck off to make out with Chris Winters, but I can’t confirm that. Oh, well, who could blame her?
The raffle started after the Inciters finished, and this was the only complaint I had about the organization of the rally, I’m not sure what happened, but maybe Piaggio USA bailed out on the ET2 giveaway on Sunday, because for some reason they decided to mix the green and red tickets together for the Bajaj raffle. I’d already given away our green tickets and bought a bunch of red ones (and I asked the guy selling them “These are for the Bajaj raffle, right?), but a green ticket won the bike. As it was, no one really seemed to mind, and luckily the first ticket they called was a guy who had it with him, because if someone had won with a ticket someone else gave them, or if they’d called out a few green tickets before they found someone who had brought theirs, people would have freaked out. The rest of the raffle was bountiful yet not tedious, and soon the DJs were going full speed.
All the DJs were great, and there were a couple northern soulies there, with their silly big pants and everything, that was neat to see in person. Some clubs wore matching fezzes, or Clockwork Orange suits. The British clubs all had huge banners hanging on one wall, like the terraces at the World Cup. Scoot Quarterly fashion editor Carrie Dubiner was setting new trends with her “Cookie from Best in Show” look. Vina and Maryanne reappeared right around when “I Am the Ressurection” came on, which (with Andrea’s help) provoked me to bust out my rarely-seen “Bez-dance.” I actually danced a lot, even Larry and Schmoopy danced, how often does that happen? I finally met Paul from Denver, Chelsea from Scooters O., and Marty from New York, but NoShowJohn was true to his name, and somehow I missed Dead-Dick Allen, too.
We were having an awesome time, even non-scooterist rally-virgins Maryanne and Schmoopy were really enjoying themselves. Maryanne was totally in shock over everyone’s clothes and the music, can you imagine seeing all that for the first time having no idea what you’re getting into? “Bryan, what’s up with those guys in the white suits and hats?” “Have you never seen ‘A Clockwork Orange?'” “No” “Then I’m not even going to try to explain it to you.”
I thought Andrea was gonna cry when they played the Eng-LAND! remix of “Get a Blooming Move-On.” (I know everyone calls it “Self-Preservation Society” but I know some fucker would correct me if I said that because I know I would, if someone else called it that.) It’s so cute how the British are all so proud of their little country. (I’m going to pay for that!) They were fired up. heh. There were tons of them, by the end of the dance it was mostly Brits, shouting along to every british rally anthem, loud as the Kop at Anfield.
(It’s been Sunday for a while now, but…) Sunday.
With no “Last Call” to warn us of the time, we actually stayed at the party until pretty much 4am (6am Chicago time!), then chatted for a while at the Phil Waters Hospitality Wallo before hailing another cab to take us to the diner at the Hard Rock Hotel (home of the Delcano Chicken Finger Tantrumo). We finally crashed at 5:30 (7:30 Central!) then got up three hours later, took the Harleys back, packed up, and headed to the airport.
The trip home was no fun, but the airport wasn’t really any more crowded than Midway. It just seemed that the queues were longer and sloppier, people were crabbier, and the security staff was less friendly. After what seemed like an hour in the security line, I was cut off by an annoying South Beach character who looked like Steve Perry, sporting a rat tail and a ankle-length leather trenchcoat. The nut had loudly been sharing his political and racial views with his companion for the benefit of the whole line, so I was already a fan. After he cut in front of me, I had a hard time hearing him, but I think he spent the next few minutes insulting Vina, not knowing I was with her. At the next corner, I politely excused myself to get back next to her. He huffed and let me by, then stage-whispered, “I guess he’s really important or something.” I turned around and looked him in the eye and said “I WAS HERE WITH MY WIFE UNTIL YOU PUSHED ME OUT OF THE WAY, YOU FUCKING JAG!” The crowd giggled, and the woman next to me thanked me for shutting him up, as he sulked back a few people to get away from the psychotic fat guy. I enjoyed the rest of the wait, glaring at him and hoping he was sitting next to me on the plane so I could glare at him more.
Again, the flight was full, but even with our “C” boarding passes, we got decent seats and all four of us slept most of the trip anyway. Vina grinned and mumbled “best rally ever” in her sleep, Schmoop tried to kill me with airborne jerky, and Grace drooled all over like a baby. Luckily, the huge East Coast snowstorm didn’t affect our flight, though the people staying on to Islip had a good scare until the tower in Chicago radioed news that the airport had reopened. Finally, we were home, and glad to be there. I didn’t feel like we missed anything by skipping Thursday, most of Sunday, and Monday, 48 hours is about all I can take in Las Vegas.
Other than our dissapointing Friday night, ’twas an incredible rally. Thanks very very much to Ken for the comp action, and Christophe, the VFM, and all the other people that organized things, entertained me, danced with me, and fed me drinks. This trip really got me excited about rallies again, and on the drive home from the airport, Ken asked “So when’s the next one?” Brilliant.