Choosing the (few) rallies I can attend these days tends to be a matter of finding a free weekend, and checking what’s going on. Sadly I missed Cincinnati and Niagara this year, and I know I can’t go to PVSC or Amerivespa, so when the opportunity to go to Hostile Takeover presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Rarely would I be so excited about visiting Des Moines, IA, but when I think of the fun I’ve had in rural Ontario and Ohio, Moline, IL, and even Vegas (I’m not a fan), I knew Des Moines had a lot of potential.
In my experience, the second or third year of a particular rally is the best, the organizing club has a little bit of experience and big plans, and isn’t running on autopilot yet. Des Moines’ The Corporation SC proved my theory again, by really working hard to put on a great event.
I emailed my buddy, Alfredo, the first scooterist I met back in 1994 (we met on Usenet!) and we put a plan together. Alfredo doesn’t ride much anymore (his P200’s been on blocks in my garage for more than a decade) but I’ve got extra bikes and like me, he can use a weekend away from the family once in a while. Even with some setbacks, our experience preparing for rallies put us unbelievably right on time for a noon departure on Friday. The six hour drive (with a stop to pick up Alex in Iowa City) landed us in The Moines with time to check into the hotel and race over to the opening BBQ just as it was wrapping up. We just had time to register and wolf down a pork chop and the biggest baked potato I’ve ever seen, then we left Alex with Dean and the Knuckledraggers and raced back to the hotel, found Silent Ron, who’d just arrived from Chicago on his Aprila CityCom, and met the group ride at the Capitol building a few blocks from our hotel. We arrived at the Capitol just at sunset for a great view of the city.
From the Capitol, it was a short trip to the Fremont bar for the night’s entertainment. We enjoyed some beer and a burger in the beergarden with some Minneapolis folks (Hi to all the dozens of people I met this weekend, I forgot all your names, I suck), then another beer, then another beer, then the music started. First off was a fine twangy garage-y punk band called Look Out Loretta, then reunited Nebraska ska legends The Bishops played, followed by Brooklyn reggae upstarts The Forthrights. The Forthrights were joined for half their set by the super-friendly New Orleans rocksteady singer Maddie Ruthless, and that chemistry was right-on with some great keyboards, aggro guitar, and Maddie’s boasting and screeching. Eventually we hit the road back to the hotel for a good nights’ sleep.
Sadly, Saturday morning, the weather did not cooperate. The ride/scavenger/gymkhana gauntlet was cancelled and most rallygoers ended up at organizer Shawn Corporation’s backyard, aka “Corporate Headquarters” for a late breakfast. It was a great opportunity to make some more new friends, though, as I bored a few Nebraskan 2strokebuzz fans out of their gourds with my standard Piaggio rant and tried to break up OKC David and Sara Jane. The party broke up with plans of meeting at an arcade/bar, Alex, Alfredo, Silent Ron, and I decided to grab lunch at what turned out to be a great VIetnamese Pho place and convinced the owners to turn off NASCAR to watch the Champions’ League final between Barcelona and Manchester United. With Barça in the lead at the half, we headed to the arcade to learn that the group had moved on to a bar called Mullets near the Iowa Cubs’ stadium.
Mullets turned out to be pretty fun, with a “Mulletin Board” and framed photos of bemulleted celebrities such as Martina Navratilova and Randy Johnson. They turned on the second half of the match and we cheered Barça to victory in one of the most enjoyable soccer matches in recent times (unless you’re a Red Manc). As the match ended and the skies cleared, an impromptu ride left, and Alfredo and I headed back to the hotel for a swim, soon joined by the Kansas City guys. After a bracing dip in the cool waters, we cleaned up and rode over to the Beechwood Lounge for Pressure Drop, DJ Eight Ten’s monthly ska/soul dance night.
It was cool to see an amazing turnout of mods, scooterists, and pretty much every other sort of hipster Des Moines has to offer, all unabashedly shaking their butts to some great music, with zero attitude. We noted that unlike many rally DJs that take pride in spinning only the most obscure music, Eight Ten had no problem mixing in a few well-placed Motown blockbusters and such, to keep everybody on their feet. Alfredo, Ron, and I managed to stay sober, then did a few laps of the downtown area before heading back to the hotel and drinking ourselves to sleep.
After some thunderstorms overnight, the sun wasn’t exactly shining Sunday morning, but the rain had stopped and the day looked promising. Ron left early for his long ride back to Chicago, and Alfredo and I calculated a complicated plan to deposit the trailer at the afternoon venue for a quick escape, then we dropped the bikes and rode back to the Fremont for breakfast with the gang. The crowd had thinned a bit as many folks wanted to hit the road early, but there was still a good number of bikes on the ride to the Bombay Bicycle Club across town. By our arrival, the sun was shining and it was getting downright hot.
Alf and I set up a table of 2strokebuzz and Scootmoto mersh and watched the raffle, then I decided to try my luck at the slow race. I’ve never been much of a slow-racer, so I was surprised to find myself on my Primavera in the final heat against a P200. I edged ahead at first, but managed to hold back at the midway point until the P passed me. Just as I was congratulating myself for getting back into whatever the opposite of “the lead” is, i heard the crowd groan and I realized I’d put my foot down without even thinking about it (or needing to). Second City, second place. Later, I ran my gymkhana lap and was surprised to successfully complete all the tasks and stay 6 seconds ahead of my nearest competitor. I went back to work the merchandise table thinking I’d never hold my lead. As it turned out, I was still in first place when someone convinced Luke Healey to run the course, he smashed my time by another six seconds. At least in both feats I was beat by a manual transmission, I hate getting beat by automatics.
As the club started to set up for the ten (TEN!) bands playing the “Corporate Retreat” and the P125 raffle scheduled for later in the evening, we loaded up the truck, gave a heartfelt thanks to our new friends Shawn, Jordan, and Jason of the Corporation, and headed east into the cornfields. Thanks again guys, we had a fantastic time!
Photos below, these and lots more on flickr.