As a Californian, Jennifer Parker doesn’t follow the well-trodden path of UK scooterists, which makes her first rally story unique and fascinating.
I met Jennifer just as I was leaving the Las Vegas High Rollers rally in 2007, where I’d had a lovely introductory chat with her Dad, the legendary Scooter Daddy. Waid Parker was one of the most generous and kind people on the scene, and a definite one-of-a-kind. He would pick up stranded scooterists who’d broken down in his pickup van, would send me gifts which included a pink motorbike jacket complete with armour, goodness knows how much that cost by air mail!
He had a group of ladies who had pink scooters, and I ticked that box at the time so received a variety of pink goodies. Over the years I also met Jennifer’s brother, Matt, who is a musician on the side and played with the Aggrolites. We saw him make a guest appearance with the band at Ryde ice rink at the Isle of Wight rally a few years back. Sadly, Waid passed away a few years ago and Jennifer is now embarking on her scootering adventures from mainland Europe, based in Prague.
What most people don’t know is that Jennifer was the catalyst for her Dad and brother getting into the scene. She now has her own legendary status, having visited more countries in the last couple of years on her scootering adventures than most of us visit in a lifetime. As a result her trophy cabinet is bursting with ‘furthest travelled’ silverware, and I’m sure that once travel restrictions are lifted she will be back in the saddle and eating up the miles again.
So how did she get into scooters in the first place, in her native hometown of San Diego? And why is she now living in the Czech Republic?
Read all about it here…
Jennifer Parker’s First Scooter Rally
How did you first get into scooters?
From a young age, I was into dirt bike (2-stroke) motorcycles and early two-tone music. One day, in 1981, there was a showing of the movie Dance Craze at the Ken Cinema (in San Diego) and I went with some friends. When I saw the Vespas and Lambrettas out front I fell in love! I could ride two-strokes on the street for daily fun! I just love the smell of 2-stroke smoke and I love riding! I started hanging out in the scene and eventually joined Jett Sett Scooter club.
What was your first scooter rally?
We had a lot of local rides that we would call rallies but nothing like what was happening over in the UK at the time. Whenever there was a mod or ska event (concerts or a showing of Dance Craze or Quadrophenia) we would meet at a little café called Gelato Vero. From there we would ride through San Diego as a pack to the venue to make a grand showing upon arriving at the event. Close to 40-years later and we still meet at Gelato Vero for scooter related events to ride together!
My first out of town rally was in Pasadena, California. I believe it was on New Year’s to coincide with the Rose Parade. My memory is a bit hazy on the event, but I shall do my best to recall the details.
Who did you go with?
I remember going with the Makarushka brothers (Peter & Paul), Joe Mendoza, my younger brother, Matt, and a few others but I don’t recall exactly who was with us. We had the scooters in my Toyota truck and the younger brothers (Paul and Matt) were crammed in-between the bikes with Paul, Joe and I in the cab. For those of you unfamiliar with Southern California, Pasadena is northeast of Los Angeles proper, about 150 miles from San Diego and the only way to get from San Diego to Los Angeles is by freeway (motorway) so we never rode our scooters past Oceanside in the day.
On the way up Joe wanted to stop in Downy and see a girl. It was on that trip I discovered where the oldest operating McDonald’s was located. To this day I cannot pass that exit and not think of Joe and trying to find some girl he wanted to see.
What job were you doing at the time?
I was probably working at McDonalds on Midway Drive near the Sports Arena or I was feeding tourists at Sea World. Who knows how much money we had back then.
Where did you stay when you were there?
That’s the funny story!
We showed up in Pasadena and we were supposed to have a parking lot reserved for us but apparently, we were run off so you had all these mods with nowhere to go!
Do you have any memories of the rally itself?
I remember it was chaotic. One girl was injured, and my friend Joe helped her get to the hospital while I followed on his P200 to ride him back from the hospital.
One thing I remember vividly is we were hanging out in an alley behind a restaurant. The back door was open and no one was around. We went in and swiped a case of red wine. Later, I remember ditching afternoon classes from high school and going to Paul Mutter’s house to play quarters with the wine and trying to convince Shanna Gonzales my eye was developing a funny growth. Oh – the scattered and fractured memories of teenage drinking!
Was the journey home eventful?
On the way home for some reason that I do not recall, Joe had to ride home. As we approached the Del Mar Heights exit (on Interstate 5) Joe’s bike seized. And, like on the way up, I always think of Joe breaking down when I pass the off ramp.
Do you remember what your favourite rally anthem or music you were into?
We didn’t have rally anthems as in the UK. We were listening to 2-Tone mostly and some Devo, B-52s and, of course, The Who. We had some local bands most notably Manual Scan. I remember once they were playing at Joe and Bart Mendoza’s house in Logan Heights (their mother is a saint) and the police came and chased us away. I also liked some punk bands such as Dead Kennedys and TSOL but my all-time favourite was The Clash.
What was your favourite custom scooter of that era?
We didn’t have custom scooters back then. Most of the guys were outfitting them with stadium mirrors and racoon tails. It still isn’t a thing in the States like it is in the UK.
Do you still have a scooter now?
I do! I ride more now than I did back in the day.
In San Diego I have five scooters. My baby is my 1962 Lambretta TV175 – Lucille. She has a younger brother, Ricky – a 1963 Li150 with a 190 motor. My daily rider, as I no longer own a car, is a Vespa GTS 250ie with a Malossi 300 kit. I have a habit of winning scooters in raffles at rallies so I also own a Vespa ET4 built by Hard Pack Scooter Club and a Lambretta Uno 150 (can we really call it a Lambretta?). I was saving those to be loaner bikes and learner bikes for my son and his friends.
I am super excited right now as a dear friend of mine has decided to fight the Covid-19 quarantine blues by rebuilding Lucille and Ricky for me so when the pandemic ends and travel restrictions are lifted I will be able to fly back to California to ride during the winter when it is too cold for daily riding in Prague.
In Prague I have two scooters. My love is Star – my 1964 Lambretta Special 125. It has been a challenge to get her legal, but in the summer of 2020 will be our summer together!
I can count on one hand the total number of vintage Lambrettas there are in the Czech Republic. Sometimes I think I picked the wrong European country… While my heart and soul belong to my Lambrettas, you will most likely see me tooling around Europe on my Vespa GTS 300.
After moving to Prague, under the guidance of Sticky and Andy, I purchased my first twisty, a beautiful green Vespa GTS 300 who I promptly named Envy. Envy and I had some good times! After picking her up from the dealer there was no stopping me! I left the dealer around noon and by 3pm I was on the road to Kronach, Germany to see my good friend Gregor Schmand! This was in July of 2017 and it was hot outside so I was only wearing a tank top (I think they are called vests in the UK) under my Corraso riding jacket. It started to rain! And rain hard! I had all the vents on my jacket open and by the time I got to his place I was soaked to the skin! The next day he sent me shopping for rain gear before I took off for England via Luxembourg.
There was also the little matter of break-in service on the bike. Never having owned a brand-new bike, I wasn’t aware of the requirements for a break-in service. So, I rode around Germany, in the rain, logging miles to get my first service in before taking off. I returned home 7 weeks later after winning two furthest travelled awards at rallies in England and riding through 7 countries! The next summer I took off on another 2-month journey with Envy. This time I was completely honoured at VWD in Belfast when I was the first woman to ever receive the Lone Rider Vespa Trophy!
While I was in Belfast, I met Vespisti from all over Europe and was invited to come to Romania to attend the 3-Castle ride! While riding the Transalpine Highway, Envy got sick. Cutting my trip through the Balkans short, I headed back to Prague. Unfortunately, Envy didn’t make it back though. Envy was replaced by Ruby, another GTS 300. In true fashion, I picked up Ruby from the dealer on a Friday, rode 1,000 km over the weekend, got her serviced, and took off for Sicily! During the summer of 2019 Ruby and I logged 26,000 km through 19 countries!
Why did you move from California to Prague?
In 2009 I was involved in an industrial accident on the job and after 7 surgical procedures during a 4-year period, I opted for a disability retirement. After traveling around some, I ended up teaching English on the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) and all I could think about was how much I missed riding and attending scooter rallies! Having attended many UK rallies since 2003, I decided to move to Europe to ride through Europe and attend European rallies! How I actually ended up in Prague vs any other European city is another story.
What do scooters mean to you now?
Freedom, adventure and good times!
Riding scooters is my life. I recently moved to Europe specifically to attend scooter rallies in foreign countries, meet new people and explore UNESCO and other significant historical sites.
I married early in life to a non-scooterist and only made guest appearances in the scene for most of the 90s. When I got a divorce my therapist asked, “What do you do for fun?”. That is when I realized everything focused on my child. She prompted me to resurrect my hobbies and interest. I thought I was too old to get back into the scene but as I soon found out most of the people were still the same ones I hung out with in the 80s! I got Lucille on the road and never looked back! As I once said to my friend Mario Artavia, “May no man ever come between me and my scooters again!”
There is just a certain feeling of joy you get when you are on the road and the people I meet are truly some of the most amazing and interesting people you can imagine. I can’t imagine a life without scootering. It is such an amazing adventure!
This year, 2020, I am gutted and grounded due to Covid-19. I had so many great events lined up from one end of Europe (Portugal and Belgium) to the other (Bulgaria and Romania) and I was riding in a 4-day event in Sicily on my birthday and popping over to Tunisia for an event after. Riding on the African Continent! Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that! I was also heading Stateside for a couple events in May. Here’s the thing – Covid-19 has disrupted our lives like no other event in my memory. But, if I follow the rules, stay home, and stay safe, I will be able to be on the road sooner than I know it. Things in Prague aren’t bad. The government reacted quickly and the country is coming out of quarantine as I type this. Next week I will get Ruby road ready and on May 25th, hotels will be allowed to reopen, and I will spend the next couple months exploring the Czech Republic and neighbouring countries as they open.
I have a good friend in Poland that has invited me to come riding with him as soon as our common border opens and I am looking forward to that ride and the cold beer we will share after! In the meantime, I have been doing research and planning multiple rides with my friend from California when all this is over and he can enter Europe safely without quarantines. We have quite the list and route planned!
See more photos of Jennifer’s travels
Buy scooter t-shirts!
You can buy the latest scooter t-shirts from the new online shop from Crusader Promotions, the guys behind the national rally tees and patches. Click here to see the full range, printed by scooterists for scooterists.
More My First Rally stories
Read more My First Rally stories using these links (in alphabetic order)
– Ali Richards
– Bill Mac
– Dave Lloyd
– Dean Percival
– Dizzy Holmes
– Iggy Grainger
– Jo Jackson
– Lee Parker
– Lee Richards
– Mike Oxley
– Nick Jolly
– Norrie Kerr
– Roger Williams
– Sandra Smith
– Sarah George
– Sean Robinson
– Stacey Gardner
– Steve Bone
– Stuart Owen
– Vince Wooloff